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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Saturday, August 30, 2003
 
The latest terrorism in Iraq, with over 100 now confirmed dead and another 300 injured, is a major setback for any chance of a positive resolution. A group of Saudis, Kuwaitis, Iraqis, and Palestinians have now been arrested; all are said to have ties to al Qaeda.

The quick arrests are fortunate, but for many the US will be considered responsible and hostility towards us will increase. Two crimes at major Islamic holy sites were committed in the 1970s and 80s. An Australian Christian who was apparently schizophrenic attacked worshippers at the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and a group of Islamic fanatics temporarily seized control of the Kaaba in Mecca. Both incidents resulted in riots at US embassies in Pakistan and elsewhere in the Islamic world, although the total American involvement with the crimes was zero. In this case, there is blame to go around - much of it to the Shia authorities whose request to keep GIs away from holy sites was accepted by the occupation. But for all of Iraq, we are pretty much in a "you broke it, you own it" situation. Under international law, our status as occupying power gives us a responsibility to keep public order in the country.

It's becoming clear now that Iraq really is a battle in the War on Terrorism - and it's a battle that al Qaeda is winning. The Baath Party was something of a relic from the wave of secular nationalism that swept the Arab world in the Nasser era. As bad as it was, it at least kept the more modern Arab fashion of Wahabbist terrorism out of Iraq. Now Wahabbism and al Qaeda are in Iraq, and it will be extremely difficult to form a government strong enough to drive them out. More likely, we will wind up with a government like that of Yemen, which is unfiendly to al Qaeda, but not effective enough to prevent it from operating in their territory.

Remeber when our 'liberation' of Iraq was going to send a surge of democratic reform through Syria and Iran? I suspect that Syrians, looking at the chaos in Iraq, feel a lot more satisfied with their government than they did a few months ago.



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