As Atrios Says, “Meanwhile… Over There,” Part II

Ernesto Londoño at WaPo:

The leader of the bloc that received the most votes in last month’s elections called Wednesday for the creation of an internationally backed caretaker authority to prevent what he said were unlawful attempts by Iraq’s government to overturn the results.

The move escalated a standoff between the Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc, which won the most seats in the March 7 parliamentary elections, and a bloc led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, which came in a close second. Former prime minister Ayad Allawi, the leader of Iraqiya, also proposed extending the mandate of the outgoing parliament until a new one is in place, “for the purpose of monitoring the executive branch.”

Adding to the political tension, Human Rights Watch released a report late Tuesday saying that members of a military unit under the command of Maliki, a Shiite, systemically tortured and sexually abused hundreds of Sunni Arab prisoners.

“The horror we found suggests torture was a norm in [al-Muthanna],” Joe Stork, the group’s Middle East director, said in a statement, referring to a secret detention facility at a military airport in Baghdad. “The government needs to prosecute all of those responsible for this systemic brutality.”

In recent days, U.S. officials have expressed concern about the post-election wrangling, which has prevented Iraq’s electoral commission from certifying the results and has indefinitely delayed formation of a new Iraqi government.

Standing in the way are a manual recount of votes cast in Baghdad and efforts by a commission run by Shiite politicians to disqualify winning candidates for alleged ties to Saddam Hussein’s outlawed Baath Party. At the same time, the U.S. military intends to withdraw about half of its current force by the end of August, leaving 50,000 troops.

Allawi said Wednesday that the Justice and Accountability Commission is carrying out “malicious disqualifications.”

Greg Scoblete:

Part of me thinks that we’ve entered into a period similar to 2004-2005, where brewing trouble inside Iraq is either dismissed or ignored. Just as conservatives and the Bush administration pooh-poohed the insurgency right up until the point that it exploded, now (if they’re even paying attention) they’re dismissing the political violence and declaring President Bush a world-historical figure for the Surge. Liberals, who had an incentive during the Bush years to sound the alarm, have mostly fallen silent (except for Robert Dreyfuss, who thinks Iran has already won). I sure hope I’m wrong. But sectarian torture camps don’t bode well for the future of a democratic Iraq.

Human Rights Watch:

Detainees in a secret Baghdad detention facility were hung upside-down, deprived of air, kicked, whipped, beaten, given electric shocks, and sodomized, Human Rights Watch said today. Iraq should thoroughly investigate and prosecute all government and security officials responsible, Human Rights Watch said.

Human Rights Watch interviewed 42 of the men in the Al Rusafa Detention Center on April 26, 2010. They were among about 300 detainees transferred from the secret facility in the old Muthanna airport in West Baghdad to Al Rusafa into a special block of 19 cage-type cells over the past several weeks, after the existence of the secret prison was revealed.

The men’s stories were credible and consistent. Most of the 300 displayed fresh scars and injuries they said were a result of routine and systematic torture they had experienced at the hands of interrogators at Muthanna. All were accused of aiding and abetting terrorism, and many said they were forced to sign false confessions.

CNN:

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki disputed reports charging that Iraq is torturing and abusing people in a secret prison.

“There are no secret prisons in Iraq at all,” the prime minister said in a Monday interview with state-run Al-Iraqiya TV.

Allegations of torture and abuse at the prison, named Muthanna, were first reported by The Los Angeles Times April 19. Amnesty International has urged Iraqi officials to investigate the claims.

Human Rights Watch released a report on the issue Tuesday, saying the detainees are routinely beaten, shocked and sodomized by their interrogators.

Al-Maliki continued to deny that there was a secret prison and called the reports “a smear campaign in which embassies and media organizations took part and it was perpetuated by Iraqi politicians because it serves their interests to say that there are secret prisons.”

John Cole:

The NY Times:

The torture of Iraqi detainees at a secret prison in Baghdad was far more systematic and brutal than initially reported, Human Rights Watch reported on Tuesday.The Washington Post:

Adding to the political tension, Human Rights Watch released a report late Tuesday saying that members of a military unit under the command of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, systemically tortured and sexually abused hundreds of Sunni Arab prisoners.NPR:

Iraqi men held for months at a secret prison outside Baghdad were systematically tortured and forced to sign confession statements that in at least some cases they were forbidden to read, according to a new report by a human rights group released Wednesday.When OTHER people do it, HRW is a legitimate, credible source, and it is not “allegations of torture” or “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

Funny, that. In a really sad way.

Jonathan Bernstein:

On the politics of Iraq, it’s pretty clear from the article and other coverage that at least some Republicans are preparing to attack the president on Iraq, on the grounds that he’s (1) insufficiently focused on it, (2) stubbornly sticking to an inflexible deadline, and so therefore (3) he will have “lost” Iraq.  (Not to mention (4) The Terrorists!).  Obama would be wise, on narrow political grounds, to continue to ignore such criticisms.  This is, in a sense, a curious case where the usual myopia of the American mass media is going to help Obama even if the policy goes wrong.  Basically, as long as Americans aren’t dying in Iraq, there are going to be very few news stories about that nation.  That’s going to be true if there’s a low-level civil war, and it’s certainly going to be true if democracy doesn’t, in the end, triumph.  Sure, if there’s a coup, CNN will cover it briefly, but after that it’ll be back to weather, murders, shark attacks, and whatever else CNN fills its days with.  If there’s no coup, but just increasingly rigged elections, or Iraq falling further into Iran’s camp, it’ll get even less coverage (were you aware of this anti-American rally in Iraq last week?  Didn’t think so).  No one is ever going to base their vote against Barack Obama or the Democrats primarily on Iraq becoming a basket case, if that’s what happens, in large part because the media aren’t going to cover it.

Andrew Sullivan:

He thinks Obama will continue to draw down troops even if all hell breaks loose. That seems to be the message from the White House. But I’m not so sanguine about the reaction in the US if all those deaths and all that cost and all that damage ends up empowering a Shiite pseudo-strongman, with torture prisons and rigged elections. Anarchy is on the march.

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