Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Democracy on the march!

It looks like George Bush's effort to democratize the Middle East is going according to plan today in Gaza and the West Bank. (With a little financial help to weight the outcome)Palestinians are coming out in droves to vote for Hamas. It appears though, our good democratic friends the Israelis are preventing Palestinians from voting in East Jerusalem.

The BBC reports:

"Over 100,000 Palestinians living in Jerusalem are eligible to vote in the Palestinian election but just 6,300 residents are allowed to cast their ballot inside the city. The remainder have to travel outside Jerusalem's boundaries.

Local Palestinian election observers claimed they had not been allowed to enter the post office. But European Election monitors could be seen standing inside the post office."

The ballots in these post offices are not secret and the concern is that Palestinians who might want to vote for Hamas will be retaliated against when the international media and election monitors leave. I don't know, doesn't sound very democratic to me.

I think the main problem is, that the Israelis think East Jerusalem is a part of their capital---they're the only ones---and they aren't about to allow the Palestinians who live there to vote, especially not for Hamas. Once again the Israelis are creating facts on the ground and it's unlikely you'll be hearing much about this gross interference of the democratic process from Condi Rice who will no doubt praise the Israelis for their cooperation. At first, you'll remember, the Israelis refused to allow the Palestinians vote in East Jerusalem at all and it was only because of "pressure" from Condi that they relented. Of course, they didn't say at the time they were going to make it impossible for the vote to go ahead, but that will all be forgotten as the news comes in that Hamas is now a part of the PA government.

I heard some nonsense on an NPR newscast this morning that people were bracing for the take over of the PA by Hamas, but from what I've been reading over the past few weeks, that's the last thing Hamas wants. The PA is such a mess and the chances of Israel dealing with Hamas as the legitimate leaders of the Palestinians is so remote, that the best place for them is in the opposition.

Regardless of where they wind up in the government, the calculus of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict has changed dramatically. From the view point of the US government, it's going to be difficult to direct financial aid to the Palestinians because Hamas is a banned terrorist organization and Israel says they might stop transferring taxes that are owed to the PA, but at some point reality needs to set in and all the sides have to figure out a convenient fiction of some sort to move on with the peace process, such as it is.

If we could do business with that "statesman" Moammar Gaddafi on his nukes and do deals for Exxon/Mobil with him---while at the same time he was plotting to assassinate Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah---and we can look the other way while the Saudis persecute Christians, decapitate homosexuals and gouge eyes out, we can certainly come up with some formula to talk to Hamas, maybe through a third party. Besides, the Al Aqsa brigades, the militant arm of Fatah, are the ones not honoring the cease-fire signed last year; Hamas actually is; more or less.

Hopefully, all the militant wings in the PA will eventually put down the guns and pick up the pen and get on with it. The more reasonable they act the more radical the Israelis are going to look as the Gush Emunim and their ilk rampage in the West Bank. Violence hasn't worked on either side, so it's time for a new plan. I think it's a hopeful sign that such a radical bunch as Hamas is willing to go the political route. And they're soon going to find out that as much as the average Palestinian may rely on their social programs and admire the fact that they're not corrupt, they are not going to be into the Sharia side of the bargain. Hamas is going to have to tone that whole thing down, because the Palestinians are pretty much secular---about a third of them are Christians to boot---and they're not going to have much patience with a bunch of self appointed Mullahs telling them what to do.

If I were in the US State Dept., I'd be much more worried about our Shia buddies in the Iraqi government who have already set up their morals police squads in the southern provinces and are going around whipping woman for not be covered from head to toe and are killing barbers for shaving beards. As we gnash our teeth about Hamas winning power through the democratic process, let's keep in mind that the winners of that "landmark" election in Iraq are turning into the Shiite version of the Taliban.

Foresight should have been 20/20

Remember after the 9/11 attacks when Condi was telling everyone, "I don't think anybody could have predicted ... that they would try to use an airplane as a missile," ---despite all the evidence to the contrary---and she kept repeating the lie until she had to testify to the 9/11 commission under oath and then she said she had "misspoke?" Well, now it turns out the administration had had ample warning that Katrina could devastate New Orleans days before it actually struck, despite what W. said four days after the hurricane that, "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees. They did anticipate a serious storm."

The WaPo reports:

In the 48 hours before Hurricane Katrina hit, the White House received detailed warnings about the storm's likely impact, including eerily prescient predictions of breached levees, massive flooding, and major losses of life and property, documents show.

The NISAC paper warned that a storm of Katrina's size would "likely lead to severe flooding and/or levee breaching" and specifically noted the potential for levee failures along Lake Pontchartrain. It predicted economic losses in the tens of billions of dollars, including damage to public utilities and industry that would take years to fully repair. Initial response and rescue operations would be hampered by disruption of telecommunications networks and the loss of power to fire, police and emergency workers, it said.

But not to worry, White House spokesman Trent Duffy says, "No one was pleased with the response by the government -- federal, state or local. We have already taken steps to be better prepared for future hurricanes, as you saw in the response to the hurricanes that followed Katrina."

Yeah, right, ask my parents about that.

India recieves threat from US:

In a new move that's just sure to win us new friends in New Dehli the AP reports:

NEW DELHI - A landmark nuclear deal between India and the United States will "die" in Washington if New Delhi supports Iran at the upcoming meeting of the U.N. atomic watchdog agency, the U.S. ambassador said Wednesday.

The deal, seen as a cornerstone of the emerging alliance between India and the United States, "will die in the Congress," he said....After Mulford's comments, India reiterated that the two issues should remain separate...."We categorically reject any attempt to link (Iran) to the proposed Indo-U.S. agreement on civil nuclear energy cooperation, which stands on its own merits," Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna said in a statement..."The position that India will take on this issue at the IAEA will be based on India's own independent judgment."

Yeah, good luck with that approach. Are W. & Co. trying to alienate the rest of the world or are they just stupid?


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