The death toll of the bombings in Casablanca as I write is being given as over 20, with 60 wounded. Casablanca is the Mediterranean commercial center of Morocco, a center of tourism and French culture and internationalism. It has even been the site of a little culture war, between unemployed youth attracted to Goth music and lifestyle (called “Satan Worshippers by the Muslim Fundamentalists) and fundamentalist politicians who demanded that they be prosecuted. This bombing is likely to be another reply by al-Qaeda to the greatly exaggerated rumors of its death. But note that Riyadh and Casablanca were both soft targets. The Casa terrorism is aimed at hurting tourism and commerce in Morocco, which is already a poor country that needs all the foreign investment it can get. It would have made more sense of the radicals to hit a target in Algeria, which has violently suppressed the Islamic Salvation Front and the Armed Islamic Group during the past decade. But with all that experience, Algeria’s government has hardened most good targets, whereas Morocco had seen little of this sort of terrorism. Each time one of these bombs goes off, it harms the world economy, and the economy of the country in which it happens. Al-Qaeda wants to plunge the capitalist world into a profound economic depression so that they can pick up the pieces, rather as the Communists had benefited globally from the Great Depression in the 1930s. I myself doubt that these random bombings can actually accomplish that goal, but they can cause a lot of trouble. I am sorry for the lives lost and ruined. I don’t have a problem with calling al-Qaeda evil.
*The radical Sadrist Iraqi cleric Shaikh Muhammad al-Fartusi, prayer leader of the al-Hikmah Mosque in Shiite East Baghdad (congregation: 50,000) has warned that Iraqi women who consort with American soldiers could be legitimately killed by religious vigilantes. He also warned cinema owners that if they show risqué films, they were at risk from being burned down. The Sadr Movement maintains that even Christian women should be veiled. – Alan Philps of the Daily Telegraph.
*The attempt by Jay Garner to shoe-horn Ahmad Chalabi, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, and other figures from the Iraqi National Congress into power has been derailed by Paul Bremer, who has postponed plans to form a transitional government. He made this decision after meeting Friday with the leaders that Garner had appointed.
The good news is that the people Garner was setting up as the leadership were largely untrustworthy. The bad news is that this step will require the US essentially to run Iraq for many months, maybe years, on its own. I have mixed feelings about all this. I agree with Bremer that the Wolfowitz/Rumsfeld plan to put all the US eggs in the Chalabi basket would have been a disaster. Chalabi was given $4 million by the State Department and the CIA last year and can’t account for $2 million of it. If he were a businessman in the US and did a thing like that, he’d be going to jail. Garner and his backers wanted to put Chalabi in charge of $14 billion a year in oil revenues! Plus, Chalabi has been acting erratically. He was somehow given access to Iraqi intelligence files and has gone about threatening Jordanian and Saudi officials that if they make trouble about him taking over Iraq, he will expose their relationships with Saddam. This sounds more like a mafioso than a democratic leader.
The decision to ban thousands of Baathists from holding office is also wise, but has a down side. The Baathists were the ones who knew how to run a ministry. The civilians who are left don’t have much administrative experience. But maybe the less compromised university professors in places like Mosul, Baghdad, Kufa and Basra could be tapped as technocrats.
The danger of the US being in control, with no local transitional government, is that the US is now responsible for every single thing that goes wrong. The potential for crowds to gather to protest the US occupation is increased, and if GIs shoot into the crowds, things could turn very ugly. So, maybe one cheer for Bremer, and a hearty “good luck!”
*Thousands of Shiites gathered in downtown Baghdad for a big demonstration on Thursday, demanding that the new Iraqi government be majority-Shiite in accordance with their proportion in the population. Chanters also said that Iraqi Shiites had suffered the most from Saddam, and so should be recompensed now. -CNN