Monday, November 07, 2011

Some wisdom offered



This is how centrist liberals make themselves complicit in the indefensible.

These are the sorts of treatments that permit well-educated Obama supporters to evade certain uncomfortable truths, like the fact that the president to whom they'll give campaign contributions and votes violated the War Powers Resolution when he invaded Libya; that in doing so he undermined the Office of Legal Counsel, weakening a prudential restraint on executive power; that from the outset he misled Congress and the public about the likely duration of the conflict; that the humanitarian impulse alleged to prompt the intervention somehow evaporated when destitute refugees from that war were drowning in the Mediterranean.

In saying that Obama has "awakened to the miserable realities of Pakistan and Iran," Remnick elides an undeclared drone war that is destabilizing a nuclear power, the horrific humanitarian and strategic costs of which Jane Mayer documents at length in The New Yorker; "Obama is responsible for an aggressive assault on Al Qaeda, including the killing of bin Laden, in Pakistan, and of Anwar al-Awlaki, in Yemen," Remnick writes, never hinting that al-Awlaki was an American citizen killed by a president asserting the unchecked write to put people on an assassination list that requires no due process or judicial review, and that the administration justifies with legal reasoning that it refuses to make public. "He has drawn down forces in Iraq and Afghanistan," Remnick writes, obscuring the fact that there are many more troops in Afghanistan than when Obama took office, and that in Iraq he has merely stuck to the timetable for withdrawal established by the Bush Administration, after unsuccessfully lobbying the government of Iraq to permit US troops to stay longer -- instead, he plans to increase the presence of American troops elsewhere in the Persian Gulf, and to leave in Iraq a huge presence of State Department employees and private security.


Turning to the ongoing Turkish military assault on northern Iraq, Saturday Aswat al-Iraq reports, "Kurdistan president Masoud Barzani stressed with Turkish President Abdullah Gul the necessity to solve all problems by peaceful means and dialogue within bilateral relations framework, according to Kurdish government electronic site today." The Kurdistan Regional Government is a semi-autonomous region in northern Iraq. Turkey borders it from the north. The problems between the two governments start with the fact that Turkey doesn't want the KRG to exist and fears it fuels dreams and hopes for Kurds within Turkey.

The Kurds are said to be the largest ethnic minority on the globe without a homeland. Amar C. Bakshi (CNN) observes, "As way of very brief background, the Kurdish people are the largest ethnic group without a state. After World War I, when great powers careved up the Middle East, the Kurds, riven by internal strife at the time, did not get a seat at the table. In turn, they did not get a state on the map." Many groups fight for Kurdish independence. Among those are the PKK. Throughout the Iraq War, the Turkish military has bombed northern Iraq with the latest wave of attacks beginning on August 17th and they intensified last month. The Turkish government has maintained the attacks are targeting the PKK. Over the weekend, Bayram Kaya (Today's Zaman) reports, "A special ops unit of the National Police Department was recently sent to northern Iraq to capture or kill the senior leaders of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), the National Police Department has said." Al Mada reports that PKK is warning that a civil war may break out. That's only one of the potential threats in the news cycle. Today Richard Spencer (Telegraph of London) reports that 24 PKK who were killed October 19th left behind corpses with burns which appear to indicate "that some chemical agent was used. Their claim has now been raised by MPs from the legal pro-Kurdish party, the BDP, and tkaen up by the Turkish Human Rights Association (IHD)." Ruwayda Mustafah Rabar (Kurdish Rights) notes, "In 2010, Kurdish activists sent numerous photos of PKK rebels that were similarly maimed, scorched and barely recognisable to German experts." And Hans Baumann found it "highly probable" that the Turkish military had used "chemical substances" in those attacks.
At The Daily Beast, Owen Matthews writes on behalf of destruction and ignorance, stamping his feet and insisting, "The PKK started it!" That's not really how it happens. In his one-sided view he insists that the PKK has "forced the depopulation of millions of villagers into the cities." That would be Turkey. Set aside the PKK's issues and Turkey's issue. The Iraqi people living in the villages of the northern Iraq mountains are innocent victims. They've done nothing to either side. But the Turkish military saw fit to bomb their homes and now Iraq has even more internal refugees than it did before. That's not the PKK, that's the Turkish military. Matthews doesn't grasp that, doesn't grasp the roots of rebellion or anything to do with it which is how he mischaracterizes the IRA. (Click here for the University of Ulster's professor Paul Arthur explaining in great detail the IRA and the struggle for independence in Ireland for PBS' Frontline.) And just as it's not the PKK turning Iraqis into internal refugees, it's not the PKK rounding up people in Turkey. Wade Jefferson (Kurdish Rights) reports on his father-in-law being rounded up in Istanbul, targeted with other intellecturals, on Friday:
My father-in-law was one of fifty people arrested on Friday morning, and while the police were civil at his house -- calling him beyefendi (sir) and taking care not to break anything -- in other parts of Turkey they kicked in doors and turned homes inside out. The detainees are all members of the Kurdish-affiliated BDP party -- all minor party officials and academics. They were not all Kurdish either. One of the arrests was Professor Büşra Ersanlı -- a sixty-one year old woman. She is distinctly Turkish, a liberal constitutional law professor and a member of the BDP's constitutional commission -- and therefore a person who could have challenged the ruling party when the new constitution is drawn up later this year. Another is Ragıp Zarakolu -- a sixty-three year old publisher and human rights activist. All are charged with membership in 'a terrorist organization', namely the KCK -- the supposed urban arm of the PKK. This is only the latest round of arrests. The government has been chipping away at the BDP for a while now. 7798 party members have been taken into custody -- from mayors to city council chairs to members of parliament. 3939 of those have been formally charged and are now waiting in prison for trial.
The reality is that the Turkish government holds the power. They can include or exclude. They've made a point to exclude Kurds. The minute they offer Kurds full citizenship, full inclusion, there's little reason for the PKK to exist. But they're rather drop bombs, conduct raids, murder and kill then successfully end the Kurdish quest for inclusion. It's their decision and their choices have brought the situation to where it now stands.
Dropping back to October 30th for WPIX's News Closeup interview with the Los Angeles Times' Ned Parker who is currently an Edward R. Murrow Press Fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations.
Marvin Scott: This week, a group of senators, mostly Republicans have called for full hearings on the president's decision to withdraw from Iraq. Do you feel from your experience there, what you've seen and observed that the timing is right for American troops to withdraw?
Ned Parker: Well I think a big part of the equation of why there was this announcement is that Iraq made the decision for US troops to leave if they were not willing to stay without immunity. So it was as much an Iraqi decision really as it was an American one.
Marvin Scott: Now the president made it sound like it was his decision to pull them out. Originally, he wanted to remove troops in 2010 and, originally, this was a campaign promise to remove all forces. But actually, it goes back to 2008, it was a decision by President Bush and they set the December 31st as the deadline. Isn't that correct?
Ned Parker: Exactly. They did. And you can really trace the departure of US troops this year to the decisions made under the Bush administration meaning that there was a decision then -- the signing of the Status Of Forces Agreement for US forces to leave at the end of this year and also in terms of these questions of influence and how much influence US forces could have on the ground really with the original agreement it declared that all infantry troops had to be out of the cities by June 2009. So many people feel that was really the moment where America lost a lot of its leverage to intervene on the ground in ways that it hoped would promote stability in Iraq.
Marvin Scott: So we're not actually leaving on our own. In essence, we're being pushed out, aren't we?
Ned Parker: I wouldn't say pushed. It's more about the Iraqi internal debate as much as it is about America. Now I think most Iraqi political factions would still like the Americans to stay because they see the Americans in some way as an honest broker for better or worse. I don't think there's any Iraqi side that looks at America 100% as a great friend. I think there's a lot of pain and humiliation for Iraqis over the course of the nine years just because there was a lot of violence during that time. Despite that, America is seen though as the closet thing to an honest broker. The reason why Iraqis couldn't come to an agreement on having America stay was because of the nastiness of the current Iraqi political scene, the competitions between the prime minister in Iraq and his rivals.
Negotiations are ongoing between the US and Iraq. Over the weekend,
Al Sabaah quoted an MP (unnamed) with State of Law insisting that the security ministries are working on a plan for the country and that they will need US military help with intelligence efforts as well as for logistical support and that the purchase of weapons will also mean the need for training and maintenance via US troops. Nouri and Barack meet face-to-face in DC next month. Aswat al-Iraq reports:

Al-Alawi pointed out to Aswat al-Iraq that "there are pending dossiers, such as the present political crisis, the security situation following the withdrawal, immunity to trainers, latest developments on regions' questions", but he added that "the visit should come out with something new".
The White House announced that Premier Maliki will visit Washington on 12 December next upon an invitation by President Barrack Obama.
He elaborated that both sides will "reconsider the situation if the armed group found a way after US withdrawal".
Meanwhile as provinces explore becoming semi-autonomous, Al Sabaah reports that Nouri thinks he can alter the Constitution via his Council of Ministers. At question is Article 119 of the Constitution which covers how a province can become independent. The Council has written their own new bill and intend to force Parliament to vote on it. Another power grab by Nouri. Al Mada notes that the country is in the midst of a political crisis with no end in sight. This is Political Stalemate II. Nouri's refusal to abide by the outcome of the election and surrender the post of prime minister caused Political Stalemate I which only ended (November 2010) when the political blocs met up in Erbil and ironed out an agreement where everyone made concessions. This agreement is known as the Erbil Agreement. Upon all parties signing off, Parliament held their first real session in over eight months and Nouri was named prime minister-designate (Jalal Talabani would wait over a week to name him that 'officially' in order to give Nouri more time to put together a Cabinet.) Upon getting what he wanted, Nouri went on to trash the agreement. This is the start of Political Stalemate II which has continued since. The National Alliance, Iraqiya and the Kurdish politicians (except for Goran) have called for a return to the Erbil Agreement.

Sam Dagher (Wall St. Journal) reports on the continued stalemate and notes Nouri is firing people from the security and targeting people with arrests and "At the same time, Mr. Maliki is delaying appointments to top posts that oversee the security forces, now almost one-million strong including the army and police. Mr. Maliki continues to run the ministries of defense, interior and national security himself or through party and sectarian allies, contravening an agreement with Sunni-dominated and Kurdish political blocs that formed the current coalition government more than 10 months ago." Alsumaria TV reports Ayad Allawi is calling for the UN to appoint a human rights minister in Iraq. Congress should echo that call.

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