Topic: War on Terror
Last night Phony B-liar and W. pedaled more of the same at their joint-press conference: 'Iraq is on the road to democracy, progress is being made, we'll stand down when they stand up, etc., nothing new there. I wish someone had had the courage to asked them to explain their little get-together at the White House in January of 2003 when a leaked British memo of the meeting said W. didn't expect to find WMD before the invasion and hatched a plan to use a U-2 spy plane painted in UN colors to provoke Saddam into an attack. Now, that would have been interesting.
Instead all we got out of the two 'war leaders' was the typical delusional rationalizations about why we're over there losing about 70 soldiers a month and will continue to lose them every month for the foreseeable future. Bush did admit that the process leading up to the formation, finally, of a "national government of unity" seemed like an eternity, but that little ray of reality was quickly quashed by his prediction that now everything would start to move along faster on the road to success.
Of course, there's still the problem of who is going to run the defense and interior ministries, which are riddled with Shiites bent on the elimination of the Sunnis. The fact is we'd still be waiting an eternity for the squabbling factions to agree on forming a government if they hadn't decided to put off that decision. Some even question whether the government is even really constitutionally legitimate without all the cabinet positions being filled. But who cares about that, as long as most of the parties and the US are willing to look the other way, it's all good.
And for all this happy talk about this government being democratically elected by 12 million Iraqis, I don't see what's going to be different about this government than any of the others (all of which were also hailed as 'milestones' and 'turning points' by Bush and Blair at the time). Al-Maliki doesn't have any more power than al-Jaafari or Alawi had in the past. He still depends almost completely on the US military for what little political power he has, to say nothing of his personal protection.
He can talk about using "maximum force" to get the death squads, the militias and the insurgents under control but he's got nothing at hand to accomplish this. His political allies are about 70% responsible for the filling up the morgues and for all this talk about what a great guy is neither of them mentioned Muqtada al-Sadr last night. He's got a huge army under his command and his political allies in the parliament carry a lot of clout. Like it or not, he's a major power broker in this new government, how do they square that circle?
Here's a guy who the press regularly calls a "radical cleric" but who also happens to be at the center of Iraqi politics. Lest we forget, at one time he was a wanted man for murdering a rival cleric, he staged two violent rebellions which killed dozens of US soldiers, his Mahdi army is behind the killing and ethnic cleansing of thousands of Sunnis and yet not a mention of him last night. Blair said that of all the people he had talked to on his visit to Baghdad last weekend no one said they wanted to the "coalition" to leave. I guess he didn't ask al-Sadr because he does. How do you go over there and not talk to someone who has had and still has so much say in the future of the country?
There's this massive disconnect between what Bush and Blair say about what's going on over there and what is really going on over there. Al-Sadr may be a killer and a religious nut, but he's got the guns and he's got the power to make our grand plans either work or blow up in our faces.
I don't get it, it’s not like Blair is averse to meeting with killers and religious nuts when it comes to oil and gas. He went to Tripoli to meet Moammar Kadif, who blew up Pan Am 103 over Britain killing 270 people. Blair's former Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, even called Kadafi a "statesman." So why no pow-wow with Muqtada? Maybe if Muqtada had the oil ministry things would be different, then he would be a statesman too.
In the end, it looks like we're back to square one in Iraq. Again we hear from US government officials that the next six-months are going to be crucial for the future of Iraq, just like we've been hearing for the past three years. What has changed that is going to make all the predictions of something different happening this time around?
There is still the question of how al-Maliki is going to convince the various parties not to use their positions in the ministries as their own personal or ethnic fiefdoms. The FT reported this Monday that "Mr. Maliki has yet to show that he can force Iraq's independent-minded parties to follow a central government agenda, rather than use their posts to reward party supporters or, in some cases, to provide cover for their private armies.," (Like Muqtada, for instance.)
And the specter of a civil war hasn't suddenly disappeared with the sweating in of a new government. There are still tens of thousands of Iraqis displaced inside the country by ethnic and religious cleansing operations and fighting between Shiite and Sunni militias were still raging this week in the south as W. was telling al-Maliki that a free Iraq "will serve as a devastating defeat for the terrorists and al-Qaeda, and will serve as an example for others in the region who deserve to be free."
The same old tired rhetoric, the same depressing results.
Mubarak didn't get the memo:
Our good friend and ally Hosni Mubarak apparently didn't get the memo on Iraq's grand democratic example. Last week the Egyptian government put opposition politician Aman Nour away for five years for having the temerity to run against Mubarak, the police crushed protests in support of judges who were calling for reform, and for good measure Mubarak told the World Economic Forum that the US should butt out of his and other country's business.
"The 78-year old leader implied the United States was running a foreign policy that promoted double standards on nuclear issues, ignored international opposition to the invasion of Iraq, and was meddling in the international affairs of countries ---including his own --- by pressing for Western-style democratic reforms."
Meanwhile, the Taliban are once again showing how desperate they are by continuing to avoid their own devastating defeat. It's been four years since liberating Afghanistan and our democratically elected puppet Hamid Karzai's writ still hardly extends to the outskirts of Kabul. He and the democratically elected parliament of warlords, if anything, are even less in control than they were about a year ago.
During the past few months the Taliban's spring/summer offensive has really ramped up. Over the last week or so at least a hundred to two hundred people have died in fighting in Helmand and Kandahar provinces. [AP] Reports coming from the military claim that most of those deaths are insurgents, but their not known for being too particular about who they consider civilians or insurgents. Admittedly, it doesn't help that the Taliban are using civilian’s houses as cover.
And I seem to remember Karzai chastising the US military a while back for using air strikes as a tactic against the insurgency, saying it was ineffective, but I guess, they didn't get the memo either. The US last week may have killed a dozen Afghan civilians in a series of all night airstikes in a village called Azizi. [IHT]
And the Afghan government is once again blaming Pakistan for its problems. (Play it again Sam!) Hamid Karzai says, "We have credible reports inside Pakistan, in the madrasses, the mullahs and teachers are saying to their students, 'go to Afghanistan for Jihad. Burn the schools and clinics." The Pakistanis say the charges are "baseless." Of course, they're probably not, but Pervez Musharraf is out good friend in the war on terror so we'll give him a pass.