Tim Dunlop posts about Iraq interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s impending visit to the US, where he’ll address the United Nations and (effectively) campaign for the re-election of President Bush. Tim suggests that this is utterly inappropriate given that Allawi is only a short-term interim leader and unelected at that, and that you’d reckon he’d be fully occupied at home trying to stop his country sliding into anarchy and civil war. I agree.
But one of Tim’s subsidiary points merits correction (or at least clarification).
Tim observes that Allawi is only the Iraqi head of government and not the head of state, and therefore not the appropriate dinitary to address the UN in any event. But is that true? If an Australian dignitary were to address the United Nations, it would be the Prime Minister not the Governor-General, even though the PM is the “head of government” and the G-G the “head of state”. That is because under the Australian system the Prime Minister is the repository of all executive power, while the G-G is for almost all purposes a powerless ceremonial figurehead.
Although the detailed arrangements in Iraq’s Interim Constitution are somewhat different, the bottom line is the same. The PM has all the power. The Iraqi President, or more accurately the Presidency Council consisting of the President and two deputies elected by the (currently not popularly elected) National Assembly, has the power to veto legislation in a similar way to the US President. But in just about every other way, the President and Presidency Council are just as powerless as Australia’s Governor-General.
Accordingly, if it was appropriate for any Iraqi interim leader to address the UN at present (which it isn’t), then Allawi would be the right choice.
Incidentally, I also agree with Tim’s broader point that the American media is reporting this (and most other Iraq-related issues) in a remarkably credulous and unquestioning way, scarcely analysing at all any of the blatantly self-serving and misleading propaganda being pumped out by the Bush administration. The US media’s current supine stance contrasts with the dogged investigative journalism of the Watergate era or even Iran Contragate in the 1980s. Why this depressing drop in journalistic standards (with its concomitant impact on political accountability)? Do the media proprietors regard this as wartime, so that it’s necessary to display national unity at all costs and would be traitorous to question Administration claims too closely? Have they been thoroughly cowed by the Republican attack dog machine? Or is there some other reason not apparent to this Australian observer? Anyone have any ideas? Has any decent analytical journalist or pundit written about the decline of mainstream American investigative journalism?
Moreover, as EvilPundit observes in the comment box to a previous post, the Bush memo fiasco is also an example of declining standards of investigative journalism (and ethics).
PS – I had intended to post this in Tim’s comment box, but the facility seems to be buggered at present. Where’s Neale Talbot when you need him?