Your weekly compilation of news you may or may not have seen or read regarding America’s most
disastrous ridiculous war.
First, a moment of silence for local historian Walt Crowley and Essential Bakery founder Jeff Fairhall. I knew them both — principled progressives who died much too young this past week.
In Iraq, dying prematurely happens hundreds of times daily. But the killing of up to 25 Iraqi civilians by private Blackwater contractors set off a firestorm last week in both Baghdad and Washington. It also, not incidentally, showed just how irrelevant the Iraqi government is. Prime Minister Maliki immediately condemned the killings, yanked Blackwater’s operating license, and ordered its personnel to leave the country — a move which was summarily ignored by the U.S., as without private contractors our heavily privatized military effort would grind to a halt. (And besides, U.S. contractors are immune to Iraqi law.) But Iraqis were so enraged by the murders that U.S. personnel were confined to the Green Zone for four days anyway.
Less covered, but more significant, was the withdrawal last week of Moktada al-Sadr’s parliamentary allies from Maliki’s ruling coalition — not only splitting the Shiites, but leaving Maliki with less than half of parliament in his camp. Who’s left? The Kurds and the Shiite exile parties (SCIRI and Dawa) with little constituency in Iraq itself. If Iraq had a, you know, functioning government that followed the law, this would end Maliki’s rule; if you want to get all technical and stuff, without a ruling majority, his leadership (sic) is now illegal. But this won’t happen, for two reasons: first, Parliament rarely has a quorum, and second, the opposition can’t agree on anything anyway. Iraq’s “government” is a joke.
Also on that theme, the target date for Iraqi control of security forces was quietly pushed back again last week, from November 2007 to July 2008. It’s the second delay this year, and security forces are under Iraqi control in only seven of the 18 provinces. (Generally, the least violent ones.) Most Iraqis, as well as Gen. James Jones’ recent commission, have been calling for Iraqis to assume full control immediately.
More bad news in the “Iraqi Life Is Cheap” Dept.: Word last week that northern Iraq’s cholera epidemic, which has now struck some 5,000 people, has spread to both Baghdad and Basra, with first cases confirmed in both cities. Cholera is a disease that happens only when there’s no safe drinking water and the public health infrastructure has broken down completely — conditions more than met throughout Occupied Iraq.
In the “But Life Is Cheaper In D.C.” Dept., Congress continued showing its priorities last week, spending ample time debating the appropriateness of a newspaper ad while Republicans blocked measures to address the war itself. In the Senate, the Reid-Feingold bill to cut off funding in June 2008 failed 28-70 (Patty Murray voted yes, Maria Cantwell, no). The Senate also rejected Sen. Jim Webb’s bill to give troops equal time at home, 56-44, short of the 60 votes needed to break the Republican filibuster. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that even drawing down to 55,000 troops in Iraq (a proposal on nobody’s table), George Bush’s perpetual war would cost $25 billion a year, or up to two trillion dollars overall. Those numbers actually seem low. And the ever-busy Rep. Henry Waxman has a new target in his oversight investigations: State Department Inspector General Howard Krongard, who Waxman accuses of cover-ups in investigations of waste and fraud in private contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The organization representing Foreign Service diplomats has joined in, calling on Krongard to resign.
In the latest confirmation of just how bad the internal refugee crisis has become in Iraq, a Red Crescent report last week says that not only have two million people (one in 12 Iraqis) fled their homes in Iraq, but a staggering one million of those were in Baghdad alone. What does that mean? Ethnic cleansing. Baghdad was one of the most ethnically diverse provinces in Iraq; all those people have been leaving because death squads would no longer allow neighborhoods to be mixed. Sunnis have all but been driven out of Baghdad, part of the de facto partitioning of Iraq that has already happened, much of it while the
escalation surge was supposed to be putting an end to the problem.
In the latest US attempt at provoking Iran, last week the US arrested an Iranian trade diplomat in northern Iraq and accused him of smuggling IEDs into the country. The Kurdish government, which was hosting the man, protested strongly, but to no avail. And in the week’s most surreal bit of Iran-bashing — I know this didn’t happen in Iraq, but it’s too good to pass up — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, set to be in New York this week for the opening of the U.N. General Assembly, was refused permission by the U.S. to lay a wreath at the World Trade Center. (In the wake of 9-11, there was an outpouring of support from both the Iranian public and its government — a measure of how things have changed in six years.) Why? Well, the request angered U.S. diplomats, who accused the Iranian leader of — gasp — “wanting to use Ground Zero as a photo-op.”
Well, if that’s the criteria…