Iraq's elections are a prerequisite to winding down U.S. involvement in an increasingly dangerous and brutal war, but the flip side is that the vote is likely to enhance religious and ethnic divisions by certifying the Shiite majority, a dedvelopment that will be applauded by both Iran and Hizbollah, and which Jordan's King Abdullah warns could create a crescent of Shiite influence extending from Iran to Lebanon.
A POWER STUGGLE TO SEE WHO WILL CONTROL IRAQ, AND POSSIBLY THE MIDDLE EAST
In case anyone still had doubts, Abu Musab Zarqawi, the most sought after insurgent in Iraq and Al Qaeda's choice to represent its interests, announced that he has declared war on "this evil principle of democracy and those who follow this wrong ideology."Anyone who helps establish this system, Zarqawi said, is part of it, and consequently an implied target. "Oh people of Iraq," he said in a broadcast, "where is your honor? Have you accepted the oppression of the Crusader harlots?" Zarqawi may be able to cripple the vote, but he won't be able to stop it. The real war that seems certain to follow is likely to be between Iranian-backed Shiites, whose control of Iraq will have been certified by the U.S.-staged electoral process, and the disempowered Sunnis who will be encouraged to reject the entire government apparatus by Zarqawi, Al Qaeda and a ragtag collection of former Baathists. At stake will be the new shape of the Middle East, and much of the world's oil.
-Washington Post reports on Al Zarqawi (January 23, 2005)
-JUAN COLE provides comprehensive links to current commentary
- The Nation comments on the difficulty of voting in an election where the candidates are afraid to appear in public
-The White House tries to convince Europe that it will control its urge to use military force to impose its vision of democracy on the rest of the world (The Telegraph, January 24, 2005)
NEW DOCUMENTS DETAIL ARMY AND F.B.I. INVESTIGATIONS OF PRISONER ABUSE INCLUDING FORCED SODOMY AND PHYSICAL BEATINGS
The American Civil Liberties Union now offers a comprehensive index as well as pdf photocopies of more than 600 U.S. military and FBI documents covering investigations of alleged torture and mistreatment of prisoners in Iraq and Guantanamo. In one, a 73-year old woman claimed to have been sodomized by U.S. forces. (ACLU-Freedom of Information Act, FBI and U.S. Army C.I.D.)
U.S.-BACKED IRAQI POLICE ALSO ACCUSED OF TORTURE
In a new report, Human Rights Watch details allegations that Iraqi police have engaged in systematic abuse of suspects including children, while relying on U.S. forces for protection. (HRW, January 2005)
PENTAGON ADMITS THAT RUMSFELD EXPANDED BLACK OPS SPYING OPERATIONS TO OTHER COUNTRIES
The teams, which officials say have been operating in Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries for about two years, represent a prime example of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's desire to expand the Pentagon's ability to collect human intelligence - information gathered by spies rather than by technological means - both within the military services and the Defense Intelligence Agency, whose focus is on intelligence used on the battlefield. (Eric Schmidt, The New York Times, January 24, 2005)
-McCain questions Rumsfeld's intelligence unit (Washington Post, January 23, 2005)
AN END TO FUZZY THINKING?
Anthony Cordesman asserts in a new analysis, "Iraq: Strategy versus Metrics: The Case for Information-Based Policy" , that U.S. officials need to start basing their strategic planning on concrete information. "The problem for policymaking is not a lack of strategies, it is a lack of facts," the report states. "It is the lack of metrics that can shed some light on what is really happening and the level of progress, problems, and risk." (Anthony Cordesman, CSIS, January, 2005)
MISSING THREE KEY POINTS ON IRAQ
As elections approach in Iraq, Michael O'Hanlon at the Brookings Institution argues that the US must rethink its planned approach. Beyond the perennial debate over coalition troop strength, three issues stand out in Iraq. First is the January 30 election. Second is the Iraqi constitution, which is supposed to be written by the end of the year. Third--and perhaps the biggest question for the US, UK and other coalition partners--is to begin developing an exit strategy. On each of these points, O'Hanlon maintains, the current Bush administration policy is substantially off the mark. (Michael O'Hanlon, Brookings, January 18, 2005)
WHAT'S UP IN ECUADOR?
Local residents fear that a new U.S. military base may be aimed at more than drug interdiction. Michael Flynn notes in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists that the base is also at the center of a growing controversy regarding U.S. efforts to block mass emigration from Ecuador. Furor erupted in early October when the U.S.S. Curts intercepted an Ecuadorian fishing vessel carrying some 80 migrants 240 miles northeast of the Galapagos Islands. When the migrants arrived in Manta, they immediately denounced the abuses they had suffered at the hands of U.S. sailors... One of the detainees told reporters that sailors had beaten a polio victim with an iron bar "because he didn't get up fast enough." ( Michael Flynn, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Jan-Feb, 2005)
AL QAEDA EXPLORES CENTRAL AMERICA
Looking for fertile ground to encourage new insurgencies, al Qaeda is reportedly establishing contacts with criminal gangs in Honduras. The advantage: the gangs have members living in the Latin American communities in major U.S. cities. (Jamestown Foundation, January 13, 2005)
The International Crisis Group warns that Kosovar Albanians are getting restless over the slow pace of the movement to finally resolve their future status. The Albanians want independence, and if they don't get some indication of involvement from the international community, they may take action alone--a move that could trigger a riposte from Serbia, which would be likely to reignite the war. (ICG, January 24, 2005)
SLOWING DOWN THE REVOLUTIONS
Kyrgyzstan's President Akaev has emerged as a staunch foe of all "rose" and "orange" revolutions. In an article in Russia's official "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 8 June, months before demonstrations convulsed Kyiv, Akaev pointedly compared Western efforts to export democracy with the Bolshevik export of revolution. In early January, the Kyrgyz president decried Ukraine's Orange Revolution for splitting the country in two and nearly igniting a civil war. And when Kyrgyzstan's opposition demonstrated in Bishkek to protest Otunbaeva's exclusion from elections, Akaev was scornful, saying, "Our homegrown provocateurs now have skilled coaches."
(Daniel Kimmage, Eurasianet.org, January 21, 2005)
More separates Europeans and Americans today than the silly notions of a few neocons. What is really causing the gulf is fundamentally different visions of the kind of life one really wants to live.
GOING DIFFERENT WAYS Consider a mug of American coffee, and then taste an Italian expresso, Tony Judt writes in the current issue of The New York Review of books. One is cheap, ubiquitous, largely without flavor, and accessible to anyone. "Now take a cup of Italian espresso," says Judt. "It requires expensive equipment. Price-to-volume ratio is outrageous, suggesting indifference to the consumer and ignorance of the market. The aesthetic satisfaction accessory to the beverage far outweighs its metabolic impact. It is not a drink; it is an artifact. This contrast can stand for the differences between America and Europe --differences nowadays asserted with increased frequency and not a little acrimony on both sides of the Atlantic. The mutual criticisms are familiar. To American commentators Europe is "stagnant." Its workers, employers, and regulations lack the flexibility and adaptability of their US counterparts. The costs of European social welfare payments and public services are 'unsustainable.' Europe's aging and 'cosseted' populations are underproductive and self-satisfied. In a globalized world, the "European social model" is a doomed mirage. This conclusion is typically drawn even by "liberal" American observers, who differ from conservative (and neoconservative) critics only in deriving no pleasure from it. To a growing number of Europeans, however, it is America that is in trouble and the 'American way of life' that cannot be sustained. The American pursuit of wealth, size, and abundance --as material surrogates for happiness --is aesthetically unpleasing and ecologically catastrophic. The American economy is built on sand (or, more precisely, other people's money). For many Americans the promise of a better future is a fading hope. Contemporary mass culture in the US is squalid and meretricious. No wonder so many Americans turn to the church for solace. These perceptions constitute the real Atlantic gap and they suggest that something has changed. In past decades it was conventionally assumed--whether with satisfaction or regret--that Eu-rope and America were converging upon a single 'Western' model of late capitalism, with the US as usual leading the way. The logic of scale and market, of efficiency and profit, would ineluctably trump local variations and inherited cultural constraints. Americanization (or globalization--the two treated as synonymous) was inevitable. The best--indeed the only--hope for local products and practices was that they would be swept up into the global vortex and repackaged as 'international' commodities for universal consumption. Thus an archetypically Italian product-- caffè espresso --would travel to the US, where it would metamorphose from an elite preference into a popular commodity, and then be repackaged and sold back to Europeans by an American chain store...."
(Tony Judt, The New York Review of Books, February 10, 2005)
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