President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus, who leads a Moscow-aligned Soviet-nostalgist authoritarian regime, has got to be concerned about the recent unrest in Uzbekistan--especially coming on the heels of regime change in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan over the past year-and-a-half. However oppressive the situation in post-Soviet despotisms, it is clear Washington is seeking to exploit the situation to expand U.S. influence in the post-Soviet sphere, just as in the Arab world. (Of course this, in turn, allows the despots to potray all opposition as "American agents.")
The New York Times reported yesterday that Kuwait, at long last, has granted full political rights to its women citizens. Better late than never, eh? An interesting irony that during Operation Desert Storm women had the vote (for what it was worth, which was admittedly very little) in Iraq but not Kuwait...
Luis Posada Carriles, the Cuban exile and accused terrorist who re-entered the U.S. to file an asylum claim, has been arrested by immigration authorities and is being held at a Florida facility run by the Homeland Security Department's Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He was arrested a private home in the Miami area hours after he held what the NY Times called a "furtive press conference" in which he denied involvement in the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner which left 73 dead. Venezuela is seeking his extradition to face charges in the 1976 case. The Times declined to attend the press conference because reporters would have to be driven to an undisclosed location by Posada's associates, and restrictions on what questions could be asked were imposed. (NYT, May 18)
Also May 17, over 1 million rallied in Havana for Posada's extradition, in what authorities billed as a "march against terrorism." Invited foreign guests also took part, including Daniel Ortega, general secretary of Nicaragua's Sandinista Liberation Front, and Giustino Di Celmo, father of Fabio Di Celmo, the Italian businessman who was murdered in 1997 when a bomb attributed to Posada's terror network exploded in a Havana hotel. (Granma, May 18)
There has been a second conviction in the Abu Ghraib torture scandal--once again of a low-ranking MP, Army Spc. Sabrina Harman. The media have made much of her conviction in a court martial at Fort Hood, TX, playing up quotes expressing her contrition and even humiliation. "As a soldier I failed in my duties and in my mission," Harman said (her voice cracking, as AP added). "Not only did I let down the people in Iraq, I let down every single soldier that serves today." (AP, May 17)
Seemingly forgotten are news accounts from a year earlier, when the scandal was just breaking, implying that Harman and her fellow MPs were following the lead of higher-ups in subjecting the prisoners at Abu Ghraib to torture and ritual humiliation. "They would bring in one to several prisoners at a time already hooded and cuffed," Harman wrote in an e-mail from Baghdad that was quoted in the Washington Post of May 8, 2004. "The job of the MP was to keep them awake, make it hell so they would talk."
The government and opposition protesters are sharply at odds in Uzbekistan days after the eastern city of Andijan exploded into violence. A May 15 AP report claimed some 500 bodies had been laid out in a school in Andijan for identification by relatives, "corroborating witness accounts of hundreds killed" when soldiers opened fire on street protests. Medical authorities also reported some 2,000 wounded in local hospitals. However, a May 18 account on Russia's MosNews.com quotes Uzbek officials denying this very death toll. “Not a single civilian was killed by government forces there," Prosecutor General Rashid Kadyrov said. According to him the overall death toll was 169 people, including 32 soldiers. Kadyrov claimed reports of 500 or even 700 dead are “deliberate attempts to deceive the international community." He assailed the protesters as "terrorists," "criminals" and "extremists."
Allegations in the May 9 Newsweek that U.S. military interrogators at Guantanamo Bay had abused a Koran, and even flushed one down a toilet, led to riots that left several dead in Afghanistan May 11. By the next day, protests had spread from Jalalabad (where they began) to Kabul, where a CARE office was ransacked, and several other cities across the country. Large, angry protests were also held in Pakistan, Indonesia, Gaza, Yemen and elsewhere around the Islamic world. (Reuters, May 13)
...the more they stay the same. Or, as Yogi Berra put it, its deja vu all over again. The recent arguing (on this blog and just about everywhere else) over Iraq and the neo-cons and the supposed hijacking of U.S. foreign policy by Israel--and particularly the inevitable invocation ofPat Buchanan in this context--has prompted me to dig out something I wrote back in the fall of 1990, in the prelude to Operation Desert Storm, the conflict that set the template for the current horrific world situation. Up until now, it has appeared nowhere in cyber-space--just in a crumbling hard copy in my personal files. I think it provides some useful insights to the origin of the current debate...
Well, Pat Buchanan (whose name came up in the recent unpleasantness over anti-Semitism on this blog) noted the 60th anniversary of VE Day in his own inimitable way: by asking in a May 11 opinion piece "Was WWII Worth It?" And, of course, by promptly answering his own question: "For Stalin, Yes." What is truly appalling is less that Buchanan has written this execrable piece of revisionism than that it was run (with no rebuttal) by AntiWar.com, which mysteriously continues to have credentials on the "left" even as it becomes more and more transparently linked to the populist right.
It is always a dilemma whether to risk legitimizing evil claptrap by stooping to argue with it. But given how Buchanan's poison is insidiously creeping into the supposed "left," a few responses are probably in order.