Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Miracle Cure of Little Zab

Did Jalal Talabani have spinal surgery?

That was always a question worth asking. The political crisis was really heating up and Talabani was under tremendous pressure from the KRG to act. Acting required going against Nouri al-Maliki who Talabani's always been happy to appease. (His anti-death penalty pose, for example, has never led him to make demands to Nouri on that subject. All it does is make sure that the signing off goes through the vice presidents and that Talabani's hands remain clean.)

When Nouri was pushing back on the national conference idea, when he was making his own demands and when the last meeting to plan the national conference is to take place, Jalal suddenly high tails it out of Iraq to Germany for spinal surgery. There was no heads up and no indication that he needed spinal surgery. Suddenly, he needed it.

So two weekends ago he had spinal surgery. Or that's his assertion.

Aswat al-Iraq reports today, "Iraq's President Jalal Talabani has received at his Baghdad Office on Monday evening the US Ambassador to Baghdad James Jeffrey, and discussed with him the efforts to settle the current problems and pacify the the circumstances in Iraq, as well as the strengthening of bilateral between Iraq and the United States, according to a Presidential statement on Tuesday."

Wow, what a miracle recovery from spinal surgery. Especially for a man as fat as Talabani. This is the man who, went he collapsed in an American bookstore during Nouri's first term as prime minister, needed several of his entourage/bodyguards to assist him just in standing upright. I wouldn't be surprised if he weighed close to 300 pounds.

But he's back at work. In his office, no less. I guess incisions heal quicker in Iraq? I guess there's no concern of rupturing sutures? It must be The Miracle Cure of Little Zab.

Or maybe Talabani fled in a panic to Germany because leadership was too much for him and he's now returned to his office because Iraqiya's returned to Parliament?

Though I've not heard from any Kurds who doubt that Talabani had surgery, I have heard from many that he didn't have to have surgery when he did. That it could have been postponed.

Look for this to be a stain on Talabani and his party in the next provincial elections in the KRG.

Al Mada reports
Talabani and Nouri met yesterday -- we even get a picture and Jalal's looking his usual self -- who knew spinal surgery was so simple? No wheelchair. No cane. Two weekends ago he had spinal surgery. And sitting in a normal chair with that huge belly hanging out puts no pressure on the spine or on the alleged stitches in his back. So Nouri and Jalal agree on a national conference now. Well, Nouri has demands and is making them. But they 'agree.'

Tareq al-Hashemi is one of Iraq's two vice presidents. (They have a third vice president slot vacant.) He isn the KRG and a guest of Talabani's while Nouri demands he be arrested on charges of terrorism. Aswat al-Iraq reports al-Hashemi has issued a statement:

A statement, issued on Tuesday by the Temporary Media Office of Hashimy, stressed that "at a time when we condemn the cheap practices by the Prime Minister, which he carries out in a feverish means against his political opponent, through theexpansion of the accusation circle and the chasing of innocent members of Hashimy's bodyguards and office employees, we call on President Jalal Talabani for immediate interference to put an end to the Prime Minister's acts and violations of the Constitution and the laws".
"His continued violations against human rights, have caused dishonor for Iraq and forced Amnesty International to issue its statement from 2 days ago regarding the 2 female employees in Hashimy's office, Rasha and Bassima," the statement added.

AP reports that Iraqiya rejoined the Parliament today but the boycott of attending Cabinet meetings continues. Dar Addutour reports that a meeting to determine Iraqiya returning to Cabinet meetings has been postponed and that one of Iraqiya's terms is that Saleh al-Mutlaq be part of the return. Nouri demanded in December that Deputy Minister al-Mutlaq be stripped of his post.

Meanwhile AFP reports on US President Barack Obama's YouTube fest yesterday and his assertion that there was nothing wrong with the drones flying over Iraq. He is quoted declaring, "The truth of the matter is we're not engaging in a bunch of drone attacks inside of Iraq. There's some surveillance to make sure that our embassy compound is protected." That's dishonest. It's going beyond the embassy compound, for one thing. For another, Iraq's objecting to the helicopters and other US air traffic taking place. Yesterday's snapshot noted State Dept's spokesperson Victoria Nuland's remarks about drones. She was asked about if Iran or another country had a non-weaponized drone flying through Central Park what would happen and she stated no country had ever made such a request. Clearly, the US made no such request to Iraq. However, let's get to what would happen, I checked with a friend at the Justice Dept. Whatever foreigner was flying a drone in Central Park would be arrested, facing questions and facing terrorism charges. It would be incumbent upon him or her to prove that this was not a rehearsal for an armed drone which may or may not be used for a biological attack. In the current climate, it is thought that anyone arrested for such a thing would plead out to the lowest charge possible because he or she could never make a strong case -- even if they were innocent -- in court that would prove their innocence.

David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award. We'll close with this from Bacon's "Marching Away From The Cold War" (Monthly Review):

One sign carried in almost every May Day march of the last few years in the United States says it all: "We are Workers, not Criminals!" Often it was held in the calloused hands of men and women who looked as though they'd just come from work in a factory, cleaning an office building, or picking grapes.

The sign stated an obvious truth. Millions of people have come to the United States to work, not to break its laws. Some have come with visas, and others without them. But they are all contributors to the society they've found here.

In the largest U.S. May Day event this year, marchers were joined by the public workers who protested in the state capitol in Madison, Wisconsin, who have become symbols of the fight for labor rights in the U.S. Their message was the same: we all work, we all contribute to our communities and we all have the right to a job, a union and a decent life.

May Day marches and demonstrations over the last five years have provided a vehicle in which immigrants protest their lack of human rights, and unions call for greater solidarity among workers facing the same corporate system. The marches are usually organized by grass roots immigrant rights groups, increasingly cooperating with the formal structure of the labor movement. This year the attacks on public workers provided an additional push to unions to use May Day as a vehicle for protest.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka spoke at the largest of those marches, in Milwaukee, where national attention has focused on the attacks on public workers and their mass resistance. Trumka's presence marked two important political changes in labor. May Day is no longer a holiday red-baited in the U.S. labor movement, but one used to promote a defense of workers' rights, as it is in the rest of the world. And unions are slowly adopting a tradition of May Day demonstrations calling for immigrant rights, a tradition begun by immigrant communities themselves in 2006.

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