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Quiet in Iraq?

Sunday, February 29, 2004

Quiet in Iraq?
Iraq bombings and killings seem to have disappeared from the headlines in the last week or so here. It may be because of poor Haiti’s problems and the Democratic Primary election have pushed some of the news off the pages of our newspapers. The only news is of the internal power struggle over the Iraq Interim Constitution. The concern now is that the struggle of the Shia for dominance and that of the Kurds for independence will tear whatever we try to do apart before it has begun. A legitimate solution to a new government in Iraq is going to be difficult indeed, and as usual the Bush Administration is in a huge hurry to get the whole disaster behind them.

I don’t think it’s going to go away. Iraqis have little experience with the compromises that a democratic government requires so there is no agreement on the role of Islam or the status of the Kurds. Sunnis do not even seem to be consulted at all, and Bremer seems to want everyone to work at it until they drop from exhaustion.

There is a vivid description of an Iraqi and Arab frame of mind on A Family in Baghdad for February 21. We all seem to have skewed views of eachother. American Cold War politics certainly set the stage for weakened Arab states, and our support and encouragement of Israel exclusively at the expense of Arabs is certainly at the root of all the current mindless violence among the Palestinians and elsewhere. How easy it is to place blame in hindsight!

Many of us were young and idealistic in the 60’s and early 70’s. Some of us went off to other countries to learn about them and their people, others went to help through the Peace Corps. Many of our dreams were wrapped up in our charismatic President Kennedy. When he was killed, and the war in Vietnam was dragged on by his successors, many of us lost our way, became disillusioned with the power of people to direct their own destinies. We were hurt by the expose of the Ugly American, but knew it was true. In the Philippines and in Africa, I met the kinds of ignorant American official described in the book many times.  We came home from our adventures or from the war and worked to end that particular mistake. But many of us also withdrew into non participation which let our most radical elements take control of events. The vision of a stable, fair world order under an agreed upon rule of law that lighted most efforts after WWII gave way to destructive competitions for power which continue today. The ideal of tolerance and respect for differences and the opinions of others seems to be crumbling against a wall of extremism on all sides.

If the Democrats win the November election, what will happen in Iraq? Do they have ideas and plans? If so, I haven’t seen them. If Bush wins, what then? Either way is a crap shoot, a roll of the dice, since few seem to know how to proceed. We need to rethink our unconditional support of Israel. The brutality of the wall and the assassinations is inexcusable. And we need to find a way to lift Palestinians to something like self-respect to stop their murderous violence. If it’s not already too late, a negotiated settlement must be reached.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Holiday thoughts
Today is a holiday to celebrate the birthdays of two extraordinary men who were our presidents. I recover from self-inflicted indigestion though the cause escapes me. Haiti appears to be self-destructing again. There been more headline grabbing violence in Iraq. Bush’s National Guard “service” in the 1970’s is being questioned (It looks like he skipped out on most of his last year of duty.). Kerry has become the front runner for the Democrats, and his juggernaut seems unbeatable. Not sure he’s the best choice, but almost any change from the stumble-bum Bush would be better.

I’m not particularly angry with Bush. I think he’s not too bright, irresponsible and careless, and may have worked a deal to snatch the last election from Gore. In some ways I think he may well be a victim of his courtiers and managers like many an old-time prince who succeeds a royal father, not strong enough in himself to dominate all forces surrounding him from his father’s past. Much of his Administration is transported whole from the Reagan era and has the same mind set that made for Iran-Contra, the same “voodoo economics”, the same careless disregard for truth in the face of reality. But not a victim. I think he may use it (the influence of the past) to further his own interest – the rich man’s careless, shallow public life – an image rather than a reality.

The image is falling apart. The Texas macho lawman image that made so many cheer after having parked their brains and rational thought, is crumbling in the light of Dr. Kay’s report and the gruesome statistics from Iraq