Tuesday 16th of August 2022

you’ve just gotta luuuuuve that US style democracy ……

‘Senior Shiite politicians said
today that the American ambassador has told Shiite officials to inform the
Iraqi prime minister that President Bush does not want him to remain the
country's leader in the next government. 

It is the first time the
Americans have directly intervened in the furious debate over the country's top
job, the politicians said, and it is inflaming tensions between the Americans
and some Shiite leaders. 

The ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad,
told the head of the main Shiite political bloc at a meeting last Saturday to
pass a "personal message from President Bush" on to the prime
minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, who the Shiites insist should stay in his post
for four more years, said Redha Jowad Taki, a Shiite politician and member of
Parliament who was at the meeting. 

Ambassador Khalilzad said that
President Bush "doesn't want, doesn't support, doesn't accept" Mr.
Jaafari to be the next prime minister, according to Mr. Taki, a senior aide to
Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, the head of the Shiite bloc. It was the first "clear
and direct message" from the Americans on the issue of the candidate for
prime minister, Mr. Taki said.’ 

Bush Wants Another
Regime Change in Iraq


meanwhile ….. 

‘In the
evolving debate on reforms, Arab intellectuals and common people continue to
emphasise the need for culture and region-specific democratic reforms in the
Middle East, and strongly oppose the imposition of Western models. 

the difficulty of implementing a Western tailor-made process without heeding
local and regional circumstances, Omro Hamzawi, senior fellow at the
Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said: ''The availability
of a democratic model that can be exported everywhere is nonsense and has no
moral credibility because of the U.S. tragedies and disasters in Iraq.''

said Hamzawi, ''is a popular demand in some countries (but) not so in the Gulf
region as the people don't suffer severe economic problems and have different
concerns.'' ''The situation here is completely different and each case should
be handled separately. Democracy is unacceptable if it affects the culture it
is meant to govern in a negative way.''’ 

After Iraq, Arabs Wary of
'Western' Democracy


and finally, from cartoon
corner …..

cub reporter, junior nero, breathlessly informs

"In fact, much of the
animosity & violence we now see is the legacy of Saddam Hussein. He is a
tyrant who exacerbated sectarian divisions to keep himself in power." 

To Get A Government

democracy is in the eye of the beholder .....

After issuing instructions to Iraq on how to run its fledgling democracy, "junior nero" then decided that the US wasn't going to deal with the new, democratically elected, Palestinian government ..... there are just so many democracies that an emperor can manage these days.

‘The US today banned its diplomats from having any contact
with the Hamas-led cabinet as it was sworn in by the Palestinian president,
Mahmoud Abbas.  

The directive, issued to US
officials in the region by email, bars them from communicating with Hamas-appointed
government ministers, whether they belong to the militant Islamic group or not,
US officials told Reuters.’

US Cuts
Diplomatic Ties With Hamas Government

With thanks to Gus for the cartoon. 



Something we've known for a long time

From the BBC

Iraq bases spur questions over US plans
By Becky Branford
BBC News

The US is spending millions of dollars upgrading a select few air bases
The Pentagon has requested hundreds of millions of dollars in emergency funds for military construction in Iraq, fanning the debate about US long-term intentions there.
The money will add to an existing bill of $1.3bn for military construction in the Middle East and South Asia - primarily Iraq and Afghanistan - in the last five years.

Much of the 2006 emergency funding is earmarked for beefing up security and facilities at just a handful of large airbases in Iraq.

This has prompted some to wonder whether the US has plans to maintain a permanent military presence - something the government has repeatedly denied.

But those concerned include the US House Appropriations Committee, which has demanded a "master plan" for base construction from the Pentagon before the money can be spent.

In a 13 March report accompanying the emergency spending legislation, it said the money was "of a magnitude normally associated with permanent bases".


Gus announces: From its own papers, the US administration let the cat out of the bag quite a long time ago. On this site, we did "announce" more than a year ago that the US was planning (read already in construction mode) four major permanent military bases in Iraq. This is why Gus has been claiming that the US is implanting itself in Iraq for at least 20 years if not 25... Whether it is for the good of the people (of Iraq and the world) or not this is debatable...

US choosing the chicken over the egg...

From the NY Times, rerad more at the NY Times

Hamas Criticizes Aid Cuts as It Assumes Power

Published: March 30, 2006
JERUSALEM, March 30 — As Hamas government ministers took over their new offices today, the group sharply criticized aid cuts that have been announced or threatened by Western countries.

In addition, the new interior minister, Said Siam, said Palestinian militants would not face arrest from the Palestinian police, who have occasionally detained them in the past.

Prime Minister Ismail Haniya and his cabinet, most of them members of Hamas, the radical Islamic group, were sworn in Wednesday and began working today from their new offices in Gaza City and in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Dr. Mahmoud Zahar, the new foreign minister who has a reputation for confrontational statements, said Wednesday night that the United States' decision not to provide assistance to a Palestinian Authority led by Hamas would further damage America's reputation in the region.

"America is committing big crimes against the Arab and Islamic countries," Dr. Zahar told The Associated Press in Gaza City. "This new decision will intensify the gap between the American people, American interests and the Middle East in general."

Constructing mythology

A couple of pretty good (short) essay at BitterLemons, on the need for political stability in Gaza.

Encouraging al-Qaeda

...But it is to suggest that the Palestinian arena is at a threshold: either political Islam, in the form of Hamas, has its way to some extent, especially after the January 25 elections, or the internal balance of forces in Palestine is drastically tipped, a development that would certainly pave the road for other Islamic groups, especially al-Qaeda, to penetrate the psychological and political fabric of the society. ...

Palestine, playground for Islamist actors

... After Hamas publicly endorsed the last suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, both Egypt and Jordan refused to meet with the PA's foreign minister, Mahmoud al-Zahar. More critically, Jordanian Prime Minister Marouf Bakheet accused Hamas of smuggling "rockets, explosives, and automatic rifles" from Syria. Jordan arrested members of the organization who received instructions from a Hamas leader in Syria and were planning to carry out attacks in the country. Hamas rejected the allegations as "outright brazen lies", but PA President Mahmoud Abbas seemed implicitly to accept their veracity by describing the charges as "shocking and dangerous". ...

A strong hint that the three recent appearances by Al-Qaeda leadership were intended to capitalise on meddling by the West. 

This paper from  looks at similar themes:
Problems of order, identity and justice in world politics: fighting terror and the role of external actors in fostering democracy abroad PDF file

I wonder about the nature of the tools used to recruit young people into extremist causes. It is one thing to send a katyusha rocket into a village in Israel, or to take on soldiers in a battle of arms. It must take a different approach altogether, a more insidious one, to convince a girl to murder others by converting her body into a walking bomb. So then, what sort of psychological tricks are used?

This may seem a long bow to stretch, but an article on the hunt for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker suggests some clues. A bit of background for non-birdwatchers: the Ivorybill was believed to be extinct, since the last authenticated sighting by the famous ornithologist Arthur Allen in the 1930s; to Australian birdos, the mythology of this American woodpecker is more powerful than that surrounding our own Night Parrot.

Lessons from 13 Ways of Looking at an Ivory-Billed Woodpecker

Trust in the expert:

... Then: "Ivory-bill!" Tippit urgently whispered from the back of the canoe. I looked ahead but saw nothing. I turned to see precisely where he was pointing. I whipped back around to see the final movements of a large dark bird disappearing like a black arrow into the dusky chill of the swamp. 

I knew the drill. To confirm the sighting, I asked Tippit to report to me precisely what he saw. As with any witness, it's important to set the interview down on paper as soon as possible. Tippit called out: "Two white panels on the back of the wings! It lit on that tree. It was large. Also saw it flying away from me with flashes of white." ...

The bondage of secrecy:

... During the question-and-answer period after a talk given by Sharon Stiteler, a perky, witty, smiling blonde who is the host of www.birdchick.com, I cut off a back-and-forth about bird feeders to ask her, "Have you seen an ivory-billed woodpecker?" It was as if I'd dropped a glass on the floor. The room went weirdly silent. The smile on Stiteler's face flickered away quick as a chickadee. "I am not allowed to comment on that," she said. "I was out with Cornell in December and had to sign a lot of confidentiality agreements." ...


... In April 2004, a compelling piece of evidence came in. A computer scientist named David Luneau was videotaping in the swamp when his camera, fixed in the canoe and focused on his colleague, captured a large black-and-white woodpecker in the background. The woodpecker was half-hidden by a tree and was startled before making an out-of-focus escape into the swamp. The tape lasts four seconds. Fitzpatrick and 16 colleagues slowed down the tape and concluded that the fuzzy white patches appeared in the right places. ...

Story creep:

... Jackson published a direct attack on Cornell's science in The Auk, a respected bird publication. He charged, among other things, that Gallagher's original sighting suffered from what might be called "story creep." Gallagher's book, published in May 2005, estimates his distance from the bird at "less than 80 feet." In the July 2005 issue of Audubon magazine, his wife wrote that it was "less than 70 feet." In an interview on "60 Minutes" in October, Gallagher said the bird was "about 65 feet away." At one news conference, Fitzpatrick observed that if Gallagher and Harrison had not shouted, the bird "might even have landed on the canoe." Jackson wrote: "Observations can become more and more 'real' with the passing of time, as we forget the minor details and focus inwardly on the 'important' memory." He characterized Cornell's science, memorably, as "faith-based ornithology." ...


 ... When I was out in the canoe with Bill Tippit in February, we were disturbed by some amateur birders nearby, loudly discussing their dinner plans. Tippit hammered the side of our canoe twice with his paddle: bam-bam. The woods went so totally quiet that I might have been able to hear the birders scratching down the notes of their encounter if it hadn't been for Tippit's chuckling. ...


... Gallagher also tells the story of a ghost-chaser named Mary Scott, who had an Arkansas sighting a year before Gene Sparling, the kayaker, and was the first person to alert Gallagher to Sparling's account. Scott is a former lawyer who in midlife took up residence in a yurt near her parents' house in Long Beach, Calif. On one birding expedition, Scott took along a friend who knew an "ivory-bill whisperer." With the clairvoyant on the cellphone, the search party learned that the bird wanted to be seen but was troubled by the group's "energy." Scott eventually wandered off by herself and, she says, saw the bird. In fact, Scott has seen the bird quite a lot, so much so that she is openly scorned by other birders. "I must admit," Gallagher nevertheless writes, "I had come to believe strongly in her sighting."

Trace back the involvement of the Department of the Interior, Cornell University, the Nature Conservancy and a half-dozen other groups on the ground, and you'll find that all of them, arguably, owe their presence in Arkansas to a tent-dwelling courthouse dropout taking her guidance from an ivory-bill whisperer on a cellphone. ...



... "For me, it was just a recipe for misconception," Sibley told me recently. He and other birders believe this expanding pool of people being let in on a secret sighting may well have fed a kind of groupthink, leading to wishful sightings. But could such a thing happen among birders? Actually, it turns out, it does happen. A lot. In Sibley's introductory book, "Sibley's Birding Basics" (published long before these sightings), he warns against "the overexcited birder" and "group hysteria." Sibley cites "one very well documented case in California" in which "the first state record of the Sky Lark (a Eurasian species) was misidentified for days, and by hundreds of people, as the state's first Smith's Longspur." ...

Foundation legend:

... We were just chatting when I asked Harrison if he could remember when he first got bit by ivory-bill fever.

"Oh, sure," he said, without pausing. "It was after reading Don Moser's article in Life magazine in 1972. I was 17 years old."

I had been hearing about this article — an account of a search for the ivory-bill — since the festival in February. Gallagher had mentioned it in his talk, and I noticed how often it came up in lunchtime chats with visiting birders. "I remember reading that Life magazine article," Fitzpatrick later told me. So I ordered the old magazine. From paragraph to paragraph, Moser's story quivers with melancholy and wistful longing, and as is typically found in Northern writing about the South, the author's prose goes all damp as he contemplates a landscape of things lost and, at twilight, almost found.

"If the question of its existence remains unanswered it will continue to range the back country of the mind," Moser wrote of the ivory-bill, "and those who wish to trail it there can find it in their visions."

"It's a funny thing about that magazine," Harrison said to me in the bog. "I cannot tell you how many people I stumble upon out here in the woods, and when we get to talking, I find out that they were inspired by the exact same article."...

Yearning for long-lost heritage:

... After the Civil War, when the South lay in smoldering ruins with no railroad or economy and with federal troops occupying many of those states until 1877, there were no jobs for the freed slaves or the poor whites living on the land. When Reconstruction ended, the Northern timber companies descended. "Some 200 million acres of forest were cut in about 30 or 40 years," Scott Simon of the Nature Conservancy told me. (At one talk at the festival, a conservationist put up a slide depicting the annihilated "range of the ivory-bill." It was essentially the Confederacy.) These primeval swamps and old-growth forests had been sheared into flat farmland by the time Allen and his party headed South to visit the last stand of virgin woods. ...

Basing hope on unverifiable observation:

... Back three miles in the bayou with Bobby Harrison, the swamp air got a bit awkward. "We heard a double knock," he said from the back of the canoe. "That is so exciting."

"Yeah, I heard it," I replied. Harrison brought up the double knock a half-dozen times on our way in. He was plumbing my level of enthusiasm. He was listening for that certain tremolo, the true believer's excitement. I was cradling Schrödinger's cat as delicately as possible. ...