Friday, October 14, 2005

The War on Brains

Just another day in Orwell's nightmare. It wasn't that long ago that I used to snort & roll my eyes when people said stuff like that. "Orwellian Nightmare"...yeah. Right.

Yeah. Right: secret deals, forgeries and propaganda. It's been quite a week in the War on Brains. It is referendum-eve in Iraq and most Iraqis have yet to see the piece of paper they'll be voting on. Evidently they're supposed to learn about the document from the teevee. Yeah, with all those blackouts, I'm sure that'll work. The US Envoy to Iraq, Khalilzad, has been monkeying behind closed doors and doing some last minute strong-arming to bring the States a good purple-fingered show on Saturday morning. I don't trust that Khalilzad guy. He used to work for Wolfowitz, for f's sake. Remember those deals & amendments that were ostensibly added to please the Sunnis? Yeah...about those; they were never voted on:

"The [Tuesday] session ended without a vote on the amendments. Parliament Speaker Hajim al-Hassani said one wasn't necessary and that the compromise was approved." [emphasis mine]

While we can all see why Sunni Arabs would object to the federalism in the constitution, the conventional wisdom (snort) was that Kurds and Shia Arabs will vote to ratify the document. Well, funny story...turns out that many Kurds are ambivalent about the thing. Makes sense too: Kurds are already semi-independent and wouldn't actually gain much.

Despite the propaganda (freedom marching, democracy rising, purple-fingers etc) this referendum will not make the violence and chaos disappear. Police reports estimate that 425 Iraqis have been killed in the last 17 days. Oh, and those closed-door amendments that were supposed to make everybody happy? Today a roadside bomb exploded outside the office of the Iraqi Islamic party (largest Sunni Arab party), "days after it dropped its opposition to the country's proposed constitution."

Speaking of propaganda, [click "Read on, MacDuff!" to continue reading]did anyone notice the striking similarity between Bush's "Major Address" on Terror last Thurs & that Zawahiri letter that was allegedly seized in Iraq? I won't even begin to deconstruct the former...I'm going to give myself an aneurysm if I try. Luckily we have the brilliant Juan Cole to help us out. Professor Cole has done a fantastic play-by-play of this speech over at his blog, Informed Comment. As for the letter from Zawahiri (bin Laden's "deputy") to Zarqawi (Iraq), didn't it seem a little too convenient? Comments like this one made me think it was hot off of Karen Hughes' fax machine:

"The writer warns Zarqawi that he risks alienating Muslim opinion with gruesome killings of fellow-believers at a time when al-Qaida in Iraq should be seeking popular support for a new religious state. [...] "We don't want to repeat the mistake of the Taliban, who restricted participation in governance," the letter says. "They did not have any representation for the Afghan people in their ruling regime, so the result was that the Afghan people disengaged themselves from them.""

But what do I know? Am I with the terrorists or something? Apparently al Qaida swears the letter's a forgery. Still, I'm no expert so I turn to the real experts and see what they think.
  1. From Thursday's Guardian: "Neil Quilliam, an analyst at security consultants Control Risks, thought the letter should be treated with caution. "It's a very interesting time for it to be released," he said, referring to concerns about Sunni participation in Iraq's constitutional referendum on Saturday. The letter seemed to be urging Sunni militants to engage politically with other elements in Iraq."
  2. From today's Informed Comment (Prof. Juan Cole): "the phrase "salla Allahu `alayhi wa alihi wa sallam" (the blessings and peace of God be upon him and his family) is a Shiite form of the salutation, because of the emphasis of the Shiites on the House or descendants of the Prophet. Because of the cultural influence of Shiism in South Asia, one does find that form of the salutation in Pakistan and India among Sunni Muslims." [...] "I do not believe that an Egyptian like al-Zawahiri would use this phraseology at all. But he certainly would not use it to open a letter to a Salafi [like Zarqawi]."
So there you have it. We got punked, my friends. As they say on Morning Sedition: "And that's today's dispatch from the Waaaaaaaar onnnn Braaaaaaains."


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