Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
from Reuters Editors:
The last time I flew into Baghdad airport was in January 1991. It was just before the cruise missile attacks on the city at the start of the operation to retake Kuwait from Saddam Hussein's occupying forces. I came by commercial flight again this week, but to a different Iraq. It's an Iraq where Saddam-era tyranny has been decentralised, messianic U.S. policy experimentation has fallen flat on its face and violence, crime and hardship are the bedrock of ordinary existence.
How you arrive affects your opinion of a city. In 1991 I was picked up by my driver, Haji Qata, whose job was to steer me away from stories and inform on me to Saddam's secret police when necessary. He drove me to the relative comfort of the Al Rasheed hotel, a prime vantage point when the bombing began. When I arrived in April 2003 it was in the back of a U.S. Marine armoured personnel carrier that had been both home and transport during three weeks of mobile warfare along the road from Kuwait to Baghdad.
This time I needed an armed escort that travelled at speed into the city, along a highway lined with concrete blast walls and sniper screens, bouncing over the ruts left by roadside attacks launched from rival sectarian suburbs. Baghdad is not less militarised than in 2003 when the invasion force swept through the city, blowing up armaments dumped in city parks. Iraqi police, local security guards, militia forces and U.S. military swarm the streets. Helicopters thud across the skies. The effect is unnerving rather than reassuring. The security blanket has stifled street warfare in recent months, I'm told, but the threat of kidnap, criminal or sectarian, remains vivid.
In 1991 large sections of Baghdad, a city of seven million people, were off-limits to foreigners; secret districts were reserved for Saddam and his Baathist elite working in ministries and palaces behind high walls and screens of palm trees. Now the foreigners have the privileges. We drove through elaborate systems of roadblocks into the Green Zone, the vast section of the city walled off to ordinary Iraqis and reserved for politicians, civil servants and the legions of expatriates who sustain the foreign military endeavour here. The U.S. embassy is housed in a former Republican Guard palace built in chintzy opulence, all mirrored tiles, gilt door panels and marble. Military hospitals, private security armies, helicopter airports and large Saddamite monuments are enclosed within the walls of this Forbidden City. Five years of bruising reversals have sucked some of the fantastical arrogance out of the occupiers of this Oz, so memorably described by Rajiv Chandrasekaran in his book "Imperial Life in the Emerald City." But on a first view the scale of the enclosure shocked me.
from Pakistan: Now or Never?:
The Pakistan election campaign has been so muted until now that from the outside it can be hard to believe it's really happening. So plaudits to Pakistan Politics for posting the TV ads of the main political parties. The Pakistan Policy Blog provides a summary of the ads, though you don't need to understand the language to get the drift.
The Pakistan Muslim League (N) of Nawaz Sharif relies heavily on projecting his personality, the footage of the former prime minister interspersed with pictures of a lion.
At the Munich Conference on Security Policy back in 2003, Joschka Fischer stared down Donald Rumsfeld and told him what he thought about Washington’s case for invading Iraq.
“I am not convinced. That is my problem,” the feisty German foreign minister told a glaring Pentagon chief.
Gen. John Craddock, NATO’s supreme allied commander, Europe, surprised American reporters by using soccer to explain his problems in Afghanistan.
Craddock, a four-star U.S. Army general, says he does not have as many troops as he needs and too many nations place restrictions on how their soldiers can operate.
It is ironic that one of the world’s foremost gatherings on defence and diplomacy takes place in the city linked to one of the most colossal gaffes in the history of statesmanship.
Perhaps the great and good who make the annual trip to the Munich Conference on Security Policy shudder to recall that here was where major powers signed a 1938 pact with Nazi Germany that merely emboldened Hitler in his quest for European domination.