While much of the world continues to debate when and why the US might invade Iraq, a growing number of hawks inside and outside the Bush administration are already plotting what to do with a post-war Iraq.
As Andrew Buncombe of the Independent reports, the evidence clearly suggests that Washington is preparing for “regime change in Iraq, even as weapons inspectors get ready to return to the country.” What is now clear, Buncombe writes, is that Washington plans to “administer Iraq in the days, weeks and months after a US-led military operation.”
Retructuring the economy will be tricky enough. Restructing Iraq’s fragile and fractious society Russ Baker argues on TomPaine.com, will be a far more delicate operation, requiring a lasting commitment from Washington.
Given recent history, Baker suggests that there is little reason to believe that the Bush administration will commit the resources needed to succed in helping Iraq remake itself.
The US will probably choose a member of that émigré community to lead Iraq, writes the London Guardian‘s Martin Woollacott. That debate is heating up as the likelihood of war increases, Woollacott reports, exposing deep differences among Iraq’s many opposition groups and their backers in Washington.
The debate over who should be allowed to take Saddam Hussein’s place is most feverish in Washington, where foreign policy powerbrokers inside and outside the Bush administration are maneuvering to push their chosen candidates. Now, a new player has emerged, the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. But, as Alternet reports, this “new” group features familiar players and a familiar agenda:
The primary Washington sponsors of Chalabi and the INC, of course, are the administration’s civilian hawks, led by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Hugo Young of the London Guardian suggests that these administration insiders, who have also been the most ardent supporters of war against Iraq, share one more policy trait — a devout commitment to Israel.
When it comes to Israeli nationalism, however, the Pentagon’s hawks can’t compete with Daniel Pipes. The founder of the Middle East Forum’s controversial “Campus Watch” web site, Pipes is now taking his attacks on academics who question Israeli policy out of the virtual world. In a Jerusalem Post opinion column, Pipes suggests that America’s academic freedoms need some wartime pruning:
While Pipes’ ‘wartime’ logic may be new, his arguments are familiar. And while the medium may be modern, Kristine McNeil argues in The Nation that the “Campus Watch” blacklisting site serves only as “a showcase for the signature distortions on which Pipes has built his twenty-five-year career.”
Last week, Pentagon advisor Richard Perle questioned Europe’s ethical fiber, suggesting that the entire continent had lost its moral bearings.
It seems the skepticism is mutual.
The London Guardian reports that a third of Britons see President Bush as “a bigger threat to world safety than Saddam Hussein.”
In a landmark verdict, a Florida court ruled Thursday that the gun distributor Valor Corporation, by marketing “junk guns” that lack even basic safety features such as locks and cases, is partly liable for the murder two years ago of middle school teacher Barry Grunow, according to a press release by the gun control advocacy group, the Brady Center. The case is a beacon of hope to those afraid of safety concerns being swept under the rug by the Washington gun lobby, the press release continues, particularly at a time when gun makers are seeking to avoid any kind of “product liability,” which could lead to long lines of negligence lawsuits:
Though the gun in question was not proven to be of the illegal “Saturday Night Special” variety, the Palm Beach Post reports that the verdict may have succeeded in “cracking the door open” for future legal battles, according to the legal director of the Brady Center, Dennis Henigan:
The State of Maryland is now at the forefront of a national debate on the allowance of perchlorate — an incendiary chemical suspected of contributing to substantial genetic defects — in drinking water. Lane Harvey Brown reports in the Baltimore Sun that the State, Environmental Protection Agency, and Department of Defense have recently been bogged down in a debate over the military’s responsibility in cleaning up the city of Aberdeen’s water supply, which has been greatly tainted by military excercises in the area. Discovered in the ground water of many other states, there is as yet no uniform national allowance for the chemical. With the EPA, DoD, and individual states arguing over one standard, Maryland now finds itself fighting to enforce the nation’s strictest rules and pull the DoD into a massive clean-up.
“But without an EPA-determined national limit for perchlorate in drinking water, the military’s response has been blunt: No standard, no cleanup,” notes Brown, adding that the DoD is still arguing that perchlorate has not been proven to be toxic. Local community groups, meanwhile, have protested the slow pace of the debate and the postponing of an inevitable clean-up.
Perchlorate is primarily used by the US military as a propellant in jet and rocket fuels and other explosive devises. According to Brown, the military has already been forced into a $300 million clean-up project in Massachusetts, with cases pending in California and elsewhere. The EPA offers its own summary of current findings on perchlorate, and Earth Crash Earth Spirit documents past cases of perchlorate contamination.
By defaulting on its debt to the World Bank last week, Argentina joined an unsavory crew of debtor states — Iraq, Somalia and Zimbabwe among them — in the financial world’s dungeon. Crippled by inflation, debt and unemployment, Argentina has been negotiating with the Bank and its sister organization, the International Monetary Fund, for the past year over the terms of a rescue package, and this latest default might force the IMF’s hand. As Mark Tran notes in The Guardian, however, the gamble could just as easily backfire, plunging Argentina into chaos once again:
“In the short term, yesterday’s decision should have little impact as the World Bank will continue to disburse money to Argentina under existing loans for at least 30 days. But after that period, unless Argentina has cleared its arrears, there will be no more loans to help ease the plight of the poor, who are naturally hit hardest by economic turmoil … It is a high risk manoeuvre. Mr Duhalde needs an IMF agreement soon because Argentina has to make an additional $2.2bn in other payments due to the World Bank before January. If it misses those payments, Argentina’s financial reputation, despite recent encouraging signs of stability, could take a further beating and the country could well resume its downward slide.”
Meanwhile, Kiplin and Robert Pastor, writing in The Christian Science Monitor, worry that Washington is too obsessed with Iraq to notice the gathering dangers down South.
“If Argentina were unique in South America, other countries could relax. But the continent is on edge with the war in Colombia, escalating polarization in Venezuela, sharp decline in support for Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo, polar populists running for president in Ecuador, and political stalemate in Bolivia … If the economic crisis worsens, it could fracture democracy and spawn new security crises.”
Even as UN weapons inspectors arrived in Baghdad Monday, Washington claimed that Iraq was already in breach of the resolution which allowed their return.
While the arms inspectors were touching down at Saddam Hussein International Airport on Monday, US and British jets were bombing air defense emplacements in northern Iraq. What’s more, the BBC reports that senior US officials are suggesting that Iraq violated the UN resolution by firing on the jets.
Those inspectors, preparing for a long and painstaking mission, predict that the process could take months. But, as Kim Sengupta of The Independent reports, many in Iraq dismiss the inspections as a meaningless prelude to an inevitable war.
Charles Krauthammer is just as dismissive of the inspections — but for a different reason. The Washington Post pundit argues that the White House should be wary of the inspection team and its leader, Hans Blix, suggesting that Blix, the Security Council and Saddam Hussein are only stalling.
While it may please Krauthammer, Washington’s novel interpretation of the UN resolution will pose a direct challenge to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, whom The Economist — in a feat of understated analysis — describes as already concerned that “America seems to have a lower threshold for going to war than other members of the Security Council.”
If the US does invade Iraq, Mark Mazzetti plans to have a ringside seat. The defense correspondent for U.S. News & World Report, Mazzetti is one of 58 journalists being prepped by the Pentagon at seven-day media “boot camps” ostensibly designed to provide the reporters with the skills they need to keep up with military units.
On Sunday, The Washington Post published the first excerpt from Bob Woodward’s upcoming book “Bush at War.” In it, Woodward tells of how Secretary of State Colin Powell managed to convince President Bush to seek a new UN resolution on Iraq — outmaneuvering administration hawks such as Vice President Dick Cheney in the process.
That isn’t sitting too well with David Frum.
In fact, the National Review‘s neoconservative nabob claims that Powell should be fired. His reason? Woodward’s book, Frum claims, is “essentially an edited transcript of Powell leaks, all of them calculated to injure this administration and undermine its policies on the very eve of military action against Iraq.”
War Watch has to wonder at the vehemence of Frum’s attack. Could it be that Powell’s great sin was actually the political victory chronicled in Woodward’s book? Frum and other supporters of the administration’s hawks have been spitting nails since it became clear that Powell would win the Security Council’s support for a new resolution — an achievement that The Boston Globe‘s H.D.S. Greenway suggests rescued the president and the administration from a disastrous misstep:
Charlie Sykes isn’t aiming nearly as high as Frum. In fact, the Milwaukee talk radio host is aiming rather low.
Last week, Sykes used his show on Milwaukee’s WTMJ to pillory local businessman Richard Abdoo, the chief executive officer of Wisconsin Energy Corp. Abdoo’s crime? He contributed money to the antiwar group Not In Our Name, and was listed as a supporter of NION’s statement against invading Iraq.
As The Progressive‘s Matthew Rothschild writes, Abdoo was in good company:
Abdoo initially defended his position, claiming that he had the right as an American and a private citizen to speak his mind and choose his causes. That logic failed to quell the criticism, however, and Abdoo has since backed down, issuing a memo to Wisconsin Energy Corp. employees apologizing for the controversy.
Pumping gas can be a dangerous thing in these United States.
Michel Jalbert, a resident of the Canadian side of the tiny border town of Pohenegamook, found out just how dangerous five weeks ago, when he stopped at a local filling station which straddles the border — the entrance is in Canada but the tanks are in the US.
As the London Guardian reports, the residents of Pohenegamook have been buying gas at the station for years, “and have a letter from the US government authorising the practice.” But that letter didn’t stop US border patrol agents from arresting Jalbert. He was charged with immigration and weapons offences for “failing to report into the US customs office a kilometre down the road and for keeping a hunting rifle in his truck.” Jalbert was going hunting.
Note to Tom Ridge: the arrest and incarceration of a Quebecois deer hunter doesn’t really make War Watch feel any safer.
An oil tanker has already spilled 3,000 metric tons of oil into the sea off Spain’s Atlantic coast, and while salvage crews are working to minimize the further damage, the Spanish government seems oddly preoccupied with assigning political blame for the disaster.
As the BBC reports, the stricken tanker Prestige ran into difficulties after its hull cracked during a storm last week, allowing oil to seem through a massive gash in the metal. Much of that oil has already washed up on Spain’s beaches and fishing ports, “causing huge environmental damage.”
With Spain facing one of the worst ecological disasters in history, authorities in Madrid are angrily suggesting that British-owned Gibralter is to blame. The Times of London questions that assertion, suggesting that the Spanish allegations are “as clear as the sporadic oil slicks decorating some of Galicia’s beaches.”
Still, not all of London’s editors are ready to dismiss the Spanish suggestion. The Independent argues that Madrid is only doing what it must:
At least in theory, fostering democracy abroad is a cornerstone of the Bush administration’s foreign policy. Political liberty, the rhetoric goes, strengthens stability and reduces the misery that breeds terrorism.
Last week, however, that rhetoric collided with reality, as an Iraq-obsessed White House largely ignored a major international conference on democracy. Held in Seoul, South Korea, the meeting offered more than empty words, pushing ahead in forming the types of regional alliances that helped thwart a coup in Venezuela last year, while excluding phony democracies like Egypt, Pakistan and Malaysia from the proceedings. Secretary of State Colin Powell pulled out at the last minute, though, and, as The Washington Post‘s Jackson Diehl notes, the White House remains typically, deeply suspicious of such foreign entanglements:
Eight years into his reign, Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko, “the last dictator of Europe,” has succeeded in becoming the continent’s leading pariah. Rory Watson reports in the London Times that the European Union has announced a travel ban on the President and 50 members of his government, preventing them from entering EU countries and nations in the process of applying for EU status. The ban was adopted in a unanimous vote by all those countries, in protest of “[s]erious violations of human rights and recurrent restrictions on fundamental freedoms.” The most recent such violation: Belarus’ interference with international monitors sent to observe the country’s recent election — called illegal by observers — which saw Lukashenko easily reelected.
So poorly regarded is Lukashenko, notes Watson, that Russian Prime Minister Putin is pushing for Belarussians to hold a referendum on whether Belarus should once again be placed under Russian sovereignty.
The ban’s timing is significant, as it will prevent Lukashenko from sending a representative to the upcoming NATO summit in Prague, a hot ticket for aspiring democracies. Among the states that have been invited to the ball are the fledgling Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — a sign that all three are a step closer to entering both NATO and the EU, writes Marko Mihkelson in the Moscow Times.
The leader of the UN weapons inspection team in Iraq has recently been a favorite target for Washington hawks. Now, Hans Blix is firing back.
As inspectors set up shop in Baghdad, the Swedish diplomat slammed unnamed Bush administration officials for waging a smear campaign against him. Still, while Blix didn’t identify his critics, Suzanne Goldenberg of the London Guardian reports that the prime suspects are easy to recognize.
What’s more, the simple fact that Blix is in Iraq is seen as a defeat by administration hawks eager, Goldenberg reports, “both for relatively straightforward nationalists such as the vice-president, Dick Cheney, and the defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, as well as for the faction led by Mr Wolfowitz, who have been described by scholars as ‘democratic imperialists’.”
Last week, Perle questioned whether Blix was the right choice for the Iraq mission — a question that Amir Taheri, taking a break from his National Review duties, reprises in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece, suggesting that “it’s beginning to look like Blix believes that his mission is not to discover Saddam Hussein’s hidden arsenal but to produce a diplomatic fig leaf that could render war impossible.”
Meanwhile, in Baghdad, the inspectors presented Iraqi officials with an outline of the investigation’s scope. According to The Independent, Blix is certainly being thorough:
What ever happened to ‘dead or alive,’ Molly Ivins wants to know.
Osama bin Laden is still at large. That much is sure. And Ivins joins a growing cadre of pundits in wondering why the White House, fixated by thoughts of a war in Iraq, is so unperturbed by the sudden reappearance of the top quarry in its war on terror.
Like others, Ivins also suggests that a US-led attack to topple the Iraqi leader will only make bin Laden more dangerous — and more difficult to catch.
Thomas W. Murphy, on the other hand, isn’t too concerned by bin Laden’s reappearing trick. In fact, Murphy, writing in USA in Review, seems more disturbed by the reemergence of Washington’s Democratic leaders.
The administation hasn’t lost focus, Murphy argues — although he seems a little fact-challenged in trying to explain how he arrives at such a pronouncement:
As far as DeWayne Wickham is concerned, Washington’s Democrats have been too quiet. Writing in USA Today, Wickham calls on Congressional Democrats to be more forceful in questioning the Bush administration’s plans for attacking Iraq, protecting the nation’s security, and combatting global terrorism:
Clearly, the UN Security Council isn’t about to give the US unconditional support.
Washington’s claim that Iraq had violated the UN resolution by firing on US jets patrolling the ‘no fly’ zone in northern Iraq was roundly rejected by foreign diplomats. As the Financial Times reports, even Britain — America’s partner in the no-fly zone sorties — rejected Washington’s logic.
The Homeland Security bill is set to ease through Congress this week — with a few late additions. Thanks to Republican amendments, big pharmaceutical companies will be protected from lawsuits, US corporations that move offshore to avoid taxes will still be given government contracts, and a new security research institute will be built — coincidentally, of course — near the home districts of Republican leaders Tom Delay and Dick Armey.
What does all of this have to do with Homeland Security? Very little, say the editors of The Los Angeles Times:
The editorial board of The Boston Globe, meanwhile, sees this latest exercise in pork politics as part of a larger post-9/11 pattern.
Finally, The Washington Post‘s David Broder notes that the same sort of partisan excess followed the Republicans’ last big midterm win, which swept Newt Gingrich into power:
If there was ever hope that Chancellor Gerhard Schröder would deliver Germany from its economic woes, that hope now appears to have been turned on its head. John Hooper reports in the London Observer that Germany’s troubles have only worsened since the September elections, becoming so severe that support for Schröder’s Social Democrats has “fallen off more steeply than any in Germany’s postwar history.” And, as Schröder’s own popularity nose-dives, writes Hooper, “he has brought himself and his cabinet colleagues in for a degree of angry ridicule that is rare in normally sedate Germany.” With an already high rate of unemployment, more jobs are disappearing and Germany may even be forced to pay a “humiliating” fine to the EU for failing to keep its budget balanced.
Adding to the chancellor’s woes, The Economist notes that Schröder has failed to deliver on other campaign promises, including his vow not to raise taxes.
LAW & JUSTICE
The on-again, off-again proposal to station soldiers along America’s southern border is on in dramatic fashion in Arizona, where a vigilante, paramilitary force now patrols for illegal immigrants.
In a front page editorial running under the headline “Enough is Enough!”, Chris Simcox, the owner, publisher and editor of the weekly Tombstone Tumbleweed, called Cochise County citizens to arms, and has since organized more than 40 people into a militia that stakes out private property with guns, scouting for illegal immigrants, Ignacio Ibarra reports in the Arizona Daily Star. A local human rights advocate, Isabel Garcia, expresses frustration that the county’s sheriff and attorney have only exacerbated recent tensions by refusing to prosecute local citizens for the forceful detention of immigrants:
The US Commission on Civil Rights apparently is concerned. Alerted by San Diego civil and human rights activists, the commission is pressing the Justice Department for an investigation into the “vigilante” activities in Arizona, Leonel Sanchez reports in the San Diego Union Tribune. But root causes, even if articulated locally, are national and international problems, according to Arizona’s recently-elected Democratic Representative, Raul Grijalva. A former Hispanic activist, Grijalva opined to a local television station:
George Orwell’s name has been invoked frequently in the past year as the Bush administration lobbied to strengthen the government’s powers to investigate, interrogate and incarcerate. Now, with the passage of the Homeland Security Act, the all-invading government of ‘1984’ seems even less fictional.
Matthew Engel of the London Guardian is baffled by America’s unblinking acceptance of the bill — particularly the deeply troubling provision to create a new Pentagon office with the power to snoop into the public and private acts of every American. Moreover, Engel expresses amazement at the administration’s choice to head the operation — convicted Iran-Contra conspirator John Poindexter.
And it isn’t only foreign lefties that are denouncing Poindexter and his domestic spying plan. William Safire, the grand old man of conservative columnists, blasts Poindester as a “ring-knocking master of deceit” and the Pentagon’s operation as “even more scandalous than Iran-Contra.”
While Safire may be outraged by the administration’s latest assault on rights and liberties, other pundits are suggesting that the Pentagon’s snooping database and the pick of Poindexter fit into an established pattern. As the editorial writers of the San Francisco Chronicle note, administration officials have been trying to “shield the government from public scrutiny and to initiate new ways of spying on its own citizens” ever since Sept. 11.
Or, as the editors of the Detroit Free Press succinctly and somberly sum up their worries: “The more a government chooses to provide information to its citizens on a ‘need to know’ basis, the more citizens probably need to know what their government is up to.”
Of course, the Pentagon database, like everything else in the homeland security bill, has been sold to Americans as a necessary step to meet an extraordinary challenge to our nation’s safety. And Ian Buruma of the London Guardian acknowledges that terrorism does present a unique threat to societies that value freedoms. But Buruma also warns that extraordinary measures “have a nasty habit of sticking around.”
Finally, Gail Russell Chaddock of The Christian Science Monitor offers this reassuring insight: the lawmakers who voted on the homeland security act had very little idea what the bill included. Meaning there could be more treasures like the Pentagon office buried deep in the act’s 484 pages.
Unintended? War Watch certainly hopes that Americans won’t let the administration that shaped the law — or the politicians that supported it — skate by simply pleading ignorance.
The Pentagon isn’t the only Washington bureaucracy gearing up to take domestic spying to a new level. As Eric Boehlert reports on Salon, Monday’s decision by a secretive espionage appeals court wipes away five decades of legal precedent on wiretapping, searches and other governmental invasions of privacy.
At least Ashcroft isn’t suggesting that the decision’s attack on the Fourth Amendment is ‘unintentional’.
Journalists covering the US-led assault in Afghanistan found themselves pitted against a Pentagon leadership determined to release as little information as possible. Now, as that same Pentagon prepares for a war in Iraq, Mark Jurkowitz of The Boston Globe reports that journalists charged with covering the military are expecting even tighter controls and tenser confrontations in the briefing room.
All of which seems to be fine with Ted Koppel. As Cynthia Cotts of The Village Voice writes, Koppel told the audience at a recent panel that heve believes the military should be allowed to prohibit the media from broadcasting the war live.
Do right wing attack-pundits employ a double standard when it comes to accusing other opinion-makers of being un-American? Joe Conason certainly thinks so.
Taking particular aim at conservative blowhards David Horowitz and Christopher Ruddy, Conasaon suggests that neocon commentators seem uniquely interested in attacking the antiwar arguments made by their political opposites, while overlooking similar concerns expressed by fellow conservatives.
Among the war opponents Horowitz seems unwilling to take on, Conason suggests, are such conservative stalwarts as Robert Novak and the Cato Institute. (Novak recently repeated his now-familiar doubts in a speech at Northwestern University, while the Cato crowd’s war worries have been best expressed by Institute fellow Doug Bandow, who declares: “The administration must decide whether to protect Americans by focusing on the fight against terrorism or risk Americans’ lives by setting the globe further aflame with an unnecessary war against Iraq.”)
But Novak, the Catos, and other war-wary conservatives are usually political allies for Horowitz and the Bush admininstration he reveres, Conason writes. So, they get off, while any pundit supportive of the Democrats is pilloried.
As the trials of John Lee Malvo and John Allen Muhammad begin, state and federal prosecutors have taken every conceivable step to ensure that the sniper suspects receive death sentences — a legal process that Find Law‘s Elaine Cassel calls “a blatant case of the cart driving the horse.” Prosecutors have chosen Virginia as the jurisdiction for the trial, Cassel notes, simply because it is a state that would allow for the execution of the 17-year-old Malvo — an option that would be unavailable in either Maryland or federal courts.
Cassel argues that justice has been effectively preempted in Malvo’s case, as he is already sitting in an adult jail, despite the lack of any proceedings which would make that legal. Moreover, Cassel writes, the youth was “pressured to confess without access to his guardian or lawyer” and, because his confessions have been leaked to the press, potential jurors are likely to be prejudiced.
The editors of the New York Post disagree, proclaiming that justice is being served very efficiently, adding that Virginia, “known for its speedy application of the death penalty for those who deserve it,” is the perfect location for the trials.
The era of big dams seems well and truly over.
While scores of decrepit and environmentally disastrous dams have in recent years been torn down across the country, Oregon’s decision to deconstruct two functioning hydroelectric dams marks a turning point, William Booth writes in The Washington Post. Moreover, Booth notes, the decision points to an emerging consensus between environmentalists and their longtime foes, the utility companies and federal agencies, that many dams “have served their purpose and should be decommissioned”:
While the GOP has consolidated power in Washington, political moderates seem positioned to determined whether the rampant Republicans can deliver on their promises.
Even though the Republican leadership will set the agenda for the 108th Congress, Susan Milligan writes in the Boston Globe, centrists will cast the deciding votes on everything from tax cuts and welfare reform to prescription drug laws and abortion rights. One leading Republican moderate, Senator Olympia Snowe put it bluntly: the Republican majority will need to court centrists, and to temper legislation to more moderate tastes.
That role evinced itself most recently in the passage of the Homeland Security Bill, the Associated Press reports. To secure the the votes of Congressional moderates, Republican House leaders agreed to revisit several of the bill’s provisions in January — including those limiting the liability of companies that manufacture ‘antiterrorism technologies,’ such as gas masks, vaccines and baggage screening equipment.
While there is no reason to believe that moderates will sway the ideological direction of the Republican Party, several GOP moderates in the Senate can expect to become more prominent players in the reshaped Congress, Noelle Straub writes in The Hill:
All of which does little to reassure Michael Kieschnick. If moderate Republicans were really seriuous about creating a conscientious majority in Congress, he opines on TomPaine.com, they could pull a Jeffords and declare themselves Independents.
President Bush arrived in Prague seeking international support for military action against Iraq. He didn’t get it, but he may have secured international cover for a US attack. Which, as some pundits are pointing out, is probably just as good in the eyes of the go-it-alone White House.
The NATO leaders gathering in the Czech capital had a clear agenda: charting a new course for the definitive military alliance of the Cold War. As John Dickerson of Time reports, Bush was interested only in one thing: Iraq.
In Prague, Bush took full advantage of the city’s hyperbolic value, Dickerson reports, comparing Saddam Hussein to Hitler, whose Nazi army marched into the city in 1938.
While Bush never uttered the word, his speeches in Prague consistently hinted that failing to confront Hussein would be nothing less than “appeasement.” It is a word that, for many Europeans, has only one association — the diplomatic failure to stop Hitler. As Anne Kornblut and Charles Sennott of the Sydney Morning Herald report, Bush went so far as to tell a group of Czech teens:
Zbignew Brzezinski, a man who actually remembers the historical threats the Czech people lived through, suggested that Bush temper his remarks, Kornblut and Sennott write.
The editors of the Los Angeles Times are steering clear both of the historic hyperbole and Bush’s obsession with Iraq, but they still argue that European NATO states should recognize that global terrorism is a threat the alliance must address if it is to remain relevant.
But can a military alliance really do away with terrorism? The The Boston Globe‘s William Pfaff thinks not.
Seamus Milne doesn’t presume to speak for the families of those lost in the terror attacks, but he certainly isn’t satisfied. The London Guardian columnist declares bitingly: “the global US onslaught had been a complete failure – at least as far as dealing with non-state terrorism was concerned.”
Half a world away from Prague, Washington’s war on terror has found new meaning in Colombia. Even as US military advisers are helping to organize anti-Hussein Iraqis into an opposition army, Newsweek reports that others have arrived in Bogota to train two brigades of the Colombian Army for a special mission: protecting a 772-kilometer-long pipeline owned by Occidental Petroleum.
One reason that Koenig and other human rights advocates are concerned: the Bush White House is diverting more and more money to Bogota even as the government of Alvaro Uribe threatens to further erode the country’s already shaky rights record. As The Economist reports, Uribe’s administration has already shown its intentions:
Still, with Republican majorities in Congress, there is little chance that Washington will threaten to suspend or even diminish its aid to Colombia based on the country’s human rights shortcomings. As Brian Awehali opines in LiP Magazine, the Bush administration’s tunnel-vision focus on terror has rendered human rights records all but irrelevant.
“Saddam’s Pal Kofi”
So reads the headline of Thursday’s vitriolic New York Post editorial, in which the paper declares that “United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s efforts to preserve the Saddam Hussein regime are making him look ridiculous.”
The editors’ logic? Annan has disputed Washington’s claim that Iraq violated the recent UN resolution on arms inspections by firing on US jets patrolling the ‘no fly’ zone over northern Iraq.
Now, will anyone be surprised that the Post editors are taking a little license with the facts? As the BBC reports, the zones over southern and northern Iraq were not authorized by the UN or specified by any resolution. Instead, they were “imposed by the US, Britain and France after the Gulf War, in what was described as a humanitarian effort to protect Shi’a Muslims in the south and Kurds in the north.”
The Post editors also conveniently ignore the fact that neither of Washington’s partners in establishing the zones has supported its claim. In fact, as the London Guardian reports, “Washington found itself isolated: no support for its position could be found among the other 14 members of the security council, not even Britain.”
So why the clumsy smear? Perhaps because, as Reuters reports, the Bush administration itself is divided on the question of what Iraqi actions should trigger a war.
Clearly, the Post would like to see the White House thumb its nose at the international community. And they aren’t alone in that desire. As the British daily The Mirror reports, top Pentagon aide Richard Perle is now claiming that even a “clean bill of health” from the UN inspection teams might not dissuade the US from launching an attack.
So, the Post fudged on the facts in the interest of making its mud stick. War Watch isn’t expecting to read a correction any time soon.
Officials in Washington and Ottawa are downplaying a published report that an unnamed advisor to Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien called Bush “a moron” for attempting to use the NATO summit in Prague to drum up support for his Iraq agenda.
Still, while the White House may be able to dismiss the comment, Bruce Anderson of The Independent suggests that the underlying public belief remains a problem for both Washington and its allies.
On the coast of Spain, emergency crews are doing all they can to limit the damage being caused by the sinking of the decrepit, but perfectly legal, oil tanker Prestige, scooping sludge from more than 90 beaches and coves. Meanwhile, in Europe’s capitals, government officials are rushing to assign blame for the disaster.
As The Christian Science Monitor‘s Peter Ford notes, however, the ship’s pedigree reads like a mini-United Nations, making the hunt for those responsible particularly difficult.
Despite the multinational mess, The Guardian‘s editors argue that, pedigrees aside, oil companies bear ultimate responsibility for the disaster.
Unhappily, the Prestige is far from an anomaly: it is just one of thousands of ancient, single-hull tankers still roaming the seas. As the editorial board of The Los Angeles Times observes, such outdated ships are responsible for the vast majority of oil spills.
The Independent‘s John Steel, though, smells something fishy in all of this. Why are oil tankers the only ships that bust apart and dump their contents in our oceans? he asks.
Meanwhile, Spanish officials are suggesting that the threat is essentially over, the Prestige having taken 77,000 tons of crude with it when it sank. The BBC reports that at least one expert isn’t convinced. Dr Simon Boxall of Southampton University’s Oceanography Centre says the Prestige is now “a time bomb waiting to go off.”
Coincidentally, as European diplomats grappled with the Prestige tragedy, a Turkish court began hearing arguments in the trial of 12 Greenpeace activists charged with obstructing an oil tanker headed for the narrow Bosporus strait in July. As the Associated Press reports, Turkish prosecutors are demanding up to five years in prison for the activists.
Earlier this week, Amram Mitzna, the progressive mayor of Haifa, won the battle to lead Israel’s struggling Labor Party. Now, pundits around the world are suggesting that Mitzna represent’s Israel’s best hope for peace with the Palestinians — slim though it is.
Noting that Mitzna is “prepared unilaterally to evacuate settlements and withdraw troops from the territories, the Financial Times‘ Harvey Morris writes:
Mitzna, meanwhile, is declaring that the majority of Israelis share his vision of reconciliation. But the Labor party’s recent political fortunes haven’t reflected this supposed support, Morris writes. The editorial board of the Baltimore Sun explains that most Israelis seem locked into a reactionary support for the Likud party — and predict that’s unlikely to change in the upcoming January election.
The Labor Party might not only lose the contest to control Israel, it might even lose seats in the Israeli parliament, Michael Jansen predicts in the Jordan Times. Jansen argues that Mitzna’s best hope for success lies in a campaign focusing on Israel’s staggering economy, not security. And, Jansen speculates, in order to issue a legitimate challenge to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Mitzna must win the unequivocal backing of his own party and forge a clear identity for Labor.
Conservative lobbyists are hailing the defeat of a sweeping environmental bill that would have extended protections for endangered species and provided $1.3 billion for new conservation purchases.
The bill was killed through the anonymous opposition of three senators — an unusual legislative tactic made possible because the measure had originally been approved by the House and Senate through unanimous consent, not recorded votes.
Opposition to the bill was organized by the American Land Rights Association, which has routinely fought against both species protection and park designation. After the bill was trashed, ALRA lobbyist Mike Hardiman crowed to World Net Daily:
Among the arch-conservative “heroes” behind the bill’s demise is Alan Caruba, whose frenzied column warned readers of Cybercast News Service that the bill would “permit the seizure of private property; provide funding to extremist environmentalists and animal rights advocates; and provide $25 million to foreign nations for land acquisition.”