Tribal leaders scan party lists for Iraq's upcoming elections. Candidate's names are suppressed for security reasons. Most people are expected to vote according to their ethnic identity
WHO IS VOTING FOR WHOM?
At least some Iraqis are likely to be brave enough to vote in the upcoming U.S.-sponsored elections, but it is not clear that they understand exactly whom or what they will be voting for. A survey carried out by the Institute for War Peace Reporting indicates that most Iraqis think they' will be voting for a president, not a 275-member parliament. Candidates' names are not being listed in advance for security reason. Instead, voters will pick a party. In reality, Hiwa Osman, who is training a rash of new reporters in northern Iraq, thinks most Iraqis will be voting for an ethnic identity, be it Kurd, Sunni or Shiite. That, Osman suggests, may spell the end of Iraq's identity as a unified country in which all three groups could live together. A major problem, Osman says, is the information gap. Commercial Arab TV channels, which are Sunni oriented, are having a "nervous breakdown" as the former Sunni elite faces inevitable eclipse. The Coalition-backed TV and media outlets were entrusted to a Pentagon contractor, Harris, which subcontracted to a Lebanese company. The only problem, says Osman, is that the Lebanese don't seem to be able to understand the mentality in Iraq. Osman, who has some of the sharpest insights into the elections voiced so far, is interviewed by WNYC's "On the Media." The interview is in streaming audio for the moment, but an online transcript is promised for Wednesday afternoon. (Hiwa Osman, interviewed by Brooke Gladstone, On the Media, January 15, 2005)
GETTING TO THE VOTING BOOTHS WON'T BE EASY
Despite the danger of suicide bombings, a surprising number of Iraqis do want to vote. How they will reach the polling stations is another question. Borders are being closed for three days before the election, and road travel between provinces will be shut down. In some provinces the number of places where one can vote is severely limited. The situation is so tense, that voters are not being told the names of candidates. The Beirut Daily Star reports. (January 18, 2005)
A rash of pre-election bombings ravage Baghdad (BBC)
BLACK OPS OUT OF CONTROL THROUGHOUT THE MIDDLE EAST?
Seymour Hersh, in another startling piece in the New Yorker, notes that the administration has quietly nudged the CIA into the sidelines and given authority for a new regime of "black ops" to Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon. Clandestine teams of American soldiers have, according to Hersh, been preparing missions into at a handful of Arab countries, but more intensively into Iran, where they are using sophisticated equipment to hunt for nuclear sites. Hersh reports that there is growing pressure among the neocons to carry out airstrikes against Iran if Tehran does not give up on its nuclear ambitions. The novelty in the new procedures is that a "Presidential Finding" signed by George Bush is gives Rumsfeld authority to act without oversight from Congress. (Seymour Hersh, New Yorker, January 17, 2005)
JUST HOW WRONG WERE WE ABOUT IRAQ, IRAN AND WMD?
Joost R. Hilterman, the International Crisis Group's program director for the Middle East ponders whether Saddam's pretense to having weapons of mass destruction might have been an after effect of the Iran-Iraq war. Saddam, who used chemical weapons against Iran with the tacit knowledge of Washington had to know that Iran was exploring a nuclear option, and the hints at his own WMD could have been intended as a bluff directed at Iran. If Hilterman is right, the U.S. may have played into Iran's hands by neutralizing and then destabilizing Iraq, effectively throwing the region off balance and making Iran the most powerful player by default. (Joost R. Hilterman, Middle East Report online, January 18, 2004)
FLASHBACK: REPORTS OF THE PENTAGON'S SALVADOR OPTION
Michael Hirsh and John Barry reported in the January 8 issue of Newsweek that the Pentagon was considering training Salvador-like death squads to eliminate troublesome Sunni opponents. According to Hirsh and Barry, " Now, Newsweek has learned, the Pentagon is intensively debating an option that dates back to a still-secret strategy in the Reagan administration's battle against the leftist guerrilla insurgency in El Salvador in the early 1980s. Then, faced with a losing war against Salvadoran rebels, the U.S. government funded or supported "nationalist" forces that allegedly included so-called death squads directed to hunt down and kill rebel leaders and sympathizers. Eventually the insurgency was quelled, and many U.S. conservatives consider the policy to have been a success-despite the deaths of innocent civilians and the subsequent Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scandal. (Among the current administration officials who dealt with Central America back then is John Negroponte, who is today the U.S. ambassador to Iraq. Under Reagan, he was ambassador to Honduras.)..." Rumsfeld has not surprisingly denied the substance of Newsweek's report, but in light of Seymour Hersh's report that the Pentagon has been given the greenlight via Presidential Findings to run black ops without Congressional oversight, the Newsweek story may merit a closer look. (Michael Hirsh and James Barry, the report is available online from Truthout. Org, January 8, 2005)
Ehsan Ahrari, writing in Asia Times, notes that Pakistan and Afghanistan may be drawn into the potential conflict with Iran if Seymour Hersh's information is correct. Both countries are allegedly providing access for American forces to target Iranian nuclear sites. Of course, Ahrari speculates, the whole thing could be a less than subtle way of increasing pressure on Iran to slow down its program. (Ehsan Ahrari, Asia Times, January 19, 2005)
PAKISTAN IS HELPING THE U.S.
Asia Times' Syed Saleem Shahzad and Masood An report from Karachi for Asia Times that Pakistan has ind3eed thrown open the door for U.S. operations across its borders. (Asia Times, January 19, 2005)
UKRAINIAN INTELLIGENCE AND THE ORANGE REVOLUTION
C. J. Chivers, writing in the New York Times, notes that bloodshed was avoided in the Ukraine's contested elections largely because government intelligence commanders told the police and army to stand down. At work was an informal network of Ukrainian army officers known as the siloviki. (C.J. Chivers, The New York Times, January 17, 2005)
U.S. AND UKRAINIAN MILITARY COOPERATION
"Ukraine's destiny is critical to the security of the entire post-Soviet zone," writes Leonid Polyakov." It long has been the stated goal of Ukrainian defense policy to integrate with Euro-Atlantic structures like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and this goal has been one of the chief objectives of the United States, as well.
(Leonid Polyakov, U.S. Army War College's Straegic Studies Institute, December 2004)
RUSSIA TORN BETWEEN BETTERING RELATIONS WITH THE WEST AND TRYING TO RECLAIM ITS SUPERPOWER STATUS
The Kremlin's foreign policy course for 2005 appears to be at a fork in the road. On the one hand, Russia aspires to join the "Western world." On the other, it cherishes a dream of restoring its status as a velikaya derzhava (great power) that dominates its geopolitical neighborhood. If a policy choice is not made, Moscow's performance on the international stage could prove as contradictory in 2005 as it was in 2004.
Most Russian experts agree that the country faces a critical strategy dilemma, yet views strongly diverge on how best to tackle the problem. Liberal commentators agree that in the past year Russia experienced two major setbacks with the deterioration of its relations with Western democracies and a decline in its influence within the former Soviet Union.
(Igor Torbakov,Eurasianet, January 18, 2005)
CHINA'S HU LEAPS TO THE LEFT
Willy Lam writing for the Jamestown Foundation remarks that China's premier Hu Jintao has shown signs of returning to Marxist roots lately. One reason is a perception of discomforting western influence in the Ukrainian elections. (Willy Lam, Jamestown Foundation, January 18, 2005)
CHINA: THE PASSING OF ZHAO ZIYANG, THE TRUE HERO OF THE PEOPLE
The former head of China's Communist Party, who was ousted after he tried to stop the People's Army from opening fire on students and workers protesting at Tiananmen Square in 1989, died at the age of 85. Zhao emerged as the only hero on the government side in the Tiananmen fiasco. Had he remained active in the Chinese government, China might be a very different place today. The Economist looks at what China lost. (Economist, January 18, 2005)
This photograph was introduced as evidence at British Army court martial in Germany. Britain thought it was immune from the Abu Ghraib syndrome. Not quite.
AL QAEDA, NEOCONS AND WHERE THE WAR ON TERROR HAS TAKEN US
It is an axiom of military strategy that terrorism by itself cannot produce victory. The real force of terrorism comes from the changes which the victim makes himself, usually out of an irrational fear. The challenge posed by Osama bin Laden's attack on the World Trade Center was to see whether America could hold on to the things that had made it great, freedom, the Constitution, a respect for the law and for the rights of the American citizen. To a certain extent, Osama succeeded in making us surrender some of our core beliefs in exchange for the illusion of safety. Britain, which has a longer tradition of law, thought it was better. But as Mark Oliver shows in the Guardian, the British are also vulnerable to the moral corruption that inevitably accompanies a war.
In the U.S. we know that what comes close to constituting war crimes may have been committed at Guantamo as well as Abu Ghraib. The internal memoranda of the F.B.I. amke it pretty clear that something very dark has been going on. But like the good Germans at the end of World War II, we pretend that we didn't know. The corrosion of what it means to be an American has come mostly from fear. In World War II, when the future of the U.S. really was at risk, Franklin Delano Roosevelt told the American public that the only thing we had to fear was fear itself. The current administration has taken the reverse tack and exacerbated fear as a pretext for adopting a radical approach to foreign affairs that is opposed to 50 years of U.S. foreign policy. There have been no terrorist attacks since 9/11, yet we continue to act as though we are at war, but war against whom? and for what reason?
An essay by the Manhattan Institute's Heather MacDonald is worth reading for the justification for interrogation by "stress" that it argues may be needed now because of this nebulous threat. MacDonald argues that conventional interrogation methods didn't work, so an unusual approach had to be tried. Professional interrogation sometimes uses stress to get an insight into the subjects' psychology. The interrogation itself is a matter of psychological manipulation. The FBI documents make it clear that what was taking place at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib was something else. it did not produce useful information, and it made further prosecution of suspects highly unlikely. It was never clear how much of a threat these suspects really represented. The technique was closer to what we expect from a third world dictatorship than the United States or the United Kingdom. The damage to the United States from this behavior is far worse than anything that these individuals were likely to have done on their own. And that is what terrorism seeks to accomplish. More instructive than Heather MacDonald's essay, is Argentina's Report on the Disappearance of Persons.
In the prologue to the report on how a government was capable of murdering 100,000 of its own citizens, Argentine writer, Ernesto Sabato, refers to Italy's fight against the Red Brigades during the kidnapping of prime minister, Aldo Moro. Sabato writes: "Italy, for example, has suffered for many years from the heartless attacks of Fascist groups, the Red Brigades, and other similar organizations. Never at any time, however, did that country abandon the principles of law in its fight against these terrorists, and it managed to resolve the problem through the normal courts of law, guaranteeing the accused all their rights of a fair hearing. When Aldo Moro was kidnapped, a member of the security forces suggested to General Della Chiesa that a suspect who apparently knew a lot be tortured. The general replied with the memorable words: ’Italy can survive the loss of Aldo Moro. It would not survive the introduction of torture.’ " Had Argentina followed Della Chiesa's example the country might have been spared the worst catastrophe in its history.
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