Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Realities and stalemates

Washington understands that it needs to deliver on some of Obama's many campaign promises before the November elections. Thus the re-branding campaign, which could hide the fact that the US has no real intention of removing itself from the Iraq's military or political milieus. But since the current number of military personnel might not be enough to handle the deepening security chaos in the country, the new caretakers at the State Department are playing with numbers.
"State Department spokesman P J Crowley said [a] plan would bring to some 7,000 the total security contractors employed by the government in Iraq, where since the 2003 US invasion private security firms have often been accused of acting above the law," according to Reuters.
It's important that we understand the number game is just a game. Many colonial powers in the past controlled their colonies through the use of local forces and minimal direct involvement. Those of us oppose the Iraq war should do so based on the guiding principle that foreign invasions, occupations and interventions in sovereign countries’ affairs are a direct violation of international law. It is precisely the interventionist mindset that must be confronted, challenged, and rejected.

The above is from Ramzy Baroud's "A homecoming parade of Iraq war truths" (Asia Times) and that's some reality. There's a lot of nonreality in the news cycle as people rush to pimp and expand on a US military press release. We could highlight all of them but instead let's note NPR which managed to treat it like news and therefore stands way above the rest:

Craig Windham: The number of US troops in Iraq is now below 50,000 for the first time since the American-led invasion of that country seven years ago NPR's Mike Schusther in Bagdad says the drawdown of combat forces has been completed a week before the date set by President Obama.

Mike Shuster: The US military says that largely brings to a close the US combat role in Iraq. Now the main mission of those troops remaining will be to train and assist Iraqi security forces. But American troops will still be armed and will accompany Iraqi patrols. There are still almost daily insurgent attacks in Iraq. The US may be ending its primary combat role in Iraq but the violence has not ended. In addition, some of the remaining US troops are Special Forces and they will continue to stage secret operations against al Qaeada in Iraq and other insurgent groups. Mike Shuster, NPR News, Baghdad.

That's from the hourly news and I'm not aware of any way to link to that, sorry, so we'll just note NPR. Note that Shuster's able to do what others can't or won't. How very telling.

Can't or won't? Iraq can't can't or won't create a government. March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board notes, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 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 17 days. Phil Sands (National Newspaper) notes that if the stalemate continues through September 8th, it will then be a half a year since Iraqis voted.

Today Alsumaria TV reports that State Of Law submitted a "political reform paper" to Iraqiya and Iraqiya has refused the paper. UPI notes that Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh issued a statement denying that Iran was attempting to influence the process. Phil Sands (National Newspaper) adds that Syria is working on the political stalemate and attempting to encourage negotiations. Rahmat al-Salaam (Asharq Alawsat Newspaper) reports:

For his part, Al-Iraqiya member Muhammad Allawi said that "Al-Maliki has two options; he can either assumes the second post after the prime minister or accepts to stay as a member of parliament." On the possibility of starting dialogues with the SLC anew in spite of Al-Maliki's insistence to remain a candidate for the post of prime minister in the next government, Allawi said that "Al-Iraqiya had set a condition not to mention the name of Al-Maliki as a candidate to head the next government during the dialogues or the negotiations with it, and in case this happens, the meeting with the SLC would stop." He stressed that Al-Iraqiya is adopting this stand since it is the bloc that has the electoral right which authorizes it to form and head the government."
Muhammad Allawi added that the Al-Iraqiya list "is going ahead in its negotiations with the Iraqi National Alliance (led by Ammar al-Hakim) in determined steps, and the same is the case of the Kurdistan Alliance, while keeping the door open for the SLC to take what it deserves of main posts, specifically the second highest post after the prime minister."

We'll close with this from Iraq Veterans Against the War:

The Iraq Debacle: The Legacy of Seven Years of War


The Iraq Debacle: The Legacy of Seven Years of War

We, the undersigned organizations and individuals, mark the August 31st partial withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq with the following evaluation and recommendations:

* The U.S. occupation of Iraq continues and the reduction of U.S. troops in Iraq can at best be called only a rebranded occupation. While the number of U.S. troops in Iraq will be reduced from a high of 165,000, there will still be 50,000 troops left behind, some 75,000 contractors, five huge “enduring bases” and an Embassy the size of Vatican City.

* The U.S. military’s overthrow of the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein did not lead to a better life for Iraqis—just the opposite. It resulted in the further destruction of basic infrastructure—electricity, water, sewage—that continues to this day. The U.S. dropped more tons of bombs on Iraq than in all of WWII, destroying Iraq’s electrical, water and sewage systems. Iraq’s health care and higher education systems, once the best in the entire region, have been decimated. The U.S. war on Iraq unleashed a wave of violence that has left over one million Iraqis dead and four million displaced, as well as ethnic rivalries that continue to plague the nation. We have seriously wounded millions of Iraqis, creating a lifetime of suffering and economic hardship for them, their communities and the entire nation as it struggles to rebuild.

Life expectancy for Iraqis fell from 71 years in 1996 to 67 years in 2007 due to the war and destruction of the healthcare system. The U.S. use of weapons such as depleted uranium and white phosphorous has taken a severe toll, with the cancer rate in Fallujah, for example, now worse than that of Hiroshima.

* The majority of the refugees and internally displaced persons created by the US intervention have been abandoned. Of the nearly 4 million refugees, many are now living in increasingly desperate circumstances in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and around the world. As undocumented refugees, most are not allowed to work and are forced to take extremely low paying, illegal jobs ($3/day) or rely on the UN and charity to survive. The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) has documented a spike in the sex trafficking of Iraqi women.

* Iraq still does not have a functioning government. Many months after the March 7 elections, there is still a political vacuum and violence that is killing roughly 300 civilians a month. There is no functioning democracy in place and little sign there will be one in the near future.

* The Iraq War has left a terrible toll on the U.S. troops. More than one million American service members have deployed in the Iraq War effort. Over 4,400 U.S. troops have been killed and tens of thousands severely injured. More than one in four U.S. troops have come home from the Iraq war with health problems that require medical or mental health treatment. PTSD rates in the military have skyrocketed. In 2009, a record number of 245 soldiers committed suicide.

* The war has drained our treasury. As of August 2010, U.S. taxpayers have spent over $750 billion on the Iraq War effort. Counting the cost of lifetime care of wounded vets and the interest payments on the money we borrowed to pay for this war, the real cost will be in the trillions. This misappropriation of funds has contributed to the economic crises we are experiencing, including the lack of funds for our schools, healthcare, infrastructure and investments in clean, green jobs.

* The U.S. officials who got us into this disastrous war on the basis of lies have not been held accountable. Not George Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Karl Rove, Donald Rumsfeld. No one. Neither have the Bush administration lawyers who authorized torture, including Jay Bybee and John Yoo. The “think tanks,” journalists and pundits who perpetuated the lies have not been fired—most are today cheerleading for the war in Afghanistan.

* The war has led to the pillaging of Iraqi resources and institutionalization of corruption. The U.S. Department of Defense has been unable to account for $8.7 billion of Iraqi oil and gas money meant for humanitarian needs and reconstruction after the 2003 invasion. The invasion has also led to the erosion of Iraqi government control over the nation’s oil. In 2001, Vice President Dick Cheney’s energy task force, which included executives of America’s largest energy companies, recommended opening up areas of their energy sectors to foreign investment. The resulting draft Iraq Oil Law threatens global grab for Iraq’s resources as the international oil cartel seeks to reestablish its control. Adoption of the oil law, however, has been stymied by stiff popular resistance, foremost by the oil workers and their union.

* The war has not made us more secure. The US policy of torture, extraordinary rendition, indefinite detention, violent and deadly raids on civilian homes, gunning down innocent civilians in the streets and absence of habeas corpus has fueled the fires of hatred and extremism toward Americans. The very presence of our troops in Iraq and other Muslim nations has become a recruiting tool.

Given the above, we, the undersigned individuals and organizations, mark the occasion of this troop withdrawal by calling on the Administration and Congress to take the following actions:

* Withdrawal of all U.S. troops and military contractors from Iraq and the closing of all U.S. bases;

* Reparations to help the Iraqis repair their basic infrastructure and increased funds for the millions of internally and externally displaced Iraqis;

* Full support for the U.S. troops who suffer from the internal and external wounds of war;

* Prosecution of those officials responsible for dragging our country into this disaster;

* Transfer of funds from war into resources to rebuild America, with a focus on green jobs.

* The lessons of this disastrous intervention should also be an impetus for Congress and the administration to end the war in Afghanistan. It’s time to focus on creating real security here at home and rebuilding America.

Bay Area Labor Committee for Peace & Justice
CODEPINK: Women for Peace
Community Organizing Center
Courage to Resist
Fellowship of Reconciliation
Global Exchange
Institute for Policy Studies' New Internationalism Project
Iraq Veterans Against the War
Jeannette Rankin Peace Center
Just Foreign Policy
Military Families Speak Out
Nicholas (Nick) Dibs, Independent candidate for Congress
Pax Christi - USA
Under the Hood
United for Peace and Justice
US Labor Against the War
Veterans for Peace
Voices for Creative Nonviolence
Voters for Peace
War Is a Crime
Women's International League for Peace & Freedom (WILPF) Los Angeles Branch

Seethe following link for additional signatories:

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