Comical Allawi, the new Baghdad Bob

“The level of criminal operations has receded and is continuing to drop following the operation in Fallujah,” Comical Allawi said on the state-owned Iraqiya television, in response to questions from viewers.

“The cleansing in Fallujah of terrorist elements is continuing and we are preparing for the residents to return to their city,” he added.

Comical Allawi announced today that violence is decreasing.

  • Attacks have increased against U.S., Iraqi and other targets on the road leading from the center of Baghdad to the city’s international airport, located on the western outskirts of the capital.

    The British Embassy announced Monday that its staff would no longer be permitted to travel on the airport road, which the U.S. State Department has identified as one of the most dangerous routes in Iraq.

  • South of the capital, U.S., British and Iraqi forces pressed an offensive aimed at clearing insurgents from an area known as the “triangle of death.” Two Marines were killed there Sunday, U.S. officials said, and British troops escaped serious injury Monday when a bomb exploded next to a Scimitar light tank from the Queen’s Dragoon Guards.
  • The Pentagon said Monday the U.S. military death toll in Iraq stands at 1,251, up by 21 since the last reported toll released Nov. 24. That means at least 130 U.S. troops have died in Iraq this month. The deadliest month for U.S. troops in Iraq was last April, when 135 died.
  • In Geneva, the international Red Cross said Iraq’s Red Crescent had set up a relief center in Fallujah to aid civilians, but doctors and nurses have been unable to treat the wounded because of continued fighting between U.S.-led forces and insurgents.

    “There are many civilians who are still trapped in the city and don’t dare to come to the Red Crescent office,” said Rana Sidani of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

    She said there was a shortage of drinking water in Fallujah and the city water purification station was not working “because there is nonstop fighting around it.”

  • At least 50 people have been killed in Mosul in the past 10 days — most of them believed to have been supporters of Iraq’s interim government or members of its security forces.
  • In addition, two U.S. Marines were killed in a weekend bombing south of the capital, a U.S. official said Monday. U.S., British and Iraqi forces have been sweeping through the area to clear Sunni insurgents from a string of towns and cities between Baghdad and the Shiite shrine cities of Najaf and Karbala.
  • Insurgents stepped up attacks on Iraq’s fledgling security forces, killing seven Iraqi police and guardsmen Monday in a suicide bombing hours after storming a police station north of the capital. Two U.S. soldiers died in a bombing in Baghdad.
  • A US military spokesman also reported that 13 marines and two civilians were wounded Monday when mortar shells struck a military base south of Baghdad

Yushchenko’s weird skin condition

Check out Flit on Yushchenko’s skin problem. He quotes a dermatologist:

“Viktor Yushchenko probably has one of two possible medical conditions that would account for his rapid facial changes. The diseases are scleromyxedema or cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. He needs a skin biopsy. I cannot conceive how poisoning could cause these changes.”

–Howard Bargman, MD, associate professor of dermatology, University of Toronto

Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Nichols Countdown—10

local to 9
express to 7

The 9/11 Commission Report, issued in July, recommends that the U.S. “should offer an example of moral leadership in the world, committed to treat people humanely, abide by the rule of law…” It notes that “it is a simple fact that American policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and American actions in Iraq are dominant staples of popular commentary across the Arab and Muslim world” (Chapter 12.3 [.pdf]).

Now “a report by a Pentagon advisory panel…warns that no public relations plan or information operation can defend America from flawed policies” (NYT). The report states that “Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom,’ but rather, they hate our policies. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights…” (page 40). “U.S. policies on Israeli-Palestinian issues and Iraq in 2003-2004 have damaged America’s credibility and power to persuade” (page 18). (It’s the Policy, Stupid!)

While some appear to be facing “simple facts,” others remain in a state of denial. Consider the case of John Nichols, Associate Editor of The Capital Times and Washington correspondent for The Nation. Nichols is a “progressive” bellwether, probably the most posted writer at Common Dreams.

It was Bush’s “shameless exploitation of the war on terror” that got him re-elected, Nichols feels. Well, gee, terrorism can’t be exploited if there isn’t any. Ergo, if the exploitation bothers one so much, one should address the causes of terrorism.

Nichols writes at least two columns a week for The Capital Times. So far this year, in 100 tries, he has yet to talk about US policy towards Israel/Palestine. Indeed, he has yet to mention “Israel.” Hence, the countdown, 100 columns down, ten to go.

In 2003, John proved himself to be the playful sort, ultimately mentioning “Israel” on December 30. I was doing the countdown by e-mail, maybe it was a mistake to include him on the circulation list. This time, no meddling, let history takes its course.

A “Free Barghouti” campaign?

Some interesting information is coming out on the Palestinian elections in the wake of Marwan Barghouti withdrawing his bid for the PA presidency. Andrew Schamess has this intriguing bit:

On Thursday, Barghouti made a suprise announcement that he would run an independent campaign for President. This threw everybody into a tizzy until he called it off late Thursday night. The best report on this, I thought, was on National Public Radio. The trade-off, it appears, was that Fatah will hold new elections for its ruling Revolutionary Council, for the first time in fifteen years. This will certainly give the younger generation greater power in the organization.

What will this mean for Palestinian policies? Firstly, the younger generation has pressed for more efficient government and an end to patronage and corruption in the Palestinian Authority. Secondly, those raised on armed struggle against an oppressive regime are not likely to lay down their arms and accept whatever compromise suits Israel’s purposes. As Barghouti put it, he stands for resistance and negotiation; Abbas for negotiation without resistance. A third possible consequence, if Barghouti and his constituents are successful, is that a reinvigorated Fatah will regain its credibility among disaffected Palestinians who have gravitated toward Hamas in the past decade.

As for Hamas, Helena Cobban has translated a piece Saida Hamad in East Jerusalem wrote for Hayat which seems to indicate that Hamas may negotiate some quid pro quo on elections at the local level in return for not opposing Abu Mazen, which strategy has been effective for Hizbullah in Lebanon. Read the rest of Helena’s piece for more detail on the possibility of a “Free Barghouti” campaign being part Barghouti’s price for refraining from running for PA president. As for the other likely price, how about Vice President Barghouti on the Fatah ticket?

The info about the possible “Free Barghouthi” campaign. As you can see from the translation I provided, the “old guard” guys in Fateh reportedly promised this to Marwan as part of the quid pro quo they offered him in return for him agreeing not only not stand against Abu Mazen in the January elections, but also (gulp), actually to support him… The other parts of the quid pro quo were: (a ) A commitment to hold the 16th meeting of Fateh’s policymaking General Conference no later than August, so that both the Central Committee and (I assume) the Revolutionary Council can be renewed there through democratic means… (In contrast to much past practice.) Plus (b) the possibility that in connection with the “Free Barghouthi” campaign, Abu Mazen would name Marwan as his “Vice Presidential” candidate in the PA election…So far, it looks as though Marwan drove a pretty hard bargain…

The Ukraine Coup

Forget Iraq (for a moment, anyway) – what is going on in Ukraine?

Following the narrow victory (well, 3%, just like in the US election) of Viktor Yanukovich over challenger Viktor Yushchenko, the Yushchenko-ites have adorned themselves with bright orange garments and taken to mass street protests, challenging the legitimacy of the election and demanding a re-vote. Yushchenko even took an oath of presidency, before a group of parliamentarians well short of the quorum he needed.

But here’s a problem: the elections weren’t stolen. So says the BHHRG, one of the few NGOs in the West that isn’t a handmaiden of the Empire.

What we’re seeing is rather a re-run of “revolutions” in Belgrade (2000), Tbilisi (2003) and the attempted coup in Belarus (2001), which prominently features CIA-trained student activists from Serbia, and propaganda and financial support from the Empire.

This isn’t a popular movement, much less a democratic revolution. Commentator Jonathan Steele of the British Guardian calls this circus a “postmodern coup d’etat”. His colleague, reporter Ian Traynor, lays out the facts about the mechanism behind Yushchenko: it’s a must-read.

Lew Rockwell dispenses with the “revolutionary” nonsense on his blog:

“In fact, the US is engaging in an imperial adventure. It is seeking to install its man in office via the CIA, and to have Ukraine join Nato and become a US satellite. This is the equivalent of the old Russia subverting Mexico, and having it join the Warsaw Pact, a very hostile act.

Every neocon in the world is screaming the same line. No rational man could agree on that basis alone.”

Lew also says that because of Ukrainians’ suffering under Stalin and Communism in general,
“…one can understand Ukrainian feelings towards Russia. Still, becoming the agent of a hostile power is not a good idea. In any event, it is none of the US’s business.”

I couldn’t agree more.

And that’s what it really comes down to: becoming the agent of a hostile power. In addition to being a very destructive political system, democracy has become a means of Imperial conquest as well. Any time Washington and/or Brussels want to take over a country, they activate the fifth column of NGOs and “human rights” organizations, print posters and slogans, and threaten violence unless their candidate is elected. For all their shouting about some alleged resurgence of Russian imperialism, it’s the Western Empire that’s behaving like the Soviets now. It would be ironic, were it not so true.

It’s the Policy, Stupid!

A report delivered by the Defense Science Board, an advisory committee to the US Defense Department, to the Office of the Secretary of Defense around the end of September has gotten very little media attention, maybe because, as Tom Shanker of the NYT writes,

A harshly critical report by a Pentagon advisory panel says the United States is failing in its efforts to explain the nation’s diplomatic and military actions to the Muslim world, but it warns that no public relations plan or information operation can defend America from flawed policies.

Which rather sums up a point Michael Scheuer’s Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror makes repeatedly. Of course the Bush administration didn’t listen to him and just to prove they won’t get the point of this report either, Larry Di Rita made this comment on behalf of the Pentagon:

“We’re wrestling with this,” Mr. Di Rita said. “But it doesn’t change the underlying principle, at least with respect to the Department of Defense. Our job is to put out information to the public that is accurate, and to put it out as quickly as we can.”

The 102-page report is online here (PDF). I haven’t had any luck with the link, but happily, Helena Cobban has heavily excerpted the paper on her blog. Here are a couple of gems to show why it bounced off the stony skulls of the Bushies:

  • Strategic communication [to be effective, will] … build on indepth knowledge of other cultures and factors that motivate human behavior. It will adapt techniques of skillful political campaigning, even as it avoids slogans, quick fixes, and mind sets of winners and losers. It will search out credible messengers and create message authority. It will seek to persuade within news cycles, weeks, and months. It will engage in a respectful dialogue of ideas that begins with listening and assumes decades of sustained effort.
  • But opinions must be taken into account when policy options are considered and implemented. At a minimum, we should not be surprised by public reactions to policy choices. Policies will not succeed unless they are communicated to global and domestic audiences in ways that are credible and allow them to make informed, independent judgments. Words in tone and substance should avoid offence where possible; messages should seek to reduce, not increase, perceptions of arrogance, opportunism, and double standards.

Listening?? Avoid offence?? Isn’t that a little too….French? But, wait. It gets worse….

American direct intervention in the Muslim World has paradoxically elevated the stature of and support for radical Islamists, while diminishing support for the United States to single-digits in some Arab societies.

  • Muslims do not “hate our freedom,” but rather, they hate our policies.[HC emphasis] The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the longstanding, even increasing support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, and the Gulf states.
  • Thus when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy. Moreover, saying that “freedom is the future of the Middle East” is seen as patronizing, suggesting that Arabs are like the enslaved peoples of the old Communist World — but Muslims do not feel this way: they feel oppressed, but not enslaved.
  • Furthermore, in the eyes of Muslims, American occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq has not led to democracy there, but only more chaos and suffering. U.S. actions appear in contrast to be motivated by ulterior motives, and deliberately controlled in order to best serve American national interests at the expense of truly Muslim selfdetermination.
  • […]

  • Finally, Muslims see Americans as strangely narcissistic — namely, that the war is all about us. As the Muslims see it, everything about the war is — for Americans — really no more than an extension of American domestic politics and its great game. This perception is of course necessarily heightened by election-year atmospherics, but nonetheless sustains their impression that when Americans talk to Muslims they arereally just talking to themselves.

Thus the critical problem in American public diplomacy directed toward the Muslim World is not one of “dissemination of information,” or even one of crafting and delivering the “right” message. Rather, it is a fundamental problem of credibility. Simply, there is none — the United States today is without a working channel of communication to the world of Muslims and of Islam. Inevitably therefore, whatever Americans do and say only serves the party that has both the message and the “loud and clear” channel: the enemy.

And this, Helena says, is repeated throughout the report:In other words, they do not hate us for our values, but because of our policies.

But then an administration that thought a pre-9/11 briefing titled Bin Laden Determined To Strike in US was a “historical document” will likely think this report should go in the bin with other such famously ignored reports as The Future of Iraq project and Joe Wilson’s report on Niger yellowcake.