Sunday, January 22, 2006

I consolidated democracy and democratic norms at the grassroots by remaining in uniform


USAID is using some of its funds for something other than development: to prop up Fatah in advance of Wednesday’s Palestinian election. USAID’s budget for this little secret (until now) electoral intervention (the USAID logo does not appear on these projects or in ads it pays for) is twice as large as Hamas’s warchest. This is all part of something in USAID called “the Office of Transition Initiatives.” USAID’s mission director James Bever says they are “not favoring any particular party,” but boy are they opposing a particular party. “We are here to support the democratic process,” he added, “with large secret donations, just like Jack Abramoff.” (I may have made up the last part). “We wanted to give maximum credit to the Palestinian Authority and to the freely elected president, Mahmoud Abbas, for taking the initiative and for inviting us to help get the message out to the Palestinian people.” I think that sentence means that the project’s goal is that Abbas get credit for secretly inviting in USAID. So it’s, like, secret credit, or something.

The US still hasn’t officially admitted to the Jan. 13th airstrikes on Damadola, Pakistan. Musharaf, who almost certainly approved the attack in advance and certainly hasn’t publicly condemned it or indeed said anything at all for eight days about missiles being launched against his country, which is normally the sort of thing you’d expect a country’s ruler to have an opinion about, tut tuts to visiting undersecretary of state Nicholas Burns that such attacks must never happen again.

In the meeting, Musharaf, who reneged in 2004 on his promise to step down as army chief but now says he might do so in 2007, explained to Burns that he is bringing democracy to Pakistan not despite being a military dictator, but because of it: “it has been acknowledged worldwide that I consolidated democracy and democratic norms at the grassroots by remaining in uniform.”

The Army interrogator, Lewis Welshofer Jr., who stuffed an Iraqi general into a sleeping bag and sat on it until he suffocated to death has been convicted of dereliction of duty and “negligent homicide,” which must be a definition of the word negligent with which I am not familiar, and acquitted of murder. The highest sentence he can now get is 3 years. Welshofer claimed to be following a directive from the US commander in Iraq: “The gloves are coming off, gentlemen… We want these individuals broken.” Welshofer responded that the military needed to loosen its interrogation standards, now that it’s no longer facing such pansies as, um, the Nazis: “Today’s enemies, especially in southwest Asia, understand force, not … mind games.” Evidently his superior didn’t recognize that that meant he planned to use, well, force. The name of Welshofer’s lawyer, by the way: Spinner, Frank Spinner.

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