Saturday, November 06, 2004

Back to reality on the ground in Iraq & Palestine

Before I post a barrage of news, I want to make some corrections: Barack Obama from Illinois is the first black male Democrat senator to be elected – the first black Democrat was a woman, Carol Moseley Braun from 1992 to 1998 & she also ran for the presidential election earlier this year. Also, John Edwards will lose his senate seat in 2005 because he was up for re-election and chose instead to run for vice president. He has also recently learned about his wife’s diagnosis of breast cancer.

In this entry, I start with the situation in Falluja, followed by Arafat’s deteriorating health & the crisis in Palestine, ending with a variety of post-election analysis.

I have to admit as the days go by, it has gotten harder for me to deal with the political situation in the US as the reality of the election settles in. There’s a lot of talk about how Bush now has a “mandate” to do what he likes. One, it is a psychological concept; two, after 9/11, it’s not like he acted as if he didn’t have a mandate anyways. It is important to note that after the 2000 election, Bush resented the fact that he didn’t win the popular vote and barely won the electoral vote. This time around, he wanted to make sure that didn’t happen. Karl Rove, his chief strategist made sure that Republicans, Evangelical Christians, which form Bush’s base, voted in large numbers especially in Southern states and swing states.

One think many people were hoping from a Kerry victory was a different policy in Iraq. It looks like a massive attack on Falluja is inevitable. From BBC News: “US-led troops had closed all roads in and out of the city, which they believe is housing several thousand insurgents. Hours later, in the dead of night, came flashes and sounds of gunfire on the horizon where Falluja begins…In a letter to the leaders of the US, UK and Iraq, Mr Annan warned that force risked alienating Iraqis when their support for elections was vital…Iraqi leader Iyad Allawi called the letter "confused" and said time for a peace deal in Falluja was running out." The letter is being dismissed by US officials. Juan Cole says, "The caretaker government was appointed by an envoy of Mr. Annan, so if he lacks the standing to speak out on Fallujah and/or is a fool to do so, that raises the question of whether he had the legitimacy to install Mr. Allawi and his colleagues in the first place, or whether he was wise enough to choose the right government for Iraq.The serial pleas for US soldiers to sacrifice their lives in Iraq, and the preference for them to fight guerrillas by inflicting massive civilian casualties through aerial and tank bombardment of residential neighborhoods, seem to me to rest on thinner and thinner grounds."

Today on BBC: "A hospital has been razed to the ground in one of the heaviest US air raids in the Iraqi city of Falluja." In another article named Prayers and tears in Falluja, “When I hear bombs falling around my neighbourhood, I keep thinking - any moment now, I could be killed…It is worst during the night, when the bombardment is most intense. If a big bomb lands somewhere nearby, you often hear crying and wailing afterwards…We followed the US elections very closely from Falluja…Many people were hoping John Kerry would win because they felt he would not have allowed our city to be attacked like this…We do not forget that George Bush and John Kerry are two sides of the same coin. Still, as far as our city is concerned right now, a Kerry victory would have brought some hope…We are just men here. All our wives and children have left the city - some we sent to Baghdad, others to quieter areas closer by…The hospitals I have seen are full of people but empty of supplies and medicine. The erratic electricity also makes operating difficult.” Also, today "At least 33 people have been killed in car bombs and other attacks in Samarra, north of Baghdad."

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is hovering near death and has been stated to be in an “irreversible coma” and on life support. Despite the disappointment and disfranchisement of many Palestinians with their leader, Electronic Intifada presents
The Mountain Shakes, a view of many Palestinians about their leader. Many are fearful of what will happen next or respect him and don’t want him to die. From liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz, In Ramallah, life goes on as usual: “On Thursday night, the cities of Ramallah and El Bireh didn't change their tempo, which is still dictated by the Ramadan fast and not the reports of Arafat's deteriorating health…"People feel no connection to Arafat," confirms Dr. Saleh Abd Al-Jawad, from the department of political science at Bir Zeit University…There is much concern about the weakness of the leader who is establishing himself as heir. "The fact that Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] is the alternative is symptomatic of the problem…I'm convinced he thinks Israel and the U.S. hold all the cards, and that the Palestinians must work within this framework," says Al-Jawad. The impoverishment of large sectors of the Palestinian public has excluded them from taking an interest in politics; they are too concerned with survival. The carving up of the Palestinian territories has encouraged the rise of leaders who are only useful at the narrow local level, Al-Jawad complains.”

Other Middle East news: Hamid Karzai has been chosen as the elected leader in Afghanistan and the founder and ruler of the United Arab Emirates,
Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan has passed away. Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan was elected as the new President of the United Arab Emirates on November 3, to succeed his late father. For those of you unfamiliar with Persian Gulf country politics, many Gulf countries are sheikdoms (monarchies).

For post-election dissection – from
Informed Comment: In an interesting Friday post from an article called ‘We’re all Israelis Now,’ “like Israelis, Americans would never face the causes of the extreme violence perpetrated against us by those whose oppression we have supported and even enforced, and engage in the honest introspection of what our role has been in generating the kind of hatred that turns commuter jets into cruise missiles…As I watch George W. Bush celebrate his reelection I realize I never could have imagined just how much like Israelis we would become. Think about it: in Israel, the majority of Jewish citizens support the policies of Ariel Sharon despite the large-scale, systematic (and according to international law, criminal) violence his government deploys against Palestinian society, despite the worsening economic situation for the lower middle class religious voters who constitute his main base of support, despite rising international opprobrium and isolation.” Juan Cole’s personal thoughts on the elction: “I maintained then that I thought it would be very difficult for a non-Southern Democratic candidate to get any southern state, and that without any of the South it would be difficult to win the election. Since Jack Kennedy was shot in 1963, all successful Democratic presidential candidates have been southerners: Johnson, Carter, Clinton. This is because image and marketing matter more in US presidential elections than substance, and white male southerners just mostly are only going to vote for one of their own…The Democrats need to find a southern governor with a southern accent who is a Baptist. (I don't mean the Deep South. Its upper stretches are more malleable). They also need to start defusing deadly cultural and "moral" issues that have been so effective for the Republicans.”

An article in the Guardian named,
Onward Christian soldiers talks about the deep divide in the US: “not since the Civil war has the fault line between its two halves been so glaringly clear, nor the chasm between its two cultures so starkly unbridgeable…Godly America, on the other hand, rock-ribbed in Dick Cheney's Wyoming, stretched out just as far as it pleases in Dubya's deeply drilled Texas, turns its back on that dangerous, promiscuous, impure world and proclaims to high heaven the indestructible endurance of the American Difference…Worldly America is pragmatic, practical, rational and sceptical.”

Electronic Intifada: “anyone seriously concerned about the conflicts in Palestine and Iraq would have faced the stark reality that Kerry offered nothing substantially different from President George W. Bush in either situation…What many wanted was accountability - to see the author of so many disastrous policies thrown out…Bush owes his victory in great part to the incoherence of his Democratic opponents, who supported the war from the beginning and could offer no principled opposition to it during the campaign. Kerry was the default choice and emotional harbor for anti-war voters even though he was reduced to carping about tactics while presenting no convincing alternatives to Bush's failed policies…[Illinois senator Barack] Obama now says that the onus of peace in the Middle East "is on the Palestinian leadership, which ... must cease violence against Israelis and work 'to end the incitement against Israel in the Arab world." The unique fact about Obama's campaign is that he did not need to parrot the pro-Israel lobby's standard line to get elected. He ran effectively unopposed. Such a capable and ambitious man must have calculated that any hope of higher office requires that he not offend when it comes to Israel and its interests. This begs the question: If a man like Obama will not speak frankly when it comes to Israel, what hope is there for a change in U.S. policy coming from within the establishment?"

Believe it or not, many Americans are considering moving to Canada after Bush’s re-election. According to this
BBC report: “Canadian immigration officials said the number of US citizens visiting their website went up six-fold the day after the US election…”Let's face it, we have a population of little over 32 million and we definitely need permanent residents to come to Canada,”… Canada could find itself attracting more gay couples from the US after a Saskatchewan court ruled in favour of homosexual marriages on Friday.

On the humorous side, here’s Michael Moore’s
17 Reasons Not To Slit Your Wrists. Interestingly, his first entry after the election was to name US soldiers who have died in Iraq and ask them for forgiveness.