Thursday, September 23, 2010

Utilities lacking, stalemate continues and rumors of death squads

"Why did the government not reform the power plants until now? I think the US commander in Iraq exploited the crisis to put pressure on Iraqi politicians," Mahdi said.
Mahdi also blames corrupt local politicians for the problem.
"The electricity ministers appointed under the occupation are inexperienced and incompetent. They allow corrupt officials in the department to steal the funds allocated for importing generators and repairing transmission networks," he added.
The lack of reconstruction and rehabilitation of Iraq's water infrastructure and power grid has been devastating to farmers and city dwellers alike.
Ahmed Jihad, 35, owns a generator business in Baghdad. He told IPS, "The problem of electricity has existed since the US occupation of the country began, but I hope to help people have one hour of electricity per day now. With rising fuel costs, though, we are all suffering."
The average family income in Iraq is US$200 to $300 a month and families are paying an average of $80 of that to the government for an electricity supply that hardly ever comes.
The many Iraqis who need fuel for their generators run into another problem.
"It is difficult to bring fuel into our areas because of the checkpoints at the entrances to cities and neighborhoods. The Iraqi security forces make things hard for us, demanding bribes to allow us through. Besides, the fuel is not clean and of poor quality so it damages the generators."

The above is from Abdu Rahman and Dahr Jamail's "After promises, the heat is on Iraq" (Asia Times) and, on a similar note, we'll note these observations by Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban (Asharq Alawsat Newspaper): "In Iraq, a fifth of the population has become illiterate after ‘democratic’ invaders have killed a million people, including thousands of scientists and intellectuals. Mesopotamian memory is full of millions of tragic stories about widows, orphans, poverty, killing and violence brought about by the Americans. No one in the Western media writes about the life of these people or tries to assess the actual destruction of the quality of these people's lives. The same applies to Afghanistan and Pakistan which have been torn by violence and war and the daily killing by American drones. American talk about 'democracy' is completely isolated from providing water, electricity, schools, work, security and dignity. So, what is this democracy, and what are its objectives if it does not aim at improving people's lives?"

And what democracy does Iraq have when it doesn't even have a government? Day Press reports, "In a speech at the opening of the seventh Conference of the Interior Ministers of Iraq's neighboring Countries on Wednesday, Syrian Interior Minister Said Sammour said that Syria supports Arabism and territorial integrity of Iraq and forming a national unity government representing all spectrums of Iraqi society. Syria also reaffirms its support of the efforts exerted to achieve stability and security of Iraq." Middle East Online adds, "The interior ministers of the countries neighbouring Iraq have called on Baghdad to form a government as soon as possible and pledged increased cooperation in fighting terrorism." Alsumaria TV reports, "Iraqi Interior Minister Jawad Al Boulani believes that time is not in the interest of Iraqi parties, urging political powers in Iraq to accelerate the formation of a new Iraqi government. Government formation delay is a main reason for surge of recent terrorist attacks, Al Boulani said." While Iraq's neighbors met to discuss the issue of forming a government, the stalemate continued.

March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted last month, "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 six months and sixteen days with no government formed.

Meanwhile Phil Sands (National Newspaper) reports on new talk in Iraq:

A secret conflict is underway inside Iraq's intelligence services, with officers being assassinated by fellow agents as rival factions battle for control, according to Iraqi security officials.
The conflict, as described by both a senior Iraqi intelligence officer and a high-ranking former Iraqi security official, is largely along sectarian lines dividing Shiite and Sunni agents affiliated with different political parties.
"Shiite officers are being assassinated by an organisation inside the intelligence service," an Iraqi brigadier general who, until recently, was working in intelligence operations in Baghdad, said in an interview. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he is worried about his safety and he is not authorised to talk to the media.
"We think the killers are from Saddam Hussein's secret police who have been rehired to work for intelligence again," he said. "They have classified information about other officers’ movements and activities that they are using to kill them."
Such information, he said, could only come "from inside the Iraqi intelligence system, or from the Americans".

And we'll close with this from Frank Brodhead's "The War is Lost: Another Perspective on the Afghanistan War" (War Is A Crime):

I started the Afghanistan War Weekly several months ago because it seemed important to learn more about how the war was being fought on the ground, and what was the impact or what were the results of the military and civilian programs being put in place.

My conclusion so far is that the war, from the US point of view, has been lost. Not just that the war is in trouble, but that from a military and political point of view, things have gone so badly that they cannot be turned around, even with more time and resources.

I think this conclusion is important because the "war is lost" perspective or slogan addresses the likely future moves of the war managers in a way that our current slogans and perspectives do not.

Our antiwar slogans or perspectives now broadly include:

The war is immoral; it kills civilians
The war is not a good response to terrorism; it is making us less safe
The war is expensive; we need the money to build real security at home; and
The war should be ended through negotiations asap.

None of these slogans engage the war itself. We have added little new to our perspectives or our criticisms of the war since Obama’s decision at the end of 2009 to escalate the war. We need to take a closer look at the war itself. Two developments make this especially important.

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