Thursday, September 18, 2003
Guess who's talking...

I have recently discovered a very interesting piece of press about the President of the US, from German media. I'll quote some interesting parts (italics mine):
His election promises forced him to introduce new economic policies to stimulate the economy. Driven by his Jewish advisers, he wasted countless billions in stimulating the economy, but could not end the crisis. [...]
He has a Messiah Complex [...]
[The President]'s bosses while he was developing his war plans were Jews. [...]
The sick warmonger in Washington had reached his goal of unleashing a world-wide conflagration. [...]
As a result of its rapid growth and its tendency to gigantomania, America has become a perversion of European culture. [...]
The natural result is that the war is not as popular as the American government would like it to be. [...]
[...] many American officials told me [...] that they simply could not understand why they were fighting. [...]
Many indications are that the war will end in terrible catastrophe for the United States. Perhaps this false Messiah, the lackey of his Jewish allies, will be brought to justice by his own people. [...]
I'll give you the answer to the question who is talking: this pamphlet is called America as a Perversion of European Culture, published by Robert Ley's Reichsorganisationsleitung der NSDAP in mid-1942. I report, you decide...

Tuesday, September 16, 2003
False estimations and patience

Before posting today, a short note: I have changed my comment system, because the old one - BackBlog - constricted each feedback post to 400 characters, which made commenting a bit too intricate. Therefore, I have now implemented BlogSpeak, which has several advantages: it is capable of remembering your data , i.e. name, e-mail and/or URL, making commenting more convenient; you can comment as long as you wish (I've not yet found there are any constrictions); finally, I have the possibiliy of editing or deleting posts (don't worry - I will not edit posts at all. I will delete posts though in case somebody accidentally posts the same text twice, which occasionally occurs, or in case offensive language or hate-speech is utilized). Backblog will be kept active in the archive in order to read old comments.

False estimations - In yesterday's post, Davids Medienkritik (in English) mentions a study (in German) published by the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, which analyses some statements made by German politicians before the war in Iraq started. I quote David's translation (emphasis mine):
Olaf Scholz, Secretary General of the SPD (Social Democratic Party): The war will "likely result in the death of hundreds of thousands of innocent people." [...] Heidi Wieczorek-Zeul (SPD), Minister of Development Aid: She expected "hundreds of thousands of innocent people, civilists, children, women" to become war victims, and she expected two to three million fugitives. [...] The former SPD-politician Erhard Eppler, Guru of the peace movement, expected "the lives of hundreds of thousands, possibly millions (of people) at risk". [...] Wolfgang Thierse, President of the German Parliament (SPD): "I think of the millions of people in Baghdad, who will be victims of bombs and rockets."
David rightly wonders whether German media will ever comment on those false estimations, although Germany's largest tabloid, Bild, has indeed done so (in German). This is a positive step, even though Bild has created some distortions (in German) in the past as well. Another positive step would be to let those politicians who made such statements explain the sources for their "estimations", which obviously have been nothing but pure populism. If the US army had announced there would be no civilian deaths in Iraq, a large uproar would have rumbled through the media, demanding excuses. Well, the US army has not said so. Instead, German politicians without expert knowledge have done armchair reckoning. I think an overstimation - deliberate or stemming from a lack of knowledge - should be excused as well. Especially if it is of a grotesque size.

Patience - Michael Barone, in an interesting article at Usnews.com, comments on those who continue to state that American strategy has "failed" and that the Iraqis need to be given sovereignity as fast as possible. He mentions that things should be put in historical perspective:
Clay and MacArthur improvised, learned from experience, made mistakes, and corrected them, adjusted to circumstances. It took time: West Germany did not have federal elections until 1949, four years after surrender; the peace treaty with Japan was not signed until 1951.
as mentioned before, pre-mature democratic elections are not wise, because not only is the lack of stability in a recently liberated country a large threat, but there are also still supporters of the old regime in Iraq, some of which are terrorists that must be actively fought. Further, the former head of state has not yet been captured; if Saddam were caught, many Iraqis would certainly lose their deeply-rooted fear of this diabolic dictator that still overshadows them. This would certainly boost the forces in Iraq who want a democracy. If I were part of Iran's/Syria's/Saudi Arabia's government, I would therefore not only support the terrorists in Iraq by all (secret) means (because a stable democracy in the Islamic world is the biggest threat to the Mullah/dictator regimes in the ME), but I would also consider hiding or supporting Saddam.

Barone mentions another interesting thing that is often neglected (emphasis mine):
The media also have the wrong standard for what is news. It is news when there is a fatal accident at Disneyland and not news when there is not. But Iraq is not Disneyland. In a country that is occupied after decades of a brutal dictatorship, good news is news. Yet with only a few exceptions--see Michael Gordon's story in the New York Times on the 101st Airborne in northern Iraq--the good news is not being told. More than 6,000 Iraqi civil affairs units--local governments--have been set up. Hospitals have been reopened. A court system has been set up. Mistakes, inevitable in a chaotic world, are being corrected: A Baathist leader put in charge in Najaf was soon removed.
Only those incidents that are bad news are considered worthy of reporting in the lion's share of German media (Germans, btw, tend to never be content with anything; add this typical German trait to the media coverage as well). This creates the over-all impression that things are going very bad in Iraq when they are in fact not. And this kind of reporting in fact strenghthens anti-American tendencies, because it not only describes the US as belligerent but also as incompetent, both of wich is false. As Barone says, in a liberated country, "good news is news". Reporting good news from Iraq would not only create a more balanced view on affairs in Iraq, it would in fact be obligatory.

Monday, September 15, 2003
Proxy wars?

In a powerful, strongly recommended in-depth analysis, Steven Den Beste dissects a recent statement by German foreign minister Joschka Fischer, where the latter states that American strategy (domino theory) in Iraq had failed (imagine that, it's not even half a year that the war in Iraq actually begun...), and that sovereignity should be swiftly handed over to the Iraqis themselves (and the UN, of course).

The question remains: is that true? Has the American strategy failed? In the German media landscape, this impression is certainly evoked. Nearly every time an American soldier dies in Iraq, the media here focus on it; further, the "immense" costs of the Iraq campaign are mentioned (while our own economy is in shambles) and TV channels show angry Iraqis shouting and seething at US soldiers, but only very seldom are thankful Iraqis presented. What the German media does not mention is two things.

First, what actually do the Iraqis themselves think about their future, about their liberation and allied troops? Den Beste mentions a recent survey, in which Karl Zinsmeister describes astonishing results (emphasis mine):
- Iraqis are optimistic. Seven out of 10 say they expect their country and their personal lives will be better five years from now. On both fronts, 32 percent say things will become much better.
- The toughest part of reconstructing their nation, Iraqis say by 3 to 1, will be politics, not economics. They are nervous about democracy. [...] critically, the majority Shiites were as likely to say democracy would work for Iraqis as not. [...]
- Asked to name one country they would most like Iraq to model its new government on from five possibilities--neighboring, Baathist Syria; neighbor and Islamic monarchy Saudi Arabia; neighbor and Islamist republic Iran; Arab lodestar Egypt; or the U.S.--the most popular model by far was the U.S. The U.S. was preferred as a model by 37 percent of Iraqis selecting from those five--more than Syria, Iran and Egypt put together. Saudi Arabia was in second place at 28 percent. Again, there were important demographic splits. Younger adults are especially favorable toward the U.S., and Shiites are more admiring than Sunnis. [...]
- Our interviewers inquired whether Iraq should have an Islamic government, or instead let all people practice their own religion. Only 33 percent want an Islamic government; a solid 60 percent say no. [...]
- Perhaps the strongest indication that an Islamic government won't be part of Iraq's future: The nation is thoroughly secularized. We asked how often our respondents had attended the Friday prayer over the previous month. Fully 43 percent said "never." It's time to scratch "Khomeini II" from the list of morbid fears.
The survey results were published on 10th September in Wall Street Journal, still I have not yet seen it being mentioned in any German media. And the results are very much not corresponding to the picture that is created here; I'd expect any attempt to democratize Iraq to be a rather bad idea and I would be forced to conclude leaving this uncontrollable, savage region alone were the best idea if I had to exclusively rely on German media.

Second, there are already effects taking place in the larger scope of the Arab world, too. Den Beste mentions an interesting article by Amir Taheri in the NY Post who mentions (emphasis mine):
- In Syria, President Bashar Assad has announced an end to 40 years of one-party rule by ordering the Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party to no longer "interfere in the affairs of the government." The party is planning a long-overdue national conference to amend its constitution and, among other things, drop the word "socialist" from its official title. [...] "What we need is a space of freedom in which to think and speak without fear," says a leading Syrian economist. "Bashar knows that if he does not create that space, many Syrians will immigrate to Iraq and be free under American rule." [...]"I decided to leave Iran and settle in Iraq where the Americans have created a space of freedom," Hussein Khomeini says. "The coming of freedom to Iraq will transform the Muslim world." [...] Saudi Arabia is also feeling the effects of Iraqi regime change. Last month King Fahd ordered the creation of a Center for National Dialogue where "issues of interest to the people would be debated without constraint." The center will be open to people from all religious communities, including hitherto marginalised Shi'ites. More importantly, the gender apartheid, prevalent in other Saudi institutions, will be waived to let women participate.
Obviously, the liberation of Iraq had very positive effects on both the Iraqi people and the Arab world. The fact that Germany and France resisted to this war in Iraq, combined with their wish to hand the power to the Iraqi people (and the UN) as fast as possible reveals several things.

Den Beste mentions that a swift hand-over would certainly enable a new form of dictatorship right now (indirectly supported by the UN - of which Iraqis have a very bad opinion - by doing nothing), which would be a complete failure for the US and for the democratization in the ME, which is the only possibility to bring long-term stability to the region. Democracies don't fight each other. Dictatorships and other forms of totalitarian states are always a risk to neighbouring nations. The question must be asked why France and Germany do not share this long-term stability plan, which worked fine in Europe?

In my opinion, the answer is that there is already a kind of proxy war in and for the ME region taking shape, and it is taking place between the US and the EU. John Fonte mentions (emphasis mine):
A white paper issued by the EC suggests that this unaccountability is one reason for its success:"[the] "essential source of the success of European integration is that [it] is_independent from national, sectoral, or other influences." This "democracy deficit" represents a moral challenge to EU legitimacy. [...] Two Washington lawyers, Lee Casey and David Rivkin, have argued that the EU ideology that "denies the ultimate authority of the nation-state" and transfers policy making from elected representatives to bureaucrats "suggests a dramatic divergence" with "basic principles of popular sovereignty once shared by both Europe's democracies and the United States."
Unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats... who are already responsible for much everyday legislation in every EU country (and Sweden just escaped a direct fiscal slavery)... doesn't it sound a bit like some benevolent moderate future "Mullahs"? Very thin ice I'm treading on, but I feel the EU shows many more structural similarities with a non-democratic entity than the US does. Which not only places the EU geographically, but also ideologically closer to the Arab world.

Further, there is the question of Israel. Israel government recently announced to get rid of Arafat. German media appeared to not be happy that the leader of Hamas - whose aim, btw, is the destruction of Israel and the obliteration of all Jews, if we look at the Hamas Convent and his very own deeds - was actually correctly described as an obstacle to peace. But to remove him, the unelected president and oldest terrorist? The horror!

Paradoxically, on one hand, the EU seems to not want stability and peace in the vicinity of Israel (e.g. by richly sponsoring Arafat), which the US and Israel aspire (for obvious reasons); on the other hand, the EU desires stability in the region of Iraq (which implied defending a dictatorship), whereas the US (and Israel) see a democracy as their strategic goal, which implies some turbulences during the process of transformation but which provides reliable stability in the long term.

I think only one position deserves support...