The Position In Kurdistan
While always being wary of Judith Miller's objectivity and the integrity of the senior sources who use her as a mouthpiece, I have to say that her latest effort -- Kurdistan, in WSJ's Opinion Journal -- left me feeling better informed than I had been before I read it. I was particularly interested in the signs of economic revival in the region.
"Kurdistan is literally exploding with confidence and new projects befitting its ambitions: Almost $2 billion in Turkish trade and investment--the result, partly, of his outreach to Ankara--is financing the construction the Middle East's largest new conference center, a new international airport, hotels, parks, bridges, tunnels, overpasses, a refinery and an electrical plant. The Kurdistan Development Council is even advertising Kurdistan as a tourist destination. There are over 70 direct flights a week to the region's two airports from the Middle East and Europe."
However, strangely to us,
most cities still provide only two to three hours of electricity a day. The rest comes from private generators, which the poor can ill afford.
An interesting read. She seems, though, to downplay the importance of what may happen with regard to Kirkuk. Not so this article by Michael Howard for the Guardian.
"There are few more sensitive issues in Iraq today than what happens to Kirkuk," said a Western diplomat in Iraq who works closely with the issue. "All eyes are on it, and all the ingredients for either consensual agreement or a devastating discord are there. If Kirkuk survives, then there's hope for Iraq" ...
Colonel Patrick Stackpole, who commands 5000 US troops in a province of about 1.5 million people, said the "violence is mainly by outsiders, though undoubtedly they have facilitators inside the city. "Jihadis from east and west, belonging to groups such as Ansar al-Islam and Ansar al-Sunnah, are targeting the city, trying to stoke civil war," he said. "But there's also a large element of former regime loyalists who don't want the city to succeed."
The problem with Iraq, I believe, is that the worst is yet to come.
Operation Enduring Chaos
Kim Sengupta has an excellent short piece in The Independent that shouldn't be missed. It tells the tale of the creation of militias in Iraq -- several of which were proposed and supported by the US -- and how embedded they are in the fabric of Iraqi political society. The inability to stop sectarian violence is a direct consequence.
"Sergeant Jeff Nelson, an intelligence analyst with the US army's 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, in Baghdad, said: "They have infiltrated every branch of public service and every political office they can get their hands on. As soon as the US leaves, they will be able to dominate the area with key citizens, key offices."
Sgt Nelson said his battalion has investigated 40 sectarian killings and collected 57 bodies in one week. None had led to any arrest. He said: "Sometimes we have a feeling of complete hopelessness."
Mission accomplished, huh!
Why Both Parties Deserve To Lose
Regular readers know that I am an anarchist: I hold no truck with the phony "freedom" offered by modern electoral politics. With that out of the way, it is probably also obvious that I am fascinated by the power games that political parties play and that therefore I follow electoral politics rather closely. With that in mind, I want to draw your attention to a smart and clever piece in Fortune magazine by Cait Murphy entitled "Why The Republicans Deserve To Lose."
Despite the title, Murphy constructs an argument that neither side deserves to win next week, but that the Democrats will take the prize based on anti-Bush sentiment rather than anything positive to do with Democratic policies.
"Democrats may well benefit politically from the mess in Iraq - but only by default, because the only discernible Democratic policy on the matter is to blame Bush for it. More troops? Fewer? A timetable for withdrawal? With conditions? Who knows?
On immigration, entitlement reform, military tribunals, education, the environment - the Democrats have been intellectually missing in action. (Hint: Bashing Wal-Mart is not an economic policy and trashing Big Oil is not an environmental one.) If they take Congress in November, it will not be because they did the soul-searching Labor did in the '90s or the Republicans in the '70s. It will be because the public wants to spank Bush."
As Murphy concludes, the Democrats are going to need a lot more than anti-Bush to win in 2008.
This is a thoughtful piece that deserves to be read.
A Searing Indictment
This is Keith Olberman's extraordinary "Special Comment" about the signing of the Military Commissions Act and the removal of habeas corpus in America. It is the most searing indictment of the Bush presidency I've yet heard, elegantly written and passionately delivered. Brilliant and worth the 9 minutes.
Disrespecting The Troops
There is one unfortunate way in which Canada and the United States are twins -- that is in the disgraceful way that our governments treat the bulk of our armed forces. The same right-wing yahoo politicians who send our kids off to war -- the same wackos who say that because people like me don't agree with the war policies we are somehow dissing our troops -- these same loons are perfectly content to see "our boys" and their families live on handouts and scraps.
This story comes from California, but it is accurate in Canada too:
The soldiers' families "were waiting for day-old bread and frozen dinners packaged in slightly damaged boxes. These families are among a growing number of military households in San Diego County that regularly rely on donated food ... Too often, the supplies run out before the lines do, said Regina Hunter, who coordinates food distribution at one Camp Pendleton site ...
To the south, about 1,500 individuals pick up free food, diapers or furniture at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station and several military-oriented distribution sites supported by churches and the San Diego Food Bank. The numbers don't include military households that frequent other charities countywide to get enough to eat...
“(Service members) struggle because of our cost of living,” said Faye Bell, executive director for the Military Outreach Ministry. “The lower-ranking enlisted guys do all the hard work and still have the stress of not being able to take care of their families the way they wish they could.”
Here in British Columbia, some of the most regular users of food banks and government welfare are service families.
This is truly what is disrespecting our troops -- making their families wait in line for food while they fight and die for their master's profits.
Imperialism Goes Universal
On August 31st this year, US President Bush signed off on a revamped US policy on Outer Space and its uses. The fundamental principle is described as follows:
"The United States is committed to the exploration and use of outer space by all nations for peaceful purposes, and for the benefit of all humanity. Consistent with this principle, “peaceful purposes” allow U.S. defense and intelligence-related activities in pursuit of national interests"
In other words, the US can use space for its national defense, but others cannot. Later, the policy lists its goals. The third and fourth goals are to encourage space exploration and science. The first and second "goals" -- presumably more important -- are US defence based:
"Strengthen the nation’s space leadership and ensure that space capabilities are available in time to further U.S. national security, homeland security, and foreign policy objectives;
Enable unhindered U.S. operations in and through space to defend our interests there;"
I think we understand where they are coming from!
Mr Bush and the Devil
More brilliance from Mr Fish.
By Any Other Name
On June 16th this year, Steve Howard and his 7-year old son were walking through an outdoor mall in Beaver Crook, Colorado, when they happened to come upon Vice President Dick Cheney. The VP was conducting a phto-op with local supporters. Howard and his son got to within three feet of the VP and Howard said out loud "I think your policies in Iraq are reprehensible," or words to that effect, then walked on.
If such a thing had happened in pre-war Germany, or pre-Glasnost Moscow, or present-day Pyongyang or Tashkent, we would correctly anticipate the swooping down of the jackbooted secret police and the seizure and arrest of the disloyal subject. Guess what? In Colorado in June 2006, the U.S. Secret Service swooped down on Steve Howard, arrested him on suspicion of "assaulting the VP", and hauled him away in handcuffs!
Totalitarianism is, wherever you live.
I've been following the Foley scandal, of course. The intrinsic facts of the matter are rather boring (except perhaps to the people actually involved), and yet it is a major scandal. We are seeing once again that it is not what one does that is important, rather it is how one and others handle what one did that creates the problem. The cover-up is nearly always more important than the event itself.
I'm fascinated by the minutia: that the Rev. Moon's Washington Times -- a truly conservative bastion -- was the first media outlet to call for the resignation of Speaker Hastert; that Fox News would firm up its position as the GOP's propoganda arm by claiming tonight that Foley was a Democrat; that Katherine Harris doesn't have enough of her own problems without putting her nose into this one; how Tom Reynolds keeps digging his own grave deeper and deeper.
All this and an election in five weeks! It makes me weak at the knees.