1. Run Medicare
2. Help draft legislation opening up a lot of it to private companies.
3. Sit back and relax while the companies bid for your services in helping them figure out how to profit from the law you created.
1. Run Medicare
2. Help draft legislation opening up a lot of it to private companies.
3. Sit back and relax while the companies bid for your services in helping them figure out how to profit from the law you created.
According to a new Amnesty International report, the Bush administration approved the sale of almost $20 million worth of equipment that can be used for torture to countries to with a record of using them for that purpose.
Twenty million dollars. Well, I guess to some people that really doesn't seem like a lot of money. But it can buy a whole lot of misery.
Kiasernetwork is the best resource I've come across that brings you information on the World AIDS day related events, news stories, access to studies and key facts; links to resources and organizations around the world. Worth reading!
In October, Bill Clinton brokered with generic drug companies in India and South Africa to provide antiretrovirals at a third of the current cost to people suffering from AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean. The cost will be even lower than the current price for generics. It's an extremely promising development. One of the few remotely positive things that came out of the WTO conference in Cancun was a deal permitting poor countries to import generic copies of patented medicines to treat diseases like AIDS. But the WTO deal put so many bureaucratic barriers in the way of countries that wanted to produce generics for export, and there was so much fear of retalition by the United States, which zealously protects its pharmaceutical companies, that it seemed unlikely that many generic drug companies would find the battle worth fighting.
In essence, the Clinton Foundation, with a lot of personal lobbying and finagling by Bill Clinton himself, helped companies in India and South Africa break down some of the barriers. The Wall Street Journal details Clinton's involvement and achievement. Essentially, according to the WSJ, he created a viable market by convincing governments to roll out nation-wide treatment programs (and helping to find funding for those programs) which insured the generic drug companies a large enough number of patients over time to make a small profit. Clinton also got the drug companies to open their books and manufacturing processes to outsiders, who hunted for ways to cut costs.
Dr. Bernard Pécoul of Doctors Without Borders's Access to Essential Medicines Campaign says that because of the Clinton Foundation's actions, "the World Health Organization's objective of reaching 3 million by 2005 becomes much more feasible."
Kaisernet has an essential round-up of just about everything that's been written on the subject.
But of course, there's always a downside. The Wall Street Journal article suggests that patent-holding pharmaceutical companies may try to block the deal. If they do, it will put George Bush in an interesting position. He's exploited the AIDS crisis, putting more money into AIDS prevention and relief (although not as much as he says he put), but arranging the system to benefit drug companies rather than victims of AIDS. He even appointed a former CEO of Eli Lilly, and member of a group that lobbies to protect drug patents, Randall Tobias, to oversee his AIDS plan. If he had any concern for suffering people, he'd be thrilled with the Clinton Foundation's achievement, because it would make any money the United States put into AIDS relief go a lot farther. If he does anything to back the drug companies in this case, it will be pretty obvious that he asked American taxpayers to pay for nothing but relief of the suffering pharmaceutical companies.
Tommy Thompson may have been a bit too honest in pointing out that AIDS has caused "more casualties than any other war." He's right. About 3 million people have died this year. But the war analogy invites unavoidable comparisons, which Jeffrey Sachs made yesterday:
Speaking at the opening of the annual General Conference for the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Sachs said the world was spending an astronomical amount of money on the instruments of war and a fraction of that on AIDS.
"This year, the world will spend $900 billion on armaments, $50 billion on development assistance, and perhaps one billion dollars on AIDS," he said in his speech coinciding with World AIDS Day.
"And my own country, the United States, will spend $450 billion on the military and $10 billion on development assistance -- a ratio of 45 to one," he added.
I've picked on George Bush's ostentatious but hollow AIDS relief plan enough times. Nothing I can do will scratch that hypocrisy. So on to what others are doing. The World Health Organization is focusing on how to get medicine to 3 million people in poor countries by 2005:
The World Health Organisation will on Monday announce a plan to train "barefoot doctors" to deliver Aids drugs in parts of Africa and other poor countries.
Under the new plan, the WHO will organise training programmes to teach people who do not have medical qualifications how to provide elements of Aids treatment in rural communities.
The training scheme is one of the central parts of the WHO's new plan to have 3m people in poor countries on Aids drugs by 2005. Other initiatives include establishing a list of recommended and simple Aids treatments and a system for acquiring cheap and safe drugs.
All important steps -- particularly training people to deliver medication. As the New York Times recently reported, one of the problems in dealing with the epidemic is the shortage of medical workers in developing countries, aggravated by the fact that some Third World professionals are being lured away to fill shortages in developed countries. Charles Arthur phrased it more bluntly in today's Independent:
Botswana's nurses, doctors, pharmacists and other health workers qualified to run such a programme are leaving. Britain, America and other European countries have poached them. Botswana recently lost 130 nurses to Britain and the country's 6,000-strong nursing workforce is not large enough to deal with the country's health needs. Only 9,000 out of a possible 110,000 patients have been enrolled on the antiretroviral programme.
Mompati Merafhe, the Foreign Minister, has raised the issue of poaching with the British Government. To the private agencies that recruit the staff, he said: "How heartless can you be? Why do you recruit medical personnel from countries which are so afflicted by Aids?" At Princess Marina Hospital in the capital, Gaborone, 3,000 patients are enrolled on a programme but there are only 30 nurses trained to run it.
I know. They can make far more money here, far more easily, than there. But I can't understand by what logic we need nurses more than they do. One more free market failure, which the WHO tries to work around.
But there are things the World Health Organization can't do. All the health care workers in the world won't make a difference if the drugs aren't available, or are too expensive. And American trade policy has a great deal to do with the cost and availability of those drugs. Nicholas Kristof, who rarely goes radical, recently wrote a fierce op-ed on the subject, and got it exactly right:
Even now, some governments in Central America choose to let their people die rather than distribute cheap generic AIDS drugs, which would save more lives but might irritate the U.S. And now America is trying to make it more difficult for these countries to use generic drugs.
That's why I decided to write about the Free Trade Area of the Americas, or F.T.A.A., not from Miami, where the negotiations were under way this week, but from rural Guatemala. Here it's easier to appreciate the stark choice that we Americans face: Do we want to maximize profits for U.S. pharmaceutical companies, or do we want to save lives?
American trade negotiators, in both the Clinton and Bush administrations, have pushed U.S. interests in a narrow economic sense by making it difficult for poor nations to use cheap generic medicines. In front of the television cameras, the U.S. has made some concessions to public health needs, but the compassion usually vanishes in trade negotiations.
They need money. They need drugs. They need the kind of honesty they aren't going to get from people who run and hide when they hear the word condom. Health GAP, an organization of AIDS activists in the US, has asked all the candidates running for president to endorse a nine-point plan to deal with the AIDS crisis. It isn't just about how much money to spend; it's about knocking down the barriers to getting treatment to people who need it. Today Wesley Clark planned a proposal to enormously increase American contributions to AIDS relief, and to channel it through international organizations. It will be interesting to see if other candidates use World AIDS Day as an opportunity to be more specific about how they would deal with the crisis. One way or another, it wouldn't hurt to give them a little push in the right direction.
Update: All nine Democratic candidates have agreed with the Health GAP plan.
The French version of Robert Spencer's book Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World's Fastest Growing Faith has been canceleld, after the publisher and translator Guy Milliere received death threats: Here is an excerpt of the story:
Soon after the book’s publication was approved in France last April, its translator, French writer Guy Milliere, began to receive death threats.
“I sent him (the publisher) the translation of the first thirty pages,” said Milliere in a written interview. “A couple of weeks later I started to receive death threats by e-mail: ‘You must be an enemy of Islam; you will die for what you do’; ‘You must be a Jew; I hope somebody will slit your throat, you dirty Jew pig’, etc...I asked the police to act; I have received no answer.”
Milliere adds that the intended publisher, Yves Michalon, also received death threats. Moreover, opposition to the book’s publication in France came not only from outside, but also from within the publishing house, which bears the publisher’s name. According to Milliere, one of Michalon’s assistants told him that if he published the book, he would resign, because it was “racist.” He also said he would go to the media with this charge.
“My publisher preferred to give it up,” said Milliere. “But he is a nice man, and a bold one; he asked me to write a book about what happened.”
For his part, Spencer calls the cancellation of his book’s publication “...a symptom of the Islamic agenda in France and the silencing of non-Muslims as ‘dhimmis’.”
“What you have here is a subjugation of public opinion in France,” he said. “It’s ironic. If you don’t say Islam is a religion of peace, they will kill you. My book doesn’t advocate murdering anyone. It only investigates questions about Islam, but it is so threatening that they’ll kill to silence it.”
What does publishing this book have to do with the publisher's religion? It's almost as if being a Jew alone makes you an enemy in Islam's eyes, which is of course laughable, because Islam has always been peaceful and tolerant toward "people of the book."
PARIS - Vandals desecrated tombs at a Jewish cemetery in southern France, carving swastikas and other Nazi symbols into the headstones, officials said Tuesday.
Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin condemned the attack in Marseille as a "hateful manifestation of anti-Semitism."
Seven tombs at the Trois-Lucs cemetery were covered with graffiti or damaged by pelted rocks, said Alain Marc, an official at the regional prefecture.
French President Jacques Chirac promised a tough crackdown on anti-Semitism after an arson attack on a Jewish school outside Paris this month. There were no injuries, but the building was gutted.
In the last two years, France has suffered a wave of violence against Jewish schools, temples and cemeteries that coincided with new fighting in the Middle East. Many of the attacks have been blamed on young Muslims.
Robert Spencer the author of Onward Muslim Soldiers: How Jihad Still Threathens America and the West, explains in his book the rise of anti-Semitism, who the culprits are and the attitude of the French authorities in dealing with anti-Semitism sentiments.
Here Robert Spencers quotes Omer Taspinar a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution:
The perpetrators of anti-Semitic incidents in France are not right-wing extremists protecting the 'French race' from Jewish contamination: The four hundred or so anti-Semitic incidents documented in the country during 2001 have mostly been attributed to Muslim youth of North African origin.
Why is the French Government ignoring the increasing rise of anti-Semistism? Why is there a pretense that the main victims of hate crimes in France are Muslims, when actually the main victims of hate crimes in France are Jews?
Despite the popular perception in France that Muslims are the most frequent victims of racism, the most common victims of racist attacks in that country have not been Muslims, but Jews. The National Consultative Committee on Human Rights discovered that in 2002, "there had been a sixfold increase over 2001 in acts of violence against Jewish property and persons. Of 313 acts of racist violence documented in 2002, 193 were anti-Semitic." The popular perception that Muslims are the primary victims of racist attacks is, quite simply, wrong.
Why is the International community and the French public being deluded into thinking that the main victims of racial slurs and attacks in France are the Muslims, when in reality the main victims are Jews? Robert Spencer explains the attitude of the French authorities:
French authorities have been reluctant to antagonize their growing and restive Muslim minority. The multiculturalism that has utterly taken over the Western intelligentsia has made it difficult for authorities to take action against Muslim jihadist doctrines even when those doctrines threaten the stability of the secular society. According to Michel Zaoui of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France (CRIF), "The previous leftist government didn't do anything to discourage anti-Israel and anti-Semitic propostions by militant Islamic preachers, in part because their philosophy was to show sympathy to the 'damned' and poor. Now, the rightist government would like to act but is afraid of antagonizing Muslims."
So it seems the French government is afraid to crack the problem, but what will happen in the near future when the Muslim population grows ito be an ever larger share of the total population. In a few decades, Muslims will be the majority in France. According to Spencer:
The Muslim population of Europe doubled between 1989 and 1998, and if population trends continue, Holland could have a Muslim majority by 2040 or earlier. A Muslim France could emerge by the same year.
It appears that the paralysis against acting against Muslim anti-Semitism in France is based on fear, and that fear is going to develop into terror and panic against offending the Muslims as the demographic trends continue. That means that the anti-Semitism in France is going to get worse, not better, as the demographic trends, and the fear, both progress.
The following articles are worth reading as well:
Jerusalem Post: Europe's demonizing Israel not spontaneous
Israel's prime minister says anti-Semitism is rising in Europe, citing attacks on Jews and Jewish interests. His remarks followed an EU poll which showed many believe Israel is the greatest threat to world peace.
Is anti-Semitism really increasing? Is hostility towards Israeli policy in the Middle East becoming anti-Jewish? BBC News Online asked 12 experts on Jewish affairs from Europe and Israel to reflect on the charge.
Chicago Boyz: The Boomerang Effect
The Jew is once again the symbol of detested capitalism, and by a shameful distortion of history, of "imperialism". The liberal becomes the bearer of evil. The Jewish, or pro-Jewish liberal becomes the target of the ultimate hatred. The anti-globalization movement gets closer to islamists, and the latter allow themselves to openly attack "Jewish thinkers" guided by their "race". The "anti-racists" fight for the right to wear a veil, and fascist-leaning newspapers approve. To publish some books becomes difficult : publishers are scared.
There are no professional interdictions yet, but that will probably come. I am currently the object of several campaigns attempting to cut off my means of income and have me thrown out of France. Is it because I do not do my work well? No, it's because I am a libertarian, because I defend Israel, because I am outraged by terrorism, because I love the United States, and especially because I have a critical view of Islam. It would be so much easier if I were a leftist, fascist, anti-semitic, anti-american, convert to Islam. Then I would be left alone.
Washington Post: For Jews in France, a 'Kind of Intifada'
The file grows almost daily: 309 incidents in the past 15 months in the Paris region, according to Jewish council officials, and more than 550 since the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, broke out in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in September 2000. The National Consultative Committee on Human Rights, a government-funded body, reported a sixfold increase in acts of violence against Jewish people and property in France from 2001 to 2002.
Many incidents involve verbal assaults -- a taxi driver making an anti-Jewish remark to a passenger, a student harassed at school -- but nearly half involve violent acts of some kind. Most of the perpetrators are not the ultra-rightists and neo-Nazis who once were responsible for anti-Semitic acts, but young North African Arabs of the banlieues, the distant blue-collar suburbs where Muslims and Jews live and work in close proximity. Many of the victims are Sephardic Jews who themselves originally came from North Africa.
"We have our own kind of intifada here," says Zenouda, a Jew who immigrated here from Algeria. "But instead of attacking Israelis, they're attacking the Jews of France."
We all know that France had financial and oil interests in Iraq, and Michael Gonzalez goes a much deeper and finds out that aFrance has been bankrolling America's enemies. Here is an excerpt of the piece:
"Follow the money" is an old adage, and it means that economic interest will eventually explain much human behavior. That France opposed the removal of Saddam Hussein because he owed millions to French banks is proof of this. Less well known, but much more troubling, are key French financial links with other U.S. enemies. They raise the belief that the Franco-American conflict over Iraq was just one slice of the action. For France was not just Baathist Iraq's largest contributor of funds; French banks have financed other odious regimes. They are the No. 1 lenders to Iran and Cuba and past and present U.S. foes such as Somalia, Sudan and Vietnam.
This type of financing is shared by Germany, France's partner. German banks are North Korea's biggest lenders, and Syria's--and Libya's. But France is the most active. In Castro's sizzling gulag, French banks plunked down $549 million in the first trimester this year, a third of all credit to Cuba. The figure for Saddam's Iraq is $415 million. But these pale in comparison with the $2.5 billion that French banks have lent Iran. The figures come from the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) in Basel, and were interpreted by Iñigo Moré for a Madrid think-tank, the Real Instituto Elcano. As he says, "one could think that Parisian bankers wait for the U.S. to have an international problem before taking out their checkbooks." French banks seem to be almost anywhere U.S. banks are absent. They lend in 57 such countries, and are the main lenders in 23 of those. (His report can be read at www.realinstitutoelcano.org.) The report offers reasons why Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin really ought to stop using the phrase "our American friends" every time he talks about the U.S.
Joseph Stiglitz, Alan Blinder, and Jeffrey Sachs, in short, here is the brief story. Sachs is more market-oriented than the first two names, so this makes for a slightly odd pairing. It is hard to imagine him advising Dean to "re-regulate" the economy, as the candidate has called for. Stiglitz and Blinder are not the two names I would have chosen myself, but at least he is opting for smart economists. By the way, Dean's primary advisors on domestic policy are Harvard law professor Christopher Edley, a well-known proponent of affirmative action, and Maria Echeveste, deputy chief of staff from the Clinton administration.
Also take a look at another article on Dean's Inner circle.
Mark Steyn has a lenghty piece in the The Spectator where he talks about five regimes that must be dealth with before we win the War on Terrorism. Here is an excerpt:
George W. Bush is right. Tony Blair is ‘plenty independent’; he is no poodle. Or, if he is, he’s succeeded in dragging his master through some pretty sticky bits of dog poop. Many of the present difficulties — including the Saddamite restoration movement on the streets of London last week — derive at least in part from the influence of the junior partner.
One or two readers may recall that a year and a half ago I was arguing that the invasion of Iraq needed to take place in the summer of 2002, before the first anniversary of 9/11. Unfortunately, President Bush listened to Mr Blair and not to me, and Mr Blair wanted to go ‘the extra mile’ with the UN, the French, the Guinean foreign minister and the rest of the gang. The extra mile took an extra six or eight months, and at the end of it America went to war with exactly the same allies as she would have done in June 2002. The only difference was that the interminable diplomatic dance emboldened M. Chirac and the other obstructionists, and permitted a relatively small anti-war fringe to blossom into a worldwide mass ‘peace’ movement. It certainly didn’t do anything for the war’s ‘legitimacy’ in the eyes of the world: indeed, insofar as every passing month severed the Iraqi action from the dynamic of 9/11, it diminished it. Taking a year to amass overwhelming force on the borders of Iraq may have made the war shorter and simpler, but it also made the postwar period messier and costlier. With the world’s biggest army twiddling its thumbs in Kuwait for months on end, the regime had time to move stuff around, hide it, ship it over the border to Syria, and allow interested parties to mull over tactics for a post-liberation insurgency.
So, as far as timing’s concerned, I think I was right, and Tony and Colin Powell and the other ‘voices of moderation’ were wrong. . . .
The five countries, he explains, are
terrorism’s most brazen patron (Syria), its ideological inspiration (the prototype Islamic Republic of Iran), its principal paymaster (Saudi Arabia), a critical source of manpower (Sudan) and its most potentially dangerous weapons supplier (North Korea).
Hundreds of pro-coalition demonstrators chanting "yes to Iraq, no to terrorism" marched through Baghdad yesterday amid a huge security operation mounted by American and Iraqi forces. Led by the relatives of two policemen killed in twin suicide bombings last Saturday and protected by two U.S. helicopters and scores of heavily armed Iraqi policemen, the marchers rallied in Firdus Square, where a large bronze statue of Saddam Hussein was toppled by Iraqis and U.S. Marines on April 9 after the fall of Baghdad in the U.S.-led invasion. The march came one day after the surprise visit by President Bush to U.S. forces.
Click here for the full story.
Given cultural and linguistic barriers and with many sources having partisan agendas of their own, it's pretty difficult to know if there is any truth to this story. I would have rather read that thousands rather than hundreds of Iraqi's were marching.
However the following Iraqi blogs do offer positive spins to the story:
- Iraq The Model: I was there
- Healing Iraq: Yesterday's anti-Terrorism demonstrations in Baghdad
The time frame for this resurgence of judeophobia corresponds with the intensification of international links that took place in the 1990s. “People are losing their compass,” observes Dan Dinar, a historian at Hebrew University. “A worldwide stock market, a new form of money, no borders. Concepts like country, nationality, everything is in doubt. They are looking for the ones who are guilty for this new situation and they find the Jews.” The backlash against globalization unites all elements of the political spectrum through a common cause, and in doing so it sometimes fosters a common enemy—what French Jewish leader Roger Cukierman calls an anti-Semitic “brown-green-red alliance” among ultra-nationalists, the populist green movement, and communism’s fellow travelers. The new anti-Semitism is unique because it seamlessly stitches together the various forms of old anti-Semitism: The far right’s conception of the Jew (a fifth column, loyal only to itself, undermining economic sovereignty and national culture), the far left’s conception of the Jew (capitalists and usurers, controlling the international economic system), and the “blood libel” Jew (murderers and modern-day colonial oppressors).
Click here for the full text. It's a must read piece from the Foreign Policy magazine.
David Boaz, the executive vice president of the Cato Institute, had an op-ed in Sunday's Washington Post entitled: The Bush Betrayal
In 2000 George W. Bush campaigned across the country telling voters: "My opponent trusts government. I trust you."
Little wonder that some of his supporters are now wondering which candidate won that election.
Federal spending has increased by 23.7 percent since Bush took office. Education has been further federalized in the No Child Left Behind Act. Bush pulled out all the stops to get Republicans in Congress to create the biggest new entitlement program -- prescription drug coverage under Medicare -- in 40 years.
He pushed an energy bill that my colleague Jerry Taylor described as "three parts corporate welfare and one part cynical politics . . . a smorgasbord of handouts and subsidies for virtually every energy lobby in Washington."
It's a far cry from the less-government, "leave us alone" conservatism of Ronald Reagan.
Conservatives used to believe that the U.S. Constitution set up a government of strictly limited powers. It was supposed to protect us from foreign threats and deliver the mail, leaving other matters to the states or to the private sector -- individuals, families, churches, charities and businesses.
That's what lots of voters assumed they would get with Bush. In his first presidential debate with Al Gore, Bush contrasted his own vision of tax reduction with that of his opponent, who would "increase the size of government dramatically." Gore, Bush declared, would "empower Washington," but "my passion and my vision is to empower Americans to be able to make decisions for themselves in their own lives."
Bush was tapping into popular sentiment.
In fact, you could say that what most voters wanted in 2000 was neither Bush nor Gore but smaller government. A Los Angeles Times poll in September 2000 found that Americans preferred "smaller government with fewer services" to "larger government with many services" by 59 to 26 percent.
But that's not what voters got. . . .
Larry Elder: You cite Koran passages that state Jews, Christians and nonbelievers have three choices: conversion, second-class citizenship or death. When people say these kinds of things are "taken out of context," you say this simply isn't true?
Robert Spencer: Yes. They're dealing from a broad tradition within Islam that mandates violence against nonbelievers. It's an unpleasant fact . . . but . . . I give abundant testimony from Islamic sources to this effect, and it's no use denying it.
Elder: These madrasas where they are teaching the Koran, teaching hatred of Jews, Christianity and the West -- your argument is that they are not corrupting Islamic text, they are teaching actual text.
Spencer: They're working from very clear Islamic text. Radical Muslims around the world call Jews "monkeys" and "pigs." This comes from several very clear passages in the Koran that say Jews and Christians are under the curse of Allah, because of their disobedience and refusal to accept that Muhammad is a prophet . . . God turned them into monkeys and pigs. The fact that this kind of hatred is so deeply rooted in core Islamic text makes it all the more difficult to eradicate.
Elder: What does "jihad" -- an essential duty of every Muslim -- mean?
Spencer: When people say that jihad is a peaceful struggle -- it means "struggle," literally -- it means to bring the soul into line with the teachings of the Koran and the will of the law, that's true. But it's not the only meaning of jihad, or even the principal meaning. Throughout Islamic history, and Islamic theology and law, you have violent jihad being the primary understanding of what it means -- this collective responsibility of the Islamic community to wage war against non-Muslims until they either convert or submit as second-class citizens under Islamic rule.
Where do you think Taliban gets it's recruits? In mosques and madrassas. For more, read this article from the Asia Times.
Abdul Zahir's day starts with morning visits to a number of mosques in the Pakistani border area with Afghanistan, where the faithful gather for the first of their five daily prayer sessions. And once his morning session is over, he goes to some of the many madrassas (religious schools) in the area, or shows up at social gatherings, such as weddings, if there are any taking place.
"Abdul is unflagging in his rounds because he has an almost missionary zeal: to find recruits for jihad - or holy war - waged by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Himself blinded in one eye from action in Afghanistan, Abdul tells prospective recruits: 'You might fight at the front line, or you might stand guard at night. You can cook for other Islamic warriors, or you can be a male nurse. Or you can give the fighters money or grain - everything is welcome because the jihad has started.'
Evidently he has no fear that moderate Muslims in the mosques and Islamic schools where he makes appeals will rise up in indignation and repudiate his extremist Islam.
Many counter-terrorism analysts are convinced that the real war on terror is being hurt by the drain of resources to the Iraq war. Here is an excerpt of the article:
Experts who have served in top positions in both Republican and Democratic administrations are increasingly suggesting that the Iraq war has diverted momentum, troops and intelligence resources from the worldwide campaign to destroy the remnants of al-Qaida.
They note that the presence of U.S. troops in an Arab homeland is serving as a major recruiting tool for signing up and motivating new jihadis, or Islamic holy warriors.
"Fighting Iraq had little to do with fighting the war on terrorism, until we made it (so)," said Richard Clarke, who was a senior White House counter-terrorism official under Bush and President Bill Clinton.
Robert Fisk's essay, "How we denied democracy to the ME," coming in response to Bush's new policy statement, is worth reading. I think it is certainly the case that in the Cold War the US and Britain often did things to destroy democracy in the Middle East and to support various forms of dictatorship, because in so doing they hoped to defeat Communism. The problem with Fisk's op-ed is that it stops at pointing to Anglo-British hypocrisy. What would his policy be in the region, and how would he spur democratization?
What a marvelous piece on Dick Cheney by Frank Foer and Spencer Ackerman in the new issue of The New Republic.
In early 2002, Vice President Dick Cheney spoke to President George W. Bush from the heart. The war in Afghanistan had been an astonishing display of U.S. strength. Instead of the bloody quagmire many predicted, CIA paramilitary agents, Special Forces, and U.S. air power had teamed with Northern Alliance guerrillas to run the Taliban and Al Qaeda out of their strongholds. As a new interim government took power in Kabul, Cheney was telling Bush that the next phase in the war on terrorism was toppling Saddam Hussein.
Bush was well aware that several of his senior aides wanted to take the battle to Iraq. When his advisers had convened at Camp David the weekend after the September 11 attacks, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz argued on three separate occasions that the United States should immediately target Iraq instead of the more difficult Afghanistan. Bush had settled the matter by instructing his chief of staff, Andrew Card, to quiet Wolfowitz--a moment humiliatingly enshrined by Bob Woodward in his book Bush at War. But, in early 2002, Cheney dispensed with the policy arguments for taking down Saddam in favor of a far more personal appeal. He said simply that he had been part of the team that created what he now saw as a flawed policy--leaving Saddam in power at the end of the Gulf war--and now Bush had a chance to correct it.
His plea was enormously successful. "The reason that Cheney was able to sell Bush the policy is that he was able to say, 'I've changed,'" says a senior administration official. "'I used to have the same position as [James] Baker, [Brent] Scowcroft, and your father--and here's why it's wrong.'" By February, observes a since-departed senior National Security Council (NSC) staffer, "my sense was the decision was taken." The next month, Bush interrupted a meeting between national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and three senators to boast, "Fuck Saddam. We're taking him out."
It not only goes into fascinating detail about the back-and-forth between Cheney's Office of the Vice President and the CIA over the last two years, it also gives an insightful reading of the evolution of Cheney's own foreign policy views going back into the mid-1980s, placing that development in a sometimes rightly sympathetic light.
This is the piece on Cheney, the intel wars, and Iraq that convinces me even more of something I've thought for some time: that Cheney's office is a rogue operation in this administration and one with the defining influence.
In thinking about the reconstruction of Iraq, many have looked for insight to the American experiences in rebuilding Germany and Japan after World War II. Optimists point to similarities across the cases and argue that they bode well for the Bush administration's efforts today. Pessimists point to differences and draw the opposite conclusion. In truth, some aspects of the occupations look familiar and some do not. As the saying goes, history does not repeat itself, but it rhymes. What is most striking about the comparison is that in all three cases, several months into the postwar era the future of the country was still hanging in the balance.
Picking their way through the rubble, officials early in the Truman administration had as little clue about the eventual outcome of their experiments as their counterparts in Washington and Baghdad do today. They saw little choice but to grope forward as best they could, responding to immediate problems and fast-moving events while trying to keep their eyes steady on a grand long-term vision. Knowing how the story ended, it is difficult for us to escape the tyranny of hindsight and see those earlier cases as they appeared to contemporary observers -- in their full uncertainty, as history in the making rather than data to be mined for present-day polemics. Foreign Affairs is pleased, therefore, to be able to open a window directly onto occupied Germany seven months after V-E Day, taking readers back in media res.
During World War II, Allen W. Dulles served as the Bern station chief for the Office of Strategic Services. (He would later serve as the head of a successor organization, the Central Intelligence Agency, from 1953 to 1961.) Dulles was the main American liaison with the German resistance and a close observer of the early stages of the postwar occupation. After the OSS was disbanded in late September 1945, he decided to return to private life. On December 3, less than a week before leaving government service, he gave a frank and unvarnished update on the situation in Germany to an off-the-record meeting of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Click here for the full text.
A Saudi woman and her husband have been sentenced to 500 lashes each because they married too soon after the woman divorced her former husband:
A Jizan court has sentenced a young woman to 500 lashes for allegedly spending time alone with a young man and marrying him hours after divorcing her former husband, Al-Madinah reported on Sunday.
According to the court ruling, the groom will also get 500 lashes while the mazoun who married them will get 30 lashes for violating Shariah rules.
The woman was on bad terms with her former husband and entered into a romantic relationship with the young man. But under Shariah, she was required to wait for three months before marrying another man, the paper said.
Click here for the full story.
This is truly appaling. Is this the system of justice, the Saudis have been spending billions of dollars to spread around the world?
An interesting interview with Robert Spencer who talks about radical Islam, the challenges the moderate Muslim face, Iraq e.t.c Here is an excerpt:
John Hawkins: Why haven't moderate Muslims been able to stop the spread of violent Islam?
Robert Spencer: While there are moderate Muslims, moderate Islam is something else again. There are Muslims who are very peaceful people, who would never wage jihad, and who don't approve of those waging jihad in the name of Islam today. But the fact is that the radicals actually do have a stronger theoretical, theological, and legal basis within Islam for what they believe than the moderates do. They're able to intimidate moderates into silence because if the moderates speak out, they're labeled as disloyal to the religion.
John Hawkins: Given that, do you see Islam moderating anytime soon?
Robert Spencer: The only way it can is if there is a large scale, multi-national movement from Muslims themselves to repudiate violent jihad and all the doctrines and laws that go along with it once and for all. This would be a large scale reformation and no, I don't see any chance of that happening in the near future. But very surprising things have happened in history and I won't say it could never happen.
John Hawkins: You know, when I interviewed Daniel Pipes he even told me that he thought moderate Islam was actually on the retreat.
Robert Spencer: I would agree. The problem is as I said that moderates don't have a strong theoretical foundation within the classic Islamic texts. That being the case, they're not able to sustain a large scale movement. That's because they're constantly placed on the defensive by people who go back to the text and quote these passages that radicals use to justify violence. If they say, "We simply don't take that as being our marching orders for today" they're charged with disloyalty. So this is why moderate Islam is in retreat, because the radicals are so explicitly & persistently explaining what they do in light of the classic teachings. So there are millions of moderate Muslims, but moderate Islam is something that is only formulated by particular individuals in particular places. Most of the Muslims who are moderates are simply just ignoring the other aspects of the religion without confronting and refuting them on Islamic grounds.
In a recent interview, the Directo of Amnesty International USA concedes that military intervention at times is the only realistic alternative to genocidal thugs. He also makes some good points about the Patriot Act--although perhaps not the points he was trying to make:
Recently several Democratic U.S. senators spoke out in favor of the PATRIOT Act. According to the Washington Post, Joseph Biden, D-Del., said popular criticism of the legislation has been "ill-informed and overblown," and even Russ Feingold, D-Wis. -- the only U.S. senator who actually voted against the legislation -- said he supports "90 percent" of its provisions, and that the rest are "fixable." What's your view of PATRIOT? Can we stop terrorism without it?
There's little evidence at this point that the PATRIOT Act is a critical factor in defending the country against terrorism. The Justice Department has acknowledged that they have used it exceedingly sparingly, and that when it has been used, it's been against non-terrorist criminal elements. This isn't to say that there aren't parts of it which are reputable, about which civil libertarians and human rights advocates should have no complaints.
It's clear that the major element of the PATRIOT Act that's drawn criticism is its short-circuiting of the traditional process of seeking subpoenas from an independent court for retrieving personal information. I've seen no evidence, from Feingold or anyone else, that sidestepping the traditional process of going to court -- where you have to show at least some degree of evidence as to why such information is relevant to the pursuit of a suspect -- is a necessary provision. The Justice Department itself, by saying it has rarely used the provision, appears to be acknowledging it isn't necessary.
That knocks out a fundamental argument in favor of PATRIOT in the first place: You have to be able to prove that some derogation of traditional rights is not only effective, but necessary to pursuing the protection of security -- that without the suspension of these rights, the public's safety will be considerably jeopardized. Thus far I haven't seen such evidence. [emphasis added]
He is arguing that it doesn't appear to have been much used, and even seems to be acknowledging that it hasn't really been abused. Of course, just because it hasn't been used much in the struggle against terrorism doesn't mean that it couldn't be used for that purpose. It does suggest a pretty admirable level of restraint by the Justice Department.
Compare this to World War I, when a movie director who made a movie about the American Revolution was sentenced to prison because the film was too anti-British! Or compare the situation to World War II, when 110,000 people were locked up because they were of Japanese ancestry.
Other parts of the interview emphasize that support for human rights doesn't require pacifism--and indeed, he argues at one point:
I personally believe that in the face of genocide the world community should intervene militarily. That situation clearly trumps national sovereignty. I think it was the Clinton administration's greatest shame that it blocked the United Nations from intervening in Rwanda. I think the intervention in Kosovo is defensible on human rights grounds, and there may be others.
To the best of my knowledge, neither Amnesty nor any other human rights organization had documented active genocide going on in Iraq. There were profound human rights violations going on, and I think there's an arguable case that those violations may very well have justified some sort of international military intervention. That's a case I'm certainly prepared to discuss.
Mark Steyn tackles the incoherence of America-hatred:
The fanatical Muslims despise America because it's all lapdancing and gay porn; the secular Europeans despise America because it's all born-again Christians hung up on abortion; the anti-Semites despise America because it's controlled by Jews. Too Jewish, too Christian, too Godless, America is also too isolationist, except when it's too imperialist. And even its imperialism is too vulgar and arriviste to appeal to real imperialists: let's face it, the ghastly Yanks never stick it to the fuzzy-wuzzy with the dash and élan of the Bengal Lancers, which appears to be the principal complaint of Sir Max Hastings and his ilk. To the mullahs, America is the Great Satan, a wily seducer; to the Gaullists, America is the Great Cretin, a culture so self-evidently moronic that only stump-toothed inbred Appalachian lardbutts could possibly fall for it. American popular culture is utterly worthless, except when one of its proponents - Michael Moore, Sean Penn, Susan Sarandon - attacks Bush, in which case he or she is showered with European awards and sees the foreign-language rights for his latest tract sell for six figures at Frankfurt. The fact that the best-selling anti-Americans are themselves American - Moore, Chomsky - is perhaps the cruellest manifestation of the suffocating grip of the hyperpower.
A simple, haltingly English message from a man who can speak it more powerfully than I can:
I was counting days and hours waiting to see an end to that regime, just like all those who suffered the cruelty of that brutal regime... Through out these decades I lost trust in the world governments and international committees. Terms like (human rights, democracy and liberty..etc.) became hollow and meaningless and those who keep repeating these words are liars..liars..liars. I hated the U.N and the security council and Russia and France and Germany and the arab nations and the islamic conference. I’ve hated George Gallawy and all those marched in the millionic demonstrations against the war. It is I who was oppressed and I don’t want any one to talk on behalf of me, I, who was eager to see rockets falling on Saddam’s nest to set me free, and it is I who desired to die gentlemen, because it’s more merciful than humiliation as it puts an end to my suffer, while humiliation lives with me reminding me every moment that I couldn't defend myself against those who ill-treated me..... Believe me, we were living in the "kingdom of horror". Please tell me how could the world that claims to be civilized let Saddam launch chemical weapons on his own un-armed people? Shame.. Can anyone tell me why the world let Saddam remain and stood against America’s will to topple him? ... You all owe the Iraqi people an apology.
And today, these "anti-war" protestors campaign not against Assad or Saddam or bin Laden, but against the man who liberated these beleaguered, terrorized people. The demonstrators sicken, appall and horrify me. Whatever your views on the war, the mass graves surely made frenzied opposition moot. These useful idiots have come undone.
Radical Muslims sprayed machine gun fire at properties of the Assyrian Antiochan church in Mosul and planted hand grenades in schools maintained by the church. The attacks brought a condemnation from the Vatican. Iraqi police found the hand grenades, which could have injured school children, and removed them. (az-Zaman)
The attacks on US allies in Iraq such as the UN, the Italians, the Ukrainians, the British, and NGOs, by the Sunni Arab nationalists and Islamists who make up the guerrilla forces have been meant to punish anyone who aids the US occupation and reconstruction efforts. I have been worried that at some point Iraq's small Christian community might begin being tagged as cultural collaborators (even though Christianity in Iraq rather predates the United States). Radical Muslims have attacked Christians in Pakistan, as well, to protest Gen. Musharraf's alliance with the US after September 11.
In response to the highly charged criticisms that ended the Pentagon's association with the project, Polk [a Net Exchange spokesman] noted the market is designed mainly as a research tool, not unlike the Iowa Electronics Markets, which have done a pretty good job of predicting the outcomes of presidential elections. "It is potentially an interesting alternative to Gallup polls or to specialists reporting from the region," Polk said. "It's a way of going directly to individuals in the region or outside who have knowledge or interest in the political and economic events in the area."
Polk said Net Exchange would initially limit the amount of money traders could invest in the market, so that people won't be profiting from violence or upheaval in the region.
What's more, the futures contracts would be based on general questions, such as the likelihood that the King of Jordan will be overthrown at some point during the second quarter of 2004, for example, rather than on specific acts or events, which could lend themselves to manipulation by terrorists.
These markets require legal tolerance, given that they otherwise violate anti-gambling rules or fall under regulatory jurisdiction. I'll bet that this revival is shut down pretty quickly.
Most of the movements in asset prices are noise, rather than based on fundamentals. The main problem with the idea is that the price movements, even if "unbiased" in the mathematical sense, feed us a steady stream of misinformation about world affairs. I also could imagine public panic resulting, or bad events being accelerated into greater likelihood, imagine how Jordanese politics is altered if the betting market says the King of Jordan is a goner.
Noah Shachtman at the Wired wrote a pretty interesting piece on The Case for Terrorism Futures.
My money is on al-Qaeda as the culprits in the two massive car bombs that went off in Istanbul's Galata district on Saturday, the Jewish sabbath, outside two synagogues. Because the street was bustling, many or most of the killed and wounded were apparently Muslims. Istanbul is one of my favorite cities, and I have several dear friends among Turkish Jews, so I have been very upset by this news.
Al-Qaeda has an obsession with Jerusalem being under Israel occupation, as they think of it, which has often misled Westerners into thinking they don't care about the Palestine issue. They probably don't care so much about Palestinians' welfare per se. But they consider Jerusalem to be Islam's third holiest city, and they consider it under foreign, infidel occupation. (They also consider Mecca and Medina under foreign, American occupation because of the Saudi royal family's tight alliance with Washington). Al-Qaeda, being a fundamentalist religious movement, focuses on religious symbols, not secular political ones.
In order to signal its outrage over Jerusalem, al-Qaeda has hit Jewish targets repeatedly. The World Trade Center was almost certainly chosen in large part because al-Qaeda believed it was dominated by Jewish capital. Al-Qaeda also hit at a synagogue at Djerba island off Tunisia, killing German tourists, and at Israeli tourists in Mombasa. It specializes in hitting Jews who are soft targets. The only major planning we know of for an al-Qaeda attack on Israel itself was Richard Reid's dry run on an El Al flight. The El Al security tagged him as suspicious, so he tried his shoe bomb routine on a US carrier instead.
The theme of attacking what they see as invading infidels in Muslim lands also ties into last week's bombing in Riyadh, which appears especially to have targeted wealthy Lebanese Christian entrepreneurs, though many Muslims were killed or injured, as well.
Of course, when I say al-Qaeda I mean something more shadowy than the word now implies. The old al-Qaeda was defined as the some 5,000 fighters who had pledged fealty to Bin Laden personally. That pledge is no longer possible. The small cells around the world are probably afraid to be in much contact with one another. They may get some marching orders from Sa`d Bin Laden, Osamah's son, and from Ayman al-Zawahiri, the head of the militant faction of the Egyptian al-Jihad al-Islami. Al-Qaeda really has just become a McGuffin, a shorthand for "Sunni radical terrorists."
One also has to wonder if al-Qaeda is attempting to unseat the moderate "Muslim Democrat" sort of government now in power in Turkey. Al-Qaeda likes to sharpen contradictions, and would be much happier with a fight between secularist extremists in the army and fundamentalist extremists in the street.
I'd like to see the Saudi royal family get out in front on this issue by forcefully condemning the Istanbul attacks, and by linking them to the Riyadh one, and by coming out against the anti-Jewish bigotry that has become so widespread in the Muslim world. Arabs are always saying they are against Zionism, not against Jews. Well, Turkey's 25,000 remaining Jews are in Turkey because they did not want to be ingathered. The front page of the Saudi daily al-Watan covers the Istanbul bombing. It then quotes President Bush at the end of the article condemning it. But this is a Saudi paper. What are Saudi high officials saying? They are not quoted to my knowledge. The bottom link on the first page is to the campaign by US Zionist organizations to discredit Saudi Arabia and to attempt to link the royal family to terrorism. Well, what better way to change that image than by video of a forceful condemnation by Crown Prince Abdullah of this attack on Jews? Saudi Prince al-Waleed bin Talal has recently said that the Saudi authorities have cracked down on preachers making anti-Jewish comments, since Islam respects the right of Jews to practice their religion. That is a start, but it isn't enough. And, it isn't visible in the West.
Al-Qaeda cannot be defeated until this ugly dispute between the Arabs and the Israelis is resolved. Ariel Sharon's iron fist and settlement expansion isn't helping. A viable Palestinian state that had offices in Old Jerusalem and could fly a flag there and have authority over the Mosque of Omar, would pull the rug out from under al-Qaeda recruiters on the Jerusalem issue. But neither is behind-the-scenes bigotry against ordinary Jews in the Middle East helpful in resolving the problems. Riyadh and Istanbul should demonstrate that mainstream Jews and Muslims are in this fight against terrorism together.
[N.B. Pakistan denounced the Istanbul bombings as "dastardly" according to wire reports on Sunday.]
Former British ambassador to Washington Sir Christopher Meyer has revealed to the Guardian that the British repeatedly pressed US Vice President Dick Cheney and the Pentagon on planning for the chaotic situation in post-war Iraq. They got no satisfaction from either, even though the State Department and the CIA welcomed that way of thinking. Meyer also said that UK PM Tony Blair had requested Bush to delay the invasion, and had hoped for a UN Security Council resolution authorizing the war. Blair had felt that the British military was not ready to go in mid-March. Apparently Blair was paid no more attention than a lap dog would be, since that was the role he had determined to play.
One question I have after reading Meyer's comments is, "Cheney?" I mean, we knew that Dick has been playing a more important role in foreign affairs than most vice presidents do. But Meyer makes it sound as though Cheney was virtually running the war planning.
If so, it would make sense of something Jay Garner, the first US civil administrator in Iraq, said in an interview in mid-October on PBS's Frontline. He said that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had instructed him not to use the post-war planning materials generated by Tom Warrick's project at the State Department. (Warrick had run 17 working groups over a year, with a $5 mn. budget, including many Iraqi technocrats who knew the country and what the problems would be). Then Garner said that it seemed to him at the time that this instruction was not actually coming from Rumsfeld himself, but rather had been imposed on Rummy from above.
I thought at the time that Garner must have meant Bush himself. But now it seems more likely to me that Dick Cheney was personally responsible for tossing the Warrick project in the trash can. It follows that the chaos of post-war Iraq can in some large part be laid at Cheney's door.
Some smart Democrat candidate should pick this issue up and run with it. They have all been twisted around by the Republicans on the war, because taking a stance on it is so tricky. But there is no down side at all to taking a stance on the disaster of the post-war planning.
You have several identifiable screw-ups in this regard, including Doug Feith, the undersecretary of defense for planning, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, and maybe Cheney himself. And if you hit on the failures of post-war planning, you don't have to say whether the war itself was worthwhile or not. You focus on all of our guys and gals that this SNAFU has killed, all the Iraqi deaths, the devastation to the Iraqi cultural heritage (yes, the Krauthammer line that it wasn't damaged after all is a bald faced lie), etc. It's the Aftermath, Stupid.
President Bush makes good speeches about planting seeds of democracy around the world -- in Michael Kinsley's wonderful phrase, "some of the finest eloquence that money can buy" -- but as Fareed Zakaria recently pointed out in Newsweek, the only means of getting there that he seems to believe in is the "silver bullet" theory: Kill a tyrant and democracy will fill the vacuum. Everything that has happened in Iraq this year proves otherwise. Killing is easy; democracy is hard.
I don't quite buy into Zakaria's "long hard slog" alternative. As Kinsley's more realistic piece suggests, "free people will sometimes vote for bloodshed." There are limits to our ability to counteract that. As there should be.
We can't decide what kind of government people should have and try to shove them into it, either militarily or through "the building of strong political institutions, a market economy and a civil society."
But that doesn't mean there's nothing whatsoever that you can do. I think the biggest problem with grand, idealistic visions is that they overlook the small corners where a person of goodwill is trying to cobble together something that will work, and needs a little help -- as is the case today in Kandahar.
Amy Phillips takes a look at Afghanistan's new draft constitution and finds it woefully lacking in protections for the rights of women and religious minorities.
The main issue that we will never see eye to eye with Islam is the fact that it's against their religion to charge Interest.
Believe it or not, we are the most wealthy, powerful society that has ever existed because of capitalism, not democracy (hell, our winner take all system is even more inherently oppressive than pure democracy).
The idea that you must be compensated for investment risk is the core of capitalism. Until Islam comes around on this, they will never make it out of the 6th century and we will never have a stable relationship with them.
A bigger failing, and a cultural limit, is to crush the economic potential of women. Mary Wollstonecraft pointed out a couple of hundred years ago that any society which subjugates half its population will be poorer than one which doesn't, and eventually be competed to exctinction/irrelevance.
I love it when good politics and doing the right thing come together:
The George W. Bush administration is shortchanging tortured American prisoners of war in order to help pay for Iraq 's reconstruction, the top Democrat in the US House of Representatives charged.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi made her comments following recent news reports that the Bush Administration is trying to block court-ordered payments in frozen Iraqi assets to 17 American prisoners of war from the 1991 Persian Gulf war, saying that the funds are needed to help pay for the reconstruction of Iraq.
"I have very serious concerns as one who served on the Foreign Operations Subcommittee of Appropriations for a long time ... that the Administration is trying to overturn a damages settlement for American POWs who were tortured by the Saddam Hussein regime," Pelosi said at a press conference.
"It seems to me that if we are talking about human rights in the world -- and those of our soldiers have been violated and tortured by Saddam Hussein -- that it is entirely inappropriate for the administration to say we can't award those damages to our POWs who were tortured because we need the money to rebuild Iraq," she said.
"I think there is a grave injustice there," she added.
Pakistani-Americans in Louisiana are supporting Bobby Jindal's opponent, Kathleen Blanco, for governor of Louisiana strictly out of spite. How else to explain their faulty reasoning? Here's an example:
M. Ashraf Abbasi, president of the Pakistani American Congress (PAC), said Jindal is "a highly prejudiced person, who could be a future threat for Pakistani interests in the U.S."
..."Blanco is a close friend of Pakistani community," Abbasi said. "She understands our issues and supports our cause. She is in favour of immigrants - opposes discrimination in any form or fashion, is against profiling on the basis of religion, looks or ethnicity.
I don't know how Jindal, if elected governor, would be a threat to Pakistani "interests", whatever they may be, in the United States. As a governor, Jindal would have no business formulating foreign policy in the first place, as it is the domain of the federal government. One can understand this reasoning, faulty as it is, if one is voting for congressmen, senators, or presidents, but not governors.
And the latter part of the statement is just offensively stupid.
And here's the kicker:
...support to Blanco means a Louisiana that can offer better and affordable health, better education to everyone. A leader who is capable and has proven records for two terms as lieutenant governor and a leader who has boundless love and passion to shape and revive the economy of Louisiana, to provide jobs to all willing to work, a promise for our youth, and ensure hope and a future for those willing to come back to Louisiana.
To be blunt, Kathleen Blanco is a political hack, who, if elected, will ensure that it will be business as usual. Jindal, on the other hand, not only fixed Louisiana's faulty health care system, but was president of its university system, served in President Bush's administration, and more, all before the age of 40!. Not to mention he's a political novice and an outsider-- he's not beholden to the corrupt Louisiana political machine like Blanco is.
Nevertheless, for all their bluster, these Pakistani-Americans are hypocrites. They claim a vote against Jindal is a vote against bigotry, when in reality they are voting against Jindal because he is Indian, not because of his policies, which are very compatible with the views of many conservative Muslims.
The post below contains a link to a brief excerpt of an article in last week's Wall Street Journal that tells quite a bit about the direction Iraq's reconstruction is headed. The $87 billion congress recently appropriated for the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan contains $18.7 billion for reconstruction, probably about $15 billion of it for public works projects. That sum almost doubles the $8 billion that's been handed out in the past two years. And those contracts will all be awarded and signed by February 1. Fifteen billion dollars handed out in less than three months. They may go to as few as three corporations (or as many as 20).
Speed is important, but that looks to me like a recipe for corruption.
Just as important, new contracts will not be given out by the Army Corp of Engineers or USAID, but by a newly created office, controlled by the Pentagon, and run by retired admiral David Nash. According to the WSJ, the new agency, unlike USAID and the Army Corp of Engineers, will not be required to give contracts only to American companies, but on Sunday, the Observer suggested that was somewhat misleading. Only companies with US joint ventures will be allowed to take part.
Ultimately, Donald Rumsfeld is now in charge of rebuilding schools and hospitals.
From the CPA, there are nice promises of "open competition" and "responsiveness to the needs of Iraqi citizens," but I'm afraid the WSJ captures the reality under the promise in a single, irony-heavy sentence:
Despite an almost complete lack of public information on the new office or how it will function, Pentagon officials say its main mission will be to operate transparently.
That could be a Bush administration slogan: Transparency -- just don't ask us any questions.
Good to hear a couple of Iraqi bloggers are springing all over. From The Mesopotamian Blog:
Many people ask whether we have heard the President's speech. Yes we have. Immediately the Chorus of AlJazeera, Al Arabiya, etc. and amazingly, CNN, BBC etc, started their spoiling, doubt-sewing, bitchy insinuations, interviewing this character from Egypt and that "analyst " from Syria etc. (seldom is an Iraqi asked, or if they find one, a well known former close associate of the Saddam regime or someone like that). Pretending to be objective, pretending to be "balanced", they try their best to kill the joy that the shining reassuring words bring to our frightened hearts.
One thing the blogger gets right: "American public opinion is a matter of life and death to us here, at this particular time."
All this Iraqi bloggers are engaged in a campaign to remind many Amercians and anti-War protesters that many Iraqi's are glad that we are there
The United States is deeply frustrated with its hand-picked council members because they have spent more time on their own political or economic interests than in planning for Iraq's political future. -- Alternatives to Iraqi Council Eyed; Inaction of Hand-Picked Baghdad Officials Frustrates Washington
Do you think Chalabi will be the first presiden of the New Iraq? Actually, everything was going fine for Chalabi until the Council. It was all on track: he had promises from Dick the Perle and Wolfie that he would have America's backing and be installed by the US as the first President of Iraq.
But then Bremer pulled a switch: in deference to the many Iraqi political factions, all of whom had some power and none of whom (including the INC) had enough to credibly assume power on its own, he formed the Council in such a way that Chalabi became, instead of the heir apparent, just another member. The Council, in turn, rejected his bid to become its president and opted for a rotating presidency in which each faction leader (there are 9 of them, I believe) would rule the Council for a month.
This was a major setback for Ahmad. The US neocon govt loves him, alright, but native Iraqis aren't as easily fooled. He has completely failed (so far) to have much influence on the Council's deliberations or decisions.
He was so pissed off by what he considered a betrayal that he seems to have turned against his US supporters after the trip to the US when they rejected his plea to turn control of the new state's finances over to the Council. In fact, he's been making Yankee-Go-Home speeches both in the Council and in public.
Clearly, the puppet sees cutting his strings as his best option in his fight for power. Chalabi shouldn't be at the helm of helm of privatizing the Iraqi economy, when he fed the New York Times false stories on WMD and who also looted a bank in Jordan of millions during the 1980s
I guess I am still capable of being shocked, because this did it: The White House announced that it will no longer take questions from Democrats. If Democrats want to ask questions, they'll have to find a Republican to ask them. It's certainly a new level of classification: confidential, secret, top secret, Republican...
When the Republicans were a majority, they cried continuously of the need for "bipartisanship" and "collegiality". Democrats, being Americans and believing in fair play, heard the call and basically played the bipartisan game. After all, this is a two-party country and the Democratic majority in Congress could go away some day. Well, that day came, and the Republicans show no inclination toward bipartisanship at all. They act as if their majority will never go away.
Radek Sikorski, the former Polish deputy foreign affairs/defense minister; points out that the new democracies of Central Europe did their part in the Iraq war,
But it would be a mistake to think that they shared all of the United States' concerns about Iraq. While many in the region have sympathy with human rights arguments, most never felt threatened by Saddam Hussein, and they were skeptical of intelligence reports about his weapons of mass destruction. As a result, the public in the most pro-American country in Europe, Poland, opposes military involvement in Iraq 2 to 1 -- and that was before any casualties. Governments have chosen to participate nevertheless, because -- unlike some West Europeans -- they do not feel threatened by the United States, and they support U.S. leadership. They hoped their participation would produce feelings of reciprocal commitment: Surely, most believed, the United States would want to show that it pays to be America's friend.
Now it seems that Central Europeans will be disappointed.
Sikorski says the New Europeans are being shut out of post-war contracts, pressured to forgive billions in old Iraqi debt, and neglected in their military modernization programs.
But even more upsetting to Central Europeans is the way they are treated by the U.S. visa process. If we are such good allies, they ask, why can't we enter the United States without visas, as the French or the Germans? While Americans travel without visas to most of Central Europe, natives pay $100 for the privilege of applying for a U.S. visa, effectively subsidizing the U.S. immigration service, with no guarantee of receiving a visa. […] Last but not least, President Bush's words on Russia have been noted with dismay. "I respect President Putin's vision for Russia," Bush said at the recent summit with Vladimir Putin -- "a country in which democracy and freedom and rule of law thrive." … Every instance of unwarranted praise for Putin's increasingly authoritarian regime resurrects the specter of Yalta and undercuts faith in the United States.
After a bit of gratitude, Sikorski lists Polish grievances with the U.S. To what degree was Poland's involvment a bribe to get some favors from America, and how much came from the desire to help others get out from under the boot of oppression after having spent so long under the heel themselves?
Although the visa issues seems exceptionally unfair, Sikorski must remember that it is still early in the Iraqi process. If Iraq gets a governement, I'm sure it will have money for Polish contractors.
Meanwhile, of Poland should feel attachment to the E.U. for all the soon-to-be-received largesse. Poland is in Europe, after all. Would it be preferable for the U.S. to fund Polish highways and subsidize Polish farmers, too?
Egypt's foreign belly dancers have been given their marching orders. The government says it wants to protect homegrown practitioners of the seductive Middle Eastern dance form and is no longer granting new work permits to foreign dancers or renewing existing ones.
The victims, who include Europeans and Americans, say it's unfair and illogical, and they are backed by one of the Arab world's most respected dancers, Nagwa Fouad, who is urging the government to reverse its ban.
"There is not enough Egyptian talent, so obviously people need foreigners," says Palestinian-born Fouad, who retired from dancing in 1997 after a career of four decades.
"There has always been a mix of Egyptian and foreign belly dancers here. Why should this change?"
It's called belly dancing because of the intricate movements that emanate from between the performer's chest and hips. Also known as oriental dancing, it has roots throughout the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent dating back thousand of years.
Another domestic industry needs protection against foreign competition. Who are next? Foreign prostitutes?
The mere existence of Israel is contrary to Tehran's national interests, press reports said Monday, quoting former Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati, now a top advisor to Iran's supreme leader.
"One of the elements of progress in a country is regional cooperation. Israel was created to prevent unity and cooperation between Islamic countries, that is why the existence of Israel is in contradiction with the national interests of Iran," Velayati was quoted as saying by the conservative Ressalat newspaper.
"Today, there is a close spiritual relationship between Palestinian fighters and the Islamic republic, and this cannot be ignored," he added, saying that the "new step in the Palestinian struggle has been influenced by the Islamic revolution and the Lebanese Hezbollah."
Iran refuses to recognise Israel and top officials frequently call for the destruction of the Jewish state. But Tehran denies giving material support to Palestinian militants.
During a major military parade on September 22, the Islamic republic showed off six of its Shahab-3 missiles which were decorated with anti-Israeli and anti-US slogans, including one saying Israel should be "wiped off the map".
Like the United States, Israel in turn accuses Iran of using a civil atomic energy programme as a cover to develop nuclear weapons.
There has been mounting speculation the Jewish state's hawkish government may be considering pre-emptive strikes against Iranian nuclear installations.
Click here for the full text.
Aside fron the normal anti-Jewish and anti-Israel rhetoric that the Iranian mullahs have perfected over the past 20 plus years, I think they are in desperate need of new material.
It truly is boring to listen to the same garbage year in and year out. Their blind hatred only serves to make them a virtual lampoon. My concern centers on whether the world, and most obviously Israel, have waited too long to make a move against the Iranian nuclear facilities that may be involved in converting fissionable material to bomb grade plutonium or uranium.
The likely cost of such a targeted mission goes up daily, and Iran's statements aside, I think we can all agree that these people are crazy enough to put their rhetoric to action, even if it meant national destruction in the process.
Within Arab states, much or all of the media is owned or closely controlled by the government. The government plays an important part in distorting facts so as to promote it’s own ideology and rhetoric. For the regimes, anti-Americanism/anti-Westernization is a way to distract attention from their numerous failings. Instead of pressing for democracy, human rights, living standards, less corruption and incomptetence, a change of leadership or any number of other demands that would damage the interests of governments and rulers, the focus of attention is turned to shouting at the United States. This strategy defuses opposition and takes the pressure off the rulers.
Arab newspapers publishing outside the Arab world may be owned by supporters of a particular government – usually wealthy Saudis connected to the royal family. Al-Hayaat and al-Sharq al-Awsat are Saudi backed; Iraq supported al-Quds al-Arabi. A relative of the Saudi royal family owned the Middle East Broadcasting Center, perhaps the most popular Arab satellite station; Saudis also controlled another station that went out of business when their heavy-handed demand for censorship made it’s BBC partner pull out.
In Saudi Arabia, there are many sensitive stories , especially those concerning religion, women and the military. In Bahrain and Qatar, the prohibited story is their border dispute. And so forth. In al Arab countries, perhaps with one or two exceptions, criticism of the head of stage and his immediate family is taboo. In some cases, it is tantamount to signing one’s own death warrant.
If journalists write about fundamentalists groups in London, they risk being banned in Algeria and Tunisia, if they write about women’s rights to drive vehicles, they risk the wrath of the Saudi censor. Even the peace process if not always a safe topic. Al-Hayat was the first Arab newspaper to interview Israeli government leaders and to publish articles by Israeli writers. But as the Syrians became edgy over their stalemated negotiations with Israel, al-Hayat suddenly came under attack in Lebanon “for dealing with the enemy” and the newspaper had to reconsider their position.
The following common press themes provide a good overview of the dominant doctrine in the Arab and Muslim Middle East from mid 20th century onward:
- The problem of the Muslims and Arabs are almost completely caused by Western and especially US attempts to defeat, humiliate, injure and subjugate them. This argument is made in many different styles, ranging from radical Islamist (Westerners as crusaders) to secular Arab nationalist (the United States as an imperialist power in Marxist terms)
- Since hostility toward the Arabs and Muslim underpins U.S. or Western policy, anyone who likes these enemies or defends them is suspect as a traitor. For an Arab regime to cooperate with the West is treasonous. Of course, Arab states to cooperate with the US, but lip service must be maintained. There cannot be any openly competig doctrine. Saudi and Egyptian leaders don't make speeches to their people explaining why alliance with the US is a good and necessary thing; the Saudi and Egyptian media don't run articles thanking the U.S> for saving them from iraq, expressing gratitude for air or extollign America as a role model
- Israel is an extremely evil state that seeks to conquer much or all of the Middle East. It is simultaneously the West’s tool and master. Even if one makes peace with Israel, this can never be justified in doctrinal terms. At any rate, Israel will eventually disappear, because it is not a real country and future control of the Middle East inevitably belongs to Arabs or Muslims. This one more reason why peace with Israel is unnecessary and why concessions are mistaken. Thus, all pragmatic explanations for compromise are illegitimate. Arab leaders & media cannot say anything positive about Israel or acknowledge it’s efforts towards peace; the Arab media will not present favorable information about Israel or explain its point of view.
- Since Muslims and Arabs are in perpetual conflict with the West and Israel, such things as democracy, human rights, economic reforms, and civil society are dangerous distractions from this struggle and might weaken the Muslims (or Arabs)
- Because Western culture and it’s ideas are so innately hostile and subversive to the Arabs and Muslim way of life, they cannot be adapted by these societies. Democracy, civil liberties, women’s rights, economic reform and other features of the West are poisoned gifts. Of course, in practice many such things are absorbed into the Arab world, but again ideology considers this process to be illegitimate, slowing its pace, limiting it’s extent and ensuring a good reception when radicals denounce such things.
- Islam itself is under attack and must be defended from secularism and liberal-oriented reinterpretation. Even Arab nationalists insist that they are champions protecting Islam. If Islam is threatened by Westernization and modernization, this is another reason to reject reforming it or adjusting it to modern times.
- Since the West follows a deliberate policy of persecuting and destroying Arabs or Muslims, it's victims should unite to combat it. The conflicts and differences among true Arabs or Muslims are of no importance, merely creations of the West or of it's local agent. In practice, this means that moderates must avoid antagonizing radicals and must be careful about seeking Western help to defend themselves from their threats.
- Once Arabs or Muslims unite, they cannot be defeated no matter what the balance of power. Sucide bombing is an example of how a small group of Muslims or Arabs can erase the West's or Israel's apparent strength and shows how easy victory can be.
- No matter how difficult the struggle, it is better to continue in order to leave the door ope for future success. Nonetheless, victory is far closer than it seems. The power of America or Israel is illusory. UNity, the proper ideology, a good strategy, and innovative tactics will biring enemies to their knees. They lack the Arab's and Muslims' steadfastness, readiness to suffer and willingness to sacrifice themselves.
This list goes on and Arab rulers and media usually deal with this worldview from a cynical perspective. Most, but no means all, of the time they are not eager to fight the West or do anything that would endanger their regimes. For them, such propaganda si a tool, a way to ensuring control at home and leverage over other Arab states. They are like a coachman who whips the horses to go faster but keeps tight control of the reins.
A DEVOUT Muslim who tried to hire a hitman to avenge a perceived stain on his family's honour was facing a possible lengthy jail term yesterday after being found guilty of incitement to murder. Mohammed Arshad, 49, a businessman and leading member of the Tayside Asian community, was outraged by his daughter's secret wedding and wanted his new son-in-law "removed from this earth". Arshad, of Landsdowne Square, Dundee, put a price of £1000 on the head of Abdullah Yasin, 26, who had married his daughter, Insha. He gave a £200 advance payment to the man he wanted to arrange the murder and organise attacks on his new son-in-law's family.
But the supposed hitman was an undercover detective and the conversation was secretly taped.
Click here for the full story.
If you recall, this September in Jordan, a law meant to stiffen penalities for honor killings was rejected, partially on Islamic grounds.
This is a good example about clash of civilizations between the Islamic and the Western World. Arshad is prosecuted by the UK for something that would get him little or no penalty in Jordan and as the Muslim population in Scotland increases, will these new Muslim Scots discard out the acceptibility of honor killing that they may have and adopt those of their new homeland — or will we begin to see a change in attitudes toward this crime in Britain?
Aljazeera is coming in for increasing criticism in the Arab world after a spate of embarrassing revelations that suggest it has capitulated to United States pressure and tamed its news coverage.
The recent appointment of new boss Waddah Khanfar at the Qatar headquarters comes amid mounting revelations that Aljazeera's top management chose not to air several Osama bin Laden tapes; pulled from its news websites caricatures the White House deemed offensive; and removed its former general manager following US complaints to the Emir of Qatar about the channel's coverage of the war in Iraq.
The channel's new attitude follows a sustained US campaign against the broadcast of allegedly inflammatory material in the aftermath of September 11 and comes at a time when Aljazeera is losing viewers to Saudi and United Arab Emirate-backed competitors al-Arabiyyah and Abu Dhabi TV.
Click here for the full text.
How did Al-Jazeera tone down it's coverage?
Aljazeera's top management chose not to air several Osama bin Laden tapes; pulled from its news websites caricatures the White House deemed offensive; and removed its former general manager following US complaints to the Emir of Qatar about the channel's coverage of the war in Iraq.
Al-Jazeera is being criticized for not giving him publicity? Ibrahim Hillal, the editor-in-chief, explained:
"We don't want to become the fanatic's channel."
Precisely. After all, Osama's version of Islam was a discredited ideology, rejected by the vast majority of Muslims. So who is criticizing Al-Jazeera for not putting his mug on the air?
According to Xinhuanet, Chinese News service,
A former member of the Iranian espionage services testified Wednesday that his country was behind the 1994 attack on a Jewish center in the Argentinian capital which left 86 dead.
Through a tele-conference from Germany, Abolgashem Mesbahi said during an interrogation that the bomb attack was "led, operated and executed by Iran."
Known as "Witness C" to conceal his real identity, Mesbahi saidthe operation was planned a year in advance and that the attack was "actively" organized by the then cultural attache at the Iranian Embassy in Argentina, Moceen Rabbani.
The attack on a Jewish center building on July 18, 1994 left a total of 86 people dead and more than 500 injured.
What's the reason for the attack?
Mesbahi said it was intended to avenge the Argentine government's failure to supply nuclear materials to Iran, as promised in the past.
Let's take a look at it closely. Someone in the Iranian ranks was thinking: The Argentine government has failed us and we should revenge by attacking the Jewish community center? This twisted leap of logic becomes understandable only in the context of the radical Muslim anti-Semitic hatred and paranoia of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
We have already seen the disastrous results that occured due to massive privatization in Russia before the right public institutions were in place. Seems like US is going down the same road in Iraq.
The Wall Street Journal article highlights it further:
Once the major fighting subsided, administration officials in Iraq wasted little time. In early June, they eliminated all tariffs until the end of the year, allowing a surge of televisions, satellite dishes, used cars and other consumer goods to pour into the country. Last month, the top administrator in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer III, imposed a 15% flat tax on income and issued new rules giving foreign investors carte blanche to open businesses in Iraq in every sector except the oil and gas industries. The investment law, which allows for 100% foreign ownership and full rights to repatriate profits, is far more liberal than laws in all but a few other Arab countries, most of which require investors to team up with a local partner. One of the law's few restrictions prohibits foreign ownership of land.
Iraq's business community isn't pleased. "This gives ammunition to the extremists who say the war was all about U.S. companies taking over Iraq," says Rubar Sandi, an Iraqi-American businessman who is investing widely in Iraq. Mr. Sandi says he is surprised the U.S. didn't "lay down at least some mandate to involve Iraqis with technology transfer or partnerships or training."
A team within the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority is working out the details of a privatization plan that is stirring even deeper consternation among Iraqis. Thomas Foley, chief of the privatization effort and an old friend of Mr. Bush, intends to present the package to the Iraqi Governing Council early next month. The plan's main provision would create an independent Iraqi privatization agency to handle the gradual selling off of many of the country's state-owned enterprises.
...Iraqis worry privatization will mean more layoffs in a country where nearly seven out of every 10 people are out of work. There is also concern Iraq's wealthy merchant families, many of whom had close ties with Saddam Hussein's regime, could further enrich themselves by scooping up state concerns on the cheap.
While many of the companies likely to go up for sale have limped along for years, some, in industries such as mining and construction, could attract substantial international interest. Beyond the rich Iraqi merchants and expatriates, however, few in Iraq would be in any position to participate when the larger companies are put on the block.
"We should not rush into this," says Ayad Allawi, president of the Governing Council. "We support liberalizing the economy, but we need some stability before taking the big steps."
..."I'm afraid the U.S. is emphasizing the wrong things," says Inder Sud, a former Middle East director at the World Bank. "Before privatization, you need a government, a functioning finance ministry and real security."
Also take a look at last weeks issue of the Newsweek which indicates how the privatization process is getting messy and full of corruption. Here's an excerpt:
Numerous allegations of overspending, favoritism and corruption have surfaced. Halliburton, a major defense contractor once run by Vice President Dick Cheney, has been accused of gouging prices on imported fuel—charging $1.59 a gallon while the Iraqis “get up to speed,” when the Iraqi national oil company says it can now buy it at no more than 98 cents a gallon. (The difference is about $300 million.) Cronies of Iraqi exile leader Ahmad Chalabi, NEWSWEEK has learned, were recently awarded a large chunk of a major contract for mobile telecommunications networks.
Why do we really want to have Chalabi at the helm of privatizing the Iraqi ecoomy, when he fed the New York Times false stories on WMD and who also looted a bank in Jordan of millions during the 1980s?
The Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz calls for the easing of Iraqi debt burden, which has been estimated from $60B up to hunders of billions. This is the right thing to do however some Congressmen wanted to put them in debt further. No matter how you feel about the war and the subsequent occupation, the Iraqi debt relief is the right thing to do. If the debts are enforced, Iraq will have no chance of recovering, to the detriment of us all. Read his article, this is one of the most important issues facing the world today.
In the article Stiglitz points to another economst who approximately 85 years ago, wrote an book titled The Economic consequences of the Peace which explained how the peace process at Versailles was going to produce a disaster, and was Keynes ever right.
Now it seems to me there might be a similar problem with Iraq. It may not lead to a problem on as grand a scale as the Versailles peace process, but do we want to take that chance? So the argument that there should be debt relief for Iraq is a strong one.
Stiglitz also points out that to achieve this the U.S. will have to make some concessions on how international debt is handled,
...framework for addressing debt relief, debt restructuring, and odious debts – a framework that includes an international court that can develop and enforce a set of widely agreed-upon principles.
I think this is something that the U.S. should probably get behind. After all we have debt forgiveness and restructuring for individuals and corporations, why not for nations. Or another way to think about it, a "game" is usually much easier to play when the rules are known by all the "players". Providing such a framework for dealing with international debt would provide a (hopefully) clear set of rules.
An important point made by Michael Ledeen:
It's long past time — since September 12, 2001 to be precise — for people to be sacked for failure, and the fact that virtually no one has — except for Larry Lindsay (seemingly for insufficient aerobic exercise) and a couple of others dealing with "the economy" or with faith-based initiatives and volunteerism — is the greatest failure of this administration. The bureaucracy has learned that there is no penalty for failure. The only way to change their mindset is to do to them what Reagan did to the air controllers. Unfortunately, Dubya has embraced the Loyalty Thing that is one of the Bush family's most cherished values. He doesn't turn on his own loyal aides, even (perhaps especially) when they come under attack. But this is no way to wage a war, where the only thing that matters is victory.
I'm surprised that the Democrats aren't calling him on this.
The current Bush administration will do nothing when it comes to Saudi Arabia. After 4 decades of Bush family ties to the Persia Gulf, the family is so interlocked with the local royal families, banks and big-money crowd that duplicity and conflicts of interest abound. The result is White House secrecy and deceit. Key Saudis seem to have had dealings with some of 9/11 hijackers, but the White House pulled both ways.
This situation reminds me of Bush Senior. Bush Senior when he was the president, his policies in the Middle East were two faced that by 1992, his military success in the 1991 Gulf War didn’t do him much good. Evidence and discussion of three separate GOP Middle East scandals in which the elder Bush was believed involved — the "October [Iranian hostages] Surprise" that the Reagan campaign, including Bush, had made a deal with Iran not to return U.S. hostages until the 1980 election was over; the 1984-86 Iran-Contra scandal; and the 1984-90 "Iraqgate" scandal about how Bush had armed Saddam Hussein before he fought Iraq — converged in 1991-92. After the military success of 1991 was submerged, the elder Bush was defeated. The younger moronic Bush, in turn, may find that by 2004, the 2003 advance on Baghdad has been superseded by two emerging scandals — the cover-up of Saudi participation in 9/11 and the false representations made about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
I hope the Democrats can catch on this!
For other related article, take a look at Robert Baer's The fall of the House of Saud and his book Sleeping With the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude.
America is everywhere," Italian novelist Ignazio Silone once observed. It is in Karachi and Paris, in Jakarta and Brussels. An idea of it, a fantasy of it, hovers over distant lands. And everywhere there is also an obligatory anti-Americanism, a cover and an apology for the spell the United States casts over distant peoples and places. In the burning grounds of the Muslim world and on its periphery, U.S. embassies and their fate in recent years bear witness to a duality of the United States as Satan and redeemer. The embassies targeted by the masters of terror and by the diehards are besieged by visa-seekers dreaming of the golden, seductive country. If only the crowd in Tehran offering itstired rhythmic chant "marg bar amrika" ("death to America") really meant it! It is of visas and green cards and houses with lawns and of the glamorous world of Los Angeles, far away from the mullahs and their cultural tyranny, that the crowd really dreams. The frenzy with which radical Islamists battle against deportation orders from U.S. soil— dreading the prospect of returning to Amman and Beirut and Cairo— reveals the lie of anti-Americanism that blows through Muslim lands… In a hauntingly astute set of remarks made to the New Yorker in the days that followed the terrorism of September 11, the Egyptian playwright Ali Salem— a free spirit at odds with the intellectual class in his country and a maverick who journeyed to Israel and wrote of his time there and of his acceptance of that country— went to the heart of the anti-American phenomenon. He was thinking of his own country's reaction to the United States, no doubt, but what he says clearly goes beyond Egypt:
People say that Americans are arrogant, but it's not true. Americans enjoy life and they are proud of their lives, and they are boastful of their wonderful inventions that have made life so much easier and more convenient. It's very difficult to understand the machinery of hatred, because you wind up resorting to logic, but trying to understand this with logic is like measuring distance in kilograms….These are people who are envious. To them, life is an unbearable burden. Modernism is the only way out. But modernism is frightening. It means we have to compete. It means we can't explain everything away with conspiracy theories. Bernard Shaw said it best, you know. In the preface to 'St. Joan,' he said Joan of Arc was burned not for any reason except that she was talented. Talent gives rise to jealousy in the hearts of the untalented.
So far Fouad Ajami, Salman Rushdie, Ali Salem, Fareed Zakaria, Walid Shoebat, Irshad Manji are some of the vocal moderates from that part of the world who do not view everything through a veil of Islamic and zenophobic hatred. Maybe the fall of Afghanistan and Iraq in less than 2 years has given the true moderates in Islam, the courage to speak up. All the more reason to keep hounding the Islamofascists at every turn. The less they can retaliate, the better for the coming Islamic Reformation. (It’s either reform or get obliterated because of another mass-casualty attacks)
It is not hard to determine who wishes the United States to succeed in rebuilding Iraq along lines that will promote consensual government, personal freedom, and economic vitality: Hardly anyone. At least, few other than the Iraqi and American people.
Surely not the Baathist holdovers in the Sunni triangle. They will not only incur hatred for their past sins from a newly empowered democratic citizenry, but will also be doomed to slough off to the sidelines, since their antiquated skills — acquired through intrigue, murder, and banal bureaucracy — will be of less use in a newly structured society. The Saddamites are as desperate to disrupt the new order as Nazi holdovers were in the spring of 1945, or Japanese fanatics at the arrival of Americans in August of the same year.
The theocrats all over the region wish us to fail as well. Modernism emanating from Iraq would undermine the strictures of the clerics, in empowering women and eroding the fossilized structures of a tribal society. After all, in the war's aftermath, Arab Idol (dubbed another "American invasion" by Islamists) — a thinly veiled spin-off of the American television show — was suddenly earning a 40-million-viewer market share, as Middle Easterners voted for pop stars in a way that they never could for their own leaders.
Click here for the full text.
The article is provides some insight into the constant negativity regarding the current reconstruction of Iraqi society. When you get right down to it, it turns out that turning Iraq into a free and prosperous nation, would be bad for nearly every other despotic regime in the Middle East as well as a significant slice of the American political and chattering classes.
Read the whole thing, of course, but his conclusion seems well supported:
It is no wonder that we have almost no explicit voices of support. Most nations and institutions will see themselves, as losers should we succeed. And the array of politicians, opportunists, and hedging pundits find pessimism and demoralization the safer gambit than disinterested reporting or even optimism — given the sheer scope of the challenge of transforming Afghanistan and Iraq from terrorist enclaves and rogue regimes into liberal and humane states.
What a sad commentary on the state of humanity at the dawn of the Third Millennium, that creating freedom and prosperity in a formerly oppressed nation should evoke such widespread opposition.