Friday, September 09, 2005

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.


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