Sunday, April 15, 2012


Now this is cute. Online, the New York Times carried the feel-good story (Eric Pfanner's Interntional Herald Tribune article -- the Times owns IHT) that Iraq, via an underground cable system, is now a telecommunications hub. It's a feel good story for a number of reasons. The US government, please remember, is appalled that Bashar Assad, president of Syria, is supposedly using an internet suppression device to limit access. Remember, Syria got that technology from Iraq which received it from the US with the US government's permission. And remember that the Arab League Summit was held in Baghdad March 29th and that, for that entire week, the Baghdad cell phone signal was killed by the government. It'd be nice if a feel-good story could contain some reality.

It'd be even nicer if the 'paper of record' could actually report on Iraq. Thursday the head of Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission and one other commission member were arrested. It's huge news in Iraq. The New York Times hasn't written it up once. Is news about informing or distracting?

Feel-good nonsense makes us all dumber when that's all we're fed. It could be worse, however. They could be the AP which -- either due to a desire to deceive or flat-out ignorance -- can't get the basics right. We'll get to it.

I'm traveling in some vehicle
I'm sitting in some cafe
A defector from the petty wars
That shell shock love away
-- "Hejira," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her album of the same name

Last Sunday, the number of US military people killed in the Iraq War since the start of the illegal war was 4488. Tonight? PDF format warning, DoD lists the the number of Americans killed serving in Iraq at 4488.

Bushra Juhi (AP) reports that both Faraj al-Haidari and Karim al-Tamimi were released today and maintain their arrests were a political move to attempt to control the commission. That would be on Nouri's part, though that's not stated. He is the one who ordered the arrests. It's a point Moqtada al-Sadr could make and state clearly on Saturday. AFP quotes him declaring, ""The one who ordered the arrest is, to be precise, brother Nuri al-Maliki. Maybe the arrest is to the benefit of the brother prime minister, because in my opinion, he is working on postponing or cancelling the elections." This really isn't news, that they were released. Juhi wants you to know they're out. And wants to treat that as a development. I'm sorry, I'm not that damn stupid. We'll come back to that.

Friday, not today, Friday, AFP reported that the two men would "be jailed until Sunday, a fellow commission member told AFP." And that wasn't buried in the report, it was the opening sentence.

AFP spoke with al-Haidari after his release and he explained the charges are related to approved one-time bonuses for five employees of amounts between $80 and $125 (US equivalent). One-time bonuses to five employees. And he tells them this case was previously dismissed by the court but the State of Law MP bringing the charges filed an appeal. From the article:

He said that Hanan al-Fatlawi, an MP from Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's State of Law coalition, had pursued a large number of complaints against IHEC that eventually wound up with the Iraqi judiciary.
"For the last 6 months... the judiciary was sending warrants of investigation every day to the employees," Haidari said.

State of Law is the political slate that Nouri al-Maliki heads. Xinhua reported yesterday, "The government in Iraq's northern semi-autonomous Kurdistan region said Saturday that it has called on the central government in Baghdad to release the electoral commission's head and another member arrested on corruption charges." The Oman Tribune notes that the KRG issued the following statement on Friday: "The decision of the authorities in Baghdad to issue a detention order against Faraj Al Haidari and Karim Al Tamimi amounts to a gross violation and dangerous infringement of the political process. Such a decision is targeting the independence of the electoral commission ... We call (on the authorities) to reconsider the detention order immediately and refrain from persisting in insulting the democratic operation."

Again, I'm not that damn stupid. Bushra Juhi works into the article, "Al-Maliki eventually kept his job after managing to form a broader Shiite coalition." That's either ignorance or it's a deliberate attempt to lie. Nouri al-Maliki held on to the post of prime minister for one reason only: the US-brokered Erbil Agreement. We can tutor Juhi on this at length in a snapshot this week or AP can get their damn facts right. What Juhi writes is WRONG. It's factually wrong and it's demonstrably wrong. The Erbil Agreement isn't a minor thing or even a past thing despite being signed off on by Nouri and other parties in November of 2010. The failure on Nouri's part to implement the rest of the agreement is what caused the ongoing political crisis. Iraqiya's been clear on that, the Kurdish bloc has been clear on that, Moqtada al-Sadr has been clear on that, KRG President Massoud Barzani gave a speech in DC two weeks ago and took questions. What did he say about the Erbil Agreement?

President Massoud Barzani: As far as the second part of your question, the Erbil Agreement. In fact, the agreement was not only for the sake of forming the government and forming the three presidencies -- the presidency, the Speakership of Parliament and premier. In fact, it was a package -- a package that included a number of essential items. First, to put in place a general partnership in the country. Second, commitment to the Constitution and its implementation, the issue of fedarlism, the return of balance of power and especially in all the state institutions,the establishment in [. . .] mainly in the armed forces and the security forces, the hydrocarbons law, the Article 140 of the Constitution, the status of the pesh merga. These were all part of the package that had been there. Had this Erbil Agreement been implemented, we would not have faced the situation that we are in today. Therefore, if we do not implement the Erbil Agreement then there would certainly be problems in Iraq.

The "premier" is the prime minister.

I have no idea why AP's report is so wrong. But the choices are: Ignorance or a desire to lie. Considering how charged the political environment is in Iraq today, you'd think AP would take care with every report so as not to appear to be taking sides. But you'd also think they'd be a little more honest about Nouri period. Maybe the answer for the HUGE MISTAKE is that the AP's already chosen sides and will now make events fit the narrative they've selected?

It's very strange that they get a key detail wrong, that they can't note that Nouri ordered the arrests (while even Moqtada al-Sadr can point that out), that they can't report on State of Law (Nouri's political slate) bringing all these lawsuits against the election commission . . . It's really interesting what they can't report especially when what they do include in a report is signifcantly wrong, rewrites history and makes Nouri look a lot better than he should. (Reuters doesn't struggle the way AP does and you can refer to this Reuters article to draw comparisons and contrasts.)

Aswat al-Iraq quotes MP Kadhim al-Shammari stating the arrests were "personal targeting and vendetta" and that "the arrest of Haidari will affect the provincial elections next January."

New content at Third:

Isaiah's latest goes up after this. Kat's "Kat's Korner: Bonnie's got another classic" went up this morning. Pru asks us to take a pass on Great Britain's Socialist Worker noting that "Sadie Robinson has made a silly prat of herself by allowing her innate ignorance to shine through." She's referring to Robinson's report bemoaning "no jury hearing" in the Trayvon Martin case. Robinson clearly does not grasp the difference between "jury" and "grand jury."

The UK has a different legal system than the US, in fairness (and dropped grand juries before the start of WWII). However, when you make it a point to write an opinion piece calling out a move, you need understand what that move was.

In the US, a grand jury hears the prosecution's case and waives it forward or decides it's not worth it. Most grand juries around the country are rubber stamps. They very rarely reject the prosecution's case. A friend in another state (not California) serves on a grand jury and I was surprised one day when she revealed (she shouldn't have, all of the proceedings are supposed to be secret) that she always votes in favor of the prosecution. Why? She figures they wouldn't waste everyone's time so if the call her in, it's important and the charges they are presenting are valid. Like most members of a grand jury, she's not serving on it because she possesses any special knowledge, she's on a grand jury because of her social standing in the community.

At the end of last month, Stan wrote about an episode of The Good Wife involving grand juries.
That episode was "Blue Ribbon Panel" and you can still stream it currently at (that episode will not streamable forever, in about three weeks, it will be gone -- the writing credit for "Blue Ribbon Panel" is Courtney Kemp Agboh, Robert King and Michelle King.)

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