Sunday, November 03, 2013

Editorial: Barack appeased the Butcher of Baghdad

Last week, Iraqi Prime Minister and thug Nouri al-Maliki visited the US to beg for help in destroying Iraq further by giving him more weapons and backing him for a third term as prime minister.  .  Former US Ambassador Marc Ginsberg pointed out at The Huffington Post:

By most accounts Iraq is heading toward an unchecked meltdown, and Maliki would like us to believe he deserves a red carpet welcome as the innocent plaintiff in the upheavals he created, not as the felonious defendant he should be adjudged.
And to top off his disastrous management of Iraq, he wants Washington to legitimate his charade by endorsing his bid for re-election in Iraq's crucial 2014 elections.

Friday found him face-to-face with US President Barack Obama.


It wasn't a good week for Nouri.

October ended Thursday and the violent death toll in Iraq for the month of October, Iraq Body Count noted 1095 violent deaths.  Not since 2007 has an October death toll been so great.

It wasn't a good week for Nouri.

Tuesday, US Senators Carl Levin, John McCain, Robert Menendez, Lindsey Graham, Bob Corker and James M. Inhofe released an open letter to President Barack Obama which noted:

It is essential that you urge Prime Minister Maliki to adopt a strategy to address Iraq’s serious problems of governance. Such a strategy should unite Iraqis of every sect and ethnicity in a reformed constitutional order, based on the rule of law, which can give Iraqis a real stake in their nation’s progress, marginalize Al-Qaeda in Iraq and other violent extremists, and bring lasting peace to the country. To be effective, an Iraqi political strategy should involve sharing greater national power and revenue with Sunni Iraqis, reconciling with Sunni leaders, and ending de-Baathification and other policies of blanket retribution. It should include agreements with the Kurdistan Regional Government to share hydrocarbon revenues and resolve territorial disputes. And it requires a clear commitment that the elections scheduled for next year will happen freely, fairly, and inclusively in all parts of Iraq, and that the necessary preparations will be taken.
If Prime Minister Maliki were to take actions such as these, he could cement his legacy as the leader who safeguarded his country's sovereignty and laid the foundation for the new Iraq. In this endeavor, Prime Minister Maliki and our other Iraqi partners would have our support, including appropriate security assistance, and we would encourage you to provide U.S. diplomatic support at the highest levels to help Iraqis reach the necessary political agreements before the 2014 elections. However, if Prime Minister Maliki continues to marginalize the Kurds, alienate many Shia, and treat large numbers of Sunnis as terrorists, no amount of security assistance will be able to bring stability and security to Iraq. That is not a legacy we want for Prime Minister Maliki, and that is not an outcome that would serve America’s national interests.

He met with Congressional leaders.  On Friday night's NewsHour (PBS -- link is video, audio and text), Margaret Warner explained the meet-up did not go well:

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Maliki did spend time on the Hill?


JUDY WOODRUFF: And how much progress did he make there? What happened?

MARGARET WARNER: It went very badly.

The key meetings yesterday were with Senator McCain and -- excuse me -- Wednesday -- and then with Corker and Menendez. And I'm told that that latter meeting was particularly contentious. They laid out all their concerns. He sort of sat impassively and, according to the aides present, he simply repeated platitudes about how he's governing by the constitution.
And, finally, Menendez got so -- I don't know if it's angry, but certainly peeved, that he looked at him and he said: Look, I feel you're just glossing over our concerns. And you need to know you're not getting any of this without our OK.
And Senator Corker came out afterwards and said: We felt he was completely dismissive of our concerns.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And it's known that one of the things they feel strongly about is he needs to share power.

Throughout the visit, Nouri kept getting hit with reality.  For example,  Human Rights Watch's Erin Evers (The Hill) notes Nouri's use of torture:

Earlier this year, interviewing prisoners in Shaaba Khamsa, Baghdad’s death row facility, I met a 52-year-old woman, one of the thousands of prisoners the U.S. turned over to Iraqi custody when American troops left nearly two years ago. She showed me the scars where security forces had burned her with cigarettes, used electric shocks and beat her so badly that she was still using crutches three years later.
Two courts had declared her innocent of the terrorism charges against her, owing in part to a medical report documenting the extensive torture that led to her confession. A third court, though, reversed these rulings and sentenced her to death late last year, on the basis of “secret evidence provided by the Americans.”
In September, she was among 42 prisoners executed in Iraq in two days.Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is in Washington this week to ask President Obama for warplanes, drones, and other assistance for Iraq’s counterterrorism efforts. The president should send a clear message that the kind of assistance Maliki seeks is not possible as long as his security forces continue their widespread torture – often in the name of counterterrorism.

In fact, Human Rights Watch was among the most vocal during the visit.  Human Rights Watch issued a press release right before Nouri arrived in the US:

 Iraq’s crackdown on peaceful government critics and an epidemic of executions should be top agenda items during the prime minister’s state visit to Washington, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to President Barack Obama. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is scheduled to meet with Obama on November 1, 2013.

Iraqi officials say that Maliki’s priority will be to accelerate US provision of arms, intelligence, and other counterterrorism support, including the immediate delivery of drones and F-16 fighter jets. But Obama should make clear that his administration will prohibit security aid, especially arms, equipment, and training for security forces, unless the Iraqi government ends its widespread use of torture.

“Iraq is plagued by terrorist attacks that are killing civilians in record numbers, but relying on torture and executions after unfair trials only makes the situation worse,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director. “Obama needs to send a clear message to Maliki that the US will not support his assault on human rights.”

The government has dramatically escalated use of the death penalty, especially in the name of fighting terrorism, executing 65 people already in October and 140 so far in 2013. At least one of those executed in October had a court judgment declaring him innocent shortly before he was executed.

Immediately following Maliki’s visit to Washington in December 2011, the prime minister ordered the arrests of Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi and several of his staff, one of whom died in police custody and whose body displayed signs of torture. The arrests kicked off a year in which security forces under Maliki’s direct command threatened and harassed government critics and used state institutions to arrest and charge political opponents without disclosing the evidence against them. The US had a direct role in setting up some of those entities, like the Integrity Commission and inspectors general in the Interior and Defense ministries.

Over the past two years, Maliki’s security forces have routinely detained and tortured scores of peaceful protesters as well as men and women living in areas where the government believes armed groups operate, exploiting vague provisions in Iraq’s Anti-Terrorism Law to settle personal or political scores. These abuses are compounded by judges and investigating officers who collude to prolong the time detainees are held and ignore their allegations of abuses. Suspects with little or no access to an adequate defense are frequently detained for months and even years without charge.

Obama should press Maliki to introduce legislation repealing the Anti-Terrorism Law, which broadly mandates the death penalty for “those who commit...terrorist acts” and “all those who enable terrorists to commit these crimes” in article 4. Articles 1 and 2 define “terrorism” extremely broadly, including acts that do not involve violence or injury to people such as disruption of public services, enabling authorities to use the law to punish nonviolent political dissent. The authorities frequently use the law’s ambiguous provisions to target people on the basis of tribe or sect.

Public security has worsened drastically in Iraq in 2013 after security forces stormed a camp of peaceful protesters in the northern town of Hawija in April, killing 51 people. Attacks by armed groups, which claimed over 5,740 lives between January and September, have internally displaced another 5,000 Iraqis from Basra, Thi Qar, and Baghdad, and within Diyala and Ninewa.

The escalation in executions after trials in which people are convicted on the basis of coerced confessions and secret evidence – mostly in the name of counterterrorism – has done nothing to address the crisis. Obama should address authorities’ failure to failure to hold those responsible accountable regardless of their sect. Numerous Iraqis have told Human Rights Watch the government’s approach has polarized Iraq’s population, particularly in Sunni areas, where people see the government’s failure to hold Shia-dominated security forces accountable as confirmation that the prime minister’s policies remain rooted in sectarianism.

Despite all of this, Barack sat down with Nouri and pretended he was meeting with The Butcher of Baghdad.

And Nouri left with the impression he had backing for weapons and for a third term.

The last thing Iraq needs is a third term from Nouri.

Since he became prime minister in the spring of  2006, he has done nothing to improve the lives of the Iraqi people.  This point was especially made on Here and Now (NPR -- link is audio and text) last week when Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson spoke with the BBC's Hadya al-Alawi.

Hadya al-Alawi: I mean, how can I explain that life there is terrible? There is no electricity, and it's boiling hot in Iraq at this time. There is no water. The basic, main services are not provided in the country. I mean, security is very important. How can you go out about your daily life without knowing that you can come back, actually, to your kids at night? Or how can you go to work thinking I'm going to die today in an explosion, for example?

Nouri has had over 7 years to address these problems and never has.

It's not about money.

Billions pour into Iraq each month in oil sales.

It does not go to the people.

Nouri's son spends millions and millions on cars and buildings.  How did he get those millions because Nouri was near poverty before the start of the Iraq War.  He was an exile, a chicken who fled Iraq and hid in Syria and Iran.  Now his son can drop $150 million in a trip to London?

Nouri does not need a third term.  The Iraqi people do not need to suffer through that.

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