Since democracy, a deeply held value of Americans, has become an aspiration for most Muslims, democracy should be central to Obama’s message — and to his choice of where to deliver it. Two key Muslim-majority countries are many years into a steady democratic transition. The first is Indonesia, which with more than 200 million people is the most populous of all Muslim lands. An additional attraction is that Obama spent much of his childhood there. A visit would be a homecoming of sorts.
The second country is Turkey. With more than 70 million people in territory lying in Asia and Europe, it is literally and metaphorically a bridge between East and West, North and South.
The political and sociocultural choices that Indonesia and Turkey have made are in clear accord with the essence of modernity. By their example, Indonesia and Turkey have laid to rest both Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” proposition and the idea that Islam and democracy are incompatible.
While the rest of the Muslim world has a long way to go toward democracy, Indonesia and Turkey should be celebrated as role models. Nothing would speak louder and clearer to that notion than an early visit by the universally popular Barack Obama. [continued…]
Darawan Salahadin, dressed in a black shirt and blue jeans, strolled out of his home in the Kurdish part of his ethnically fragmented neighborhood, passing concrete barriers and a checkpoint guarded by a Kurdish fighter. He entered the Arab section and walked swiftly to his tan, flat-roofed school.
In the classrooms were only Kurdish students. The Arabs would arrive as Kurds left, and then the Turkmen students would get their turn. The school has three names, one in each community’s language, and three sets of teachers and principals.
“I have no Arab and Turkmen friends. I have only Kurdish friends,” said Salahadin, a slim 17-year-old with thick, gelled black hair. “I can’t speak Arabic or Turkmen. So I don’t know them.”
The school’s divisions illustrate the tensions rippling through this neighborhood and all of Kirkuk, ground zero of Iraq’s most vexing conflict over land, oil and identity. The battle over who will rule Kirkuk is a significant test of whether the Iraqi government can solve the country’s internal disputes as the U.S. military draws down.
In contrast to security improvements elsewhere in the country, Arab, Kurdish and Turkmen residents of Kirkuk remain targets of political violence as their leaders vie for control of what they see as their ancestral lands. Last week, at least 57 people died in a suicide bombing on the outskirts of the city, the deadliest assault in Iraq in six months. [continued…]
The Iraqi television journalist who threw his shoes at President Bush during a news conference this week has apologized to the Iraqi government in a letter to the prime minister and asked for a pardon, an Iraqi government official said Thursday.
The government did not release the letter, and a lawyer for the reporter said that during a conversation with him on Wednesday the reporter did not tell her about it. But the lawyer, Ahlam Allami, also said the reporter, Muntader al-Zaidi, had told her he had never meant to insult the Iraqi government or Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki when he hurled his shoes at the president during a news conference with the two leaders on Sunday. [continued…]
Iraq’s interior minister said all 24 of his officers who had been arrested in a security crackdown this week would be released. And in a bold gesture of defiance, he publicly condemned his own government’s investigation, calling the accusations false and motivated purely by politics.
The minister, Jawad al-Bolani, in a series of interviews and at a news conference on Friday, insisted on the innocence of the officials detained on charges of aiding terrorism and having inappropriate ties with political parties, including Al Awda, an illegal party that is a descendant of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party. [continued…]
Americans don’t spend much time thinking about Somalia. And what time we do spend has in recent months been focused on somewhat amused accounts of the uptick in pirate activity off the Somali coast. But the piracy is but a symptom of the larger problem of lawlessness and anarchy in Somalia. To Americans who have paid no attention to East Africa in the time between the departure of U.S. forces from Somalia in 1995 and the recent spate of pirate attacks, this situation may appear merely endemic to the region. But it’s not. The Somali situation was, in many ways, improving as of two years ago. At which point the Bush administration initiated a new adventure that, like most Bush administration deeds, was ill-conceived and worked out poorly. In this case, it destroyed the country, has been responsible for the deaths of untold thousands of people, has created the pirate problem, and is breeding a new generation of anti-American jihadists.
And nobody in the United States seems to have noticed.
In part, this is because Somalia is an obscure corner of the world. And in part it’s because the crucial events took place almost exactly two years ago — during the Christmas season when most journalists were on vacation and most people weren’t following the news. [continued…]
Emboldened by a Democratic win of the White House, civil libertarians and human rights groups want the incoming Obama administration to investigate whether the Bush administration committed war crimes. They don’t just want low-level CIA interrogators, either. They want President George W. Bush on down.
In the past eight years, administration critics have demanded that top officials be held accountable for a host of expansive assertions of executive powers from eavesdropping without warrants to detaining suspected enemy combatants indefinitely at the Guantanamo Bay military prison. A recent bipartisan Senate report on how Bush policies led to the abuse of detainees has fueled calls for a criminal investigation.
But even some who believe top officials broke the law don’t favor criminal prosecutions. The charges would be too difficult legally and politically to succeed.
Without wider support, the campaign to haul top administration officials before an American court is likely to stall.
In the end, Bush administration critics might have more success by digging out the truth about what happened and who was responsible, rather than assigning criminal liability, and letting the court of public opinion issue the verdicts, many say. [continued…]
After Dennis Blair’s assignment as military liaison to the CIA 13 years ago, he groused about all the cloak-and-dagger politics at Langley headquarters. “You’d go to a meeting and think everyone had agreed” to a particular course of action, and then the meeting would end and “someone would come up to me in the hallway and say, ‘Forget what you heard in there’ ” — what we really want to do is something different, Blair once explained.
Secret agendas have never been “Denny” Blair’s style. The reserved former four-star admiral, who is widely understood to be President-elect Barack Obama’s choice as director of national intelligence, is well known in Washington as an intellectual who values straightforwardness and has mastered the byzantine interagency process during his various government stints.
In choosing a man so steeped in Washington’s ways, the Obama administration is signaling its intention to streamline the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which is widely seen as too large, too cumbersome and still too disjointed, according to transition officials. [continued…]
By the end, the world itself was too small to support the vast Ponzi scheme constructed by Bernard L. Madoff.
Initially, he tapped local money pulled in from country clubs and charity dinners, where investors sought him out to casually plead with him to manage their savings so they could start reaping the steady, solid returns their envied friends were getting.
Then, he and his promoters set sights on Europe, again framing the investments as memberships in a select club. A Swiss hedge fund manager, Michel Dominicé, still remembers the pitch he got a few years ago from a salesman in Geneva. “He told me the fund was closed, that it was something I couldn’t buy,” Mr. Dominicé said. “But he told me he might have a way to get me in. It was weird.”
Mr. Madoff’s agents next cut a cash-gathering swath through the Persian Gulf, then Southeast Asia. Finally, they were hurtling with undignified speed toward China, with invitations to invest that were more desperate, less exclusive. One Beijing businessman who was approached said it seemed the Madoff funds were being pitched “to anyone who would listen.” [continued…]