(Update — I’ll be on with Johnny Wendell, subbing for Randi Rhodes, on KTLK at 12 noon PT/3 pm ET. You can listen here — JH)
Reports this morning indicate that various factions in Iraq have reached a tentative agreement on the framework for resolving at least two issues — easing up on deBaathification and release of some prisoners held by the US. From the Washington Post:
Iraq’s top five political leaders announced an agreement Sunday night to release thousands of prisoners being held without charge and to reform the law that has kept thousands of members of Saddam Hussein’s political party out of government jobs.
The agreement was publicized after several days of meetings between Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite; President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd; Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, a Sunni; Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi, a Shiite; and Massoud Barzani, president of the semiautonomous Kurdish region.
The Reuter’s version has an important difference:
Although they did not announce details, they said they had agreed on a mechanism for releasing detainees, the text of a law on distributing oil revenue and measures to readmit former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party to public life. [bold mine]
I haven’t seen confirmation that the agreement extends to oil revenues. Neither the NYT or the AP version, which notes that the meetings were overseen by Ambassador Crocker, mentions oil revenues, but AP says this:
But no details were released and committees must hash out final versions of legislation to be presented to parliament. Iraqi officials have announced similar deals in the past, only to have them fall apart.
So they got help from the media.
Tim Russert was his usual self, giving Tom Ricks, Michael Gordon, and Richard Engel a platform. Ricks was sane, suggesting we may be in Act III of a five-act tragedy, but Engel opined that if the Democrats force troop withdrawals, the troops would be angry at them for making them give up the security gains they had just made. Putting aside whether the Iraqis believe these “security gains” have improved or worsened their lives, apparently it is the Democrats’ fault that every US General we have is now talking about how many troops we have to withdraw because the increased numbers of the surge are simply not sustainable and are breaking the Army. When Tim asked how the “gains” could be sustained given the limited number of soldiers, or whether the so called “gains” in Anbar posed a risk of arming Sunnis to war against the central government, Gordon, always the Administration shill, ducked and talked about something else, with no follow up from Russert.
On CNN’s This Week At War, an Administration Pentagon spokesman simply lied and smiled as he did so. He claimed that the corruption in economic development contracts applied only to the Iraqis and not to Americans or their contractors, all the GAO Reports and reporting by Matt Ortega and others notwithstanding. There was no pushback. When he was asked about Iraqi living conditions, he gave a typical evasive non-answer, noting that the US had completed many new projects for electricity and water treatment, etc., as CNN dutifully showed us where these might be on the map, so we’re making progress, right? In the following segment, the host interviewed a woman with relatives in Iraq, and she reminded us what has been confirmed elsewhere, that the water is bad and makes their kids sick and that most folks don’t get more than a few hours of electricity a week, unless they tap into private generators. CNN’s host never challenged the smirking Administration official’s evasions nor did he make any effort to reconcile the two contradictory segments.
It was left to the erratic Michael Ware to piece the bits together by suggesting that the so-called “progress” in Anbar Province, the center piece of the Administration’s claims that “the surge is working,” had nothing to do with the increased troop levels or Petraeus’ military genius. The Sunni tribal leaders who chose to work with US forces did so because Petraeus accepted a risky deal that American commanders and the White House had rejected for years: let the Sunnis run Western Iraq as a quasi-autonomous province, and keep the Central Government and its mostly-Shia-militia army out of their territories, and the Sunnis will stop fighting us and fight al Qaeda in their province. Of course, this means that Petraeus has given up on central government control of Anbar and acquiesced in a de facto partition, while counting this as “progress.”
I have not seen this deal explicitly articulated anywhere, but a few commentators, including Ware are now describing pieces of this elephant. Moreover, while Anbar “progress” is heralded as a model, it has not sunk in that this deal cannot easily be replicated elsewhere; Anbar is almost entirely Sunni, whereas many of the areas in and around Baghdad and northern cities began as highly mixed neighborhoods. In those areas, the pace of “sectarian cleansing” seems to be accelerating.
The National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), a pile of obscure imprecision crafted to avoid saying anything clearly, while being essentially useless as an “intelligence” analysis that can only be deciphered by people like emptywheel, contained only a hint of this when it talked vaguely about “internal displacement,” without ever connecting the dots. But the more disturbing reality is that for reasons not entirely clear, the pace of internal displacement — Iraqis fleeing their homes to save their lives — has doubled since the surge began. If the surge were honestly portrayed as having contributed to forcing over a half million Iraqis to flee from their homes, only the White House neocons who place no value on the lives of individual Iraqis would call this “progress.”
Logan Murphy at C&L sums it up:
Iraqis are dying at double the pace of last year, the Iraqi prison population has risen 50% since the surge began, U.S. troops deaths are up and the Iraqi government has collapsed. Never mind the millions of refugees who have fled to neighboring countries, the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis living in tent cities, no fresh, running water, an electrical grid on the verge of collapse, in Bushworld, this is called progress. We’re turning the corner…
Logan forgot to mention we’ve given up on democracy, but since the Democratic front runner thinks it’s just fine to call for the removal of Iraq’s head of government, I guess we’re not supposed to care about that. I’m just trying to figure out what Hillary Clinton was talking about when she lectured Obama about how experienced and serious Presidential candidates discuss our relations with sovereign governments. Either Hillary just committed a serious blunder — why has there been virtual silence on this? — or she really meant to convey that she and her advisers are just as irresponsible and opportunistic as her crazy Republican rivals.
Photo from viviloob’s photostream, at flickr.