“Just recently we have had the Lebanese revolution, the Egyptian announcement about electoral changes, the Iraqi elections, the Afghan elections,” wrote Charles Krauthammer in the spring of 2005. “Kuwait has just extended suffrage to women, and Syria has announced, however disingenuously, that they are moving toward legalizing political parties, purging the ruling Baath Party, sponsoring free municipal elections in 2007, and formally endorsing a market economy.” He concluded: “What we have seen in the last six months has been simply astonishing — well, astonishing to the critics.” . . .
“There is a pathology, a historical pathology,” explained New Republic editor in chief Martin Peretz, “that [Bush] has attacked with unprecedented vigor and with unprecedented success.” That pathology was “the political culture of the Middle East, which the president may actually have changed.”
And, indeed, things have changed. As Sabrina Tavernise reported in Monday’s New York Times about the centerpiece of the U.S.-orchestrated Mid-East transformation, “after months of apparently random sectarian violence the pattern has become one of attack and counterattack, with Sunni militants staging what commanders call ‘spectacular’ strikes and Shiite militias retaliating with abductions and murders of Sunnis.”
Welcome to the long, dark Arab winter.
The #1 movie in the country, the animated film “Happy Feet,” is “an entertaining story about a young bird’s journey toward self-acceptance.” But to Fox News’ Neil Cavuto it’s insidious “far left” political propaganda.
Cavuto saw the movie with his sons and found it “offensive.” Cavuto objected to the fact that penguins in the movie have trouble finding food because of overfishing and oil drilling. Cavuto called the film “an animated ‘Inconvenient Truth.’ I half expected to see an animated version of Al Gore pop-up.” Watch it:
Cavuto is objecting to introducing children to a real problem. A recent study in Science found “There will be virtually nothing left to fish from the seas by the middle of the century if current trends continue.”
Transcript: Read more
“State psychiatric hospitals will begin turning away new patients on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, in response to emergency budget cuts issued earlier this month by Gov. Mitt Romney,” the AP reports. “The cuts will force the elimination of 170 Department of Mental Health staff positions, including staffers who provide care to hundreds of emotionally disturbed children and teens.”
The government of Israel has, obviously, been controlling a large parcel of land it conquered from Jordan for several decades now — the West Bank — land that is presumed to be the future location of an independent state of Palestine. At the same time, Israel has been building settlements on that land — freestanding small- or medium-sized towns as well as what amount to suburbs of Jerusalem, populated by Jews who, unlike their Muslim or Christian Arab neighbors, are citizens of Israel with rights, etc. But in addition to parcels of land being controlled by governments — in this case, first the United Kingdom, then Jordan, now Israel — they are owned by individuals. So where did the settlers get the land? The Israeli government has always claimed it’s been legitimately obtained through purchase. According to this new study by Peace Now it isn’t true.
They obtained files leaked from the 2004 database of the Civil Administration, in charge of non-military aspects of West Bank administration, and concluded that fully 39 percent of settlement land area is privately owned by Palestinians. Or, perhaps, “was owned” since, obviously, it’s been taken from them. See further coverage by Steve Erlanger in The New York Times and Yair Sheleg in Haaretz. I, for one, look forward to the explanation of how Erlanger, Sheleg, their editors, the Peace Now Settlement Watch team, and the dudes in the Israeli government who leaked this to them are all anti-semites.
President Bush made a six-hour, carefully orchestrated visit to Indonesia on Monday marked by large demonstrations against the administration and its policies towards the Muslim world. Bush “stayed behind the fenced wall of the palace compound all day.” Indonesia’s president called on the U.S. to plan an “ultimate exit strategy” from Iraq.
Syria and Iraq have restored diplomatic relations twenty-four years after Syria broke ties and accused Saddam “of inciting riots in Syria by the banned Muslim Brotherhood.”
The Do-Nothing Congress passes the buck. “Republicans vacating the Capitol are dumping a big spring cleaning job on Democrats moving in.” Congressional leaders “have opted to leave behind almost a half-trillion-dollar clutter of unfinished spending bills,” which “promises to consume time and energy” from the 110th Congress.
“Leading public universities have become enclaves for the privileged and are failing to give bright minority and low-income students fair access to higher education,” a new report by the Education Trust says.
At least 140 people were reported killed around Iraq yesterday. “At least 60 bodies were discovered in the capital. Most were middle-aged men, stripped of identification papers, who had been handcuffed, tortured and shot.” Read more
Via Kevin Drum, new polling from the Project on International Policy Attitudes indicates that Iraqis would overwhelmingly like to see the United States leave Iraq on a definite schedule within a reasonably short time frame. The full report is here. “Seven out of ten Iraqis overall—including both the Shia majority (74%) and the Sunni minority (91%)—say they want the United States to leave within a year.” In Baghdad, the center of our current military efforts and the place where fears of an upsurge in violence were the US to leave are most realistic (Baghdad residents share this concern), support for departure is, if anything, somewhat stronger with 80 percent of the Baghdad Shia saying they’d like to see us leave.
As Kevin notes, one can debate whether this is really the correct policy judgment on the part of Iraqis. Perhaps in some sense things would be better if they simply welcomed their foreign overlords.
That said, as he also points out, it really doesn’t matter. Whatever it might be possible for US forces to achieve in principle, we’re not going to be able to do anything useful in the face of this kind of overwhelming opposition to our very presence. People won’t cooperate with our troops meaningfully or be interested in American views on what kind of steps the Iraqi government should or should not be taking. Most of all, you certainly can’t build a democracy with an unpopular occupying army staying in a foreign country in the face of hostile public attitudes. Insofar as the Iraqi government does cooperate with our forces and does take our suggestions, it’s only going to find itself discredited by association with us. The situation is untenable, and we need to leave. What’s more, we need to start planning to leave as soon as possible so we can figure out a plan that’s orderly and reasonably safe, rather than finding ourselves needing to do it in a panic 30 months from now.
As everyone knows, the way to get people to use dollar coins would be to stop printing $1 bills. This, apparently, would save the federal government a considerable sum since coins last a long time, and $1 bills have a very brief lifespan. The question, then, is why this new presidential coin plan? Coverage of the new coins tends to start with a lot of talk about the Mint doing, thinking, or hoping this or that as if the US Mint is for some reason being run by people who don’t understand coins and don’t understand that the $1 coin is doomed as long as the $1 bill lives. Deeper in, though, you learn that “The coins were authorized by the 2005 Presidential Coin Act, which requires the minting of dollar coins commemorating the service of former United States presidents in the order in which they served.”
In other words, it wasn’t the mint’s idea at all — it came from congress. But why would congress pass a law like that? Well, I have some familiarity with this topic and my understanding is that, in essence, the idea was being pushed by mining interests hoping to sell the government some more of their metal. They hired some lobbyists, the North Dakota delegation and Ben Nighthorse Campbell put up an ultimately successful fight to secure the long-term future of the Sacagewa Dollar, and ta-da! your presidential commemorative coins will be here shortly. Similarly, it’s the zinc (or something) lobby that keeps the penny in existence. Only in America.