Wednesday, August 11, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Chris Hill offers America another chance to play Are You As Stupid As A US Ambassador?, Sahwa remains under attack, a maternity doctor is slaughtered in her home, the political stalemate continues, more talk of how SOFA doesn't always make it right, the Iraq Inquiry seeks input from Iraq War veterans, and more.
First up, Chris Hill offers a break down of population but somehow forgets the Kurds. Don't think they aren't paying attention. Don't think it didn't register: "Did that fool just include Turkomen but forget us?" How typical, how very much like his embarrassing confirmation hearing. Hill never understood the Kurds, never understood the dispute over Kirkuk and, let's be honest, he never made the effort to.
Steve Inskeep: As you prepare to leave Baghdad, do you leave Iraq thinking that this a country that still could collapse?
Chris Hill: Actually, I look at this in pretty optimistic terms. Its obviously a complex country. Its where the Shia world meets the Sunni world. Its where the Turkmen world meets the Arab world. There are a lot of complexities here. And I think its a very important country to our interests, and I dont mean that from an ideological point of view. I mean that from the point of view of looking at a map. So I think there's a lot at stake here, but I think its also a place thats going in the right direction. They signed 11 major oil deals while I was here. I mean these are oil deals with all the major oil companies. Indeed, they are oil deals with all the companies from all the countries who are permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. So Iraq is no longer just Americas problem; other countries have a real stake in its success.
That's progress? That's progress to Hill who rarely left the Green Zone with one exception: He acted as tour guide from time to time for Big Oil. There's something rather disturbing about the US government whoring out the ambassador for Big Oil. But maybe the logic was: "It's not a real ambassador, it's just Chris Hill"?
Steve Inskeep: Ambassador Hill, as you know very well, the United States if formerly reducing its role in Iraq this month. And even as that happens, former Congressman Lee Hamilton, very respected voice on foreign affairs, in looking over the accomplishments or lack of them over the last couple of years, wrote recently: National reconciliation, which the surge, the surge in American troops, was supposed to create the space for, has not occurred. Is that correct? There's been no national reconciliation?
Chris Hill: Well, first of all, there has been national reconciliation. But there are people known as unreconcilables. I mean, people, you know, firing rockets in the Green Zone or, you know, exploding car bombs. I mean these are not people who are going to be bought off by, you know, by giving them the Culture Ministry and a government formation exercise. But I would say, in terms of main political groupings, I would say there's been a lot of reconciliation here, but obviously more needs to be done. National reconciliation? Inskeep asked him about it. Did he mention Kirkuk? There was supposed to be -- it's in the 2005 Constitution -- a referendum on Kirkuk. That's part of national reconciliation. So is the de-de-Ba'athification process.
National reconciliation? It's a benchmark, one of the 18 benchmarks by which progess in Iraq was to be measured, signed off on by the US government and by the Iraqi government and Chris Hill has no idea what it is.
He's an idiot. How the hell did someone who didn't even know the benchmarks -- and obviously never bothered to learn them -- get nominated for the post to begin with? Okay, the US, via Paul Bremer (Bremer was ordered to do this though Colin Powell likes to pretend otherwise in a last ditch attempt to salvage his own reputation), implemented de-Ba'athification in Iraq following the invasion. This was a purge of numerous senior officials in the government who were Ba'athists. To get ahead politically in Iraq, you had to be Ba'athists. Ba'athists were not just Sunni, they were also Shi'ite. Ayad Allawi is one example of a Shi'ite who was a Ba'athist. Long before Saddam Hussein was overthrown, Allawi had left the Ba'ath Party (and left Iraq). The Ba'ath Party was, regionally, part of a Ba'ath movement, a Pan Arab identiy. Saddam Hussein and others rode the Ba'ath Party into power. By 1979, Hussein had eliminated all of his one time Ba'ath allies and, in Iraq, had total control of the Ba'ath Party.
de-Ba'athification as carried out under Paul Bremer targeted the top levels of the Ba'ath Party. That de-Ba'athifcation, the Iraq Inquriy has been repeatedly informed, played out on the ground as a mistake. British witnesses have repeatedly told the Inquiry they were opposed to the idea. That included the ones who learned about it shortly after Bremer arrived and that Bremer intended to implement it right away. They spoke with Bremer about their concerns which did not alter the orders he had (as the witnesses testified) and de-Ba'athification was pushed through. British government witnesses have stated that the policy wrapped up too many people and it should have been much more narrow. It was agreed by all witnesses offering testimony to the Inquiry on this topic that de-Ba'athifcation helped ensure paralysis in the government because those experienced in the process were no longer allowed to work for the government. While some witnesses may (or may not have) been offering statements that benefitted from hindsight, certainly those who warned Bremer before the policy was implemented were able to foresee what eventually happened.
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: You arrived on 8 May, [head of CPA, the US' L. Paul] Bremer on the 12th, and within Bremer's first two weeks he had promulgated two extremely important decisions on de-Ba'athification and on dissolving the former Iraqi army. Can we look at those two decisions? To what extent were they Bremer's decisions or -- how had they been pre-cooked in Washington? I see you have got the Rand Report there, and the Rand Report suggests there had been a certain interagnecy process in Washington leading to these decisions, albeit Rand is quite critical of that process. And, very importantly for us, was the United Kingdom consulted about these crucial decisions? Was the Prime Minister consulted? Were you consulted? It is pretty late in the day be then for you to have changed them. Can you take us through that story.
John Sawers: Can I separate them and deal with de-Ba'athification first.
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Yes.
John Sawers: When I arrived in Baghdad on 8 May, one of the problems that ORHA were facing was that they had been undiscriminating in their Iraqi partners. They had taken, as their partners, the most senior figures in the military, in -- not in the military, sorry, in the ministries, in the police, in institutions like Baghdad University, who happened to be there. And in several of these instances, Baghdad University was one, the trade ministry was another, the health ministry, the foreign ministry, the Baghdad police -- the working level were in uproar because they were being obliged to work for the same Ba'athist masters who had tyrannised them under the Saddam regime, and tehy were refusing to cooperate on that basis. So I said, in my first significant report back to London, which I sent on the Sunday night, the day before Bremer came back, that there were a number of big issues that needed to be addressed. I listed five and one of those five was we needed a policy on which Ba'athists should be allowed to stay in their jobs and which should not. And there was already a debate going on among Iraqi political leaders about where the line should be drawn. So I flagged it up on the Sunday evening in my first report, which arrived on desks on Monday morning, on 11 May. When Bremer arrived late that evening, he and I had a first discussion, and one of the first things he said to me was that he needed to give clarity on de-Ba'athification. And he had some clear ideas on this and he would want to discuss it. So I reported again early the following monring that this was high on the Bremer's mind and I needed a steer as to what our policy was. I felt that there was, indeed, an important need for a policy on de-Ba'athifciation and that, of the various options that were being considered, some I felt, were more far-reaching than was necessary but I wasn't an expert on the Iraqi Ba'ath Party and I needed some guidance on this. I received some guidance the following day, which was helpful, and I used that as the basis for my discussion with Bremer -- I can't remember if it was the Wednesday or the Thursday that week but we had a meeting of -- Bremer and myself and our political teams, where this was discussed, and there was very strong support among the Iraqi political parties for quite a far-reaching de-Ba'athification policy. At the meeting itself, I had concerted beforehand with Ryan Crocker, who was the senior American political adviser, and I said to him that my guidance was that we should limit the scope of de-Ba'athification to the top three levels of the Ba'ath Party, which included about 5,000 people, and that we thought going to the fourth level was a step too far, and it would involve another 25,000 or so Iraqis, which wasn't necessary. And I thought Crocker was broadly sympathetic to that approach but at the meeting itself Bremer set out a strong case for including all four levels, ie the top 30,000 Ba'athists should be removed from their jobs, but there should be a policy in place for exemptions. I argued the alternative. Actually, unhelpfully, from my point of view, Ryan Crocker came in in strong support of the Bremer proposal, and I think he probably smelled the coffee and realised that this was a policy that had actually already been decided in Washington and there was no point getting on the wrong side of it. I was not aware of that at that stage and, in fact, it was only when I subsequently read the very thorough account by the Rand Corporation of these issues that I realised there had been an extensive exchange in -- between agencies in Washington.
As noted after that snapshot, it's John "SAWERS" and not "SAWYERS" as it reads in the December 10th snapshot. It's corrected above. (Refer to the May 28th snapshot for Bremer's statement to the Inquiry.) Even the US government realized (finally) it was a mistake which is why they began encouraging reconciliation and ended up putting it into the 18 benchmarks. From the Iraq Inquiry, we'll note the testimony from January 8th as one example of the discussion of de-Ba'athification:
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Going beyond the military, we heard from earlier witnesses how a lot of teachers, doctors, civil servants, competent professionals, who had to be in the Ba'ath Party in order to do what they did, were excluded. Do you feel that that has now been corrected?
John Jenkins: I do not have a real sense of that.
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Do you want to comment on that?
Frank Baker: If I could. I would comment more about government employees in Ministries across Baghdad where I think it is certainly the case that a large number of Sunnis, and, therefore, by definition, former Ba'ath Party members, are now being employed -- have been employed, in fact, for the last two or three years. If you look at, for example, the Ministry of Water, where a lot of them are technocrats, but the Minister for Water had made an effort to bring back a lot of the previous Ba'athist experience in order to try to get the Ministry up and running properly back in about 2007/2008. So I think the indications there are, yes, they have done so. I think, if I may, just to revert to your previous question about the democratisation, I think these two are related because on of the big changes we have seen since 2005 has actually been the re-emergence of the Sunnis as a political force in Iraq, with the Sunnis having essentially taken their toys out the pram and walked away. Back in 2004, not actually partaking in the 2005 provincial elections, not really being a part of the 2005 national elections, and, in fact, what we saw in 2009 was that they played a full part in that and they are going to play a full part in the national elections scheduled for March this year. In that sense, we are seeing the Sunnis now coming back and trying to play a full role -- a large part of the Sunni movement.
So de-Ba'athification was implemented in 2003. Following the 2006 mid-terms, the US White House came up with a list of 18 benchmarks. Reunification was number two: "Enact and implement legislation on de-Ba'athifcation reform." In other words, de-de-Ba'athifcation. By early 2008, Iraq's Parliament had passed a questionable law. The Center for American Progress noted in January 2008 of the Accountability and Justice Law, "the controversial legislation, passed with the support of less than a third of Iraq's members of parliament on a day when the body barely achieved a quorum, has received significant criticism from former Ba'athists and some Sunni groups. [. . .] More than a dozen Iraqi lawmakers, U.S. officials, and former Baathists here and in exile expressed concern in interviews that the law could set off a new purge of ex-Baathists, the opposite of U.S. hopes for the legislation. According to Khalaf Aulian, a Sunni politician, the de-Ba'athification law 'will remain as a sword on the neck of the people'." Which ended up very true. Ahmed Chalabi used the commitee and the law to purge various candidates ahead of the election -- to purge various political rivals ahead of the elections.
Steve Inskeep noted that the escalation ("surge") was supposed to create space of the diplomacy and that no national reconciliation had taken place. Chris Hill was, as ever, clueless as to what the issue being discussed actually was.
Asked about the five months of political stalemate, he insisted that was "politics." Then he went on to cite 'progress,' Iraq had signed 12 oil deals. Even for someone who opposed Hill's confirmation, it was appalling to hear that interview. You were stuck with the realization of just how little he cared for or thought of the Iraqi people. He never mentioned the lack of potable water, he never mentioned the electricity shortage, he never mentioned the assault on Iraqi Christians, he never mentioned anything.
So like a ghost in the snow
I'm getting ready to go
'Cause, baby, that's all I know --
How to open the door
And though the exit is crude
It saves me coming unglued
For when you're not in the mood
For the gloves and the canvas floor
That's how I knew this story would break my heart
When you wrote it
That's how I knew this story would break my heart
-- "That's How I Knew This Story Would Break My Heart," written by Aimee Mann, first appears on her album The Forgotten Arm.
No need for broken hearts just yet, the war hasn't ended and it doesn't appear it will end in 2011. Tim Arango (New York Times) speaks with a variety of people including the former US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker about the Status Of Forces Agreement:
The reality in Iraq may defy that deadline, because many American and Iraqi officials deem the American presence to be in each nation's interest. "For a very long period of time we're going to be on the ground, even if it's solely in support of its U.S. weapons systems," said Ryan C. Crocker, who was the American ambassador in Baghdad until 2009 and helped to negotiate the agreement that tethers the two countries and mandates that all American troops leave Iraq by the end of 2011. Even as that deadline was negotiated, he said, a longer-lasting, though significantly smaller, presence of American forces had always been considered to be likely.
The SOFA never meant the end of the war. Peace talks were not what the SOFA was about and how idiotic that so many people who should have known better (they lived through the Paris Peace Talks) instead whored it out as "End of war." That's never what it was. It replaced the UN mandate for the occupation of Iraq by foreign forces -- a yearly mandate. The SOFA was a three year contract which had a kill clause (but, after activated, the SOFA dies in 12 months -- meaning it's pointless for either side to kill it now). For the uninformed, a peace treaty never ends 3 years from now. That's not how they work. A large number of the once-upon-a-time informed either developed Alzheimer's or decided to lie. Take it up with them. Meanwhile AFP reports: "The Iraqi army will require American support for another decade before it is ready to handle the country's security on its own, Iraq's army chief of staff said on Wednesday. Lieutenant General Babaker Zebari said Iraq's politicians had to find a way to 'fill the void' after American troops withdraw from the country at the end of next year under a bilateral security pact." Richard Spencer (Telegraph of London) reports that Iraqi Lt Gen Babakir Zebari is stating that Iraq's military "will not be fully trained until 2020 and that the army would not be able to cope without the support of the Americans."
An influx of mercenaries will become especially important for the State Department, as the military leaves and as Iraqi security forces -- while much improved -- remain unable to provide the necessary security for what Patrick Kennedy, the undersecretary of state for management, calls "a major expansion" of the department's postwar presence. Indeed, the number of private security contractors employed by state will grow from roughly 2,700 to as many as 7,000. And those figures don't include the more than 1,000 tasks that state will inherit from the military once it leaves, according to the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, a bipartisan government panel created in 2008. These tasks -- which include clearing travel routes and driving armored combat vehicles -- do not involve attacking, and thus are not military functions, Kennedy argues. But they do potentially increase the chances that "people acting in the name of the U.S.…can get the U.S. involved in perceptions of misconduct," says a spokesman for the contracting commission.
Karen DeYoung and Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) report that this transition/transformation was agreed to "more than two years ago" and that the economic climate today is different with skyrocketing costs and a Congress increasingly concerned about rising costs: "The State Department has signaled in recent weeks that it will need up to $400 million more than initially requested to cover mushrooming security costs, but lawmakers seem in no mood to acquiesce."
Progress, Chris Hill insisted, was the oil deals. This tied Iraq, he maintained, to permanent members of the UN Security Council and other nations. Iran doesn't sit on the UN Security Council but it has been strengthening it's diplomatic ties to Iraq. Sam Dagher (Wall St. Journal) reports, "Iran's new ambassador to Iraq promised to double trade volume and bolster economic ties between the two countries, the latest economic outreach by Tehran as its influence here grows. The move also comes amid fresh sanctions against Iran by the United Nations, the U.S. and the European Union, aimed at curbing Tehran's nuclear ambitions. Analysts said Tehran could be redoubling efforts at building economic ties with Baghdad to help limit the impact of those measures." Iran's Press TV adds:
Hassan Danaeifar made the remarks in his first press conference at the Iranian embassy since arriving in the Iraqi capital to replace former Ambassador Hassan Kazemi Qomi, a Press TV correspondent reported. Calling Iraq a niche market for Iranian goods, Danaeifar reiterated that "the sanctions will not affect economic relations between the two countries." The new ambassador said that Iran is currently supplying 750 megawatts of power to electricity-starved Iraq daily, in addition to fuel to a number of power stations across the country. He added that two Iranian banks -- Parsian and Karafarin -- recently received preliminary approval to open branches in Iraq.
But a cloud rises over the diplomatic horizon. Tehran Times reports, "The Iranian parliament is drafting a plan to obtain war reparations from Iraq, MP Eivaz Heidarpour announced on Monday. The Iraqi government inflicted a $1 trillion loss on Iran during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, and the plan will require that the government demand compensation from Iraq through international channels, Heidarpour, who is a member of the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, told the Mehr News Agency." In other cloudy diplomatic news, Alsumaria TV reports, "Ali Akbar Velayati, adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei denied any dispute between Syria and Iran over the nomination of a Prime Minister in Iraq stressing that the Iraqi people will soon reach an understanding in order to establish its government without any foreign interference. Velayati denounced news saying that his country has special requests in the regard."
"It's politics," insisted Chris Hill to Steve Inskeep when asked about the political stalemate. Just politics? March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 3 days. As many Iraqis enter into a lengthy observation of a religious holiday, many Iraqi politicians are noting no progress is likely to be made on the issue of creating a government. For example, yesterday Alsumaria TV reported that State Of Law's Ali al-Dabbagh states that there will be no formation of a government this month and that "it is not easy to set dates to announce the formation of the new Iraqi government." Federico Manfredi (Huffington Post) offers an analysis of where things stand currently:
Now the National Alliance may decide to form a coalition with Allawi, even though he heads a secular list. Wahil Abdul Latif, a judge and a member of parliament within the National Alliance bloc, told me that he personally supports Allawi because of his ability to reach out to the Sunni minority. He also said that the National Alliance would be willing to join forces with Allawi and support his bid to become the new prime minister, if only he accepted to remove certain "tainted" Sunni leaders from his list. Among these, he named Vice-President Tariq Al-Hashimi, the leader of one of the main Sunni political parties, and Saleh Al-Mutlak, another Sunni, whom he accused of conspiring with Ba'athist reactionaries to overthrow the Iraqi government.
Allawi, however, is unlikely to exclude these individuals from his list, since they represent pillars of his cross-sectarian outreach strategy.
When I asked Abdul Latif how long it might take the various leaders to reach an agreement on the formation of a new government he laughed and said: "This could take another two months. Perhaps more." Such a delay, though, could severely strain Iraq's fragile institutions, since it would not only protract the current state of governmental paralysis but might also lead the army and police to question the constitutional authority of their leadership.
12:32 [Comment From Jennie: ] What do you make of this seeming inability to put together a new government since the elections last March? What would it take for Allawi and Maliki to get together?
12:32 Ken Pollack: This is the $64,000 question. Both Maliki and Allawi KNOW that the best outcome for both of them is a coalition of their two parties. But the problem is that they really don't like each other, and both want to be the senior partner in the coalition. So far, no one has been able to get around that. I think the Administration is on the right track by trying to farm out some of the powers that the PM has accrued to other official positions -- both to make people more comfortable that the next PM won't emerge as a dictator, and to create additional positions that would be acceptable to the two of them and other important groups who will also want to have a key position of authority. My concern is that what the US, UN and Iraqis have been talking about -- some new positions and legislature to give force to their authority -- may not fix the situation, and might even make it worse. As PM, Maliki has demonstrated an ability to subvert and work around other such new positions that were created as counterbalances to his office. That suggests that he, or whoever is the next PM, might be able to do so again if that is all we do. In addition, especially with the new parliament, the PM will probably be able to manipulate the CoR fairly easily to get legislation repealed or merely ignored. It is why I'd like to see constitutional changes to shift the role of commander-in-chief and responsibility for the security services to the Presidency. That would create a real balance of power between the Presidency and the PM, and would create two positions that I think either Maliki or Allawi would be willing to take.
He took questions on many Iraq topics, so refer to the chat for other issues and, for any late to the party, we don't worship at the feet, midsection or head of Brookings which was infamously wrong about the illegal war and Pollack was one of their chief analysts then and remains so now.
The never-ending violence continued today . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a a Baghdad sticky bombing which claimed 1 life and left one person injured, a Mosul roadside bombing which left two police officers wounded, a Salahuddin Province bombing which claimed the lives of 5 Sahwa members and, dropping back to Tuesday, a Baghdad sticky bombing which claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left one person injured and a Baghdad mortar attack which left two people injured. Meanwhile Sadiya is slammed with a bombing. BBC News reports that Iraqi soldiers were shot at from a home and as they were about to raid the home in Saadiya, it blew up. Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) adds 11 people died in the bombing. Deng Shasha (Xinhua) reports at least five Iraqi soldiers were injured and that at least 2 of the dead were civilians: "In the morning, Iraqi security forces and civil a defense tram removed the debris of the collapsed house and found bodies of a man and a woman who were shot dead before the explosion of the house, the source added. The insurgents apparently attacked the house earlier at night and killed the two victims, and then they planted bombs in the house before they sent a false information to the security forces saying that hostages were kept in the house, the source said." Reuters notes a Baghdad rocket attack which claimed 1 life and left three people injured and, dropping back to yesterday, a Baghdad rocket attack last night injured one woman and one child. Ayla Jean Yackley (Reuters) notes the bombing of a Kurdish pipeline last night and that it remains ablaze.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad invasion of the home of Dr. Intisar Moahmmed Hasen ("Administrator of Ilwiyah Maternity Hospital") in which she was assassinated and her son and husband were left "hand-bound and blindfolded". Reuters notes 2 police officers shot dead in Baghdad.
5 Sahwa killed. Sahwa are also known as "Awakenings" and "Sons Of Iraq." They are Iraqis the US military paid (with US tax payer monies) to stop attacking US military equipment and US service members. Martin Chulov (Guardian) reported yesterday that al Qaeda in Mesopotamia was offering money to Sahwa in an attempt to get them to return to fighting with al Qaeda.
Turning to London. The Iraq Inquiry now would like to hear from Iraq War veterans. Inquiry Chair John Chilcot [PDF format warning] issued the following invitation.
To: Military personnel who served in Iraq between 2003 and 2009
The Iraq Inquiry will be holding an event at Tidworth Garrison on 14 September to hear the views of military personnel (serving or retired, regular or reserve) who were deployed to Iraq between 2003 and 2009. The purpose of this event is to gain insights from those who are in a unique position to talk about how the campaign was conducted and the impact it had upon their lives. This event is an opportunity for you to ensure that your voice is heard and your views feed into the lessons that the Inquiry identify.
My colleagues on the Iraq Inquiry Committee and I believe it is vital that we hear direct from those most affected by the Iraq campaign. In the latter half of last year we met the families of some of the 179 service personnel, and other British citizens, killed in Iraq. We heard how they have been affected by their losses and their views on what they would like the Inquiry to address. We also held an extremely useful event earlier this year at the Defence Academy in Shrivenham where we met service personnel who served in Iraq.
The Inquiry is primarily about learning lessons so these meetings are crucial to our work. We need to understand what went well and what could have been done better. I hope that the lessons the Inquiry identifies will help us, as a nation, to continue to improve in many areas, including the way in which we approach expeditionary campaigns and nation building, and the impact on military personnel.
If you would like to express an interest in attending this event please contact the Iraq Inquiry (email@example.com) before noon on Friday 10th September.
This event is not the only means by which you can give your views to the Inquiry. We are happy to receive the toughts of anyone who served during the campaign or from relevant groups or associations on behalf of their members. If you would like to send a written submission to the Iraq Inquriy please use the address above. [Iraq Inquiry: 35 Great Smith Street, London SW 1P 3BQ]
The Committee is grateful for your help in this aspect of the Inquiry's work and looks forward to receiving your views in person, or in writing.