Friday, September 30, 2005

Local News (Part 2)

Three men are to appear in court in connection with the theft of Gladys Hammond's body. Arrests have been made before during the campaign of intimidation in this part of rural Staffordshire, but I don't know if has ever got as far as people being prosecuted. It's amazing how coverage by the national media concentrates the minds of the police.

C4 News (Thursday), reporting on another case of a firm that has been terrorized into severing contacts with Huntingdon Life Sciences, contrasted the ineffectiveness of the laws to deal with animal rights extremists with the use of the anti-terrorism legislation on an 82 year old man who heckled at the Labour Party conference (he was detained in a particular place for about 5 minutes, as far as I can make out).

(By the way, congratulations to Alex Thompson for his report on a trip to Northern Afghanistan with ISAF: guess what, things are still pretty grim, but much better than under the Taliban.)

An a propos on the attempts by migrants from Morocco to enter territory controlled by Spain: relations between the two countries seem to have improved since the 'Parsley Island' affair. I think that was in 2003, before Zapatero gained power.

Thursday, September 29, 2005


Something I heard on France Inter yesterday: in Algeria today there is a reférendum, with the President calling for a 'yes'
sur son projet de « Charte pour la paix et la réconciliation nationale » qui pourrait se résumer en un seul mot, l’oubli - un oubli qu’instaurerait la loi en imposant un silence judiciaire sur treize années de massacres et 150 000 morts au moins auxquels il faut ajouter plusieurs centaines de milliers de blessés, quelques quinze mille disparus et d’innombrables familles endeuillées à jamais.
The conclusion:
Abdelaziz Bouteflika, tout élu et réélu qu’il ait été, a été mis en place par une armée qui reste intouchable car elle est le seul vrai pouvoir algérien. Le FLN, l’ancien parti unique qui porte la responsabilité politique de ce drame algérien pour avoir si bien brisé les partis démocratiques qu’il ne restait plus que les islamistes au moment des premières élections libres, garde un puissant appareil et fait partie de la majorité présidentielle. Les islamistes, enfin, qui ne se confondent pas tous avec les égorgeurs, gardent une aura d’opposition radicale.
C’est la réalité des rapports de forces. C’est l’Algérie et ce que son président demande aux électeurs, c’est, en fait de le plébisciter, de renforcer son pouvoir en échange, promet-il, des énormes investissements que permettent les rentrées pétrolières. Oubliez, dit-il, laissez-moi faire : la croissance et les emplois arrivent. ( Un plébiscite pour Bouteflika  )
Talking of oblivion, I did not hear anything on the English-language media, though I did find this tucked away on the BBC website. The BBC, however, are reporting it today.

Monday, September 26, 2005

liberal heroes

Amity Shlaes reflects on the meaning of 'liberal', starting in June 1940:
Former president Herbert Hoover, hoping for another shot at the presidency, was running around the Republican convention hall in Philadelphia arguing that the US needed someone in the White House with connections in Nazi Germany - Herbert Hoover. Thomas Dewey, another Republican candidate, was busy declaring: “We must keep out of war in Europe.”

[... Wendell] Willkie was a businessman. But now he dared to compete with more traditional politicians for the Republican presidential nomination. As the author Charles Peters points out in this illuminating new book, Five Days in Philadelphia, Willkie saw what the other Republicans did not: that the US must participate in Europe’s war. [...]

Such hawkishness in a Republican candidate gave Roosevelt the crucial cover he needed to make the decisions that led to the defeat of Hitler. [...]  Willkie and FDR did not always agree;  [...] But the effect of their alliance was to buy Britain time to stave off Hitler. Willkie lost, but with more votes than any Republican since 1928. After the election, FDR made him his emissary and sent him around the world to meet Churchill and Stalin. ('Civil wars', FT Magazine, 24 Sept, link might still be free)
More on the Andijan trial: FROM OUR OWN CORRESPONDENT: World Service edition         (2nd item, about 5 minutes in).

International solidarity

The BBC, in their edited highlights of the debate in New York, carried Galloway's remark that America 'might one day not even be able to pick up the dead bodies in one of its most important cities a week after they've laid there.' Later the moderator, Amy Goodman, asked about 'the cost here at home, with the hurricane Katrina and the lack of response?'. Galloway picked up the point with 'you end up an apologist and a mouthpiece for those miserable, malevolent incompetents who couldn't even pick up the bodies of their own citizens in New Orleans in the aftermath of a hurricane.'

Unless I'm mistaken, the BBC did not include the core point of Hitchens' response: 'what I will not have said, is that we should go to a refugee woman in Biloxi and say to her, "Do you realize the Arabs have stolen the money that should have come for you?" And we have no right [..] to put the poor against each other in that way, and betray our internationalism.'

Similarly, we had Galloway's 'president George Bush invading Iraq in 1991', but not Hitchens' 'I'm talking about 1991, it wasn't an invasion of Iraq, it was an expulsion of Iraq from Kuwait by a coalition which included even Syria.'

It is also interesting to think about the exact meaning and implication of 'until we've rid the world of George W. Bush and Anthony Blair, once and for all'.

Reminder: transcript here.
More on relativism here. Ceteribus Paribus, "Double langage", on Schröder and Blair, is worth reading. I have commented there.

Thursday, September 22, 2005


Toby Dodge, on C4 News the other day, said something like, 'We may not be doing any good there, but at least we're preventing a collapse into total chaos in Iraq.' I would have thought that was a quite considerable good. I suppose we have to translate it as 'We may not be ensuring perfect order, but at least...'

The issue that has been brought into prominence by the recent events in Basra, that of the infiltration of the police force by politically motivated groups, was already evident from the Steven Vincent story six weeks ago, which was not big news in the British media. What still baffles me about that is why Juan Cole went off at such a tangent, when the story fitted so well with the view that 'Iraq is in chaos', in the South as well as elsewhere.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The roots of Ba'athism

The programme was called 'The Road to 9/11', not 'The Roots of 9/11' as I said before. Anyway, I videotaped it when it was repeated. The preview in the Radio Times said 'It's not quite of the calibre of  [..] The Power of Nightmares'. It's much better than that, since it does not have the fundamental dishonesty of the 'Nightmares'.

One of the points it makes is pretty much the same as the one made here ( Freedom and Justice in the Modern Middle East, Bernard Lewis, Foreign Affairs, May/June 2005):
[Following the fall of France in 1940] Syria-Lebanon was wide open to the Nazis, who moved in and made it the main base of their propaganda and activity in the Arab world.

It was at that time that the ideological foundations of what later became the Baath Party were laid, with the adaptation of Nazi ideas and methods to the Middle Eastern situation. The nascent party's ideology emphasized pan-Arabism, nationalism, and a form of socialism. The party was not officially founded until April 1947, but memoirs of the time and other sources show that the Nazi interlude is where it began.
In the years that followed the end of World War II, the British and the French departed, and after a brief interval the Soviets moved in.

The leaders of the Baath Party easily switched from the Nazi model to the communist model, needing only minor adjustments.
Oh no. America created Saddam Hussein. And Osama Bin Laden. Not to mention the Egyptian dictatorship.
The latest on the Andijan trial, from the BBC. Muidin Sobirov, accused of being a key planner behind the uprising, confessed to his role:
All the details of his account exactly match those of the government's version of events, already given by the state prosecution and widely published in the state-controlled media. [..] Mr Sobirov spoke rapidly without pauses, frequently looking at the ceiling, as if repeating details memorised beforehand.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Remembering Andijan

Early on Friday morning, 11 refugees from Andijan were evacuated from Kyrgyzstan to London. They are to be moved on to third countries. According to the BBC's correspondent Ian McWilliam, 'the town is outwardly calm but people are living in a climate of fear'.

See also Amnesty International report The Wire - September 2005.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, interviewed on The World this Weekend (14 Aug) for the 25th anniversary of Solidarity in Poland, said that, unlike Ukraine and Belarus, Uzbekistan is not at the stage of development to support democratic reform. Surely the point is that the Karimov regime's policy is to prevent Uzbekistan ever reaching that stage of (economic) development.

The trial of the 'ringleaders' of the demonstrations starts today.

Further thoughts on 'In critical condition' by John Sutherland (see here), occasioned by seeing a charity collection envelope with the motto 'belief in action': anyone remember "Seven Types of Ambiguity" ?
Literary editors, [Scott] Pack sarcastically observes, would rather have "a full-page review of a biography of a largely forgotten academic with an unfeasible beard" (William Empson, if you haven't guessed) than the books that actually keep the book business in business.
This is philistinism to a high degree, a worship of celebrity and the ephemeral.

Monday, September 19, 2005

The day after

An amazing comeback by Gerhard Schröder, for the Social Democrats to come just 3 seats behind the CDU.  After voting on 2 October, delayed because of the death of a candidate, the SPD might even draw level. Here are the results (source: BBC), arranged roughly from right to left. (Unlike in France, the far right took a tiny percentage of votes and no seats in Parliament.)

Free Democrats: 9.8% (61); CDU/CSU: 35.2% (225 seats); SPD: 34.3% (222); Greens: 8.1% (51) ; Left Party: 8.7% (54)

So, what does it mean? For Bernard Guetta, Angela Merkel took a a neo-liberal step too far, when she appointed an economics adviser who favoured a flat tax. (Interestingly, Philip Stephens wrote a piece in the FT Tuesday, 13 Sept, called 'A flat tax would flatten the Tories'.)  Secondly,  as Pierre Moscovici pointed out, the splintering of those who reject any reform, die Linke, from the mainstream left prevented the Social Democrats from forming a majority, with the Greens, in the Bundestag.

Update: I didn't find too many blogs talking about the German elections. There is this, though,  especially the reply from coralie (reuters), all in French. The delayed voting in Dresden involves one constituency, but it could swing 2 seats. Some put the CDU-SPD score at 225-222, others at 225-221. In the latter case, 2 seats changing hands would seem to lead to a dead heat. But there is probably more to it than that. There is a later post from Ceteris P here. Even the 613 total number of deputies is only provisoire, it would seem. I thought it strange that the BBC said the delayed voting 'will not tip the balance of power', but perhaps they are right after all.

The comments on. this thread at Fistful of Euros also seem interesting.  

Quite a turnaround. On Sunday, it was being reported that food aid to North Korea was to cease. On Monday, North Korea has agreed to rejoin the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Election day

Daniel Johnson and David Lawday on Germany and France, in the NS:
The Socialist ego-trippers begin with Laurent Fabius, architect of his party's collapse on Europe. Fabius, a former prime minister no less patrician than Villepin, pins his personal hopes on taking the party hard left, untainted by the "coldness" of Blairism. This allows him, incongruously, to paint his rivals as rightists or cheerleaders for job-stealing globalisation.
On the other elections, in Afghanistan. According to The Economist, 'the country is doing better than many feared'. The New Statesman has an article about a woman candidate.
According to REUTERS (in the NYT), 'Chechen militants have killed six pro-Moscow police and wounded another nine, local media reported on Saturday in a major blow to Russian forces in the turbulent region. [...]  it is rare for Russia, which still has more than 100,000 troops in and around the region, to lose so many police in a single day. Chechen rebel Web sites reported that top rebel commander Akhmad Avdorkhanov died in a clash on Monday.'
I've listened to most of the BBC's edited highlights of 'the debate'. Galloway's rants are quite sickening, straight out of the Stalinist handbook of rhetorical tricks - 'and the rest of the neoconservative gang' etc.(Update: the transcript is here - via Harry's Place.)

Finally, the German elections: according to C4 News (Sunday), Tony Blair would prefer Angela Merkel to win. On a trip to Germany, he visited her first before Gerhard Schröder. Then, he has privately expressed his preference for her to win. 

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Les Trente

In his book, La guerre des deux France, Jacques Marseille attacks the corrosive pessimism of Left Bank intellectuals (such as [Olivier] Duhamel), who hold that the Trente Glorieuses (or the 30 years of economic boom in postwar France) have been followed by Trente Piteuses (or 30 years of economic stagnation following the 1973 oil shock). Bolstering his argument with a mass of statistics, Marseille argues that the past 30 years have seen staggering advances in the welfare of French citizens. Life expectancy has risen by nine years, social inequalities have been drastically reduced, the proportion of the population living in poverty has halved and the productivity of the French workforce has soared.

"In 30 years, during a period that we lazily describe as a crisis, GDP per head has almost doubled, national wealth has trebled, the infant mortality rate has been divided by four, the length of the working week has been cut from 44 to 35 hours and the number of students completing the baccalaureat at the age of 18 has trebled," he writes.
'French disconnections' by John Thornhill  (subscribers only  -- link) I heard a debate on France Inter on Thursday evening about the budget deficit and economic stagnation in France (as in Germany). One of the points made was that French sociey has decided to provide nursery schools, or écoles maternelles, and to take away this acquis would upset many French people, especially women. Even Blair / New Labour set out to improve state provision of nursery education, though no doubt it is still not as widely available as in France. Another point was the enormous amount of money the British have to spend on fees for public (meaning private) schools. You would think there was no state-funded education in Britain, though doubtless again it is not as well funded as in France.
They occupy no desk space in the building. They have no computer account. They demand no benefits and run up no expenses. They have no job security. Average rates of pay range from £150 to £400 for [800 words] that, with reading and research, can take up to 12 hours' work and a lifetime's accumulated specialist knowledge.
Who is this downtrodden class of workers? Why, book reviewers, of course! ( 'In critical condition', John Sutherland, FT Magazine, 10 Sept) There is a subscribers only link here and a mention in a couple of literary sites: Grumpy Old Bookman and the Literary Saloon at the complete review. On thesubject of literary sites, this one has been mentioned on DSTfW, Norm etc.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Serious analysis

'A real nightmare': a long analysis by Peter Bergen in Prospect magazine of 'The Power of Nightmares' (now free to view). A version of the article also appeared in The Nation.
Wolfowitz, at least until the 9/11 attacks, would have agreed with Curtis's assessment that the threat posed by al Qaeda was a "fantasy." The leading neoconservative in the administration did not seek to inflate the al Qaeda threat but rather failed to appreciate its significance—until it was too late.  
On the same subject,  a few weeks ago I came across this, a transcript of the programme. It's source may be here. It appears to be done by someone who believes the 'Nightmares' is gospel - 'It’s that important' - but I have no reason to doubt its accuracy, or at least its good faith. Compare this post of mine, for example.

Via France Inter, there is a feature on the two contenders for Chirac's succession in the New Yorker ...(either I misheard it or it's not yet on there website. Sarkozy is described as 'a failed American', but I can't remember what they said about de Villepin...

From my 'Referring Web Pages': Eye Of The Storm. Quite interesting from a quick glance...

Comments here: An Attack on One Is an Attack on All

The European Model

(13 Sept) I arrived fairly late at a suburban train station in Paris and found the taxi rank. No taxis and two people already waiting. One of them said he had been told it could be twenty minutes before any taxis arrived. He found this incroyable, given the high level of unemployment in France.

This week's selection from the paper I picked up on the flight home: Alexandre Adler in Le Figaro (Paris, Rome, Berlin : transitions parallèles), on the German left...
Tout d'abord, la scission définitive de la gauche. Le Parti social-démocrate aura eu pour principal adversaire de cette campagne électorale le parti néocommuniste de Lafontaine. Il est entièrement exclu qu'il puisse renouer avec celui-ci au lendemain de l'élection, même si les trois composantes rouge, rose et verte de la gauche allemande venaient à représenter une majorité des sièges. La scission, ici intervenue, est ancrée dans la réalité sociale la plus dense : d'un côté, les défenseurs conservateurs d'un modèle qui ne fonctionne plus, mais qui ont décidé d'entreprendre une stratégie défensive de long terme fondée sur une non-collaboration avec le système politique existant ; de l'autre, des partisans d'une économie sociale de marché où le fonctionnement de ce marché l'emportera durablement sur les mécanismes traditionnels de redistribution.
 ... and right:
On ne comprend pas très bien de ce côté-ci du Rhin qu'Angela Merkel est en réalité une candidate de compromis entre la droite libérale pure, qui souhaite une sorte de révolution thatchérienne à l'allemande, et la droite conservatrice sociale qui aspire, elle, à la reconduction d'un modèle d'économie sociale de marché compatible avec celui des sociaux-libéraux de gauche.

I was home in time to watch a programme about the early years of the space race on BBC2. One striking fact: more people were killed during the production of the V2 rocket than by its use. At the end of the programme, after the Americans had gone to great lengths to get their hands on him and his core team, Werner Von Braun is left kicking his heels in the US. It later emerged, we are told, that he was personally involved in selecting slave labour for the V2 factory. Meanwhile, by the end of the 'forties, the Russians have reproduced, then improved on, the V2 technology. I think we can tell where this is heading (the programme is the first in a series).

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Tories talking Turkey

On the 'plane home last Thursday I picked up a copy of  The Daily Telegraph. I have long wondered what Tories thought of Turkey. Here is Boris Johnson, though his focus is elsewhere:
I badly want Turkey to be a member of the European Union. I believe that we in western Europe have a historic choice in the next few years, and that we can be visionary, or we can funk it. We can either turn our backs on the Turks, and declare openly or in code that a Muslim country, no matter how secular, may not be admitted to Europe. Or else we can show courage and leadership and begin the great task of the modern age, effecting a reconciliation between moderate Islam and the West, by bringing one of the largest and most powerful Muslim nations into the EU.

To understand how beneficial this might be for Turkey and Europe, think back to Spain under Franco, or Greece under the colonels. Who can doubt that EU membership was good for those countries and their concepts of democracy and human rights?

So it would be for Turkey. That is why we partisans of Turkish accession have been so disgusted by the decision of the Turkish government to prosecute the country's greatest living novelist, Orhan Pamuk. His crime? He referred in an interview to the killings in Turkey of Kurds and Armenians, both of which have undoubtedly happened in the last century. [...] The government of Prime Minister Erdogan has decided that Mr Pamuk  [...] must be tried for "insulting the national character", so exposing him to the possibility of three years in prison.
The only sign of life from Labour has been from the maverick former Europe minister, Denis MacShane, who was himself whacked by Blair for being too free in speaking his mind. MacShane is going to the trial of Orhan Pamuk in Turkey, and anyone who cares about freedom, democracy, and the future of Europe should be encouraged to do the same. But what kind of authority does poor Denis carry in this matter? He will arrive in Turkey as the representative of a governing party that not only bullies the BBC for speaking the truth[...]
Except John Humphrys and co. don't face three years in jail.
What CIA did so readily after September 11, however, was what the Clinton White House had been pressing them to do for years [certainly since 1998]: insert CIA personnel into Afghanistan, aid the Northern Alliance, fly the predator... (Richard A. Clarke, Against All Enemies, P276)
That's not the impression I got from the 9/11 Commission report. Or as Clarke puts it himself in his epilogue: 'I did not resign in protest when my recommendations to bomb the al Qaeda infrastructure were deferred by the Clinton administration'

Monday, September 12, 2005

air travel

One I forgot: Chirac's tax on air travel (with proceeds going to poor nations), like Gorgon Brown's IFF, might not be such a good idea (FT leader 3 July), but surely an international tax on aviation fuel is worth considering?

Christopher Caldwell sums up the struggle over the US Supreme Court succintly (FT, 10 Sept) ... 'When senators ask if a nominee follows stare decisis [Latin for respecting precedent], they are asking whether he would overturn Roe [v Wade].'

In France, where he keeps an office and publishes the books and tapes that have made him a hero to Muslim youth in the francophone world, he is regularly attacked as an Islamist troublemaker and anti-Semite.

No doubt it was the half-truths and rumours in the French press that inspired the US government to revoke his visa in July 2004.  (Andrew Hussey interview with Tariq Ramadan in the New Statesman, 12th September 2005)
It is no doubt true that 'British people [...] realised that they knew very little about Islam'. There was a TV programme called 'The Roots of 9/11', which I missed when I was on holiday, but it is to be repeated this week in the early hours(Friday 16 Sept).

Update (13 Sep): concerning the allegations of 'double discourse', compare the attacks on Michael Ignatieff (comments  here awaiting moderation - via this).

Friday, September 09, 2005

Normal service

I think I've caught up on the backlog of things I wanted to say, so we're more or less in real time now.

Last night [8 Sep], on BBC World Service's Newshour, Robert Fox (I think) analyzed the recent increase in violence in south of Iraq. There seems to be a 'new axis' following the election of a new president in Iran. (If you want to 'listen again', it's in the second half of the programme.)

Ralph Nader on BBC Radio 4 this morning talking about money being taken away from the maintenance of the  levees to pay for the war in Iraq. It seems to me there is a lot of after-the-eventery in this.  I can't recall too many people saying beforehand 'we should spend the money on protecting New Orleans rather than invading Iraq' (apparently the issue figured prominently in the local media, but I'm talking about at a national level). 

I seem to be linked to by Index of political blogs.

Back home

Well, briefly on Monday, before flying off to Madrid (the patchwork of brown and yellow surrounding it looks even more of a desert than usual) and on to the West coast of Spain and heavy rain Tuesday.

Apart from comment on New Orleans (as previously posted), France Inter is full of stuff about Chirac's medical condition, which seems to have become public on Sunday. This has evoked memories of the medical bulletins that Mitterand introduced in 1981, which turned out to be composed of fictions, or contrevérités. This sounds a bit politer than the mensonges which is usually used about the Iraq war. 

From a quick glance through the usual weblogs I picked out A Study in Distortion: David Clark in the Guardian (by Shalom Lappin). This goes through the old ground of the peace efforts at Camp David in July 2000 and at Taba  January 2001, then the post-mortems in The New York Review of Books, August and September 2001. What is interesting though is what has become 'a staple of disinformation in much of the discussion in the British press of the events leading up to the intifada':
It is entirely unsurprising that fringe groups with intense ideological commitments will engage in propaganda and agitprop journalism, happily distorting the facts to promote their cause. It is in no sense acceptable that senior political figures and mainstream journalists, who purport to base their arguments on a serious consideration of the available evidence and a balanced view of the complex situation they are addressing, should indulge in this sort of fabrication and distortion.
David Clark, if I recall correctly, was an adviser to the late Robin Cook. The 'consensus view in the Guardian and much of the British press', that Shalom Lappin refers to, incorporates its simplistic anti-zionism with opposition to the Iraq war and a general anti-American outlook.

Holiday snapshots

(5 Sept) Not much access to the news media over the last week and a half, but a chance to catch up on some reading. Here are a few scraps...

Terrorist leader Shamil Basayev has been appointed deputy PM in Chechnya's shadow government (FT, 27 Aug). Another stunning success for Putin's policy of assassinating Aslan Maskhadov in March....

(30 Aug) Some personal experience of NHS Direct and the personal dental service (PDS). This 'aims to provide emergency care for unregistered residents and visitors and routine care for unregistered residents'. (BASCD Scientific Meeting London, December 1999) ...

From 'The unbelievable truth' by Lawrence Freedman (FT Magazine, 30 July).
When the aim is indictment rather than explanation, the flow of policy-making gets lost in preference to a fixation with some core allegation. The errors in the September 2002 dossier appeared more disgraceful in retrospect when linked with the later war rather than the effort then under way in the UN. This focus has left insufficient media interest for other critical questions - such as why there was not a review of intelligence in February 2003, when it was already clear that the UN inspectors were not finding very much;
The processes of decision-making are always fascinating and often illuminating. But attempts to prove that policies were shaped by hidden agendas tend to be futile and distracting, interfering with the development of credible critiques and neglecting the wealth of material that is readily accessible.
"Blair backs banned Muslim scholar" on The Guardian's front page, 31 Aug, link here: 'Yesterday some hailed the appointment of Prof Ramadan to the committee, saying it showed the government was prepared to stand up to rightwing tabloids that had savaged the academic.' ...

So, the Iraqi constitution has been drafted. The BBC reported it as a hollow victory, since agreement had not been reached with the Sunnis, so it was likely to be voted down in the referendum. On the other hand, according to Brendan O’Leary, 'To vote down the constitution Sunni Arabs need to mobilize two thirds of the voters to vote “No” in three of these governorates. They can deliver such an outcome in Anbar and Salahaddin, but, in my view, are most unlikely to be able to do so in Nineva (where there is a significant Kurdish population as well as Christian minorities), or in Diyala, where there are significant numbers of Shi‘a Arabs and Kurds. In these two provinces, provided they are supported, the relevant minorities can go to the polls to stop a jihadist victory or a B‘athist restoration (whichever they fear most).'

O’Leary is constitutional advisor to the Kurdistan Government and Professor of Political Science at the
University of Pennsylvania. He is a citizen of Ireland and the European Union, resident in the USA and 'a European social democrat or American liberal, as you prefer'. See his long article here (pdf) and e-mail  ...

And so to Katrina / New Orleans. Nobody has yet blamed the French, who controlled this part of the world until 1803. The French, however, are blaming the usual things - commitment of the military in Iraq left it unable to cope with this local emergency (which seems to have little foundation) and spending money on the war in Iraq rather than on strengthening the levees protecting the city (which has more validity). It all goes to confirm the Michael (Roger springs more readily to the lips of some people) Moore caricature of Bush, which they take seriously.