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Candide’s Latest: Monday, October 30, 2006
Weapon Bazaar

Deceptive aim

Remember, exactly four years ago, when the Iraqi government informed the United Statesthat 380 tons of ultra-powerful explosives went missing from Al Qaqaa, one of Iraq’s military bases—which had been under American control? It looks like we’ve hit on a tradition: “The American military has not properly tracked hundreds of thousands of weapons intended for Iraqi security forces and has failed to provide spare parts, maintenance personnel or even repair manuals for most of the weapons given to the Iraqis, a federal report released Sunday has concluded,” the Times reports. “Exactly where untracked weapons could end up — and whether some have been used against American soldiers — were not examined in the report, although black-market arms dealers thrive on the streets of Baghdad, and official Iraq Army and police uniforms can easily be purchased as well, presumably because government shipments are intercepted or otherwise corrupted.” Here are the weapons: Baghdad bomb kills another 25. And yet Iraq, naturally, is seeking an extension of the U.S. “mandate” in Iraq.

The US Military at least knows where to crack down, and who to crack down on, because that’s where the true threat comes from: It isn’t loose explosives, loose weaponry, loose insurgents. It’s the military’s own bloggers. “Since July a new 10-man branch of the Virginia Army National Guard’s Data Processing Unit — a team of guardsmen trained in security issues — has been surveying the Internet for the Army, looking for online postings that might violate operational security standards,” Stars & Stripes reports. “The group isn’t reviewing things like soldiers’ e-mail accounts, but it is looking at blogs and photo-sharing sites like myspace.com. Last year Army officials issued warnings to all soldiers posting information online, noting that certain mission information, photographs of defense facilities, and other unclassified information could pose a threat to soldiers serving overseas.”

It isn’t just Pat Tillman: “A review of battlefield deaths that included the case of former pro football player Pat Tillman has concluded that the Army gave wrong or misleading information to the families of seven dead soldiers, according to the Army's casualty notification office,” USAToday reports. “The findings mark the first time that the Army has released a total number of cases where next of kin were given incorrect information on causes of death.” The military “blamed the mistakes on the "fog of war" or possibly inappropriate efforts by individual soldiers to protect families from negative information.”

The White House’s weekend lie: Cheney did not endorse waterboarding.

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In the forgotten war

“Pakistani helicopter gunships on Monday destroyed an Islamic school used as an al-Qaeda-linked training camp near the Afghan border, killing nearly 80 militants,” the Johannesburg Mail & Guardian reports. “The strike targeting a madrassa near Khar, the main town in Bajaur tribal agency, was the biggest for months in the restive frontier region where many al-Qaeda and Taliban insurgents have sought sanctuary since 2001. The bodies of 20 people wrapped in sheets were laid on the ground for funeral prayers near the site and locals were still pulling corpses from the rubble and putting them in sacks, an Agence France-Presse (AFP) correspondent said.” The bombing must have been Pakistan’s way of offering up a few fireworks for Charles and Camilla’s visit. And Asia Times reports that there may be evidence NATO gunships were involved. Meanwhile, Germany is mired in Skullgate—a scandal involving German soldiers in Afghanistan who “played” with skulls, staged mock executions on skulls and performed other desecrations that won’t go down easily with the locals.

Rapegate: the Sheikh in His Labyrinth

“Sheik Taj el-Din al Hilaly has asked to be placed on "indefinite leave'' after collapsing today amid escalating calls for him to quit for comparing women to uncovered meat,” the Sydney Morning herald reports. “The sheik fainted at a meeting with the Lebanese Muslim Association that was to have decided his future. He was in Canterbury Hospital tonight with chest pains. […] "The metaphor I used of the 'exposed meat' was not appropriate for the western mentality. It has been quoted and misinterpreted by some groups with ill intentions,'' he said adding that he had been "deeply saddened'' that an ordinary lesson was to "slander'' him in the media.” The Sheikh must have learned how to apologize from Pope Benedict: Don’t apologize for what you said. Apologize for the way you were interpreted.

The dirtiest election ever? “Republican candidates across the United States are taking the dubious art of negative advertising and character assassination to unprecedented levels of toxicity as polls indicate possible landslide gains for the Democrats on 7 November in crucial mid-term congressional elections,” the UK Independent writes. “A sense of near-desperation has overtaken the Republican camp just eight days away from polling day amid fears that the Democrats could seize control of the House of Representatives and possibly the Senate as well. Some analysts suggest the Republicans could suffer an even greater reversal than in 1974, when they lost 48 House seats in the wake of Richard Nixon's resignation.

Lula does it again: “Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva won a landslide second term in power last night, a month after being forced into a run-off by allegations of corruption. With 92% of the vote counted last night, Lula had 61%, making it mathematically impossible for his opponent, Geraldo Alckmin of the Social Democratic Party (PSDB), to overtake him.”

Camus Combat

.Michael McDonald in the American Interest: Albert Camus (1913–1960) has been much in the news over the past 12 months. In Camus’ birthplace of Algeria, where the nation’s post-colonial rulers have long viewed him with suspicion and antipathy, the University of Algiers (in what Le Monde described, in exquisite franglais, as “un come-back étonnant”) organized a state-sponsored conference dedicated to Camus’ impact on Algerian literature. On the other side of the Mediterranean in France, the Gallimard publishing house brought out the first two volumes of a new and expanded critical edition of Camus’ complete works in its prestigious Pléiade series. Meanwhile, across the Channel in Britain, Camus’ famous 1942 novel of alienation, L’Etranger (The Stranger) came out on top in a Manchester Guardian poll conducted among male readers asked to name the book that had most “changed their lives.” But all of this paled in significance to the event that truly launched Camus’ return to the spotlight in 2006: the announcement by White House Press Secretary Tony Snow that President Bush had read The Stranger while vacationing in August at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. In the wake of Snow’s disclosure, commentators who rarely miss an opportunity to criticize Bush for his conceited airs rushed into print with smirking columns. Bush had quoted Camus previously in a February 21, 2005, speech in Brussels in which he urged other nations to help the United States spread democracy in the world (“Albert Camus said that ‘freedom is a long-distance race.’ We’re in that race for the duration”, Bush said.) But to such pundits it seemed that Dubya could have no idea of who Albert Camus was, and that the idea of Bush reading—let alone making sense out of—The Stranger was enough to make a cat laugh. Strained attempts at satire duly ensued, including a wooden effort in the New Republic entitled “Strangerer: Camus does Bush” by the now-suspended Lee Siegel. The Stranger and The Cowboy: Could the irony be any richer?” See the full essay…

Football Update: “The English Premier League, the most glamorous league in the world, is changing hands. Wealthy investors from Russia, the Middle East, America and Scandinavia are pouring hundreds of millions into the sport. But what are their true motives?” Der Spiegel investigates.

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