Debate One New Thing I Noticed In


The one new thing I noticed in the debate was Kerry’s explicit reference to getting help for the US in Iraq from the Arab world. Maybe I just hadn’t been paying attention, but I hadn’t heard him make that explicit before.

The Arab League meeting in mid-September was a mixed bag in this respect. On the one hand, it finally offered Iraq some recognition and assistance. AFP reported on Sept. 15,

Iraq’s US-backed government emerged as the main beneficiary of Tuesday’s Arab League session, with members being called on to restore full diplomatic relations and bring Iraq out of the isolation it has suffered since the 1991 Gulf war . . .

The league unanimously adopted a resolution urging Arab states to end their isolation of Iraq that began with deposed president Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of neighbouring Kuwait.

It “reaffirmed the importance of an Arab presence in Iraq, including restoring diplomatic relations with Iraq to a normal level in support of efforts being exerted by the interim Iraqi government in this field.” . . .

The text also called on Arab nations to “offer help to the Iraqi government in the field of training Iraqis in various fields, including training the police, armed forces and providing them with the necessary equipment.”

It urged “the Arab League, in cooperation and coordination with the United Nations, to provide all forms of assistance to Iraq in the different fields, especially in the political process and reconstruction in Iraq.”

The league “condemned all acts of terrorism in Iraq that target civilians, security personnel, police, humanitarian and religious institutions and abductions that are being carried out by terrorist organizations.”

It particularly denounced the abduction of “civilians employed by Arab and foreign companies that are involved in the reconstruction of Iraq and employees of international and humanitarian organizations providing aid to the Iraqi people and of officials of diplomatic missions and journalists”.

On the other hand, Arab League Sec. General Amr Mussa said “It is natural to resist occupation, but this does not mean cutting off heads . . .” which shows his sympathies for the guerrilla resistance though not for their tactics. Moreover, the report said, ‘ “Ministers also censured US-led troops in Iraq for carrying out operations that endanger innocent lives. They “condemned the aerial bombardments and other military operations that target Iraqi civilians in the various towns and villages and result in the deaths of many innocent people”. ‘ So the Arab states are unlikely to send troops in to raze Fallujah.

I don’t know if it is possible to get Arab League troops for Iraq. They’d have to be convinced to walk with their eyes open into a guerrilla war. But they are now offering training and other help, and should be taken up on it. It is not clear that despite the attempts of Colin Powell, the Bush administration still has the credibility in the Arab world to get the cooperation of the League in Iraq. Unlike Kerry, Bush did not even mention wanting to try. Kerry’s strategy, of announcing that the US will leave Iraq and does not want bases, would certainly go a long way toward mollfying the regional Arab powers.

Meanwhile, real-time political blogging became an element in the public reception of the debate. The Republican Party attempted to spin the debate using large numbers of real-time web logs:

“The “Debate Feed” will provide the GOP spin in real time to as many as 5,000 conservative Web outlets, according to Wired News. “Our rapid response effort is based on the premise that no attack or no misstatement will go unchallenged,” Michael Turk, director of the Internet campaign, told the Web site. A “war room” is outfitted with 15 computers and two TVs, monitored by two dozen staffers, ready to send out a Republican response or comment, Wired added.

The Kerry campaign is not so well organized. It has e-mailed supporters who work with local newspapers and media, telling them the Kerry campaign will provide a response after the debate, Wired reported.”

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