Reporters on the Job

Cool Thinking: Washington has been in an uproar over the Iraqi parliament's plans for a two-month vacation in July and August. The reaction is understandable given the heavy commitment the US is making to give the Iraqi government breathing space to advance political reforms and national reconciliation (see story).

But staff writer Howard LaFranchi, who visited parliament Tuesday, says members of Congress might (from their air-conditioned offices) consider their Iraqi counterparts' working conditions – and the role the US sometimes plays in them.

"After waiting in several security lines in Baghdad's 100-degree-plus heat, we made it into the building housing the parliament – only to find intermittent lighting and no air conditioning," says Howard. "The generators that supply power weren't functioning. Parliamentarians and journalists clustered around dormant AC units, as one might wait hopefully at a once-bubbling but now-dry spring, but no relief came."

The day's parliamentary session was canceled, Howard says. But this is where the US came in. Howard says that the generators were silent Tuesday for lack of fuel – fuel carried in tanker trucks that the military had stopped at the Green Zone's gates. After last month's bombing inside the parliament and with credible intelligence of fresh attempts at attacks, the military wasn't taking chances with fuel trucks."

Baghdad's Azzaman newspaper reported that a quorum had assembled for the session, Howard says, but the "withering" conditions made it impossible. No fuel, no generators. No generators, no AC. No AC, no parliament.

Howard says that informal discussions did proceed among panting parliamentarians, with the planned two-month break one "hot" topic. Some legislators say they expect the recess to be shortened or eliminated – but no one wants any adjustment to look like a response to US pressure.

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy World editor

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