As national elections approach in our Iraq colony, you can almost feel the electricity in the air. Not that there's much actual electricitypower service ranges from nine to 15 hours a day in most of the country, and electricity generation in Baghdad has fallen off by 20 percent in the past week, according to the latest U.S. report.
On second thought, that crackle in the atmosphere is probably gunfire. It's certainly not from the upcoming elections. As Borzou Daragahi of Beirut's Daily Star put it this morning in his dispatch from Baghdad:
With 100 days to go before elections are scheduled to be held to decide Iraq's future, no posters adorn the capital's streets, and no names are being bandied about. There have been no debates scheduled, no candidate forums, no voter education guides. Instead, Iraqi and American officials are raising serious doubts as to whether legitimate elections are possible.
Daragahi rightly noted that under Saddam Hussein's dictatorship, politics in Iraq "became a dark and secretive enterprise rather than a forum for solving common problems."
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Thank God that's not the situation here in the U.S. of A., I say, as I wait impatiently for the release of records of deliberations by Dick Cheney's energy task force, of the White Housecensored 28 pages from the congressional report on Saudi Arabia's connection to 9/11, of a full account of what Cheney and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia talked about while they were killing ducks this past January, and of the U.S. military's own reports on what kind of Abu Ghraiblike behavior has taken place in Guantánamo Bay's military prisons.
Seymour Hersh, who's been kicking the Bush regime's ass in The New Yorker and elsewhere, predicted on The Daily Show last night that "when we learn all there is to learn" about Guantánamo Bay, "we're going to be mightily ashamed. … It's a blot on all of us." We already have a 115-page report from three former prisoners, plus other allegations, including a claim from former prisoner Tareq Dergoul that he was "beaten like a beast" and had his head shoved down a toiletwhile a video camera recorded it.
See this Washington Post story on Major General Geoffrey D. Miller, the former Colonel Klink of Camp X-Ray. He's the guy who told Abu Ghraib officials that guards should be "actively engaged" in extracting information, an order that got a "thumbs up" from Lynndie England.
But for those unarmed Iraqis who aren't in jail, shooting at our troops, or cowering in the rubble of their homes and who want to get away from all the pre-election excitement, there's good news from Baghdad: Iraqi Airways resumed international flights this month, after being grounded for 14 years by war and sanctions and then more war.
The airine will fly to Syria and Jordan twice a week and has already sold "dozens of tickets," officials said. It's a little pricey, though. Like if you want a return flight to Baghdad from Amman, Jordan? It'll cost you $750, says CNN, compared with $40 for the same trip by road. If you're driving, be sure to load your rifle before you go.
You may have to drive anyway. A U.S. Department of Commerce report says that only one plane in the Iraqi Airways fleet is operational.
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