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Morning Report 8/10/05Zero Visibility in Baghdad


Times shrouds Baghdad mayoral coup. Oh, and there was a sandstorm, too.

In a cartoon from the Baghdad daily Al-Mutamar, an American truck dumps a boulder labeled “democracy” on a hot, thirsty, dying Iraqi, who’s fanning himself because of frequent power outages. Al-Mutamar, by the way, is published by the Iraqi National Congress, the gang of Ahmed Chalabi, Judy Miller, and other schmucks who joined with the neocons to get us into this mess in the first place. None of those idiots, of course, was talking about democracy as a “boulder” back in 2002 and 2003.

Everything will be fine in Iraq once the dust settles—except that the storm over Baghdad won’t end. You can bet on that.

The sweltering city of 6 million is separated from reality by way over a hundred degrees. Take Monday, for instance, when Shiite gunmen stalked into city hall and kicked out the mayor, Alaa al-Tamimi.

Most people in that insufferable place didn’t even notice because of a blinding, paralyzing sandstorm. What was the excuse of New York Times reporter James Glanz for not seeing the full story of the coup? Maybe because he was blinded by Alaa al-Tamimi. It was only on July 8 that Glanz wrote a kiss-ass puff piece on al-Tamimi. Here’s an excerpt:

After returning from exile last year with ambitious plans and a great burst of enthusiasm, Dr. Tamimi seems to move around Baghdad under the weight of everything that has gone wrong in a city that he loves with a passion second to none of the big-city mayors in the United States.

Oh, spare me. The guy was no better than incompetent as an administrator—and quite possibly corrupt. As I pointed out just last month, even the guy’s name, Alaa al-Tamimi, reminds me of Al D’Amato, that machine pol who has schemed and entertained for so long in Nassau County, New York, and the rest of the United States.

At least Al D’Amato won an election or two. Al-Tamimi never has. He was not elected but merely appointed mayor by the Bush regime and was seen by many Iraqis as nothing more than a U.S. puppet.

There’s a whole lot more to this latest mad episode of the Iraq debacle than Glanz let on.

Not that there wasn’t a coup, no matter how Iraq’s increasingly temporary government tried to spin it—like in this Radio Free Iraq account:

Iraqi government spokesman Laith Kubba has confirmed in a telephone conversation to RFI that the Baghdad mayor had indeed filed his resignation and that this resignation has been accepted. He added that the Council of Ministers would in its next session discuss the names of three candidates for this post.

Here’s how Glanz started his story this morning:

Armed men entered Baghdad’s municipal building during a blinding dust storm on Monday, deposed the city’s mayor and installed a member of Iraq’s most powerful Shiite militia.

The deposed mayor, Alaa al-Tamimi, who was not in his offices at the time, recounted the events in a telephone interview on Tuesday and called the move a municipal coup d’état. He added that he had gone into hiding for fear of his life.

“This is the new Iraq,” said Mr. Tamimi, a secular engineer with no party affiliation. “They use force to achieve their goal.”

The group that ousted him insisted that it had the authority to assume control of Iraq’s capital city and that Mr. Tamimi was in no danger. The man the group installed, Hussein al-Tahaan, is a member of the Badr Organization, the armed militia of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, known as SCIRI.

Oh, no, you’re saying. The religious nuts have deposed a good ol’ secular mayor. Woe is us. The religious nuts are surely no prize, but neither was Tamimi, an expatriate Iraqi who returned after the invasion and was installed by Jerry Bremer as the American stooge in charge of Baghdad. (Tamimi was both governor and mayor, due to Baghdad’s status as its own province.)

Tamimi was not elected to the job, as was Mazen Makkia, the city council chief who sacked him. Glanz points that out but he only skims over their relationship, saying that Makkia “had been in a lengthy and unresolved legal feud with Mr. Tamimi.”

It was a little more than that. SCIRI’s own daily paper, Al-Adala, reported in early July (courtesy of the crack translators at the Institute for War & Peace Reporting):

The Baghdad provincial council has unanimously decided to fire Baghdad Governor Alaa al-Tamimi, accusing him of being incapable of dealing with his responsibilities. The council also said he is not firm in dealing with his staff, which resulted in bad services for the people and corruption. The council added that he is always out of Iraq and relies on people who are not competent to run his office. They accused him of corruption, saying he used 13 billion Iraqi dinars a month as salaries for the office of guards and security, but no one knows where this office is.

Yeah, Tamimi sounds like the kind of administrator whom Bremer would appoint. (Along with a bunch of sensible Christians, we’re still waiting to find out what happened to the billions of dollars that disappeared during Bremer’s disastrous reign.)

But don’t take the word of SCIRI’s own paper about Tamimi.

On July 19, a few days after the news that the provincial council had decided to fire Tamimi, the independent daily Al-Sabah reported:

The special court for administrative corruption has issued an arrest warrant for Baghdad governor Alaa al-Tamimi, accusing him of misusing general properties. Ali al-Shaboot, spokesman for the Integrity Board, said the warrant was issued after the board has called him three times to attend to come in for questioning, but he refused.

Glanz has al-Tamimi whining about not having enough money to solve Baghdad’s problems. But clearly there were other problems with the particularly dirty version of “democracy” that the Bush regime dumped on the Iraqi people (see cartoon above).

Baghdad’s municipal government has been paralyzed by corruption, as the capital city’s newspapers of all persuasions have pointed out.

Al-Bayan—a paper published by Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari‘s own party—noted in June:

The Baghdad provincial council has fired four director generals and stopped them working in the municipality of Baghdad as a step to eliminate corruption. The council has the authority, as per interim law 17 issued by the coalition forces, to eliminate corruption wherever it occurs in the government offices. The Baghdad provincial council has been heavily criticized for its poor services to the people.

Too bad that most of the U.S. press takes its cue from what the New York Times prints.

For a think piece about Iraqi politics, sidle up to the Whiskey Bar and read the estimable and entertaining billmon‘s July 25 post.

And then take billmon’s advice and read the great essay “Iraq: Bush’s Islamic Republic” by John Kenneth Galbraith‘s son, Peter Galbraith, in the August 11 issue of the New York Review of Books.

Once you see Galbraith’s point that the Bush regime, through Bremer’s paternalistic and ideological idiocy, accidentally set a timed fuse that will blow apart Iraq, beastly hot Baghdad will suddenly make you shiver.

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