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Tuesday, April 08, 2003
this self-governance thing is starting to look like scripted improv
Two wire stories, conveniently in order on Salon's home page right now, catch my eye.

The first (and important) one is headlined British put sheik into power in Basra. Basically, after surrounding the city for almost two weeks and (probably) killing "Chemical Ali" in an airstrike, British forces took Basra Monday and are now establishing it as an administrative and public-relations beachead. (That doesn't sound British at all, does it?) And so, in keeping with Blair's public comment, they're trying to establish an Iraqi-led local government. The sheik is "a tribal leader" and "a local figure, not an Iraqi exile."

The sheik indicated that he could draw on some members of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's ruling Baath party who were not implicated in oppression of the local people, Vernon said..."We have ascertained that he is worthwhile, credible and has authority in the local area, particularly with the tribal chiefs," Vernon said. The sheik will form his committee as he sees fit, "and we will take him at his word on his judgment."

Of course, the elephant here is the UN. This article repeats the claim, relayed almost everywhere else in the Western media as far as I can see, that Bush/Blair say that "the United Nations would have a role in all aspects of postwar Iraq, from aid or helping to set up an interim authority until elections could be held." Unfortunately, the New York Times disagrees, saying "Mr. Bush described that role [for the UN] as largely humanitarian and advisory rather than one central to overseeing the country and eventually establishing a new government." It's sad enough that allowing the UN to help with humanitarian aid is more than we'd been expecting, but of course not having them oversee the governmental transition willfully ignores their prime benefit: neutrality. (Not that they're actually neutral, of course, but they're sure regarded as a whole lot more neutral than the US or Britain.) It's nice that the Brits are putting the sheik in Basra since folks to have a better view of their intentions, but they only look better in relation to the US, not a hard feat at this point, and the fact that the US hasn't done anything to openly encourage Iraqi self-governance yet is only going to make America's plans for a post-war Iraq look worse and undermine future efforts in that direction. So we're still waiting and seeing, and signs are somewhat improving, but the reality doesn't necessarily seem to be a lot better.


The other story is headlined Study: Fat kids rank quality of life low which has to rank up there with "Stupid People Do Badly on Tests" for obviousness. The use of "fat kids" rather than "overweight children" is also a bit weird. Basically, it says that fat kids (ergh!) are as unhappy as kids undergoing chemotherapy are. Wow.

This is all a bit too depressing to comment on now, and I have work, so more later.