Monday, December 12, 2011

Thieves and sycophants parade

Al Mada reports on Nouri's visit to DC and notes that Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc is stating that the visit is about finding a way for the US military to work out a deal on 'trainers.' It is stated that they will dangle investment opportunities in an attempt to smooth the way. Al Rafidayn quotes Ali al-Moussawi, Nouri's media advisor, stating that all aspects of the relationship will be addressed. Dar Addustour reports the multi-day visit will address many issues including "immunity for US trainers' and, of course, Chapter VII.

Of course?

Nouri did away with the UN madate for one reason only: Chapter 7. It's the thing the US press petends doesn't exist. Has always pretended doesn't exist. Each year, including this one, Iraqi officials appear several times before the UN Security Council begging to be released from Chapter 7. One of those yearly visits is always made by Jalal Talabani.

The US government makes the pretense of supporting the move. But, of course, if the US really supported it, Iraq would be out of Chapter 7.

Dar Addustour notes that instead of using the presidential plane as expected, Nouri charted a jet from the United Arab Emirates (despite high security costs) and that he's traveling with, among others, the Minister of Transportation, the Minister of Trade, the Minister of Culture, his national security adviser and the President of the National Investment Commission.

But at some point you have to turn to the US press . . .

Where the wealth's displayed
Thieves and sycophants parade
And where it's made
the slaves will be taken
Some are treated well
In these games of buy and sell
And some like poor beast
Are burdened down to breaking

-- "Dog Eat Dog," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her album of the same name

Thieves and sycophants parade. There's no better description for the US press today as they rush to treat the visit as the meeting of two greats. A glossy magazine cover meets a despot, that's the reality. Doug Bandow called it correctly in "U.S. Should Leave Iraq -- for Good" (Huffington Post).

However, what kind of democracy has resulted after eight years of U.S. occupation? Once seen as weak, Prime Minister Maliki has concentrated power in his hands. He turned a minority parliamentary position into the premiership and refused to honor a power-sharing agreement his chief opponent.
The International Crisis Group pointed to Maliki's expansion of government control over supposedly independent agencies tasked with overseeing the government. Worse, reported Yochi Dreazen: "Maliki has refused to appoint either a permanent defense minister or an interior minister, keeping Iraq's U.S.-trained armed forces and intelligence services under his sole control. He has also taken direct command of the ostensibly neutral 150,000 Iraqi troops stationed in Baghdad, using them to arrest rival politicians, human-rights activists, and journalists."
Maliki brutally suppressed anti-government demonstrations coinciding with the Arab Spring, targeted human rights activists, and cracked down on the media, having critics of his regime arrested and tortured. A number of journalists have been murdered, with government agents the chief suspects. Ghada al-Amely of the al-Mada newspaper told National Journal: "We feel just as scared as we did during Saddam's time." Maliki recently used improbable rumors of a Baathist coup to arrest more than 600 former members of the Baath party, including academics.
Washington has said little. Indeed, Wikileaks captured America's ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, observing that "It is in the interests of the U.S. to see that process of strengthened central authority continue." So much for democracy.

But "where the wealth's displayed, thieves and sycophants parade" and then some. You have to go over to England to find a press outlet offering any realism this morning. From Patrick Cockburn's "Wars without victory equal an America without influence" (Independent):

This is misleading spin, carefully orchestrated to allow Mr Obama to move into the presidential election year boasting that he has ended an unpopular war without suffering a defeat. We already had a foretaste of this a couple of weeks ago, when Vice President Joe Biden visited Baghdad to laud US achievements.
Over the years, Iraqis have become used to heavily guarded foreign dignitaries arriving secretly in Baghdad to claim great progress on all fronts before scurrying home again. But even by these lowly standards, Mr Biden's performance sounded comically inept. "It was the usual Biden menu of gaffe, humour and pomposity delivered with unmistakable self-confidence and no particular regard for the facts on the ground," writes the Iraq expert Reidar Visser. Mr Biden even tried to win the hearts of Iraqis by referring to the US achievement in building hospitals in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan on the Caspian Sea, a city he apparently believes is located somewhere in Iraq.
Republican candidates in the presidential election have been denigrated and discredited by gaffes like this. It is a measure of Mr Biden's reputation for overlong, tedious speeches that the US media did not notice his ignorance of Middle East geography. Dr Visser points out that "when Biden says 'we were able to turn lemons into lemonade', refers to 'a political culture based on free elections and the rule of law', and even highlights 'Iraq's emerging, inclusive political culture ... as the ultimate guarantor of stability', he is simply making things up." Sadly, Iraq is a much divided wreck of a country.

Bonnie reminds that Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Scrub Buddies" went up last night. On this week's Law and Disorder Radio -- a weekly hour long program that airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week, hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) -- they explore (with Max Blumenthal) the "Isrealification of American Domestic Security" and with attorney Kristine Dunne, they discuss a class action lawsuit over gender discrimination in the far loan programs. We'll close with this from Debra Sweet's "Mumia, Obama's Birth Control Obstruction; Action Vs. Torture" (World Can't Wait):

Wednesday, in direct contradiction to the recommendations of the FDA, Kathleen Seblius announced that the administration will not allow women under 17 to get Emergency Contraception (EC, Plan B) without a prescription. This makes Barack Obama the first president to counter the FDA by executive order.
His action goes against the science. There is no medical or ethical reason to impede a woman of any age, who, for whatever reason, wants to avoid an unplanned pregnancy. How does it help the future of that young woman to put her through more hoops, including a doctors' visit, potentially leaving her vulnerable to all the complications of a pregnancy for a young person?
My blog on this continues here. This president, this government, just acted against the interests of all of us who are women, or who care about women’s’ lives, in a craven way which will only give encouragement to those on the right who want to enact even worse measures, including bans on abortion and all birth control.

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