Monday, November 23, 2009






On Sunday, the US military announced: "FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq -- A Multi-National Division South Soldier was killed in action, Nov. 22.The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. The names of service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense official website at The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin.The incident is under investigation." The announcement brought the number of service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4365.

Turning to the issue of the 'intended' January elections. As Carole King sings ("Chalis Borealis," Speeding Time), "Didn't work out quite the way you wanted, how were you to know?" Last week, Tareq al-Hashemi vetoed the election law citing the law's refusal to recognize the large number of Iraqi refugees. Saturday the Parliament met to resolve the issue and . . . nothing. AFP reported, "The vote is postponed until tomorrow, parliament speaker Iyad al-Samarrai told reporters on Saturday, after a further day of meetings failed to resolve a dispute on a key provision in the law which will govern the national poll." Waleed Ibrahim, Ahmed Rasheed, Khalid al-Ansary, Michael Christie and Sonya Hepinstall (Reuters) explained, "Parliament must now either address Hashemi's complaints and amend the law, which may invite other interest groups to demand other changes, or send it back to him unchanged only for him to possibly veto it again." DPA added "According to [MP Ezzeddin] al-Dawla, MPs were divided during Saturday's discussions, with 'a majority calling for a rejection of al-Hashemi's demand.' A few, al-Dawla said, 'sought a compromise of reserving 10 per cent of the seats for expatriates'." Sunday saw a repeat of the stagnation with Waleed Ibrahim, Michael Christie and Janet Lawrence (Reuters) reporting the Parliament is still at "an impasse" and plans to take up the matter (again) tomorrow. Some motion took place today with Waleed Ibrahim, Michael Christie and Jon Hemming (Reuters) reporting this morning that the Parliament has finally passed an election law but that it doesn't appear to address the issues that led to the presidency council's veto and may (yet again) be vetoed.

Sahar Issa and Warren P. Strobel (McClatchy Newspapers) observe that the elections could be "delayed by weeks, if not longer" following today's vote which "cut Sunni Muslim voting power even more in several major provinces. More than 50 parliament members walked out in protest, most of them Sunnis, but including a smattering of secular lawmakers and Shiites as well." Nada Bakri (Washington Post) quotes Sunni MP Oussan al-Nujaifi stating, "We're going to veto the law because it's unconstitutional. And that means a delay in the election." Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) insists that the "effort to hold parliamentary elections on schedule in January collapsed on Monday" and explains, "The failure to agree on even the terms of the national election has inflamed ethnic and sectarian tensions that had waned somewhat in the last year or so." BBC News adds, "Our correspondent [Jim Muir] says most MPs seem to be determined to reject the veto this time, meaning the law should eventually go through."

Today at the US State Dept, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with the Bulgarian Foreign Minister Rumiana Zheleva and after the two delivered remarks to the press, the issue of Iraq arose.

AFP's Lachlan Carmichael: Madame Secretary, since we have an opportunity to talk to you, perhaps on another subject, Iraq? There's a prospect of the electoral law being vetoed again. What kinds of concerns do you have about that? And do you have any -- can you use your influence to help get it passed, iron out the differences among the factions?

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: Well, Lachlan, we support the Iraqi government's efforts to pass an election law so that they can proceed with planned elections. We know that there are some continuing concerns as expressed by the vice president that have to be addressed. We will continue working with all of the parties. Our ambassador, Chris Hill, on the ground has been deeply involved in doing so already. This morning, I met and heard a report about the way forward. There are a number of ideas that we will be presenting. There's an interim period because the Council of Representatives will not be meeting for a number of days that we think provide the opportunity for all the parties to come together, and with the help of not just the United States, but UNAMI and others to work out these continuing differences. We believe on balance that there will be elections. They might slip by some period of time until this is worked out, because at some point the law has to be in place for the planning to begin, and so there necessarily needs to be a period of time in which the planning can occur. But we have every reason to believe that elections will be held, which will be another milestone on the journey that Iraqis are taking toward full and comprehensive democracy.

And since Hillary raised the timeline, let's note it because it changed and no one seems to have noticed that (more likely, they've chosen not to raise the issue). Waleed Ibrahim, Michael Christie and Janet Lawrence (Reuters) reported Sunday, "There are only a couple of days left for parliament to address Vice-President Tareq al-Hashemi's veto of an election law, as the law must be passed 60 days before a vote and Jan. 23 is viewed by Iraq's majority Shi'ite Muslims as the last possible date in January for the ballot to take place."

How does it happen
I don't know
It's so hard to understand
Now you see it
Now you don't
Is this a case of sleight of hand
Sleight of hand
-- "Sleight of Hand," written by Carly Simon and Don Sebesky

B-b-but . . . What happened to 90 days? Salah Hemeid (Al-Ahram Weekly) reported a month ago, "The commission, responsible for organizing polls in Iraq, has said that it needs 90 days to print and distribute ballots. Iraqi and UN officials fear that the election could be delayed if lawmakers fail to pass a revised election law this week." October 29th, Renee Montagne talked about the timeline with Quil Lawrence (NPR's Morning Edition):

Renee Montagne: What, Quil, is at stake with the delay of this election law?Quil Lawrence: Well, as you say, the Iraqi prime minister and his government's term run out on January 31st so the election commission here has said they need 90 days to organize a legitimate poll and Parliament is deadlocked on over a dozen or so complicated issues regarding the election. They may vote on it today. If the elections are delayed or if they are rushed, there's a risk that Iraq's government could be deemed illegitimate and then a whole Pandora's Box of problems can open up -- issues of legitimacy of the government, maybe even a crisis like we've seen in Afghanistan.

How does 90 days become 60? And why did the press never notice the missing thirty? "Sleight of Hand" indeed. Carly Simon's latest album is Never Been Gone (Kat sang its praises here) and this week only you can download the entire album at Amazon for $5.00. That's all 12 tracks. Never Been Gone finds Carly revisiting her songwriting canon to re-imagine some of her best loved hits including "You're So Vain," "Anticipation," "Let The River Run," "Coming Around Again," "The Right Thing To Do," "That's The Way I've Always Heard It Should Be" and "You Belong To Me." Tomorrow Carly Will be at J&R Music World in New York (23 Park Row) signing copies of Never Been Gone beginning at 6:00 pm. Carly will be on Greater Boston (WGBH) Wednesday and Thursday (Thanksgiving day) she'll be performing in the Macy's Parade on the Care Bear's Float as well as be on Extra for part-two of her interview.

You should notice that the reporter who raised the issue of Iraq with Hillary Clinton was from a foreign news agency (AFP). Domestic reporters just don't give a damn. Doubt it? At the White House today, a bunch of trained yammers (with few exceptions) stroked and fondled Robert Gibbs with questions of such easy nature as could he explain "diplomatic entertaining" and State dinners. They had plenty of time to make like In Style magazine but damn little time to make like actual reporters. It was the usual embarrassment everyone's come to expect and that can be blamed only partly on Robert Gibbs. Blame? Hillary mentioned Chris Hill, US Ambassador to Iraq, in her comments and this may have been the first time his name has come up in the last few days. For example, the New York Times' awful editorial last week didn't mention him when it called out Iraq for the delay. Shouldn't Hill have been on this issue from day one? Yes, he should have. And who picked Hill? Who picked Hill over qualified people -- many, many other qualified people? Barack Obama. So the candy ass White House press corps should have pressed on the issue of Iraq. Instead they wasted everyone's time and, with few exceptions, better hope their editors and producers don't study that transcript. And on Chris Hill, let's remember one more time that the Republicans in the Senate structured their objections to Hill very carefully and very precisely. They knew he could be the anchor that could hang around Barack's neck. But no one wanted to pay attention back then and now it appears it may be too late. If Iraq falls to pieces, Republicans running for office will not blame military generals. They will, however, go to town on a US civilian like Hill. And they laid the groundwork for that back in his confirmation hearing.

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