Friday, December 16, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Bradley Manning's Article 32 hearing begins, Nouri's hold on Iraq seems ever more fragile, Tom Hayden publishes political porn, and more.
A gleeful and pompous Geraldo Rivera (Fox News) announces he's back in Iraq. I don't think he's been so giddy since he did the 20/20 segment that was supposed to be an interview with John Travolta (then promoting Staying Alive) that Geraldo turned into a workout session. If viewers can be thankful for little else, Geraldo has thus far kept his shirt on. So lightheaded and deranged, he forgets to note his previous visit to Iraq. March 31, 2003, CNN reported, "The U.S. military said Monday that Fox News Channel Correspondent Geraldo Rivera was being expelled from Iraq for divulging details of a future military operation, though later in the day a Central Command spokesman said he was not sure whether the newsman would be forced out." The following day, Chris Plante (CNN) would report, "Fox News Channel executives and the Pentagon reached a deal Monday in which correspondent Geraldo Rivera, who raised the military's ire when he reported operational details, will leave Iraq voluntarily rather than be expelled, Pentagon officials told CNN. [. . .] In the live broadcast, Rivera told his photographer to aim the camera at the sand in front of him. Rivera then outlined a map of Iraq, and showed the relative location of Baghdad and his location with the 101st Airborne. He then showed where the 101st would be going next." Peter Arnett did a journalistic courtesy and gave an interview to Iraqi television on March 31st. Fox News personalities immediately began demonizing him on air non-stop. By April 1st, NBC, MSNBC and National Geographic had all dumped Arnett. Though Arnett gave out no information that could have endangered anyone, Rivera did. He still works for Fox News despite violating a US military policy he agreed to when he entered the embed program. Geraldo was also a war cheerleader. They don't get punished. They don't have to admit they were wrong. They're allowed to lie and then lie about lying. That's how it works -- and not just at Fox News (or right wing outlets -- this is the mainstream, it's the left, it's everywhere, there's very little integrity in the press).
But on the second hour of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR) today, Diane and her guests -- Nadia Bilbassy (MBC TV), Robin Harding (Financial Times of London) and David Ignatius (Washington Post) offered some reality on Iraq.
Diane Rehm: David Ignatius, the war in Iraq is finally over. In your view, what has been accomplished?
David Ignatius: Well that's really the hardest question to answer for Americans and Iraqis with this week's visit to Washington by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. You had to say, in terms of specific commitments going forward, very little. We have an Iraqi democracy but it's headed by someone who's widely regarded as no paragon of democracy. He hasn't succeeded really in reaching out to other Iraqis. I'm struck, Diane, this week, a war that began famously with shock and awe, as we termed our spectacular bombardment of Iraq, ended with the muted, somber sense of how difficult this proved to be, how many mistakes the United States made. And, in the terms of measurable outcomes, how little the US got out of it, at the loss of nearly 4,500 US soldiers, 1000,000 -- at least -- Iraqis killed. So it's a painful story but we would have to say most of all for Iraqis.
Diane Rehm: 32,000 US troops wounded, more than $800 billion spent.
I'm not interested in silly spin. The president's campaign? He' is the one over it. He decides, he says yes or he says no. You can't claim that he is downplaying it but his campaign -- this entity over which he has no control -- isn't. Don't create this false wall that doesn't exist. Barack's campaign is Barack. I'll further point out that Barack did three days of press on this and that's just this week. So stop pretending that he tried to keep it low key. Stop pretending?
It was a brave stance to take for an ambitious politician at a time when American support for war with Iraq was building. He went on to become the first president to campaign on a promise to end an ongoing American war, and the peace movement helped put him into office.
He's referring to Barack's stupid 2002 speech which did not oppose going to war with Iraq, it opposed rushing to war. Barack didn't say no to war, he said the case wasn't yet made. He would spend the next years -- check the New York Times archives especially in 2004 and WHORE Tom knows this -- changing his stance. But in 2002, he wasn't running for national office, not even the Senate. And there's no way in hell his state legislature district would have supported him unless he took some stance -- no matter how tiny -- against the drums of war. Also, the peace movement helped put him into office? No, the Cult of St. Barack did. A lot of dirty whores like Tom Hayden who never made an honest buck and, in fact, would be depending on charity today were it not for the ridiculous and unmanly move of demanding millions to end a marriage. Greedy little whore, that's Tom-Tom.
In the years leading up to the 2008 election, there were at least 10 national antiwar demonstrations that drew more than 100,000 participants each. The movement helped Rep. Barbara Lee to rise from a lone war opponent in Congress to the leader of a bloc of as many as 200 representatives calling for an end to the wars in Iraq and/or Afghanistan. Those combined forces -- the peace movement and lawmakers who opposed continuing the Iraq war -- created a political climate that enabled Obama to end the Iraq war over the objections of many in the Pentagon and most of his Republican presidential rivals.
What a trashy whore. Tom's not going to be welcomed into the DNC. He has no real money left (not to throw around on donations which is all the DNC would want from a low life like Tom to begin with). Whores tend to spend other people's money a bit too quickly. So he'll always be on the low rung he's lived since his divorce. But he seems to believe that if he just lies long enough, the DNC will embrace him. Seriously?
After Barack repeatedly -- in 2007 and 2008 -- ridiculed "Tom Hayden Democrats" -- publicly ridiculed them, the little whore Tom thinks he's ever going to rise even one tiny step up the ladder? Please.
Reality, as everyone knows, Barack was planning to keep thousands of US troops in Iraq. Iraq wouldn't grant immunity from the Parliament. (Nouri was prepared to grant it himself.) So what happened then? They followed the deal the Bush administration negotiated in November 2008. Tom's praising George W. Bush. You kind of get the feeling that for a few more of the millions Jane earned while Tom relaxed on his ass and cheated, for just a few more, he'd blow George W. Bush in downtown LA at high noon. And swallow with a smile.
Another reality? Negotiatons never ended. This week Osama al-Nujaifi publicly declared that the Parliament was prepared to give "partial immunity." A step up from the stance in October of no immunity. That's what negotiations do, they see each side stake out a position and then see if they can move closer to one another's position as talks continue. Nouri has stated -- and Panetta told the Senate Armed Services Committee he felt it would happen -- that they can pick up the issue of "trainers" in the new year.
Want some reality from the press that few offered this week? David S. Cloud and David Zucchino (Los Angeles Times) observed, "The Obama administration had adopted its own version of the Bush administration claim that the conflict was worth the cost because it helped free Iraq from Hussein." We'll pick back up with The Diane Rehm Show when Nadia gets honest or closer to it. If she's only now aware of the 4.5 million internal and external Iraqi refugees which have been in the news since 2006, that doesn't say very much for her information base level (her intelligence level is brutally low but we'll address that on Sunday).
Nadia Bilbassy: In research I've been doing for the last week about the war, I came across something really striking. I mean, looking at -- looking at -- just to give you an example -- I found that, for example, 2 million people are internally displaced inside Iraq. Two and a half million refugees are outside the country in neighboring countries like Syria and like Jordan. Twenty-three precent of Iraq is under -- live under poverty line, that's $2 a day. This is a rich country that's sitting on the second largest oil resource in the world. They have -- 34,000 doctors left the country and forty-percent is the unemployment level. So, in a way, yes, they got a democracy in terms of the process of voting but this government, as David said, where the strong man like Prime Minister Maliki still holds the ministry of national security and defense, unable to bring somebody into the country -- into the government.
As Al-Maliki visited Washington on Monday and Tuesday, seven people died in shootings and explosions in Iraq itself, seen by many Iraqis as having been motivated by sectarian considerations.
On Tuesday, two bombs set off a blaze at an oil pipeline in Basra, Iraq's main oil refinery in the south of the country.
Even more troubling than the security weaknesses has been the erosion of the fragile political process established under the US occupation, which has been eroding since the formation of the current governing coalition in Iraq.
Many Iraqis believe that Al-Maliki is pursuing his own sectarian agenda that focuses on consolidating Shia power and monopolising control of the state and security forces under his Daawa Party.
Al-Maliki's failure to preserve a multi-ethnic political accommodation in Iraq has increasingly pushed the country's Sunni minority population to demand semi-autonomous status.
Let's discuss the provincesnd the semi-autonomous issue. Iraq is a country composed of 18 provinces. Three are semi-autonomous (Erbil, Dahuk and Sulaymaniyah) and they form the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). The other 15, at present, are under the control of the Baghdad-based government. Thursday, October 27th, Salahuddin Province's council voted to go semi-autonomous. Monday, Diyala Province's council passed a decision for the province to become semi-autonomous. Xinhua explains: Iraqi constitution says 'one or more governorates (provinces) shall have the right to organize into a region based on a request to be voted on in a referendum submitted in one of the following two methods: First: a request by one-third of the council members of each governorate intending to form a region. Second: a request by one-tenth of the voters in each of the governorates intending to form a region."
Al Mada notes that 30 residents of Diyala Province staged a protest which quickly turned into a sit-in. The protesters were registering their objection to the decision for Diyala Province to move to semi-autonomy. Sam Dagher (Wall St. Journal) notes that protests took place in Baquba yesterday for the third day in a row -- with "hundreds" participating. Alsumaria TV adds, "Sadr movement stated, on Thursday, that Diyala Region's declaration was advanced in a provocative and challenging way. Head of Diyala Province is spurring discord between the province's different components, the movement accused while asserting that the Iraqi Central Government is responsible for demands to establish federal regions." Bryar Mohammed (Zawya) adds, "Baghdad is trying to bully Diyala Province out of trying to become an autonomous region, AKnews has learnt. Suhad Hayli from the Iraqiya List party says he expects the Iraqi government will use force to quash the autonomy demands of the Province to the north east of Baghdad, bordering Iran. Diyala Provincial Council's demand for regional autonomy was announced two days ago, almost two months after another Sunni dominated province Salahaddin called for the same." On Salahuddin Province, the Kurdish Globe notes the events leading up to the October vote:
The provincial council of Salahadin last October unanimously supported making the province an autonomous region after the dismissal of faculty members from the University of Tikrit and mass arrests in Salahaddin province. Last October, the Baghdad Ministry of Higher Education dismissed 140 faculty members from the University of Tikrit in Salahaddin Province. The ministry pointed out that "it was simply following the parliamentary directive on "de-Baathification." Later, Iraqi security forces started an operation in the central and southern provinces, arresting former members of the Baath Party and accusing them of plotting a coup against Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government after the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops at the end of this year. The arrest came after Maliki received information from former Libyan interim leader Mahmoud Jibril, whose rebel forces obtained documents indicating that former Libyan President Moammar Gadhafi tried to support an attempt by Baath members to overthrow the Iraqi government.
That's one problem Nouri faces. There are many more. Many, many more.
Monday, November 28th, a car bomb was detonated near Parliament -- apparently targeting Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi and members of Parliament. Nouri al-Maliki was no where near the building (he was out of the country) and not scheduled to appear in the building that week; however, his spokesperson and then Nouri himself began insisting that the bombing was an attack on him. Al Mada reports that Parliament's investigation committee noted yesterday that it was a suicide car bombing which claimed the life of the driver, that none of the four people who've been taken into custody on suspicion of involvement work for the Parliament and that early signs are a group of people (men and women) based in Baghdad and Anbar Province were behind the bombing.
In other explosive news, Al Mada reports that Iraqiya has announced it is breaking off talks with the ruling bloc. Iraqiya is the political slate that came in first in the March 2010 elections. The results of the March 7th elections, even after Nouri al-Maliki bitterly contested them and stamped his feet until a few post-election votes were tossed his way, were that Iraqiya still came in first and Nouri's political slate State of Law still came in second. Iraqis do not elect their prime minister, the Parliament does. Per the Constitution, Ayad Allawi, the leader of Iraqiya, should have had first crack at forming a government. First crack? You become prime minister-designate and then have thirty days to name a Cabinet (nominate people for positions and have Parliament vote in favor of them). If you can't accomplish that in 30 days, per the Constitution, a new prime minister-designate is supposed to be named.
Political Stalemate I ended in November of 2010 with the Erbil Agreement hammered out in Erbil between the major political blocs (and the US) whereby every one was supposed to make concessions. The Kurds would get to keep Jalal Talabani as president. They thought they would get three vice presidents. Iraqiya won the elections in March 2010 and the political bloc was headed by Ayad Allawi. Nouri wasn't stepping down and the White House was backing Nouri. For Nouri to remain prime minister, Allawi was promised he would head a new, independent council over security issues. He was also promised that the Iraqiya candidates demonized as Ba'athists and forced out of the 2010 elections by Nouri's friends would have their names cleared.
On November 11th, the new Parliament held their first real session. They voted Osama al-Nujaifi Speaker of Parliament (he was from Iraqiya and that was part of the Erbil Agreement), Jalal was named president and Nouri was named prime minister designate (but we were all informed in the following days that this was 'unofficial' -- once named prime minister-designate, you have 30 days, per the Constitution, to put together a Cabinet and get the Parliament to sign off on each member). But what of the security council? What of clearing the names of the falsely accused?
That would come, State of Law insisted, in time.
Allawi and a number of Iraqiya members walked out. They should have refused to participate from that day forward. Instead, they foolishly believed promises (from both State of Law and the White House). Nobember 25th, Jalal 'officially' named Nouri prime minister-designate.
Nouri had created Political Stalemate I by refusing to surrender the prime minister post. He'd done that for eight months. In that time, he should have had some ideas about a Cabinet. But Nouri's problem was he over-promised to get support. So when it was time to name a Cabinet, suddenly the Cabinet had more ministers and deputy ministers than it had previously (from 37 in 2006 to 42 in 2010). And he still couldn't keep his promises to everyone.
December 22nd, the Constitution was tossed by the wayside and Nouri was allowed to move from prime minister-designate to prime minister because he'd assembled a kind of Cabinet. He named 31 out of 42 ministers and people pretended that was good enough. He had failed to meet the Constitutional mandate of naming a Cabinet but everyone looked the other way.
He refused to name the security posts: National Security, Interior and Defense. His defenders (including the White House) swore those posts would be named in a matter of weeks. His detractors saw the refusal as part of a pattern of power grabs on Nouri's part and stated he wouldn't fill the posts. This is the start of Political Stalemate II.
Six days from now, it will be a year since Nouri was wrongly (per the Constitution, per the vote) named prime minister. And Iraq still has no Minister of Defense, Minister of Interior or Minister of National Security.
When announcing that talks were over, Al Mada notes Iraqiya stated that they had given up a great deal for the good of Iraq but there was no compromise from another. That's a reference to Nouri's State of Law as well as the coalition he now heads. In giving up the right to prime minister, Iraqiya was promised (and the Erbil Agreement is in writing) that an independent security commission would be created and that Ayad Allawi would head it. That's among the many broken promises Nouri made to keep his claws on the post of prime minister.
Warren Oleny: Feisal Istrabadi is a dual Iraqi- U.S. citizen. He was Iraq's Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations. He drafted the country's interim constitution. He is now Director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East at Indiana University. Mr. Ambassador, thank you very much for being on our program.
Ambassador Feisal Amin Rasoul Istrabadi: My pleasure to be with you again.
Warren Oleny: Why did you sever yourself from the current government of Iraq? You're no longer the ambassador and you're here at Indiana University.
Ambassador Feisal Istrabadi: I am. Well Indiana University happens to be my alma mata anyway. But, at the time, in 2007, I left at the height of the sectarian violence in Iraq. And I simply felt [clears throat], excuse me, I simply felt that the government and many entities in the government were complicit in the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad and other places throughout the country and I felt no longer able to speak on behalf of that government so I left.
Warren Oleny: Are you concerned that that sort of thing will continue now that American troops are gone?
Ambassador Feisal Istrabadi: I very much am concerned as your previous guests also were discussing. The current prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has made a number of moves which indicate that he intends to continue to act against particularly the Sunnis of Iraq. And this, of course, is likely to lead to further deterioration in the country and most likely lead to further violence. It's a very, very worrisome sign to me.
. . .
[Clip of Barack Obama speaking on Monday, specifically this, "Mr. Prime Minister, you've said that Iraqis seek democracy, 'a state of citizens and not sects.' So we're partnering to strengthen the institutions upon which Iraq's democracy depends -- free elections, a vibrant press, a strong civil society, professional police and law enforcement that uphold the rule of law, an independent judiciary that delivers justice fairly, and transparent institutions that serve all Iraqis." but click here for full remarks.]
Warren Oleny: Feisal Istrabadi, how close is Iraq to achieving the kinds of thing that we just heard the president describe?
Ambassador Feisal Istrabadi: If this is a check list of what Iraq needs to do to establish the rule of law and Constitutional democracy, Iraq is failing on each of those items. Let me start with, being a lawyer, what's nearest and dearest to my heart, the judiciary. The judiciary has become a rubber stamp for the government. Constitutional cases -- a number of Constitutional cases have been decided by the Iraqi judiciary, in each case, given Maliki precisely what he wants. He has maintained control over the Interior Ministry which controls the -- he is acting Interior Minister, in fact -- which controls the-uh-the-uh internal security structure. He is, Nouri al-Maliki is, acting Defense Minister which controls the army. And he is also acting Minister of State Security. So he has the entire state security infrastructure, he has direct control over the entire state security infrastructure which, if you'll recall, is the way that Saddam Hussein rose to power in the 1970s -- precisely by controlling the state security infrastructure. We are repeating the same lessons of Iraq's past unfortunately. Each of these criteria, ticked off by President Obama, is a cause for deep concern for anybody concerned about democracy and the rule of law in Iraq.
Warren Oleny: Is there anything the Obama administration should be doing differently from what it is?
Ambassador Feisal Istrabadi: Well, I mean, that's hard to say because obviously it's influence is somewhat waning. The critical mistake the Obama administration made occurred last year when it threw its entire diplomatic weight behind supporting Nouri al-Maliki notwithstanding these very worrisome signs which were already in place in 2009 and 2010. The administration lobbied hard both internally in Iraq and throughout the region to have Nouri al-Maliki get a second term -- which he has done. Right now, the betting there's some question among Iraq experts whether we'll ever have a set of elections in Iraq worthy of the name. I mean, you can almost get odds, a la Las Vegas, on that among Iraq experts. It's a very worrisome thing. What can they do in the future? Well I suppose it would be helpful, it would be useful, if we stopped hearing this sort of Happy Talk coming from the administration -- whether its Jim Jeffreys in Baghdad, the US Ambassador or whether it's the president himself or other cabinet officers. We're getting a lot of Happy Talk, we're getting a lot of Happy Talk from the Pentagon about how professional the Iraqi Army is when, in fact, the Iraqi Army Chief of Staff himself has said it's going to take another ten years before the Iraqi Army can secure the borders. So it would help, at least, if we would stop hearing this sort of Pollyanna-ish -- if that's a word -- exclamations from the administration about how swimmingly things are going in Iraq and had a little more truth told in public, that would be a very big help to begin with.
Al Sabaah reports that Allawi met with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani on Tuesday and that they discussed various topics including oil-rich, disputed Kirkuk.
Jalal is an increasingly unpopular figure in the KRG -- which is why Massoud Barzani's competing political party continues to have greater support and why the new emerging Goran party continues to grow. Jalal's popularity won't be helped by the news that Dar Addustour reports: There's been no reduction in his salary or in the salaries of the vice presidencies. Not only that, the promised (in February) bill was never voted on by the Parliament.
In January and early February, scattered protests began to alarm Nouri al-Maliki. The protesters wanted improved basic services (potable water, dependable electricity, etc.), jobs and for the government to stop "disappearing" people. The protesters were also noting the vast corruption in Iraq and how an election had been held but the president, vice presidents and prime minister remained the exact same people who held the posts before the election.
Facing this discontent as discontent raged throughout the region (most prominently in Egypt), Nouri attended to head off the protests (and Moqtada al-Sadr rushed in to help Nouri) by promising a number of things. He would solve the corruption in 100 days -- just give him 100 days, Moqtada insisted -- and, right now, Nouri would promise reductions in government salaries, including his own. His salary was never reduced nor was Jalal's.
More broken promises from Nouri (and Iraq's First Lady Moqtada al-Sadr).
Polling brings more bad news for Nouri. Al Sabaah reports on a poll of Iraqis in which 70% say that they do not have access to all items the ration cards are supposed to provide. That's bad enough but it gets worse. All of Nouri's February promises of improvement? The people aren't seeing it. 80% of Iraqis say that there's been no efforts to repair the sewage systems in the areas that they live in, 68% state that there's no improvement in the water. Meanwhile Al Mada reports on a poll by the Arab Center for Studies which found that most in the MidEast region feel Iraq will be the next country hit by the "Arab spring."
This is not good news for Nouri who rightly feared in February that the Iraqi people were more than just disappointed in him. On the issue of the "disappeared" -- arresting peole and disappearing them so that families have no idea if their loved ones are even alive, that's not been addressed and Nouri's latest crackdown on "Ba'athists" (he sses them everywhere) only reminded Iraqis of the lack of improvement.
Reuters notes two police officers were injured in a Falluja shooting, that the Baghdad "convoy" of Baghdad security spokesperson Qassim al-Moussawi was attacked and one bystander was left injured, and, dropping back to last night, a Kirkuk sticky bombing injured one student, a Kirkuk roadside bombing injured one Iraqi military officer and a Mosul home invasion left 1 police officer dead.
In the US, Bradley Manning's Article 32 hearing began today at Fort Meade, Maryland. Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7, 2010, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August 2010 that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." Manning has been convicted in the public square despite the fact that he's been convicted in no state and has made no public statements -- despite any claims otherwise, he has made no public statements. Manning has been at Quantico in Virginia, under military lock and key, for months. In March, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. David E. Coombs is Bradley's attorney and he provided a walk through on Article 104.
Today, Ellen Nakashima (Washington Post) reports, Coombs requested that Lt Col Paul Almanza step down as presiding officer in the hearing due to the fact that, in addition to the military, Almanza also works for the Justice Dept which has an ongoing WikiLeaks investigation. Almanza refused to recuse himself. Scott Shane (New York Times) adds, "Mr. Coombs appealed the recusal decision to the Army Court of Criminal Appeals and asked the court to halt the hearing until it could rule. A decision on a possible postponement could come as early as Saturday, when testimony is scheduled to resume at 10 a.m." Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers' Miami Herald) offers, "Making his first court appearance, Manning sat unemotionally behind the defense table wearing dark-rimmed glasses and a combat patch from the 10th Mountain Division on his Army uniform. He stared ahead, not glancing at the row of supporters sitting behind him and his defense team, which includes two military lawyers. After 19 months in military custody at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., he appeared thin but healthy."