Saturday, August 28, 2010

What remains

A fresh wave of coordinated bombings swept across Iraq's major cities on Wednesday, only one day after the United States downsized its troops below 50,000, some Iraqi experts said that after more than seven years of military occupation, violence is one of the few U.S. legacies left in Iraq.
"Now the Americans are leaving, the clearest fingerprints they left on Iraq that any Iraqi can perceive are torture, corruption and civil war," Nuri Hadi, an Iraqi political analyst told Xinhua in a recent interview.
Hadi said the United States, which was striding for changing the governance of Iraq, made mistakes due to a lack of understanding towards the country's history, nature, divisions, as well as the suppressed passions that could lead to violence.

The above is from Song Dan, Xu Yanyan, Jamal Hashem and Yang Lina's "U.S. plants in Iraq violence, division, not freedom, democracy" (Xinhua) and Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reports:

Iraq remains a battleground, American soldiers say, even if they are no longer kicking down Iraqi doors.
Instead of carrying out combat missions, Frost's unit has been designated an "advise and assist" brigade, like five other American brigades left behind in Iraq. Its task is to train Iraqi security forces, gather intelligence, assist Iraq's fledgling air force, and, ultimately, close up shop and go home. The lower-profile approach under Operation New Dawn is the latest step in a transition that began more than a year ago when American soldiers were pulled back from Iraq's urban centers and for the most part retreated into their bases.
But less than two months into the unit's deployment, two of Frost's men have already been killed. The mission still involves risks as the soldiers escort commanders and trainers to appointments with Iraqi officials. Around them, assassinations and violence seem to be on the rise, although at drastically lower levels than during the darkest days of Iraq's civil war, between 2005 and 2007.

Violence continues in Iraq. Reuters notes an attack on a Mosul checkpoint which resulted in the deaths of 2 police officers, a Qaiyara attack resulted in 2 more police officers killed, a Basra roadside bombing injured one US service member, 1 corpse was discovered in Mosul and, dropping back to Friday, a Hawija roadside bombing resulted in two people being injured. Along with the violence, the political stalemate continues. 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 21 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.

With or without the formation of a government, supposedly the census will finally take place. Abdul-Rahman Sidiq (Rudaw) explores the allegedly upcoming census and cautions that there are many things to consider and here are six of the ten he offers:

First: The form, which has been prepared for the census, points to 10 different ethnic groups living in Iraq. It considers the Yazidis and Shabaks as two different ethnic groups rather than part of the Kurds.
Second: It doesn’t ask what sect do you belong to. It unites the Arabs, while divides the Kurds, (as mentioned in the previous point).
Third: There should be a Kurdish representative staffing the technical committee(s) for statistics.
Fourth: We should ask for the census process to be conducted by the federal government, but statistics, which are about analyzing data, done by the regional authorities.
Fifth: The staff tasked with inputting the data into computers should include a Kurd. The Kurds must be aware of the computer programs and the way data are inputted to announce the final statistical results.
Sixth: In the regions detached from Kurdistan [disputed territories], the mobile teams to collect statistics should include Kurdish representatives.

And we'll close with this excerpt from Chris Floyd's "The Peace Laureate's Prayer: War Without End, Amen" (World Can't Wait):

So while the “last full U.S. combat brigade” have left Iraq, just under 50,000 soldiers from specially trained heavy, infantry and Stryker brigades will stay, as well as two combat aviation brigades ...
There are seven Advise and Assist Brigades in Iraq, as well as two additional National Guard infantry brigades “for security,” said Army spokesman Lt. Col. Craig Ratcliff. ...
The Army selected brigade combat teams as the unit upon which to build advisory brigades partly because they would be able to retain their inherent capability to conduct offensive and defensive operations, according to the Army’s security force assistance field manual, which came out in May 2009. This way, the brigade can shift the bulk of its operational focus from security force assistance to combat operations if necessary.
That is to say, they can do what combat troops throughout history have always been able to do: ride herd on a conquered people when they're down (or "provide security force assistance," in our demure modern parlance), and lash out with heavy power when the natives get restless.
Or to put it another way, what we have in Iraq now is 50,000+ combat troops doing what combat troops do. And forty tons of lipstick won't obscure the swinish nature of this continuing war crime.

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