Saturday, August 09, 2008

Investigating in the Middle East

By Carol Gee

Difficult to discover -- It is a long way from the United States to the Middle East. The Middle East can be a very dangerous place for fact-finders. Fortunately for us, investigative journalists persist in trying to ascertain what is actually happening in the region.

These authors did considerable investigation resulting in several contrasting elements -- wonderfully personal stories of soldiers and their families, detailed facts and figures about the war termed Operation Enduring Freedom, and trends in the current Afghan war situation. The story is worth reading for a number of reasons. "500: Deadly U.S. Milestone in Afghan War," is the sad Memeorandum headline from the New York Times. To quote from the article (By KIRK SEMPLE and ANDREW W. LEHREN. Published: August 6, 2008):

. . . in June, the war in Afghanistan roared back into public view when American deaths from hostilities exceeded those in Iraq. In the face of an expanding threat from the Taliban, the conflict is becoming deadlier and much more violent for American troops, who three weeks ago reached their highest deployment levels ever, at 36,000.

June was the second deadliest month for the military in Afghanistan since the war began, with 23 American deaths from hostilities, compared with 22 in Iraq. July was less deadly, with 20 deaths, compared with six in Iraq. On July 22, nearly seven years after the conflict began on Oct. 7, 2001, the United States lost its 500th soldier in the Afghanistan war.

Trusted Middle East expert, Juan Cole of Informed Comment has been investigating the latest news from the region and gives us some of his useful (and alarming) discovery and analysis. The Iraqi Parliament adjourned for several weeks with "no provincial election law." The Arabs are threatening violence over the issue of Kirkuk. Quoting further,

The sticking point was finding an acceptable formula for holding the elections in the mixed province of Kirkuk, which is being fought over by Kurds, Turkmen and Arabs. The failure to pass the law makes it virtually impossible to hold provincial elections in 2008.

. . . Even more alarming than the Iraqi parliament's inability to arrange for provincial elections to be held over 2 years after they were first scheduled is the reason for the failure. The debate on provincial elections has revealed that the Kirkuk dispute is a volcano about to blow, and that ordinary liberal institutions of debate and compromise seem helpless before the ethno-nationalist passions boiling there. Resolving Kirkuk is not only key to social peace in northern Iraq but also in the entire eastern Mediterranean.

"State IG to probe a deal between a Texas oil firm and Iraqi Kurds," is an article taken from TPM Muckraker, known for its investigative journalism. The story goes on to quote the details of Texas' Hunt Oil Company's deal with the Kurds from the New York Times. To quote the opening :

Publicly, the U.S. State Department said it was discouraging U.S. oil companies from forging deals with Iraqi Kurds last year.

But privately, Bush administration officials may have sent different signals.

Now the State Department's Inspector General has launched an investigation into what exactly was said to whom.

Adding unique insight into a high profile expose' -- Also from Informed Comment comes additional details from Professor Cole regarding the Ron Suskind book, "The Way of the World." The book's author discloses further details about an allegedly forged Abu Nidal letter used to make the case for the war in Iraq. Cole's post is particularly valuable as it brings in facts usually known principally in the ME region.

McClatchy has the best -- Frequently Professor Cole finishes one of his posts with a summary of the latest war facts and figures taken from McClatchy's coverage. McClatchy Newspapers carries an excellent in-depth study (8 months) of the Guantanamo Bay prison entitled, "Guantanamo: Beyond the Law." (Link to Table of Contents). Before you read the entire series, I recommend Juan Cole's (6/18/08) post, "The Great Torture Scandal."

Today's post begins in Afghanistan, moves to northern Iraq, and ends in Guantanamo, Cuba, a shameful stand-in for the war-zones, and intimately connected to the Middle East. Kudos to Kirk Semple, Andrew Lehren, Juan Cole, and to The New York Times and McClatchy Newspapers, for upholding investigations it will take years to complete.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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