Thursday, May 27, 2004

Salvadoran political blogger, musician....

Markos Moulitsas Zúniga is Chicago-born (eerily, on Sept. 11, precisely thirty years before the 9/11), but spent the 1970s in El Salvador until 1980, when his family fled due to the civil war. One of his heroes is Archbishop Oscar Romero, along with Cesar Chávez and his late father.

He's the blogger responsible for Daily Kos (political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation). But Zúniga is not just blogging for his friends--his site is consistently rated one of the top two or three political blogs, and shows up in the top 50 blogs to be found anywhere on the internet (well, okay, we all think the US is the center of the universe.)

Also of great importance, the guy has time to write his own music for piano. He has a couple of dozen songs posted in MP3 format here. I´ve listened to a couple, and they're quite good, in that meditative, New Agey genre (at least, what I've heard so far.) Hey, I used to sing in the Texas Boys Choir with Danny Wright, so my opinion should count for something!

More on the Zogby poll

I should have noted in that last post that this was a Zogby Interactive poll, and that I lifted the results from the Wall Street Journal.

John wrote to tell me that a prominent political blogger, Kos, has said that this poll is conducted on the internet and should be taken with a huge grain of salt. You can register yourself here. Further research turned up this note from MSNBC on the phenomenon of online polling, and I note that Harris also has an "interactive" (code for online) polling system as well.

Finally, I read the background on their method at the Zogby site, and found that this, the first in a series of polls on battleground states for the 2004 presidential elections, reflects a qualitative improvement over previously done online polling efforts (which they've been doing since 1998):

How about the issue of how representative internet polls are? First, let’s understand that what we are doing at Zogby Interactive is very different than simply posting a question of the day and asking people to vote. Instead, we have spent the past six years collecting tens of thousands of email addresses, complete with demographic, behavioral, geographic, and attitudinal data on each person who has registered to be part of our internet surveys. We send an email to a sampling of tens of thousands of these addresses and invite them to visit a secure website to complete a poll. Each individual receives a secure link. These emails have been updated, cleaned, and validated over and over through the years. We have been testing many of our interactive surveys against our telephone surveys and have found growing correspondence – actually, in most cases, within 1 percent – between the results. In addition, we have been using our telephone call center to validate a sampling of our interactive respondents to ensure that they are who they say they are.
There's more, but in short it sounds like something we should not automatically rule out.

Another interesting tidbit is that Zogby did a poll last year in Iraq, the results of which were twisted by (surprise, surprise) VP Dick Cheney. I found this op-ed in the Guardian from last year, written by another Zogby, the brother of polling founder John Zogby, James, who's president of the Arab American Institute, who took Cheney to task (no, the Iraqis are not really happy with the US presence, Dick...)

On the poverty draft

Both Lynndie England and Jessica Lynch are from small towns in West Virginia, and issues of class are gaining more attention. Philip Weiss of the New York Observer notes that “there is something condescending and unconvincing about the portrayals of the poor people who are fighting the war for the rest of us.” He also writes:

The poverty draft reflects the great divide in the new economy. The college-educated would regard it as a waste if their children were to join the military. No, they must be trained to the highest degree for participation in the global economy. Meanwhile, high risk can be outsourced, to the new immigrant from Guatemala or the ghetto kid who can’t find employment….

There’s got to be a better way to define citizenship. Representative Rangel served (and froze) in Korea, and while he didn’t see the mission that time either, he has never forgotten the democratic lessons the military taught him: "We had the ability then to bring people of different classes and races together, and force their asses to respect each other."

The Iraq war has replaced that sense of a democratic collective with disrespect for those who can’t participate in the new economy. And don’t think that the citizens of Arab oligarchies don’t see that. We like to think that we’re exporting democracy. So far we’re exporting ruthless capitalism.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Good news from the latest Zogby poll

Thursday, May 20, 2004

On the "will of the people"



There were many problems with the past elections, but most of them had to do with the excesses in the campaign, not with election day itself. So why, two days before the election, did Schafik Handal along with the other presidential candidates sign a joint declaration promising to "respect the legitimate will of the people expressed in the results of the elections," only now to decide that they were in fact illegitimate and illegal?

ARENA takes out a very measured ad today that, in part, reproduces that document, inviting the FMLN to participate in the swearing in of president-elect Tony Saca.

Meanwhile, the FMLN fraction in the assembly last night debated whether to attend or not, despite the fact that the National Convention "ordered" all deputies not to attend. The debate went until midnight, and 12 of the 31 deputies (those considered "reformistas") voted to attend. But the majority won, so they will not attend.

For those who might be interested, among the dozen reformistas are Arnoldo Bernal, Héctor Córdova, Celina de Monterrosa, Hugo Martínez, Ileana Rogel and Gerson Martínez. Among the more prominent members of the ortodoxos are Walter Durán, Manuel Melgar, Violeta Menjívar, Salvador Arias, and of course Schafik Handal and Salvador Sánchez Cerén.

Meanwhile, the leading reformista, Santa Tecla mayor Oscar Ortiz, continues to believe that there's hope for reform within the FMLN, and says we still have to wait until the general election for new leadership on November 7th. In an interview today, he said that Sunday's convention doesn't mean anything, that they won't be silenced, and that the FMLN cannot continue with caudillos.

The positive side of all this open dissent is precisely that it is open. However, it remains to be seen what the fate will be of those who are now openly critical of the current leadership.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

¡Long live Castro!

According to this report in the Sydney Morning Herald, there's a conference in Havana these days on "satisfactory longevity." You see, Cuba actually has one of the highest rates of life expectancy in Latin America (76.6 years) which is just below that of the United States (77.4 years), according to the CIA World Factbook.



So Castro's physician, Dr. Eugenio Selman Housein -- who believes "people are capable of living five times the number of years it takes for the human body to fully grow - which he said is around 25 years" -- told the audience that Castro is not only in excellent health, but that he can live at least 140 years.

Hmmm... I wonder how long it will take for this little bit of "news" to filter down to Schafik Handal, who's always looking for good reasons to praise the wonders of Cuba. And I'm sure, as a devout follower of Castro, Schafik also feels entitled to the same rights of longevity -- and control of the FMLN party apparatus.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Quote of the Day

Dissenting voices in the FMLN

"There's something that is powerfully striking about the reasoning of Schafik, which characterizes these elections as illegal or illegitimate, and which considers Saca to be illegal or illegitimate. As a citizen or as a party member, I ask myself: Why, when Francisco Flores won, were those elections not defined as illegal or illegitimate? Why, when Calderon Sol won, were those elections not defined as illegal or illegitimate? Why are the current elections now illegal? Because he was the candidate. We're operating under very personal opinions of Schafik. No, that's not the way to run the party."

--Ileana Rogel, FMLN deputy to the Assembly, from an interview today in La Prensa Gráfica. Today's paper notes that a sizeable group of FMLN legislators are seriously considering defying the FMLN conventions' mandate that they not attend the swearing-in ceremony of the new president on June 1.

Monday, May 17, 2004

The FMLN's future: it's easy to read the writing on the walls



I've been skeptical all along whether Ortiz and the other "reformistas" of the FMLN would be able to make much headway between now and November, when there are elections for the new leadership of the FMLN. Now, with the results of yesterday's national convention, it seems like the die has been tossed. The "ortodoxos" will maintain control of the party apparatus, and normal channels of internal democratic dissent will not be tolerated.

The convention was held principally to elect a terna of three candidates to be sent to the Legislative Assembly, which will then choose the FMLN representative to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (note: the top three parties in the presidential election get to choose a magistrate, and the Supreme Court designates the other two.) Most prominently, Julio Hernandez, a TSE magistrate for the past five years, and one of the most outspoken critics of the TSE itself during that period, was up for re-election. But also running was Eugenio Chicas, who managed the presidential campaign of Schafik Handal.

Remember that Hernandez had walked out of the meeting of the Political Council just one day after the FMLN's defeat, quite upset apparently that the FMLN was not going to be self-critical at all about the original sin of having put up Schafik Handal as its candidate. Well, as it turns out, instructions were given to delegates to vote for everyone but Hernandez, and he got the lowest vote of four candidates (143 out of 388 who attended), and Chicas came out on top with 245 votes.

480 delegates were able to attend the convention, but in days prior, some 187 delegates had been purged from the roster, a move which Hernández himself had protested before the Ethics Tribunal of the FMLN last Friday, saying that it had been illegal. If you do the math, less than 60% of the roster of members who had--up until a few days ago--been eligible to participate, actually ended up voting on Sunday. René Canjura, the FMLN mayor of Nejapa, among others, also protested the earlier purge.

Even more revealing, however, was the "unanimous" approval by the party faithful of an FMLN document that explained away the presidential loss, blaming a poor communication strategy as the principal internal factor, and the intervention of the U.S. as the prime external factor. I'm sure this latter move is popular with the orthodox base, but it's quite far-fetched. It was ARENA's overwhelming economic resources and nasty tactics that contributed far more to the FMLN's defeat--the U.S. played into that, but it's a stretch to say they were the principal cause.

Schafik also entered a motion to prohibit all FMLN officials from attending the swearing in ceremony of Tony Saca as president on June 1, calling his presidency "illegal" and "illegitimate". When Hernández and Oscar Ortiz tried to criticize this effort as an "error" and "inopportune", they were roundly booed by sizeable portions of the audience. Leonel Gonzalez, the FMLN coordinator who was running the event, did nothing to intervene, and in fact told the audience after Ortiz's intervention not be tempted by such "provocations." Even Nidia Diaz called for some reflection on this point--since deputies are invited not as members of their respective parties, but as deputies elected to serve the entire population--but such words of caution were for naught. The motion was approved, setting the tone for the kind of posturing we can expect from the FMLN for years to come.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Terrorists, Torture and the Media

Following up on yesterday's entry, it's worth noting that, in the New York section of the New York Times today, there's an article today suggesting that the Iraqi photos also torment the estimated 400,000 survivors of foreign torture living in the United States, both by the fact that the country which provided them safe haven might also engage in such practices, as well by the photos themselves.

Another angle on this debate has to do with the media's responsibility vis-a-vis the use by terrorist organizations of gruesome images, like the recent beheading of Berg on video. Juan Cole's latest blog entry cites a thoughtful article by Matthew B. Stannard in the San Francisco Chronicle on Thursday.

While focusing on the Berg murder, it also highlights the important debate about how the "American media have yet to come to grips with their strange relationship with terrorists, according to the experts. Several commended the careful thought and soul-searching at a number of publications and broadcast outlets that preceded their publicizing the video images and the Abu Ghraib photos."

The last part of the article elaborates on this issue:

But Brigitte Nacos, adjunct professor of political science at Columbia University in New York, said the media also needed to recognize that terrorists were using them to get their message across, to spread fear and to recruit members.

"Terrorism, as I see it, is communications," said Nacos. "Without the media communicating what they want to say, terrorism doesn't really make sense."

She said the media have the responsibility to report on such events in an informative way. But for her, the key question is how much is enough -- from no mention at all to the repetition of identical disturbing images that characterized coverage of Sept. 11, Abu Ghraib and now the death of Nick Berg.

"I'm not saying the traditional media ought not to report on this," she said. "My concern is ... once you have reported it, especially on television, it is played and replayed, and I think that magnifies the impact. I think that there has to be some restraint. I'm not talking about censorship ... but there probably is a limit where you say that's enough."

Opinion on where the media should draw that line varied among the experts.

Nacos commended the New Yorker magazine for illustrating its most recent article on the Abu Ghraib scandal with just one photo -- and not the most ghastly one it had available.

Cole, who writes the influential Web log "Informed Comment," said the benchmark should be the number of people affected by an individual terrorist act -- a formula that he said should have relegated the video story to two paragraphs well inside a daily newspaper.

"(Berg's slaying) was done in order to get on the front page of the New York Times, and the New York Times should resist that temptation," he said. "I think we should be very careful about giving a lot of space and a lot of attention to what is essentially a monstrous, horrendous publicity stunt."


But other experts said the American media had a responsibility to cover the video in a significant yet proportionate way -- even if that meant risking being used by the terrorists to further their agenda.

"It's a reality," Walsh said. "The kidnapping and murdering and bombings are the reality of what is happening on the ground in Iraq. To hide that would be the greater mistake."
No one seems to complain about the fact that the 909 state-sponsored executions that have taken place in the U.S. since 1976 have not been shown live on primetime television, just as the dead bodies of the executed have not graced the covers of newsmagazines and papers.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Transparency vs. the Geneva Conventions?

It’s a sad day—or a day when we should think about rewriting international humantarian law—when Donald Rumsfeld is the first person to point out publicly what constitutes a violation of the Geneva Conventions.

I hate to admit this, but Rummy is consistent on at least one point in this whole nasty scandal surrounding the pictures of Iraqi photos: for the U.S. government to show them publicly would be a violation. Last year, that was the U.S. complaint against video footage of Iraqi interrogation of GIs who’d been taken prisoner---although at least these guys had their clothes on.

According to a story from AP published in the Boston Globe, the International Committee of the Red Cross agrees:

GENEVA (AP) The international Red Cross agreed Thursday with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that the Geneva Conventions on warfare forbid the U.S. government from distributing photographs showing Iraqi detainees being humiliated or abused.

"He has a good point," said Antonella Notari, spokeswoman of the International Committee of the Red Cross. "The dignity of the people who are detained has to be respected at all times."

The conventions, which spell out the internationally agreed rules on the treatment of detainees during warfare, ban exposing prisoners of war to "public curiosity."
I started musing about this earlier today, before I even realized that Rumsfeld had mentioned this, and wondered why the media and human rights groups have not picked up on this angle. The answer is probably because it was the circulation of these photos—and perhaps only that—which has led to increased scrutiny, and hopefully policy changes, over prisoner interrogation techniques in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Geneva Conventions, of course, only apply to the “parties to a conflict”, so the media cannot violate them, and so far I'm not sure the U.S. has officially released any photos. But if the intent of these norms is that it is unlawful to humiliate people under your control, then why is no one responsible for the continued humiliation of these prisoners throughout the world through continued proliferation of these images?

Do the principles of transparency and accountability trump the Geneva Conventions here?

Outrage to the 3rd Degree

This is a letter from a childhood friend (who I've known since I was seven years old), who eloquently expresses outrage at Sen. Inhofe's outrage at everyone else's outrage.

Dear Senator Inhofe,

I saw on TV where you claimed to be "outraged over the outrage" over the sadistic abuse of Iraqi prisoners, so I thought I would explain to you why so many Americans see the scandal differently from you.

Even if you don't hold religious beliefs that mistreating your fellow man is morally wrong and indefensible before God, and even if you don't see that cowardly cruelty against those unable to defend themselves is sick, there is still a simple, basic reason to treat our prisoners decently that even a child can understand. It's so the other side will be encouraged to do the same with our people whom they capture! Good old-fashioned self-interest, in other words. What else do you think motivated the nations of the world to get together and hammer out the Geneva Conventions? Soft-hearted altruism? A pie-in-the-sky idealistic dream? No. They were all just trying to protect their own guys.

Now, if any Americans are captured, they're screwed. It's possible that their captors will not torture them, but if they do, we as a nation no longer have any grounds to complain, not in the eyes of the rest of the world. The United States has just lost its moral high ground on this issue. Now do you get it?

Yours truly,

Paul Tullis
Ft. Worth, Texas

The CIA, Torture and the Guatemalan precedent

Veteran CIA operative and writer Bob Bauer talks to Salon this week about his experience with torture, saying that it was strictly forbidden during the time he served (1976-1998). He says 9/11 must have changed all that, and points to Guatemala as a good example of what happened to agents who even failed to report cases of torture:

Remember those two guys in Guatemala [CIA agents Terry Ward and Frederick Brugger]? They were running the Guatemalan colonel who was alleged to have been involved in the torture and death of the husband of an American woman, Jennifer Harbury. That's a key case that people have forgotten. Those guys weren't even involved. But they didn't report it quickly enough, and Sen. Bob Torricelli of New Jersey leaked it to the papers. Administratively they didn't report it, and these guys were forced to retire. That's how serious it was, torture. And the colonel wasn't even involved, as it turned out.
And what if Torricelli hadn't leaked this to the press?

Or, if the Pentagon hadn't leaked the photos from Iraq to the press?

Last year, our prez stated on United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture that "notorious human rights abusers, including, among others, Burma, Cuba, North Korea, Iran, and Zimbabwe, have long sought to shield their abuses from the eyes of the world by staging elaborate deceptions and denying access to international human rights monitors."

The only thing keeping the U.S. from joining that illustrious list of countries is the existence of a few lone leakers.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

More on the ICRC report

I'm sure I've missed something somewhere, but there remains one thing that no Washington journalist has allowed themselves to speculate about, at least in print: who leaked the ICRC report?

I suspect it was someone at the State Department who wanted to stick it to their arch-rivals at the Pentagon. Dana Priest implicitly allowed for this possibility when she mentioned in her online chat at the Post website this week that, regarding the ICRC report, the "State Department got theirs through a back channel. So, yes, many people in the USG knew of their allegations."

Joshua Micah Marshall notes as well: "I've been hearing for days that the State Department at the highest levels (i.e., not a few lefty FSOs in the bureaucracy, but authorized at the highest levels) has been leaking like crazy against the civilian leadership of the Pentagon on this story."

By the way, I've still only noticed one reference to the unprecedented nature of the leak of this report, from the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty website, of all places. In addition to a discussion of the reasons behind the ICRC's confidentiality, this story notes that this is "one of the only confidential ICRC documents to be made public since the Geneva-based agency was founded 145 years ago."


The sovereignty question

A report out today on the "handover of sovereignty" in Iraq, from the Wall Street Journal, is worth quoting at length:

In a series of edicts issued earlier this spring, Mr. Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority created new commissions that effectively take away virtually all of the powers once held by several ministries. The CPA also established an important new security-adviser position, which will be in charge of training and organizing Iraq's new army and paramilitary forces, and put in place a pair of watchdog institutions that will serve as checks on individual ministries and allow for continued U.S. oversight. Meanwhile, the CPA reiterated that coalition advisers will remain in virtually all remaining ministries after the handover.

In many cases, these U.S. and Iraqi proxies will serve multiyear terms and have significant authority to run criminal investigations, award contracts, direct troops and subpoena citizens. The new Iraqi government will have little control over its armed forces, lack the ability to make or change laws and be unable to make major decisions within specific ministries without tacit U.S. approval, say U.S. officials and others familiar with the plan.

The moves risk exacerbating the two biggest problems bedeviling the U.S. occupation: the reluctance of Iraqis to take responsibility for their own country and the tendency of many Iraqis to blame the country's woes on the U.S.

Nechirvan Barzani, who controls the western half of the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq, warns that the U.S. presence in the country will continue to spark criticism and violence until Iraqis really believe they run their own country. For his part, Mr. Abadi, the communications minister, says that installing a government that can't make important decisions essentially "freezes the country in place." He adds, "If it's a sovereign Iraqi government that can't change laws or make decisions, we haven't gained anything."


Tuesday, May 11, 2004

"Yes" men in Iraq, and El Salvador

Frank Smyth has a column in the May 5th Newsday that notes the U.S. tendency to promote like-minded rulers in its adventures abroad. He writes:

How did we end up in such a fix in Iraq? We did what we have long done abroad: We sought out not the foreigners whom we still need to work with, but the exiles who were most like us.

He notes that in El Salvador the U.S. chose José Napoleón Duarte (who even went so far as to write his autobiography in English for U.S. consumption--and as far as I know, it's never been published in Spanish), and in Iraq increasingly discredited figures like Ahmed Chalabi.

A colleague read this story and commented:

At least we agree on the lessons learned about exile communities and their tendency to sell highly questionable versions of reality on the ground either because they have been gone so long they don't know or because they have their own vested interests. My own reflections have run more towards the bay of pigs ( another fine mess exiles led us into) than to Duarte, but the lesson is the same.

Of course, we could continue the comparison and discuss one of the biggest "yes" men in the hemisphere, outgoing President Paco Flores....

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Monday, May 10, 2004

An exemplary mother



There's a story in Sunday's Vertice about Santos Valentina, the 34-year-old mother of two children, who struggles to support her family. She was born without legs, and washes clothes for a few bucks a day. Her champa has no water or electricity, and she often goes hungry. More photographs and narrative can be found at the website of Vertice.

The costs of war

Compare your state's investment in the Iraq war with what would have been an equivalent investment in housing, education, or health, at this site.

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Darby: You can't go home again



Young Joseph Darby, a car mechanic from the 372nd Military Police Company who is responsible for bring to light the photos of Iraqi prisoner abuse, needs a job.

Newsday reported yesterday that, in nearby Cumberland, Md., where many of the 372nd members live, Darby is now a controversial figure. "Darby's going to be shunned," said Tanya Vargas, 29, a former weekend reservist with the 372nd. "He's going to be blackballed. His life is in jeopardy, because he's a snitch. I hope they have protection for him." The same Newsday piece interviews military police who'd served in Iraq, who claim that they'd warned superiors about problems going back to April 2003.

There's also a feature on Darby on Friday's All Things Considered, which notes that one Vietnam veteran from Cumberland said that, in Vietnam, if someone had snitched like that, he wouldn't have come home alive.

Depressing.

Friday, May 07, 2004

'Cooks and drivers were working as interrogators'

An excerpt from this story by Julian Borger in today's Guardian:

Many of the prisoners abused at the Abu Ghraib prison were innocent Iraqis picked up at random by US troops, and incarcerated by under-qualified intelligence officers, a former US interrogator from the notorious jail told the Guardian.

Torin Nelson, who served as a military intelligence officer at Guantánamo Bay before moving to Abu Ghraib as a private contractor last year, blamed the abuses on a failure of command in US military intelligence and an over-reliance on private firms. He alleged that those companies were so anxious to meet the demand for their services that they sent "cooks and truck drivers" to work as interrogators.

"Military intelligence operations need to drastically change in order for something like this not to happen again," Mr Nelson said. He spoke to the Guardian in a series of interviews by phone and email.

He claimed that "many of the detainees at the prison are actually innocent of any acts against the coalition and are being held until the bureaucracy there can go through their cases and verify their need to be released."

"One case in point is a detainee whom I recommended for release and months later was still sitting in the same tent with no change in his status."

Mr Nelson said that the same systemic problems were also responsible for large numbers of Afghans being mistakenly swept into Guantánamo Bay. He estimated that "30-40%" of the inmates at the controversial prison camp had no connection to terrorism.

"There are people who should never have been sent over there. I was involved in the process of reviewing people for possible release and I can say definitely that they should have been released and released a lot sooner," he said....

There is no evidence of abuses on the scale of Abu Ghraib being committed at Guantánamo Bay, but Mr Nelson said that like the Iraqi jail, it was packed with innocent people, who are only now being released.

"Mistakes were made and people who should never have been sent there ended up there, and it's taken this amount of time to get people to take the decision to get these people out of there," Mr Nelson said.

"All it takes is the signature of a low ranking NCO to send someone right around the world and have them locked up indefinitely but it takes the signature of the secretary of defence to let them go."


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Saturday, May 01, 2004

The troubles this week



I haven't sat down yet to analyze the takeover of the Cathedral, and subsequent street chaos and arrests, this week by the STISS--apparently done to protest the firing of health sector workers in contravention of a union-government agreement last year--but I do have a few initial reactions.

For the few people with whom I've spoken, the ends simply do not seem to justify the means. These militant tactics don't have the popular appeal they might have had, say, 20 years ago, and if anyone thinks they do... well, they might do well to start talking to their neighbors.

You can click here to get a sense of some of the images of the week (go down and click on "Una tarde de violencia.") If you want the FMLN response, which refers to the "neofascist government" of ARENA, issued in time for the May 1st celebration of labor day, click here: fmlnmay1.doc

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Getting out of Iraq

David Corn interviews Ambassador Joseph Wilson (the last acting U.S. ambassador to Iraq), and poses to him the question of what "should be done in the coming weeks and months." Wilson's response: he says, "Given the way the situation is deteriorating, if we don't get our arms around it pretty quickly, the debate is going to turn serious over the question of abandoning the whole project."

And then Wilson mentions a former NSA chief who's already in that camp:

For example, retired general William Odom, the former chief of the National Security Agency, is now advocating getting out of Iraq and leaving it to the Europeans to get more involved. In a way, I like that as a negotiating position. You say this so the Europeans come to realize that their interests are at stake. We need to have a new sense that collective, international interests are at stake in Iraq. I've always thought the Europeans would eventually recognize that their interests are in play in Iraq. Still, they need to be encouraged to participate fully in the reconstruction. We have not done that. And there are a number of things that need to be done. We need to offer them a significant place at the table. Senator Joe Biden has talked about a multilateral board of directors for Iraq under a general U.N. rubric, bringing together countries that are prepared to put their military and economic assets into play.

(cursor.org has more links today to stories about Odom.)

Gen. Zinni, on the other hand, in the interview I cited earlier today, makes it clear from a military perspective as to why they can't just cut and run--not because it would be bad for Iraqis, but because the troops would be more vulnerable to attack as their force level dwindles: "At the point where you have, let's say, 30,000 U.S. troops in there, they may be far more vulnerable than they are obviously now."

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Ten Stories the World Should Hear More About

IPS reports that yesterday U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Public Information Shashi Tharoor decried the international press' single-minded attention to stories like those on Iraq, while neglecting others, more positive in nature, that deserved important attention.

In Tharoor's view, the press seems to have adopted the notion that "good news is no news." These are the top ten under-reported stories, according to the UN:

--Uganda: Child soldiers at centre of mounting humanitarian crisis
--Central African Republic: a silent crisis crying out for help
--AIDS orphans in sub-Saharan Africa: a looming threat to future generations
--The peacekeeping paradox: as peace spreads, surge in demand strains UN resources
--Tajikistan: rising from the ashes of civil war
--Women as peacemakers: from victims to re-builders of society
--Persons with disabilities: a treaty seeks to break new ground in ensuring equality
--Bakassi Peninsula: Recourse to the law to prevent conflict
--Overfishing: a threat to marine biodiversity
--Indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation

Not surprisingly, this was a non-story for both the New York Times and the Washington Post.

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Quote of the Day

"I'll give you my hopeful formula to get out of [Iraq]. But every day and every decision makes it worse. The first thing you do when you find yourself in a hole is stop digging. They seem to continue to dig. This 'stay the course' idea is wonderful except the course is leading us over Niagara Falls."

--Gen. Anthony Zinni, former Commander in chief of U.S. Central command and Bush envoy to the Middle East, in a frank and revealing interview in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The whole piece is worth a good look. For example, what should we have done instead of invade Iraq? Zinni: "...containment worked with the Soviet Union, the Cubans, the North Koreans, thus far. Containment was done at very low cost. In Centcom, in my time there when we had the dual containment policy, there were less troops on a day-to-day basis in the entire theater than than report to work at the Pentagon every day...."

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