Parliament in recent months has been at a standstill. Nearly every session since November has been adjourned because as few as 65 members made it to work, even as they and the absentees earned salaries and benefits worth about $120,000.
Part of the problem is security, but Iraqi officials also said they feared that members were losing confidence in the institution and in the country's fragile democracy. As chaos has deepened, Parliament's relevance has gradually receded.
I'm puzzled; if this is the state of Iraqi democracy, why doesn't the Bush administration or some affiliated war-booster use it to shame that meddlesome majority of Americans who don't back the surge? Oh, right… the incompetence.
"Most of them were here for the game, for prestige, for the money," said Muhammad al-Ahmedawi, a Shiite member of the Fadhila Party. "It's upsetting and disappointing. We want the members to come, to pursue the interests of their constituents, especially in this sensitive time."
Mr. Ahmedawi said politicians who had larger shares of power before the elections seemed to view Parliament as a demotion best ignored. Mr. Allawi, for example, who did not return calls to his London aides requesting an interview, has been rallying support in Amman and London among exiles who have fled Iraq's violence.
Allawi… Allawi. That sounds familiar.
Q: Mr. President, how do you evaluate Mr. Allawi's visit to America? And in what way—how can we—what the result will be reflected on the situation of Iraq, as a result of this visit?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, first, I'm glad to be able to look him in the eye—(laughter)—and tell him how much I appreciate his courage. I believe that Iraq needed a strong government to lead the people toward a free world. And this group of gentlemen here are doing just that.
Let's hear it for those gentlemen.