Well, it’s been another week – and we’re still on the Residual Troops Watch. Another week with no word from the big three campaigns on their plans to leave residual troops in Iraq after/if they become president. Plans for ending the occupation are central to our choice of a candidate and yet Clinton, Obama and Edwards still refuse to answer: “How many, how long?”
Senator Dodd also has not answered but he gets props for working hard to move the Senate to refuse to give George another blank check and he still needs our help. Governor Richardson remains the only major candidate who has made his plans for Iraq crystal clear – all troops out, no residual forces.
Seems like the voters deserve a clear answer on this – and that some candidates really don’t want to give one. Wonder why that is….
Meanwhile back in the real world outside the Petraeus bubble, US supply lines look shakier than ever, devastated Iraqi families die and flee, Cholera is spreading across Iraqi governates, and Baghdad, like Falluja, has been “pacified” by turning this once vibrant city into a collection of virtual prison neighborhoods.
Iraqis entered the month of Ramadan with hope of one good development. US and Iraqi officials had promised to release detainees, held without trial or charges. While some releases are occurring, Azzaman notes that the numbers are very low compared to the total of 100,000 held:
With the advent of the holy month of Ramadan, many hoped U.S. and Iraqi authorities would settle the issue of tens of thousand of Iraqi prisoners.
U.S. troops hold 23,600 Iraqis almost all of them without trial. The U.S. has promised to release 50 of them every day throughout Ramadan.
But the U.S. is not the only authority with the right to jail Iraqis. Iraqi armed forces and police can also imprison Iraqis without trail and informed sources say there are more than 82,000 Iraqis in government jails.
Prisoners have become one of the thorniest issues blocking the path to reconciliation with government opponents, particularly the Sunnis demanding the immediate release of all those who have not been convicted of a crime.
But neither the U.S. nor the government is willing to heed the Sunni demand.
The government has only agreed to release 200 on the occasion of the holy month and the U.S. has accepted to free about 1,500.
Most of these prisoners are snatched from their families or haphazardly arrested during military campaigns or on checkpoints.
The Justice Ministry is increasing the pressure on the Iraqi government, U.S. troops and Kurdish authorities to let a high judicial commission examine the files of all prisoners.
The ministry would like the commission to have the prerogative to set all the prisoners who have not been convicted free and expedite the trial of those accused of committing a crime.
Strange how all the benchmarks touted by Washington insiders skip such simple goalposts as basic legal protections for Iraqis.
The YouTube above is Rev Yearwood’s speech after his arraignment this week – it’s been circulating a lot but I wanted to make sure folks had a chance to see it. The Reverand and Iraq Vets against the War as well as many others will spend this week in DC demanding action from Congress. Let’s make sure that we add our voices to theirs with calls, faxes and emails even if we’re not actually there in person.