Representative Ike Skelton (D-Mo.)

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Mother Jones: How will the power shift in Iraq work, politically speaking?

Rep. Ike Skelton: The government has to assume its duties. I’m very disappointed in the government. It is disappointing that it hasn’t done hardly anything toward reconciliation, such as passing legislation. The parliament is a mess and the whole government is waiting to turn to worms.

MJ: Is there enough stability for the Maliki government to be replaced through an organized, constitutional process?

IS: Well, they had successful elections, but I suppose they will have future successful elections. They were secure, and I can’t see any reason to think you cannot have future elections equally so.

MJ: Do you think the Maliki government has much of a future?

IS: Not unless they get their act together.

MJ: Along the lines of passing legislation, what do you think are some key moves the Iraqi government needs to make to prepare for an American withdrawal?

IS: Well, of course, make sure their military assumes their security. Get their police force operating much better than it is today. Make sure parliament works and represents the people. It is a tough job. Reconciliation is difficult at best, but they are going to have to do it or the whole thing just collapses. Even if you had a huge success on the battlefield, it will be for naught unless the political arm gets its act together. Frankly, I’m very, very concerned about this.

MJ: Let me ask you about some of the things we leave behind in Iraq. What do we do with all of the prisoners who are in U.S. detention centers? What do we do with the military bases we’ve been using?

IS: The military bases are one thing. You can hope the Iraqi military will be in such good shape that they can assume security of their own country. We of course could leave some trainers and advisers there and of course some personnel to guard our embassy, our troops.

MJ: What about the detainees in U.S.-run detention centers?

IS: I don’t have a clue.

MJ: Okay, who makes that decision? Is it the military, the administration, I guess?

IS: Yes.

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That's why donations big and small make up 74 percent of our budget this year. There is no backup to keep us going, no alternate revenue source, no secret benefactor. If readers don’t donate, we won’t be here. It's that simple.

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