Tuesday, September 13, 2005


Chemical weapons? A dictator? Civil war?

This is a weird story. See if you can spot it: DUBAI (AFX) - An Al-Qaeda linked Sunni group in Iraq said it used chemical weapons to attack targets in Baghdad today, according to their statement released on an Islamist website. We are never told what the weapons were. Tear gas? Mustard gas? VX? Really old sauerkraut? I can't imagine Al Qaida using a proscribed munition. Chemical weapons properly deployed can be really awful. But a few rounds of mustard gas, which is the agent that's readily available, are unlikely to cause significant casualties. The first use of a truly dangerous agent like VX would probably be seen in the end more as a public relations disaster for its users than as of military value. That's why the western nations banned them: they made war deeply unpopular. Now, the occupation isn't saying it was a chemical weapon, which they surely would if they could. Could it have been an old round that once contained mustard gas? Another story that struck me was a USAToday editorial: Worse, the ruling — expected to be appealed — isn't limited to O'Hare airport or to Padilla. The court said Congress has given the president authority to order the jailing of anyone anywhere for as long as he wishes, as long as he claims it's connected to the war on terrorism. That sounds more like the power accorded a dictator than the president of the United States. Repeal of the Constitution's Fourth, Fifth and Sixth amendments wasn't part of the package when Congress passed that anti-terrorism resolution after the 9/11 attacks. Bush has been for four years accumulating powers that no one but a dictator should want. I am glad USAToday noticed. And then there's this from Juan Cole speaking about Tal Afar: It is mainly about punishing the Sunni Turkmen for allying with the Sunni Arab guerrillas. That the attack came in part in response to the pleas of local Shiite Turkmen helps explain why why Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari (Shiite leader of the fundamentalist Dawa Party) authorized it, and went to Tal Afar on Tuesday for a photo op. The US will never get stability in Iraq if it is merely an adjunct to a Kurdish-Shiite alliance against the Sunni Arabs and their Turkmen supporters. Also this: The US/Iraqi government policy now appears to be to de-urbanize the Sunni Arab heartland by destroying Sunni cities one after another. The problem with such a tactic is that it will not actually reduce attacks on the US military or the Iraqi police. It will just seed ethnic hatred for decades to come.
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