Friday, July 13, 2012

Michael O'Hanlon: Bending History, Ignoring Facts

Michael O'Hanlon seems bound and determined to embarrass the Brookings Institution and, considering all the damage the centrist think tank has done, maybe we should just root him on in that?

It's a bit hard for a think tank to be seen as non-partisan and above the fray when you have a Michael O'Hanlon forever attempting to inject himself into presidential races.  Some would argue his co-written book Bending History (what an apt title for any volume of history spinmeister O'Hanlon might put his name to) created a confidence crisis for Brookings but the reality is that not only will most Americans not read the book, most won't even hear of it except maybe as an argument for releasing books in a digital format only so that Bending History and other books no one buys can't clog up clearance tables, strip malls and land fills.

By contrast, his "Obama's Iraq Legacy" is online and will be seen by many. After the laughter dies down, hopefully, people will continue to call the nonsense out and, most importantly, to call O'Hanlon out.  It's not that he makes one mistake, it's that he makes many.  It's not that he uses one set of metrics, it's that he uses contrasting ones.

America's Littlest Weak Chinned War Hawk has always wanted to sell the Iraq War and he still has that desire today.

The first laugh out loud moment may be this:

There was some good diplomacy in this time as well, largely spearheaded by Vice President Biden. During the winter of 2010, Prime Minister Maliki seemed intent on exploiting gray areas--and even some not-so-gray areas--in Iraqi election law to ensure he would hold onto power. Biden did much to get him to desist from further electoral shenanigans. Partial recounts in districts where other parties besides Maliki's had done well were, it was agreed, not a good idea. Banning former members of Saddam's Baathist Party from holding office after they had won seats was without legal foundation.

That's false by any standard unless O'Hanlon's allowed to define "winter" as spring, summer or fall.  In the US -- and the article's for a US publication and O'Hanlon's a US citizen -- winter kicks off on December 21st or 22nd and runs through March 21st or 22nd.   So what is O'Hanlon attempting to argue took place in winter?

That Nouri was attempting to block elected officials from being seated?

Presumably that would have to be December 2010.  It can't be early March 2010 because no one was seated until November 2010 (outside of a brief June 2010 session that no one took seriously).  Elections were March 7, 2010 (with early elections -- for groups like the police and the elderly -- starting a few days before).  So since Parliament didn't even sit until November 2010, over eight months after the elections, Joe Biden couldn't have 'fixed' anything in March 2010 with regards to getting Nouri to allow candidates to be seated.  That leaves us with the end of December 2010 through March 2011.

Did Joe Biden ride to the rescue and get candidates seated then?


The Erbil Agreement did that.  The Erbil Agreement was signed off on November 10, 2010.  That's not winter.   November 11, 2010 is when Parliament holds its first real session.

The US facilitated the Erbil Agreement.  We've long noted that.  (The Erbil Agreement was a response to the eight month plus political stalemate.  Nouri's State of Law came in second to Iraqiya.  Nouri still wanted a second term as prime minister despite those results.  He refused to allow the process to move forward -- and the US government backed him -- and pitched an 8 month tantrum.  The Erbil Agreement gave him a second term in exchange for various concessions.)

But this claim that Joe got Nouri to allow people to be seated in the winter is not correct.  Now Joe did talk about candidates -- not elected, this was before the election -- being allowed to run.  Joe made a series of calls on that issue.  In the months leading up to the elections, various political rivals of Nouri's were suddenly tagged "Ba'athists."  They may have been elected to the last Parliament.  But now the Justice and Accountability Commission was saying they were "Ba'athists" and, therefore, could not run for office.  Along with Joe Biden, the United Nations also did a lot of urging and hand holding.  But those are candidates that were allowed to run (and more stayed banned than were allowed to run), not people who were elected.

Michael O'Hanlon doesn't know what he's writing about.

And if Joe Biden convinced -- winter or not -- Nouri that "banning former members of Saddam's Baathist Party from holding office after they had won seats was without legal foundation," then why was this in the Erbil Agreement?  Why was this a concession in the Erbil Agreement?

O'Hanlon is aware of that, right?  He doesn't write like he is, he writes like an uninformed idiot.

Novembe 11, 2010 was Parliament's first session.  Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi staged a walk-out in the midst of the meeting.  The US intervened and Iraqiya went back in.

(Not all of Iraqiya walked out.  Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi was one of the ones who did not walk out.)

Can O'Hanlon tell us why Allawi walked out?

He walked out because this part of the Erbil Agreement was already being postponed.  Oh, we can't do that right now, insisted State of Law.  Give us a week or so.  And right then and there, Allawi saw that Nouri was not going to honor the agreement.  A side deal got him to honor that aspect of it.  But Allawi was correct, Nouri trashed the agreement.  He used it to get a second term and then refused to honor it (refused to create an independent national security commission, refused to follow the Constitution and implement Article 140, etc.).

O'Hanlon's got a really lame piece of fiction. But it works better as (bad) fiction than it does as a history of what happened.

O'Hanlon then wants to insist:

The progress represented by the surge, the Sunni awakening, the Basra and Sadr City offensives, and related developments in the latter Bush years was solidified during Obama's tenure. The Iraqi civil war as such is over. Violence is down more than 90 percent relative to 2006 and early 2007 levels. Electricity production is up more than 50 percent, and international energy firms are bidding enthusiastically to help develop new oil fields.

The progress represented by the surge, the Sunni awakening, the Basra and Sadr City offensives, and related developments in the latter Bush years was solidified during Obama's tenure.

No, they weren't.  You're a damn liar.  Last week, Nouri made a big show of announcing that Sahwa ("Awakenings," "Sons of Iraq"/"Daughters Of Iraq") would get the pay that they haven't been receiving for some time.  And possibly they now will.

But that doesn't change the fact that Nouri was supposed to integrate them into the security forces and those that couldn't be integrated would be given government jobs.  Nouri's never done that.  Not only that, the US was paying them long after they were supposed to have stopped -- and, yes, that's under Barack.  Also, it's not like O'Hanlon to ever contradict a government official so he might want to rethink that "Sunni awakening."  David Petraeus now heads the CIA.  He didn't always. At the April 8, 2008 Senate Armed Services hearing he was General David Petraeus, then the top US commander in Iraq, and he explained Sahwa.

In his opening remarks, Petraues explained of the "Awakening" Council (aka "Sons of Iraq," et al) that it was a good thing "there are now over 91,000 Sons of Iraq -- Shia as well as Sunni -- under contract to help Coalition and Iraqi Forces protect their neighborhoods and secure infrastructure and roads.  These volunteers have contributed significantly in various areas, and the savings in vehicles not lost because of reduced violence -- not to mention the priceless lives saved -- have far outweighed the cost of their monthly contracts."  Again, the US must fork over their lunch money, apparently, to avoid being beat up.  

"Shia as well as Sunni." That's Petreaus's testimony.

Back to O'Hanlon.

The Iraqi civil war as such is over.

One press report after another in recent months has noted Iraqi fears that it was about to restart or has included observations that the attacks are attempts to get it to restart (see especially AP's reporting out of Iraq).

Violence is down more than 90 percent relative to 2006 and early 2007 levels.

You can only say "violence is down" if you make 2006 and 2007 your base.  There's no reason to do that -- as we've pointed out forever.  That's not the start of the war.  That's the ethnic cleansing. Violence is increasing, the United Nations counted over 400 deaths from violence last month alone.

O'Hanlon should stop whoring because even Brookings can only take so much.

Electricity production is up more than 50 percent,

In what world?  O'Hanlon's living in a different world than most people.   From yesterday's snapshot:

Hadeel al Sayegh (The National) reports today, "Iraq's economic development is being held back by a critical shortage of electricity - with businesses and homes across the country forced to endure blackouts of as long as 15 hours a day."  al Sayegh offers another article today which provides a walk through on what that means to one business:

At least four times a day, Hadi Ahmed leaves his Baghdad home and goes out into the sweltering heat to restart his generator.
"We are dying in this heat," he says. "I feel like every day this country is going backwards. The lack of electricity is destroying my business."
Mr Ahmed spends about US$3,000 (Dh11,018) a month producing electricity to power a plastics factory that manufactures household items. He says he can afford to operate the factory at only a third of capacity.
"Out of six machines, because of the current circumstances, I only have two operational," said Mr Ahmed.

Back to O'Hanlon:

 and international energy firms are bidding enthusiastically to help develop new oil fields.


Because you've got an ExxonMobil deal from October that's not proceeding at present because Nouri's trying to kill it.

Then you have the May auction which --with a nod to a friend who's a brilliant comedy writer -- I repeatedly hailed as "a dingo dog with fleas."  From May 31st:

None of that plays well on the international stage and while big business traditionally doesn't care about human rights even some of them can afford to point to that in ignoring the auction which was always going to underwhelm because it was a dingo dog with fleas.  It's day four of a yard sale.  Nothing worth buying is being offered.   They should see it as a success that Sinan Salaheddin (AP) reports that they got one offer ("Four deals attracted no bidders and a fifth for oil exploration in southern Iraq was withdrawn [. . .]")  A year ago, the offerings would have sold despite being disappointing.  But the reason they would have sold was because companies wanting to get a toe-hold in Iraq or improve relations with Nouri to work towards a better deal later on would have snapped up the properties.  But with Crazy Nouri of the Oil Markets, there's not enough trust in the future of Iraq right now for companies to waste seed money.  

I guess there are facts and then there are what O'Hanlon calls 'facts.'  The two never match up but do allow O'Hanlon to commune with his creative muse.

This is an awful article.  We could do an entire snapshot on his nonsense.  We may do that today depending upon whether I can stomach more of that nonsense.  We've been so bogged down refuting his 'facts' that we haven't even had time to refute his argument which is also wrong.

Maybe we'll grab that in the snapshot.  The following community sties -- plus Pacifica Evening News, Cindy Sheehan, and Susan's On The Edge -- updated last night and this morning:

Iraq Veterans Against the War notes this upcoming event Monday, July 23rd, 7:00 pm at Lutheran Church of Reformation in DC (212 E. Capitol St.):

Join cultural pioneer Phil Donahue for a dialogue and Q&A following a screening of his acclaimed documentary Body of War, an intimate and transformational feature film he co-directed about the true face of war today. The film follows Tomas Young, 25 years old, paralyzed from a bullet to his spine - wounded after serving in Iraq for less than a week. Body of War is Tomas' coming home story as he evolves into a new person, coming to terms with his disability and finding his own unique and passionate voice against the war. Learn more at:
“Superb documentary! Almost unbearably moving.”
- Time Magazine

“Impossible not to like... Remarkable”
- New York Times

This event is also part of our D.C. Peacebuilding Advocacy Days.
$10 suggested donation; no one turned away for lack of funds, contribute what you can.

Co-Sponsored by: Alliance for Peacebuilding, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Iraq Veterans Against War, Peace X Peace

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