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Friday, September 24, 2004

Why Riverbend Talks Back to the TV 

Via Corrente: Riverbend of Baghdad Burning offers a capsule review of Iraqi PM Iyad Allawi's joint press conference with President Bush on Tuesday, and if her remarks could be distilled down to a single word, it would be the word we discussed at length in the post immediately below this one:
You know things are really going downhill in Iraq, when the Bush speech-writers have to recycle his old speeches. Listening to him yesterday, one might think he was simply copying and pasting bits and pieces from the older stuff. My favorite part was when he claimed, "Electricity has been restored above pre-war levels..." Even E. had to laugh at that one. A few days ago, most of Baghdad was in the dark for over 24 hours and lately, on our better days, we get about 12 hours of electricity. Bush got it wrong (or Allawi explained it to incorrectly)- the electricity is drastically less than pre-war levels, but the electricity BILL is way above pre-war levels. Congratulations Iraqis on THAT!! Our electricity bill was painful last month. Before the war, Iraqis might pay an average of around 5,000 Iraqi Dinars a month for electricity (the equivalent back then of $2.50) - summer or winter. Now, it's quite common to get bills above 70,000 Iraqi Dinars... for half-time electricity.

After Bush finished his piece about the glamorous changes in Iraq, Allawi got his turn. I can't seem to decide what is worse- when Bush speaks in the name of Iraqi people, or when Allawi does. Yesterday's speech was particularly embarrassing. He stood there groveling in front of the congress- thanking them for the war, the occupation and the thousands of Iraqi lives lost... and he did it all on behalf of the Iraqi people. It was infuriating and for maybe the hundredth time this year, I felt rage. Yet another exile thanking the Bush administration for the catastrophe we're trying to cope with. Our politicians are outside of the country 90% of the time (by the way, if anyone has any news of our president Ghazi Ajeel Al Yawir, do let us know- where was he last seen or heard?), the security situation is a joke, the press are shutting down and pulling out and our beloved exiles are painting rosey pictures for the American public- you know- so everyone who voted for Bush can sleep at night.

Allawi actually said "thank you" nine times. Nine times. It really should have been more- at least double that number of Iraqis died yesterday... and about five times that number the day before. Looking back on the last month alone, over 350 Iraqis have been killed either by American air strikes, fighting, or bombs... only 9 thank yous?

The elections are already a standard joke. There's talk of holding elections only in certain places where it will be 'safe' to hold them. One wonders what exactly comprises 'safe' in Iraq today. Does 'safe' mean the provinces that are seeing fewer attacks on American troops? Or does 'safe' mean the areas where the abduction of foreigners isn't occurring? Or could 'safe' mean the areas that *won't* vote for an Islamic republic and *will* vote for Allawi? Who will be allowed to choose these places? Right now, Baghdad is quite unsafe. We see daily abductions, killings, bombings and Al-Sadr City, slums of Baghdad, see air strikes... will they hold elections in Baghdad? Imagine, Bush being allowed to hold elections in 'safe' areas- like Texas and Florida.
Riverbend closes by endorsing a recent Juan Cole post from Informed Comment: "If America Were Iraq, What Would It Be Like?" (The short answer: it would be as if 9/11 came once a week.)

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