Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter argues in a Jan. 25 piece for al-Jazeera that the so-called "Salvador Option" for Iraq has already been used. He writes that in the months after Paul Bremer took over the Coalition Provisional Authority in June 2003, "the streets of Baghdad crawled with scores of assassination squads." Dozens of Baathist leaders were rubbed out by the Iran-backed Badr militia, with the collaboration of the CIA and Pentagon Special Operations. The Badr militia was later reined in by Bremer as an unreliable proxy, but this unlikely alliance between radical Shi'ites and US military forces could be rebuilt.
The US is petitioning the UN Security Council not to prosecute Darfur war criminals--just another piece of Washington's ongoing campaign against the International Criminal Court, which could one day be used against US troops or political leaders. Meanwhile, a report by a five-person UN panel released Jan. 28 conveniently finds that while the Darfur violence is part of a government-orchestrated systematic campaign, it does not constitue "genocide". (IHT, Jan. 28) Just a day later, African Union peacekeepers reported that a Sudanese government airstrike on the Darfur village of Shangil Tobaya (40 miles south of El Fasher) left at least 100 civilians dead, and caused a thousand more to flee. Some 10,000 have fled violence in the Shangil Tobaya area in the past two weeks. (Boston Globe, Jan. 29) Pretty impolitic--you'd think the Khartoum butchers would have a better sense of timing. Then again, I guess they are entitled to their hubris, given how the whole world is giving them a blank check for butchery.
They did it again. On Jan. 24, the Supreme Court ruled 6-2 that police sending a drug-sniffing dog into a car in a traffic stop is constitutionally permissible, even in the absense of any evidence of drug use. The ruling reverses an Illinois Supreme Court decision in the case of Roy Cabelles, who was stopped for going six miles over the speed limit and now faces marijuana charges.
The recent slaying of a Coptic Christian family in New Jersey is being linked by many (on somewhat specious evidence) to Islamic extremists (typical headline: "Jihad in Jersey City"). An attempt by Newsday to shed some historical light on Coptic-Muslim tensions gets an E for Effort, but definitely not an A for Accuracy, prompting me to write the following letter (published in the Jan. 26 edition):
I generally like Hobsbawm, but there has always been a contradiction in his
works between his enthusiasm for the ultra-democratic movements of the
English Civil War (Diggers, Levellers, etc.) and his allegiance to the
British Marxist soft-on-Russia crowd. This piece reflects that ambivalence,
and CAN be interpreted as a defense of the nasty dictatorships the US has
used as an excuse to go to war (Saddam, Milosevic, etc.). Better to point
out that Bush's purported championing of "democracy"--as he erodes voting
rights, suspends habeas corpus, unleashes sweeping police powers--is an
Orwellian abuse of the English language. (But then those British Marxist
types never did like Orwell.)
America's own homegrown Mickey Maoists, the Revolutionary Communist Party, have found their latest cause celebre in the Maoist insurgency in Nepal (see their special report). Meanwhile, a new Amnesty International report takes both the guerillas and government forces to task for killings, torture and rape of non-combatants. The report notes that the Tharu and Magar ethnic minorities have been especially targeted for government reprisals. Currently, India and the US are the two biggest military aid providers to Nepal. While the US Congress has passed a law making military aid to Nepal dependent on the army cooperating with the National Human Rights Commission, India is yet to take any such step. Clashes continued last week, leaving several dead in the eastern Ilam district, BBC reports. The war has claimed 10,000 lives since it began in 1995.
It has hardly made international headlines, but there has been a wave of bombings at Spanish resorts by ETA in recent months--not claiming any lives, but causing several injuries and wreaking some property damage. Now the Basque regional government is pushing an autonomy plan that stops just barely short of full independence in a bid to appease the separatists. Catalonia, following the Pais Vasco's lead, is also pressing for near-independence. In reaction, the Franco-nostalgists are coming out of the woodwork...
Baluchi guerillas shut down Pakistan's top gas field with rocket attacks on the pipeline. Why is nobody paying attention?
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Supplies from Pakistan's main gas field have been fully restored, officials said on Saturday 11 days after a bloody attack by militant tribesmen seeking greater autonomy forced the field to be shut down.