Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Next time, let her speak in a barn




If you see someone shot dead in front of you on a city block and you turn that into "Person falls," you're stupid, you're useless and you should probably limit your social contacts because you have nothing to offer to anyone. Meet Reuters and AFP. They're wire services, supposely reporting news. But you wouldn't know that when they fail to cover what happens accurately.
Nouri al-Maliki has yet again claimed power he doesn't have. That's the story unless you're being willfully stupid. If you're being willfully stupid -- like Reuters and AFP -- you instead 'report' that the Cabinet has decided to bar three Iraqiya ministers.
There is no such power in the Constitution. If you want to get rid of minister, you have to go through Parliament. There is no power to put a minister on suspension or to block them or to penalize them. They are a minister or they are not one.
Saddam Hussein wouldn't have risen to power if the press had done their watchdog role. But they don't do it. And they waste everyone's time with nonsense and garbage while at the same time allowing Nouri to break the laws. Again.
Nouri's position allows him to nominate people to head ministries and they become ministers if Parliament then agrees with the nomination and votes in favor of it. Then they are ministers and remain ministers unless/until (a) they die while serving, (b) they choose to resign or (c) the prime minister asks Parliament to remove them and Parliament agrees to. That process was not followed. Nouri has yet again refused to follow the law.
The Minister of Finance Rafie al-Esawi, the Minister of Science and Technology Abdul Karim Ali Yasin al-Samarrai and the Minister of Education Dr. Mohammed Ali Mohammed Tamim Jubouri. Reuters identifies al-Esawi but fails to identify the other two. Were the posts barred? No, the people were. So your job, pay attention, requires that you name the three. Those are the three (if Reuters identified the offices correctly -- big if judging by their other work today). [Reuters is capable of much stronger reporting -- see this piece on the drone war by former New York Times correspondent David Rohde.]
When Nouri breaks the law and/or circumvents the Constitution, if the press doesn't call him out, a message is sent. And it's the same little pieces of encouragement that helped create Saddam Hussein. That's not to let the US government off the hook (Saddam Hussein was a US ally for years) but it is noting that the press has tremendous power -- or rather the potential for tremendous power -- which is repeatedly fails to use. There's a reason for the current crawl across al-Samarrai's website but the press can't tell you that because the press can't even tell you his name.
We explained how this works (or doesn't) January 4th:
Today Nouri manages to break the Constitution again. Khalid Al Ansary and Nayla Razzouk (Bloomberg News) report that he placed "all eight government ministers from the Sunni Muslim-backed al-Iraqiya alliance on leave" according to his spokesperon Ali al-Musawi. Where in the country's constitution does that power exist?
Oh, right, it doesn't. Those eight ministers were confirmed in their posts by Parliament (in other words they're not 'acting' anything, they are the ministers, per the Constitution). His only power after a minister is confirmed by Parliament? Outlined in Article 75:
The Prime Minister is the direct executive authority responsible for the general policy of the State and the commander in chief of the armed forces. He directs the Council of Ministers, and presides over its meetings and has the right to dismiss the Ministers on the consent of the Council of Representatives.
He is not allowed to strip a minister of their post without the consent of Parliament. Iraqiya has been boycotting the Cabinet and Parliament -- this started last month over the failure of Nouri to live up to the Erbil Agreement that ended the eight month political stalemate following the March 2010 elections. If Nouri now wants the ministers dismissed -- for any reason -- he needs to go to Parliament.
He has no right to put them on "leave." There is nothing in the Constitution that gives him this right. Per the Constitution, a Minister can only be stripped of their post (which would include their duties) if the Parliament agrees to it. The Parliament still hasn't set a date on hearing Nouri's demand from last month (December 17th) that Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq be stripped of his post. They certainly haven't agreed to strip eight ministers of their post.

Since then, Al Mada has quoted Nouri's advisor Adel Berwari admitting that Nouri doesn't have the power to replace ministers. Nor does he have the power to suspend or bar them. If Baghdad had a functioning and independent court, the smartest thing for any of the three would be to file charges against Nouri on this issue and a real court would rule that "barring" a minister is the same as "firing" one, that the Constitution outlines how you remove a minister and that the process has not been followed. Martin Chulov (Guardian) offers this analysis of the political crisis:

The move by the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, in mid-December against the country's Sunni vice-president, Tariq al-Hashemi, was always going to be provocative. Maliki, who in a recent interview said his primary identity was Shia, insists Hashemi was directing hit squads. He said he had known about the vice-president's "terror activities" for years, but had waited for the right time to go after him. The moment he chose could not have been more potent – the US army had hardly shut the gate into Kuwait behind them. The remaining strongman in town was marking his patch. The rest of Iraq would have to live with it.
Maliki would surely have expected a backlash. He has never been popular with the country's disenfranchised Sunnis and has had a workable, though strained, relationship with the increasingly disengaged Kurds. Yet he doesn't seem to have factored in the strength of the resentment -- and its capacity to seriously undermine the power base he seems intent on building for himself.
Iraq now finds itself at a juncture that in many ways is more dangerous and instructive than the darkest days of 2006, when all remnants of state control crumbled as sectarian war took hold. Back then there was no expectation the state could lead Iraq to a better place. Six years on, and with violence much lower, Iraqis have even less faith in the state, despite it being much better placed -- at face value -- to provide for its citizens.
A political crisis is a serious issue and it does matter whether or not the law is followed. Reporters do no one any favors by refusing to note when someone attempts a power-grab.
AP doesn't give a number of ministers 'suspended' but their report indicates it was more than three and they quote Iraqiya spokesperson Maysoun Damluji stating, "It's an escalation by al-Maliki to push Iraqiya away."
Nouri kicked off the political crisis last month by demanding that Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq be stripped of his post and that al-Hashemi be charged with terrorism. Both al-Mutlaq and al-Hashemi are members of Iraqiya, Nouri's political rivals and the political slate that came in first place in the March 2010 elections. Gavriel Queenann (Israel National News) reports that Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq is calling for Nouri to step down and quotes him stating, "The longer Al Maliki stays in power, the higher the possibility of a divided Iraq."
Al Mannarah's Talk interviews Iraqi Vice President Tareqq al-Hashemi and the first question is, if you're innocent why did you flee arrest? al-Hashemi explains he did not run away (he went to the KRG for meetings, after he was in the KRG, the arrest warrant was issued, he's remained in the KRG since). On holding a trial in Baghdad, he states he doesn't trust the Baghdad judiciary. He is asked why the call for transferring the hearing to Erbil switched to Kirkuk and he explains that Baghdad and Kirkuk are part of the same legal system while the KRG is an independent judiciary (apparently meaning, Kirkuk would just require a transfer of locations; whereas Erbil couldn't execute a trial based on charges from Baghdad). But if Baghdad and Kirkuk are under the same umbrella, why not the same concerns about Kirkuk that he has regarding Baghdad? He replies that Kirkuk (and the judiciary in Kirkuk) has its own security operations and is not dependent upon Nouri for security. He states he doesn't trust the government, meaning Nouri al-Maliki, and that Nouri cannot tolerate opposition voices, Nouri can't stomach criticism of his failed administration. He notes the human rights violations that take place in Iraq under Nouri's leadership. He does not call Nouri a dictator when asked, saying that they would have to agree on the definition first.

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