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July 31, 2005 - Something Becomes News?

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Over the last two weeks in these pages there has been a bit of discussion of how the government we established in Iraq, to replace the one dangerous one we removed, has been aligning itself with the government next door, Iran - cross-training troops, the new Iraqi PM laying the wreath at the grave of Ayatollah Khomeini on a visit to Tehran and all that.  (See One Man's News Is Another Man's Tedium from July 17, 2005 and Non-Stories from last week.)

As you recall, the original Axis of Evil was Iraq, North Korea and Iran.  The obvious question that came to mind was did we fight this war to install a government in Iraq that will join up with Iran in all sorts of military agreements?  We created, possibly, a new client state of the worst-of-the worst, Iran?  It seemed curious that that the government we brought into existence - to replace that of the former guy now in jail and awaiting trial - is aligning itself with Iran, who we have been told since the days just after 9/11 is just as bad (same axis) - and this was not all over the news.

Even more curious is the Sunni government of Saddam Hussein was quite secular, until some opportunistic Koran-thumping in the last weeks before the war.  Iraq had one of the most progressive sets of laws protecting women's rights, they fought a long and costly war with the Shiite theocracy of Iran, and al Qaeda denounced Saddam as an enemy for his refusal to join the religious fanatics.  They saw him as corrupt and worldly.

But now the Shiite fundamentalists have the power, the Sunni Baathist folks are out of luck, and the guys running this new fun house, like their Shiite counterparts next door in Iran, take their religion very seriously.  Iran and the new Iraq have a lot in common.

But all this wasn't yet news, per se.  It was quite startling, and made the whole war seem a tad pointless in a deeply ironic way - but to make it "news" there needed to be a tipping point.

That happened this last week.

Wednesday, July 27, the Los Angeles Times, among others, reported on the draft of the new Iraqi constitution now in circulation (they're supposed to have it complete by August 15).

As the Times reports, it seems there are a few issues -


… the provisions on Islam and on the powers of the newly created federal regions are potentially divisive within Iraq. The powers of the regions are a concern for U.S. officials, as are the diminished rights of women.

The draft text states that "Islam is the official religion of the state. It is the basic source for legislation. It is forbidden to pass a law that contradicts its fixed rulings." That language is considerably stronger than the model set down by U.S. authorities before the hand-over of sovereignty last year, which stated that Islam would be "a source" for legislation.


Did Iran win this war?  We won't get a unified county, women's rights will take a bit hit, and we get strict theocracy?

As for what it all means, Alex over at Martini Republic ("Lead, follow, or have a drink") sums it up this way:


The Chalabian fantasy of a pluralistic, Western-style democracy which the fools and dupes at PNAC who infest the Bush administration bought hook, line and sinker, continues to swirl down the toilet. The reality - a fundamentalist-Islamic regime in Iraq - continues to emerge as details of its new draft constitution comes to light.

Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and the gang of bumbling neocon assholes who Bush brought into office believed that Iraq was ripe for a pro-Western democracy, that American troops would be greeted as liberators, and that there would be virtually no resistance to US occupation once the regime's forces were destroyed or disarmed.


What's the line?  "Rats! Foiled again!"

The Times also runs an item on all this upsetting folks.  The guy Cheney and Rumsfeld and that crew hand-picked to run the news Iraq, Ahmed Chalabi, did promise the new Iraq would be friendly to Israel.  That didn't work out, and he didn't work out (or hasn't yet) - "Chalabi also promised his neoconservative patrons that as leader of Iraq he would make peace with Israel, an issue of vital importance to them. A year ago, Chalabi was riding high, after Saddam Hussein fell with even less trouble than expected."

As this Alec fellow had pointed out before, the Iraq draft permits Iraqi-born exiles to regain their citizenship - unless they are Jews.  He notes draft Iraqi Charter also contains the following provision: "Any individual with another nationality (except for Israel) may obtain Iraqi nationality after a period of residency inside the borders of Iraq of not less than ten years for an Arab or twenty years for any other nationality..."

Oh well.  And you might want to go read what he has to say about how the new plan takes away the rights of women.

His summary?


Bush has just about run the gamut of rationales for his rushed and forced decision to invade Iraq. First it was dismantling Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, which didn't exist; then it was disrupting the close ties and cooperation with Islamic fundamentalist terror groups which were similarly non-existent; finally, it was to put "Democracy on the March" in the Middle East, to show the way for Arabs to form a secular democratic government, which now looks like a march towards theocracy and Islamist rule. He's spent thousands of American lives, tens of thousands of cruelly maimed and wounded American soldiers, and hundreds of billions of American dollars, and the most favorable outcome we can hope to achieve is an Islamic republic, not terribly different from the neighboring Iranian regime Bush has labeled an axis of evil.


That's about right.

And for a full, careful analysis of the document, you might want to read what the University of Michigan professor, the Middle East expert Juan Cole, has to say in Draft Constitution Enshrines Islamic Law - but be prepared for a bit about the ambiguities particular Arabic phrases.  It's rather academic.  (No pun?)

Moving away from the academic, our columnist Bob Patterson listens to right-wing talk radio regularly, so we don't have to, and comments on Michael Savage.


I flipped on Michael Savage tonight and he is really ripping into Bush.

He says that the Iraq constitutional congress (or whatever they are calling it) says that the new constitution will found an Islamic Republic.

Savage says that's about the worst possible outcome there could be. He basically says all conservatives should punish the Bush Junta by voting for every Democrat in sight in 2006 and 2008.

Savage says that a Shiite Islamic Republic in Iraq would team up with the Shiite Islamic Republic in Iran.

If both countries voted for an Islamic Shiite leadership isn't that a triumph for the democratic way of life?

Gees, you'd think that Savage would be falling all over himself with praise for Bush's plan working out like that.

As this is being written he now is lamenting how much money it is costing and saying that an article in today's Wall Street Journal says it is all going to graft for the Iraqi politicians.

Gees! It is very disconcerting to listen to Savage and not have him blame everything on Clinton and heaping praise on Bush.

What's up with this?


Savage is hard to get.  When he goes off like this he says later that he's just mocking the left - it's parody - and to others he says he really means it.  He's needs his medication.

The larger issue is cognitive dissonance.  How will the Bush side assimilate all this?

We shall see.


Unfamiliar with Michael Savage?  You might want to checkout this from Paul Mulshine from the Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ).



Al Franken and the other liberals are probably still wondering why they had such little luck in their efforts to start a talk-radio network to bash George Bush from the left. They didn't consider the obvious explanation. George Bush has his left flank nicely covered. It's on the right that he's weak.

That is the theory of Michael Savage. Savage is the most right- wing of the right-wing talkers on the national airwaves at the moment. He is based in San Francisco, but he can be heard in the New York area on WOR in the evenings. He is a welcome change from those Karl Rove clones Hush Bimbo and Sean Vanity.

"Hush Bimbo" and "Sean Vanity" are the names Savage has pinned on Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity of WABC. In doing so, he has sparked a war between the members of his "Savage Nation" (slogan: "Borders, language, culture") and the so-called "Bushbots," that sizable number of gullible Americans who can be convinced that whatever policy Bush adopts is a conservative policy.

"What makes Bush a conservative?" Savage asked when I got him on the phone the other day. "On the economy, Bush has got more governmental workers than anybody before him. He's ballooned the government."

As regards the so-called "war on terror," Savage points out that you can't win a war when you're afraid even to name the enemy.

"He's never mentioned Islamofascism," said Savage.

No, he hasn't. Even the French have been more willing to defend their borders, language and culture than Bush. He's a multiculturalist and a mushy one at that. Instead of reducing the reach of Islamic fundamentalism, Bush has managed in Iraq to get 1,700 Americans killed in a war that will create yet another Islamic republic. Just yesterday we learned that the new constitution in Iraq will incorporate sharia, Islamic law.

That's why we right-wing commentators believe the Iraq war has been the biggest blunder in America military history. As for Bimbo and Vanity, if I may employ Savage's labels, they are simply too uneducated to realize that the Iraq war represents a failed liberal exercise in nation-building.

"There is no college in Rush. There is no college in Hannity," said Savage. "He's a high school dropout. It's like listening to an uneducated, unthinking man on the radio."

Savage has a Ph.D. from Berkeley in epidemiology, an extremely challenging field. That makes him a bit overqualified for the verbal pro- wrestling matches that make up talk radio. But it also makes him interesting.

... Savage hears a lot from people who say that any criticism of Bush is a mark of disloyalty to conservatism.


Yeah, but PhD or not, he's a mean-spirited, nasty piece of work.  MSNBC gave him a show a year or two ago, and that lasted only a few weeks.  The final straw was when one caller raised the issue of rights for gays and Savage told him to just get AIDS and die, and hung up.  So I'll let Bob listen all he wants and report back to me.  I'd rather not listen to the guy.


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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