Public Nuisance

Random commentary and senseless acts of blogging.

The first Republican president once said, "While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years." If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in these last three-and-a-half years, he might hedge a little on that statement.
-Ronald Reagan

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Monday, August 26, 2002
William Safire is using the infiltration of Al Qaeda elements into northern Iraq (Iraqi Kurdistan) as an argument for an invasion. The problem with this argument is that the al Qaeda elements in Iraqi Kurdistan recieve relatively little support from Hussein.

Hussein wants to undermine the de facto autonomous state that the Kurds have established with US protection, and he is using the tools at hand to do so. But the real source of the problem is the same in Kurdistan as elsewhere - our 'allies' in Saudi Arabia.

Didar was a member of the Jund-ul-Islam, an extremist group with links to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda organisation. In recent months the Jund-ul-Islam have occupied a series of villages and valleys close to the Iranian border and imposed a harsh Taliban-style administration complete with bans on television, reprisals against 'immodest' women and guerrilla training camps. Though some of Jund-ul-Islam are militants from elsewhere in the Middle East 90 percent of its membership are Kurdish. Worrying proof, say local officals and clerics, that militant Islam has made significant inroads among the previously moderate Kurds.

"The Kurds have always been Muslims but good Muslims who respect other religions and have a honest and open faith that is about peace and compassion," said Mullah Majjed Ismael Mohammed, who leads the Friday prayers at Sulaimaniya's main mosque....

Mullah Majjed and his secular counterparts blame a campaign of preaching linked to aid distribution by Islamic charities backed by wealthy Gulf governments - including that of Saudi Arabia - and private donors....
"These people are stealing our youth. They are preaching intolerance where once there was tolerance," said Sadi Ahmed Pire of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), one of the two main parties who split the government of the Kurdish enclave.

The charities have been targeting Kurdistan ever since senior hardline Islamist clerics announced that the flood of Western NGO's into the area after the 1991 Gulf War was a ploy to undermine the Kurds Islamic faith. Most tie their aid distribution explicitly to observance of the strict rituals of the 'Whahabi' strand of Islam followed in Saudi Arabia and, increasingly, elsewhere in the Middle East. Students are subsidised on the condition that they attend prayer meetings and women in their family wear the veil. For orphans to receive aid they have to study the Koran. Wahabi literature is widely printed and disseminated. Thousands of mosques have been built in villages that do not even have schools.

I'm not really opposed to a move into Iraq. But more and more, I'm convinced that the current administration is unready to do it competently. There really is no solid evidence linking Hussein to terrorism, so the invasion would have to be based on blocking his WMD programs. That is a sufficient reason - given the history of this regime that has launched two wars across its borders and made genocidal use of nerve gas within them, there is more than sufficient grounds to eliminate it as a risk to pretty much everyone. But we should first demand a return to the earlier UN inspection program, with broader rights being given to the inspectors to search intrusively and eliminate WMD peacefully. If that is refused (and I think it would be), we would have justification for military action and would be able to assemble an adequate coalition. (This is more or less the position of the noted far-left peaceniks Henry Kissinger and Brent Scowcroft.)

The obvious disinterest of the Bush team in even looking for a diplomatic solution is a major factor in the unwillingness of even our allies to join us against a regime that nobody really wants to see continued. It is also a profoundly short-term vision - there are other nations currently developing WMD, and will be more in the future. Only sound international institutions can have any real hope of preventing WMD proliferation.

Incidentally, new blogger Norah Vincent is also discussing US policy toward Iraq and Pakistan. (Link from Atrios.) Vincent's discussion is unexpectedly sensible, but she does cite the same Safore column mentioned above oddly: "Bill Safire was right when he made the case in yesterday’s column that we need to find out more about exactly what Saddam is up to with regard to terrorism before we send in the commandos." Nothing in the column resembles the conclusion the Vincent has drawn from it.