Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Two stories in Basra, Loyal Opposition, Iran and Europe, Rita and on and on

Basra police station raid, and unrest in the South of Iraq

More on that baffling British raid in Basra on Iraqi police, and apparently militiamen -- though that distinction is tough to draw.

The police station raid was a diversion, reports the Times of London. The actual operation was an SAS push into a safe house for militia members. The action-adventure scene:

AN SAS team used the noise of armoured vehicles bulldozing their way through a nearby police compound to mask the raid that freed their comrades.
The rescuers, from the same squad as the captives, blew out the doors and windows of the smart suburban villa with plastic explosive and hurled stun grenades at the militiamen guarding the two undercover soldiers.

A short, intense burst of automatic gunfire was heard before the men were freed and their captors were seen being dragged away, hoods over their heads and their hands tied behind their backs.

Neighbours said the entire operation took only a couple of minutes while attention was focused a hundred yards away on the army’s invasion of the main Jamiat police compound.

And how the Iraqi police are portrayed in this report:

The soldiers had been beaten and rogue policemen had been touring the area with loudhailers urging demonstrators on to the streets to protest that the “British saboteurs” had been planning explosions in the city which would be blamed on followers of Moqtada al-Sadr, the Shia cleric.

The Iraqi police protest the raid, New York Times. The protests in the streets scene:

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Sept. 21 - Iraqi police officers led an angry demonstration today in the southern city of Basra to protest a British raid on an Iraqi police station earlier in the week, as Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari made a joint appearance in London with Britain's defense secretary to try to defuse tensions over the incident.

About 200 people, mostly officers who work in the police station that was damaged in the raid, rallied outside Basra's police headquarters, demanding an official apology from Britain and the resignation of Basra's police chief, Hassan Sawadi, Iraqi officials said.

The Iraqi police side of the story:

But the details of the raid and its origins remained murky, with British and Iraqi officials continuing to offer different accounts. British commanders have said the Iraqi police handed the men over to Shiite militia members, who largely control the Iraqi police and military in Basra.

On Wednesday, Iraq's Interior Minister, Bayan Jabr, disputed that, telling the BBC that the British soldiers were never handed over. A spokesman for Muhammad al Waili, the governor of Basra province, said the same thing in a telephone interview, adding that the British "are claiming that to justify their illegal behavior."

The impact on British policy in Iraq will be drastic. Not only does it show how out of control the southern part of Iraq is, how volatile the situation remains, but it also undermines the appeasement strategy of the British forces. A heavier hand, however, may not be a viable option.

The lede in the Guardian:

For some at Westminster, the dramatic events in Basra on Monday were a sure sign that Iraq is sliding towards civil war. For other, more sanguine voices, it was no worse than a busy night in Belfast.

According to Mohammad al-Waili, the governor of Basra province, the British army mounted a "barbaric, savage and irresponsible" raid on a police station. On the contrary, said Brigadier John Lorimer, commander of British troops in the region, Iraqi police had flouted the law in an "unacceptable" fashion, and two captured soldiers needed to be rescued.

Wonderful, a Belfast analogy. How many eyes rolled on that one? And, look: more evidence of "dual sovereignty"

The article does afford some interesting reading. But, the soft-step approach of British military policy in the South has crumbled -- either that was deliberate or circumstances got out of British control. Who enjoys that control? The article hints at Moqtada al Sadr:

What was clear last night was that the trust between the British army and Iraqi police - whom the British helped to train - has largely broken down. Many of the 7,000 Iraqi police in Basra are now said to owe allegiance not to the state, but to the mosque. According to some estimates, at least half will take orders from Moqtada al-Sadr, a radical Shia cleric.

Sadr's forces in the region are the focus of an article in the Christian Science Monitor:

In a dramatic battle against British forces in Basra, Mr. Sadr quickly mobilized scores of supporters to descend on tanks, setting at least one alight and injuring three British soldiers on Monday.

The Loyal Opposition

Howard Kurtz' "notes" today provide some segue from Iraq-heavy news to U.S. politics:

What's emerging is a Democratic critique of the Bush years that uses the hurricane as a metaphor for other administration shortcomings. Ordinarily, I'd say, the danger is that the Dems will propose so many expensive programs that they'll be Velcro'd with the old tax-and-spend label. But with the president making clear he'll spend whatever it takes in the Gulf region--make that both Gulf regions--the borrow-and-spend Republicans are giving them plenty of competition.

One reason for this remark, or one excerpt, comes from John Kerry:

"Brownie is to Katrina what Paul Bremer is to peace in Iraq, what George Tenet is to slam-dunk intelligence, what Paul Wolfowitz is to parades paved with flowers in Baghdad, what Dick Cheney is to visionary energy policy, what Donald Rumsfeld is to basic war planning, what Tom DeLay is to ethics and what George Bush is to 'Mission Accomplished' and 'Wanted Dead or Alive.'"

Of course, the problem with the Democrats remains their unwillingness to seize on the vulnerability of the president and the uneasiness of fiscal conservatives to actually propose something progressive and positive. There are, much like in the initial stages of a primary campaign, fits and starts. But, the Dems are not presenting a compelling or united message.

What you see from Kerry -- God forbid he tries to run again in 2008 -- is clever stump speech that feeds (only) the party base delicious political meats and cheeses. However, the Dems are not providing policy ideas; we just see clever little quips about the past -- some involving former administration members, as if they are relevant moving forward! Notice how those names are MoveOn's Most Hated as well.


The Democrats couldn't even get much momentum behind Reid's odd opposition to Roberts -- Reid is from a Red State and he is pro-life. Leahy comes out in support of Roberts and that leads the Roberts' coverage on the nightly news (at least on ABC).

There is more momentum behind a Katrina Kommission, reports the Christian Science Monitor. That is something that ought to worry the administration, unless of course they pause and remember that it is up to the Democrats to force this.

Allan Sloan of Newsweek uses the same phrase that Howard Kurtz does: Borrow and Spend.

Not so in Washington, where Republicans' borrow and spend has replaced Democrats' tax and spend.

The fact that Congress is preparing to cut a variety of taxes by up to $90 billion over five years at the same time Katrina is going to send spending to the moon is living proof of that. What are the government's priorities? Who can say, given that Congress is planning to help pay for those cuts by trimming social programs like Medicaid and food stamps by $35 billion over five years, even as President Bush is pledging to spend what it takes to help poor people affected by Katrina.

Hey, Democrats, they're giving you a clever line!

Beyond that line, which has 108,000 Google hits as of now, there is an upsetting note: social programs will be cut in Bush's quick-fix policies that probably won't help the poor of the Gulf region anyway. THAT could fill a whole post, but I must move on tonight.

Europe and Iran

The young, quixotic European Union faces a big moment. Tonight's Financial Times:

The European Union has 48 hours to decide one of the biggest foreign policy issues confronting it: whether to report Iran to the United Nations over its nuclear programme and risk an increase in Tehran's nuclear activities; or delay and face charges of a climb-down on nuclear proliferation.

Rita approaches

The oil infrastructure may be under a larger threat with Rita than it was with Katrina. $5.00 a gallon gasoline, says some (alarmists), CNN.

Hurricane Hunters at 8 p.m. report a pressure of 899 mb in the center of Rita. That is more powerful than Katrina's pressure ever was. If you wonder why the shower curtains blow inward with running water, or why planes fly, it's for the same reason that Rita shows such low pressure.

One story completely knocked off the news.

Tragically, Niger is not getting any better.

Bill Frist pulls a Martha Stewart

Reported by Business Week:

SEP. 20 8:43 P.M. ET Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a potential presidential candidate in 2008, sold all his stock in his family's hospital corporation about two weeks before it issued a disappointing earnings report and the price fell nearly 15 percent.

Conservativism today

Check out It Affects You. Who references Andrew Ferguson.

But something more corrosive is also at work. Marshall McLuhan was righter than anyone ever would have guessed. The medium really is the message. Conservatism nowadays is increasingly a creature of its technology. It is shaped--if I were a Marxist I might even say determined--by cable television and talk radio, with their absurd promotion of caricature and conflict, and by blogs, where the content ranges from Jesuitical disputes among hollow-cheeked obsessives to feats of self-advertisement and professional narcissism (Everyone's been asking what I think about . . . You won't want to miss my appearance tonight on . . . Be sure to click here for my latest . . . ) that would have been unthinkable in polite company as recently as a decade ago.

North Korea and diplomacy

A fine point by Foreign Policy Watch:

Pyongyang did not agree to give up its nuclear arms ambitions just because its diplomats were treated decently, of course. But it's interesting how much it appears to have made a difference in reaching an agreement.

Serious negotiation and constructive dialogue was what the United States' top negotiator with North Korea, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, a smooth talking appointee of Condoleezza Rice, brought to the table.


10 PM Eastern Update: This blog is the 218th blog entry to use "borrow and spend" and as of this moment is the most relevant entry on Google's new Blog search. It's the small things in life, you know?


Anonymous Anonymous said...


10:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, the shower curtain thing is more than just a pressure issue; it has to do with moving air, water displacement, heat currents and the occaisonal eddy from a water droplet. Gravity and total air vent movement in the (assuming) bathroom also play a role. The shower curtain moving in during a shower is not a small piece of physics. You must have been a humanities major.

2:57 AM  
Blogger copy editor said...

Haha. I knew I'd get crap for the shower curtain thingy.

8:58 AM  

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