Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Condoleezza Rice: the next US Secretary of State?

After celebrating Eid, the end of Ramadhan, over the weekend, here is my long entry with some the latest news & analysis:

I have to admit I was shocked by the news of the resignation of Colin Powell. With his remarks following the elections, it seemed as though he would stay on for the next four years. My feelings about him are mixed: I lost respect for him after his false elaborate presentation to the UN about Iraq’s WMD program. And, I felt like he sold out to the hawkish members of the Administration instead of maintaining his earlier anti-war stance. I also don’t believe he had the political clout and was largely marginalized by Bush and others, so I’m wondering if that played a role in his resignation – I’m really fearful of Rice taking up the job though. In a
BBC analysis about Powell’s role: “Colin Powell was no dove. He too believed in US power and influence but where others saw certainty, he saw complexity. This slowed him down and gave them the edge. He seemed to find it more natural to follow an order than to give one. And in the end, he lacked the ear of the president, without which a secretary of state is powerless. The result was disengagement…In all this, he never acted disloyally…Liberal black Congressman Charles Rangel said of him: "Colin Powell is a military guy, and he doesn't care who he works for, he just salutes." … His lack of diplomatic dynamism left him with no counterbalance when the neo-conservatives led by Vice-President Cheney, Defence Secretary Rumsfeld and Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz weighed in. It is doubtful whether the neo-conservatives had their own disengagement plan for Colin Powell. He was a very useful presenter of US policy, given that he has been the first African-American secretary of state. But they will probably not be too sad to see him go.” From BBC News Online: “Ms Rice is seen as a more abrasive character than UN ambassador John Danforth who was earlier also tipped as possible Mr Powell's successor…The president's choice will say much about how he intends to approach the world in his second term…Ms Rice is a trusted member of President's Bush innermost circle… She is also said to share many of his views, and is described as driven and highly ambitious…As the first black female secretary of state she would win a place in the history books. Much of the foreign policy focus in the second term is likely to be firmly on the Middle East but Miss Rice's background as a Russian expert would also prove useful at a time of concern about President Vladimir Putin's handling of political and civil rights.” Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, and Education Secretary Rod Paige also announced their intention to step down.”

BBC News Online: In Iraq, The US military is looking into whether an American marine in Falluja shot dead a severely wounded Iraqi insurgent at point-blank range. Television footage shows US soldiers entering a building as injured prisoners lie on the floor. The soldier, from the 3rd battalion of the US marines, has been removed from the field and faces possible charges. More on Fallujah from Informed Comment: “Most Americans do not realize that Fallujah is celebrated in Iraqi history and poetry for its defiance of the British in the Great Rebellion of 1920. The 1920 revolution against the British is key to modern Iraqi history…The Guardian hints around that the number of civilian casualties in the US assault on the city is enormous and will only come out as hospital authorities begin counting the dead and wounded…Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, th leading Shiite spiritual authority, called Friday for a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Fallujah. His representative in Karabala, Ahmad al-Safi al-Najafi, said that the position of the grand ayatollah toward the bloody events in some regions of Iraq is that a peaceful resolution of the conflict is requird. Speaking before thousands of worshippers at the Mosque of Imam Husain in Karbala, he said that the grand ayatollah had the same attitude to the fighting in Fallujah as he had had to that in Najaf, that is, the implementation of a peaceful solution on the basis of the sovereignty of the regime, law, and the evacuation of foreign forces and of gunmen with unlicensed arms. Sistani also condemned all loss of innocent life. Sistani has been criticized recently for not speaking out against US attacks on Sunnis in the way he had with regard to Najaf, a Shiite center. Sistani likes to present himself as concerned for the welfare of all Iraqis, not just of his Shiite followers. But he has only called for peace in Fallujah when the fighting is already largely over with. That move will look cynical to a lot of Sunni Arabs…It is a good thing that Bob Dylan has US citizenship, otherwise he might be in the same fix as Cat Stevens (a.k.a. Yusuf Islam). The mere singing of a 1963 song, "Masters of War," at a Colorado High School brought in the Secret Police. Now we know why Usamah Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri haven't been caught. The US security services are busy sifting through old lyrics looking for the real terrorists.”

The death of 78 Muslims in Thailand did not make headlines, but here is a
report by the Christian Science Monitor: “As Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra visits the troubled southern region of Thailand, more than 100 Thai academics have called on him to apologize for the deaths of 78 Muslims who died in late October while in custody of the Thai army, reports BBC… Thaksin expressed regret at the deaths and admitted that security forces had made mistakes when handling the protesters. He said that fasting for Ramadan played a role in the deaths, as CNN reports. "There are some who died because they were fasting, and they were crammed in tight," Thaksin told reporters [on Oct. 26]. "It's a matter of their bodies becoming weak." Thaksin has received criticism for implying that the detainees may have died from fasting… Tensions between Muslims and Buddhists in southern Thailand have been simmering for decades, but have taken a turn for the worse this year. More than 400 people have been killed so far. A Los Angeles Times editorial criticizes Thaksin for making "a potentially explosive situation much worse." The Times writes that "Thaksin's blindness could push moderate Muslims not yet demanding more autonomy or independence for the south toward radical action" and suggests that he "has to include the south in the nation's plans for economic development, getting more of the region's unemployed and undertrained young people into the workforce." But many of Thailand's Buddhists, especially in the troubled south, feel that Thaksin should crack down even harder on rebellious Muslims, reports CNN. "We are being treated like second-class citizens here," a Buddhist woman shouted at Thaksin during his visit to a Buddhist temple, reports Reuters. "We have been given false hopes by the government. I am urging you Mister Prime Minister to take drastic and decisive actions against those who have been behind the violence." … Most of Thailand's six million Muslims live in the south and many feel alienated by the Buddhist administration in Bangkok and by Thaksin's confusing approach to handling the crisis, switching from tough talk one week to soothing words promising aid the next.”

A non-conventional
report on Darfur by Mahmood Mamdani, a Herbert Lehman Professor of Government and Director, Institute of African Studies, at University of Columbia, New York: “Sudan is today the site of two contradictory processes. The first is the Naivasha peace process between the SPLA and the Government of Sudan, whose promise is an end to Africa's longest festering civil war. The second is the armed confrontation between an insurgency and anti-government militias in Darfur. There is need to think of the south and the west as different aspects of a connected process… The government in Khartoum is also divided, between those who pushed the peace process, and those who believe too much was conceded in the Naivasha talks. This opposition, the security cabal in Khartoum, responded by arming and unleashing several militia, known as the Janjawid. The result is a spiral of state-sponsored violence and indiscriminate spread of weaponry. In sum, all those opposed to the peace process in the south have moved to fight in Darfur, even if on opposing sides… all parties involved in the Darfur conflict - whether they are referred to as 'Arab' or as 'African' - are equally indigenous and equally black. All are Muslims and all are local…I suggest a three-pronged process in the Sudan. The priority must be to complete the Naivasha peace process and change the character of the government in Khartoum. Second, whatever the level of civilian support enjoyed by militias, it would be a mistake to tarnish the communities with the sins of the particular militia they support. On the contrary, every effort should be made to neutralize or re-organize the militia and stabilize communities in Darfur through local initiatives…We should work against a US intervention…The lesson of Iraq sanctions is that you target individuals, not governments. Sanctions feed into a culture of terror, of collective punishment. Its victims are seldom its target. Both military intervention and sanctions are undesirable and ineffective…Of particular importance is to recognize that the international community has created an institution called the International Criminal Court to try individuals for the most heinous crimes, such as genocide, war crimes and systematic rights abuses. The US has not only refused to ratify the treaty setting up the ICC, it has gone to all lengths to sabotage it. For Americans, it is important to get their government to join the ICC… For the African Union, Darfur is both an opportunity and a test. The opportunity is to build on the global concern over a humanitarian disaster in Darfur to set a humanitarian standard that must be observed by all, including America's allies in Africa. And the test is to defend African sovereignty in the face of official America's global 'war on terror.'

This report by the Christian Science Monitor,
India eases tensions in Kashmir states: “The announcement by India on Thursday that it will unilaterally reduce its troop deployments in the disputed territory of Kashmir this winter was greeted as a "great leap forward" by Pakistani officials and Kashmiri separatists, reports Agence France-Presse (AFP)…The announcement comes in advance of scheduled talks in December on resolving the dispute between the two nuclear rivals, reports Pakistan's Khaleej Times. Even though the reduction in forces would be small, the symbolism would have a far greater impact, reports Indo-Asian News Service (INS). India has approximately 500,000 troops deployed in Kashmir. The move is the first "major show of flexibility" by India, says Kashmiri political analyst Tahir Mohiudin. "I think it is the outcome of behind-the-curtain diplomacy between India and Pakistan," he told AFP…Kashmiri separatists greeted the troop withdrawal announcement in a much more cautious manner. Amanullah Khan, chairman of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) said that only the liberation of Kashmir as an independent state would be acceptable to the Kashmiris, reports Asian News Service (ANI). Both India and Pakistan should "evolve strategies and devise formulas to solve the Kashmir imbroglio in a manner that would be acceptable to the 30 million Kashmiris living on both sides of the Line of Control," said Mr. Khan. Khan also criticised both India and Pakistan for acting "under pressure from Western powers" to "hurriedly" find solutions to the dispute without taking into account the aspirations and willingness of the Kashmiris," reports ANI. "Kashmir was not booty to be shared as spoils between India and Pakistan." Hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani said the announcement of a troop reduction in Indian-administered Kashmir would be inconsequential unless it withdrew the Disturbed Areas Act, which gives sweeping powers to the armed forces, reports the BBC…There is considerable ground to be covered before any realistic and long-term solution can be found.”

The debate on headscarves for Muslim women in Europe continues - from
BBC News: “The southern German state of Bavaria has become the latest of the country's federal states to ban Muslim school teachers from wearing headscarves. The Bavarian parliament approved the measure after Culture Minister Monika Hohlmeier argued that the headscarf was a symbol of the repression of women… More than three million Muslims live in Germany and many have complained that the laws restrict their freedom to express their religion.”

Also, an interesting article by Rashid Khalidi, a prominent Palestinian-American scholar,
Fallujah 101: “The British sent a renowned explorer and a senior colonial officer who had quelled unrest in the corners of their empire, Lt. Col. Gerald Leachman, to master this unruly corner of Iraq. Leachman was killed in an altercation with a local leader named Shaykh Dhari. His death sparked a war that ended up costing the lives of 10,000 Iraqis and more than 1,000 British and Indian troops. To restore Iraq to their control, the British used massive air power, bombing indiscriminately. That city is now called Fallujah. Shaykh Dhari’s grandson, today a prominent Iraqi cleric, helped to broker the end of the U.S. Marine siege of Fallujah in April of this year. Fallujah thus embodies the interrelated tribal, religious and national aspects of Iraq’s history. The Bush administration is not creating the world anew in the Middle East. It is waging a war in a place where history really matters…It does not matter what you say you are doing in Fallujah, where U.S. troops just launched an attack after weeks of bombing. What matters is what you are doing in Fallujah—and what people see that you are doing…By invading, occupying and imposing a new regime on Iraq, the United States may be following, intentionally or not, in the footsteps of the old Western colonial powers—and doing so in a region that within living memory ended a lengthy struggle to expel colonial occupations. They fought from 1830 to 1962 to kick out the French from Algeria. From 1882 to 1956 they fought to get the British out of Egypt. That’s within the lifetime of every person over 45 in the Middle East. Foreign troops on their soil against their will is deeply familiar…“The people of England have been led in Mesopotamia into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honor. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information. The Baghdad communiqués are belated, insincere, incomplete. Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows. It is a disgrace to our imperial record and may soon be too inflamed for any ordinary cure. We are today not far from a disaster. Our unfortunate troops, Indian and British, under hard conditions of climate and supply are policing an immense area, paying dearly every day in lives for the willfully wrong policy of the civil administration in Baghdad but the responsibility, in this case, is not on the army which has acted only upon the request of the civil authorities.” T.E. Lawrence, The Sunday Times, August 1920. For more publications on various Middle Eastern issues visit Middle East Institute Publications & Middle East Institute Transcripts & Speeches.

I recently received an e-mail claiming voting fraud in Ohio & Florida on Election Day. I’m not a big supporter of conspiracy theories, but it may very be possible that the fraud a- la-2000 did occur this time, but was well disguised. Here’s the report,
The Unexplained Exit Poll Discrepancy: “Professor Steven Freeman, a statistician at the University of Pennsylvania, offers a disturbing answer. Looking at the exit polls and announced results in Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania, he concludes that the odds against such an accidental discrepancy in all three states together was 250 million to one. "As much as we can say in social science that something is impossible, it is impossible that the discrepancies between predicted and actual vote counts in the three critical battleground states of the 2004 election could have been due to chance or random error."