Daniel Ellsberg - Like Robert McNamara, under whom I served, Mr. Rumsfeld appears to inspire great loyalty among his aides. As the scandal at Abu Ghraib shows, however, there are more important principles. Mr. Rumsfeld might not have seen the damning photographs and the report of Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba as soon as he did - just as he would never have seen the Pentagon Papers 33 years ago - if some anonymous people in his own department had not bypassed the chain of command and disclosed them, without authorization, to the news media. And without public awareness of the scandal, reforms would be less likely.
Rahul Mahajan - When Vladimir Putin engineered the election of his hand-picked subordinate Ahmad Kadyrov as president of Chechnya through tactics such as pressuring candidates to withdraw, forcing the leading candidate, Malik Saidullayev, out with a court injunction, and appointing another candidate to his staff to remove him from the election, Western punditry was not slow to condemn the election as a farce and a sham. Ever since 9/11, however, the Bush administration has been treating us to a series of equally farcical “elections” with minimal or no comment from the same sources. The matter has now come to what should be a crisis point over plans to engineer the upcoming elections in Iraq.
Sarah Whalen - Allawi has spoken in America, and his news is good. Iraqi democracy is on track, and Iraqi police and military forces, homegrown, are routing insurgents. Any contradiction is the product of biased Western journalists who want to see Iraq’s bold new democracy fail, Allawi assured a special joint session of the US Senate and Congress in Washington, D.C. on Thursday. After Allawi called journalists reporting unenthusiastically about Iraq’s daily slaughter liars, almost the entire legislative and executive branches of the US government gave the CIA-trained, neocon-selected Iraqi interim prime minister a standing ovation, and Wolfowitz kissed him. Twice.
Hands up those who knew the name of Fallujah on 11 September 2001. Or Samarra. Or Ramadi. Or Anbar province. Or Amarah. Or Tel Afar, the latest target in our “war on terror’’ although most of us would find it hard to locate on a map (look at northern Iraq, find Mosul and go one inch to the left). Three years ago, it was all about Osama bin Laden and al-Qa’ida; then, at about the time of the Enron scandal and I have a New York professor to thank for spotting the switching point it was Saddam and weapons of mass destruction and 45 minutes and human rights abuses in Iraq and, well, the rest is history. And now, at last, the Americans admit that vast areas of Iraq are outside government control. We are going to have to “liberate” them, all over again.
As another inevitable result of the “smoke them out” diplomacy of the Bush administration and Iraqi Premier Iyad Alawi, untold damage is being done in the Muslim world: US Apache helicopters and AC-130 gunships bombing the vast holy grounds of the Wadi al-Salam cemetery, while the main shopping street leading to the Imam Ali Shrine - as well as most of Najaf’s old city - lies in ruins. And in an overlapping graphic display, US forces now also occupy much of the 2-million-strong Sadr City, the vast Shi’ite slum in Baghdad. Muqtada knows that the longevity of the standoff is directly proportional to his enhanced status as a resistance icon, and to Allawi’s loss of face. And if the Imam Ali Shrine is stormed, as his Baghdad spokesman Abdel Hadi al-Darraji puts it, there will be “a revolution all over Iraq”.
In the decades following the establishment of Islam, Abdullah Ibn al-Zubair led a rebellion in Mecca against the ruling dynasty of the day, who sent their most ruthless commander to lay siege to the city. Abdullah took refuge in Mecca’s Noble Sanctuary around the Ka’ba. When the commander sent an envoy to ask him to come out, Abdullah replied, “Why do you want me to come out, leave me alone, consider me one of the doves of the shrine.” As bloodshed is forbidden in the Ka’ba, doves there are not afraid of humans and they fly around freely. The envoy called for his bow and arrow, aimed, and shot one of the many doves flying around. The dove fell bleeding and all the others flew away. The point was made; in a justification sarcastically known as “Muawyya’s argument,” the envoy blamed Abdullah for any bloodshed; it was the rebel who desecrated the Shrine by taking refuge there. It is a precedent that is still being used today.
In the recent past, the media has flooded us with articles and a few photographs about mistreatment of captive prisoners by American soldiers. The moralizers are now hard at work demanding investigations so that America’s name can be cleared and we can show that the mistreatment was really an anomaly. You know, a few sick soldiers indulging themselves, brought down to a depraved level by the circumstances of war. It’s “systemic,” says former Special Forces Master Sergeant Stan Goff, meaning that the “system,” the military system, is such that it dehumanizes you and it dehumanizes the enemy. Well, watch out, folks, get into “systemic” and you may get more than you bargained for
Iraq is a telling example of how a political system created by an occupying power and out of touch with popular aspirations creates the necessary conditions for a perpetual state of civil strife and violent conflict. The invasion brought about regime change, but more importantly, it lead to the complete collapse of an already weakened Iraqi state. As a result, political authorities in Iraq have to contend with eroded legitimacy, lack of authority, and a loss of sovereignty to occupying forces. Despite the seemingly benign and clear-cut formula for the “transfer of power,” a complex matrix of interrelated dilemmas will continue to plague any plan instigated by occupation forces that does not enjoy the consent of mainstream Iraqis.
John Dimitri Negroponte has a birthday today, his 65th. He has been a warrior from the dark side a long time. Almost 40 years ago, Negroponte was a young “political affairs officer” at the United States embassy (1964-68) in what was then Saigon. Twenty years later Negroponte was the Reagan administration’s odious envoy (1981-85) in Honduras and a key figure in the Iran-Contra scandal that covertly financed the CIA-run war against the Sandinistas, the elected left-wing government of neighbouring Nicaragua. It was wee George who, another 20 years on, would resurrect Negroponte’s career, first as his ambassador to the United Nations in 2001, the year the Twin Towers came down, and most recently as Washington’s man with the real power in Iraq.
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