Tuesday, September 14, 2004

US kills scores of civilians in Iraq on Sunday

Under-reported in the US, other sources have reported a deadly attack on civilians in Haifa Street, Baghdad. The BBC reports that on Sunday, due to a US air strike "at least 13 people were killed and about 60 others were wounded by US helicopter fire as they milled around the burning wreckage of an American armored vehicle that had been ambushed by insurgents early in the morning." Note these were curious innocent Iraqis who were fired at because the US wanted to destroy the American vehicle due to concern of looting & theft of sensitive equipment & info. The US Army backed away from this explanation & said they returned fire after being fired at, although none of the TV footage or press pictures showed armed people at the scene or recorded any gunfire. A 12-year old girl was killed along with a Palestinian journalist working for Al-Arabiya & Al-Ikhbariya while he was preparing to report. Today, a car bomb has exploded close to an Iraqi police station in central Baghdad, killing 47 people, health ministry officials say. Iraqis are furious at the US forces & Iraqi interim govt for failing to provide security & protect police stations - many Iraqis line up at recruiting centers to earn income - at least 60% of Iraqis are still unemployed creating an atmosphere of humiliation, frustration & desperation.

As expected, Russian President Putin's response to the hostage crisis last week has been severe. According to this news story in the Christian Science Monitor, "Among Putin's reforms announced Monday: the country's 89 regional governors will no longer be elected by popular vote. Instead, he will appoint them and regional assemblies would approve the appointments." Several newspapers & institutions have criticized Putin's "reforms" in an attempt to consolidate his power, by giving the Kremlin more power than any other time since the fall of the Soviet Union. The EU has urged him to respect democracy & human rights, while The Economist has suggested that Putin stop comparing the Chechan cause with Al-Qaeda because the two are more different than similar.

Believe it or not, the combined presidential campaigns look like they will break the billion dollar mark! The prominent role that money plays in US elections is disgusting & it doesn't seem to get any better. Although it is now illegal for huge corporations to contribute huge amounts of money to any candidate, "the very wealthy have exploited the yawning loophole in the law which allows unlimited money to flow to organizations independent of the campaigns, but working parallel to them." This article from The Guardian does a good job of explaining "hard" & "soft" money & how it all filters out to both campaigns.

I'm taking a class this Fall called, "American Democracy in Crisis," where we discuss elections: candidate image, partisanship, ideologies, etc. Interestingly, Americans judge whether a candidate is competent or has integrity. In 1964, Lyndon Johnson overwhelmingly defeated Goldwater although he was not known to be honest: that shows that Americans choose what they perceive as competence over integrity. I can only pray it won't be the case this time with Bush because I don't think he fits in either category! We will also be discussing the issue of race - I don't believe that racism has been solved in the US, it's just more subtle & "underground" today. Speaking of elections, it was largely ignored that today were primary elections to vote for candidates within a party for some state & House seats.