Friday, December 29, 2006

The Killing Fields

Its ironic, as I flipped the channels from CNN tired of watching the death dance over Saddam, I came across the movie, "The Killing Fields" on HDNMV, a movie about yet another despot - Pol Pot - coming to power and maintaining power through ruthless killing of his own people. The world never seems to tire from producing such tyrranic despots.

Darfur, Sudan, Somalia, North Korea - how many more are we to go through?

Exactly What is Wrong With Death Penalty

CNN, BBC is reporting that those witnessing the hanging of Saddam Hussain were dancing around his body after his death. There is so much to be reviled about the dictator, but death of any human being deserves some degree of decorum and respect - otherwise there remains no difference between us and the vile dicator.

This is why I am not in favor of death penalty.

Death of Saddam closes one of the dirtiest chapters in the history of the middle east. Yet, his death is likely to change little in Iraq. Iraq is in a downward spiral, and this downward spiral can only be stemmed if the Iraqi people decide that religious differences between Shia and Sunni should be set aside in favor of Iraqi unity.

Not likely. Under Iranian "guidance" you are likely to see strengthening of the Shiias at the expense of Sunnis. Lets keep a close watch on Saudi and other Arab reaction to the Persian influence in Iraq.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Shiiaites Gaining Ground (literally) in Bagdad

This is what the Saudis are afraid of...Sunnis being driven out of the power center district by district.

Meanwhile, the Saudis have a new ambassador to US, and apparantly, Prince Turki left because he did have a difference of opinion with Prince Bandar. Bandar advocates a go touch approach with the Iranians, while Turki would like to negotiate with them. The hawks are winning.

Meanwhile, the Saudis have convinced the US that its in our best interest to increase the troops, the Generals seem to capitulated. So soon we will likely have more US troops in Iraq, not less!

Meanwhile, Afghanistan is going to hell in a hand basket!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Bigotry In This Season of Goodwill

Christmas is supposed to be the season of goodwill and faith. Yet despite the holiday season, national politics still seems to be laced with a certain degree of bigotry. NY Times reports a story - Virgill Goode the Republican congressman from Virginia - has demonstrated his disdain for Islam, and his own Christian faith and caused an outrage by criticizing the Muslim congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesotta for his choice of Koran as the religious scripture for taking the oath of office. The whole point of holding a sacred book in ones hand is to ensure that the person takes the oath with utmost seriousness, and no text can bring this seriousness into a person that the religious text they rever the most. How does one ensure this reverence if the individual is holding a book that holds no significance to him or her? You might as well be holding Rogets Thesarus in your hand.

Beyond bigotry though, Mr. Goode has also demonstrated a lack of tolerance for the America ideal - respect for the differences of our fellow countrymen. America is a melting pot where people of all faiths, religions, social and cultural background come together to make this nation strong. Mr. Goode's words must sting like barbs to all the immigrants who come from a non-christian religious background. In Mr. Goode's eyes, we may not be welcome here if we are Hindu, or Muslim, or Buddhist.

My hope is this was just an error and we hope to hear an apology from Mr. Goode soon.

Bigotry In This Season of Goodwill

Christmas is supposed to be the season of goodwill and faith. Yet despite the holiday season, national politics still seems to be laced with a certain degree of bigotry. Virgill Goode has demonstrated his disdain for Islam, and his own Christian faith and caused an outrage by criticizing the Muslim congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesotta for his choice of Koran as the religious scripture for taking the oath of office. The whole point of holding a sacred book in ones hand is to ensure that the person takes the oath with utmost seriousness, and no text can bring this seriousness into a person that the religious text they rever the most. How does one ensure this reverence if the individual is holding a book that holds no significance to him or her? You might as well be holding Rogets Thesarus in your hand.

Beyond bigotry though, Mr. Goode has also demonstrated a lack of tolerance for the America ideal - respect for the differences of our fellow countrymen. America is a melting pot where people of all faiths, religions, social and cultural background come together to make this nation strong. Mr. Goode's words must sting like barbs to all the immigrants who come from a non-christian religious background. In Mr. Goode's eyes, we may not be welcome here if we are Hindu, or Muslim, or Buddhist.

My hope is this was just an error and we hope to hear an apology from Mr. Goode soon.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Truth or Dare For Nepal

In NY Times today, Soumini Sengupta writes about the world of change Nepal has undergone since Kind Gyanendra gave up power. I wasn't a great fan of the King, and his absolute power, and I wasn't a great fan of Prachanda (Pushpa Kamal Dahal), the maoist gurrilla leader whose followers committed untold attrocities on the Nepali people who didn't agree with them. Yet, when the Maoist agreed to form a new government with the Opposition politicians, I applauded them.

It appears that so far things have been moving in the right direction. Recently Pushpa Kamal Dahal was in New Delhi trying to sell the Indians on how the Nepalese People's Army had laid down arms and were reconciled to peaceful co-existence with the Koirala government.

Now that the easy part of forming a government is over, the tough part of holding people accountable to the crimes begins. in this regard, I wonder what was given up by the opposition in bringing the Maoist to the table. As Sengupta reports. there is little effort being made to bringing the perpeterators of heinous crimes to justice. There is some talk about establishing a truth and reconcilliation commission similar to the South African experience, but the will seems to be lacking.

If the Nepali government cannot find the will to bring the criminals to justice, then despite all the progress, this will be a step in the wrong direction. It is up to the new Nepali government that the attrocities of the past 10 years do not go unaccounted. Its the least they can do to represent the poor and powerless they seem to want to represent.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Three Acts of the Drama In The Middle East

It looks like the other shoe is dropping on the Neocons. The Saudis have served the papers - US, you walk from Iraq and we will start a conflagration. It wasn't supposed to be this way - we were supposed to be welcomed into Iraq, and the Kingdom of Saud was supposed to be happy about us removing a major threat to its regime in the Mid-East. And now what do we have? Lets see...

  • Iraq is burning

  • Lebanon is smoldering

  • Mullahs in Iran have gone "nukilar"

  • The Saudis are threatning to finance a Sunni war against the Shias, and

  • Israel, fresh from the loss of face in Lebanon, is itching to put Iran in its place


  • Not exactly the kind of "democratization" we expected from ousting Saddam!

    How the hell did we get into this kind of holy mess? Where are the rosy scenarios Wolfovitz and his ilk painted for us when we were lied into attacking Iraq? To be fair, the Saudis were always a bit wary about the Iraq war. On one hand they were secretly happy that George Bush, in the process of avenging his fathers honor, was going to rid them of the Saddam menace, but on the other hand Saudis knew that the first Iraq war had practically neutered Saddam as a threat, and the real threat to their kingdom is from the extreme (and anti-Saudi) views being spouted out of Tehran. Their main worry, that Sunnis loss of power in Iraq might strengthen the Iranian hand seems to have borne out exactly. As bad as Saddam was, he was the one thing that was holding the mullahs of Iran back. With Saddam gone, the dominos appear to be ready to topple in the middle east.

    So is the Saudi threat a real one?

    Lets see... its no secret that a large part of the Shia-Sunni violence in Iraq today is being financed by wealthy Saudi Arabian patrons. But so far this financial support of Iraqi Shias has not been officially sanctioned. Dick Cheny went to Saudi Arabia to convince the King that he had to act to stop this flow of money, but instead of support, he seems to have gotten an ear full.

    The King is not worried about the cost of the war to US, he is worried that if Iran gains an upper hand, the war may cost him his kingdom. Its obvious that not everybody agrees with the King, not in the least, the Saudi ambassador to the US. The sudden resignation of the Saudi Ambassador early yesterday indicates that there is a tectonic shift going on in the Hashemite Kindgom. VariFrank has an interesting analysis on the resignation of Prince Turki, but its clearly seems to be related to todays announcement by the Saudis. Either Turki didn't see eye-to-eye with the King's decision, or the King didn't go far enough. My own assessment is that Turki was toeing the American line too much and the Kind decided that enough was enough.

    So where to from hither? My guess is, this is only the first act in the sordid middle-eastern drama. Lots of posturing going on right now...Israel making noises about Iran, Iran making noises about israel and US, Saudis making noises about Sunnis in Iraq, and Syria supporting Haezbollah in Lebanon.

    The second act will probably see a widening of the war. Iran will continue to cause havoc in Iraq, and try to bait Israel into attacking Iran. Hezbollah, with Syrian support will likely re-open the war with Israel. The Saudis will support the Sunnis against Shias making the situation in Iraq worse. Meanwhile, US can't do much about the wider war since we are tied up in Iraq. Only Israel can prevent this widening of the conflict by staying quite. And US can help. Prince err President Bush has his role carved out for him.

    At least Bush has woken up from the neocon dream of a democratic middle-east. Having overcome the denial stage, he needs to recognize quickly that we may be at the beginning of a quagmire. King Saud's threats not withstanding, the savviest thing we can do is, cut our lossess - divide Iraq into Shia, Sunni and Kurdish autonomous regions, and get the hell out of there. If US leaves the mid-east, it will be one less reason to unite the Shias and Sunnis against Israel and US. The Saudis should be happy with an autonomous reqion for Sunnis, and that'll calm them down.

    This is where we will enter the third act of the drama - consolidation of the traditional powers - the mullahs in Iran, the Sauds in Arabia, the Bathist in Syria and Lebanon, the Hamas in Palestine and of course, Israel. Once their territories are marked and established, the smouldering region can go back to being the way it has always been - a tribal society.

    The dream of democracy in the middle east is dead. Long live democracy!

    .

    ISI support of Taleban continues unabated

    Thanks to Pakistani ISI's support of Taleban and al 'Qaeda, the Asian neighborhood has always been a dangerous place. There is little doubt that ISI (the secretive security and intelligence agency of Pakistan) has been fomenting trouble in both India and Afghanistan for decades, but with the entry of US in the Afghan war there was hope that perhaps this lawless agency will be reigned in. Not so.

    As has been well documented in the book
    "Punishment of Virtue" by Sarah Chayes, ISI is very much continuing on with its support of Taleban.

    Yesterday, in NY Times there was an article about how
    the South Waziristan region of Pakistan has become a haven for theTaleban
    and foreign fighters.

    Today, there is another article on the impact ISI's support of the Talebani extremist elements on its own soil is having on Agfhanistan.

    So what do we do about this?
  • We continue with our unconditional support of Pakistani military, and

  • We are transferring more of our responsibilities in Afghanistan to
    our NATO allies.

  • Not a good strategy, if your objective is to eradicate enemy no.1, the al 'Qaeda. We ought to be doing exactly the opposite -
  • Pressuring the Pakistani military to reign-in the ISI and its
    support of Taleban, and

  • Putting more troops in Afghanistan so that the fledgling democracy in this nation has an opportunity to grow.