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Candide’s Latest: Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Lebanon's Domino Theorists

A bridge to peace in Lebanon

Lebanon power play: And there it is: Gen. Michel Aoun, once Lebanon’s symbol of Christian resistance under Syrian occupation, and for a decade and a half the exiled voice of a free Lebanon (he decried Hezbollah, among others, from behind his Parisian hedges), became Hezbollah’s closest ally on returning to Lebanon. His calculations were simple. Join forces with Hezbollah, and his road to the Lebanese presidency would be cleared. Lebanon’s recent history is littered with the bones of such deals between devils. And on Monday he took another step: He called for the Lebanese government to resign. “ We hope ... a very peaceful change takes place, preserving stability in the country,”Aoun said at a news conference even as Kofi Annan was shuttling between smoulders in Lebanon , trying to keep them from blazing again. “If this change does not happen in such a way, there are other ways to escalate from now on.” Could the guy be calling for war more clearly? It’s enough to make you regret having waved the Lebanese flag. “Scores of Hezbollah supporters jeered at Annan during his visit to Beirut's war-ravaged southern suburb, accusing the world body of siding with Israel during the war. Shouting ‘Kofi Annan is an agent of the Americans’, and pro-Hezbollah slogans, the crowd surrounded the convoy of the UN chief, forcing him to leave the area minutes after arrival.” Kofi Annan, an agent of the Americans. Could have been a good joke on the Emmy Awards Monday night. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Italy's Foreign Minister Massimo d'Alema reprieses the domino theory in reverse: if all goes well in Lebanon, all will go well in the greater Middle East. The piece might as well have been written by a five-year veteran of the Bush administration's faith-based initiatives: "If fully implemented by the international community, U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 will help in protecting both Israel's territorial security and the future of a fragile Arab democracy. The foundations for better management of the entire Middle Eastern crisis will then have been set. Passing the difficult Lebanon test means creating a win-win situation for the Lebanese, the Israelis and the region as a whole."

Why Turkey has a lot more to do with Iraq than you think: That wave of bombings that’s got Turkey’s tourist trade in tatters is the work of a Kurdistan separatist group—the reason Turkey didn’t want to enable America’s love affair with Iraq’s Kurds, or still opposes the creation of a separate Kurdish autonomous region in Iraq’s north. With Iran firing up Shiites on one side and Turkey firing up Kurds on the other, the United States is surrounded—in Iraq.

Abu Ghraib prison is closed for business. But don’t worry. The United States has been busy building new and improved panopticons. “The prisoners have already been moved to a new $60 million facility at the Camp Cropper detention centre, at Baghdad international airport. Camp Cropper already holds many high-ranking members of Saddam Hussein’s regime.”

A “Terrorists”’Clockwork Orange in Saudi Arabia: “Over 700 suspected militants have been released after passing through a program aimed to reeducated them on proper Islamic conduct,” Arab News reports in a story that also notes the release of seven prisoners formerly held at Guantanamo Bay. “The program began three years ago after a wave of militant violence struck the Kingdom beginning with attacks on Western compounds in Riyadh in May 2003.”

Sidney Blumethal on Bush: “Bush is trapped in a self-generated dynamic that eerily recalls the centrifugal forces that spun apart his father's presidency,” he writes in The Age. “The younger Bush's staggering mismanagement of the Iraqi occupation has until recently served his purpose of seeming to defy the elements of chaos he himself has aroused. By stringing every threat together into an immense plot that justifies a global war on terrorism, however, he has ultimately made himself hostage to any part of the convoluted storyline that goes haywire.”

When the Smarms Came Marching In

It’s a flood of politicians led by Bush, all swarming and smarming all over New Orleans: “In returning to scenes of one of his administration's biggest political embarrassments,” the Washington Post writes, “Bush visited a city that remains a shell of its former self. Much of the debris has been removed and casinos are starting to sprout along Biloxi's waterfront, but empty lots abound, thousands of displaced people continue to live in trailers, and federal money is only beginning to trickle down to individuals and businesses, according to local leaders.” New Orleans: Behind the façade, a city left to rot: “The late-night bars and jazz clubs are open in the French Quarter, as are the cafes in the elegant Garden District. One year after the worst natural disaster in United States history, New Orleans is gamely giving the impression that the good times are rolling again,” South Africa’s Mail & Guardian reports. “But a couple of kilometres to the north or east, the Cajun bravura falls away like a cheap carnival mask, the streets fall quiet and the Crescent City becomes a dead zone. Hurricane Katrina left behind less than half of New Orleans. The storm killed 1 500 people and scattered the rest. Out of a pre-hurricane population of 450 000, so far just over 200 000 have returned to build their lives, according to independent estimates. The others have either found better options elsewhere or are waiting in trailers for government reconstruction assistance and a development plan that has so far failed to materialise.”

In Other Worlds

“They say I ate my father. But I didn’t.”

At least he got himself a plane ride and a billion eyeballs’ worth of publicity: “Prosecutors abruptly dropped their case Monday against John Mark Karr in the slaying of JonBenet Ramsey, saying DNA tests failed to put him at the crime scene, despite his insistence that he sexually assaulted and strangled the six-year-old beauty queen,” The Globe and Mail writes.

From Der Spiegel’s interview with Salman Rushdie: “I'm no friend of Tony Blair's and I consider the Middle East policies of the United States and the UK fatal. There are always reasons for criticism, also for outrage. But there's one thing we must all be clear about: terrorism is not the pursuit of legitimate goals by some sort of illegitimate means. Whatever the murderers may be trying to achieve, creating a better world certainly isn't one of their goals. Instead they are out to murder innocent people. If the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, for example, were to be miraculously solved from one day to the next, I believe we wouldn't see any fewer attacks. […]Terror is glamour -- not only, but also. I am firmly convinced that there's something like a fascination with death among suicide bombers. Many are influenced by the misdirected image of a kind of magic that is inherent in these insane acts. The suicide bomber's imagination leads him to believe in a brilliant act of heroism, when in fact he is simply blowing himself up pointlessly and taking other peoples lives. There's one thing you mustn't forget here: the victims terrorized by radical Muslims are mostly other Muslims.”


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