Sunnis Insist on Trying to Change Constitution
US Military Torture Investigations cut Short
Only Agence France Presse among Western news agencies carries the Sunni Arab response on Thursday to Wednesday’s remarks by Shiite cleric Abdul Aziz al-Hakim rejecting any changes in the constitution. The Sunni Arabs were promised an opportunity to try to change some articles during a four-month window after the new government is formed.
The full version of this piece notes that Adnan Dulaimi, the Sunni Arab leader of the fundamentalist coalition, the National Accord Front, said in response to al-Hakim:
‘ “There is an article in the constitution concerning the amendment and we are determined to change all articles that risk leading to a division of Iraq . . . We support giving more power to the provinces to reinforce decentralisation, but the creation of regions that are autonomous of Baghdad in the centre and in the south threatens the unity of the country,” he said, in comments broadcast on As-Sharqiya, a private television station. “We reject this and we continue to defend the unity of Iraq.”
Political activity has largely been put on hold as Iraq marks the Eid Al-Adha vacation, but it is set to resume in earnest from Sunday. ‘
Al-Hakim had tried to put further discussion of the provision for creating provincial confederacies off limits, but Dulaimi is clearly having none of it. It would be as though Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina could form a confederacy, elect their own president, and run their economy separately from that of the Federal government. Ooops. Didn’t we try that once? Dulaimi is right to fear that such a confederal system holds severe dangers for the unity of Iraq.
Arianna Huffington does an excellent job of explaining this issue and of recognizing its importance.
Speaking of which, the already-existing Kurdistan confederacy, which is issuing visas and inviting foreign companies to engage in exploration for petroleum without informing the central government in Baghdad, took another step toward autonomy on Wednesday. Al-Sharq al-Awsat reports [Ar.] that Kurdistan will establish a provincial ministry of foreign affairs, which is being claimed as a “constitutional right.” Usually in federal systems, the states or provinces cede the field of foreign affairs to the central government.
The results of the UN investigation into vote fraud will probably be announced Sunday. It is likely that the investigation will not result in significant changes in the composition of parliament, and therefore that the release of the report will provoke further demonstrations and possibly violence.
Despite the hopes being placed by Bush in the new Iraqi army, it is still not reliable. The Washington Post reports that when the US turned over to the Iraqi military a palace complex it had used as a base near Tikrit, the Iraqi soldiers promptly went into an orgy of looting. At the time, the turn-over was hailed as a sign of “progress,” Ellen Knickmeyer notes. Actually, as I remember, the ceremony was interrupted by mortar fire that endangered the lives of some of the US brass and of ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.
Al-Sharq al-Awsat said [Ar.] that Jamal Khidr Abdal, a former high Baath official in the Kurdish city of Dohuk, was hunted down and assassinated on Wednesday in a village north of Mosul. He and his family had been the targets of an attack two days before, which resulted in injuries.
David Hirst of the Guardian concludes that the main beneficiaries of the Iraq mess are Iran and Israel. Should the two victors come into conflict with one another, or should the US take on Iran directly, he warns, the Iranians will launch a response that will make the Sunni Arabs of Iraq look like pikers.
A shadowy US military unit called Task Force 6-26 has been implicated in torture in Iraq. But the records show false names and 3/4s of the computer files somehow got erased, making it impossible for investigators to follow the trail. The ACLU, which got the documents released, thinks the trail goes high into the Department of Defense, since someonw authorized the creation and functioning of the task force.
The NYT reports that Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, who set up interrogation techniques at Guantanamo and then at Abu Ghraib, has decided to invoke Article 31 of the military code, which permits him to avoid testifying in a court-martial in such a way as to risk incriminating himself. He will retire from the military after 34 years. The particular questions that Miller is avoiding answering under oath in this way have to do with setting attack dogs on prisoners. It certainly is a form of torture.
The US military is under civilian oversight and Maj. Gen. Miller’s bosses were George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and Stephen Cambone, none of whom is resigning in the way that Miller is. Indeed, Rumsfeld said that he doesn’t want to “inject himself into” the investigations of the torture conducted by his subordinates! Wasn’t he injected into it by virtue of running the Department of Defense?
Amnesty International is upset that most of the Guantanamo detainees still have not been charged with any crime four years later. A basic element of law is that no human being is outside the scope of the courts and of the rule of law. Even Nazi war criminals, the profundity of whose beastliness could never be plumbed, were charged and tried.
Laura K. Donohue warns us in the LA Times that we are all being watched and Federal agents are rifling through our credit card receipts and other private records.
Well, we knew we were being watched. We have iTunes!
Riverbend has a moving tribute to the slain interpreter for kidnapped US journalist Jill Carroll. (Jill grew up about 6 blocks from where I now live in Ann Arbor. I hope and pray she will be released. Brian Conley at Alive in Baghdad has been blogging her plight.)