Saturday, April 19, 2014

Jay Z and Beyonce?

So the lifestyles of the rich and trashy plans to hit the road together this summer.

My question: Who pays to see this crap?

When I was a teenager, I didn't want to see any husband and wife on tour with the exception of Ashford & Simpson who were a duo. 

But the idea of seeing these two together?

It's like you're a peasant in the court of Beyonce and Jay Z.

Get a damn life already.

 I often take Frank James to task so let me note he has a column worth reading and pondering:

Few mixtures in American life are more emotionally combustible than the one formed by the combination of politics and race.
That helps explain why Democrats, in general, and President Obama, in particular, have tended to steer clear of overtly raising race as an issue to explain some of the opposition to Obama's presidency and agenda.
There seems to be a shift in recent days, however.
Top Democratic party officials have either directly or indirectly blamed race for some of the hostility to Obama, his policies, or both.


So make a point to check out his column.


"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills): 

Friday, April 18, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri's War Crimes continue (and are called out by a Sheikh), Tehran officials are told a third term for Nouri is unacceptable, Robert Beecroft is also informed of that, election campaigning heats up, KRB gets some bad news, Nouri's baby thug gets some media attention, and much more.

We're not campaign central.  We will look at Hillary Clinton's run in terms of Iraq.  The former Secretary of State, Senator and First Lady is a press favorite for a 2016 presidential run.  She herself hasn't made up her mind yet and protests and thrown shoes may be indicating a level of hostility to her again running for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.  I've already stated I have no intention of voting for her, I'm not campaigning for her. But let's look at her record.  Ann McFeatters (Gulf Today) explores it and offers:

Hillary says she still has to figure out why she’d run. She has said nothing yet about what a Hillary Clinton presidency would mean for the country. Being first woman president would be cool but probably isn’t reason enough to elect her.
She ran in 2008 defending the war in Iraq, a war that just about everyone except Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney agrees was a bad mistake. There’s a general consensus that capturing Saddam Hussein was not worth thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars. 


That's the real surprise that no one wants to talk about.  She ran in 2008, she failed to stake out ground on Iraq that would carry her to the nomination.  Even if you believe the nomination was stolen from her (I do believe that, that's part of the reason Nancy Pelosi stopped the floor vote -- it would have revealed how close Hillary and Barack were in delegates).  But she was part of a divisive primary season.

How does that go away now?  Or are people at various left websites now confessing that their endless smears of Hillary as racist or wanting Barack Obama dead were lies -- lies they knew they were telling in real time?

The reality is, it was a bitter primary.  How do you, eight years later, pretend that didn't happen?

I have no idea but I have no idea why Hillary couldn't get over her pride and admit her Iraq War vote was wrong.  It was a 2008 mistake and it's six years after that run and she's still associated with the Iraq War. The only thing to her credit as a senator was opposing the surge but, as we now know from former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and his Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, Hillary only opposed it for political reasons/posturing.  (The same is true of Barack, read Gates' book, but we're not talking about Barack running in 2016.)  (The 'surge' was when Bully Boy Bush sent more US troops into Iraq in 2007 to secure the country -- primarily Baghdad -- to allow Nouri to work on the White House benchmarks that he promised to implement but never, ever did.  Excuses were made in 2007 and outlets rushed to give him partial grades and pretend that in 2008 he'd achieve -- he didn't 2008, he didn't since.  It was more broken promises from Nouri.)

While Hillary attempts to figure out whether or not to run and what her big achievement as Secretary of State was, Roger Aranoff (Western Journalism) notes Hillary travels with a bit more than carry-on luggage:


But the legacy of Hillary Clinton is turning out to be one of incompetence, bungled efforts, chicanery, and outright scandal. Her most famous words have become, “What difference at this point does it make?” referring to how the four brave Americans died in Benghazi in September of 2012. And a number of other scandals have followed her, both from before and during her tenure as Secretary of State. The latest is about $6 billion in contract dollars that the State Department lost track of over the last six years.
According to the Inspector General report:
  •   There was a lack of paperwork: of 115 contracts sampled from the U.S. Mission in Iraq, 33 could not be produced.
  •   There was missing documentation: the Bureau of African Affairs couldn’t provide complete files for any of the eight contracts requested.
  •   There were conflicts of interest: a $52 million contract was awarded to a “company owned by the spouse of a contractor employee performing as a Contract Specialist for the contract.”
  •   Payments were sent when they weren’t supposed to be: $792,782 was sent to a contractor, “even though the contract file did not contain documents to support the payment.”
  •   Contracts were even hidden: “The related contract file was not properly maintained and for a period of time was hidden…This contract was valued at $100 million.”
All in all, this creates “conditions conducive to fraud, as corrupt individuals may attempt to conceal evidence of illicit behavior by omitting key documents from the contract file,” according to the IG report.


In 12 days, parliamentary elections are supposed to take place in Iraq.

Where's the State Dept?

They would say they are working (feedback they're receiving from the public says otherwise).  Whatever they're doing, they're not communicating with their ultimate boss: the US public.

Iraq last held parliamentary elections in 2010, when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State. February 17, 2010, then-US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill delivered "Briefing On Upcoming Iraqi Elections and U.S.-Iraqi Relations" -- a bad briefing, Hill's an idiot, but it was a briefing.  It took place in DC.  It took place 18 days before the elections.  This go round, nothing from the State Dept and yet the elections are only 12 days away.

Maybe if John Kerry stopped bullying other countries, the State Dept would have addressed the elections by now?

And the day of the election and after the elections, Hillary issued multiple statements so someone better inform John Kerry that he needs to up his game because with regards to keeping Americans informed on key points with regards to the State Dept's mission in Iraq, Hillary did a better job than Kerry's doing.

On the elections, Fareed Zakaria (Global Public Square, CNN) offers a list of readings, including Ned Parker's latest:

“On the surface, the speed with which Iraq’s new political order has fallen apart is a puzzle. Although bombings never stopped, there had been relative stability since the spring of 2008, when Maliki, emboldened by the successful U.S.-backed Sunni revolt against al Qaeda, known as the Awakening, set out to disband the Shiite militias endangering law and order in Basra and Baghdad,” argues Ned Parker in the New York Review of Books.
“The campaign, supported by the Americans, produced a surge of patriotism among both Shiites and Sunnis. By 2010, when the country was preparing to stage its second national elections for a four-year government, Iraq seemed poised to cast off its divisions. Maliki, running for reelection, had learned to present himself as both staunchly Shiite and a leader for all Iraqis. Resisting pressure from other Shiite religious parties and Iran, he ran his own list of candidates, including Sunni tribesmen and secular politicians…Yet Maliki and his Shiite Islamist supporters were unable to shed their deep mistrust of those they believed had fought them in the past. Rather than being integrated into the political system, several dozen leaders of the Awakening ended up dead or in jail, or forced into exile.”

Alice Fordham has a report for NPR's Morning Edition (link is text and audio) that wants to insist Nouri's trying to bring the Sahwa into the military -- while ignoring what Ned Parker's outlined above and what's taken place for the entire second term of Nouri al-Maliki until right before these elections.

She's providing a wrong impression to listeners.

She's also wrong in the following, "But fighting still rages and it's been announced that national elections planned to the end of the month will not happen in Anbar. Alice Fordham, NPR News."  She got her name right.  You can dispute the "NPR News" label -- NPR doesn't really do much news anymore, it's all feature stories. But she's wrong about an announcement regarding Anbar.

How did that make it on air?

Well, like I said, NPR really doesn't do news anymore so there's no one to fact check.

April 8th, the IHEC declared not all areas of Anbar would have polling stations.  Today Tasnim News Agency reports:

“In Anbar Province, all necessary arrangements have been made to ensure the security of the election, which is to be held on April 30,” Faleh Al-Eisawi, the head of the council of the province said in an interview with the Tasnim News Agency.
[. . .]
He also emphasized that the police forces in cooperation with Anbar Operations Command are to implement an extensive security plan to provide the security of the elections.


Again, Alice Fordham's claim (""But fighting still rages and it's been announced that national elections planned to the end of the month will not happen in Anbar.") does not hold up.


Iraq last held parliamentary elections in March of 2010.  In those elections, Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law lost to Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya.  Though Allawi should have been named prime minister-designate, loser Nouri threw an eight month long tantrum and the White House indulged him.  They did more than that, they also worked to find a way to let the loser have a second term as prime minister.  Since he lost the vote, they went to the leaders of the political blocs and pointed out Nouri could hold out for 8 more months (Parliament wasn't able to meet during Nouri's tantrum, he brought government to a standstill) and got them to sign a contract (The Erbil Agreement) which Nouri used to grab a second term.

As Anthony H. Cordesman and Sam Khazai pointed out earlier this year in [PDF format warning] "Iraq in Crisis:"

US officials applauded the 2010 Erbil agreement, and said they were hopeful that such cooperative arrangement would provide a political breakthrough among Iraq’s leadership, and allow them to address the country’s problems. They pointed to the influence the US had in pushing for the outcome, including the adoption of an American suggestion that Allawi head a new, “National Council for Security Policy”.

And let's note  Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) reported in real time:

Vice President Biden made numerous calls to senior Iraqi leaders over the past several months and U.S. officials directly participated in top-level negotiating sessions that lasted until just moments before the Iraqi parliament finally convened to approve a new power-sharing government Thursday, a senior Obama administration official said Friday. 



The contract didn't just have the leaders say, "Second term for Nouri!"  In exchange for that second term, the contract outlined actions Nouri would have to take.  But then he refused to honor his promises.  It's among the reasons he's so loathed today.

We've note many press whores over the years.  When there's a member of the press that tells the truth, we also try to note that.  On The Erbil Agreement, we're going to drop back to November 13, 2010 when one reporter had the guts to tell the truth.  Michael Jansen (Gulf Today) stated the obvious, "The deal making that produced last Thursday’s session of parliament is nothing to boast about." She then continued:

It is not clear why Iraqiya thought Maliki -- a sectarian Shiite whose Dawa party was a bitter enemy of the Baath -- would implement this pledge. Maliki has also failed to carry out solemn promises to recruit into the security forces or find civil service jobs for fighters of the Sunni Awakening Councils -- or Sons of Iraq movement -- who helped US and government forces curb Al Qaeda in 2007-08. Maliki has shown himself to have absolutely no intention of sharing power with Sunnis and certainly not with secular politicians like Allawi who represents the "old Iraq" where politics was non-sectarian.
In spite of Obama's declaration that an "inclusive" government formula had been found after months of wrangling, Maliki is not interested in including Sunnis, secularists, former Baathists and others who do not subscribe to the ethno-sectarian system imposed on Iraq by the previous Bush administration.


She said that days after The Erbil Agreement was signed.  She had been proven correct by the events that followed.  Credit to Michael Jansen for offering reality and perspective when few others were able or willing to.   Salah Nasrawi (Al-Ahram Weekly) reports:



With the vote only days away, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki’s prospects for re-election look dim, and the country’s Shia parties, which together are poised to win the most seats in parliament, have started looking for a challenger to the incumbent leader.
Al-Maliki, who is seeking a third term in office, is in trouble as Iraq is teeming with problems. Many blame him for the country’s sectarian violence, political turmoil and economic deadlock and are eager to see a new prime minister in place.
For the time being, there is no frontrunner in Iraq’s elections, scheduled for 30 April, as several Shia politicians have been vying for the powerful position which also includes the key post of commander-in-chief of the armed forces.


Iraq Times reports the Independent High Electoral Commission announced Thursday that they have fined 61 political bodies and candidates so far for campaign violations.  The IHEC is a ruling body but the Iraqi people are the ultimate ruling body (unless the White House steps in as it did in 2006 when it installed Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister and as it did in 2010 when it demanded he be given a second term).  And the people are defining their own issues right now.  For example, Rekar Aziz and Alexander Whitcomb (Rudaw) report that, in the Kurdistan Region, where campaign posters, leaflets and other printed materials are made is becoming an issue with voters and local businesses since much of the campaign material is coming "from Turkey, Lebanon and as far away as China" harming the KRG's local economy.

Let's stay with the Kurds for a moment, Ilnur Cevik (Daily Sabah) reports:

Iraqi Kurdish leaders feel that if the current impasse in relations with the Iraqi central government continues after the April 30 elections they will have no other option but to gradually weaken their ties with Baghdad and eventually declare a separate state. Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani was in Ankara to meet with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Wednesday night to feel the pulse of Ankara if the Kurds eventually move away from Baghdad. A source close to Barzani told Daily Sabah on Thursday that Barzani returned home late Wednesday night "satisfied."
The central government of Iraq led by Nouri el-Maliki has been at odds with the Kurds over an array of issues stemming from an oil and gas dispute. Baghdad has thus been slow in sending the KRG's share of Iraqi oil revenues and therefore pushed the Kurds into a financial bottleneck with serious delays in even the payment of civil servant salaries in the KRG.


And Nouri continues to alienate the Kurds. Adnan Jassem (Anadolu Agency) notes, "Iraq's main Shiite bloc led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will endorse a 'moderate Sunni Arab' candidate to succeed incumbent President Jalal Talabani, who is Kurdish, a leading bloc member has said."


On the election, All Iraq News reports:

Ahrar bloc of Sadr Trend described granting a 3rd term for the Premier, Nouri al-Maliki, as "Dreams."
MP, Hussien al-Shireifi, of Ahrar bloc stated to AIN "The majority of the political blocs object renewing a 3rd term for Maliki due to his policies that caused crises and problems for the country."

In addition, Iraq Times quotes another Sadr bloc MP, Bahaa al-Araji stating that Nouri will not receive a third term as prime minister.  In another report, the outlet quotes al-Araji stating Nouri has no achievements to speak of, not when security has deteriorated and the economy is not improved and . . .  Dar Addustour reports that both cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr and Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq's Ammar al-Hakim went to Tehran to make clear that a third term for Nouri is unacceptable and that this follows KRG President Massoud Barzani told officials in Tehran that a third term for Nouri would cause the Kurds to secede.  As Ann noted last night, Ayad Allawi declared this week that Nouri shouldn't have a third term as prime minister.  Iraq Times reports the State Dept's Brett McGurk is advocating for a third term for Nouri and that Ahmed Chalabi is speaking with the White House about why this is not a good idea and spoke to US Ambassador to Iraq Robert Beecroft about this on Monday.


Not all Iraqis who vote will be voting in Iraq.  There are many Iraqis who have had to flee the country due to violence.  NINA reports, "A leading member of Rafidain parliamentary bloc MP, Imad Youkhana called on Iraqi communities abroad to broad participation in the upcoming parliamentary elections."  All Iraq News reports:

The member of the Parliamentary Foreign Relations Committee, Imad Yokhana, called the Iraqis abroad for wide participation in the upcoming parliamentary elections.
He stated to AIN "The Iraqis abroad can determine the future of Iraq for the next 4 years via their participation in the elections."


Two days before the election, Iraq's security forces will take part in early voting.  Mustafa Habib (Niqash) explores the military vote and we'll note this section:



It is also possible that the situation they are facing in Anbar may be turning the Iraqi military against al-Maliki. When problems first started in Anbar, al-Maliki seemed to be very popular with the military, observers say. However over recent months this has changed.

“Al-Maliki’s popularity is decreasing,” says one senior member of the military in Basra province, who did not want to be named for fear of repercussions. “Because the army is having huge difficulties in Anbar.”

According to this soldier, the Iraqi government has allegedly played down the number of military casualties it’s had in the fight against insurgents in Anbar. Videos being posted on YouTube and other social media indicate many more are being captured and killed.

“Previously regiments in the south of the country were fairly safe on their bases,” the military source says. “Then al-Maliki decided to bring them to Anbar and it’s led to many deaths. This has increased ill will towards the government.”

“The government has forced the Iraqi military into a battle it cannot win,” says Yassin al-Rubaie, a former member of the Iraqi army’s Seventh Division, which is currently deployed in Anbar. “We don’t have any experience fighting a guerrilla war on the streets and we don’t know the area at all. The militias fighting us know the area very well, they’re better coordinated than the army and they have had this kind of combat experience before,” he says.

Nouri al-Maliki continues killing civilians in Anbar.  Alsumaria reports a military shelling of a residential neighborhood in Ramadi left 3 people dead "including a child."  Iraqi Spring MC notes Nouri's three murders here. Iraqi Spring MC also notes people demonstrated in Ramadi calling on Nouri to pulls his forces out of the city and the military 'responded' by firing randomly.  Meanwhile Nouri's forces continued their bombing of Falluja's residential neighborhoods.  Alsumaria reports 1 civilian was killed and ten more were injured in the latest assault from Nouri's military.  Suleiman al-Qubeisi (Anadolu Agency) also reports on the Falluja assault.   NINA quotes Sheikh Mohammed Fayyad stating, "Friday sermons in Fallujah focused on demands to stop the indiscriminate shelling of the city if the government rely want to develop a solution to the crisis , the abolition of the provincial government and members of the board because of their frustrated stands as they escaped to the northern provinces or out of Iraq and stealing by some of them aid, food and funds allocated by many local and international agencies for the displaced people of Anbar moreover of exploited the stolen funds and material to serve them in the propaganda of electoral campaign."  Kitabat notes the Sheikh called out the "genocide" taking place as Nouri attacks the civilians of Falluja and Ramadi.


In other violence, National Iraqi News Agency reports security sources state they killed 3 suspects to the northeast of Baquba  an attack on a Ramadi checkpoint left 3 Sahwa dead and four more inured, 2 Tuz Khurmatu bombings left eight people injured, and a corpse was discovered in South al-Hay (the man had been "kidnapped a few days ago").  Alsumaria reports 1 person was shot dead in Kirkuk, west of Mosul a former Iraqi soldier was shot dead, and a southern Baghdad bombing left a police member and 2 of his kids deadMahmoud al-Jabouri (Anadolu Agency) reports, "Twelve people were killed on Friday in clashes between Sunni villagers and suspected Shiite militants in Iraq's northern Diyala province, a military official said."  Press TV notes, "A bomb explosion has ripped through a crowded shopping street in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, leaving three people dead and five others wounded."


For the last few weeks, Nouri's been moving prisoners out of Abu Ghraib prison.  Iraq Times noted Tuesday that Baghdad Operations Command has repeatedly denied this was happening although the Ministry of Justice confirmed it on Tuesday when the prison was shut down.  From Tuesday's snapshot:

World Bulletin notes that "the prison was also used as a torture facility by Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime."  AFP adds, "In 2004, then under control by U.S. troops, Abu Ghraib was at the center of a scandal over detainee abuse."   AP also offers a brief sentence about the Abu Ghraib War Crimes, "Under U.S. troops, Abu Ghraib was at the center of a 2004 scandal over detainee abuse."   The Saudi Gazette elaborates:
From late 2003 to early 2004, during the Iraq War, military police personnel of the United States Army and the Central Intelligence Agency committed human rights violations against prisoners held in the Abu Ghraib prison. They physically and sexually abused, tortured, raped, sodomized, and killed prisoners. It came to public attention in early 2004, beginning with United States Department of Defense announcements.  As revealed in the Taguba Report (2004), an initial criminal investigation by the United States Army Criminal Investigation Command had already been underway, in which soldiers of the 320th Military Police Battalion had been charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice with prisoner abuse.
In April 2004, articles describing the abuse, including pictures showing military personnel appearing to abuse prisoners, came to wide public attention when a 60 Minutes II news report (April 28) and an article by Seymour M. Hersh in The New Yorker magazine (posted online on April 30 and published days later in the May 10 issue) reported the story.  The United States Department of Defense removed seventeen soldiers and officers from duty, and eleven soldiers were charged with dereliction of duty, maltreatment, aggravated assault and battery.


This morning, only France24 could note, "Fresh abuse claims surfaced in 2013 after the facility became known as Baghdad Central Prison."  Ed Adamczyk (UPI) later noted the continuous history of abuse, "The prison has a long history of abuse, under Saddam Hussein, during the occupation of Iraq by U.S. troops, and, human rights advocates say, under the present leadership. Critics accuse Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki with filling prisons, including Abu Ghraib, with young Sunni men -- many, advocates claim, are innocent of insurgency."

Today, on Morning Edition (NPR -- link is text and audio), Kelly McEvers discussed the closure with Reuter's Baghdad bureau chief Ned Parker.  Excerpt.

MCEVERS: First, we know what American jailers did to Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib. But give us an update - what kind of place was Abu Ghraib after American troops withdrew from Iraq in 2011?


PARKER: For Sunni Iraqis, Abu Ghraib prison was a symbol of the Shiite-led government's discriminatory policies. They believed many of their relatives were being held unjustly inside Abu Ghraib Prison after being held and sometimes tried - other times not - on terrorism charges in cases where they felt abuses were committed by the security forces.

So under the Americans Abu Ghraib was nefarious. Before that under Saddam it was nefarious and after the Americans it also remained sinister.


Some day, Nouri's son may be sitting in an Iraqi prison, behind bars. Dropping back to November 1, 2013:

Live Leak posted that video of the new Little Uday Hussein, Nouri's son Ahmed, zipping around London and the Ferrari.  They note:


In this short video, Ahmed, the gangster son of one of the world's most corrupt leaders Nuri Al-Maliki, drives his Ferrari around central London, while he was on a �200 million property spending spree with Iraq's money.
Ahmed was of course cleared of all charges in a huge corruption case involving Iraqi Government procurement of Russian arms in 2012. 
Nuri Al-Maliki is known to own numerous several properties and a hotel in the UK, and has long been rumoured to be planning to live here when his time as the chief bribe taker in Iraq is over.
He also owns the Seyedeh Zainab Ambassador hotel in Damascus.
London is the natural home of blood soaked African warlords, Russian gangsters/Oligarchs, and of corrupt Middle Eastern despots, and their offspring.
Iraqi puppet leader Nuri Al-Maliki's gangster son Ahmed is spending the Iraqi people's money very wisely
Iraqi puppet leader Nuri Al-Maliki's gangster son Ahmed is spending the Iraqi people's money very wisely
Iraqi puppet leader Nuri Al-Maliki's gangster son Ahmed is spending the Iraqi people's money very wisely
Iraq,Corruption,Bribery,,London,London,C­ity of,United Kingdom (UK/GB)



[. . .]

Here's a picture of mini-tyrant Ahmed al-Maliki.

Posted Image



As you can see, he gets his ugly from his father.  Here he is trying to look cleaned up.






Here's CNN  on Ahmed last year:


Iraq’s Kurdistan Democratic Party’s official newspaper, Khebat, revealed that Nouri Maliki’s son has expensed over $150 million of the Iraqi people’s assets purchasing castles and hotels in foreign countries. The newspaper wrote quoting a source: After his father became Chairman of the Dawa Party, Ahmed Nouri al-Maliki purchased the Marry Anderson Castle in London for a price of £40 million. In addition, he purchased the Seyedeh Zainab Ambassador Hotel in Damascus at a price of $35 million, and is now purchasing the Ajmon Ambassador Hotel at a price of $75 million.
The source added that Ahmed Nouri al-Maliki has purchased an 85 thousand square meter land in front of the Zainab Hotel for $52 million.
Iraq’s Kurdistan Democratic Party’s official newspaper, Khebat, added: Iraqis who live with power outages and no public services, and while a day doesn’t go by that a number of people don’t lose their lives as a result of explosions, ask the Maliki government: Where does Maliki’s son bring all this money from?




Today, in "Is Maliki's son the new Uday?," Paul Crompton and Hind Mustafa explore Ahmed al-Maliki:

Ahmed’s role as security chief enables him to control exactly who goes in and out of the Green Zone, by controlling the issuing of security badges needed to access the area.
However, his activities in the Green Zone are a sideshow compared to Ahmed’s wider business interests in the county, said a former high-level official, who knew Ahmed personally and had worked with Nouri Al-Maliki for eight years.
“Two years ahead, he will lead the corruption not only in the [prime minister’s office],” but in the military, the security, construction and investment, as well as the investment commission.”
“Hamoudi” is also involved in military activities, including heading up a new force operating directly under the premier’s orders — separate from the command of the army or defense minister, the source said.




Moving over to the US, Fatima Hansia (CorpWatch Blog) notes, "KBR and Halliburton – two major U.S. military contractors – can be sued for the health impacts of trash incineration on U.S. soldiers who served in the war in Iraq, according to a new court decision that allows a series of 57 lawsuits against the companies to go forward."

In the April 10th snapshot, I stated the following:

This is it at its most basic.  Everyone who can speak on a campus should.  Campuses should be a forum for free expression.  Because I speak on a campus doesn't mean everyone's required to attend.  If they oppose me, they're more than welcome to protest.  One of the scariest protests would be my arriving to find no one (or just a tiny handful) of people in the room waiting to hear me.
To put this in terms of Condi Rice.  She has every right to speak on any campus.  And people have every right to attend or not to attend.  They have every right to protest.  They even have the right to heckle.  That's free speech.


The University of Minnesota is an institution that values and utilizes free speech.  They proved it by allowing Condi Rice to speak.  They proved it by allowing those who take offense at the War Hawk to protest.  And students made their case and made it strongly.  Chris Getowicz (Fight Back News) reports:

Hundreds of students and community members gathered outside of Northrop Auditorium at the University of Minnesota (U of M), on the evening of April 17, to protest an appearance by Bush White House National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. Rice was speaking as an invited guest of the University’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
The crowd of over 250 protesters, led by Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), heard speakers including professors David Pellow and August Nimtz, AFSCME 3800 President Cherenne Horazuk, Welfare Rights Committee member Deb Howze, Anti-War Committee member Sabri Wazwaz and representatives from other student groups such as Whose Diversity and Students for Justice in Palestine.
Speakers condemned Rice as a war criminal whose misconduct during the Bush administration included direct responsibility for the use of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques.’ This torture was systematically implemented by the CIA and used at Black Sites around the world as well as prisons like Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib.











iraq


















Friday, April 18, 2014

The IRS scandal gets worse

"IRS Blood Moon Rising" (Hillary Is 44):
Update: On a daily basis the evidence mounts of rule by gangster government. The latest evidence? A Freedom Of Information Act release reveals that Lois Lerner, DoJ discussed criminal prosecution of tax-exempt applicants.
A corrupt Department of Justice which is a nest for injustice. An executive branch of government whose agencies and departments wield power to oppress the citizenry. There are constitutional remedies as we detail below.

Judicial Watch is the organization that got the e-mails.  This is their press release:


May 9, 2013, email reveals IRS plans to meet with Department of Justice over whether to prosecute groups that “lied” about plans for political activity 
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch today released a new batch of internal IRS documents revealing that former IRS official Lois Lerner communicated with the Department of Justice (DOJ) about whether it was possible to criminally prosecute certain tax-exempt entities. The documents were obtained as a result of an October 2013 Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed against the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) after the agency refused to respond to four FOIA requests dating back to May 2013.
The newly released IRS documents contain an email exchange between Lerner and Nikole C. Flax, then-Chief of Staff to then-Acting IRS Commissioner Steven T. Miller discussing plans to work with the DOJ  to prosecute nonprofit groups that “lied” (Lerner’s quotation marks) about political activities. The exchange includes the following:
I got a call today from Richard Pilger Director Elections Crimes Branch at DOJ … He wanted to know who at IRS the DOJ folk s [sic] could talk to about Sen. Whitehouse idea at the hearing that DOJ could piece together false statement cases about applicants who “lied” on their 1024s –saying they weren’t planning on doing political activity, and then turning around and making large visible political expenditures. DOJ is feeling like it needs to respond, but want to talk to the right folks at IRS to see whether there are impediments from our side and what, if any damage this might do to IRS programs.
I told him that sounded like we might need several folks from IRS…
I think we should do it – also need to include CI [Criminal Investigation Division], which we can help coordinate. Also, we need to reach out to FEC. Does it make sense to consider including them in this or keep it separate?
Lerner then “handed off” scheduling the issue to Senior Technical Adviser, Attorney Nancy Marks, who was then supposed to set up the meeting with the DOJ.  Lerner also decided that it would be DOJ’s decision as to whether representatives from the Federal Election Commission would attend.
Democratic Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse had held a hearing on April 9 during which, “in questioning the witnesses from DOJ and IRS, Whitehouse asked why they have not prosecuted 501(c)(4) groups that have seemingly made false statements about their political activities.”  Lerner described the impetus for this hearing in a March 27, 2013, email to top IRS staff:
As I mentioned yesterday — there are several groups of folks from the FEC world that are pushing tax fraud prosecution for c4s who report they are not conducting political activity when they are (or these folks think they are). One is my ex-boss Larry Noble (former General Counsel at the FEC), who is now president of Americans for Campaign Reform. This is their latest push to shut these down. One IRS prosecution would make an impact and they wouldn’t feel so comfortable doing the stuff.
So, don’t be fooled about how this is being articulated – it is ALL about 501(c)(4) orgs and political activity
But in an email sent a few minutes earlier, Lerner acknowledged prosecutions would evidently be at odds with the law:
Whether there was a false statement or fraud regarding an [sic] description of an alleged political expenditure that doesn’t say vote for or vote against is not realistic under current law. Everyone is looking for a magic bullet or scapegoat — there isn’t one. The law in this area is just hard.
The documents also include email exchanges showing that before Lerner’s May 10, 2013, speech to the American Bar Association blaming “low-level” employees in Cincinnati for targeting tax-exempt organizations, the IRS Exempt Organizations division was scrambling to defuse the emerging targeting scandal:
  • May 1, 2013: After receiving an email from an assistant showing that 501(c)(4) applications had increased from 1591 in 2010 to 3398 in 2012 , Lerner wrote back, “Looks to me like 2010-2012 doubled too. Oh well – thanks.”
  • May 2, 2013: Discussing an upcoming conference call with approximately 100 congressional staffers on May 22, Lerner cautions aides, “Need to be careful not to mention sequester/furlough unless asked although can allude to budget and resources restraints.”
  • May 2, 2013: In response to an email reminding her about the upcoming conference call with congressional staffers, Lerner responded, “Arrgh – I just saw it. Sharon [White] could skate, but Cindy [Thomas] is the person who could answer that stuff. We need to give them some type of language in the event that type of question comes up” [apparently in reference to earlier email referencing “sensitive issues”].
The new documents obtained by Judicial Watch also include emails exchanged after Lerner’s May 10 ABA speech:
  • May 10, 2013: In an email to an aide responding to a request for information from a Washington Post reporter, Lerner admits that she “can’t confirm that there was anyone on the other side of the political spectrum” who had been targeted by the IRS. She then adds that “The one with the names used were only know [sic] because they have been very loud in the press.”
  • May 15, 2013: In an email from an aide to Lerner, the aide specifically mentions “Tea Party Organizations, the “Tea Party movement,” and “Tea Party Patriots” as organizations targeted by the IRS.
The Judicial Watch FOIA requests came on the heels of an explosive May 14, 2013, Treasury Inspector General report revealing that the IRS had singled out groups with conservative-sounding terms such as “patriot” and “Tea Party” in their titles when applying for tax-exempt status. The IG probe determined that “Early in Calendar Year 2010, the IRS began using inappropriate criteria to identify organizations applying for tax-exempt status to (e.g., lists of past and future donors).” According to the report, the illegal IRS reviews continued for more than 18 months and “delayed processing of targeted groups’ applications” preparing for the 2012 presidential election.
Lerner, who headed the IRS division that handles applications for tax-exempt status, refused to testify at a May 2013 hearing before Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-CA) House Oversight Committee, demanding immunity concerning her role in the targeting scandal. Lerner retired from the IRS with full benefits on September 23 after an internal investigation found she was guilty of “neglect of duties” and was going to call for her ouster, according to news reports. On April 9, 2014, the Ways and Means Committee referred Lois Lerner to the DOJ for criminal prosecution. On April 10, 2014, the House Oversight Committee voted to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress.
“These new emails show that the day before she broke the news of the IRS scandal, Lois Lerner was talking to a top Obama Justice Department official about whether the DOJ could prosecute the very same organizations that the IRS had already improperly targeted,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The IRS emails show Eric Holder’s Department of Justice is now implicated and conflicted in the IRS scandal.  No wonder we had to sue in federal court to get these documents.”


I can't believe this and can't believe that there's not outrage over this.

Hopefully, it's building. 

It's amazing in all the hearings about the IRS since last May, not one official has ever told the Congress that Eric Holder was contacted regarding prosecuting 501 (c) groups.




"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Thursday, April 17, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri's War Crimes continue, Iraq preps for parliamentary elections, the Ja'fari bill gets attention on KPFA, in the US an Iraqi man is convicted of killing his wife, and much more.


Starting in the US where there's been a conviction.  City News Service reports the El Cajon murder trial reached a verdict today with the jury "finding Kassim Alhimidi, 49, guilty of first-degree murder in the death of 32-year-old Shaima Alawadi, a mother of five."  As we noted April 1st, Shaima's murder was briefly important to gas bags in March 2012 when they thought she was murdered by someone who hated her because she was Muslim or because she was Iraqi or both.  When it turned out it was her husband?  They ran from her and never looked back.  Uprising Radio, US Socialist Worker, Democracy Now . . . all of them cared when it was a 'hate crime' by a stranger.  When Shaima's murder became another in a long line of women killed by 'loved ones' in the US, they didn't have any interest.

  • Victim's family says guilty verdict is the least that could have been done. say in Iraq if you kill someone, you should be killed

  • Tony Perry (Los Angeles Times) reports, "Al-Himidi did not testify during the trial. He wept openly at times and followed the proceeding with the help of an Arabic translator. He screamed when the jury's verdict was read. He faces up to life in prison when sentenced." Kristina Davis and Dana Littlefield (San Diego Union-Tribune) offer, "Kassim Alhimidi shook his head and wagged his finger repeatedly when he heard the verdict: first-degree murder. He put his head down on the desk in front of him several times and appeared to be praying."  R. Stickney and Monica Garske (NBC San Diego -- link is text and video) note, "As the defendant cried out in Arabic 'not guilty,' his mother-in-law flailed her arms, screaming 'you killed my daughter,' while his two teenage sons chose opposing sides."  Kassim Alhimidi is scheduled to be sentenced next month.


    Moving to another topic popular on Twitter . . .




  • Child marriage law stokes fears of looming theocracy in Iraq

  • Breaking News: Iraq's leaders to vote on legalising . Tell them to vote "no" - via





  • Yesterday on KPFA's Voices of the Middle East and North Africa, the controversial bill which passed Iraq's Cabinet of Ministers and that chief thug and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki  has forwarded to the Parliament was discussed. 



    Shahram Aghamir: Last month the Iraqi Cabinet approved a new personal status legislation called the Ja'fari law which is named after the sixth Shi'ite Imam, Ja'far al-Sadiq who established a school of jurisprudence in Medina in the 8th century.  This legislation has created an uproar among Iraqi women's rights and the civil rights community.  If approved, the Ja'fari law will abolish the current Personal Status Law 188 which is considered one of the most progressive in the Arab world.  The new law will roll back the rights of women in marriage, divorce and child custody as well as inheritance.  It will lower the age of marriage for girls from 18 to 9 and boys to 15.  Who has initially proposed the law and what are the implications of this law for Iraqi women?  Malihe spoke with Iraqi women's rights activist Basma al-Khateeb who volunteers with Iraq's 1st Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women Shadow Report Coalition as an expert and a trainer.

    Basma al-Khateeb:  Actually, the Minister of Justice by the end of October declared that they have a committee -- expert committee -- and they have finished drafting the Ja'fari law.  It consists of 256 articles and he's going to present it to the Cabinet by the next session.  He says that they've been working on for the past two years.

    Malihe Razazan:  Back in 2004, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim who died in 2009, he was in exile in Iran for 20 years before the invasion, and after the occupation of Iraq, he worked very closely with the Americans.  His party worked to pass Decision 137 issue by interim governing council to abolish the Personal Status Law Number 188 which was passed  in 1959 --

    Basma al-Kahteeb:  That was actually the first thing that he -- that he issued, this Resolution 137 -- as if Iraq had no problems.  This was the only rule that he came up with.  And we had demonstrations and we managed to defeat that.  They withdrew it.

    Malihe Razazan:   Yeah, because there was a huge backlash against it.

    Basma al-Khateeb:  But this is historical.  His father, Muhsin al-Hakim, back in 1959, when the civil Personal Status Law was issued, the religious institutes led by Muhsin al-Hakim back then, his father, refused this Personal Status Law because it will take all the authority from the cleric.

    Malihe Razazan:  In matters regarding women's divorce, child custody, inheritance it will be left to civil courts.

    Basma al-Khateeb:  Yes.  And this is how our judicial system and lawyers and colleges and scholars all -- I mean, we're talking about sixty years that all our institutions -- judicial, court, everything -- is built on it.  This -- going back just to abolish all of this -- this law --the formal law, the Personal Status Law that's still active now. It doesn't go to clerics, only the judge rules.  This current law puts another council that is in control of judges of courts.  It just turns everything into chaos.  Every lawyer has to study all these religious and cleric institution and legal issues.  It doesn't mean that we have one court.  It means that we have more than 20 courts because each Ayatollah is different in examination with the other.  Havilah?  Even though they're Sh'itie, they're different from the Sadr group, they're different from Sistani interpretation which means multi courts.





    Raheem Salman, Ahmed Rasheed, Isabel Coles and Andrew Roche (Reuters) explore the topic and note:


    Proponents of the Ja'afari Law say many families marry off daughters underage anyway, particularly in the rural south, so the bill would protect young brides by codifying their status.
    "The law does not make the marriage of underage girls obligatory," said Shi'ite women's rights activist Thabat al-Unaibi, adding she would not let her own two daughters marry until they were old enough to have finished their studies.
    "Why all the fuss over this issue?"


    And supporters have been the winners.  Hajer Naili  (Women's eNews) notes:

    Haider Ala Hamoudi, a law professor at the University of Pittsburg who advised the 2009 Constitutional Review Committee of the Iraqi legislature on behalf of the United States Embassy in Baghdad, has analyzed the text.
    In a phone interview he called it sloppily drafted and poorly organized. "I just dismiss it as publicity to garner votes."

    In a in the Jurist, lays out the obstacles to transforming religious texts into actual laws and calls the text something of a "political stunt." In the article he quotes Ayatollah al- Bashir Najif, a leading Shiite, as criticizing the bill as "rife with flights of fancy in legal and juristic formulations that render it impossible that a jurist would find it acceptable."

    Really?  We're going to predict what's going to happen in an election when anything can happen?

    And if it's being used "to garner votes," might some push hard for it to pass the Parliament after the election?

    I have no idea what's going to happen with the bill.

    But it does have supporters and it is being sold.  It's being normalized.

    And this is happening not just with the bill and the attempt to kill off the Personal Status Law Number 188.  This is part of a larger war.  Dropping back to January 27, 2012 snapshot:

    We bring that up because Nouri did finally find a woman and named her to be Minister of the State for Women's Affairs. The woman is Dr. Ibtihal al-Zaidi. And Al Mada reports the lovely doesn't believe in equality stating equality "harms women" but she's happy to offer government dictates on what women should be wearing. No, she's not a minister. She's many things including words we won't use here but she's not friend to women and that's why Nouri picked her. A real woman fighting for other women? Nouri can't handle that. A simpering idiot who states that women should only act after their husband's consent? That gender traitor gets a ministry. She's currently at work devising a uniform for Iraqi women.

    Let's to back to Wednesday's broadcast of Voices of the Middle East and North Africa.

    Basma al-Khateeb:  It lowers the marriage age for girls to  9 -- 

    Malihe Razazan:  From 18.

    Basma al-Khateeb:  -- 15 for boys, it's 18 for both [currently] marriage.  Only in  very, very special cases it's 15 with the consent of the judge under the current law.  But for this Ja'fari law it lowers the age to 9.  And wives must seek permission from their husbands before leaving the house.  If I am a doctor or a minister or a lawyer, I cannot go out without permission from my husband, go out of the house.  Muslim men would be prohibited from marrying non-Muslim women.  Granting husbands legal rights to have sex with their wives without their consent.  Granting custody to the father of any child over two-years-old in the case of divorce which is not the case that we have now with the current law.  


    Note the similarities between the law and the position, two years ago, of the Minister of Women's Affairs.

    Nouri picked that idiot for a reason.

    This is not happening by accident.

    Bit by bit, this gets pushed over and over.  And every time it does the appropriate response is world wide condemnation.  Short of that?  It's not just being normalized within Iraq, it's being normalized outside of Iraq via silence.


    Girls below the age of nine can be married with the consent of their

    "But it's still a danger because it's there, the draft is there."
    also them they're still lobbying to pass it


    As Mark Taliano (Troy Media) observes, "'Freedom' and 'democracy' are still cloaking, tacitly or overtly, mass murder and genocide in Iraq at this moment."  And that's certainly clear as Nouri terrorizes the citizens of Anbar.  His War Crimes are many but include the non-stop bombing of residential neighborhoods in Falluja.  Yesterday's snapshot noted how common these bombings were.  The military's bombing of the residential neighborhoods continues.  NINA reports, "A source at the Fallujah General Hospital told the reporter of the National Iraqi News Agency / NINA / five people, including a woman, were killed and 11 others wounded, including two children, in the renewed shelling and mortar to most of Fallujah today."  Qatar News Agency covers the killing of civilians here.

    This is a War Crime.  Nouri's committing War Crimes with weapons the US government provides him with.

    Ann submitted a question to  Gwen Ifill's  live 'chat' (it's not) at PBS' The NewsHour today:


      Which, by the way, is what Ann's question to Gwen Ifill was about (see previous entry "Ann's question on Iraq just got 'answered'").






    12:34
    Comment From Ann  
    Good afternoon, Gwen. I'm bothered by the attack on Anbar Province in Iraq and the lack of western media coverage. Specifically, Nouri al-Maliki has been bombing the residential neighborhoods of Falluja every day since the start of the year. This is collective punishment and it is leaving many dead -- including many children. But we see nothing on the news about this in the US. Since we are the ones arming Maliki, this seems like a serious news issue in need of coverage to me. What does it take to get Iraq covered on The Newshour? Thank you.
    12:34

    Gwen Ifill: 
    I have to say, if you're going to see coverage of the ongoing situation in Iraq anywhere, it will be on the NewsHour.



    So Ann raises specific issues and gets an 'answer' where Gwen basically says, 'Watch The NewsHour!'


    It's a funny kind of chat with Gwen playing Amway salesperson.

    But credit to Ann for raising the issue during the 'chat.'




    Turning to other violence . . .

    Bombings?

    National Iraqi News Agency reports Joint Operations Command declared they killed 54 suspects in Falluja,  a Balad Ruz suicide bomber took his own life and the life of 1 Iraqi soldierNouri's military used helicopters to kill 4 suspects in Ramadi, a Jurf al-Sakar roadside bombing left four Iraqi soldiers injured, a Tikrit roadside bombing left three police members injured, a Baghdad car bombing left 5 people dead and nineteen injured, and, west of Mosul in Addayya Village, an attack on an Iraqi military base killed 12 soldiers and left ten more injured.


    In addition, Xinhua reports:

    Also in Salahudin province, gunmen blew up a crude oil pipeline in al-Fatha area in east of the city of Baiji, some 200 km north of Baghdad, causing large quantity of oil spill into the nearby Tigris River, a provincial police source said.
    The pipeline carries crude oil produced from Ajil Oilfield in east of the provincial capital city of Tikrit, some 170 km north of Baghdad, to the refinery in Baiji. A huge fire occurred at the scene, while the oil leak caused pollution in Tigris river that forces many water facilities to stop working in the cities to the south of the leak, the source added.






  • Shootings?

    National Iraqi News Agency reports Joint Operations Command declared they killed 54 suspects in Falluja,  1 Shabak was shot dead in Mosul, another Shabak was shot dead in Mosul -- Hussein Badran who was the city's director of parks and forests,  a Raibia secondary school was stormed and its director shot dead, and, west of Mosul in Addayya Village, an attack on an Iraqi military base killed 12 soldiers and left ten more injured.
    Alsumaria notes two parents and their daughter were injured in a Dora shooting,



    Corpses?

    Alsumaria notes the corpses of 5 men and 1 women (all shot) were found dumped in the Euphrates River to the north of Babylon,


    Elections are supposed to take place April 30th, parliamentary elections.  Al-Shorfa reports, "Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) on Thursday (April 17th) said it has doubled the number of international observers who will monitor the next parliamentary elections."  Kirk Sowell (Gulf News) notes

      The other key Al Maliki rival are the Sadrists, most of whom are running under the name Ahrar Bloc (Freemen Bloc). Ahrar recently voted in a new governing board following Muqtada Al Sadr’s announcement that he was withdrawing from politics. It remains unclear as to what impact Sadr’s withdrawal will have.
    There are several third-tier coalitions which should get a handful of seats; some of them are entirely Shiite while others are cross-sectarian. They are about evenly divided between factions which are pro and anti-Al Maliki, and should only have an impact if Al Maliki’s margin of victory is relatively narrow.
    The primary Sunni Arab bloc is Speaker Nujaifi’s Mutahidun. It contains a majority of the Sunni factions in the 2010 opposition Iraqiya coalition nominally headed by former interim Prime Minister Eyad Allawi, plus the largest Sunni Turkoman group, the Iraqi Turkoman FrontIts political programme mainly consists of decentralisation, potentially forming new autonomous regions, and the defence of Sunni identity in the face of the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad.

    While Mutahidun’s public rhetoric is focused on pillorying the Al Maliki government, Nujaifi is informally allied with the main Kurdish party, the Kurdistani Democratic Party (KDP), due to his pro-decentralisation stance, ties to Turkey and the need for Kurds, who are predominately Sunni, to balance the Shiites.


    Sowell also points out that there are 142 political parties competing and twelve of those are part of Nouri's State of Law coalition (which lost in 2010 to Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya.   Harith Hasan (Al-Monitor) notes Iraqiya has fragmented since 2010:

    Five main coalitions will compete to win Sunni votes, but we cannot rule out surprise results that might be achieved by small or local parties. Three of these five coalitions, in fact, represent fragments of the Iraqiya List, which is no longer present in the elections. The Mutahidoun bloc, led by parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, is the first of these coalitions. It consists of 13 parties and is seeking to appear as the biggest Sunni force after the elections. The second coalition is the Arabiya led by Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, and includes nine parties. Third, there is the Nationalist Coalition, led by Ayad Allawi, the former prime minister who was the leader of the Iraqiya List.
    The Nationalist is one of the rare blocs that includes Sunni and Shiite members. Moreover, it is participating in the elections in all Arabic-speaking provinces. However, this coalition has poor chances because of intense sectarian polarization and Allawi’s loss of a large part of his traditional constituency, partly due to the emergence of a new liberal list called the Civil Democratic Alliance.


     Al Mada notes Allawi stated today the US backed Nouri (gave him the post of prime minister for a second term) because the US just wanted out of Iraq and he notes their influence is very small in Iraq and in the Middle East -- he points to the failure of (John Kerry's) efforts with regard to Palestine, he points to the Taliban increasing in Afghanistan as the US prepares to leave, he points to Somalia and Sudan.  National Iraqi News Agency reports:

    The independent MP of the coalition of Kurdish blocs, Mahmoud Othman confirmed " the possibility of establishing a new alliance comprises Barzani , Allawi, al-Hakim, al-Sadr and al-Nujaifi to form the next government ," ruling out holding a session for the House of Representatives before the parliamentary elections ."


    Mustafa al-Kadhimi (Al-Monitor) notes the parties are offering no platforms or programs as they seek elected office:

    The Iraqi political forces competing in the elections justify the absence of real programs by asserting that Iraq remains in transition, so there are real differences over the basis of the political process — such as the constitution, government formation, the decision-making process and the relationship between the central government and the provinces and the regions. They claim that this reality forces them to take positions on these particular issues, rather than presenting political programs. For example, some campaigns are sloganeering on amending the constitution, while others' slogans invoke government formation by the political majority, decentralization and the war on terror.
    Being in a transitional phase and disagreeing over political fundamentals do not, however, justify lacking an economic or development program or taking positions on such issues as housing, health, education, human development, and human rights and freedoms. To be fair, a few political forces such as the Supreme Islamic Council have presented detailed programs, but the problem is then that the Iraqi voter is faced with a choice between a detailed program and lots of attractive slogans.

    They may not have programs or proposals, but, in Basra, they have food.  Saleem al-Wazzan (Niqash) reports:



    “Some candidates believe that the easiest way to convince voters, or to silence critics, is by filling their mouths with food,” Kathem Zayer, a primary school teacher in Basra, told NIQASH. “The same thing happens when there are provincial elections – there’s clearly a direct relationship between elections and banquets. Today special meals are the best way of enhancing a candidate’s image, and of burnishing the image of the party behind them.”

    And during this round of campaigning it seems that banquets are more popular than ever, replacing the usual distribution of other gifts like blankets and food. Banqueting also seems to have replaced campaign promises, for things like government jobs or better services. That’s because nobody believes these promises anymore. But they can still dine out.

    In the province of Basra, south of Baghdad, there are more than 750 candidates competing. Prominent parties in the area, which has a mostly Shiite Muslim population, include the State of Law list led by current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is himself a Shiite Muslim as well as the list led by the Shiite Muslim-oriented Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and the Ahrar list, which is tied to the Sadrist movement, also Shiite Muslim. Also noteworthy in Basra is the Wataniya party, which is led by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and which is trying to set itself apart as being secular and non-denominational. 


    By rights Basra should be one of Iraq’s wealthiest cities – it is the site of a major port and some of Iraq’s biggest oil fields are located in the surrounding province. But somehow this wealth has not had any effect on the lives of many ordinary people who live here – the poverty level in Iraq sits at around 22 percent but some recent estimates suggest that it’s higher in Basra. They say that just over a third of the population in Basra live in poverty.