Saddam Hussein Had Dinner At My House The Other Day...

What is it with these media types who insist on referring to Saddam Hussein as "Saddam" like they hang out at the same happy hour or something? They were not on a first name basis with him and probably never even met the guy.

Such pretension riles Econo-Girl. Do they refer to Andrea Merkel as "Andrea"? Would they even think to refer to the President as "George" while reporting the news?

Econo-Girl can picture it now. The anchor tilts his head in that special way that television anchors do. He looks at the camera with his toupee perfectly in place. "George was working around the ranch today clearing sagebrush and then took a nap."

The inference of intimacy implied by first name usage is very out of place for Total Evil Man Saddam Hussein. Try wearing a t-shirt with "I Hugged Satan Today" around town and see what it gets you.

Aside from that, Econo-Girl cannot profess complete ignorance of this phenomenon. She knows that Saddam Hussein was particularly riled by being referred to by his first name only. The anchors also knew and goaded him with their false familiarity.

But is that really their role? Just report the damn news and keep your toupee on straight. Tilt your head in bizarre affectations and report the news. You are not supposed to be a part of it, tempting as it is.

Saddam Hussein

Is it important to be convicted of all your crimes before execution?

Does execution mean ridding the world of a bad guy, or calling someone to account for what they have done? If it is the latter, then they would need to be convicted for that crime first.

In the case of Saddam Hussein, he was responsible for gassing the Kurds, his own countrymen, because he thought the Kurds were going to join Iran's side while Iraq was at war with them. Five thousand people died in that gas attack. Tens of thousands more died in the ensuing drive by Saddam Hussein to dominate the Kurds. So let's just say, they are angry.

And a little disappointed. I guess they wanted to throw a big party, and who can blame them? But don't underestimate the power of having your day in court. It is very strong. People want a feeling of justice and of being heard. And that is exactly what the Kurds did not get with the sneak execution of Saddam Hussein.

Of course the practical reasons for the surprise execution include limiting riots and violence and bloodshed. Understandable. And the upcoming trial of Ali Hassan al Majid, a.k.a. Chemical Ali, will give the Kurds their day in court. But it is not the same as looking your father's killer and confronting him. So anticipate that the Kurds will not be quieted with the mere absence of Saddam Hussein. They were looking for something more: the vindication of being heard.


You Have To Want Democracy

"Sobriety is for the people who want it, not for the people who need it," is a well-known 12 step cliche. Econo-Girl believes the same idea applies to democracy and many other things in life.

Iraq must WANT democracy. The neo-conservatives wanted it for them. And maybe, in their own minds, Iraqis thought they wanted democracy too. But look at how they are acting.

The United States cannot make Iraq into a freedom-loving state. We cannot force democracy where people are not willing to compromise to get it. If you are not willing to do what it takes, you will fail. Econo-Girl will go as far as to say this is a spiritual truism.

So then the question becomes: what does America do now? Do we pull out and let them figure it out? Do we establish order first and then turn things over to the Iraqis? Can 0rder even be established there? What will neighboring countries do if we suddenly leave? Will we be handing the Middle East to Iran on a platter? A lot of thinking needs to go into this choice. Thinking that wasn't done beforehand.


New Perspectives From the World

In adding these links, Econo-Girl is providing English publications she has already evaluated and that have international coverage that dovetails with issue American news readers will be interested in. Here will be the source of differing perspectives on the same issues you read about in the U.S. press. Perspectives that are too local to the region will be omitted, as will sites that don't give enough free content to make looking at them worth it. The links will provide information you can get on a 15 minute break, without needing to become a scholar.

Econo-Girl will be adding noteworthy blogs and photo blogs in the future.

Belgrade Perspective on Iraq Study Group

B92 is a paper in Belgrade well-known in the region.

What you're going to notice in these publications are displaced Americans and Brits writing for them.

On the Iraq Study Group:
"Equally obvious without one word of direct criticism was the total scorn which the Study Group and specifically former Secretary of State Baker feels for the foreign policy that President Bush and his Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, have conducted. " as written by William Montgomery.

Love the way he puts that: "total scorn."

South African Perspective on News

The Mail and Guardian Online is an exclusively online paper published in South Africa. It is fun and won't have Iraq on the front page at all.

Great cultural perspective. I mean, there's a whole section of the site dedicated to "The Selebi Saga." What is that, for God's sake? Americans don't even know. It's interesting to see how people on the other side of the world are just as gossip-oriented as we are, but about different things. It will have news stories not found in the U.S. For example, look at this:

"Gaza doctors say patients suffering mystery injuries Doctors in Gaza have reported previously unseen injuries from Israeli weapons that cause severe burning and leave deep internal wounds, often resulting in amputations or death. The injuries were first seen in July, when Israel launched operations in Gaza following the capture of an Israeli soldier by Palestinian militants."

Have you seen anything like this in U.S. papers? No.

Check out The Week In Pictures. And what paper in the world has a section for only good news? And yes, only good, positive news is reported there.

The sports coverage isn't even remotely familiar, but still fun.

The End of al Sadr

A raid on a police station by British and Iraqi police will be the beginning of the end for al Sadr. Al Sadr had been teamed up with local thugs who infiltrated that local police force. The people in that area were terrified of them.

The point of this international story is al Sadr has made some bad alliances. His poor choices will lead to his downfall one way or the other. Either Coalition Forces and Iraqi troops will fight and defeat them, or Iraqis will simply move away.

Al Sadr has always been a pretender in the world of radical Islam, anyway. It was his father who was the respected Muslim cleric, not him. Al Sadr does not have the educational chops for his father's shoes. His actions imply that he does, though. That weakness will undermine him in the future.


If No One Told You They Loved You Today, I Love You

Remember, there is love all around.

Econo-Girl used to have miserable Christmases. Then she started selecting what really made her happy, rather than what was expected. That's when she started to spend the day at an AA club and then go to the movies. Voila! Happy Holidays!

At the time, Econo-Girl lived on Kalorama Rd NW in Adams Morgan. On that street, there were several displays of Christmas tree finery for pedestrians to admire. I vowed to one day join the Christmas Tree Elite of Kalorama Road, and so I did.

As more Christmases came upon us, Econo-Girl added a Christmas tree with thousands of lights so that it could be seen from the street as a beacon. An ostentatious beacon, to be sure, but a beacon. My place at the time was 400 sq ft and on the third floor, and the Christmas tree dominated it. Econo-Girl was happy.
My advice is to take what you like and leave the rest. See a movie with friends. Get Chinese food. Just don't paste a smile on your face and live out someone else's idea of holiday. Create your own.


My Biggest Fans

Readers, despite the events of the past year, the biggest Google hits to Econo-Girl's musings are the Roasted Chestnut recipe and the story of my dog's leg being broken.

Kind of gives you some perspective, eh?

The key to the recipe's internet success is the mis-spelling of "chestnut" as "chesnut" by people all over the world, including Econo-Girl. Let that be a lesson to you. Include common spelling mistakes and you too can be on the first page of Google results.

And don't get me started about pets. People love them. In our house, our little critters are number one. In fact, Liesure Lad is getting me a digital video recorder so I can start a YouTube site dedicated to our little beings. Econo-Girl can't wait. We are picking it up today.

So in the hurly-burly of international intrigues, we must remember that most people have other concerns. Most of the world is made up of other things. And those things count more.


Alan Dershowitz, Shut Up!

An annoying man who will do anything to get attention - is Econo-Girl's opinion of Alan Dershowitz. Let's review his support of torture:

If we knew that an attack was imminent,
If we knew who was involved,
If we knew they knew the details of the attack,
If the Supreme Court says it's OK,
then Prof. Dershowitz thinks it would be OK to torture.

Econo-Girl would like to paraphrase Prof. Dershowitz's position:

If he wasn't saying something outrageous,
Since he doesn't know the subject matter,
If he didn't need to constantly jump up and down in front of a camera,
No one would ask him to be on t.v. if he wasn't a spectacle.

Prof. Dershowitz would never get face time on t.v. if he opposed torture, since too many luminaries with real credentials think the same thing. So he creates an absurd position and shrieks about that instead.

Then he drags Israel into the argument. Israel has banned the use of torture, SINCE IT WASN'T WORKING. That's the thing about the use of torture, IT DOESN'T WORK!!!

In an interview with Wolf Blitzer, Mr. Dershowitz said, "My basic point, though, is we should never under any circumstances allow low-level people to administer torture. If torture is going to be administered as a last resort in the ticking-bomb case, to save enormous numbers of lives, it ought to be done openly, with accountability, with approval by the president of the United States or by a Supreme Court Justice."

Umm, which politician is going to put their neck on the line for the cause of torture? The theoretical idea of getting top-level approval is a fantasy. Who will want their names associated with such a decision? None. That's who. Like now, the leaders of the Department of Defense and the CIA are content to let low-level people take the risk for their policy choices.

Donald Rumsfeld, coward-at-large, has created a career by not having "his fingerprints" on risky policies. That's what happened on the torture issue. And like it or not, the President is responsible. Now who's going to tell him?


Tim Johnson's Brain Surgery

Econo-Girl recalls with some anger a friend who had brain surgery and was kicked out of the hospital and sent home THE NEXT DAY by the insurance company!

Is our Senator suffering the same treatment? It seems not.



Jean Kirkpatrick

Econo-Girl reflects on the death of a very powerful woman: Jean Kirkpatrick.

Her power made some in America very afraid, like Jesse Jackson. When Jesse Jackson hosted Saturday Night Live, he did an entire skit making fun of how Jean Kirkpatrick looked, mocking the idea that anyone would find her attractive.

Econo-Girl was appalled. Her opinion of Jesse Jackson at that point plummeted. And that was before watching a PBS documentary on Rev. Martin Luther King and the early civil rights movement that showed Jesse Jackson always standing behind Rev. King when a camera was rolling so he could get on t.v. too.

And let's not forget the day after the King assassination that Jesse Jackson yelled and screamed before the Chicago City Council with red on his shirt that he claimed was Dr. King's blood. That claim was later disputed.

And so, the price of prominence for our Jean Kirkpatrick was suffering fools like Jesse Jackson. Attacks on appearance were common in those days for women of substance and policy who dared to be in the public eye. Willing to dare such outrages, my admiration and respect goes out to Jean Kirkpatrick. Rest in peace. We all stand on your shoulders.


To Puke on Putin

Our more conspiracy-minded commenters have noted the seeming irregularities associated with a Kremlin hit on their former agent living in London.

In terms of the radioactivity tracing back to planes coming from Russia, well, maybe the FSB is off its game since the cold war. I'm sure they lost a lot of good people to the Russian mob. Or, as the commenter said, the trail back to Mother Russia was deliberate.

And who stands to gain from everyone knowing Putin ordered the assassination of a former FSB agent in London? Putin himself. Talk about chilling free speech. Egad.

But what Putin didn't plan on was the backlash.

Despite the protests of her loyal readers - Econo-Girl maintains that this is going to be one hell of an international incident by the time it is over. Already the case has metasized to Germany.

Econo-Girl thinks that Putin over-reached in targeting a former KGB spy in a place like London. She further thinks that other European countries share the British anger because they are aware if a targeted kill can happen in Britain, it can happen in their country as well. And who wants to cede control of their borders to that extent? No one. Even if a country conceivably didn't care about Russia killing someone on their soil, they certainly can't be seen to be allowing it.

That is why Putin over-reached. Russia still needs Europe. Putin couldn't afford to piss them off like that.

So what did you think, Vladimir? The old glory days were back?

Iraq Study Group on Torture

The whole thing mentions torture once: when it describes the inadequacies of the Iraqi police.


There's a few assumptions in their logic.
  1. that torture is wrong,
  2. that it doesn't work,
  3. the fact that torture is taking place at all is a sign of an incompetent government.

What is not addressed is how the use of torture has helped our war effort in Iraq fail. Imagine that you are a luckless Iraqi picked up by US soldiers for questioning. You are beaten with a baseball bat (as has been offered on the record as having happened) by an angry US Army cook, then are let go after the determination that you don't know anything is made. So what do you do? You tell your family and friends. Then how likely are those same people to alert US soldiers to danger? Not very.

These interrogation tactics the US has embraced in an effort to feel tougher are backfiring. One day, historians will ascribe at least some of the failure in Iraq to abusive treatment of Iraqis. But not today.


Revenge of the Mid-Level Munchkins!

There's one thing about mid-level Munchkins that needs to be remembered, Mr. Bolton. They are related to high level Munchkins. And some even become high level Munchkins themselves.

And when you are sitting at the levers of power, don't forget who turns the wheels manually. It's all those Munchkins. So it's a good idea not to piss them off. Know what I mean? I guess you do now.

Like most bullies, you are afraid of power. and at the same time, expect others to be as fearful as yourself. With a little self-justification thrown in, you become a terror.

May Econo-Girl suggest the book "How to Win Friends and Influence People"? It may be very helpful in your next career.


The Middle East: The Balance of Power

Kissinger's approach to statecraft in terms of 'balance of power' has been under fire these days. With good reason. Let's look at all the civil wars we put our fingers in, only to make a hash of it. But 'balance of power' still needs to be in the analysis, as can be seen in the current ascendancy of Iran.

What was going on before our war in Iraq? There were two powerful countries fighting each other constantly, degrading their resources and strength trying to kill each other. Hence, a balance between them, since neither side truly dominated the other. There was also a check on the power of both in the form of the other country.

Enter the United States. "Hey, let's get rid of the Saddam Hussein guy and establish truth and beauty in Iraq! Imagine how grateful the Iraqis will be!" Aside from the merits of the grand political experiment, the U.S. upset the balance of power between the two nations and the whole region.

With no enemy next door to waste its resources and power on, Iran has been able to shore up, save, rest, and get stronger. Now they are being viewed as a stabilizing force. Their power is being felt all over the Middle East, and the U.S. has only itself to thank.

It has always been Econo-Girl's contention that all this 'hating your neighbor' thing in the Middle East is a distraction from widespread civil wars. Like in almost every country there. Witness the children who were assassinated yesterday in the Palestinian Territory. The Middle East is unstable because most of its countries are unstable.

So, what could distract Iran once again, causing them to spend resources tilting at another windmill? A Shiite-Sunni war. The disadvantage would be that the entire region would erupt. Such a conflict would not help anyone.

Now don't get hysterical. Econo-Girl does not think this is, ever was, or should be, a policy goal of the United States. No one was thinking of religious war going into Iraq. That's what you have to understand about Americans, we don't spend a lot of time thinking.

Also, an intra-religious war was the one thing al Qaida was trying to avoid, until they used tensions between Sunni and Shiite to destabilize Iraq. The short term goal of putting a finger in the eye of the U.S. has ruined the long-term goal of al Qaida of a pan-Islamic movement. Cooperation between Muslim sects has seriously degraded and the whole idea of a pan-Muslim political movement is over.

You know, like 'together we stand, divided we fall'?