From The Times: "The insurgency in Iraq is now self-sustaining financially, raising tens of millions of dollars a year from oil smuggling, kidnapping, counterfeiting, corrupt charities and other crimes that the Iraqi government and its American patrons have been largely unable to prevent, a classified United States government report has concluded. The report, obtained by The New York Times, estimates that groups
responsible for many of the insurgent and terrorist attacks are raising
$70 million to $200 million a year from illegal activities. It says
that $25 million to $100 million of the total comes from oil smuggling
and other criminal activity involving the state-owned oil industry
aided by “corrupt and complicit” Iraqi officials. As much as $36 million a year comes from ransoms paid to save hundreds of kidnap victims in Iraq, the report said. It estimates that unnamed foreign governments — previously identified by senior American officials as including France and Italy — paid Iraqi kidnappers $30 million in ransom last year. A copy of the report was made available to The Times by American officials in Iraq, who said they acted in the belief that the findings could improve American understanding of the challenges the United States faces in Iraq." See the full story...
The sentinels of bigotry in the United States:
Illegal immigrants are “invading the place,” said Roger Barnett, left, on his ranch with his brother Brent.
Chicanophobia in the United States
From the Times: For years, Roger Barnett has holstered a pistol to his hip, tucked an assault rifle in his truck and set out over the scrub brush on his thousands of acres of ranchland near the Mexican border in southeastern Arizona to hunt. Hunt illegal immigrants, that is, often chronicled in the news. "They’re flooding across, invading the place,” Mr. Barnett told the ABC program “Nightline” this spring. “They’re going to bring their families, their wives, and they’re going to bring their kids. We don’t need them.” But now, after boasting of having captured 12,000 illegal crossers on land he owns or leases from the state and emerging as one of the earliest and most prominent of the self-appointed border watchers, Mr. Barnett finds himself the prey. Immigrant rights groups have filed lawsuits, accusing him of harassing and unlawfully imprisoning people he has confronted on his ranch near Douglas. One suit pending in federal court accuses him, his wife and his brother of pointing guns at 16 illegal immigrants they intercepted, threatening them with dogs and kicking one woman in the group. Another suit, accusing Mr. Barnett of threatening two Mexican-American hunters and three young children with an assault rifle and insulting them with racial epithets, ended Wednesday night in Bisbee with a jury awarding the hunters $98,750 in damages." The full story...
Right-Wingers Rising Islamophobia in the Netherlands
From The Economist: “Once a country renowned for tolerance of minorities of all stripes, the Netherlands now risks being known for an ugly debate over its growing Muslim population. As preliminary results emerged from general elections on Wednesday November 22nd, it became clear that a previously insignificant far-right party, the Party For Freedom, may claim as many as nine seats in a parliament of 150. The party had campaigned for a halt to all immigration, and in particular was hostile towards Muslims, calling for a ban on the building of religious schools and mosques and for a ban on veils worn by Muslim women. At its head is Geert Wilders, a man seen by some as the heir to Pim Fortuyn—a populist politician and outspoken critic of the 1m-strong Muslim population in the Netherlands, whose anti-immigrant party won 26 seats in parliament shortly after he was murdered in 2002. On Wednesday Mr Wilders told Dutch television that “we need more decency in this country, more education and less Islam”. He is unlikely to form any part of the new coalition government, which will be led by the moderate Christian Democratic Alliance. But he may yet influence policy. His relative success seems to reflect a deep unease about how to integrate the large Dutch-Muslim population.” See the rest…
Australian Hero Denounces Iraq War as Moral Blunder
From The Australian: “The former SAS officer who devised and executed the Iraq war plan for Australia's special forces says that the nation's involvement has been a strategic and moral blunder.Peter Tinley, who was decorated for his military service in Afghanistan and Iraq, has broken ranks to condemn the Howard Government over its handling of the war and has called for an immediate withdrawal of Australian troops. "It was a cynical use of the Australian Defence Force by the Government," the ex-SAS operations officer told The Weekend Australian yesterday. "This war duped the Australian Defence Force and the Australian people in terms of thinking it was in some way legitimate." As the lead tactical planner for Australia 's special forces in the US in late 2002, Mr Tinley was in a unique position to observe intelligence on Iraq 's weapons of mass destruction program and the coalition's military preparations in the lead-up to the war. Mr Tinley, 44, who retired from the army last year after a distinguished 25-year career, said the US-led coalition had been naive in its thinking about what it could achieve after a quick military invasion of Iraq .” The full story…
Longevity’s Futility Iraq Passes World War II
From the Sydney Morning Herald: They were America's days of infamy, 60 years apart - Pearl Harbour and September 11. The first led the US into World War II, a conflict it endured for 1348 days; the second was followed by a war that from tomorrow will have lasted even longer. America's involvement in Iraq will reach that milestone at a time when the clamour for withdrawal has never been louder, and the possibility of achieving it has never seemed so difficult. The decisive end of World War II in 1945 delivers no lessons that could be applied to a very different war in a very different era. If anything, things seem to be getting worse, the options less appealing. Baghdad is reeling from the deadliest assault on Iraqi civilians since the start of the US invasion in March 2003.” The full story…
State of Denial
In the latest New York Review, Mark Danner reviews Bob Woodward’s State of Denial, along with James Risen’s State of War and Ron Suskind’s The One Percent Doctrine. An excerpt: “Three years and eight months after the Iraq war began, the secretary of defense and his allies see in Iraq not one war but two. One is the Real Iraq War—the "outright success" that only very few would deny, the war in which American forces were "greeted as liberators," according to the famous prediction of Dick Cheney which the Vice President doggedly insists was in fact proved true: "true within the context of the battle against the Saddam Hussein regime and his forces. That went very quickly." It is "within this context" that the former secretary of defense and the Vice President see America's current war in Iraq as in fact comprising a brief, dramatic, and "enormously successful" war of a few weeks' duration leading to a decisive victory, and then...what? Well, whatever we are in now: a Phase Two, a "postwar phase" (as Bob Woodward sometimes calls it) which has lasted three and a half years and continues. In the first, successful, Real Iraq War, 140 Americans died. In the postwar phase 2,700 Americans have died— and counting. What is happening now in Iraq is not in fact a war at all but a phase, a non-war, something unnamed, unconceptualized—unplanned.” The full review essay here…
L’Infâme in Retreat? Pakistan Senate Passes Women’s Rights Bill
From Pakistan’s Dawn: “Foes became friends for a while once again on Thursday as the Senate passed a key women’s rights bill in the face of protests by hardline religious parties and their threat to resign from the National Assembly. The overwhelming ‘yes’ vote in the 100-seat upper house, in which three non-religious opposition parties voted with the ruling coalition, completed the parliamentary approval of the Protection of Women (Criminal Laws Amendment) Bill, which now needs only a presidential assent to become law to reform the 27-year-old controversial Hudood decrees on adultery and rape. The bill was passed by the 342-seat National Assembly last week when religious parties grouped in the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) boycotted the voting and threatened to resign from their 65 seats in the house to protest against what they saw as a move to negate Islamic punishments for sex outside wedlock but the MMA took full part in the two-day Senate debate — often marked by an unusually frank public discussion about the facts of life — and in the final vote, refraining from an expected walkout, although its members chanted protest slogans at the end of the proceedings as chairman Mohammedmian Soomro prorogued the house after a three-day session especially called to pass the bill.” The full story…
Christmas Island for Children Australia’s Guantanamo
From The Age: “The Federal Government's $336 million detention centre on Christmas Island will include classrooms, children's play areas and an area for babies, despite official statements that women and children will be held in immigration detention only as a last resort. Plans for the 800-person centre, to be completed by mid-next year, include several classrooms, including one designated "preschool". Refugee advocates have expressed alarm, saying the centre is an unnecessary, expensive and inhumane response to a problem that no longer exists, given the small number of unauthorised arrivals since 2003. They also say the provision for a large number of children raises the prospect that children may be housed in the centre for extended periods.”
Domestic Violence Where Are America's Public Service Announcements?
This one is running in France. In French of course, but it speaks for itself. The tag line: “A man who hits his wife teaches violence to his children.” (“Un homme qui frappe sa fame apprend la violence à ses enfants.”)