Archive for February, 2011



Is Iraq’s New Boss the Same as the Old Boss?

Published February 27th, 2011 by tcarpenter

When the Bush administration decided to invade and occupy Iraq, a key stated goal was to bring democracy to that country.   But aside from periodic elections with competing parties, the new Iraq is beginning to resemble the old Iraq.  In particular, the government of prime minister Nouri al-Maliki is treating journalists and other critics with intolerance and outright brutality reminiscent of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Disturbing evidence of such repression has been building for at least the past two years, but the developments this week are truly shocking.  As with many other countries in the Middle East, demonstrations have broken out in Iraq demanding, among other things, an end to the Maliki government’s rampant corruption.  Those demonstrations culminated on Friday with a “Day of Rage.”  Although the demonstrations even on that day were mostly peaceful, security forces killed at least 29 participants.

They also rounded up dozens of journalists, writers, photographers, and intellectuals who had been involved in organizing the rallies.  Late in the afternoon, the Aldiyar Television station, which had telecast footage of the demonstrations, reported that security forces arrested seven employees, including a director and an anchorman, and closed the studio.

One of the many other journalists arrested that day in Baghdad was Hadi al-Mahhi, who told Washington Post reporter Stephanie McCrummen what happened after soldiers arrested him and several colleagues while they were sitting at an outdoor cafe.  The soldiers loaded al-Mahdi and the others into Humvees and drove them to a side street, where they beat them severely.  Then, they took them to a former defense ministry building that now houses a unit of the army’s increasingly feared intelligence unit.  Mahdi was taken to a room alone, where he was beaten again with clubs, boots and fists.  Not satisfied with such garden-variety brutality, they took his shoes off, wet his feet, and administered electric shocks.

This is the new Iraqi democracy for which the United States spent $800 billion and sacrificed nearly 4,500 American lives.  An Iraq in which regime opponents are arrested and tortured, in which more than a third of the terrorized Christian community has fled, and in which more and more women are being forced back under the veil by religious zealots.  One hopes that the Obama administration learns from the folly of its predecessor and resists the siren calls that we’re now hearing to intervene in Libya and other countries to bring the blessings of democracy to those populations.

The GOP’s Uninspiring Presidential Candidates

Published February 21st, 2011 by tcarpenter

I had the misfortune of catching Mike Huckabee’s interview today on ABC’s Good Morning America.  When asked about his presidential ambitions for 2012, the former Arkansas governor was cautious, arguing that President Obama would be a formidable candidate.  Huckabee then stated that since 1848, only one incumbent president, Jimmy Carter, had ever been defeated for re-election.

Well, he was almost right.  Except for George H.W. “Poppy” Bush losing to Bill Clinton in 1992.  And Herbert Hoover being defeated by Franklin Roosevelt in 1932.  And William Howard Taft losing in 1912.  And Grover Cleveland coming up short in 1888.  And Benjamin Harrison being ousted from the White House in 1892.

Is it really too much to expect that candidates for the presidency (and let’s remember that Huckabee already ran for the GOP nomination in 2008) know the basics about that office and not make gross factual misstatements on national television?

But one shouldn’t really be surprised.  The probable GOP presidential field for 2012 thus far looks utterly dismal.  The likes of Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney inspire no more confidence than does Mike Huckabee.  And then, of course, we have Sarah Palin, whose degree of ignorance on both civil liberties and foreign policy issues is truly breathtaking.  Her most recent gaffe occurred when she was asked about the mounting anti-regime demonstrations in the Middle East.  Her answer was so utterly incoherent that it was not even certain she was speaking English.

Please.  The party that produced Abraham Lincoln, Dwight Eisenhower, and Ronald Reagan should be able to do better than this bunch.