Voting Problems Likely in Iraq Election
While the threat of violence will certainly be omnipresent in Sunday’s election, there is also a likelihood that widespread voter disenfranchisement will come as a result of a poorly administered election. Even the US Ambassador in Iraq, John Negroponte, has stated that there are likely to be large “problematic areas” in Iraq. A consulting firm involved in the voting process is reporting many logistical problems, including a lack of emergency plans to replace poll workers and poor security at places where ballots are stored. Moreover, there are widespread and well-founded fears surrounding the elections and security, it is widely believed that voters and those working at the polls with be targeted by some insurgent groups. While many well-known candidates have been publicly running for office, a large number of candidates have kept their names off the ballots. This means that voters will vote for the top tier candidates, but those filling lower positions have been afraid to list their candidacy and as such, will be voted in without voters’ knowledge. Some are estimating that turnout will be low, pointing to both the potential for violence and the boycott of the election by many Sunni Muslims. Even turnout among overseas voters, who face none of the risks potentially faced by voters in Iraq, is expected to be low–only 25% of eligible overseas voters have registered to vote.
Still More News on the Torture at Abu Ghraib
In the same week that Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzales stated that the Convention Against Torture Treaty does not prohibit the use of “cruel, inhuman or degrading techniques” (source), more information has come out about torture and the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. As Media Mouse has repeatedly stated from the start of the “torture scandal,” these are not isolated acts of abuse but are rather systemic and an inherent part of the way the military operates. Testimony from the court martial of Spc. Charles Graner has revealed more abuse and allowed for Iraqis to speak about their abuse. Moreover, a recent article in The American Prospect provides a detailed exploration of the treatment of female detainees at Abu Ghraib, revealing widespread violations of human rights.
In addition to the abuse at Abu Ghraib, a new study by Human Rights Watch has found that abuse and torture by Iraqi police is common place, suggesting that the Iraqi police forces have learned well from their US counterparts.
The Rising Human and Financial Costs of the Iraq War
This week the United States suffered its “bloodiest day” in Iraq. On Wednesday 36 US troops were killed, 31 in a helicopter crash and 5 by insurgent attacks. This comes amidst a steadily growing insurgency that is gaining supporters and becoming increasingly effective according to the US military. As of January 28, 1,420 US troops have been killed in Iraq with an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 casualties (a number which is growing rapidly – an average of 708 soldiers are injured per month). The toll on Iraqis has been much greater—a recent study found that at least 100,000 Iraqis have died as a result of the US invasion. The daily violence in Iraq, committed by both the United States and insurgent groups, is rife with scenes of death and devastation.
Resolution urging withdrawal from Iraq to be introduced
According to the Institute for Public Accuracy, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) plans to introduce a congressional resolution today in the U.S. House of Representatives calling on President Bush to begin the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
Woolsey, who is in her seventh term in the House, told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “Removing some 130,000 soldiers from Iraq immediately is not logistically feasible, but we must take the first steps. We should not abandon Iraq; there is still a critical role for the United States in providing the development aid that can help create a civil society, support education and rebuild Iraq’s economic infrastructure. But the military option is clearly not working. It is truly time to support the troops, by bringing them home as soon as realistically possible.”
Iraqi Security Forces claim to Capture Top Zarqawi Aides
Iraqi security forces last Monday claimined to have captured a top bomb maker working for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The captured bomb maker, Sami Muhammad Ali Said al-Jaaf, was seized in a Baghdad raid on Jan. 15 and is believed to have taken part in about three-quarters of the car bombings in the capital since the war began, according to an Iraqi government spokesperson. Jaaf, who also went by the nom de guerre of Abu Omar al-Kurdi, reportedly was the “most lethal lieutenant” of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian militant who has a $25 million bounty on his head.
As with much of the news from Iraq, reports of Jaaf’s capture were not independently verified. Indeed, many people have questioned the prominent role Zarqawi and his followers have been given in the western media concerning the Iraqi resistance. In a recent post on his website “Empire Notes”, independent journalist and analyst Rahul Mahajan discusses some of the aspects of the Jaaf arrest as it relates to various “conspiracy theories.”