3.04.2006

These "Devils" Won't Dance


One of my favorite recent discoveries is Watching America. Well, OK, maybe "discovery" isn't quite the right word, since they point-blank marketed themselves to me, but I was only to eager to promote the site. At any rate, the site is invaluable since it publishes translations of key stories and editorials from the often non-English-language press. The content is an excellent source of information about how the US is seen by folks around the world. There's a graphic link to the site on the sidebar.

Yesterday, they posted "Condi: Firefighter or Pyromaniac?", by Tahar Selmi/translated by Mike Goeden, from Tunis Hebdo ("Je cherche la vérité"), which is excerpted here:
Visits by U.S. secretaries of state to the Arab region generally portend political or military upheaval, and Condoleezza Rice's recent tour of the Middle East was no exception. The "iron lady" espoused an aggressive, six-point program that is sufficiently dangerous to throw an already unstable region into utter chaos: overthrow the Lebanese president, disarm Hezbollah, freeze all aid to the Palestinians, isolate Syria and Iran, and undermine these same regimes by strengthening logistical support for their respective oppositions. All in all, a plan that, if ever enacted, would plunge the entire Middle East into a state of civil war and devastating, pan-regional conflict.

Arab leaders have refused to comply, at least for the time being. The plan is deemed rather absurd, let alone suicidal. Both Cairo and Riyadh, Washington's principal allies in the region, answered "nyet" to Rice's proposal - a rather rare response, it should be pointed out, and which underlines the seriousness of the stakes for Arab leaders. But for Condi Rice, whose "directness" in dealing with her Arab counterparts is well known, the answer is not definitive. She has often bragged about having worn down her opponents.

During her voyage, the State Department's head honcho did her utmost to present the plan as nothing more than a plea in favor of establishing democracy in the Middle East. But that's only a front, of course . . .

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Arab-Muslim world has even more reason to be nervous, since the region has become the principal theatre of armed conflict, at the instigation of the West and for dubious objectives. It is a sort of ninth Crusade, which goes a long way in explaining the recent Danish cartoons and their propagation throughout the Old World.

Arabs and Muslims are worried by the incredible increase in U.S. military spending, even while catastrophic scenarios targeting their region would seem to be materializing. A la Hemingway, they ask themselves the nagging question, "For whom the bell tolls?" This year alone, almost $500 billion will be invested in the American war machine, more than one and a half times the entire European military budget. Without a doubt, dire plans - heavy and mournful as tombstones - lie behind this remarkable decision.

Plagued by a series of scandals at home, mired in Iraq and Afghanistan where the rebellion is gathering strength, some say George Walker Bush is hatching a scheme to utterly destroy the alliance developing between Syria, Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah. To succeed, he will need the support of his Near East allies in the pursuit of his three-tier plan, incorporating financial, military and media maneuvering. His primary objective: replace American forces in Iraq with an Arab army, thus allowing the GIs to withdraw without causing too great a tumult. Political analysts argue that this largely explains the "iron lady's" latest trip across the Atlantic.
Dire plans, indeed, Tahar. And re: the question posed in your title? Pyromane, plus certainment.

An aside: did you know that many Pakistanis call their president "Mush"? Heeheehee.

Speaking of mush, the buzz is that Homeland Insecurity Liar-in-Chief Michael "It was Brownie's Fault" Chertoff is gonegonegone. (Pretty kewl segue, eh?)

Headline of the week: "Rumsfeld: Reports of Torture an al-Qaeda Trick" (at Antiwar.com). The story itself is here. This, by the way, is the one-in-the-same-Rummy whose Department of Perpetual War is developing the technology of "using remote-controlled sharks as stealth spies." A fond prop and "thank you" to Shakes for the pointer and the graphic (shiver).

'Cuz I been postin alotta bummer stuff lately, let me leave you with the words of a rare current American hero, a congressman who still knows the meaning of "integrity" and "public service", Rep. John Conyers:
There are few roles in our constitutional government that are more frustrating than being a member of the minority party during a period of one party control of the government. However, at a time when the majority party in general - and the president in particular - appears to be acting in open violation of the laws and the constitution, there are few jobs which are more important to the future of our democratic form of government.

People think of Watergate, or Iran Contra as constituting crises. They were in the sense that an executive branch was acting in violation of the law, and in tension with the majority party in the congress. But in the end, the system worked, the abuses were investigated, and actions were taken - even if presidential pardons ultimately prevented a full measure of justice.

Today, the crisis is substantively and systemically far worse. The alleged acts of wrongdoing - lying about the decision to go to war; manipulation of intelligence; facilitating and countenancing torture; using confidential information to out a CIA agent; open and flagrant violations of federal wiretap laws - are far more egregious than any I have witnessed in my 41 years in Congress. The majority party has shown no ability to engage in simple oversight, let alone challenge the Administration directly. The courts, while operating as an occasional and partial check, are institutionally incapable of delving into most of the controversies we are presented with as a result of limitations on standing, ripeness, and other doctrines. The media, which is increasingly concentrated, was shell-shocked and in some respects cowered by 9/11, and for the most part unwilling to alienate the party in charge.

Faced with that dilemma, we had a choice. We could simply ignore the myriad of transgressions being committed, and continue to reacting to the legislative agenda put before us by the Republican Party on a day-to-day basis, or we could do everything in our power to call attention to and document these very grave abuses of power. I opted for the latter course.

I could not live with myself or my children, if when faced with an Administration that went to war under false pretenses, used classified information to smear political opponents; and wiretapped innocent Americans without warrants, I did not formally respond to it. If the Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the constitution, is silent on these matters, who else can we expect to speak out?
Shit . . . I just can't help it . . . so later, the contrast, from Guerilla News Network:
U.S. Opposes U.N.'s Planned Rights Panel
Fri, 03 Mar 2006 09:47:40 -0800 Summary:

Is anyone surprised that the U.S. is opposing the U.N. looking into human rights violations? I’ll give you three guesses who the biggest violators of human rights are… either allies of the U.S., or the U.S. themselves. [Posted By phoenix_rising]

by Colum Lynch

Republished from The Washington Post (Katharine Graham, Berkshire Hathaway)

Exclusion of Abusive Nations Sought

UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 27—The Bush administration will oppose a U.N.-backed resolution calling for the creation of a council to expose the world’s worst human rights abusers, John R. Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Monday.

Bolton said that a draft charter presented Thursday by the U.N. General Assembly president, Jan Eliasson, was not tough enough to ensure that nations that abuse human rights would be barred from joining the council. He said he was under instructions from Washington to reopen negotiations on the text or postpone deliberations on a new rights body for several months.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and other supporters of the compromise warned that there is no better deal to be struck and that the U.S. strategy could undermine their efforts to create an improved, though imperfect, human rights body. “I think we should not let the better be the enemy of the good,” Annan told reporters Monday in Geneva.

The United States and the United Nations have been pressing for nearly a year to create a strengthened human rights council to replace the 53-member Human Rights Commission. The reputation of the Geneva-based panel, which helped draft the landmark Universal Declaration of Human Rights, has recently been tainted by the frequent election of members with dismal human rights records, such as Sudan and Zimbabwe.

Senior U.S. and U.N. officials had sought to prevent countries with poor rights records from joining the new organization by raising the membership standards and requiring a two-thirds vote of the 191-member General Assembly for any nation’s admittance. But the proposal met stiff resistance, and the current draft resolution would require members to be elected by an absolute majority—at least 96 countries . . .

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