Tuesday, April 03, 2012







It's not a good day to be an 'expert.' Marc Lynch (Foreign Policy) is often insightful. This isn't one of those times. We'll get to his larger points in a moment but first we'll note these supporting 'facts' Lynch supplies:
The real story of America's withdrawal from Iraq is how little impact it has really had on either Iraq or the region. There are even signs that the withdrawal has helped to nudge Iraqis onto the right path, though not as quickly or directly as I might have hoped. This month's death toll was the lowest on record since the 2003 invasion, while Iraqi oil exports are at their highest level since 1980. Baghdad successfully hosted an Arab Summit meeting, which may have done little for Syria but did go further to bring Iraq back into the Arab fold than anything since 2003.
Let's address this lowest toll first. Ben Armbruster (Think Progress) is also running with that, opening with, "The AP reports that according to data released . . ." No, they're not really reporting. They're repeating. They're not reporting. Reporting isn't just repeating what someone said. What the Iraq Ministry of Defense (no head to the ministry) and the Ministry of Interior (no head to the ministry) and the Ministry of Health released was 112 people died in March. That's those classified as civilians or security. And the Iraqi government said that 357 were injured. That is a low figure. Reuters stopped tracking the violence because . . . Well, ask them. So I guess there's just no way to confirm or refute . . . Oh, wait, there's Iraq Body Count. Their March total is 295. Let's see, the independent Iraq Body Count or the two ministries Nouri controls (by refusing to appoint a Minister to head them) and the Ministry of Health, who do we believe? Any rational, sentient person would tell you you don't believe the struggling government sliding further towards authoritarianism.
We can also go over AKE's totals. March 5th, they reported 63 dead the previous week (41 wounded), March 12th they noted 70 killed (76 injured) the week prior and reminded that this did not include Iraqi youth who were or perceived to be either Emo or LGBT. March 19th they reported 26 dead (22 injured) the week before. March 26th they reported 73 dead (270 injured) the week prior. Today they report 29 people were killed the week prior (22 injured).
Leaving out the first week of March, we're already at 198. Repeating that's leaving out the first week of March (due to the fact that the first week of March also included four days of February). AKE advertises it's Iraq Services:

AKE can fully support your business in Iraq. We can provide transport, security and accomodation in a home-from-home environment in central Baghdad. [. . .] We can provide logistical support in and out of the country, giving you access to clients, partners, business opoerations and government ministries. Visa faciliation is available (subject to status) and we can provide recommendations for drivers, fixers as well as local translators and other services.
Do you know how much AKE charges? Do you know they couldn't get five cents if they weren't seen as much more than merely competent.
So 112 is rejected by both IBC's count and AKE's count? Maybe in the future, allegedly educated people could remember that governments have an interest in lying about how much violence takes place in their country. That's true of the US, that's true of all countries. And maybe in the future, when you 'report' a number, you could try confirming it and even contrasting it with counts from other outlets?
As for the nonsense about the Arab League Summit being a success for Iraq, we've addressed those false claims here and we addressed it yesterday at Third in "Editorial: Successful summit for Iraq?" which goes over one aspect after another demonstrating that you cannot grade it a success for Iraq. And that was before Ahmed Hussein (Al Mada) was reporting that the number of Iraqis living at the poverty level or below is five and a half million persons. That's outrageous in any country but especially in Iraq which has somewhere between 25 to 30 million people (the population is an estimate, there has not been a census in decades). So basically, one-fifth of the country lives in poverty and yet Nouri wasted at least a billion dollars on the summit.
Back to Marc Lynch. His argument is that Barack did no great harm to Iraq by withdrawing most of the troops. And I would agree with that and agree that US troops feed into resentments. Even more their presence postpones the sorting out -- violent or otherwise that Iraqis have to do. But there's another problem besides being gullible about government figures. Lynch writes:
This is not to say that there aren't reasons to worry about Iraq's future. There are many. It is troubling that Maliki has driven Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi into exile on terrorism charges and has rebuffed all efforts at meaningful cooperation with his political rivals. It is troubling that core constitutional issues such as the oil law and the limits of federalism remain unresolved. It is troubling that violence and terrorism continues to claim Iraqi lives and unsettle its politics. It is troubling that the Iraqi Parliament appears inept and incompetent [. . .]
But what's striking is that these problems are the same ones which kept us all up nights in previous years. None of these trends is remotely new, and few have become palpably worse since the American departure. Iraqis have been worried about the centralization of power in Maliki's office and his authoritarian tendencies for the last four years.
Yes, those things are, to say the least, troubling. As for it be striking that these are the same problems from the previous years and that Nouri's "authoritarian tendences" have been a concern "for the last four years," Marc Lynch, what do you think Iraqis could have done about that?
Gee, I guess March 7, 2010, they could have gone and voted for someone other than Nouri's political slate State of Law. If they'd done that, they'd be rid of Nouri.
Oh, wait. They did do that. That's why despite the threats, despite the demonization of Iraqiya as "terrorists" and "Ba'athists" (the latter especially a serious charge in the Shi'ite majority Iraq), Iraqiya won more votes. Who backed Nouri, Marc Lynch?
That's right, Barack Obama. The White House backed Nouri. The White House didn't give a damn about the vote, didn't give a dam about democracy, didn't give a damn about the will of the Iraqi people, didn't give a damn about the Iraqi Constitution.
So if you're going to note that the problems are similar or claim they're the same (they're not the same, they're far worse and today's events after Lynch's piece went up demonstrate that they're worse), then you better be willing to talk about why they're the same. They're not the same because the Iraqi people didn't attempt to solve the problem. They're not the same because the Iraqi people believed that their votes would matter. The problems are similar because the White House overruled the voice of the Iraqi people.
At least Marc Lynch is consistent. (And, again, often insightful.) If Phyllis Bennis suffering from MPD? Which personality is attempting to communicate with us today? In a piece at Real News Network she attempts to cover various wars. Here she is on Iraq:

Last week was the 9th anniversary of that war. And looking back, it's clearer than ever that the U.S. failed to achieve any of its goals. I don't mean the lying goals, the fake goals, of finding weapons of mass destruction or bringing democracy to Iraq. I mean the real goals, the ones that kept hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops and hundreds of thousands of Pentagon-paid mercenaries in Iraq for so many years:

  • Consolidating U.S. control over Iraqi oil -- nope, U.S. oil companies are just some among many of the myriad of foreign interests in Iraq's oil fields.
  • Leaving behind a pro-U.S. government in Baghdad -- hardly, Prime Minister Maliki is barely on speaking terms with anyone in Washington.
  • Permanent access to U.S. bases across Iraq -- not even close, every one of the several hundred bases was either closed down or turned over to the Iraqi government; even the giant 5,000-person embassy, biggest in the world, had to be scaled back when Iraq refused to guarantee immunity to enough U.S. troops to protect it.
  • Creating a government and military more accountable to the U.S. than to Iran -- oops, seems we got that one wrong too; despite continuing billions of dollars of our tax money to prop it up, Baghdad today is allied more closely to Iran than to the U.S.

So the U.S. lost in Iraq too. Iraq hasn't been "liberated" -- violence is rampant, the sectarian violence resulting from early U.S. policies after the 2003 invasion continues to escalate. And U.S.-paid contractors (paid by the State Dept this round, instead of the Pentagon, that's the technical difference) are still there. Thousands of them. What's not there, so far, is one dollar for reparations or compensation. That's the battle that lies ahead. The U.S. war in Iraq may be over, but our responsibilities are not.

Okay, help me out, was it not Phyllis insisting the Iraq War wasn't over after December 19th (the big withdrawal). And now she's insisting it is? Again, which personality is attempting to communicate with us? January 23rd, she was at US News & World Reports and, in her opening sentence, telling readers, "Far from being 'too soon,' the U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq came more than eight years too late -- and still, the war isn't over."
How did the US troops in the region -- still in the region around Iraq -- depart, how did the CIA depart Iraq, how did Special Ops depart Iraq, how did all the contractors depart, the 700 US soldiers who are 'trainers,' the Marines guarding the embassy, how did all of those people leave between December 19th and today and we didn't even notice? How did that happen? To the personality now insisting that the war is over, let us speak to Phyllis. We want to speak with Phyllis.
Nouri al-Maliki pretends he wants to speak with Tareq al-Hashemi. Really he wants him imprisoned. The Vice President is a member of Iraqiya, a Sunni and in his second term as vice president. Iraqiya and State of Law are political rivals. Nouri doesn't play well with others. Iraqiya announced they were boycotting the government December 16th and did so on December 17th entry. December 18th is al-Hashemi and Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq are attempting to fly to the KRG from Baghdad when they and their bodyguards are pulled off the flight by Nouri's forces. For less than an hour, they are detained. Then they're waived through and allowed to fly out. December 19th, Nouri issues an arrest warrant for al-Hashemi -- after the Vice President is in the KRG.
At this late date, anyone who falsely states that Tareq al-Hashemi fled to the KRG after an arrest warrant was issued for him has problems far larger than chronology.
Yesterday, al-Hashemi went to Qatar. In reporting that development, both . Aseel Kami (Reuters) and Jack Healy and Duraid Adnan (New York Times) were unable to get the facts right. In addition, while reporting on the trip to Qatar and the outrage by Nouri, they failed to bring in Qatar's message to Nouri last week. Dropping back to Friday's snapshot:

There are 22 countries in the Arab League. Hamza Hendawi and Lara Jakes (AP) put the number of Arab League leaders who attended at 10 and they pointed out that Qatar, Saudi Arabi, Morocco and Jordan were among those who sent lower-level officials to the summit. Patrick Martin (Globe & Mail) explains that Sheik Hamad Bin Jassem Bin Jabr Al Thani (Prime Minister of Qatar) declared on television that Qatar's "low level of representation" was meant to send "a 'message' to Iraq' majority Shiites to stop what he called the marginalization of its minority Sunnis."
If Nouri is outraged and furious, it seems like you might want to note the above. Because it makes clear that receiving al-Hashemi wasn't accidental and that all of Nouri's thundering really isn't going to make too much of an impression on Qatar. Only Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) managed to touch on that issue yesterday:
The vice president's trip comes several days after Qatar's foreign minister said his country had sent a low-ranking representative to last week's Arab League summit in Baghdad in order to send a message over "factionalism in Iraq," the state-run Qatar News Agency reported.
The US State Dept was not bothered by the news and had hoped/urged it for weeks now. They feel the issues surrounding Tareq al-Hashemi prevent Iraq from focusing on other needed issues. They also feel al-Hashemi can't get a fair trial. They worry that he will return to Iraq as he has stated he intendes to do (not years from now, but when this current diplomatic tour is over).