'FOUR MORE YEARS' GENERATES SKEPTICISM ABROAD
London's tabloid Daily Mirror captured the mood with its headline, "How can 59,054,087 people be so dumb?" It's lead story: "U.S. ELECTION DISASTER" summarized some of the skeptical reaction overseas to an American foreign policy that is seen as questionable at best. To underscore the point, the U. S. dollar reached its lowest value in 9 years. Reactions from politicians who could speak openly were equally skeptical. As former British foreign minister Robin Cook put it: "I'm not sure in the light of the last four years whether the Bush team have got the skills to heal a divided America. Not only do we have a divided America but also we have a president who is highly polarising in his approach to world politics" (Daily Mirror, November 4, 2004)
U.S. TROOPS WATCHED HELPLESSLY WHILE IRAQIS LOOTED HIGH EXPLOSIVES
Mark Mazzetti, writing in the Los Angeles Times, reports that
U.S. troops guarding the Al Qaqaa nuclear site were so outnumbered that they could only watch helplessly while Iraqi looters made off with explosives. The troops asked the U.S. command for reinforcements to stop the thefts, but received no response. (Mark Mazzsetti, November 4, 2004)
U.S. DOLLAR HURT BOTH BY BUSH VICTORY AND UNCERTAINTY ABOUT THE MIDDLE EAST
The Financial Times reports that the power vacuum that willresult from Yasser Arafat's death, and the likelihood that the U.S. will be dragged into deeper involvement has shaken confidence in the U.S. dollar, which is not expected to rebound soon. (FT, November 4, 2004)
MIDDLE EAST EXPECTS MORE OF THE SAME
Ali Abunimah, writing in Beirut's Daily Star, notes that the Middle East was not particularly enthusiastic about John Kerry, but more of the Bush administration's approach is even less welcome. Writes Abunimah:" What many wanted was accountability - to see the author of so many disastrous policies thrown out.But a majority of American voters handed a new mandate to Bush despite the fact that he started an illegal war which may have cost the lives of 100,000 innocent Iraqis..."(Ali Abunimah, Daily Star, Beirut, November 5, 2004)
ISRAEL EXPECTS SOME PRESSURE FROM BUSH BUT NOT ENOUGH TO MATTER
Ariel Sharon seems pleased with the Bush victory. There is a sense that Jerusalem has the White House on its side where it matters. (Bradley Burston, Haaretz, November 5, 2004)
ISRAEL PREPARES FOR A NEW REALITY WITH ARAFAT GONE
Israel's first problem is that it has no one left to negotiate with. Even more threatening, if chaos breaks out in the occupied territories, pressure will build to bring in an international peace keeping force, which will limit Israel's room for maneuver. (Ze'ev Schiff, Haaretz, November 4, 2004)
U.S. MILITARY COMMANDERS SEE SERIOUS PROBLEMS IN IRAQ
The New York Times interviews 15 top U.S. military commanders in Iraq who indicate that the insurgency has turned out to be far larger, better financed and more difficult to deal with than originally thought. The most disturbing aspect may be the inability of the U.S. to protect ordinary Iraqi citizens from intimidation by radical groups seeking to fill the vacuum resulting from Saddam's ouster. (Eric Schmitt, New York Times, October 31, 2004)
-Deputy Mayor of Baghdad Assassinated (BBC)
CHINA DAILY ACCUSES BUSH ADMINISTRATION OF HINDERING THE WAR AGAINST TERROR
China's English language newspaper has sent a clear message to Washington by charging bluntly that the Bush administration has hurt the international struggle against global terrorism. "The Iraq War has made the United States even more unpopular in the international community than its war in Viet Nam," observes China Daily, "Bush did not even dare to meet the public on the streets when he visited Britain, the closest ally of the United States. From US pre-war military preparations to postwar reconstruction of the country, the rift between the United States and its traditional European allies has never been so wide. It is now time to give up the illusion that Europeans and Americans are living in the same world, as some Europeans would like to believe..." (China Daily, November 1, 2004)
HOW A LOCAL TV STATION DECIDED TO ROLL THE VIDEOTAPE THAT SHOWED THE IRAQI EXPLOSIVES LEFT TO FALL INTO ENEMY HANDS
"Joey, I think we've been to the place they're talking about." That's what Dean Staley told Joe Caffrey after reading last Monday's New York Times account of explosives reportedly missing from a munitions facility in U.S.-occupied Iraq. The statement began a chain of events that resulted in politically charged video being broadcast nationally less than a week before Election Day. (Scott M. Libin, Poynter on Line, October 30, 2004)
-Human Rights Watch claims that they warned
the U.S. Command about the explosives
-The International Atomic Energy Agency's report to the U.N. Security Council on loss of the explosives
The report in The Lancet last week estimating Iraqi casualties at around 100,000 has unleashed a firestorm both at the government level and in journalistic circles (1,106 U.S. servicemen have been killed in Iraq, and more than 8,000 wounded so far).
Part of the confusion stems from the fact that the Pentagon has refused to keep track of how many Iraqis have died. That goes for civilians accidentally killed by U.S. forces. Iraq Body Count.net estimates the total Iraqi civilian death toll at between 14,000 and 16,000. That figure is based on adding up deaths reported in news accounts, and reporters these days are missing most of the action.
-Lancet's peer reviewed cluster study
-Lancet's Editor's introduction (pdf)
-Fred Kaplan's skeptical critique in Slate
-Discussion of critique in the blogs
WHERE DID THINGS GO WRONG?
Republic of Fear author Kana Makiya may be chosen as Iraq's next ambassador to the United States. Although Makiya was frequently criticized in the Middle East for advising the administration on the war, he is making it clear these days that there are many things that happened in Iraq which he does not agree with. Makiya was interviewed by Pan Hu in the Asia Times. (Pan Hu, Asia Times, October 30, 2004)
REBUILDING LOCAL GOVERNANCE IN IRAQ
The latest study by the International Crisis Group insists that a major mistake in Iraq was the decision of the coalition authority to concentrate almost exclusively on a national transitional administration while failing to establish credible local authorities. While the insurgency is now fragmenting into various competing small groups, the U.S. appointed power in Baghdad is largely blind when it comes to countering the threat. (ICG, October 27, 2004)
CHINA'S INTEREST RATE HIKE TAKES THE WORLD BY SURPRISE
Jamil Anderlini notes in the Asia Times that the uproar that has met China's recent attempt to cool down its rapid growth via a currency adjustment underscores just how integrated China is becoming with the world (Jamil Anderlini, Asia Times, October 31, 2004)
CHINA PONDERS ITS PYONGYANG CARD
Willy Lam comments in the Jamestown Foundation's China Briefs that Beijing has nearly stopped trying to pressure North Korea into moderating its plans to speed up a nuclear weapons program. The reason: China is convinced by recent statements in Washington that the U.S. , Japan and Taiwan are now commited to trying to contain China from further expansion in the region. (Willy Lam, China Brief, October 28, 2004)
UKRAINE'S ELECTION PITS PRO-MOSCOW CANDIDATE AGAINST ONE THAT IS MORE DRAWN TOWARDS EUROPE
Apart from charges of dirty tricks, the current election may decide how the Ukraine decides to orient itself in the next few years. (Moscow Times, October 31, 2004)
GEORGIA'S SAKAASHVILI FEELS GROWING PRESSURE
Kim Murphy, writing in the Los Angeles Times, notes that Georgia's dynamic American-educated president may be nearing the end of his political honeymoon. Many Georgians want Sakaashvili to spend less time antagonizing Moscow, and more dealing with poverty and unemployment. (Moscow Times, October 31, 2004)
ARAFAT'S BLEAK LEGACY
Nicholas Blanford, writing in Beirut's Daily Star, notes that Arafat's refusal to pick and groom a successor is likely to produce a brutal struggle for control if he does not survive his current disease.
(Nicholas Blanford, Daily Star, October 31, 2004)
-HAARETZ NOTES THAT ARAFAT HAD AN UNCANNY ABILITY TO UNIFY BOTH HIS FRIENDS AND HIS ENEMIES....
GOODBYE ENLIGHTENMENT, HELLO FUNDAMENTALISM
Writing in the New York Times, Gary Wills asks:
Can a people that believes more fervently in the Virgin Birth than in evolution still be called an Enlightened nation?
America, the first real democracy in history, was a product of Enlightenment values - critical intelligence, tolerance, respect for evidence, a regard for the secular sciences. Though the founders differed on many things, they shared these values of what was then modernity. They addressed 'a candid world,' as they wrote in the Declaration of Independence, out of 'a decent respect for the opinions of mankind.' Respect for evidence seems not to pertain any more, when a poll taken just before the elections showed that 75 percent of Mr. Bush's supporters believe Iraq either worked closely with Al Qaeda or was directly involved in the attacks of 9/11.
The secular states of modern Europe do not understand the fundamentalism of the American electorate. It is not what they had experienced from this country in the past. In fact, we now resemble those nations less than we do our putative enemies.
Where else do we find fundamentalist zeal, a rage at secularity, religious intolerance, fear of and hatred for modernity? Not in France or Britain or Germany or Italy or Spain. We find it in the Muslim world, in Al Qaeda, in Saddam Hussein's Sunni loyalists. Americans wonder that the rest of the world thinks us so dangerous, so single-minded, so impervious to international appeals. They fear jihad, no matter whose zeal is being expressed.
It is often observed that enemies come to resemble each other. We torture the torturers, we call our God better than theirs - as one American general put it, in words that the president has not repudiated.
"President Bush promised in 2000 that he would lead a humble country, be a uniter not a divider, that he would make conservatism compassionate. He did not need to make such false promises this time. He was re-elected precisely by being a divider, pitting the reddest aspects of the red states against the blue nearly half of the nation. In this, he is very far from Ronald Reagan, who was amiably and ecumenically pious. He could address more secular audiences, here and abroad, with real respect.
In his victory speech yesterday, President Bush indicated that he would "reach out to the whole nation," including those who voted for John Kerry. But even if he wanted to be more conciliatory now, the constituency to which he owes his victory is not a yielding one. He must give them what they want on things like judicial appointments. His helpers are also his keepers.
The moral zealots will, I predict, give some cause for dismay even to nonfundamentalist Republicans. Jihads are scary things. It is not too early to start yearning back toward the Enlightenment.
(Gary Wills, The New York Times, November 4, 2004)
BIN LADEN TRIES TO CAST HIS VOTE
Republicans may have counted on a last minute move by Al Qaeda to boost George W's ratings as leader of the War Against Terror. In the end, Osama Bin Laden obliged with a cryptic video. Tom Engelhardt comments in Tom Dispatch.com (Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch.com, October 30, 2004)
-The Video via the BBC
-RAND terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman comments on the significance on PBS' NewsHour
-Juan Cole on Osama Bin Laden's reference to the towers of Beirut
ON THE ISSUES
The On The Issues website provides a quick read on where each of the candidates stand on critical issues.
THE CHOICE FOLLOWING A QUESTIONABLE PRESIDENCY
The New Yorker's endorsement of John Kerry was more of a critique of four years of egregious mistakes by George W. Bush. (Editors of the New Yorker, October 25, 2004)
MEMORIES OF GORE VS. BUSH AND THE FRACTURES IN THE SUPREME COURT
When David Margolick interviewed Supreme Court clerks about the decision that gave the presidency to George Bush, he found a strong sense of unease about what had happened. With even more at stake this time around, it is worth revisiting what happened when Florida botched the electoral process the first time around. (David Margolick, Vanity Fair, October 2004)
-Part 1 (pdf)
-Part 2 (pdf)
RUMSFELD'S WAR: NOT ALL THE COMBAT HAS BEEN IN IRAQ
PBS Frontline's extraordinary documentary on the neocon takeover of U.S. defense policy is viewable online in streaming video. The film is sympathetic to Rumsfeld in places. There is footage of Rumsfeld putting himself personally at risk to help the wounded during the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon, but the underlying theme is a story of hubris gone wrong. The hero is Colin Powell, one of a young group of combat-tested Army officers who rebuilt U.S. defense capabilities after the catastrophe of Vietnam. The formidable fighting machine created by these soldiers is coming close to the danger point again, largely thanks to the meddling of the "Vulcan" civilian amateurs, who seized power on the coat tails of George W. Bush. Paul Wolfowitz emerges as the theoretician of the policy that has brought the military to the brink. The film is worth watching, and the website carries valuable supplemental interviews and research information.
(Frontline,WGBH, October 2004)
-Watch the film online...
THE TRUE BELIEVER
Paul Wolfowitz emerges from Peter Boyer's New Yorker profile as an idealistic Washington policy wonk making dramatic mistakes with the best intentions. Boyer traces the origins of Wolfowitz's obsession with getting Saddam and the somewhat naive fantasy that taking over Iraq could stabilize the Middle East, without requiring an enormous commitment of "boots on the ground." Wolfowitz never appears to have asked himself whether the elimination of a detestable, but weakened and largely contained dictator, was really worth the expense in lives and fortune that going to war was likely to demand. (Peter Boyer, The New Yorker, October 25, 2004)
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