T2, Allawi and the UN

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?

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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Alan
Alan
2022 years ago

The Iraq interim constitution is not in force.

Allawi agreed to observe it but has in fact ignored it. The presidency council vetoed the Najaf campaign and was ignored by Allawi and the US. al-Jazeera has been banned contrary to the TAL bill of rights. Allawi has issued a national security law without reference to the presidency council, the cabinet or the interim national assembly.

The TAL was apparently window-dressing. On the other hand, the UN regularly hears from heads of government, many with a more dubious claim to that office than even Iyad Allawi.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Alan

I don’t think ignoring a purported Presidency Council “veto” on the Najaf campaign of itself evidences ignoring the Constitution. The Presidency Council’s veto power is confined to legislation (Article 37), and a military campaign normally wouldn’t require legislation. Moreover, although the Presidency Council is nominally the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, the Constitution makes clear that this carries no power. Article 39 provides:
(B) The Presidency Council shall carry out the function of commander-in-chief of the Iraqi Armed Forces only for ceremonial and protocol purposes. It shall have no command authority. It shall have the right to be briefed, to inquire, and to advise. Operationally, national command authority on military matters shall flow from the Prime Minister to the Minister of Defense to the military chain of command of the Iraqi Armed Forces.
Banning Al-Jazeera by executive decree is also not entirely clear. General free speech guarantees like Iraq’s Article 13(B) are interpreted in widely differing ways in different countries. In part the interpetive act depends on cultural factors and the extent of real threats to stability. Even in the US, the Supreme Court’s interptation of the First Amendment accepts that freedom of speech is not absolute, and can be infringed by a reasonable law aimed at protecting against a “clear and present danger”. Whether Al-Jazeera even arguably presents such a danger is questionable, however, and even if it did it certainly wouldn’t permit banning by executive action (as opposed to a law passed by Parliament).

Your example of Allawi issuing a national security law without reference to the Presidency Council (the Constitution doesn’t require this), the cabinet (presumably Council of Ministers) or interim National Assembly (which clearly IS required for legal effect) appears to be a much clearer example of ignoring the Constitution.

I’m not suggesting that Iraq is in reality ruled by anything other than the gun and the bomb at present, however. Mostly I’m just nit-picking.

Tim
Tim
2022 years ago

Useful clarification, Ken, though I’d add that my point was more about the appropriateness of an interim anything assuming this sort of speaking-on-behalf-of-the-country sort of role.

As to the quality of US investigative journalism. Well, first I’d acknowledge that the US probably provides some of the best and some of the worst examples, even in regard to Iraq, with Seymour Hersh’s exposure of the Abu Ghraib stuff being a good recent example.

I guess in general, though, the usual things apply: they have an administration that is currently in control of the largest propaganda apparatus in the history of the world and they are not afraid to use it. This includes a willingness to intimidate journalists by threatening black bans, a phenomena a number of journalist have told me about, and examples of which I’m sure Google will uncover.

There is also a very strong work-the-refs network in place, largely done by various pressure groups and think tanks. Thus, each and every story deemed politically incorrect by the “right” is pounced upon and cited as “evidence” of media bias. Which is precisely why the rightwing smear machine is working overtime on the Dan Rather thing. NOt that Rather doesn’t deserve some abuse, but the idea that journalists have never been misled by sources before is silly. Compare and contrast the relatively minor attention given to Judith Miller of the NYTimes who basically reproduced Chalabi lies on the front page of the Times in story after story and thus helped lay the groundwork for the war that is still ongoing (and going downhill) in Iraq. Quite instructive.

So–very, very roughly–it’s something like a combination of intimidation and eternal vigilance where no “bad thought” is left unchallenged and no “bad” journalist is left unpunished.

I’d actually say, though, that the real problem is less the serious investigative stuff than it is with the daily “hacks” like the guy who wrote the piece I quoted in the post you link to. The regular journo who simply reproduces press releases, even when they contradict themselves or his own thoughts on the subject is ultimately doing more damage than the commentators and investigative guys simply because it so easy to presume that they are just reporting the facts in a regular news story. Thus you get “slow” and “halting” “strides” and no-one much notices, not even the journalist under whose name the story appears.

Doug
2022 years ago

A minor point to add to Tim’s: profit-pressures leave fewer and fewer journalists in the position to do any real investigation (and then certainly not in teams), with an increasing number in most media outlets depressingly reliant upon recycling press-releases to produce enough news product to deadline.

Sure, these time/profit pressures existed in the 70s and 80s media, but they have certainly intensified through the 90s (as in most other professional industries).

Bob
Bob
2022 years ago

Let me get this straight – Tim objects to Allawi when terrorists (Arafat, Guevara) and muderous dictators have addressed the UN General Assembly. I mean, this IS a joke isn’t it?

Alan
Alan
2022 years ago

Ken, neither the US nor Allawi regard the TAL as in force in Iraq.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Alan

I dealt with your points on your blog, because this aspect is very much peripheral to my post. For the purposes of my post it really doesn’t matter whether Allawi’s power and position are derived from the TAL/interim constitution or real world power politics (e.g. making a pact with the US Satan and being preapred to do its bidding while striking an independent pose). The fact is that he’s the effective sole repository of “legal” power in Iraq at present. Accordingly, if anyone is the appropriate choice to address the UN, it’s him.

But in fact no-one is the appropriate choice at present, and that’s not a result of his lack of democratic legitimacy because, as another commenter observed, the UN has no problem inviting assorted bloodthirsty unelected dictators to address it. The inappropriateness instead flows from the following factors:
(a) Allawi is a short-term interim leader who almost certainly won’t be in power after next January (unless the election is cancelled or drastically rorted);
(b) He should be at home trying to avert chaos and civil war;
(c) It’s inappropriate in any event for any foreign leader to effectively insert himself into an American election campaign in support of one of the candidates (and even more inappropriate for Bush to engineer it).

mark
2022 years ago

He can’t object to Allawi and terrorists and dictators, Bob? Whyever not?

Bob
Bob
2022 years ago

I must have missed his posts about the terrorists and dictators. Could you be more disingenuous?

trackback
2022 years ago

the little constitution that couldn’t

How did the Bush administration invest so much in the TAL and then find itself forced to abandon it? It appears that Bremer never realized that his decrees would not legally outlast the occupation

trackback
2022 years ago

Yes, interim prime minister

The interim prime minister of Iraq is to address both the United Nations and a joint sitting of the US Congress. Quick question: Why? On what basis does an interim PM–an unelected appointee of the occupying force–get to prance around…