Michael Douglas has fallen in love and is going to get married, so his three best friends give him a bachelor party in Los Vegas. The three best friends are Morgan Freeman, Robert De Niro and Kevin Kline.
The good news, the aunts loved Douglas and Freeman.
I thought Freeman was good but I felt Douglas was too manic at the start. (He grew on me as the film moved along.)
Robert De Niro? Damn lucky Kevin Kline was in the film. Kline was too young and always doing business in the scenes that distracted -- not added to -- what the point of the scenes were. Kline reminds me of Robert Downey Jr. back when Jr. was on drugs --- only more so.
He's not a comedian.
If you think he's funny in "Meet The Parents," please go rent "Stanley & Iris." He gives the same performance in that drama.
He's one of the most wooden actors around.
In "Last Vegas," you don't have to worry about surprises, you can anticipate every scene before it starts.
It's a lousy script and Freeman and Douglas provide the only charm among the leads.
Mary Steenburgen was really good but that just reminded me that she was really good in "The Butcher's Wife" and how she seems to be really good in a lot of movies no one ever sees. ("The Help" and "The Proposal" are two recent films she was really good in that people did actually pay money to see.)
I think the film could have survived just De Niro but to saddle it with De Niro and Kline was just way too much.
And am I the only one who thinks Kline should have given up the career and stayed with the kids so that Phoebe Cates (who is hugely gifted) could continue acting?
Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
The farce that is Nouri al-Maliki's visit to DC continued today. A Sunni Iraqi community member e-mails:
If they are able to pass it [Parliament pass an election law], why should I bother even to vote? I should go through five security checkpoints in [deleted] to vote? By foot because it is always vehicle curfew on election day. I should do by foot to vote only to have the President of the United States again overturn my vote? That is what he did last time  and it is what he will do again. He owes us an apology for overturning our voices.
Barack does owe the Iraqi people an apology. Instead of providing that, he takes part in the farce Bully Boy Bush started and that he (Barack has continued). And he'll never be forced to even justify his actions -- let alone apologize -- as long as people like Aamer Madhani (USA Today) play the fool: "Obama hopes that a new round of elections in which the country's minority Sunni population is more active could help stem some of the violence." Madhani damn well knew that in 2010, Sunni's turned out. That's one reason Iraqiya won. But their votes were overturned by Barack Obama.
To keep thug Nouri. 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.
Torture and forced confessions take place all the time in Iraq under Nouri. They're so common, in fact, that people may forget that both are banned by Iraq's Constitution. Thursday, Nouri al-Maliki gave a ridiculous speech, overflowing with lies, at the US Institute of Peace. As we covered in yesterday's snapshot, he lied he had never, ever stepped on the Constitution. He lied, we backed that up with examples yesterday, refer to that. Today National Iraqi News Agency reports:
MP, Walid Mohammadi for Mottahidoon coalition called on the United States of America to " listen to all sides in Iraq, not to a sole side which is considered by a big percentage of Iraqis as the opponent ruling political side.
Mohammadi said in a statement today: " The statements made by Maliki currently in Washington are amazing and surprising , especially regarding the strictly application of the Constitution,as Maliki alleges, where everyone knows that the Constitution in Iraq, is not implemented but only taken paragraphs which corresponds to the interests of the government, otherwise the constitution is neglected and abused , he said.
Again, the meet-up between Barack and Nouri was a farce. Paul Danahar (BBC) predicted ahead of the meet-up today, "And he [Nouri] will no doubt be told in private he needs to rule for all his people - not just those who share his faith or point of view. He'll probably smile and agree and then ignore the advice while gladly accepting whatever aid he might get." Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi Tweeted the following yesterday:
The farce is much more than the notion that the US-installed prime minister is anything but a thug. It also includes the notion that there is a functioning government in Iraq. Al Rafidayn reports that Nouri's office in Iraq today announced that Nouri was filing an official request to be informed of the health status of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.
Last December, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke. The incident took place late on December 17th (see the December 18th snapshot) and resulted in Jalal being admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital. Thursday, December 20th, he was moved to Germany. He remains in Germany currently.
If still in Germany next month, Jalal will have 'served' an entire year out of the country and he's drawing a salary -- is he conducting any official presidential business? Let's drop back to the snapshot for Tuesday, September 10th:
Sunday, All Iraq News reported, Osama al-Nujaifi declared he attempted to meet with the hospitalized Jalal five months ago (that would have been around April) but was rebuffed. He states he has again asked for another meeting. He further states if Jalal is unable to resume his tasks shortly, a new president needs to be named. Monday, Dar Addustour columnist As Sheikh noted that the Constitution is very clear on what happens when the president can't perform duties but how is that determination made? (Is Jalal performing duties from the hospital in Germany? He could be. If he is, the Constitution would see him as in office.) The Constitution says nothing, Sheik notes, about how long a president can be out of the country. He reviews the rumors that Jalal has not recovered, that he is in a coma, that he has passed away, that his family is putting up a pretense that Jalal has recovered. He ends his column with a call for clarity both in terms of the governing rules and in terms of the state of Jalal's health.
In June, Going Global East Meets West noted MP Hassan Alawi asserted that Jalal was "clinically dead" as well as "that the images that appeared in Al Cardsat TV owned by the First Lady Hero Talabani were fabricated."
The photos the MP is referring to include the one below and were published in May.
You can see three of the photos released here. You'll note that people are seated to Jalal's left and right but in every photo he just stares ahead with the same 'expression' and the same body position (including hands). In other words, he doesn't move one bit although the players in the photos -- the pretenders -- they rush to lean forward, pretending they're listening to Jalal.
In real time, many scoffed, some wags dubbed it Weekend At Bernie's (two young men use the corpse of Bernie to pretend he's alive and have a wild adventure).
After denying the Speaker of Parliament a meeting in April, visits to Jalal have continued to be denied. His political party is the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and, as President of Iraq, he's the head of it. With provincial elections scheduled for the end of September in the KRG, the PUK desperately needed to speak with Jalal and contacted his people. They were rebuffed. Ekurd.net reported August 26th, "Leaders from Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, led by Talabani confirmed that they did not see him since he was transferred to Germany, pointing out that Talabani’s wife, Hero Ibrahim and their two sons as well as his nephew , Sheikh Genki Talabani are the only ones who have visited him, as no one from the party’s officials saw Talabani." And the PUK went on to have it worst showing in any election. Attempts to meet with him after the disastorous elections? As Ekurd.net reported October 7th:
A senior official from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) has revealed that ailing Iraqi president and PUK leader Jalal Talabani’s family won’t let party members visit him at the German hospital where he is recovering after suffering a stroke.
A few days ago, a PUK official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, complained that no one from his party other than Iraqi First Lady Hero Ibrahim and Talabani’s official doctor, Kirkuk governor Najmaldin Karim, has seen the President since he fell ill late last year.
"They always says Talabani’s health is improving, but repeating those wards a few times so far has put a question mark on Talabani’s future," the official told the Pan-Arab Newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat.
Are you getting why Iraqis, in ever larger numbers, are assuming their president is dead?
It doesn't help that the Talabani family originally even denied it was a stroke. CNN was the first to report the reality there. Jalal is -- or was -- grossly obese and 79-years-old. We've followed his health since 2007 when, after being released from the Mayo Clinic, he collapsed in a US bookstore and it took over six people to lift him. His stroke was never a surprise. He refused to listen to doctors' orders that he eat right and lose weight (they were only asking him to lose 60 pounds which still would have left him at over 200 pounds). For five years, he stuffed his fat face and just put on more weight as he ate greasy and sugary foods and got no exercise. His stroke was desitned.
But the last thing the Talabani family has been honest about is that he had a stroke -- and, again, their honesty on that was forced by CNN blowing their cover story. Every few weeks since December 2012, Iraqis are told that Jalal's health has improved and he'll be back in Iraq shortly. We're now in the 11th month stage. When's he coming back? And when will he address the Iraqi people? As Nermeen al-Mufti (Al-Ahram) pointed out last month, "According to the Iraqi constitution, Iraqis should elect a new president after 30 days of the presidency being vacant, for example as a result of illness."
Clearly Jalal is not recovering. Clearly he is not up to being president and this has been over ten months of fraud, lying to the Iraqi people. This is fraud if the rumor Rudaw reported in September is true, "Sources tell Rudaw that on a visit to Iran last May Talabani’s wife, Hero Ahmed, sought Tehran’s help in delaying discussion over the position of the Iraqi presidency until the end of the current presidential term. Hero reportedly told the Iranians that such a debate will weaken the PUK’s position in the Kurdistan Region and Iraq. Rudaw tried to verify the authenticity of this information but none of the PUK’s senior officials were willing to comment."
As Moqtada al-Sadr has been pointing out for over a month, the Iraqi people have a right to know the status -- the real status -- of Jalal's health and whether or not he's able to handle presidential duties.
They don't know. But everyone pretends that the country Transparency International has ranked 169th most corrupt country in the world (out of a total of 176 countries) has a functioning government.
This week's farce has required so much lying. Here's "senior administration official" providing background Wednesday:
At the breakfast we just had with the Vice President and the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister had with him his core delegation, and that included his Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, his National Security Advisor Faleh Fayyadh, his Minister of Defense Saadoun Dulaimi, and the Iraqi Ambassador Luqman Fayli, and also the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff.
Can we spot the lie? Saadoun Dulaimi is not Minister of Defense.
He is Minister of Culture. That's his only legal title. Nouri nominated him for that post in December 2010 and the Parliament voted to confirm him -- that is how someone becomes the minister of a ministry in Iraq.
But there is no Minister of Defense. In January 2011, Iraqiya and its leader Ayad Allawi charged that Nouri was making a power grab by refusing to nominate people head the security ministries.
Nouri can't just nominate from his own party (Dawa) or own political slate (State of Law). Parliament won't support that -- in part because there are so many other groupings in Iraq. But whomever he nominates, if they are confirmed, Nouri can't fire them. He can't force them to quit. The only way they are forcibly removed from heading a ministry is if the Parliament votes to remove them. That's not going to happen in most cases. (Nouri tried, in 2011, to get Saleh al-Mutlaq removed as Deputy Prime Minister and to get Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi removed as well. Parliament didn't support it, both men retain their titles.)
Nouri's broken the Constitution by creating 'acting ministers.' This means Nouri picks a stooge, say Jay Carney, and Nouri says, "You are acting minister of Defense." Carney now has to do what Nouri tells him. If he doesn't, he's not 'acting minister,' Nouri just fires him. And Carney can't appeal to Parliament because Parliament never made him a minister.
It was a power grab.
Back in July of 2012, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed, "Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has struggled to forge a lasting power-sharing agreement and has yet to fill key Cabinet positions, including the ministers of defense, interior and national security, while his backers have also shown signs of wobbling support."
In light of that, we really need to look over the whore from Barack's administration's claim -- but let's back up two sentences so we can really enjoy the lying. FYI, the official has outlined the goals for the US this week:
And then finally is to support Iraq's overall democratic development and with a key focus there on elections. They just had provincial elections over the last few months, and then they're going to -- they're scheduled to have national elections in April of 2014. And I can talk about that.
At the breakfast we just had with the Vice President and the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister had with him his core delegation, and that included his Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, his National Security Advisor Faleh Fayyadh, his Minister of Defense Saadoun Dulaimi, and the Iraqi Ambassador Luqman Fayli, and also the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff.
To support Iraq's overall democratic development!
Are your sides splitting yet?
Democracy in Iraq in 2010 started with the Iraqi people voting in the March parliamentary elections.
It ended there too. Per the Constitution, Ayad Allawi should have been named prime minister-designate. His Iraqiya came in first. But instead Nouri al-Maliki pissed his panties, stamped his feet and refused to step down for over eight months. Not only did the White House back his tantrum, they ordered US officials in Iraq to broker a contract, The Erbil Agreement, which went around the Iraqi people, went around their votes, circumvented the Constitution and took a dump on democracy to give Nouri a second term. This contract is what all of Iraq current crises stem from.
By going around the Constitution, Nouri didn't have to appoint a Cabinet. The way the position works is you're named prime minister-designate and you have 30 days to put together the Cabinet. If you can't do it, per the Constitution, someone else is supposed to be named prime minister-designate. The only rule is to create the Cabinet.
That's not partial. If it was only part of a Cabinet, it wouldn't be the requirement to move from prime minister-designate to prime minister.
The Erbil Agreement, the poison fruit of Barack Obama.
And yet a cowardly background briefing official wants to pretend the US supports democracy in Iraq.
And, worse, a cowardly press doesn't want to confront the lies.
That's a cowardly western press to be clear. The Iraqi press and the press in many Arab countries have shown repeat bravery and a real commitment to journalism. World Bulletin deserves applause for their reporting today:
In his second term he secured his position by sewing division between political elites and set up unofficial, alternative strongholds. When it comes to agreements made regarding the city of Irbil, either he hasn’t applied any of the conditions of the agreement or he has narrated the agreements according to his own stance. He has brought the defense, the National Security Council and the internal affairs of his nation under his control by breaching agreements regarding the appointment of deputies.
Moreover, he has breached the most important factor of the Irbil agreements by not establishing a Strategic Policy National Assembly, which was supposed to be given veto rights. In weakening independent corporate control institutes and taming the high judicial authority, he is asserting his power to intimidate the nation.
Iraq’s Sunni vice-president Tariq al-Hashimi has been forced to go on the run after being accused of supporting terrorism, for which he was given the death sentence. The former finance minister Rafi al-Isawi also finds himself in a similar position.
Tensions are also increasing between Maliki and the president of the autonomous Kurdish regional government of northern Iraq, Mesud Barzani, who has criticized Maliki for taking full control of all aspects of the country. ‘Where else in the world can you find one man who is the commander of the army, head of state, head of defense, the intelligence chief, and the head of the national security council all at the same time?’ he asked.
Maliki has already been called ‘the second Saddam’ due to the torture and abuses that take place under his American-made authoritarian regime, which threatens and carries out attacks on the press and uses the judiciary not to secure justice, but to intimidate rivals.
Barack met with Nouri today. The White House issued a lengthy statement:
In their meeting today at the White House, President Obama and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki reaffirmed the strategic partnership between the United States and the Republic of Iraq and pledged to advance common interests to support a stable, secure, and prosperous Iraq and Middle East. They also discussed their shared commitment to enhance cooperation under the Strategic Framework Agreement (SFA).
The two leaders noted that it has been nearly two years since the final American troops departed Iraq and the United States and Iraq entered a new phase of their relationship, based on mutual respect and a shared commitment to build a strategic partnership between two sovereign nations. They recalled the thousands of Americans and Iraqis who have given their lives in our common fight against terrorism and extremism in Iraq. The President and Prime Minister renewed their determination to honor the memory and sacrifice of those killed by strengthening our joint long-term strategic partnership across the fields covered by the SFA, including security, diplomacy, trade, education, energy, culture, science, and justice.
Following the President’s meeting with the Prime Minister, Vice President Biden and Prime Minister Maliki convened the Higher Coordination Committee (HCC). This was the fourth meeting of the HCC since it was established in 2008 under the SFA.
No. That's not correct and hopefully the Iraqi press will demonstrate the courage that the American press lacks. Thousands of "Iraqis who have given their lives in our common fight against terrorism and extremism in Iraq"? Many Iraqis -- Shi'ites as well as Sunnis, even Shi'ites in Nouri's State of Law -- see the lives lost from "terroism and extremism" lost to US troops. Barack can try to smooth it over all he wants, but there were no roses strewn at the feet of the US military in Iraq.
The U.S. and Iraqi delegations discussed Iraq’s position as an emerging democracy in the region, leading energy producer, and a nation representing a diversity of social customs, religions, and ethnicities. The Iraqi delegation described the challenges Iraq faces due to its geography and the legacy of the former regime after decades of wars and international isolation. In this regard, both delegations welcomed the full restoration of relations between Iraq and Kuwait, expanding energy, security, and commercial ties with Jordan, and improving relations with Turkey. Both delegations also welcomed ongoing exchanges of high-level visits with Turkey, as well as a strategic dialogue to be held later this month between the United States, Iraq, and other regional partners, with an emphasis on supporting moderates and isolating extremists in the region.
The Iraqi delegation noted that with seventeen Arab embassies open in Baghdad, the Government of Iraq recently renewed an invitation to other Arab countries to open an embassy as soon as possible. In this regard, the United States welcomed the participation of the Iraqi Security Forces in joint exercises with regional partners over the past six months, including the Eager Lion exercise in Jordan, and surface warfare and mine countermeasures exercise in Bahrain. The United States pledged its ongoing diplomatic coordination under the SFA in these and other areas.
The two delegations shared an assessment of al Qaida affiliated groups threatening Iraq, with particular emphasis on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
The Iraqi delegation confirmed a comprehensive strategy to isolate ISIL and other extremist groups through coordinated security, economic, and political measures. This strategy includes security operations coordinated with local officials, and renewed efforts to empower local security structures, such as the Sons of Iraq, to mitigate extremist infiltration. Both sides emphasized – on an urgent basis – the need for additional equipment for Iraqi forces to conduct ongoing operations in remote areas where terrorist camps are located. The Iraqi delegation stressed its desire to purchase U.S. equipment as a means of strengthening long-term institutional ties with the United States, and confirmed its commitment to ensure strict compliance with U.S. laws and regulations on the use of such equipment.
Both delegations further confirmed the need for aggressive political outreach as a means to isolate and defeat ISIL and other extremist networks. They welcomed the national charter of social peace signed last month by political and religious leaders from across Iraq. Both parties welcomed calls to reject violence and sectarian incitement, and discussed the critical role of religious leaders as a force of moderation in the region.
How is Nouri supposed "to reject violence and sectarian incitement" when he's backing militias -- Shi'ite militias -- to kill Sunnis?
September 28th in print (27th online), Tim Arango (New York Times) broke the story of Nouri supporting Shi'ite militias that are killing Sunnis:
The group, which is backed by Iran and split off from the Sadrist movement several years ago and was responsible for many deadly attacks on the American military when it was here, has seen its political wing welcomed into the government by Mr. Maliki. And as the security forces have proved ineffective in stemming attacks by Sunni insurgent groups, the group’s armed unit, according to militiamen, is increasingly working in secret with the government.
“We don’t do anything until the government asks us,” said one of the group’s leaders, who gave his name as Abu Abdellah. “We have a direct connection with the leaders of the security forces.”
In supporting Asaib al-Haq, Mr. Maliki has apparently made the risky calculation that by backing some Shiite militias, even in secret, he can maintain control over the country’s restive Shiite population and, ultimately, retain power after the next national elections, which are scheduled for next year. Militiamen and residents of Shiite areas say members of Asaib al-Haq are given government badges and weapons and allowed freedom of movement by the security forces.
At the Guardian, Haifa Zangana called out the simplistic narrative that Nouri (and the press -- I'm saying "and the press" uses to portray 'terrorism' while hiding his own crimes:
The Maliki regime blames all terrorist acts (frequent car explosions, often in markets, cafes and mosques) on al-Qaida, selectively choosing not to mention the regime's own militias: Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq, Iraqi Hezbollah, factions of the Mahdi army, the Badr brigades and the Mokhtar army.
A common belief among Iraqis is that only agents connected to the nearly 1 million strong army and security forces, and especially to the Special Forces (inherited from the occupation, trained by the US and now attached directly to Maliki's office) could carry out such sustained and widespread campaign of terror.
Why is it that so many come to the conclusion that most atrocities blamed on al-Qaida are actually the work of the regime, its factional fighters, and regional actors with links to security services? It is because the regime is the embodiment of the sectarian divide entrenched by the occupation. Its constitution and political process, nurtured by the US and UK, has spawned a kleptocracy of warlords, charlatans, and merchants of religion. Yes, al-Qaida is a presence. But the sectarian political parties that mushroomed after the invasion are also fighting each other, killing thousands of civilians in the process. Almost 3,000 people were killed in acts of violence between July and September this year alone with three times that number wounded. Many of those wounded often die due to lack of medical services. Acts of violence are presented daily on Iraqi TV like the weather forecast in Britain. They are destroying the very fabric of society and pushing people who have been living together for centuries to speak and act about "them" and "us".
Protests continued in Iraq today -- this wave began December 21st. Iraqi Sprinc MC reports that Bahghdad saw the Association of Imams and Khateebs declare the Iraqi army was infiltrated with sectarian militias. They also stated that some of the current Iraqi soldiers are operating under sectarianism and not out of love for the country. They noted the Ministry of Defense estimates 90,000 soldiers have self-checked out.
Protests also took place in Tikrit, Rawa, Mosul, Jalawla, Samarra, Baquba, among other cities. National Iraqi News Agency reports:
Thousands of people flocked from different parts of Fallujah and Ramadi cities , to participate in the unified Fri-prayer.
Sheikh Mohammed Fayyad, one of the organizers of Anbar sit-ins ,said to NINA reporter : "The citizens participated in the prayers that held in the courtyard northern Ramadi and eastern Fallujah cities , stressing that the goal of this trickle is to send one again a message to the governing in Baghdad that our demonstrations are peaceful and backed by citizens deep conviction.
As for the White House claim of rejecting violence? January 7th, Nouri's forces assaulted four protesters in Mosul, January 24th, Nouri's forces sent two protesters (and one reporter) to the hospital, and March 8th, Nouri's force fired on protesters in Mosul killing three. All of that and more appeared to be a trial run for what was coming, the April 23rd massacre of a peaceful sit-in in Hawija which resulted from Nouri's federal forces storming in. Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk) announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault. AFP reported the death toll rose to 53 dead. UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured). Equally true, Nouri's forces attacked the Ashraf community. That actually came up in today's White House press briefing:
Q You have a noisy demonstration out front by Camp Ashraf folks. Can you tell us how hard is the President going to press the Iraqi Prime Minister on the issue of accountability for the killings that took place in September at Camp Ashraf?
MR. CARNEY: Well, as you know, the President has meetings this afternoon with — very shortly with Prime Minister Maliki. And I’m not going to give you a readout of meetings that haven’t happened yet. They’ll discuss a whole range of issues; this is I’m sure going to be one of them.
But this is an important relationship, and it’s one that in the aftermath of the ending of the Iraq war and the withdrawal of U.S. troops remains important. And our commitment remains very strong to Iraq and the assistance we provide them in dealing with their challenges from al Qaeda in Iraq, the renamed al Qaeda in Iraq, and dealing with their overall economic challenges as they continue to make progress out of the past that created so many problems for the Iraqi people.
Q What’s the current position on who was responsible for that?
MR. CARNEY: I would refer you — well, let me say this. I’m sure State Department has more on this for you, but I can tell you that we remain deeply concerned about the fate of the individuals abducted from Camp Ashraf as well as the security of the residents remaining in Iraq at Camp Hurriya. We are pursuing these matters actively and daily with UNAMI, with UNHCR, the government of Iraq and other relevant authorities, to seek information on the MEK members who went missing and to ensure as much protection as possible is provided for the residents who are at Camp Hurriya.
So I’m sure, as I said, that these are the kinds of conversations we have with our counterparts as part of a whole array of topics that will come up.
Today Afzal Afzalnia (UPI) shares why he was against Barack meeting with Nouri:
On Sept. 1 my brother was killed -- brutally murdered by masked gunmen under the command of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
I ask you, how would you feel if you lost a loved one and only two months later the person responsible for his death arrived as a guest at the White House?
That is what I am facing Friday, when Maliki is to be received by U.S. President Barack Obama in order to discuss the lasting friendship between their two countries.
I am not alone in being outraged. Indeed, hundreds, even thousands of people will look on with the same sense of revulsion and betrayal, for my brother was only one of 52 individuals killed in a merciless and unprovoked attack on Camp Ashraf in eastern Iraq.
Most of these people were shot in the head at close range. Some were wounded first and later executed while they lay bleeding. Many had their hands tied behind their backs before being shot dead.
Nouri is the new Butcher of Baghdad. Again, the whole meet-up was a farce. Back to the White House claims:
Both delegations also noted the recent resolution from the Iraqi Council of Representatives stating that national elections would be held no later than April 30, 2014. The Iraqi delegation confirmed its commitment to holding these elections on time. Both parties emphasized the importance of the Iraqi government’s determination to hold elections on time and its support to the High Electoral Commission to ensure that the elections are well prepared. The United States offered its technical support in full coordination with the Government of Iraq and the United Nations.
No, not a resolution. A statement by Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi that Iraq would hold elections April 30th. A law needs to be passed for elections. al-Nujaifi says that it doesn't need to be passed because the old election law can be used. The Kurds have rejected the use of the previous law. Might they change their minds? Possibly but they felt ripped off in 2010 and with Jalal and his collapsible spin out of commission you're left with leaders the KDP and Gorran which won the provincial elections in the KRG back in September, you really think they're going to cave on a law that they think harmed the KRG? It could happen, anything could.
Kirk Sowell (Foreign Policy) explains today:
The law is necessary for the parliamentary elections due by the end of April 2014, and since the electoral commission says it needs six months to make preparations, parliament is cutting it close. But with the Kurds and the Arab parties deadlocked, and Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani threatening to boycott the elections, Speaker Osama al-Nujayfi has repeatedly postponed the vote.
The core dispute that is holding up the law is between the Kurdistani Alliance and the Arab blocs, with the Kurds wanting a return to electoral systems used in 2005, under which they did better, and the Arabs preferring a modified form of the law used in 2010. But another amendment on which Maliki and his Sunni rivals agree is intended to suppress independent challenges to the major blocs. Maliki, in particular, is keen to avoid a repetition of this year's provincial elections, in which he (only partially with justice) blames losses by his State of Law Coalition to the system used to allocate seats.
Back to the White House statement:
The U.S. and Iraqi delegations reiterated the importance of Iraq’s future energy sector development and economic growth so all Iraqis can share equitably from its resources, as well as the valuable role that Iraq plays in providing a steady flow of energy resources to global markets. In this regard, the Iraqi side presented Iraq’s new five-year $357 billion development plan and their long-term vision for developing strategic infrastructure that provides energy system resilience and new commercial opportunities, with multiple oil export routes through the Arabian Gulf, Red Sea, and Mediterranean. The delegations welcomed the opportunity to expand cooperation on energy, including steps to advance these projects, at the next Energy Joint Coordination Committee in early 2014.
6 million Iraqis live in poverty by the Iragi's government's admission. When exactly do "all Iraqis" get to "share equitably from its resources"? And at what point does Iraq develop beyond oil? Oh, that's right, the highest official to grasp that Iraq needed to diversify its economy is Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi and Nouri railroaded him out of the country (but not out of office). Back to the White House statement:
The Iraqi delegation confirmed its support for the Geneva II process and efforts to forge a diplomatic settlement to the ongoing conflict in Syria. The United States took note of the important role Iraq can play in helping to shape conditions conducive to a peaceful political settlement. The Iraqi delegation expressed its increasing concern about weapons coming into Iraq from Syria for use against the Iraqi people, emphasizing the need to take increasing measures to police its borders and airspace against the transit of weapons or cargo proscribed by applicable U.N. Security Council Resolutions, and called on all neighboring states to cooperate fully.
Nouri can't help with Syria. If you think Iraq's inflamed right now, let Nouri choose a side in the Syrian War and then watch the Green Zone really get attacked. There's no side he can pick that won't either inflame the Sunnis or the Shi'ites. As for his 'help' that he keeps promising -- I don't know that anyone will take seriously his suggestions for peace when he's only inflamed his own country.
Back to the statement:
The Iraqi delegation stressed their desire to harness the U.S. private sector to advance mutual interests in Iraq and the United States. The delegations noted the signing earlier this year of the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, which will help increase American exports to Iraq and provide more economic opportunities for the Iraqi people. Both delegations welcomed the steady increase in U.S. companies doing business in Iraq – including major corporations such as Citibank, Ford, General Electric, and Boeing. The Iraqi delegation expressed hope that U.S. businesses can have a prominent role in their country’s rapidly developing energy, transportation, banking, and health sectors. In this regard, both delegations looked forward to mutual trade events to be held over the coming months.
Well, yes, that was the whole point, wasn't it? "Baghdad Year Zero" was about destroying everything to create new markets and new opportunities for big business.
Back to the statement:
The Iraqi delegation discussed their vision to strengthen their nation through education and exchange programs with an emerging generation. They noted that twenty-five percent of their population – nearly 8 million Iraqis – was born after 2003, and that the Government of Iraq is determined to give this generation educational opportunities inside Iraq and abroad, including at American colleges and universities. Both delegations agreed that the best way to honor our shared sacrifice over the past decade is to provide these young Iraqis with opportunities never enjoyed by other generations. The U.S. delegation noted that under the SFA and the educational programs established through bilateral Joint Coordinating Committees, the number of Iraqi students studying in the United States has grown to nearly 1,000 – and that a university fair last month in Baghdad attracted 30 U.S. universities and 2,000 Iraqi scholarship students.
I'm sorry, are we supposed to swallow that one to? A student exchange program means, for example, an American goes to Paris and studies and a French students comes to the US.
There's no exchange program. No US students are going to Baghdad to study.
The White House really hopes you're as stupid as their spokespeople. The statement finally winds down with:
The two delegations closed the meeting with a shared commitment to increase the numbers of Iraqis studying in the United States, in addition to strengthening other institutional ties beyond government-to-government ties, to include cultural, artistic, and scientific exchanges. Both sides again reflected on the sacrifice that has made this progress possible, while recognizing the very serious challenges that must be confronted together.
That has to be the weakest conclusion to a White House statement ever. (And we ran it in full, FYI.)
With the visit concluded, we'll note Dion Nissenbaum and Jared Favole (Wall St. Journal) observing:
But while Mr. Maliki worked to persuade American leaders to free up more U.S. military aid, leading lawmakers expressed dismay over the Iraqi leader's repeated insistence that he bore little responsibility for the sectarian violence sweeping his country.
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he was "extremely disappointed" by his meeting with Mr. Maliki and said the prime minister hurt his case for new U.S. arms.
"If the visit was to cement American confidence and support, he certainly didn't do it for me," Mr. Menendez said in an interview.
On Thursday's NewsHour (PBS -- link is video, text and audio), Margaret Warner reported on this topic:
MARGARET WARNER: But many critics here and in Iraq say elected Prime Minister Maliki and his Shiite-dominated government share the blame for the rising dangers to their country by monopolizing government power in a way that has rekindled Sunni resentment and anger.
Arizona Senator John McCain is among them.
JOHN MCCAIN, R-Ariz.: The major reason for the unraveling in Iraq was Maliki's failure to govern in an inclusive fashion, measures that he has taken which have alienated the Sunni population, therefore, a breeding ground, therefore, then assistance to Syria. I think the genesis was the failure of Maliki's government, and it was taken advantage of by the situation in Syria.
MARGARET WARNER: Obama administration officials don't disagree, but want to help Maliki anyway. The reason, explains Ryan Crocker, is that there's still much at stake in what happens in Iraq for the security of the U.S. and the wider region.
We've called out a lot of press this week -- and there were so many we didn't have time to call out -- but we can also offer some applause for one person: Spencer Ackerman. From his piece for the Guardian:
Intelligence sharing still carries a risk: Maliki’s closest ally is the US's regional adversary, Iran. The New Yorker reported recently that Iraq’s rejection of a residual US military force in 2011, an act that resulted in all but a handful of US troops withdrawing that December, came at the instigation of the Iranian spy chief Qassem Suleimani.
Max Boot's a conservative and a supporter of the Iraq War. I'm a leftist and began speaking out against the war to college audiences in February 2003 -- a month before the war started. I don't think Max Boots agree on much of anything. Nor do I expect us to. But he is one of the few who does cover Iraq regularly. So here's a link to his latest -- I haven't read it, even if I had, I couldn't offer critique because we don't have the room. Many things are getting edited out but because he does cover Iraq regularly, I will give him a link in this snapshot. I have not had time to listen to Patty Culhane's audio report for Al Jazeera but we'll link to it as well. Another non-text link is Ahmed Maher's BBC News report from Sadr City. Here and Now (NPR) continued their Iraq coverage today by speaking with Iraqi journalist Omar Fekeiki.
Yesterday, a very violent month for Iraq ended. As we noted last Saturday, it was the "Most violent October in Iraq since 2007." Today we have some totals. AFP's tally: "Overall, at least 743 people were killed by attacks in Iraq in October, according to the AFP tally, more than similar figures for January, February and March combined." The United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq's toll is 979 dead and 1,793 injured. Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) reports, "Antiwar.com, which compiles figures using various media sources, found that 1,370 people were killed and 2,361 were wounded during the month." And Iraq Body Count notes:
OCTOBER TOTAL: 1,095 CIVILIANS KILLED. OVER 7,000 THIS YEAR.
Turning to today's violence, National Iraqi News Agency reports a Mosul armed attack left 4 police dead, an armed attack west of Samarra left 2 police dead and three more injured, a Jorfi-ssakhar roadside bombing claimed the lives of 2 Sahwa, Nouri's forces shot dead 1 suspect in Anbar while conducting mass arrests, a Falluja sniper shot dead 1 police officer and left another injured, Alsumaria adds a Kirkuk armed attack left one Iraqi soldier and one Operation Tigris Command member injured. and a Taji attack left 1 police officer dead and another injured.
human rights watch
the new york times
here and now