Instahoglets - punchposts in the accepted Instapundit/Atrios style with an added helping of Newshog snark. Today we have some background reports that point up little-spoken-off aspects of world issues as well as comment on some major stories. Enjoy.
Can we once and for all get rid of the idiotic notion that the 'dictatorship' in Iran exerts iron control over every square inch of it's territory? Iran has a major drugs problem and according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime over 60% of all opiates from Afghanistan are smuggled to the world via Iran. That speaks of incredibly difficult terrain to patrol and centuries-old smuggling expertise. Remember this the next time some nasty thing (like an IED) comes out of Iran and the Iranian govt. are blamed without any evidence of their involvement.
Train services linking Pakistan and Iran have been suspended after a series of bombings and rocket attacks on the rail network in Pakistan. Pakistani authorities suspect that Baluch tribesmen have carried out the attacks as part of a campaign to compel the central government to increase payments the region receives for resources extracted there. 80,000 Pakistani troops have been conducting a little regional civil war in two Pakistani regions for over a year now, bombing and shelling their own populace, with little attention from the Western media.
The dictator's lot is not a happy one, as Pakistan News' reprint of a Jane's Security assessment shows. Were he to fall, a period of instability would likely follow because he has ensured that Pakistan's parliamentary system has remained weak. Bush could have proposed funds to strengthen Pakistan's democratic apparatus, but instead he gave them more money for weaponry. That's par for the course - it's only tyranny if it isn't what suits George.
The Bush administration has announced that Iran is the nation that poses the biggest threat to the US. That's a nation with no nukes, more democracy than Pakistan and no real ability for military force projection. Whereas North Korea has had all kinds of WMD including nukes for sometime, is run by a bono-fide nutcase who authorizes drug-dealing and counterfeiting to undermine the US and now has the ability to land it's nukes on the continental United States. Could someone explain how Iran is more of a threat, please? I am genuinely baffled unless the explanation for the various Bush official's statements is pure propoganda and bullshit.
Bush says he is shocked to learn that his former domestic policy adviser was charged with theft for allegedly receiving phony refunds at department stores. He says he and his staff were not fully informed by Claude Allen of the underlying reasons for his sudden resignation last month. Do you believe it? Me neither. It's pretty obvious the only reason he resigned was so that the Bush administration could distance itself in this way. In the last year, it has been notable how many prominent Republican apparatchiks have become ex-somethings just before their arrests - and the media duly follows along describing each as a former aide, congressman or whatever without ever drawing the obvious conclusions.
It is enough to make you wonder what Interior Secretary Gale Norton might be arrested for in a month or so. As the WaPo puts it - "Norton's resignation comes as a federal criminal task force continues to investigate former GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff's dealings with her department. The task force is examining, among other issues, former deputy secretary J. Steven Griles's discussions with Abramoff at a time when the lobbyist was seeking departmental actions on behalf of his tribal clients." [Emphasis mine] By then, if so, she will be a "former" too and Bush can be shocked again.
The xenophobic Right made much this week of a Weekly Standard column by Thomas Joscelyn that says Iran and the Taliban (an by extension Al Qaida) are in cahoots. Every single Rightwing commenter passed over the overwhelming evidence that this is NOT the case (like the fighting between Al Qaida and Iran in the Eastern regions of the Iran, the drugs smuggling the Taliban are doing into Iran and the large number of Al Qaida members arrested by Iran) and likewise forgot to mention the one really crucial part of Jocelyn's fantasy. I quote:
There is no information in the transcript identifying the Iranian representatives at the meeting. Nor is there any information on what actual support the Iranians provided, if any.
In other words, it's all speculative piss and bullshit, folks.
Here's an interesting read. Jason Burke reviews four new books about Al Qaida for the Guardian newspaper, with much thoughtful and informative comment - and as a by-blow points up the common roots of Al Qaida and the Neoconservative movement. Both originate in extremist activist thinkers disillusioned with the failure of communism and casting desperately around for a new intellectual hook from which to hang a radical ideology of change.