Andrew Sullivan, the King of Bloggers, has written a Newsweek cover story which is featuring heavily in American political discussion on tv, in newspapers and on blogs right now. From over here, it’s sometimes difficult to realize that Sullivan is not just a blogger, albeit a big one, but also a pretty prominent “public intellectual” (as they say) in the US, who from time to time – as a very early advocate of gay marriage, as proponent of the Iraq War, as supporter of Obama – generates a lot of public debate.
In the Newsweek article, Sullivan argues, as one of the first people to elaborately do so, passionately for Obama’s re-election. He basically says that Obama’s political strategy is a “long game”, of which we have not seen the results yet, which will only play out in eight years. In doing so, he obviously and correctly dismisses the president’s conservative ”critics” (we may just call them lunatics), but also takes on criticism of Obama from “the left”. Personally, while I certainly agree with Sullivan that Obama has by and large been a good president – in that he has saved the US and the West from plunging into a systemic crisis largely caused by Bush, through the stimulus, the bail-outs of Wall Street and the auto industry, having healthcare reform passed, getting out of Iraq, reaching out to the Muslim world, responding carefully to the Green Revolution and the Arab Spring, and taking on Qadhafi – he has also failed miserably to keep up to his promises to restore the rule of law. Under Obama, indefinite detention has been enshrined into law, Guantánamo Bay has seen its tenth birthday, military commissions have been kept open, a Drone War killing hundreds of innocents has been started, extrajudicial assassination has become normal, and a war on whistleblowers and transparency-seekers has been waged. Torture has merely been halted by executive order and can easily be reversed by a Republican president.
This, I think, is unforgivable; it is a core reason not to support Obama’s re-election; and Sullivan passes it too easily by. I also think he fails to engage seriously with Obama’s critics that he relents too easily in the face of opposition, as was the case with healthcare and the debt ceiling crisis. Sullivan doesn’t mention anywhere the deep interpenetration of the Obama administration and Wall Street lobbyists. And, finally, I think it’s kind of slavish and rather uncritical to say: “It’s all part of the masterplan, just wait, it will all play out in eight years, just vote now, it’s Obama!” But that is a tendency you see more often in Obama supporters.
Anyway. The only reason I wanted to write this was because I thought it was funny to see Sullivan, whom you almost only know by writing, defend his article on television. And he’s doing it pretty well actually. Enjoy this weird-in-a-sympathetic-way person’s discussion with a Republican supporter:
- Edit: In the best response to Sullivan’s article so far, here’s Conor Friedersdorf, who writes it down better than I can. First he asks if Sullivan would have supported a Republican in 2008 who would have proposed the following:
(1) Codify indefinite detention into law; (2) draw up a secret kill list of people, including American citizens, to assassinate without due process; (3) proceed with warrantless spying on American citizens; (4) prosecute Bush-era whistleblowers for violating state secrets; (5) reinterpret the War Powers Resolution such that entering a war of choice without a Congressional declaration is permissible; (6) enter and prosecute such a war; (7) institutionalize naked scanners and intrusive full body pat-downs in major American airports; (8) oversee a planned expansion of TSA so that its agents are already beginning to patrol American highways, train stations, and bus depots; (9) wage an undeclared drone war on numerous Muslim countries that delegates to the CIA the final call about some strikes that put civilians in jeopardy; (10) invoke the state-secrets privilege to dismiss lawsuits brought by civil-liberties organizations on dubious technicalities rather than litigating them on the merits; (11) preside over federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries; (12) attempt to negotiate an extension of American troops in Iraq beyond 2011 (an effort that thankfully failed); (14) reauthorize the Patriot Act; (13) and select an economic team mostly made up of former and future financial executives from Wall Street firms that played major roles in the financial crisis.
Yet President Obama has done all of the aforementioned things.
No, Obama isn’t a radical Kenyan anti-colonialist. But he is a lawbreaker and an advocate of radical executive power. What precedent could be more radical than insisting that the executive is empowered to draw up a kill list of American citizens in secret, without telling anyone what names are on it, or the legal justification for it, or even that it exists? What if Newt Gingrich inherits that power?
He may yet.
[Sullivan's] Newsweek essay fits the pattern I’ve lamented of Obama apologists who tell a narrative of his administration that ignores some of these issues and minimizes the importance of others, as if they’re a relatively unimportant matter to be set aside in a sentence or three before proceeding to the more important business of whether the president is being critiqued fairly by obtuse partisans.
Like President Bush, [Obama] is breaking the law, transgressing against civil liberties, and championing a radical view of executive power – and he is invoking the War on Terror to get away with it. As much as it was in 2003 or 2007, it is vital in 2012 that there be a backlash against these post-9/11 excesses, that liberty-loving citizens push back so that these are anomalies that are reined in, rather than permanent features of a bipartisan consensus that can only end in a catastrophically abusive executive operating in an office stripped by successive presidents and their minions of both constitutional and prudential checks.
That is the best case against Obama I can think of. It is, indeed, vital that there is a backlash against his policies.
Always wanted to visit the ancient city of Babylon or the legendary Assyrian city Nimrud? Fancy a tour through one of Saddam’s old palaces in Bagdad or Tikrit? That’s all possible these days. Well, sort of… You can book either a 9- or 16-day trip with the British Hinterland Travel agency through Iraq. And if the security situation allows it, the tour will take you to these places. Even though the British ministry of foreign affairs, and any other ministry of foreign affairs in the world for that matter, strongly discourages travelling to Iraq and it is at this moment impossible to find a company that will insure tourists to Iraq, Geoff Hann is organizing “adventure travels” to this still extremely dangerous country. Journalist Paula Froelich joined one of these tours and has written a pretty hilarious travel report:
Shortly after the Iraq civil war ended, in 2008, while the stink of improvised explosive devices still smoldered and the Iraqi economy wheezed, NGO wonks, USAID, special interest groups and the Iraqi government concocted a brilliant idea: Spur private-sector growth and employment by making the country a tourist destination. After all, driving through Iraq is like taking a tour of the Old Testament. It’s home to Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon, the Ziggurat of Ur, Nimrud’s famed acropolis and the 5,000-year-old Assyrian capital of Ashur. It’s where the Code of Hammurabi was written. Its geography marks the heart of the Fertile Crescent, the most ancient of all human civilizations.
The group of optimistic visionaries came up with a PR slogan for the country: “Explore Civilization of Life.” And as nothing beckons tourists like a Ferris wheel, it was announced with fanfare to the international press that the city would build a wheel, dubbed the Baghdad Eye, that would be taller than the London Eye. It would have a view of the entire city. There would even be an amusement park and a zoo built around the Eye, named Sinbad Land. All would be happily housed in West Baghdad’s Zawra Park, conveniently situated next door to the Green Zone.
The Ministry of Tourism dropped $500 million on the project. Despite some concerns over whether it was prudent to build a Ferris wheel within sniper-shot range of the American embassy, ground was broken.
And thus Baghdad came under siege from a new and uniquely sinister lot: tourists.
There are certain rules to abide by when traveling in the Middle East, where a woman’s worth is counted in cattle and she is considered either a virgin, married or a slut. Chief among these rules: Cover your arms, cover your legs and cover your hair. In fact, just to be safe, cover everything. A glimpse of thigh is a money shot over there. Cleavage is practically pay-per-view.
Other, non-gender-specific rules when traveling in a “troubled” area include: Don’t make a scene. Don’t draw attention to yourself. Remember to be respectful of religion. Don’t wander off alone, due to high kidnapping rates. Do not pilfer from archeological sites. And never use your hotel prayer mat, found in most rooms, as a rag to mop up a leaking toilet.
All these rules were about to be broken as our group headed heart-of-darkness-like into the desert and its cruel sun.
Nowhere in Iraq can you get a better sense of Saddam-era design than in his hometown of Tikrit or his palace at Babylon. Lining the roads in between date palms and goatherd shacks are mansions combining four or five architectural styles (Mediterranean! Chinese pagoda! Concrete phantasma!), all dipped in the baroque splendor of marble and gilt. Most of it has been stripped by looters, but in Saddam’s Babylonian residence you can still get the gist of his vision—even with graffiti lining the walls: DOUN [sic] USA! and IRAQ NOT LIV [sic] USA! Meanwhile, from the 100-degree heat and the insufficient air-conditioning system, the bus was starting to smell like a gym locker, and food was scarce. On the seven-hour drive back to Baghdad, Tobias lost it and started fuming, “Where is my lunch? Where is my dinner?
In Karbala, one of the holiest cities in the Shia religion (along with Najaf), Tina refused to wear a burka. At the barricaded entrance to the old city, as we were surrounded by 25 policemen demanding that the women burka up, Tina screeched, “How dare you! This is even more Shia than Iran. Get away from me, fascists! They always pick on me. I’m sick of it.” She stormed off into the inner city, with several policemen and Geoff trailing helplessly in her wake.
“She’s nuts,” someone said.
Crowds of angry men started following us.
“Maybe she doesn’t realize there were several kidnappings and assassinations here recently,” someone else said.
Tina eventually capitulated, but she shook with rage as she entered the shrine of Imam Husayn—the second-most-holy site for Shias. Moments later Justine, whose burka had started to slip, announced, “I was being followed by a nuttah, so I just walked right up to him and said, ‘Hey, you, nuttah! Get away from me!’ ”
“Way to keep a low profile,” someone muttered.
“I’m out of here,” my Kurdish photographer said.
Unfortunately Geoff had forgotten to tell us we weren’t allowed in the inner sanctum of the shrine. So, further incensing the inhabitants, several women wandered in. Some took pictures, and just as a revolt was brewing, several men from the mosque whisked us into a room and locked the door behind them.
Although her fellow travellers were a weird, ignorant and dumb bunch of people, she is overall pretty positive about the trip. Here is a video interview with Paula. The next “adventure travel” to Iraq leaves on September 8. Hinterland Travel also organizes tours through Afghanistan, Pakistan and Burma. Not for the faint-hearted, but pretty cool if you have the balls.
In yet another confirmation that the Obama administration’s handling of counterterrorism policy is nothing but a continuation and, in fact, reinforcement of Bush-era policies, the US Department of Justice decided on Thursday that all cases against (former) low-level CIA and military employees suspected of having employed torture, sometimes leading to murder, are to be dropped, except two.
So there’s not gonna be any accountability for the breaches of human rights and the Geneva Conventions conducted under the last administration in the name of the ‘War on Terror’.
Back in August 2009, the Obama White House already decided that there would be no torture investigations regarding former administration officials (Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld) and government lawyers (John Yoo, Jay Bybee) who invented and implemented the ‘legal’ architecture for things like indefinite detention, military commissions and ‘enhanced interrogation methods’ (torture), which eventually spread from Guantánamo Bay and the secret ‘black sites’ to Abu Ghraib and Afghanistan. Neither would there be investigations regarding CIA and military employees who stayed ‘within the lines’ of the new torture regime (even though a lot of people, including JAG lawyers, protested at that time).
The only exception to this immunity granted by Obama would be for those employees who went beyond even what was permitted by the Bush administration in terms of torture. And of those 101 cases, all are now dropped except two.
Those two cases are the most gruesome imaginable: one is of a detainee who froze to death in an American secret prison in 2002 after being stripped and chained to the floor, and the other is of the Abu Ghraib detainee who was photographed in 2003 with a guard holding her thumbs up. All other horrors perpetrated under the Bush administration will now be fully, legally protected.
Change we can believe in. And what’s more: except for one executive order ordering a halt to ’enhanced interrogation methods’, there’s nothing that can prevent a future president from starting to employ torture again…
Consider what’s being permanently shielded from legal accountability. The Bush torture regime extended to numerous prisons around the world, in which tens of thousands of mostly Muslim men were indefinitely imprisoned without a whiff of due process, and included a network of secret prisons – ”black sites” — purposely placed beyond the monitoring reach of even international human rights groups, such as the International Red Cross.
Over 100 detainees died during U.S. interrogations, dozens due directly to interrogation abuse. Gen. Barry McCaffrey said: ”We tortured people unmercifully. We probably murdered dozens of them during the course of that, both the armed forces and the C.I.A.” Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, who oversaw the official investigation into detainee abuse, wrote: ”there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.”
Thanks to the Obama DOJ, that is no longer in question. The answer is resoundingly clear: American war criminals, responsible for some of the most shameful and inexcusable crimes in the nation’s history — the systematic, deliberate legalization of a worldwide torture regime — will be fully immunized for those crimes. And, of course, the Obama administration has spent years just as aggressively shielding those war criminals from all other forms of accountability beyond the criminal realm: invoking secrecy and immunity doctrines to prevent their victims from imposing civil liability, exploiting their party’s control of Congress to suppress formal inquiries, and pressuring and coercing other nations not to investigate their own citizens’ torture at American hands.
All of those efforts, culminating in yesterday’s entirely unsurprising announcement, means that the U.S. Government has effectively shielded itself from even minimal accountability for its vast torture crimes of the last decade. Without a doubt, that will be one of the most significant, enduring and consequential legacies of the Obama presidency.
As Glenn Greenwald notes, the Obama administration has blocked all attempts by detainees to sue torture facilitators with its generous use of the state secrets doctrine.
What that means is that the only thing preventing a future Republican president from using torture techniques is a flimsy, reversible executive order from the president himself, because no court has ever made a determination that the interrogation techniques themselves were illegal. Both the new Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and the new CIA chief David Petraeus, both once among the most prominent opponents of torture, have now expressed support for the idea of using coercive interrogations in “limited” circumstances. Torture became an issue of partisan dispute because Republicans rallied to the defense of their former president. What happens if the same thing happens with Obama supporters, and they feel the need to minimize the magnitude of what happened under Bush in order to defend the lack of accountability sought by their president?
The fact that so few people, if any, will face professional, civil or criminal sanction for torture bothers me far less than the possibility of torture itself becoming American policy again. Between the absence of strong legal barriers to torture and the deterrent factor of criminal or civil accountability, that outcome seems quite possible.
Inspired by the misfortunes of a battalion of US soldiers returning from Iraq with post-traumatic stress syndrome, the Dorothy Arts Collective created this set of green model soldiers showing something else than the heroic side of war usually displayed.
Casualties of War
Plastic moulded figurines with bases
The hell of war comes home. In July 2009 Colorado Springs Gazettea published a two-part series entitled “Casualties of War”. The articles focused on a single battalion based at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, who since returning from duty in Iraq had been involved in brawls, beatings, rapes, drunk driving, drug deals, domestic violence, shootings, stabbings, kidnapping and suicides. Returning soldiers were committing murder at a rate 20 times greater than other young American males. A seperate investiagtion into the high suicide rate among veterans published in the New York Times in October 2010 revealed that three times as many California veterans and active service members were dying soon after returning home than those being killed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. We hear little about the personal hell soldiers live through after returning home.
If Obama can get us out of Iraq, and if he can use his good offices to keep the pressure on the Egyptian military to lighten up, and if he can support the likely UN declaration of a Palestinian state in September, the US will be in the most favorable position in the Arab world it has had since 1956. And he would go down in history as one of the great presidents.
If he tries to stay in Iraq and he takes a stand against Palestine, he risks provoking further anti-American violence. He can be not just the president who killed Bin Laden, but the president who killed the pretexts for radical violence against the US. He can promote the waving of the American flag in major Arab cities. And that would be a defeat and humiliation for Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda more profound than any they could have dreamed.
Add to that, on the domestic level, the pushing through of universal healthcare, hopefully a recovery of the economy, and the legalization of marihuana (just kidding), and you have a pretty succesful president. To use an understatement.
Now to end the Bush-Cheney legal architecture for counterterrorism.
- Edit: Of course there’s still the absurdly high public debt and deficit, which did multiply under this president.
Now that the military intervention in Libya is entering its third day, some doubts about the whole action are beginning to arise in the mainstream media and online. Well, actually, on the blogosphere, notably in the US, the enthusiasm doesn’t seem to have been great to begin with. Also, here, the legitimacy and even domestic legality of the military actions are being called into question. The NYT, though, now also has a good piece about what is the fundamental problem with this intervention: what conclusion do we want it to have? What is the purpose of this intervention?
Basically, two answers to that are possible. One is the removal of Colonel Ghadafi by coalition military might. The other is the implementation of the no-fly zone (and, by now, it seems, also the destruction of the Libyan military), thus either allowing the rebels to topple Ghadafi, or pushing for negotiations between them and Ghadafi. I have the impression that the second option is what the coalition is pretty explicitly pushing for - although some (French) officials have also hinted at the first option, and Obama has indicated that to him the only outcome of negotiations can also be the removal of Ghadafi. The problem is, though: what if the second option doesn’t work out, and either the rebels are defeated, unable to conquer the entire country, or Ghadafi remains in (partial) power? Then we have an open-ended military commitment; and that is something we do not want to have.
The first option, though, is evidently outside of the scope of UNSCR 1973.
So this military intervention is predicated on a huge gamble, namely that the rebels will be able to swiftly re-conquer the country. If not, then we have a problem – the West is then embroiled in a third war in a Muslim country, and public support for this undertaking, both in the West and in the Arab world, will quickly ebb away. The model seems to be Afghanistan with the Northern Alliance doing the ground work (and then letting them install a government), rather than Iraq 2003. The comparison with the Iraq War, though, is already now increasingly being heard online. I would like the main point of this blog post to be that while the pitfalls of this mission (as stipulated above) must be recognized, any comparison with the Iraq War falls flat and is completely unfair. Let’s compare the two.
The Iraq War was a US-led war of aggression, against a state that posed no direct threat to the US. It was based on a fraudulent case about so-called weapons of mass destruction, that was embarassingly argued for by Colin Powell in the UN – a top aide later admitted this to be the lowest point in his career. There was a doctrine called ‘pre-emptive war’, which was up till then unheard of in international relations, and was accepted only in US neocon circles. There was no substantial international coalition backing this invasion, and what’s more, it was illegal: the UN resolution that was in place at the time did not provide for a full-scale war and toppling of the government.
The Libyan intervention, on the other hand, is a UN-instigated, UN-backed mission primarily meant to prevent the massacre of thousands of people. The pretty strong-worded Resolution 1973 fully, legally provides for everything that is happening right now. As co-blogger blsd has also argued here, this is what the Security Council was set up for! Only because of the Cold War did it never come around to do so. The international coalition supporting this mission is much broader than in the case of Iraq (ranging from Europe to the Arab League), and while Russia, China and India may be bitching now, they could’ve prevented this intervention in the Security Council if they’d wanted to, yet they didn’t. The Arab League is also still on board. The military action up till now may have been bold, but it effectuated what was stipulated in the Resolution: implement a no-fly zone.
I’m not saying this is without enormous risks, or even that it’s the best thing to do; but to compare it with Iraq is to demonstrate an Americentric worldview that supposes that once again this is an American mission with the rest of the world merely looking on. The US may bear the brunt, true; but the rhetorical lipservice being paid to this being an international coalition, and most importantly the fact that this is a circumscribed, UN-mandated mission, makes this an essentially different thing. It’s the reason that I, for one, can back this thing for now, as I suspect a far larger percentage of the European populace does than in the case of Iraq.
Of course this thing may be running out of hand, and then I’ll hate it was ever started and pound my head and ask, ‘Have we learned nothing?’ But for now, to me it seems that if there ever was a reason for an intervention, and a process to give it legitimacy and an international coalition, it’s this one and now. Let’s hope that it essentially stays limited, that there’s a quick way out, and that it doesn’t blow up in everybody’s faces.
One revelation of the WikiLeaks leaked files was the level and sophistication of American diplomatic personnel abroad: pretty high. The same cannot be said, however, of the level in the ranks of the former Bush-Cheney administration…
Check out this memo from the archives of Rumsfeld.com (pretty admirable of him, by the way, to build such an archive). Even though Donald Rumsfeld was supposed to be one of the intellectually better equipped guys of the bunch, he produced stuff like this:
“We need to solve the Pakistan problem”. Frigging cowboys. It’s almost like you hear George W. Bush talking through the mouth of Rumsfeld.
It’s on: despite a cyberattack on their website just hours ago, WikiLeaks has published more than 250,000 classified diplomatic cables from American embassies around the globe. In major newspapers, there’s now talk about a worldwide diplomatic crisis.
What’s in it is, well, huge and encompassing, with lots and lots of information on countless international matters.
The United States was catapulted into a worldwide diplomatic crisis today, with the leaking to the Guardian and other international media of more than 250,000 classified cables from its embassies, many sent as recently as February this year.
At the start of a series of daily extracts from the US embassy cables – many of which are designated “secret” – the Guardian can disclose that Arab leaders are privately urging an air strike on Iran and that US officials have been instructed to spy on the UN’s leadership.
These two revelations alone would be likely to reverberate around the world. But the secret dispatches which were obtained by WikiLeaks, the whistlebowers’ website, also reveal Washington’s evaluation of many other highly sensitive international issues.
These include a major shift in relations between China and North Korea, Pakistan’s growing instability and details of clandestine US efforts to combat al-Qaida in Yemen.
Among scores of other disclosures that are likely to cause uproar, the cables detail:
• Grave fears in Washington and London over the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme
• Alleged links between the Russian government and organised crime.
• Devastating criticism of the UK’s military operations in Afghanistan.
• Claims of inappropriate behaviour by a member of the British royal family.
The US has particularly intimate dealings with Britain, and some of the dispatches from the London embassy in Grosvenor Square will make uncomfortable reading in Whitehall and Westminster. They range from serious political criticisms of David Cameron to requests for specific intelligence about individual MPs.
The cache of cables contains specific allegations of corruption and against foreign leaders, as well as harsh criticism by US embassy staff of their host governments, from tiny islands in the Caribbean to China and Russia.
The material includes a reference to Vladimir Putin as an “alpha-dog”, Hamid Karzai as being “driven by paranoia” and Angela Merkel allegedly “avoids risk and is rarely creative”. There is also a comparison between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Adolf Hitler.
The cables name countries involved in financing terror groups, and describe a near “environmental disaster” last year over a rogue shipment of enriched uranium. They disclose technical details of secret US-Russian nuclear missile negotiations in Geneva, and include a profile of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who they say is accompanied everywhere by a “voluptuous blonde” Ukrainian nurse.
The electronic archive of embassy dispatches from around the world was allegedly downloaded by a US soldier earlier this year and passed to WikiLeaks. Assange made them available to the Guardian and four other newspapers: the New York Times, Der Spiegel in Germany, Le Monde in France and El País in Spain. All five plan to publish extracts from the most significant cables, but have decided neither to “dump” the entire dataset into the public domain, nor to publish names that would endanger innocent individuals. WikiLeaks says that, contrary to the state department’s fears, it also initially intends to post only limited cable extracts, and to redact identities.
The cables published today reveal how the US uses its embassies as part of a global espionage network, with diplomats tasked to obtain not just information from the people they meet, but personal details, such as frequent flyer numbers, credit card details and even DNA material.
Classified “human intelligence directives” issued in the name of Hillary Clinton or her predecessor, Condoleeza Rice, instruct officials to gather information on military installations, weapons markings, vehicle details of political leaders as well as iris scans, fingerprints and DNA.
The most controversial target was the leadership of the United Nations. That directive requested the specification of telecoms and IT systems used by top UN officials and their staff and details of “private VIP networks used for official communication, to include upgrades, security measures, passwords, personal encryption keys”.
They are classified at various levels up to “SECRET NOFORN” [no foreigners]. More than 11,000 are marked secret, while around 9,000 of the cables are marked noforn. The embassies which sent most cables were Ankara, Baghdad, Amman, Kuwait and Tokyo.
So we promised to blog about the release by WikiLeaks of nearly 400,000 classified military documents on the Iraq war, but due to circumstances we’re blogging about it two days after the fact. That means that a whole lot of news outlets have already scrutinized the raw material, and that a lot of commentary is already out there. Assessing this, I can’t help but get the feeling that this release, although quantitatively bigger than the Afghanistan leak, somehow seems to resonate less than did the first one, back in July. Perhaps it’s because the revelations from the Afghanistan leak were more “shocking” or unexpected than this one, perhaps it’s because everybody’s already used to things in Iraq going very badly. Perhaps it’s also that WikiLeaks in the public view is losing its innocence as heroic battlers of government secrecy, and, due in large part to the quirks of its leader Julian Assange, is now seen as a more ambiguous organization.
One thing’s for certain though: far more than painting a picture of American or British abuse (although it’s certainly there), these war logs especially show war crimes, abuse and misconduct by Iraqi “security forces”; a question is to which extent American forces stood by. Also – as in the case of Pakistan when it came to Afghanistan - it shows Iranian meddling in Iraqi affairs. The total death toll of the Iraq War, moreover, is way higher than ever publicly acknowledged.
Anyway, here’s the commentary that I thought most to the point. As always, things starts with the NYT (I very much recommend the “War Logs” section they have put up especially for the WikiLeaks releases):
A huge trove of secret field reports from the battlegrounds of Iraq sheds new light on the war, including such fraught subjects as civilian deaths, detainee abuse and the involvement of Iran.
The secret archive is the second such cache obtained by the independent organization WikiLeaks and made available to several news organizations. Like the first release, some 77,000 reports covering six years of the war in Afghanistan, the Iraq documents provide no earthshaking revelations, but they offer insight, texture and context from the people actually fighting the war.
A close analysis of the 391,832 documents helps illuminate several important aspects of this war:
The war in Iraq spawned a reliance on private contractors on a scale not well recognized at the time and previously unknown in American wars. The documents describe an outsourcing of combat and other duties once performed by soldiers that grew and spread to Afghanistan to the point that there are more contractors there than soldiers.
The documents suggest that the so-called surge worked not only because the American military committed to more troops and a new strategy but because Iraqis themselves, exhausted by years of bloody war, were ready for it. The conditions, the documents suggest, may not be repeatable in the still intensifying war in Afghanistan.
The deaths of Iraqi civilians — at the hands mainly of other Iraqis, but also of the American military — appear to be greater than the numbers made public by the United States during the Bush administration.
While the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by Americans, particularly at the Abu Ghraib prison, shocked the American public and much of the world, the documents paint an even more lurid picture of abuse by America’s Iraqi allies — a brutality from which the Americans at times averted their eyes.
Military documents laid bare in the biggest leak of secret information in U.S. history suggest that far more Iraqis died than previously acknowledged during the years of sectarian bloodletting and criminal violence unleashed by the American-led invasion in 2003.
The accounts of civilian deaths among nearly 400,000 purported Iraq war logs released Friday by the WikiLeaks website include deaths unknown or unreported before now — as many as 15,000 by the count of one independent research group.
The field reports from U.S. forces and intelligence officers also indicate U.S. forces often failed to follow up on credible evidence that Iraqi forces mistreated, tortured and killed their captives as they battled a violent insurgency.
The 391,831 documents date from the start of 2004 to Jan. 1, 2010. They provide a ground-level view of the war written mostly by low-ranking officers in the field. The dry reports, full of military jargon and acronyms, were meant to catalog “significant actions” over six years of heavy U.S. and allied military presence in Iraq.
Wired has separate pieces about several aspects of the documents leak. One piece relates how the search for WMD’s in Iraq continued after the idea – the core rationale of the Iraq War - had been given up that Saddam Hussein actually had a WMD program. The WikiLeaks documents reveal that a few remnants of an infrastructure to create WMD’s have actually been found – chemicals, labs, weapons and the like.
An initial glance at the WikiLeaks war logs doesn’t reveal evidence of some massive WMD program by the Saddam Hussein regime — the Bush administration’s most (in)famous rationale for invading Iraq. But chemical weapons, especially, did not vanish from the Iraqi battlefield. Remnants of Saddam’s toxic arsenal, largely destroyed after the Gulf War, remained. Jihadists, insurgents and foreign (possibly Iranian) agitators turned to these stockpiles during the Iraq conflict — and may have brewed up their own deadly agents.
The WMD diehards will likely find some comfort in these newly-WikiLeaked documents. Skeptics will note that these relatively small WMD stockpiles were hardly the kind of grave danger that the Bush administration presented in the run-up to the war.
But the more salient issue may be how insurgents and Islamic extremists (possibly with the help of Iran) attempted to use these lethal and exotic arms.
Another Wired article goes into the brutalization of detainees mainly by Iraqi security forces years after the Abu Ghraib scandal:
Torture was a signature feature of the state terror that Saddam Hussein inflicted on Iraq. The voluminous Iraq-war documents released by WikiLeaks today show that getting rid of Saddam didn’t eradicate the brutal tendencies of the revamped Iraqi security forces. Detainees were roughed up with pipes, knives, cables, electricity — even a cat in the face. Some suspects were so scared, they confessed to being terrorists, just so they could be shipped to the Americans.
Searching the WikiLeaks Iraq trove for incidents of reported detainee abuse results in literally thousands of accounts of brutality. Some of them involve U.S. troops allegedly inflicting harm upon detainees in their custody.
Some of the more gruesome and unseemly accounts of abuse are the result of Iraqi security forces.
There are accounts of U.S. troops trying to stop the abuse.
Finally, a summary Wired article goes into what seem to be the big revelations of the whole WikiLeaks document leak: the Iranian influence on the war, the high civilian death tolls, and the widespread detainee abuse by Iraqi forces.
The nearly 400,000 documents are still being perused around the world, however, so more insights may be around the corner. Already, Nick Clegg of the governing Liberal Democrat party in Great Britain has called for an investigation into (two) claims of abuse by British coalition forces in Iraq. Also, the UN special rapporteur on torture Alfred Nowak has called on the US to investigate allegiations of torture. I would, finally, particularly like to recommend the New York Times’ suspenseful profile of WikiLeaks’ aggravated leader Julian Assange – a man who is always on the run, but in his quest for transparency seems to alienate some of his closest associates.
E-mail from a reader in response to our blogging earlier today about the pending WikiLeaks Iraq document dump. Newsy is a “multisource video news analysis” site that “highlight[s] the key differences in reporting so that you can understand all the angles of a story”. I watched the video (can’t embed it), it’s definitely informative.
I just saw your blog post about Wikileak’s upcoming publication of the 400,000 documents on the Iraq war. As you mentioned, things are not going too swimmingly with the Wikileaks organization. In fact, the US government has put their bank account on a watch list so as to block funding. I am torn between sides regarding Wikileak’s mission–on one hand, it seems they are doing a service to Americans and democracy, but on the other hand they very well may be endangering our troops and their operations. This certainly calls to mind the Pentagon Papers and Daniel Ellsberg in the 1970s.
I wanted to share a video with you from Newsy.com that I thought you might find interesting. It analyzes much of the recent coverage from multiple sources regarding the document leak and synthesizes it into one story: http://www.newsy.com/videos/pentagon-preps-for-more-leaked-war-documents/. It raises the question of whether this document leak holds the government accountable for its actions and serves as a whistleblower, or whether the site is indeed being reckless and possibly endangering the military and restricting its strategic operations.
Back in July, WikiLeaks’ publication of 92,000 classified military documents on the war in Afghanistan was one of the biggest leaks in military history.
Probably this week (maybe even today), WikiLeaks’ publication of 400,000 classified military documents on the Iraq War will constitute the biggest leak in military history, ever.
We’re waiting for it. It’s not going too swell with the WikiLeaks organization, however, and again the legitimate question can be asked whether publication of these documents will not harm innocent people.
After a brief quiescence, the secret-spilling website WikiLeaks is about to explode again onto the global stage with the impending release of almost 400,000 secret U.S. Army reports from the Iraq War, marking the largest military leak in U.S. history.
Measured by size, the database will dwarf the 92,000-entry Afghan war log WikiLeaks partially published last July. “It will be huge,” says a source familiar with WikiLeaks’ operations, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Former WikiLeaks staffers say the document dump was at one time scheduled for Monday, October 18, though the publication date may well have been moved since then. Some large media outlets were provided an embargoed copy of the database in August.
In Washington, the Pentagon is bracing for the impact. The Defense Department believes the leak is a compilation of the “Significant Activities,” or SIGACTS, reports from the Iraq War, and officials have assembled a 120-person taskforce that’s been scouring the database to prepare for the leak, according to spokesman Col. Dave Lapan.
The Iraq release comes at a crucial time for the 4-year-old WikiLeaks, which has been rankled by internal conflict, shaken by outside criticism and knocked off-message by a lingering sex-crime investigation of its founder, Julian Assange, in Sweden. At least half-a-dozen staffers have resigned from the organization in recent weeks, including key technical staff, according to four ex-staffers interviewed by Wired.com. A “scheduled maintenance” of the WikiLeaks website that began September 29 has stretched to more than two weeks.
The controversies dogging the site followed a string of triumphs: a series of high-profile leaks aimed at U.S. and NATO war efforts. In April, the site published a highly controversial classified video of a 2007 Army helicopter attack in Baghdad.
The attack killed two Reuters employees and an unarmed Iraqi man who stumbled onto the scene and tried to rescue one of the wounded. The man’s two children suffered serious injuries in the hail of gunfire. WikiLeaks titled the video “Collateral Murder,” and raised $150,000 from supporters in two days following its release.
Then in July, the site published the Afghan logs, generating headlines around the world. But WikiLeaks’ handling of that release garnered its first widespread criticism from ideological allies. Although the organization withheld 15,000 records from publication to redact the names of Afghan informants who might be at risk of Taliban reprisal, names of some collaborators were still found in the thousands of documents that were published.
Although there’s no evidence that anyone has suffered harm as a result of the names being exposed, WikiLeaks’ handling of the matter drew criticism from human rights organizations and the international free press group Reporters Without Borders, which accused the site of being reckless. Not surprisingly, the Pentagon was also displeased and issued formal demands that WikiLeaks “return” all classified documents in its possession.
Jeffrey Goldberg, an American-Israeli journalist writing primarily for The Atlantic, has a huge article in the September 2010 edition of the magazine about a looming foreign policy question: the possibility of a military attack by Israel on the nuclear facilities of Iran. The article can be read here.
It’s based on interviews with 40 past and present Israeli decision makers, as well as American and Arab officials since March 2009. While of course in the Netherlands, no media outlet has paid any attention at all to this very important article, in the U.S. it has unleashed a debate. No surprise: according to the article, there is consensus among the policy makers Goldberg spoke to that there is a more than 50 percent chance of Israel attacking Iran by July 2011.
How this is, what consequences this might have for Middle East (and global) politics, but also what the ramifications of a nuclearized Iran could be, is explored in-depth in the article. Because the latter possibility is what probably no one wants; yet the consequences of Israel taking military action are grave. It will shake up Middle Eastern politics by igniting retaliation actions, for example by the Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah, and possibly a complete regional war (which will make Afghanistan look like a minor problem in Obama’s hands), with all the human, social and economic misery that entails; it might solidify the Iranian theocratic regime; it could drastically raise oil prices and havoc the world economy; and in general, it will make so much more problematic the position of Israel in the Middle East, not to mention the standing of the US in the Islamic world.
On the other hand, consider the possible ramifications of Iran acquiring nuclear weaponry. Not only does a large segment of the Israeli governing elite and population view this as an ‘existential threat’ comparable to the Holocaust (if you take some of the anti-Semitic and violent rhetoric of President Ahmadinejad literally, that is not such a overblown thought; on the other hand, the chances of Iran actually using it on, for example, Tel Aviv are probably slim); it would in the first place indisputably raise Iran’s raw geopolitical power, thus drastically altering the balance of power in the region. Arab regimes would feel threatened (maybe sparking an arms race) and militant groups supported by Iran like Hezbollah would feel empowered under a nuclear umbrella. It would also mean a possibly fatal blow to international nuclear non-proliferation efforts (led by Obama), and a huge slap in the face of the United Nations and the IAEA.
The US, EU and UN currently have sanctions in place, as Iran has repeatedly ignored Security Council demands to stop enriching uranium, and keeps building nuclear reactors. A May 2010 report by IAEA inspectors (who are denied access to facilities) indicated that the country currently has enough nuclear fuel to, when enriched, make two nuclear weapons. According to Goldberg’s article, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told a NATO meeting in June that “most intelligence estimates” predict that Iran is a few years away from building a nuclear weapon. So, like with Iraq at the time, the question of whether they are pursuing nuclear weaponry is open – but they’re not doing themselves a favour by not cooperating with the international community, and regularly threatening Israel with annihilation. The Obama administration has called the nuclear program “a threat” to the region and has consistently not ruled out the option of a military strike against the reactors, but in all probability are not very keen on doing so.
So that leaves the question what Israel’s gonna do… Which is what Goldberg’s article is about.
Yet, Goldberg is not without his critics. This especially has to do with a 2002 article in The New Yorker, in which he wrote that Iraq’s nuclear program posed ‘a significant threat’ to the US, and went into ‘evidence’ that Saddam Hussein had close connections with Al Qaeda… In short, almost exactly the message he seems to have now. According to Robert Wright as the NYT Opinionator blog, this article is remembered “on the left” as a “monument to consequential wrongness”. Goldberg also supported the Iraq war. This leads blogger Glenn Greenwald (in a rather ad hominem piece, I have to say) to point out that in his current article, Goldberg paints the 1981 Israeli strike against the Osirak reactor in Iraq as a succesful effort to halt that country’s nuclear program, while in his previous article, he constructed it as unsuccesful, leading Saddam to double his efforts – making Goldberg a propagandist for military action against Iran. Greenwald asserts that it is the 1981 strike against the Osirak reactor that led Iraq to pursue a nuclear program.
In short, Goldberg is accused of trying to shift the debate with this huge piece; of making the prospect of a military strike against Iran seem inevitable, of making it a question who is going to undertake it, rather then whether it should be undertaken. Critics like Greenwald assume a warmongering neoconservative agenda behind his writings. Goldberg, again, is to some extend defended by writers like The Atlantic‘s James Fallows and TIME’s Joe Klein, who are saying he is just trying to expose the Israeli government’s thinking.
Personally, I’m not sure; while definitely more an attempt at in-depth, resource material rich journalism rather than “propaganda”, I do think the article leans towards an understanding of Israel, and too much of a closed case against Iran (and the possibility of a military strike). The best way to form an opinion, however, is to read it yourself; because whatever you may think of it, it’s definitely the most consequential piece on this looming crisis you’ll read in a while.
For the Obama administration, the prospect of a nuclearized Iran is dismal to contemplate— it would create major new national-security challenges and crush the president’s dream of ending nuclear proliferation. But the view from Jerusalem is still more dire: a nuclearized Iran represents, among other things, a threat to Israel’s very existence. In the gap between Washington’s and Jerusalem’s views of Iran lies the question: who, if anyone, will stop Iran before it goes nuclear, and how? As Washington and Jerusalem study each other intensely, here’s an inside look at the strategic calculations on both sides—and at how, if things remain on the current course, an Israeli air strike will unfold.
It is possible that at some point in the next 12 months, the imposition of devastating economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran will persuade its leaders to cease their pursuit of nuclear weapons.It is also possible that Iran’s reform-minded Green Movement will somehow replace the mullah-led regime, or at least discover the means to temper the regime’s ideological extremism. It is possible, as well, that “foiling operations” conducted by the intelligence agencies of Israel, the United States, Great Britain, and other Western powers—programs designed to subvert the Iranian nuclear effort through sabotage and, on occasion, the carefully engineered disappearances of nuclear scientists—will have hindered Iran’s progress in some significant way. It is also possible that President Obama, who has said on more than a few occasions that he finds the prospect of a nuclear Iran “unacceptable,” will order a military strike against the country’s main weapons and uranium-enrichment facilities.
But none of these things—least of all the notion that Barack Obama, for whom initiating new wars in the Middle East is not a foreign-policy goal, will soon order the American military into action against Iran—seems, at this moment, terribly likely. What is more likely, then, is that one day next spring, the Israeli national-security adviser, Uzi Arad, and the Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, will simultaneously telephone their counterparts at the White House and the Pentagon, to inform them that their prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has just ordered roughly one hundred F-15Es, F-16Is, F-16Cs, and other aircraft of the Israeli air force to fly east toward Iran—possibly by crossing Saudi Arabia, possibly by threading the border between Syria and Turkey, and possibly by traveling directly through Iraq’s airspace, though it is crowded with American aircraft.
When the Israelis begin to bomb the uranium-enrichment facility at Natanz, the formerly secret enrichment site at Qom, the nuclear-research center at Esfahan, and possibly even the Bushehr reactor, along with the other main sites of the Iranian nuclear program, a short while after they depart en masse from their bases across Israel—regardless of whether they succeed in destroying Iran’s centrifuges and warhead and missile plants, or whether they fail miserably to even make a dent in Iran’s nuclear program—they stand a good chance of changing the Middle East forever; of sparking lethal reprisals, and even a full-blown regional war that could lead to the deaths of thousands of Israelis and Iranians, and possibly Arabs and Americans as well; of creating a crisis for Barack Obama that will dwarf Afghanistan in significance and complexity; of rupturing relations between Jerusalem and Washington, which is Israel’s only meaningful ally; of inadvertently solidifying the somewhat tenuous rule of the mullahs in Tehran; of causing the price of oil to spike to cataclysmic highs, launching the world economy into a period of turbulence not experienced since the autumn of 2008, or possibly since the oil shock of 1973; of placing communities across the Jewish diaspora in mortal danger, by making them targets of Iranian-sponsored terror attacks, as they have been in the past, in a limited though already lethal way; and of accelerating Israel’s conversion from a once-admired refuge for a persecuted people into a leper among nations.
Even though Guantánamo Bay detainees were consistently referred to by the Bush administration as ‘the worst of the worst’, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld knew that hundreds of them were innocent. This reports The Times, on the basis of a new document containing a declaration of a senior aide to Secretary of State Colin Powell, Lawrence Wilkerson.
George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld covered upthat hundreds of innocent menwere sent to the Guantánamo Bay prison campbecause they feared that releasing them would harm the push for war in Iraq and the broader War on Terror, according to a new document obtained by The Times.
The accusations were made by Lawrence Wilkerson, a top aide to Colin Powell, the former Republican Secretary of State, in a signed declaration to support a lawsuit filed by a Guantánamo detainee. It is the first time that such allegations have been made by a senior member of the Bush Administration.
Colonel Wilkerson, who was General Powell’s chief of staff when he ran the State Department, was most critical of Mr Cheney and Mr Rumsfeld. He claimed that the former Vice-President and Defence Secretary knew that the majority of the initial 742 detainees sent to Guantánamo in 2002 were innocent but believed that it was “politically impossible to release them”.
General Powell, who left the Bush Administration in 2005, angry about the misinformation that he unwittingly gave the world when he made the case for the invasion of Iraq at the UN, is understood to have backed Colonel Wilkerson’s declaration.
Colonel Wilkerson, a long-time critic of the Bush Administration’s approach to counter-terrorism and the war in Iraq, claimed that the majority of detainees — children as young as 12 and men as old as 93, he said — never saw a US soldier when they were captured. He said that many were turned over by Afghans and Pakistanis for up to $5,000. Little or no evidence was produced as to why they had been taken.
Referring to Mr Cheney, Colonel Wilkerson, who served 31 years in the US Army, asserted: “He had absolutely no concern that the vast majority of Guantánamo detainees were innocent … If hundreds of innocent individuals had to suffer in order to detain a handful of hardcore terrorists, so be it.”
He alleged that for Mr Cheney and Mr Rumsfeld “innocent people languishing in Guantánamo for years was justified by the broader War on Terror and the small number of terrorists who were responsible for the September 11 attacks”.
He added: “I discussed the issue of the Guantánamo detainees with Secretary Powell. I learnt that it was his view that it was not just Vice-President Cheney and Secretary Rumsfeld, but also President Bush who was involved in all of the Guantánamo decision making.”
A spokesman for Mr Bush said of Colonel Wilkerson’s allegations: “We are not going to have any comment on that.” A former associate to Mr Rumsfeld said that Mr Wilkerson’s assertions were completely untrue.
Of course, in a war zone, people get killed. This unfortunately includes civilians as well. To prevent the latter from happening as much as possible, certain rules have been enacted, such as the law of war, and more specifically for the U.S. Army, rules of engagement. The latter states, for example, that an actor must display hostile activity in order for it to be engaged. If a military force blatantly violates these rules, there’s a crime; and if this same military force tries to cover up this crime, that counts double.
Now it’s still possible that the WikiLeaks video is a fake. But if it’s not, well, then this deserves the broadest public attention possible. Please help along by distributing this video to everyone you know.
Three points about this that I find particularly disturbing. One is that if this is authentic, you have military personnel killing people without making any reference to the rules of engagement. The confusion or whatever about the weapons is bad enough, but the people on this recording don’t seem to have any idea what the rules of engagement they’re supposed to be operating under are, or else they don’t care. This obviously raises the question ofhow many broadly parallel incidents there have been that haven’t come to light since they haven’t happened to have involved a Reuters employee.
The second is that according to WikiLeaks “Reuters has been trying to obtain the video through the Freedom of Information Act, without success since the time of the attack.” That appears to indicate a deliberate cover-up of the incident by the relevant officials at the Pentagon. And that, again, obviously raises the question of how many broadly parallel incidents there have been that haven’t come to light since they haven’t happened to have involved a Reuters employee.
Last is the incredible paucity of media attention given to this incident. You have what appears to be criminal activity by American soldiers and what appears to be a coverup perpetrated by someone and . . . nobody cares. Normally when General Petraeus sneezes, dozens of reporters spring into action.
Deze video zou oorspronkelijk door het Pentagon worden vrijgegeven, maar werd ingetrokken omdat hij te controversieel was. WikiLeaks heeft er desondanks toch de hand op weten te leggen.
De beelden zijn gruwelijk. Wat je ziet is zwart-en-witte footage vanuit een Apache-helikopter, met beelden van een groepje mensen dat over straat loopt. De piloten vragen toestemming om te vuren, en krijgen deze gelijk. Bam, groepje opgeblazen, twaalf mensen dood. Wat blijkt? Eén van de slachtoffers is Reuters-fotograaf Namir Noor-Eldeen (22); de piloten hadden zijn camera voor een wapen aangezien. De rest was zijn chauffeur, en onschuldige burgers.
Na het schieten ontwikkelt zich een conversatie: “Look at those dead bastards”, zegt de ene piloot. “Nice”, zegt de andere. Ze zien een gewonde man die over de grond kruipt, en hopen dat hij een wapen pakt, zodat ze terug kunnen schieten. “All you gotta do is pick up a weapon”, zegt een piloot.
Later komt er een busje aanrijden om de gewonden op te pikken. De piloten (“Come on, let us shoot!”) openen het vuur, waarbij ze meer mensen doden en twee kinderen die binnen zitten verwonden. “Well, it’s their fault for bringing their kids into battle”, is de respons.
Als daarna een Amerikaans gepantserd voertuig over één van de lijken heen lijkt te rijden, zegt een piloot grinnikend: “I think they just drove over a body”.
Zie de video hier (let op, het is echt shockerend).
The Web site WikiLeaks.org released a graphic video on Monday showing an American helicopter shooting and killing a Reuters photographer and driver in a July 2007 attack in Baghdad.
A senior American military official confirmed that the video was authentic.
Reuters had long pressed for the release of the video, which consists of 38 minutes of black-and-white aerial video and conversations between pilots in two Apache helicopters as they open fire on people on a street in Baghdad. The attack killed 12, among them the Reuters photographer, Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, and the driver, Saeed Chmagh, 40.
At a news conference at the National Press Club, WikiLeaks said it had acquired the video from whistle-blowers in the military and viewed it after breaking the encryption code. WikiLeaks edited the video to 17 minutes.
David Schlesinger, the editor in chief of Reuters news, said in a statement that the video was “graphic evidence of the dangers involved in war journalism and the tragedies that can result.”
Reuters said at the time that the two men had been working on a report about weightlifting when they heard about a military raid in the neighborhood, and decided to drive there to check it out.
“There had been reports of clashes between U.S. forces and insurgents in the area but there was no fighting on the streets in which Namir was moving about with a group of men,” Reuters wrote in 2008. “It is believed two or three of these men may have been carrying weapons, although witnesses said none were assuming a hostile posture at the time.”
The American military in Baghdad investigated the episode and concluded that the forces involved had no reason to know that there were Reuters employees in the group. No disciplinary action was taken..
De Nederlandse ex-hacker en oprichter van Xs4all Rop Gonggrijp blijkt een belangrijke rol te hebben gehad in deze WikiLeak! Check z’n persoonlijke verslag hier: http://rop.gonggri.jp/?p=149
This is good news. One question I have is what the actual numbers are. And whether the specific results of the parliamentary election will not lead to further instability. As documented by political scientist Jack Snyder in From Voting to Violence, young democracies have a tendency to go down in flames exactly because of the centrifugal tendencies that the process of democratization unleashes. That is why Iraq urgently needs stable institutions, such as a government apparatus, police and military.
The picture above happily reminds me, by the way, of the Green Movement in neighbouring Iran.
Defying a sustained barrage of mortars and rockets in Baghdad and other cities, Iraqis went to the polls in strengthon Sunday to choose a new Parliament meant to outlast the American military presence here.
Insurgents here vowed to disrupt the election, and the concerted wave of attacks — as many as 100 thunderous blasts in the capital alone starting just before the polls opened — did frighten voters away, but only initially.
The shrugging response of voters could signal a fundamental weakening of the insurgency’s potency. At least 38 people were killed in Baghdad. But by day’s end, turnout was higher than expected, and certainly higher than in the last parliamentary election in 2005, marred by a similar level of violence.
Official results are not expected for at least a few days.
The short and fierce political campaign could end up either solidifying Iraq’s nascent democracy or leaving the country fractured along ethnic and sectarian lines. But it was arguably the most open, most competitive election in the nation’s long history of colonial rule, dictatorship and war.
Despite a long delay, disputes over candidates’ qualifications, arrests, assassinations and finally an all-out assault by insurgents on Sunday morning, the election took place with only a few reports of irregularities. And by Sunday night, a rarity was emerging in a region dominated by authoritarian governments: an election cliffhanger.
After the polls closed at 5 p.m., party leaders said two coalitions seemed to have fared best: the one led by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, who has campaigned for a second time on improved security in Iraq, and another led by the former interim leader, Ayad Allawi, who has promised to overcome Iraq’s sectarian divides.
As expected, neither coalition appeared to have secured an outright majority in the new 325-member Parliament, and so it was unclear whether Mr. Maliki had succeeded in winning another four years in office.
That sets the stage for a period of turmoil — months, not weeks, politicians here predict — as the winning coalition tries to cobble together enough votes to elect a prime minister.
The insurgents still fighting in today’s Iraq face a far stronger government, capable now of saturating the country with police officers and soldiers. Even more important, they face an Iraqi people far less willing to support, or even sympathize with, violent resistance against the country’s democratic government.
Iraqis, seemingly inured to violence, even mocked the attacks.
“We have experienced three wars before,” Ahmed Ali, a supporter of Mr. Maliki, said in Ur, “so it was just the play of children that we heard.”
Weer een leuk nieuw puntje op de cv van Jan-Peter Balkenende: de enige premier in de Nederlandse geschiedenis die te maken krijgt met een tegen hem persoonlijk gerichte motie van wantrouwen. Ach ja. De vraag is wanneer Balkenende inziet dat zijn legitimiteit als premier tot op het nulpunt is gedaald.
“Adequater” betekent dat het volkenrechtelijk mandaat al adequaat (geschikt) was, maar dat het nog adequat-er had gekund. Oftewel: volgens het kabinet was er wél een volkenrechtelijk mandaat voor de Irak-oorlog, maar had dat nog iets sterker kunnen zijn.
Daarmee hebben, formeel gezien, het CDA en Balkenende het pleit alsnog gewonnen. Het kabinet gaat niet akkoord met de commissie-Davids, en houdt vol dat er wél een volkenrechtelijk mandaat was. Resultaat van een gereformeerd juridisch taalspelletje van Balkenende. Typisch PvdA dat ze er toch weer in mee zijn gegaan.
Natuurlijk is dit volslagen idioot. Zoals Davids zelf al zei, je moet de rechtsgeleerden die het hiermee eens zijn met een lampje zoeken. Je kunt het ook zelf lezen in resolutie 1441: als je denkt dat “serious consequences” betekent “inval, oorlog en semi-permanente bezetting”, soit. Gelukkig heeft Balkenende de slag in de media verloren: kranten rapporteren dat het CDA een “knieval” gemaakt heeft, dat de PvdA ”gewonnen” heeft, etc. Niet waar, maar in ieder geval wel een mooi beeld. Desondanks zou het aardig zijn als het CDA en Balkenende eens een geweten zouden ontwikkelen. Nu nog steeds volhouden dat je goed zat met de Irak-oorlog is, nou ja, jammer.