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Candide’s Latest: Friday, October 20, 2006

While the Americans discover three years too late that their case is hopeless in Iraq, and while they dither over what to do next, Iraqi civilians are dying—not just from the war itself, but from the decimation of the nation’s health care system: The United States, not satisfied with having a punishingly backward health care system back home, is keen on exporting it as well. “As many as half of the civilian deaths, calculated at 655,000 since the 2003 invasion, might have been avoided if proper medical care had been provided to the victims,” the Independent reports. “In March, the campaign group Medact said 18,000 physicians had left the country since 2003, an estimated 250 of those that remained had been kidnapped and, in 2005 alone, 65 killed. Medact also said "easily treatable conditions such as diarrhoea and respiratory illness caused 70 per cent of all child deaths", and that " of the 180 health clinics the US hoped to build by the end of 2005, only four have been completed and none opened". At least Iraqi isn’t lacking in sophists: “If the cause of all this death is "the war," does that mean that the coalition has killed nearly 700,000 Iraqis? Of course it means nothing of the sort. Indeed, if you look more closely, you will see that less than one-third of the surplus deaths are attributed, even by this study, to "Allied" military action. Grant if you wish that this figure is likely to be more exact, since at least the coalition fights in uniform and issues regular statistics. That leaves, according to the Lancet, a pile of corpses nearly half a million high. Here, the cause of death becomes suddenly less precisely identifiable. We are told that 24 percent of the violent deaths were caused by "other" actors, and 45 percent of them by "unknown" ones. If there is any method of distinguishing between the "other" and the "unknown," we are not told of it.” And so on, compliments of Chris Hitchens. We are not told of it. Well, it would appear that now we are.


Not Just Mengele

Has Israel been using a new weapon in Gaza? An investigative report that aired on Italian television Wednesday raised the possibility that “Israel has used an experimental weapon in the Gaza Strip in recent months, causing especially serious physical injuries, such as amputated limbs and severe burns,” Haaretz reports. “The weapon is similar to one developed by the U.S. military, known as DIME, which causes a powerful and lethal blast, but only within a relatively small radius. The Italian report is based on the eyewitness accounts of medical doctors in the Strip, as well as tests carried out in an Italian laboratory. The investigative team is the same one that exposed, several months ago, the use by U.S. forces in Iraq of phosphorous bombs, against Iraqi rebels in Faluja.”

Israel ’s use of weaponry has long been a corollary to American military experimentation. Part of the deal. It’s a wonder the Joint Chiefs’ number hasn’t grown to five. Oh, and the weapon might cause cancer: now there’s an irony for you. A weapon designed to maim, kill, slash and burn, and the surgeon’s general warning on its canisters is: might cause cancer. Meanwhile Israel worries about apparent preparations by its enemies for another war. And this just in from Human Rights Watch: Hezbollah, too, fired cluster bombs at Israel . “Hezbollah’s deployment of the Chinese-made Type-81 122mm rocket is also the first confirmed use of this particular model of cluster munition anywhere in the world. Human Rights Watch documented two Type-81 cluster strikes that took place on July 25 in the Galilee village of Mghar,” HRW writes. “We are disturbed to discover that not only Israel but also Hezbollah used cluster munitions in their recent conflict, at a time when many countries are turning away from this kind of weapon precisely because of its impact on civilians,” said Steve Goose, director of Human Rights Watch's Arms Division. “Use of cluster munitions is never justified in civilian-populated areas because they are inaccurate and unreliable.”  


Coalition of the Regressives

In a special report about the Middle East’s “Coalition of the Unwilling” ( Syria, Iran and Hezbollah), The Economist concludes that “it was, above all, American policy that boosted the rejectionist alliance. Seeking targets to retaliate against after September 11th, the Bush administration chose to focus on what it labelled “state sponsors” of terrorism. It also lumped together groups such as Hizbullah and Hamas, whose chief agenda was local and nationalist and did not threaten America, with the global terrorist network of al-Qaeda, which had not only declared war on the superpower and on “Jews and Crusaders”, but had also launched hostilities in the most dramatic fashion conceivable. In May 2002 the administration added Syria to its “axis of evil” (originally Iran, Iraq and North Korea). This seemed odd at the time, since Syria was providing America with useful counter-terrorism intelligence, and Iran had played a helpful role in the overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan. In 2003 America rebuffed a back-channel Iranian effort to start a dialogue, and later that year slapped sanctions on Syria. “We would have been happy to play the game with them,” sighed a Syrian official at the time. “But they wanted all our cards with nothing in return.” America's invasion of Iraq, meanwhile, produced a cascade of responses that bolstered the resistance front. The intrusion threatened to drive a physical wedge between Iran and Syria, and so reinforced their mutual need. It emboldened Iraq's Kurdish minority, so raising fears of unrest in Syria's and Iran's own oppressed Kurdish regions. Yet it also empowered the long-disenfranchised Shia majority, a natural bridgehead for Iranian influence. And obviously it removed Saddam Hussein's army, the main military obstacle to the projection of that influence farther afield.” See the full report…

Krauthammer's Craze

World War II is over, and Charles Krauthammer is tired of waiting for World War III. He wants Japan to have nukes: “ Japan is a true anomaly. All the other Great Powers went nuclear decades ago -- even the once-and-no-longer great, such as France; the wannabe great, such as India; and the never-will-be great, such as North Korea. There are nukes in the hands of Pakistan, which overnight could turn into an al-Qaeda state, and North Korea, a country so cosmically deranged that it reports that the "Dear Leader" shot five holes-in-one in his first time playing golf and also wrote six operas. Yet we are plagued by doubts about Japan's joining this club.” Here’s an idea. Why stop with Japan? Germany, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Taiwan…

Yes, it has happened: Kazakhstan is inviting Borat: “A top Kazakh official has an invitation for the British comedian whose depiction of a homophobic, misogynistic, English-mangling Kazakh journalist has outraged the Central Asian nation: come visit,” the Sydney Morning Herald reports. “The Deputy Foreign Minister, Rakhat Aliyev, said in an interview published today that he understands why Kazakhs are unhappy about Sacha Baron Cohen's character, Borat. "But we must have a sense of humour and respect other people's freedom of creativity," Mr Aliyev was quoted as saying by Kazakhstan Today. "I'd like to invite Cohen here," he said. "He can discover a lot of things. Women drive cars, wine is made of grapes and Jews are free to go to synagogues."[…] Cohen's Borat character has presented inhabitants of the ex-Soviet republic as addicted to horse urine, fond of shooting dogs, and viewing rape and incest as respectable hobbies.”

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