Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Reaping Retribution

To discover what's really going on in Iraq one must forget the evening news and turn instead to the milblogs (military blogs) which specialize in covering military matters in general and operations in Iraq in particular. One blog that provides a perspective that you won't ever get from ABC/NBC/CBS/CNN is StrategyPage.com. Their post from last Sunday, for example, gives us some good insight into the recent upsurge in deaths among Iraqi civilians. Here's part of that post:

September 18, 2005: The al Qaeda "war" against Iraqi Shia is now five days old. Some 250 Iraqis have been killed so far, most on the first day, and most of them civilians and Shia. But a growing number of the dead bodies found are Sunni Arabs, and it appears that some of the newly trained Shia police and soldiers are moonlighting as death squads. Sunni Arabs complain of raids, sometimes by men in uniform, that efficiently remove Sunni Arab men, who later turn up dead, and often showing signs of torture (indicating interrogation to obtain more information on who is attacking Shia civilians.) The government is not making a particularly strong effort to find out who the moonlighting police are, and stop them.

The government keeps telling the Sunni Arab leadership that these al Qaeda attacks on Shia civilians can only end badly for the Sunni Arab population. While many Sunni Arab groups, still loyal to the Baath Party (or Saddam Hussein), and determined to have Sunni Arabs running the country again, continue to attack Shia Arabs, the victims are increasingly attacking right back. Terrorism, it appears, works both ways in Iraq. But instead of spectacular car bombs, the Shia Arab and Kurd "avengers" (as they see themselves) stalk individual Sunni Arabs (known to have been killers of Saddam, or terrorists today), and shoot them dead. Sunni Arab men known, or believed to be involved in terrorist operations, are rounded up at night, usually to be never seen alive again. All of this is in addition to legitimate counter-terrorist operations, where the people rounded up survive the process.

Follow the link to read the rest of it.

Major News Breaks, MSM Yawns

A major non-event in the American media is nevertheless a significant event for American foreign policy. Oxblog reports on it for us:

The principal news coming out of Aghanistan is that there is little news out of Aghanistan, and this is a remarkable thing. Voting in today's elections for parliamentary and provincial office passed without major incident (among the minor incidents, there were nineteen Taliban-linked attacks upon polling stations, in most instances before they were opened, with three voters being injured); officials of the Aghan-UN Joint Electoral Management Body report long queues of women voters; and all but 16 of the 6,200 polling centres established across Afghanistan were operational on voting day (this a marked improvement from last October's presidential election, where security considerations forced the closure of all polling centres in a significant number of Afghan regions).

Turnout might have been higher, and seven election candidates died in militant-linked violence over the last half year, but the elections are in general being hailed as a major success nonetheless, and include such poignant images as long queues of women waiting to vote in the former Taliban capital of Kandahar.

Too bad Sean Penn or Cindy Sheehan didn't show up over there. Maybe then the elections would've gotten some coverage.

Publius also has a lot more on the election here.

The Most Violent Country

If you were to guess which country in the world was the most violent how would you answer? Whatever answer you give, it's probably wrong according to a United Nations study. I'm a little skeptical of the methodology of this study, but, for what its worth, its findings were surprising. The Times Online has the story:

A United Nations report has labelled Scotland the most violent country in the developed world, with people three times more likely to be assaulted than in America. England and Wales recorded the second highest number of violent assaults while Northern Ireland recorded the fewest.

The study, based on telephone interviews with victims of crime in 21 countries, found that more than 2,000 Scots were attacked every week, almost ten times the official police figures. They include non-sexual crimes of violence and serious assaults.

Violent crime has doubled in Scotland over the past 20 years and levels, per head of population, are now comparable with cities such as Rio de Janeiro, Johannesburg and Tbilisi.

The attacks have been fuelled by a "booze and blades" culture in the west of Scotland which has claimed more than 160 lives over the past five years. Since January there have been 13 murders, 145 attempted murders and 1,100 serious assaults involving knives in the west of Scotland. The problem is made worse by sectarian violence, with hospitals reporting higher admissions following Old Firm matches.

David Ritchie, an accident and emergency consultant at Glasgow's Victoria Infirmary, said that the figures were a national disgrace. "I am embarrassed as a Scot that we are seeing this level of violence. Politicians must do something about this problem. This is a serious public health issue. Violence is a cancer in this part of the world," he said.

Detective Chief Superintendent John Carnochan, head of the Strathclyde Police's violence reduction unit, said the problem was chronic and restricting access to drink and limiting the sale of knives would at least reduce the problem.

The study, by the UN's crime research institute, found that 3 per cent of Scots had been victims of assault compared with 1.2 per cent in America and just 0.1 per cent in Japan, 0.2 per cent in Italy and 0.8 per cent in Austria. In England and Wales the figure was 2.8 per cent.

Scotland was eighth for total crime, 13th for property crime, 12th for robbery and 14th for sexual assault. New Zealand had the most property crimes and sexual assaults, while Poland had the most robberies.

Chief Constable Peter Wilson, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland, questioned the figures. "It must be near impossible to compare assault figures from one country to the next based on phone calls," he said.

I agree with the constable, but still..., Scotland??

Urging the Dems to Vote No

E.J. Dionne thinks that the Senate should vote no on judge John Roberts, not because he doesn't think Roberts qualified, but because he doesn't think he was sufficiently forthcoming in the Senate judicial committee hearings about his "core beliefs." We should end the charade that these hearings have become, Dionne argues, by refusing to confirm those who make it such a farce.

Even if one agrees with Dionne that Roberts' beliefs about Roe v. Wade are indeed a legitimate concern, he still looks a little silly raising the matter now. He evidently wasn't too bothered that neither Sandra Day O'Connor nor Ruth Bader Ginsburg were any more forthcoming in their hearings than Roberts was in his. If those nominees didn't have to answer questions about where they stood on matters likely to come before the court why make Roberts jump over that bar? Dionne's frustration with Roberts seems more than a little partisan, being reserved, as it is, for a conservative judge who might vote to overturn Roe.

There really is only one question that Roberts should be expected to answer, and that concerns the principles which will guide him in forming his judgments about the cases he hears. How flexible in his mind is the constitution? How strictly will he interpret it? Will he seek to interpret in the light of foreign law? Will he read into it principles that are currently fashionable but not mentioned in the constitution itself? Everything else we need to know about his experience, his integrity, his judicial competence are all discovered through venues other than hearings. If no questions arise when the candidate is vetted by the FBI, if there are no hints of scandal or incompetence, then all the judiciary committee need worry about are his answers to those questions.

That would, of course, make for what the senators would consider an unacceptably short hearing, and that would not sit well with those pompous, self-important bloviators on the judiciary committee who treasure their time preening before the cameras and pampering their super-sized egos by delivering questions in the form of speeches. More than the nominees, the judiciary committee members are the reason the hearings have become a charade.