Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Jesus was more than a cross maker?

Could Jesus have had a wife?  Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus of the Bible.

That was a big story online today.

If you're late getting in on that story, click here for CNN's report.

A fragment has been discovered that refers to Jesus having a wife, Mary Magdaline.  He notes she is also a disciple.  If true or if accepted as true, it would elevate the position of women in the church.

As most of you probably already know, the disciples (also known as the Apostles) are all men.  Mary's there.  She's there throughout.  If she's a disciple, things are very different for a lot of people who've spent years denying women the right to become clergy.

This is from the gnostic period.  The Gnostic Gospels are a series of books or chapters that were part of the Bible until they were stricken.  Some argue they were stricken because they weren't valid and weren't considered real even in the time they were created.  Others argue that they were stricken because they provided too much truth at a time when the church wanted so badly to control and subjugate. 

Who knows why now?  It's one of those things that makes you wish you had a time machine so you could go back, observe and return with the ability to settle the argument.

But we can't.  Not yet anyway.  (Not yet anyway?  I love sci fi and believe if we can imagine it in fiction, some day we will be able to pull it off in real life.)

So you'll have to figure it out for yourself.

And isn't that really fitting?  I mean, doesn't that sum up your relation to religion?  Whether you believe in a god or not, you probably had to figure out what you believe all by yourself.

Title of the post is a play on Judee Sill's song, covered by the great Cass Elliot, "Jesus Was A Crossmaker."

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Wednesday, September 19, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, mass arrestes continue, the Federal Court says the Electoral Commission needs to add members in order to ensure the representation of women, Robert S. Beecroft has his confirmation hearing for US Ambassador to Iraq, Canadians try to convince Stephen Harper to let Kim Rivera stay in Canada as the world watches, and more.
It's really not about being a veteran or her stance as a war resister.  Kimberly Rivera is both of those things.  But she's not in the military now.  What is she?  A young mother of four children -- the youngest being only 18-months old.  And she and her husband have made a home for those children in Canada.  She and her husband went to Canada to make a home there.  And now she may be forced out. 
She's been ordered by the Stephen Harper government to leave Canada by tomorrow.  If she doesn't, she faces deportation.
She went to Canada to have a safe home for her family.  That wasn't requesting the world, that wasn't asking for the moon and the stars.  She wants to become a Canadian citizen and has done her part to go through that process.
Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney would apparently rather kick out a mother, risk separating her from her children, than offer the most basic kindness of residency or citizenship to this woman who has spent over five years in Canada embracing the country she wants to make her own.   Patty Winsa (Toronto Star) reports today:
A Thursday deportation order looms, despite frantic calls from supporters, politicians and even a Nobel Peace Prize winner to stay the order and allow Rivera and her family, including two Canadian-born children, to remain. Rallies were slated at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday in front of the Federal Court building and in several other cities from Halifax to Vancouver.
Ottawa, which in the 1960s allowed both draft-dodgers and Vietnam deserters to immigrate freely, has taken a hard line this time.
They're "not genuine refugees under the internationally accepted meaning of the term," Alexis Pavlich, a spokesperson for Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, wrote in an email. "These unfounded claims clog up our system for genuine refugees who are actually fleeing persecution."
Rivera has applied to stay permanently on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. That request continues despite the deportation order that followed a negative "pre-removal risk assessment," which is based on whether the person's return could result in persecution, torture, cruel and unusual punishment, or even loss of life.
Does Stephen Harper not grasp how cruel he's going to look on the world stage if he deports a mother?  That the obvious question in people's mind -- or, better, accusation, is going to be, "Oh, that Harper, yeah, he'd deport his own mother if he could."  It's not going to look good, it's not going to increase his standing.  Offering Kim residency or citizenship could change things immediately, could improve his image and have the whole world talking -- saying good things -- about him.  But maybe he's okay with being considered Little Bush?  John Howard took that route and, outside of Australia, most people don't know his name but think of him as a min-George W. Bush.  Is that the fate that Harper wants?   He could do so much for his own image just by doing something so minor to him but so major for Kim, her children and her husband.
The War Resisters Support Campaign staged rallies throughout Canada today.  CBC notes, "Members of the Hamilton Coalition to Stop the War set up camp in front of the Federal Building at 55 Bay St. North on Wednesday in support of former American soldier and conscientious objector Kimberly Rivera."  In addition, the Canadian Press notes, "A number of people have gathered in downtown Toronto for an eleventh-hour protest against the planned deportation of U.S. war resister Kimberly Rivera."  Krystalline Kraus (Rabble) reports, "According to Michelle Robidoux, a spokesperson for the War Resisters Support Campaign (WRSC). '(Kim) faces a court martial and jail sentence, which, based on what other people have gotten, is a harsh jail sentence,' Robidoux said. 'She will be separated from her family. Her husband suffers from a disability and he's going to have four kids on his hands'."
Cracks about deporting his own mother?  If Stephen Harper deports Kim, people will be saying things like, "Forget saying the inn was full, Harper would have denied Mary the manger as well!"  Who is advising Stephen Harper, who is telling him, "This is the way you, the Prime Minister of Canada, wants to be seen by the whole world"?  He's not getting good advice.

Yves Engler ( reports on Kim and notes what she saw in Iraq:

While Rivera expected to spend her time unloading equipment at a Colorado base she soon found herself guarding a foreign operating base in Iraq. It was from this vantage point that she became disillusioned with the war. Riviera was troubled by a two-year-old Iraqi girl who came to the base with her family to claim compensation after a bombing by U.S. forces.
"She was just petrified", Rivera explained. "She was crying, but there was no sound, just tears flowing out of her eyes. She was shaking. I have no idea what had happened in her little life. All I know is I wasn't seeing her: I was seeing my own little girl. I could imagine my daughter being one of those kids throwing rocks at soldiers, because maybe someone she loved had been killed. That Iraqi girl haunts my soul."
Deporting Kim will haunt the reputation of a number of Canadian officials.    Archbishop Desmond Tutu calls for  Kim to remain in Canada.  Erin Criger (City News) notes "Amnesty International, the Canadian Labour Congress and the United Church of Canada have all supported Rivera."  In addition, many individual Canadians support her as well as organizations such as the United Steelworkers of Canada which issued a statement calling for the government of Canada to let Kim and her family stay  and  Canada's National Union of Public and General Employees which also issued a statement.   She also has the support of the United Church of Canada.  Joining the call today, Luke Stewart observes in his letter to the editor of The Record, "It was guarding the front gate of a forward operating base in Baghdad where Rivera's conscience grew with every fatal day. She decided she could no longer participate in the war that Kofi Annan, then the UN Secretary General, said in 2004 was illegal under the United Nations Charter."  Leah Bolger and Gerry Condon of Veterans For Peace note in their open letter, "According to the UN Handbook on Refugees, soldiers who refuse to fight in wars that are widely condemned by the international community should be considered as refugees. Unfortunately, the Immigration and Refugee Board in Canada has yet to grant asylum to a single person who refused to kill in the war against Iraq, a war that has most certainly been condemned by peoples and nations around the globe."
19,739 people have now signed the War Resisters Support Campaign's petition for Kim to stay.  It's a new petition, started only a few weeks ago.  There is support for Kim.  What is done to her and her children will register -- across borders, around the world.  Stephen Harper has a chance to do something that will help a family and also enhance his worldwide standing.  Or he can deport her and turn himself into a joke.  Again, I have to wonder who is advising Harper because the humane thing to do here is also the politically smart thing.
Maybe Harper's advisors are all on drugs?  Meanwhile, in the US, did we all just drop acid?  How else to explain the approximately 75 minute flashback today?  
Senator John Kerry: Mr. Ambassador, I remember sitting downstairs, we were in this building on the ground floor in that big hearing room, when Secretary Condolezza Rice testified and I remember her saying to us vividly, 'Well we're just a few weeks away from signing an agreement on the oil -- on the division of the oil and having an oil agreement -- a global oil agreement for Iraq.' I guess we're about five years later now, maybe six. I don't remember the precise timing of that [January 11, 2007 was the date of one Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing where she made that statement], still no agreement, still the problem with the Kurds, still the problem with the Sunni majority feeling divorced, there's a certain amount of skepticism now about whether or not the current government actually intends for the government to be a pluralistic, representative government or whether they're moving towards some other form of sectarian division here.
[. . .]
Senator Bob Corker:  When Senator [John] Barrasso and I first got here, which was five-and-a-half years ago roughly, five years ago for him, we were talking about the hydrocarbon discussion at that time.  And I remember sitting and interact with [US Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay] Khalilzad as he was running back and forth trying to work out some hydrocarbon law at that time.  Still nothing's happened.
Yes, it was all the things we'd heard before.  Restated yet again.  And longtime Congressional watchers probably wished US House Rep Llloyd Doggett could suddenly emerge and hit hard on those failed benchmarks for Iraq that were never achieved, not even now, over five years after Nouri signed off on them.  There is still no progress in Iraq and yet we are still told that it's just around the corner.
This morning, the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing on the nomination of Robert S. Beecroft to the position of US Ambassador to Iraq.  Beecroft is career State Dept.  It's rare that someone is able to move up to ambassador -- more often than not these posts are doled out based on political favors and financial contributions.  Granted, Iraq is not a glamor post but it is a high profile one.
The problem with career diplomats is that they make for lousy witnesses until they leave the diplomatic service.  They practice the craft they're so good at and you saw that with Robert Beecroft today.  Did he spin?  That's really not the word for it.  It's as if he was asked if someone had bad breath and he chose to respond by noting their youthful skin and not commenting on the breath issue.  He didn't lie, he did practice diplomacy.  
Charge d'Affaires Robert S. Beecroft:  I have spent most of my career working on the Middle East, including assignments in Syria and Saudi Arabia and as Ambassador to Jordan.  For much of my career, I have been immersed in Iraq issues -- from the Iraq Desk in Washington, DC to recently serving as Deputy Chief of Mission and now Charge d'Affaires in Baghdad.  I stand on the shoulders of the thousands of brave and committed Americans who have worked, fought, and died to help the Iraqi people achiever our shared goal of a united, federal, and democratic Iraq.  If confirmed, I would commit to continuing their work to build a lasting partnership with Iraq.  In so doing, I would labor alongside a team of able and dedicated personnel who understand the importance of achieving success.  While the size and nature of our presence may have changed, our interests and commitments remain the same, and Iraq continues to be a top priority for the United States.
There is nothing shockable in that statement or even eyebrow raising.  It was smooth and I'll assume sincere.  However, what was lacking was a point of view. 
By contrast, campaign donors who usually get nominated to be ambassadors come in with a strong point of view.  If they can learn some diplomatic skills, they can be effective as ambassadors.  Their strong point of view can clash with an administration's point of view leading to a better point of view when all points are debated.  What Beecroft needs to work on -- especially if Barack is re-elected in November -- is sharpening and expressing his point of view.  If he's moved up to team leader, that will require a point of view.
The hearing  started 12 minutes late and ending well before the 90 minute mark.   Senator John Kerry is the Chair of the Committee.
Chair John Kerry:  This is not a time for delay.  There's no substitute for having a confirmed ambassador in place and ready to hit the ground running -- especially at this critical moment in the region.  It's my hope to move this nomination as rapidly as we can in the next 48 hours because we must have a confirmed ambassador and it would be a dereliction of the Congress' responsibility were we to leave here for the next 6 weeks and not have done so.
That was from his opening remarks.   As we noted last week, there should be an ambassador to Iraq.  Right now, there should be.  Both countries need for there to be one. 
However, no one forced the White House to nominate the insulting Brett McGurk and no one forced the White House to wait so long to name a new nominee after McGurk's name was withdrawn.  I remember the Attorney General nominations of 1993.  That was rough and Republicans were determined to defeat the nominees.  Plural. Bill Clinton nominated Zoe Baird for the post.  Her nomination was derailed and she withdrew her name January 22, 1993.  Clinton goes on to announce a new nominee: Kima Wood.  Kimba Wood withdraws her name February 5, 1993.  Clinton then nominated Janet Reno who was confirmed March 11, 1993 on a 98 to zero vote in the Senate.  January 20, 1993, Bill Clinton was sworn in as President of the United States.  March 11th, Reno -- his third nominee -- was confirmed as Attorney General. That's moving quickly.

By contrast?  June 18th McGurk's name is withdrawnLate  September 10th word leaks out that Beecroft is Barack's new nominee and it's made official with an announcement September 11th.  In less than two months, President Bill Clinton names 3 different nominees for Attorney General and gets one confirmed.  Eight days shy of three months after McGurk's name is withdrawn, President Barack Obama is finally able to find someone to nominate for the post (Beecroft, the person who's been doing the work all that time).  If Senate Dems want to whine that Paul's creating a delay on that nomination, Barack's the one who created the delay and dragged his feet.

The average time between confirmation hearings and a vote is said to be ten days.  That would be September 28th and that's awfully close to when senators facing re-election battles have tor return home.  That was also foot dragging by the administration which should have planned it much better.
No one thinks Beecroft is going to lead to "no" votes, not any significant number if even that.  Beecroft has been doing the job he's nominated for already -- for several months.  He has many outstanding qualifications.  But other issues may lead the vote to be postponed.  If that happens, that's on the White House.  Don't wait until September to make a nomination and then expect everyone to go along with it.  The nomination should have been made months ago.  Beecroft got the nomination because (a) he is qualifed and (b) he's already doing the job.  There doesn't seem to be any doubts about that or about Beecroft from members of the Committee.  It's a shame the White House couldn't have nominated him March 26th instead of McGurk.  It's a shame that the White House didn't withdraw the nomination months earlier -- from the start there were problems including Iraqiya's opposition to McGurk.  As has been the case since the start of the Barack Obama administration, they need to do a better job vetting their prospects before nominating them.  Barring that, they need to be preparing back up candidates.  Bill Clinton had two nominees go down in flames before Janet Reno was confirmed as Attorney General.  He didn't stumble. He didn't fall down whining.  He named another nominee.  And another if that was needed.  That's what a functioning administration does.  It doesn't wait three months after their failed nominee's name is withdrawn to finally get around to naming another nominee.
The hearing had a lot worth noting.  We're going to note Chair John Kerry and Senator Marc Rubio today.  Tomorrow, we'll note Ranking Member Richard Lugar and Senator Bob
Casey.  Here is Kerry's line of questioning for the nominee.
Chair John Kerry:  Our Embassy in Baghdad, the Consulates in Erbil and Basra and other offices supporting the Embassy and Office of Security Cooperation still number about 14,000 people.  And that makes it our largest mission in the world.  We are going to need someone with Ambassador Beecroft's demonstrated management skills to rightsize the mission and to ensure that all the appropriate security measures are in place to keep our staff safe and secure.  Iraq's leaders have a rare opportunity to consolidate their democracy and build a strong, durable  institution or set of institutions to hold the country together.  But more will be required of the Iraqi government.   Questions remain about whether Iraqi leaders -- including the prime minister -- aspire to represent a unified Iraq in all of its diversity or rather they seek to govern narrowly according to ethnic and sectarian tendencies.  To ensure that parliamentary elections in 2014 are free and fair,  Iraq's Electoral Commission must be professional, transparent and impartial.  Iraqi leaders across the political spectrum must also be willing to make tough compromises and put national priorities over personal ambitions.  It is no secret that we are at a moment of heightened sectarian tensions in the Middle East.  Iraqi leaders should understand that the best way to insulate themselves from the horrific violence in Syria is through meaningful, political compromise in Iraq.  As Iraq's leaders work to establish a more stable political order, they need to redouble efforts to reach agreement on disputed boundaries, on oil and on Kirkuk's final status.  If progress is not made on diffusing tensions, the window for peaceful resolution of Kirkuk and other disputed territories may well close.  Baghdad and Erbil must resolve their differences on the Kurdish Region's authority to enter into oil exploration and production contracts.  To their credit, the Iraqis have made efforts to resolve issues related to revenue sharing but the country still lacks an overarching, legal framework for its oil industry.   Without this agreement, Iraq will be unable to unleash the full potential of its oil sector.  For years, Iraq has focused on its internal politics but it must now also start to look outwards.  It is not surprising that Iraq seeks neighborly relations with Iran but the reports of Iran using Iraq airspace to resupply Assad's ruthless regime are troubling. 
Chair John Kerry:  Can you share with me an answer to the issue I raised about the Iranians using American airspace in order to support [Syrian President Bashar] Assad?  What are we doing, what have you been doing -- if anything, to try to limit that use?
Charge d'Affaires Robert S. Beecroft: I have personally engaged on this repeatedly at the highest levels of Iraqi government.  My colleagues in Baghdad have engaged on this.  We're continuing to engage on it.  And every single visitor representing the US government from the Senate, recently three visitors, to administration officials has raised it with the Iraqis and made very clear that we find this unnaceptable and we find it unhelpful and detrimental to the region and to Iraq and, of course -- first and foremost, to the Syrian people.  It's something that needs to stop and we are pressing and will continue to press until it does stop.
Chair John Kerry: Well, I mean, it may stop when it's too late.  If so many people have entreated the government to stop and that doesn't seem to be having an impact -- uh,  that sort of alarms me a little bit and seems to send a signal to me: Maybe -- Maybe we should make some of our assistance or some of our support contingent on some kind of appropriate response?  I mean it just seems completely inappropriate that we're trying to help build their democracy, support them, put American lives on the line, money into the country and they're working against our insterest so overtly -- agains their own interests too -- I might add.
Charge d'Affaires Robert S. Beecroft:  Senator, Senator, I share your concerns 100%.  I'll continue to engage.  And, with your permission, I will make very clear to the Iraqis what you've said to me today -- and that is you find it alarming and that it may put our assistance and our cooperation on issues at stake.
Chair John Kerry:  Well I think that it would be very hard.  I mean, around here, I think right now there's a lot of anxiety about places that seem to be trying to have it both ways.  So I wish you would relay that obviously and I think that members of the Committee would -- would want to do so.  Can you tell us with respect to the safety issues --  personnel and our citizens there -- are you taking extra steps now?  Are there additional initiatives in place as a result of what's happened in the last week or two?
Charge d'Affaires Robert S. Beecroft: For some time now and all the more so in light of recent events we have taken a very cautious and careful look at our security on a regular basis.  We have our own security at the Embassy.  We think it is sizable.  It is robust.  And we're very confident that it's what we need at this time.  At the same time,  we're fully engaged with Iraqi officials both poltiical and security officials at the most senior levels to make sure that they give us the cooperation that we feel we need and so far they have done that.  They have pledged to protect us and we're doing everything   to ensure that they keep to that pledge and that we meet our part of it by ensuring that we're as safe as we can be on our terms.  At the same time, I'd comment, we enjoy geographic advantages.  The Embassy is located inside the International Zone, the Green Zone, as you know, and there are a number of checkpoints that are closely guarded getting into it.  It's not a place where demonstrations usually take place.
Chair John Kerry: What's the reaction of the Iraqi people been to the events of the last weeks?
Charge d'Affaires Robert S. Beecroft:   So far, compared to other places in the region, it's been quite muted.  There have been demonstrations throughout the country but they've been low level.  And there's been nothing that's specifically threatening.  There have been statements highly critical of the film that is at issue and statements by some political leaders that they should examine their relationship with the United States because of this film.  But on the whole, we get good cooperation.  We continue to engage and Iraqi officials are meeting with us on regularly and going about business.
Chair John Kerry: Increasingly, we are hearing more anecdotal and other reports about the increased authoritarianism of the Maliki government and of the political system itself perhaps becoming less diplomatic and so forth.  Can you share your perceptions of that with us and how you see this trendline moving.
Charge d'Affaires Robert S. Beecroft:   Uh, Iraq is a democracy.  It does face a lot of issues that are challenging to that democracy.  Uhm, it is fragile in many ways.  We are working constantly with all sides -- with the prime minister, with his party, his bloc, with other blocs and other parties across the political spectrum to ensure that democratic institutions and the democratic process is strengthened.  And, in short what we're doing is pushing them all to engage, to pursue their interests  in the legislative process, in an independent reform process that they've agreed to.  In other words, use the system to achieve what you need rather than look outside the system and make it fall apart.
Chair John Kerry:  Mr. Ambassador, I remember sitting downstairs, we were in this building on the ground floor in that big hearing room, when Secretary Condolezza Rice testified and I remember her saying to us vividly, 'Well we're just a few weeks away from signing an agreement on the oil -- on the division of the oil and having an oil agreement -- a global oil agreement for Iraq.'  I guess we're about five years later now, maybe six.  I don't remember the precise timing of that [January 11, 2007 was the date of one Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing where she made that statement], still no agreement, still the problem with the Kurds, still the problem with the Sunni majority feeling divorced, there's a certain amount of skepticism now about whether or not the current government actually intends for the government to be a pluralistic, representative government or whether they're moving towards some other form of sectarian division here.  I think a lot of people are worried about it.  Can you share your persepctive about that?
Charge d'Affaires Robert S. Beecroft:  Uh, you're right about the hydrocarbons law.  There still is no hydrocaborns law.  We think this-this -- next ot Iraq's Constitution, is one of the most important laws that could go in place in the country.  We're pushing it very aggressively.  Most recently, Ambassador Carlos Pascual from the State Department, who looks after energy issues there, and a representative from the Dept of Energy [Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs Jonathan Elkind] came to Iraq, met with Iraqi officials, Deputy Bill Burns [] followed up last week with a visit and pushed the same issue.  We're pointing out to them this is a way to unite and unify the country -- which is what they need to do at this time.  I am pleased to say that there has been some subsequent engagement by the Iraqis on oil issues and some discussion of restarting negotiations on the hydrocarbons law and we're going to continue to push them in that direction.  It's a positive trend and a positive sign.  Most recently, representatives from the Kurdish Regional Government were in Baghdad only a few days ago, meeting with the Minister of Oil there and -- by all reports, what we see, what we hear in the press -- they did make some progress and they're moving forward on that.  So while it's not  the hydrocarbons law itself, these are issues we're see in the press, they did make some progress and they're moving forward on that.  And so while it's not the hydrocarbons law itself, these are issues which should smooth relations and allow for the hydrocarbons law to go forward in the future.
Could aid be cut off or made conditional?
It was a Senate Foreign Affairs Committee hearing in 2008 that led to the government of Iraq being responsible for paying Sahwa and not American tax payers.  From that day's snapshot -- and "she" is Senator Barbara Boxer:
She wanted to know about the training, all the training, that had gone on and then on again.  "We've done a lot for the Iraqis just in terms of the numbers themselves," Boxer declared.  "I'll tell you what concerns me and most of my constituents, you said -- many times -- the gains in Iraq are fragile and reversable. . . . So my constituents and I believe that" after all the deaths, all the money, "you have to wonder why the best that you can say is that the gains are fragile and reversable."  Noting the lack of military success and Hagel's points, Boxer pointed out that nothing was being done diplomatically "and I listened carefully to Senator Hagel and Ambassador Crocker -- from the answer you gave him, I don't get the" feeling that the White House has given anything, it's still "the status quo.  She then turned to the issue of monies and the militias, "You are asking us for millions more to pay off the militias and, by the way, I have an article here that says Maliki recently told a London paper that he was concerned about half of them" and wouldn't put them into the forces because he doubts their loyalty.  She noted that $182 million a year was being paid, $18 million a month, to these "Awakening" Council members and "why don't you ask the Iraqis to pay the entire cost of that progam" because as Senator Lugar pointed out, "It could be an opportunity" for the Iraqi government "to turn it into something more long term."  This is a point, she declared, that she intends to bring up when it's time to vote on the next spending supplamental. Crocker tried to split hairs.
Boxer: I asked you why they couldn't pay for it. . . . I don't want to argue a point. . . I'm just asking you why we would object to asking them to pay for that entire program giving all that we are giving them in blood and everything else?
Crocker declared that he'd take that point back to Iraq when he returned.
Apparently prior to Senators Boxer and Lugar thinking of it, it had never occurred to anyone that maybe the Iraqi government should be paying for the Sahwa security forces to secure Iraq.  So possibly John Kerry's message will be conveyed and have some effect.
Now let's note the exchange with Rubio.
Senator Marco Rubio:  Let me touch on three subject.  The first, I know there's already been discussion about Iran's influence in Iraq.  In your opinion, does that influence extend to the judiciary? And I'm particularly concerned in light of obviously the ex-vice president's trial.  I guess he's now in Turkey.  But others, as well.  The growing evidence that perhaps -- at least allegations -- that the prime minister and others have manipulated the judiciary for purposes of pursuing their political enemies?  Do we have concern that Iran'sinfluence in Iraq has no reached or extended into the judiciary as well?
Charge d'Affaires Robert S. Beecroft:  Thank you, Senator.  I would -- I would say we have concerns across the board that any country -- Iran or others --  not play an overbearing or an overly influential role -- particularly a negative one -- in Iraq.   We work closely with the judiciary in Iraq and the legal community.  We do everything we can to ensure that there's support for rule of law programs.  And so far what we see is a largely functioning judiciary that, uhm, while not again I can't give it 100% endorsement as perfect, no country has a perfect judiciary, it is something that , again, continues to function and we'll continue to help it function better to the extent we can.
Senator Marco Rubio: My second concern is about the well being of the leader of Iraq's Democratic Nation Party Mithal Alusi.  Have we expressed our concerns about the way he's been treated?  I believe he's now in the northern region.  He's been given -- I guess he's been allowed to enter and he's living under their protection.  But I've read a series of accounts about how different types of protection have been withdrawn, his life's been made a miserable mess in Baghdad, apparently promises of protection have been withdrawn, his life's been made a miserable mess in Baghdad, apparently he's had to leave Baghdad.  Have we expressed our concern about his well being and our concern about how he's being treated? 
 [Nouri ran Alusi out of Baghdad after he lost the 2010 election to Parliament -- he won a seat in 2005.  Losing the election meant losing the security guards MPs get.  Nouri refused to allow Alusi's bodyguards to carry guns.  Then Nouri refused to renew Alusi and his wife's travel papers to enter and exit the Green Zone.  Their home is in the Green Zone.  They've lived there since 2004 due to repeatedly being targeted for assassiantion.  KRG President Massoud Barzani has welcomed Alusi and his family to the KRG.]
Charge d'Affaires Robert S. Beecroft:  I'm sorry, Senator, I missed the name.
Senator Marco Rubio:  Mithal Alusi.   He is the leader of the Iraq Democratic Nation Party.
Charge d'Affaires Robert S. Beecroft:  Let me, excuse me, let me just say that first and foremost we have concerns about human rights across the board and we will raise those concerns at every opportunity -- as well as rule of law concerns -- to make sure everyone is treated fair and freely.  On this specific individual, I'm going to have to go back for an answer and get back to you as soon as I can.
Senator Marco Rubio:  Well just so I can point out, he -- in addition to being the leader of the Democratic Nation Party in Iraq -- he has also been a staunch ally of the United States in Iraq, courageous in many instances, a proponent of a more open society -- basically everything we hope the region will become in terms of the things he stood for.  And I encourage you to look into his case. It's actually well documented and well known and he has now had to leave to the northern region for protection because of the way the current government has treated him.  I think it sends a terrible message to our friends and to moderate reformers in the region when the US is silent to their well being.  And I think it's concerning that, quite frankly, there's not more awareness about his plight.   But let me just add to that, what is your view of our relationship with the regional government in the north, the Kurdish Regional Government?   There's been accounts about how well they've developed.  Certainly, it's a safer region than the rest of Iraq.  They've certainly progressed economically quicker than the rest of the nation.  How is our relationship with them?  How do you envision our relationship with them moving forward as far as their own aspirations, etc?
Charge d'Affaires Robert S. Beecroft:  Thank you, Senator.  On the first case, I will look into the case personally and will get back to you and your staff.  Regarding the north, we're very supportive of the autonomous region in the north.  And you're absolutely right, it has progressed in many ways and in many ways sets an example for not just the country but the region and what it can be.  We'll continue to support with them -- support them and work with them as part of a unified federal Iraq. And we have the best of relations with them and we will continue to have those relations.
Senator Marco Rubio: I've heard concerns expressed that the closer we get to them, the more we risk alienating the prime minister [of Iraq], the less cooperative he may be with us.  Do you share that view?  Or?
Charge d'Affaires Robert S. Beecroft:  Uh, we have excellent relations too, sir, with the prime minister and we're going to continue to keep those and so as long people understand this is part of a unified, federal Iraq, our work with the north should not be objectionable and it so far has not been objectionable.
Senator Marco Rubio:  Right. But what I've heard some commentators say is we've got to be careful how we deal with them and not to appear to close to them because it may alienate him [Nouri al-Maliki] or make him less cooperative with us.  And I think -- I don't want to put words in your mouth, but I think what you're saying is that that's something that would not necessarily stand in your way in working with them and reaching out to them and having a close relationship with them?  You don't view it as a zero-sum game.  You think you can have a good relationship with both?
Charge d'Affaires Robert S. Beecroft:  That's absolutely right.
If you remember that awful Chris Hill confirmation hearing of 2009 and Chris Hill's hideous answers, you'll understand why Rubio was attempting to be sure that Beecroft had a working knowledge of the KRG.  (Hill knew nothing.  Couldn't even grasp the issue of Kirkuk.)
The ex-vice president Rubio's referring to is Tareq al-Hashemi.  However, Rubio's wrong that al-Hashemi's an ex-vice president.  Rubio may know the Iraqi Constitution very well and, if so, assume that al-Hashemi is an ex-vice president.  The reason being, while he holds office, he's not supposed to be put on trial.  But he was -- and he was a victim of Nouri's political power-grab.
Nouri's mass arrests continued in Iraq today.  Ahlul Bayt News Agency reports 20 people have been arrested in Karbala Province.  That sound like a lot?  That's just one province.  Alsumaria notes 26 people were arrested for 'terrorism' in Babil Province.  Iraq's had no mass release from the prisons.  But the mass arrests continue.  In a country of approximately 30 million people, it would be very interesting to get an estimate on the number of people imprisoned.  That can't happen of course because Nouri al-Maliki -- aka Little Saddam -- loves his secret prisons.

This month alone, you've seen hunger strikes in the prisons, people dying in prison (including one who may have died because he was denied medical treatment -- the one in Diyala who was diabetic) and prisoners rioting when they've taken death row inmates out to transfer them to a facility where they can be executed.

Add in that people remain imprison in Iraq forever.  They disappear into the system -- not by accident.  Families only know that their loved ones were taken away and they search in vain trying to track them down, trying to figure out if they're even still alive.  This passes for justice in Nouri's Iraq.

An amnesty law could free many.  But despite promising it for years now, and restating that promise in February 2011, Nouri and his State of Law continue to refuse to allow the bill to become law.  Alsumaria reports today that State of Law MP Kamal Saadi is now stating they will support the bill . . . provided it excludes thieves, counterfeiters and terrorists.  So that leaves the arsonists who've been setting fire to the orchards?  Is that it?  The bulk of imprisoned Iraqis are behind bars because they're accused of terrorism -- accused, not found guilty of.  People wait and wait in prison for a trial to roll around -- a trial that never arrives.  And it's interesting whom Nouri labels a 'terrorist' and whom he doesn't.

The Shi'ites who make up the League of the Rigtheous can be -- and have been -- released.  (Barack released their leader, their leader's brothers and a few other members in US military custody -- I'm referring to the members who were in Iraqi custody.)  They killed Americans and Brits, yes, but they also killed Iraqis.  But that's 'okay' because they're Shia.

This is why the recent executions -- that have brought the total number of executed in Iraq this year to 96 so far -- and the rush to execute more (at least 200 are pending) have enraged so many.  They see it as political, as an attempt to punish Sunnis.

The violence continues as well. All Iraq News reports 1 person was shot down in Mosul.  Press TV adds, "Five members of the security forces, including a one-star general and a colonel, have been killed in separate attacks targeting the Iraqi police and army."  Alsumaria adds a Baghdad roadside bombing injured an Iraqi solider, a Ministry of Oil employee was shot in Baghdad, a Nineveh Province home invasion resulted in 1 death, 2 corpses were discovered in Baaj, 1 Turkman doctor was killed in Kirkuk (shot dead),  and 1 corpse was discovered in Wasit Province (of a male who was kidnapped three years ago).

About the only thing that could be passed off as 'progress' this week just imploded.  Yesterday, 8 of 9 Independent High Electoral Commission commissioners elected.   Alsumaria reported this morning that the Federal Court says the number of commissioners must be increased because women must make up a third of the members.  (Not one of the eight was a woman -- an oversight Iraqiya called out -- the only political bloc to publicly call that out.)  Al Mada notes that Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc was insisting yesterday that if they just make the ninth member a Christian, they'll have all their bases covered. The judiciary begs to differ.  They're calling on members -- not a single seat, multiple seats.  That means that the Parliament either gets very focused on this or it is highly likely that an election cannot take place in March of 2013.  It's tarting to look a lot like fall 2009 in Iraq.

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