Sunday, November 08, 2009



It was the week when the press played the sucker day after day with few exceptions. The national elections 'intended' for January had no law authorizing them at the start of last week and no law authorizing them at the end of the week. But like a bunch of saps, outlets kept filing stories each day with promises of (sing it, Annie) tomorrow when, bet your bottom dollar, the Parliament would pass an election law. Thursday, Sammy Ketz (AFP) quoted election commission head Faraj al-Haidari stating, "We can no longer organise elections on January 16 -- that would have been difficult even if we had received the law today. Whether they retain the old electoral law, amend it or adopt an entirely new one is a matter for members of parliament but we are the ones who will have to implement their decisions according to the timetable. We hope that MPs will resolve their dilemma but we are not going to sacrifice international norms and criteria -- we're obliged to respect the rules so that these elections are transparent." And you might think that would lead some of the reporters/saps to be less gullible (isn't skepticism supposed to be a hallmark of reporting?) but it didn't.

The Associated Press, at least, began to have fun with their headlines and may have been the only US outlet to voice skepticism of anything passing last week.

90 days.

Today, when the cry is (yet again) that the Parliament will pass something, is November 8th. The election commission says they need 90 days to prepare for the elections -- that's printing ballots, staffing polls, security planning, etc. [AFP reported that Faraj al-Haidari, head of the country's Independent High Electoral Commission, declared on Al-Sharquiay TV Tuesday, "The electoral commission held talks with the United Nations on Tuesday to discuss the timetable. We must receive the law in the next two days, otherwise we will be unable to hold the election on the scheduled date of January 16. There is material relating to the election, and international companies need time to print it. Fifteen thousand polling stations have to be made ready for the election, as do 50,000 personnel."] So what's the earliest that national elections, if the law is passed today, could take place?

November has 30 days and today's the 8th. That leaves 22. December has 31 days. 31 + 22 + 53.

90 - 53?


Sadly, January only has 31 days.

Which means for the elections to be considered legitimate (the UN and the elections committee have both voiced that rushing the process would de-legitimize the results), the earliest elections could be held would be February 6th. But Oliver August (Times of London) reported,"An important Shia religious holiday in early February makes it difficult to push back the poll by only a few weeks."

So how far back would it be pushed?

No one wants to say. Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) interviewed US Lt. Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr. last week about the elections and he admitted, "And so we're very concerned that we're past the date that the Iraqis wanted to have an election law, and that every day that goes by eats into the established date for the election. Iraq has the opportunity to demonstrate that it has a viable and credible democracy, and can be a model for the region. There's lots of opportunity here and we don't want to miss these opportunities by having this election drift." Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal) reported, "The election commission said if parliament doesn't approve a law by the end of Thursday, it will be impossible to hold the polls as scheduled on Jan. 16 because there won't be enough time to organize it. In meetings earlier this week, United Nations officials also told lawmakers if a law isn't passed by Thursday, the U.N. would urge postponement of the elections."

While the election law remained a stand-still, violence continued.

Monday the US military announced another death: "FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq -- A Multi-National Corps -- Iraq Soldier died Nov. 2 of non-combat related injuries. Release of the Soldier's identity is being with held pending notification of the next of kin. The name of the deceased service member will be announced through the U.S. Department of Defense Official Web site [. . .] 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 currently under investigation." Wednesday the US military announced: "Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Iraq -- A Multi-National Division -- North Soldier died Nov. 4 from combat related injuries. 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 [. . .] 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." And they announced: "Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Iraq -- A Multi-National Division -- North Soldier died Nov. 4 from non-combat related injuries. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. [. . .] The incident is under investigation." The announcements brought the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4359. In addition, Reuters reported Wednesday that a Tuesday Baghdad mortar attack left 7 US service members injured.

Sunday saw 25 Iraqis reported deaths and 97 injured. Monday saw 4 reported dead and 3 reported wounded. Tuesday saw 3 reported dead and 10 reported injured. Wednesday saw 7 reported dead and 25 reported wounded. Thursday saw 5 person reported dead and 15 reported injured. Friday saw 4 people reported dead and six people reported injured. Saturday saw 3 reported dead and 3 reported injured. Totals: 51 reported dead, 159 reported wounded -- and many more people were killed and wounded than were reported.

While the violence continued, the disinterest from the US House Armed Services Committee's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation continued. October 23rd, the subcommittee held a hearing entitled "Iraq and Afghanistan: Perspective on US Strategy" and managed to ignore Iraq. November 5th, they held part two of the hearing and they continued to ignore Iraq -- once more focusing on Afghanistan and Pakistan. In passing, a moment of interest may have taken place as US House Rep. Duncan Hunter spoke of a troop 'surge' taking place in Afghanistan and asked a witness, "What do you recommend if we do want it stable and we do want it so that we can leave in the next two to five years, leave it relatively stable, not abandon it totally and we'll probably leave troops there like we will in Iraq. But so what now?"

Hunter was saying that "we'll probably leave troops there like we will in Iraq." After the 'withdrawal,' Duncan Hunter says troops will be left in Iraq.

The work week started with the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan holding a hearing on Monday. The GAO's William Solis testified that the Pentagon had yet to complete the plans for a draw-down. Not a withdrawal, mind you, for the draw-down. The draw-down is supposed to be completed by August 2010. That's approximately nine months away and the Pentagon hasn't gotten around to completing draw-down plans? What are they waiting on? Or do they know something that others don't?

Solis testified there were 128,700 US service members in Iraq as of August 31st; however, he testified that no one had a count on the number of contractors in Iraq. It was also revealed that KBR had yet to submit a plan which led Commissioner Robert Henke to request a "short, succinct answer" to this question, "If the president announces on February 27, 2009 the draw-down plan and we're on November 2nd, is it possible that the contractor hasn't provided you any plan to adjust staff accordingly?" He got nothing resembling an answer in the response. (KBR was the subject of a Democratic Policy Committee hearing on Friday. We cover the hearing this edition in this article.)

In the US on Monday, Iraqi-American Noor Faleh Almaleki died. The 20-year-old woman was intentionally run over October 20th while she and Amal Edan Khalaf were running errands (the latter is the mother of Noor's boyfriend and she was left injured in the assault). Police suspected Noor's father, Faleh Hassan Almaleki, of the assault and stated the probable motive was that he felt Noor had become "too westernized." The father immediately went on the lamb. After fleeing to Mexico, he then fled to London only to have England refuse to admit him and return him to the US. Upon arrival in Atlanta, he was arrested. Dustin Gardiner (Arizona Republic) quoted prosecutor Stephanie Low stating of the father, "By his own admission, this was an intentional act and the reason was that his daughter had brought shame on him and his family. This was an attempt at an honor killing." Iraqi American Romina Korkes offered her thoughts on the so-called 'honor' killing last week in a column for the Arizona Republic.

In the US, Fort Hood saw an attack. (See Ruth's "Fort Hood Shooting" and also this week's TV commentary.) In Van Nuys, California an Iraq War veteran and his wife received some good news. For weeks now, efforts have been made to deport Frances Barrios for the 'crime' of entering the US when she was six-years-old. She is the wife of Jack Barrios and the mother of their two children. Her husband suffers from PTSD and has described his wife as "his rock." Teresa Watanabe (Los Angeles Times) reported last week that the couple learned Frances was granted "humanitarian parole" and will be able to apply for a green card and remain in the country. Tony Valdez (Los Angeles' Fox 11 -- link has text and video) was present when Frances Barrios received the news:

Tony Valdez: Frances Barrios looked mystified and anxious about her attorneys visit to her Van Nuys apartment in the evening. She usually went to Jessica Dominguez' office whenever there was a development in her bid to stay in the US with her husband and her children. What the attorney told her husband, an Iraq War veteran, was completely unexpected.Jessica Dominguez: The Citizenship and Immigration Services has granted your wife parole which means you can now give her legal permanent resident status without her having to go back to Guatemala.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Poll1 { display:none; }