*Gunmen killed three British soldiers in the southern port city of Basra on Saturday. Details are contradictory and sketchy. Some reports say they had a bomb tossed at them, others wonder if their unmarked car just came to be targeted by car thieves.
*Ethnic violence near Kirkuk as Shiite Turkmen clashed with Sunni Kurds over a rebuilt Shiite shrine to the 4th Imam, `Ali Zayn al-`Abidin (-WP). Intervening US troops killed three on each side, and the total number of dead is 11. There are still lots of ethnic tensions in the north, among Kurds, Turkmen and Arabs. Kurdish-Turkmen fighting has international repercussions, since Turkey will take the side of the Turkmen and will see the Kurds as treacherous. Turkish officials have frequently threatened to intervene in Iraq if they feel the Kurds become too threatening to their interests. (revised 8/26/03)
*French Foreign Minister Dominique Villepin said Friday that the best way to deal with Iraqi resistance to the Anglo-British occupation is to transfer sovereignty to the Iraqi people more quickly. He called for UN-assisted elections for a parliament by the end of this year (i.e. Dec. 2003). US officials such as Paul Bremer have said that parliamentary elections must await the writing of a new constitution and, of course, of new electoral laws, as well as the compiling of voting lists. Villepin warned that there was no military solution to the unrest in Iraq, and that a transfer of sovereignty was the only practical step.
*I heard Alex Witt on MSNBC rather indignantly ask a guest this morning why the US should surrender any control of Iraq to UN member nations, since it was the US that fought the war (with Britain) and those two made the sacrifices. I was stunned. First of all, this business of reporters and anchors tossing around so much attitude really must stop. That wasn’t her role. If she wants to play Bill O’Reilly, she should get a talk show and give up anchoring. Second, the sentiment is inane. No one said the US had to give up control of Iraq (as though it has much control). The negotiations at the UN are about what it would cost the US to acquire some new allies who would send substantial numbers of troops into Iraq. What should those countries put their troops in harm’s way for the sake of US political, economic and military goals? The Bush administration wants to treat India and Pakistan like Gurkhas, the loyal Nepalese troops who fought for the British Empire for “salt.” Those countries have their own domestic politics and international interests, and aren’t going to just be ordered around by Bush for the sake of a little bit of foreign aid or a benign countenance in Washington. So, Ms. Witt, you should answer the question. Why should they? France and Russia, likewise, aren’t going to get involved gratis. But the US Defense Department does not want to give up any control, or accept any constraint on the tendering of Iraq reconstruction and petroleum contracts. O.K. If they want all the goodies for themselves, the Americans should bite the bullet and take complete responsibility for Iraqi security themselves. Problem is, they don’t have a large enough army to do that on their own, and they also lack the political legitimacy in the Arab world that the UN has. As the French say, tant pis. Too bad. I’m still waiting to hear any of the warmongers like The National Review apologize to the French and admit they were right about almost everything: no WMD in Iraq, no al-Qaeda ties, and no real casus belli, plus the danger of throwing the country into chaos.
*Kidnappings, 60% unemployment, worry about feeding one’s children so desperate it drives people to crime . . . A harrowing report on what it is really like to be an Iraqi in Basra is at:
*The French-based group Doctors without Borders has packed up and left Basra out of severe security concerns. These guys operated in Afghanistan and are known to be so brave as to border on foolhardiness. If they think Iraq is that unsafe, it is a very, very bad sign.
*One of the items the Bremer administration in Iraq always cites as evidence of progress in rebuilding is that the court system and appointment of judges has gone well, and the legal system is now functioning. Serious doubt is cast upon this claim in an article by James Varshney of the Newhouse News service. He depicts a system riddled with corruption and cronyism: