Monday, November 09, 2009

Iraq snapshot

Monday, November 9, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces multiple deaths, two British soldiers testify about an Iraqi being beat to death in British custody,  the election law passes, a US soldier is kicked out of the military for the 'crime' of his sexuality, and more.
Today the US military announced: "Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Iraq – Two U.S. Army pilots were killed when a helicopter experienced a hard landing in Salah ad Din Province, Nov.8. The names of the deceased are being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. The names of service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense official website [. . .]The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. The incident is under investigation." And they announced: "AL ANBAR PROVINCE, Iraq – A Marine attached to Multi National Force – West died as the result of a non-combat related incident here Nov. 8. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. [. . .] The incident is under investigation." The announcements bring the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4362
In other reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad sticky bombing which left one person wounded, a Mosul explosion ("thermal charge") which left ten people injured, and a Falluja roadside bombing which wounded four people.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 person shot dead in Mosul today and Hadi Laiybi ("Sadrist leader") was shot dead "on his doorstep" in Mosul last night.
Back in July, Robert Fisk (Independent of London) wrote, "I first heard about Baha Mousa from his family. He was working as a hotel receptionist in Basra when British troops surrounded the building and arrested seven men. They were taken to a British barracks, hooded and beaten. Two days later, as his weeping father recalled for me, Mousa was dead. His family was given $3,000 in compensation and rejected a further $5,000. What they wanted was justice. His father had been appointed a police officer by the British authorities themselves. He was wearing two pistols on his hips. He was 'our man', and we killed his son." There is an ongoing inquiry into Baha's death taking place in England.  We last noted it in the October 6th snapshot.
The Right Honorable Sir William Gage brought today's proceedings to order, Today we are going to start the second half of the evidence in Module 2, which as I think I said before we broke off two weeks ago, we very much hoped would be complete by the time we come to our break at Christmas, the last day of which I think is 18 December. Just one other matter I want to mention. Today we have two witnesses giving evidence, the second of which is Mr. Reader. He will give evidence by videolink from Manchsester as I think you now all know."  It seemed rather business as usual; however, later testimony made it a dramatic day for the inquiry.  That was especially true of the second witness, Garry Reader.  But not just him.
Gerald Elias: Mr Aspinall, I am not going to dwell on this at any stage, although I will come back to it very briefly, but it is right to say, isn't it, that in the months and years that followed the events that this Inquiry is concerned with, you were not at all times as helpful as you might have been.
Gareth Aspinall: Can you please elaborate more on that?
Gerald Elias:  Well from time to time you told lies, didn't you, in the past, when asked questions about these events?
Gareth Aspinall: No, I have told no lies whatsoever. If there's anything that have been missed out on my statements it's purely because I have not been able to remember.
Gerald Elias:  Is that true?
Gareth Aspinall:  Yes, that's true.
Uh, actually it wasn't.  As Aspinall would admit later, he gave false statements early on.  He was worried, he said, what might happen to them. Punishment for Baha's deaht?  No, future promotions, that sort of thing.  "At that point," he declared, "I wasn't worried and I don't think any of the other lads was worried about being blamed. We had nothing to be worried about on that bit. What we was worried about was our own positions, as I have just said, and our futures within the army of telling the truth on what happened. [. . .] We talked about it. We was worried. We was worried what would happen if we told the truth. As I've said, that's why we stalled." He would cite Cpl Donald Payne -- being intimidated by him -- as one reason they did not supply the facts at the start of the investigation into Baha's death.  Dropping back to the September 19, 2006 snapshot:
From the Bully Boy to another war war criminal --  in England, Corporal Donald Payne pleaded guilty "to inhumanely treating civilians detained in Iraq between Sept 13 and Sept 16 2003 in Basra, Iraq" (Telegraph of London).  The Guardian notes that Payne ("one of seven British troops who went on trial today facing charges linked to the death of an Iraqi civilian") was pleading guilty to chrages that "relate to the death of Baha Musa, 26, an Iraqi civilian in Basra". Jeremey Lovell (Reuters) reports that Musa is said to have had "93 injuries on his body, including a broken nose and ribs" and that "another detainee was so badly beaten that he nearly died of kidney failure."
The first witness, Gareth Aspinall, described seeing Payne abusing the prisoners.
Gareth Aspinall:  When I walked in there [interrogation], I remember seeing a number of detainees stood up and receiving punches off Mr Payne to the lower back area.
Gerald Elias: The number of detainees, were they hooded?
Gareth Aspinall:  I can't remember.
Gerald Elias:  Were they plasticuffed?
Gareth Aspinall: I can't 100 per cent say for certain, but I believe they would have been. But I can't remember if they was.
Gerald Elias: If you said, as you did in your statement of 10 October, that they were hooded, that would have been the position, would it?
Gareth Aspinall: Sorry, what? What do you mean?
Gerald Elias:  If you said it on 10 October in your statement --
Gareth Aspinall: Yes.
Gerald Elias:  -- that when you went into the TDF all the detainees were hooded, that would have been true?
Gareth Aspinall: Yes, if that's what I said in my statement at the time.
This continues with more descriptions of the beating.
Gerald Elias:  Did there appear to be any reason for Mr Payne to be doing this?
Gareth Aspinall: No. He just seemed very angry.
Gerald Elias:  He seemed angry? What gave you the impression he was angry?

Gareth Aspinall: I don't know. His posture, his -- you can tell when someone looks angry.
Gerald Elias:  Was he shouting?

Gareth Aspinall: I think he was, yes.
Gerald Elias:  And the punches that he was throwing, describe those to us?
Gareth Aspinall: There was -- they looked like full-on punches where he was bringing his arm back and, basically like a boxer, hitting them in the lower back area.
Gerald Elias:  Full-on punches.
Gareth Aspinall: Well, they were quite -- they looked quite hard. I wouldn't like to have received one, put it that way.
He said the victims being beaten "yelled out in pain. Held their side."  And he and the others didn't object.  He offered an explanation of why.
Gareth Aspinall: Maybe because we felt, you know, what do we do here? What do we do in this situation? You know, was we to turn around, run out of the room and go straight to the ops room and report it to the commanding officer?
Gerald Elias:  Well, why not?
Gareth Aspinall: Because we didn't know whether this is what happened in war. We was very young.
He testified that abuse was not limited to Sunday and continued on Monday when they were put in stress position and the punches continued.
Gerald Elias:  On this Monday, you did see, didn't you, what I think came to be known as the choir, or the chorus?
Gareth Aspinall: Yes, I did.

Gerald Elias:  Tell us what it was.

Gareth Aspinall: It's where the detainees were made to stand up, and Mr Payne, he would go about each individual detainee and he would poke them --

Gerald Elias:  You are just dropping your voice a little bit.
Gareth Aspinall: Sorry. He would -- all the detainees would be stood up and he would move about the room poking them, just basically with his finger, and they would -- each and every one of them would scream out in pain. And he'd take turns in doing it to different ones, and he thought -- he developed this and he thought it was funny.  The first time I saw it, I'll openly admit I did chuckle, but then as the day progressed and it started to wear me down and I really felt for the detainees. I felt it was a bit out of order that -- it was difficult to watch.
Gerald Elias:  You say that Mr Payne would poke with a finger?
Gareth Aspinall: Yes.
Gerald Elias:  Which part of the body?
Gareth Aspinall: Round the lower back area.

Gerald Elias:  The same area to which he had been punching?
Gareth Aspinall: Yes. Yes.
Gerald Elias:  What response would that produce from the detainee?
Gareth Aspinall: They'd scream in pain.
Monday night, he testified, he heard screaming and assumed Payne was doing his usual abuse.  Suddenly a stretcher was called for an he saw Baha carried out on it.  Payne quickly came outside and instructed, "If anyone asks, he banged his head."  The second witness, Garry Reader, also spoke of 'instructions' given.  Payne and Rogers told him that "s**t rolls downhill" and that if the truth got it, those under Payne and Rogers would be held responsible.
Gerald Elias:  Now, the events of Monday evening, and what we know to be the incident that involved the detainee Baha Mousa, what was the first thing that you knew of something happening in relation to Baha Mousa?
Garry Reader:  I entered the TDF via the right room door and seen Mr Baha Mousa standing there with his plasticuffs -- with his sandbag removed. I immediately shouted out, Private Cooper reacted --
Gerald Elias:  Private Cooper was already in the room, was he?
Garry Reader:  I think he was, yes.
Gerald Elias:  Mm-hmm.
Garry Reader:  I can't be 100 per cent certain, but immediately following was Corporal Payne. He come from the left doorway. They both grabbed hold of Mr Baha. There was a struggle and they were trying to get him into the central room where I seen both Private Cooper and Private -- Corporal Payne use physical force to get Mr Baha Mousa into the room.  Outside of vision, I heard screaming, Baha Mousa, shouting of Corporal Payne and Private Cooper to words of, "Get on the f**king floor, get down, get down". At this point I went outside. I think I spoke to Private Graham --
Gerald Elias:  Pausing there for a moment. Before you go outside, one or two aspects of what you described. After you saw Baha Mousa, you say, without plasticuffs and with a hood off his head, you --
Garry Reader:  I don't think -- I can't remember if his plasticuffs were on or not, but I know his sandbag was removed from his head. 

Gerald Elias:  I understand, all right. You shouted, Cooper goes to -- to him, is that right, first?
Garry Reader:  Yes.
Gerald Elias:  Where did Mr Payne come from?
Garry Reader:  Come from the left door.
Gerald Elias:  Along the passageway?
Garry Reader:  Yes.
Gerald Elias:  The two of them, you said, I think, forceflly then put Baha Mousa into the middle room?
Garry Reader:  That's correct.
Gerald Elias:  What do you mean by "forcefully"?
Garry Reader:  Dragging him, kicking him and punchin ghim.
Gerald Elias:  Which was doing what?
Garry Reader:  Both were kicking, punching and dragging.
Gerald Elias:  Were you able to see where the kicks or the punches from both landed?
Garry Reader:  Various regions of his body, his legs, arms, generally all round his body, really. They weren't specific areas that they were aiming for.
Gerald Elias:  He was taken out of your sight, as I understand it, into the middle room?
Garry Reader:  That's correct.

Gerald Elias:  Had you seen him in the middle room earlier in the day?

Garry Reader:  Not that I can recall, no.
Gerald Elias:  Once he had gone out of your sight, you heard the shouting that you talked about?
Garry Reader:  Yes.
Gerald Elias:  Then I gather you went outside.
Garry Reader:  Yes.
Gerald Elias:  Why did you go outside at that point.

Garry Reader:  Didn't want to be there.
Gerald Elias:  Because?
Garry Reader:  It was wrong.

Gerald Elias:  What did you think was wrong?
Garry Reader:  The way they was treated.
Gerald Elias:  I'm sorry? The way . . .?
Garry Reader:  He was treated.
Approximately ten minutes later, he went back inside the building.
Gerald Elias:  What happened when you went back in?
Garry Reader:  (inaudible) talked to Baha Mousa. I shouted at him, got no response.
Gerald Elias:  So you went into the middle room, did you?
Garry Reader:  Yes.
Gerald Elias:  Where was Baha Mousa when you went into the middle room, in what position?
Garry Reader:  Slumped up against the wall with his head down. Sandbag was on his head and his plasticuffs behind his -- his hands were plasticuffed behind his back.
Gerald Elias:  Forgive me, it is a little difficult to hear you. Did you say you shouted at him or to him?
Garry Reader:  To him.
Gerald Elias:  Why did you go in and shout to him?
Garry Reader:  To make sure he was all right.
Gerald Elias:  Why did you think he might not be all right?
Garry Reader:  He had just had a good kicking.
Gerald Elias:  You say you got no response?
Garry Reader:  No.
Gerald Elias:  So what did you do then.
Garry Reader:  I noticed he wasn't moving. Took his sandbag off his head and his eyes were rolled back into the back of his head. Immediately lay him down, shouted someone to get me a knife because I couldn't lie him down properly because his hands were behind his back, and started first aid, CPR.
Gerald Elias:  Did someone get you a knife?
Garry Reader:  Yes, someone got me a knife to cut his plasticuffs.
Gerald Elias:  And you cut them, did you?
Garry Reader:  Yes.
Gerald Elias:  Did you then put him down on the ground?
Garry Reader:  Yes.
Gerald Elias:  On his back, on his side, or what?
Garry Reader:  On his back.
Gerald Elias:  What did you do then?
Garry Reader:  Immediately started CPR.
Gerald Elias:  Were you able to resuscitate him?
Garry Reader:  No.
Gerald Elias:  I think we know that a medic or medics did come, did they?
Garry Reader:  Evenutally a medic come. He took over the repetitions and I took over -- I just continued with the breaths for a while until the stretcher came.
Gerald Elias:  Then he was taken away on a stretcher, was he?
Garry Reader:  Yes.
Gerald Elias:  But in the time that you were working with Baha Mousa, you got no sign, did you, of resuscitation or life?
Garry Reader:  No.
Two witnesses testifying today as to how the 26-year-old Baha ended up dead while in British custody.
Sunday the Iraqi Parliament finally passed an election law.  In the US, the White House issued this statement from Vice President Joe Biden who's been taxed with being the adminstration's lead on Iraq: "I congratulate Iraqi political leaders on today's passage of amendments to the Iraq elections law. Today's vote by the members of the Council of Representatives will allow for parliamentary elections in January 2010, as mandated under the Iraqi constitution. I commend the Council of Representatives for coming to agreement on the various difficult issues of considerable importance to Iraqis. I also extend my appreciation to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq for its important role in providing technical advice. These elections will be a critical step forward in advancing national unity and forming an inclusive government. Our committment and friendship to Iraq remain strong."  For those who don't grasp why Joe Biden got placed in charge, look at some of the remarks made by President Barack Obama and US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill which take the vote and turn it into "USA! USA! USA!"  (Example, Los Angeles Times' Liz Sly quotes Hill declaring of the 'significance' of the law passed, "We can achieve the January time frame and the responsible draw-down as expected.") Kori Schake (Foreign Policy) takes issues with some of Obama and Hill's public statements and observes, "This denigrates the importance of Iraq's achievement for Iraqis."
Schake doesn't include Gen Ray Odierno in that list and that's too bad.  Not because Odierno deserves to be included -- thus far he doesn't.  But because it's rather telling when, for example, an ambassador (allegedly trained in diplomacy) is outshined by a military general on the issue of diplomacy. (Click here for the 'joint'-statement from Hill and Odierno that Odierno's people wrote. If Hill let Odierno write all his remarks, he might not taste shoe leather so often.) Adrian Blomfield (Telegraph of London) observes, "Yet it is doubtful that Iraq's notoriously fractious parliament would have stepped back from disaster unless it had not been bludgeoned into submission by direct pressure from the United States." Again, not the image for a diplomat.  Neither is hair askew, yelling in the halls.  But let's get to that.  Alsumaria wonders, "Did Hill pressure Iraq MPs on election law?" Mohammed Jamjoon and Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) report MP Mahmoud Othman has accused US embassy employees of being "counterproductive" lead Hill to whine, "I wasn't trying to impose any solution. I wasn't wagging my finger and lecturing people about anything. I was trying to be helpful."
Timothy Williams and Sa'ad Izzi (New York Times) report: "'Go upstairs and vote!' he [Hill] shouted at a pair of slow-moving lawmakers as they climbed a set of stairs to the chamber before the session." The National charts Hill's behaivor Sunday as he "pleaded, intimidated and herdered the MPS into casting their vote." What a little bully and, typical Chris Hill move, so late after the deadline.
**Thursday, Sammy Ketz (AFP) quoted election commission head Faraj al-Haidari stating, "We can no longer organise elections on January 16 -- that would have been difficult even if we had received the law today. Whether they retain the old electoral law, amend it or adopt an entirely new one is a matter for members of parliament but we are the ones who will have to implement their decisions according to the timetable. We hope that MPs will resolve their dilemma but we are not going to sacrifice international norms and criteria -- we're obliged to respect the rules so that these elections are transparent." And you might think that would lead some of the reporters/saps to be less gullible (isn't skepticism supposed to be a hallmark of reporting?) but it didn't.           

The Associated Press, at least, began to have fun with their headlines and may have been the only US outlet to voice skepticism of anything passing last week.         

90 days.         

Today, when the cry is (yet again) that the Parliament will pass something, is November 8th. The election commission says they need 90 days to prepare for the elections -- that's printing ballots, staffing polls, security planning, etc. [AFP reported that Faraj al-Haidari, head of the country's Independent High Electoral Commission, declared on Al-Sharquiay TV Tuesday, "The electoral commission held talks with the United Nations on Tuesday to discuss the timetable. We must receive the law in the next two days, otherwise we will be unable to hold the election on the scheduled date of January 16. There is material relating to the election, and international companies need time to print it. Fifteen thousand polling stations have to be made ready for the election, as do 50,000 personnel."] So what's the earliest that national elections, if the law is passed today, could take place?         

November has 30 days and today's the 8th. That leaves 22. December has 31 days. 31 + 22 + 53.                

90 - 53?         


Sadly, January only has 31 days.    

Which means for the elections to be considered legitimate (the UN and the elections committee have both voiced that rushing the process would de-legitimize the results), the earliest elections could be held would be February 6th.**  All of the above between the "**" is from what we wrote for Third yesterday before the vote. "We" would be Dallas, "The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, and Ava, Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review, Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills), Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Mike of Mikey Likes It!, Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz), Trina of Trina's Kitchen, Ruth of Ruth's Report, Wally of The Daily Jot,
Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts, Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ, Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub."  The thing comes too late for elections to be held in January and seen as legitimate.  They can be held and rushed but they won't be seen as legitimate. 
It's a fact that the American media repeatedly and intentionally overlooked yesterday and today because when the White House wants to sell a talking point, like good little Dan Rathers, the press says, "You just tell me where, sir."  So damn pathetic.  While they played dumb (all their life), Juan Cole (Indybay IMC) points out that, "Nevertheless, al-Zaman reports that the Iraqi High Commission says that this law was enacted too late to hold the election on time. He is requesting a 3-month delay, to April 16. This delay would affect Americans, since the US military is being kept in Iraq at this point primarily so that it can lock down the country for 3 days to allow voters to go to the polls without being blown up."  This morning, AP's reported the electoral commission is stating the election will be held January 21st.

Sunday Jake Tapper (ABC News) and Carol E. Lee (Politico -- text and audio) reported on the vote. Today Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) reports the law requires voters be presented with an open list (listing names of candidates as opposed to a 'closed' list which would have only listed political party), that Iraq's "18 provinces will be considered a single electorate" and that the 2009 voter registration roll would be used in Kirkuk . . . but for a full year, the vote can be thrown into question as a result of a committee being placed over complaints-- which appears to be true of all 18 provinces: "If the committee finds irregularities of five percent in any province, then the voting will be abolished and will be held again later." Of the law, Ranj Alaaldin (Guardian) observes:
President Obama may hail the new law and the elections as an important "milestone" but it is important to maintain perspective, and history should teach him to use the word warily. The Iraqi parliament still remains incapable of solving the main issues despite the countless milestones we have had in the past, and even in this instance it took pressure from external forces including the Americans, British and Turks before the election law was passed. America's scheduled withdrawal is therefore by no means a certainty.           
Furthermore, it is difficult to dismiss the problems the "special review" mechanism might bring about in a place as sensitive and hotly disputed as Kirkuk, which could have its future status influenced to some degree by the outcome of the elections. The Kirkuk issue continues to be recklessly kicked down the road only for it to later explode into a violent and irreparable conflict.
The last point is picked up by Ryan Lucas (AP) who quotes Gulf Research Center's Mustafa Alani stating, "Because there was pressure to pass the law and have the election, they are just pushing this issue under the carpet. I don't see a clear solution to this problem."
Staying with the topic of elections, the most recent installment of Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera) began broadcasting Friday.  Joining host Jasim Azzawi for this week's episode were Ghassan Atiyyah (Iraqi Foundation for Development and Democracy) and Fareed Sabri (Iraqi Islamic Party) and the topics included the new Iraqi National Movement -- a political bloc led by Ayad Allawi and Saleh al-Mutlaq.
Jasim Azzawi: Fareed Sabri, this new alliance was supposed to include several other blocs and several other parties instead it's limited to just two politicians.  Was it the differences in politics as well as in orientation that prevented the others from joining this new movement.
Fareed Sabri: Well I think there is a kind of differences between the two main blocs headed by Ayad Allawi and Saleh al-Mutlaq. They wanted really to get the-the main share of the new Iraq -- of the new Iraqi politics after the elections.  They wanted really to exclude Tariq al-Hashimi [Iraq's Sunni vice president], to exclude Raffie al-Issawi [also Sunni and currently the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq] from the new bloc. And I think I've heard from some sources, they're saying that neighboring Iraqi countries have stressed on Saleh al-Mutlaq not to include other forces within this new alliances. I think the -- I mean, talking about the alliance between Saleh al-Mutlaq and Ayad Allawi, it really represents the-the old Ba'athist regime in New Iraq.
Jasim Azzawi: Is it the old Ba'athist regime, Ghassan Atiyyah, or are they trying to appeal to Iraqi nationalism and in particular to the seculars and to the liberals?
Ghassan Atiyyah: The fact that they call themselves "National," or whatever it is, actually now the mantle of sectarianism or religion is being taken off and they are wearing, in general, anew the mantle of nationalism. Even the Shia Islamic Council now they call them "National," even al-Maliki is "National," everyone is calling "National." But this is a response to the discontent of the Iraqi people who are really disgusted with the sectarian movement because they didn't get any much of this. Now to your question, al-Mutlaq and Allawi, actually, they are the odd couples -- the odd couples. They are different in every aspect. Don't tell me they are in this. Each one of them things in their own way. And now I will tell you the position. There was a hectic movement among secular, liberal Iraqis -- I was part of this effort -- to bring all these forces together mainly because Iraqis seen the way it is, highly paralyzed between Shia sectarianism, Sunni sectarianism and the Kurds. What is needed is a fourth force, a force which could play a role of balancing act between this. Without this force, we will be actually repeating the 2005 scene -- namely, Sunni, Shia Kurd.
Jasim Azzawi: Yes.
Ghassan Atiyyah: But there was an attempt to create this but actually Allawi and Mutlaq pre-empted this effort by declaring this position and refusing to cooperate with others --
Jasim Azzawi: Yes
Ghassan Atiyyah: -- on an equal basis.  And this is the sad sad of the story.
Jasim Azzawi: They kept the door open, Sabri, for others to join them.  You mentioned the Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, the former deputy prime minister Raffie al-Issawi and they're also thinking perhaps Adnan al-Dulaimi, the Accord Front, might join them [. . .] That might not happen simply because some of the coalitions, they have one person running on that ticket -- for instance, the Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for the State of Law. As for the Iraqi National Coalition headed by Ammar al-Hakim Adil Abdul-Mahdi [Shi'ite vice president of Iraq]. With this new alliance, the one we are talking about, Ayad Allawi as well as Saleh al-Mutlaq, they don't have a single fore runner for them, not at this moment at least. Is that the difference between the two men? Both of them, they want to be leaders?
Fareed Sabri: Exactly. That's what happened. See we talked with Ayad Allawi and we tried to join forces with him and with Saleh al-Mutlaq. But I think the main statement -- the main objection of Allawi is he wants to take all credit and he wants to be a prime minister. I mean the jostling of position -- I mean between Ayad Allawi and Saleh al-Mutlaq is who wants -- who will be the next prime minister.  This is a problem. I think when you talk about being patriot, being patriot is not just a slogan you carry. It's what you did. Like for example, Ayad Allawi and Saleh al-Mutlaq, the past three years, they never attended Parliament. You never saw them in Parliament. You never saw them defending the Iraqi people. We've just seen them on the TV stations and see them on the press conferences. I quite agree with Dr. Atiyyah when he said that there is a move towards national unity or national parties based on secular and national sentiments. But the problem is it's only skin deep and it's only happening within the Sunni community. I mean the Shia and the Kurds are still sectarian and theu will -- the constituents will -- select their represenatives on sectarian bases while the Sunnis will be divided and I think this will backfire on the Sunni community after the elections because they will elect lists where there's Sunni and Shia -- like Ayad Allawi and Saleh al-Mutlaq -- while the Shia and the Kurds will elect only Shia and Kurdish representatives in the next Parliament  
Jasim Azzawi: Yes, Ghassan Atiyyah, for thirty-five years, Iraq was headed by a strong man called Saddam Hussein.  Everybody knew him and everybody said, 'You know this guy loves the limelight. He's a prima donna.' Looking at the Iraqi politicians, there isn't much difference between them and Saddam Hussein, is there?
Ghassan Atiyyah: Well at the time, there was only one Saddam Hussein but now we have tens of Saddam Husseins though in minature Saddam Hussein.  Unfortunately, most of these parties -- with an exception or two parties -- they are a one man show.
Jasim Azzawi:  You mean they don't have a grassroots support?
No, no. They might have some support here and there but for all the party is one person. And with the exception of maybe the Communist Party and the Islamic Party -- they have conferences, they have this -- and even the Dahwa Party has it -- but once the leadership differs, you see the loser will split rather than accept. Ibrahim al-Jaafari  left the party and created his ownwing against al-Maliki. Similarly with Islamic Party, when al-Hashimi failed to win the leadership instead of abiding by the rules of the democratic rule, he split the party, tried to have his own faction. We don't have yet the tradition of the democratic parties and democracy without democrat is nonsense -- it doesn't appear. And today what we had happen really, I'm talking from direct contact with these people, we find that those politicians are really thinking in terms 'Who will be having the upper hand?' They don't accept work as team work. They don't accept collective leadership. This was put on the table with the secular and liberal forces. I tell you a story, I will take a minute. I talked with one of the entities who claimed to be a liberal-secular. I said to him, "Why don't you join forces with others? Then we create a big bloc because without a big bloc of liberals in the Parliament there is no -- there will be no effective change in Iraqi future because you need this bloc." He said, "I have my own party. I am the charasmatic leader, I am the strong one and they are welcome to join me and accept me as their leader. And if this is not enough, I have thiry-millions-dollars to spend. Can they match me."
The plan is to note another excerpt in a snapshot later this week.  Last week, The Economist offered their look at some of the political parties in Iraq:
The most obviously sectarian leftover is the biggest Kurdish block. One of its two main components, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, led by Iraq's national president, Jalal Talabani, has split and may even disappear. Even if the Kurds' enviable discipline in parliament holds up, their role as kingmakers may be over. After a rule change, the chamber can now approve the next president with half the votes rather than two-thirds as before, thus weakening the Kurds' bargaining power.            
The biggest Sunni block in the outgoing parliament, the Iraqi Accord Front, better known by its Arabic name, Tawafuq, is doing even worse. At provincial elections earlier this year its voters fled in droves. By comparison, the last remaining Shia block, the Iraqi National Alliance, is likely to do quite well at the polls for the simple reason that more than 60% of the voters are Shias. Yet, it has no obvious candidate for prime minister and its members have an array of ideologies. Being a Shia is their only glue. When two of the alliance's parties, the Sadrists (followers of a cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr) and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, recently held their own informal primaries, a first for Iraq, the event was widely seen as a sign of weakness, with bigwigs trying to rally unenthusiastic troops.
On the other hand, the leaders of three non-sectarian alliances are making more of a buzz on the street. The prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, a Shia, hopes to build on the success of his State-of-Law block that did well in the provincial elections. He has fewer Sunni partners than he had hoped. But the incumbent's powers of patronage should give him a good start.
His main rivals are two brand-new alliances. One is led by Iyad Allawi, a keenly secular Shia and former Baathist who was a prime minister after the fall of Saddam Hussein. He has teamed up with Saleh al-Mutlaq, a stalwart Sunni member of parliament, to form the Iraqi National Movement. Tariq al-Hashemi, a Sunni who is the country's joint vice-president, may join them, though he was previously a leading figure in the Accord Front.
The National Movement's main rival is a group called Unity led by Jawad al-Bolani, the interior minister, a secular Shia, along with Ahmed abu Risha, who leads a Sunni movement called the Awakening that helped pacify the province of Anbar, to the west of Baghdad, which was a hotbed of insurgents. Both alliances have strong links with the military and security services. Unity's leaders are close to the police, whereas the National Movement is notably hostile to Iran, which many Iraqis blame for sponsoring insurgents.
In other news, MidHudsonNews is reporting that that Iraq War veteran Nathanel Bodon, currently stationed in Baghdad, will be discharged for the 'crime' of being gay: "The Army found out about Bodon when a fellow soldier found his blog with a picture of him kissing a former boyfriend and tipped off the Army brass." Bodon's quoted stating, "I think it's discriminatory and my personal life as far as my sexuality has no bearing on who I am as a soldier, so it shouldn't even be an issue."