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Between the Lines

March 02, 2004

Bad news … and good … from Iraq

The bad: Six explosions ripped through the Shiite city of Karbala and four more erupted in Baghdad. At leasts 143 Iraqis and Iranian pilgrims were killed, according to U.S. officials.

Witnesses in both cities described horrific scenes of blood and body parts, of suffering and sorrow.” (Free Washington Post site registration may be required.) The attacks came as Iraqis and pilgrims from other Islamic countries gathered for Ashura, the holiest day on the Muslim calendar.

"The terrorists had this well planned out," said Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the chief U.S. military spokesman in Iraq. "They had obviously planned this for an extensive period of time. They wore clothing, more than likely, which would hide the fact that they were wearing explosive vest devices. . . . It certainly ranks among one of the days where the terrorists have decided to send a significant message to the coalition and to the people of Iraq."

Blogger Gregory Djerejian recalls last month's message by a Jordanian-born terrorist that identified Shiites as a threat worse, even, than the U.S. presence:

“They are infiltrating like snakes to reign over the army and police apparatus, which is the strike force and iron fist in our Third World, and to take complete control over the economy like their tutors the Jews. As the days pass, their hopes are growing that they will establish a Shi`i state stretching from Iran through Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon and ending in the Cardboard Kingdom [Saudi Arabia] of the Gulf.”

The U.S. has a $10 million reward on the head of the author, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, whose goal is to sabotage the handover of governing authority to the Iraqis, now scheduled for June 30, and possibly foment an Iraqi civil war with bloody attacks on Shites.

The good: Iraq’s Interim Governing Council has finally approved a “fundamental law,” which will form the basis for government until a constitutional convention can be held next year. There was no resolution of many of the thorniest issues, as Juan Cole notes. But the agreement does keep the timetable for transferring governing authority from the U.S. to the Iraqis.

David Adesnik at Oxblog rounds up some other good news: Oil production in Iraq finally is about to surpass prewar levels and could increase revenue for Iraq to $14 billion this year from $5 billion last year. At the same time, attacks on U.S. troops have been cut in half in the past three months (even as attacks on Iraqis have increased).

Posted by tbrown at 11:10 AM


The eminence gris behind Aristide’s ouster

That would be Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega, a protégé of Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina, this story from Newsday reports.

Also knee-deep in what amounts to another U.S.-inspired “regime change” is Otto Reich, Reich a controversial Cuban-American who was linked to opposition figures who plotted a short-lived coup against Venezuela's leftist president, Hugo Chávez, two years ago. Reich also is linked to the Iran-contra scandal of two decades ago that was part of President Ronald Reagan's policy of defeating Marxists in Central America.

Posted by tbrown at 11:06 AM


Krugman on Greenspan

"Let's raise taxes and cut benefits for working families so we can give big tax cuts to the rich!"

Economist Krugman draws three lessons from the Fed chairman’s shameless congressional testimony last week:

“First, ‘starving the beast’ is no longer a hypothetical scenario — it's happening as we speak. For decades, conservatives have sought tax cuts, not because they're affordable, but because they aren't. Tax cuts lead to budget deficits, and deficits offer an excuse to squeeze government spending.

“Second, squeezing spending doesn't mean cutting back on wasteful programs nobody wants. Social Security and Medicare are the targets because that's where the money is. We might add that ideologues on the right have never given up on their hope of doing away with Social Security altogether. If Mr. Bush wins in November, we can be sure that they will move forward on privatization — the creation of personal retirement accounts. These will be sold as a way to 'save' Social Security (from a nonexistent crisis), but will, in fact, undermine its finances. And that, of course, is the point.

“Finally, the right-wing corruption of our government system — the partisan takeover of institutions that are supposed to be nonpolitical — continues, and even extends to the Federal Reserve.”

Ron Suskind, author of the new book on President Bush’s first Treasury secretary, Paul O’Neill, argues – and supplies the documentation – that from the begging Bush’s plan to “reform” Social Security was based on another accounting sham by these so-called conservatives. It was known as the “free lunch” plan, which was supposed to allow the cost-free transition to privatized individual investment accounts, long a daydream of the right. Only the numbers didn’t work out.

I’m shocked.

Posted by tbrown at 11:03 AM


More evidence that the anti-gay marriage amendment is DOA

This New York Times story says Bush probably won’t push for the proposed constitutional amendment to make same-sex marriages illegal:

White House officials say that Mr. Bush will not speak out about the amendment banning gay marriage in his political trips around the country and will leave his five-minute Roosevelt Room announcement as his major show on the issue.”

The White House has once more been caught dissembling, this time about the reasons for Bush's endorsement of the amendment. The story line so far is that the prez only reached his decision after an out-of-control judge let gay marriages proceed in San Francisco and a county clerk did the same in one New Mexico County.

However, the Rocky Mountain News in Denver reports that Bush promised the amendment's author he'd support it three months ago. Maybe our commander-in-chief is psychic?

In any case, the amendment is going nowhere anyway. The last tally I saw shows at least 42 senators oppose it, which leaves proponents significantly shy of the two-thirds majority needed for passage.

Posted by tbrown at 10:58 AM




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