17 March 2005

Caught between a popularly elected government dominated by fundamentalist Shiites and a determined guerilla movement led by Arab Nationalists and radical Sunnis

Juan Cole, professor of modern Middle Eastern history at the University of Michigan, pens an insightful op-ed which takes stock of what is likely to happen in Iraq in the coming months.
The political contradictions facing the United States have been sharpened by the victory of parties that are critical of Washington and dedicated to razing the wall between religion and state. The Shiite religious parties were the big winners of the Jan. 30 elections, and not only in the federal parliament.

The Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq won eight provinces, including Baghdad. At least two are dominated by the radical Sadr tendency, associated with Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr (d. 1999) and often with his son, the fiery Muqtada. Fundamentalist Muslim parties also did well in the Sunni Arab regions.

These provincial governments will increasingly restrict Iraqi civil liberties and personal freedom in the coming year. The remaining liquor stores will be closed. Many video stores will be driven out of business by puritans. Fundamentalist ideals will probably be introduced into school curricula. Regulations will be passed restricting women’s rights, encouraging or requiring veiling, and segregating education and other social spaces. Women graduates' access to increasingly all-male professional schools will be curtailed.

The elected parliament can be expected to establish a government that will be far less deferential to U.S. interests and demands. The parliament may well repeal many of the laws passed by U.S. civil administrator Paul Bremer, which aimed at imposing Polish-style shock therapy on the Iraqi economy and at effacing the legacy of Baathist Arab socialism. In addition, the new prime minister is likely to come into conflict with the United States about the launching of major military campaigns like that at Fallujah.

Also predicted is future trouble in Kirkuk.

Yes, freedom is on the march. Women relegated to second class status, the imposition of a totalitarian theocratic state, with abductions and assassinations galore.

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.

8 March 2005

Americans don't know if the Iraqis are "friendlies" or not, and the Iraqis don't know what the Americans want them to do

An interesting article on Iraq "checkpoints", given the controversy over the recent shooting of Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena (in which killed Italian negotiator Nicola Calipari).

Not going to find fault with our troops here, as it's a dangerous place, and precautions must be taken to proactively eliminate threats. But it should be acknowledged that they are being placed in a quandary, where determining friend from foe is a difficult decision, where consequently, many innocent people die. And that has caused widespread anger and dismay for Iraqis over the American military occupation.

6 March 2005

In most important categories we're not even in the Top 10 anymore

Despite jingoistic proclaimations by broadcast media and the politicians in power, the USA is "No. 1" in nothing but weaponry, consumer spending, debt, and delusion,
  • "The International Adult Literacy Survey...found that Americans with less than nine years of education 'score worse than virtually all of the other countries'" (Jeremy Rifkin's superbly documented book The European Dream: How Europe's Vision of the Future Is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream, p.78).
  • The United States is 41st in the world in infant mortality. Cuba scores higher (NYT, Jan. 12, 2005).
  • "The European Union leads the U.S. in...the number of science and engineering graduates; public research and development (R&D) expenditures; and new capital raised" (The European Dream, p.70).
  • "Europe surpassed the United States in the mid-1990s as the largest producer of scientific literature" (The European Dream, p.70).
  • The World Health Organization "ranked the countries of the world in terms of overall health performance, and the U.S. [was]...37th." In the fairness of health care, we're 54th. "The irony is that the United States spends more per capita for health care than any other nation in the world" (The European Dream, pp.79-80). Pay more, get lots, lots less.
  • "The U.S. and South Africa are the only two developed countries in the world that do not provide health care for all their citizens" (The European Dream, p.80). Excuse me, but since when is South Africa a "developed" country? Anyway, that's the company we're keeping.
  • "U.S. childhood poverty now ranks 22nd, or second to last, among the developed nations. Only Mexico scores lower" (The European Dream, p.81). Been to Mexico lately? Does it look "developed" to you? Yet it's the only "developed" country to score lower in childhood poverty.
  • "Of the 20 most developed countries in the world, the U.S. was dead last in the growth rate of total compensation to its workforce in the 1980s.... In the 1990s, the U.S. average compensation growth rate grew only slightly, at an annual rate of about 0.1 percent" (The European Dream, p.39). Yet Americans work longer hours per year than any other industrialized country, and get less vacation time.
  • Japan, China, Taiwan, and South Korea hold 40 percent of our government debt. (That's why we talk nice to them.) "By helping keep mortgage rates from rising, China has come to play an enormous and little-noticed role in sustaining the American housing boom" (NYT, Dec. 4, 2004). Read that twice. We owe our housing boom to China, because they want us to keep buying all that stuff they manufacture.
  • As of last June, the U.S. imported more food than it exported (NYT, Dec. 12, 2004).
  • One-third of all U.S. children are born out of wedlock. One-half of all U.S. children will live in a one-parent house (CNN, Dec. 10, 2004).
  • "Americans are now spending more money on gambling than on movies, videos, DVDs, music, and books combined" (The European Dream, p.28).
  • "Nearly one out of four Americans [believe] that using violence to get what they want is acceptable" (The European Dream, p.32).
  • Forty-three percent of Americans think torture is sometimes justified, according to a PEW Poll (Associated Press, Aug. 19, 2004).
  • I'm quite certain that this posting will arouse a fanatical course of how this is "America hating". But this response here serves up the proper reply:

    I love America. That’s why I bring up these get people off their asses rather than to allow a downward spiral to continue. The spiral that apparently you and others either do not want to correct or actually cheer in hopes that the country collapses. Or do you honestly believe things are flalwless?

    I’m wondering why you made this post. To cow me into rethinking my complaints? To cow me (and anyone else who ever speaks up in complaint) into submission so the country goes down the toilet or gets taken over by unAmerican influences? So which foreign agency do you represent? Either that or you are apparently complacent with mediocrity and poor performance. If so, then I’d hardly call you a Patriot. Some sort of lazy alien thinking is influencing you, that’s for sure.

    Make a note, if you are going to claim to be number one then how about this: at least try to be number one. Talk is cheap. Just holding up your finger and saying I’m number one like a football fan cheering the team that won it’s first game in five years is pretty hollow. That “we’re number one” fellow you see on TV at those games seems to be a theme. I blame the New Age whack jobs and the “self-esteem” movement. But that will be a future post.

    Preferring to be faith based instead of reality based is not a prudent strategy for advancing the state of affairs.