December 31, 2006

Jewish Presence in the Occupied Territories.

There are around 230,000 Jews living in around 120 settlements in the West Bank. Settlements are independent residential blocks within Palestine that are exclusively inhabited by Jews. These blocks have their own administrations to attend to all the services like schools, hospitals etc. They often have jurisdiction over an area outside the strict boundaries of the settlements themselves.

These settlements receive massive financial support from the Israeli government. This support takes various forms: direct subsidies, infrastructure (roads, houses etc), tax breaks, security, to name a few. According to a detailed new study by Haaretz this support cost the government more than 45 billion NIS (New Israeli Sheqel) since 1967. All of it for actions which are illegal according to international law.

Around the mid-90s the Israeli government committed not to build any more settlements in the territories. This is about the time a new form of Jewish presence in the West Bank, outposts, began to take shape.

Ouposts are collections of trailer establishments. These are typically formed when a few Jewish families arrive by trailers to occupy a spot of land in the West Bank. More and more people begin to join them and they form a mini-settlement. These outposts are often built close to already existing settlements. In time, these outposts hope to grow into full settlements or merge with a nearby settlement. But the most crucial difference is that the outposts are illegal under Israeli law. There are about 100 outposts in the West Bank now.

Israeli law explicitly prohibits any sort of government support for these outposts. Yet such support existed since 1996 and continues to this day. Indeed, there has been a surge in construction of these in the recent years. Many of the damning facts are brought to light by the dedicated work of Israeli peace group Peace Now. But the incredible thing is that these things are evident even from various government reports. As this Haaretz editorial explains there have been many reports which confirm growth of outposts in the last few years and illegal government support for that growth.

For instance, this story in Haaretz cites various government reports to conclude that there have been more than 200 new trailers in the West Bank since June (Peace Now disputes this high number!). A report by government attorney Talya Sasson in March 2005 revealed that many government departments secretly supported the construction of outposts. The report says that housing ministry supplied mobile homes, defense ministry approved the locations, education ministry paid for teachers and roads leading to outposts were built with taxpayer money. More details here.

Needless to say, all this construction takes place in Palestinian land, often owned by private individuals. It is not surprising that this has led to a violent confrontation.

December 30, 2006

India Surrender Meekly at Durban.

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that an Indian cricket fan is subjected to! The rush of disparate and conflicting emotions he experiences! One week he (or she) is overjoyed with an improbable win and the next he is forced to comprehend the meekness of the latest defeat in a long and dreary list. No other team endorses the tiring cliche that cricket is a great leveler better.

Never, it would appear, are the fans to be allowed unalloyed joy for considerable periods of time. A great run in the world cup is followed by a disgraceful defeat in the final. First test victory in the West Indies for more than 25 years (Port of Spain) is followed immediately by a 10-wicket drubbing at Barbados. First test victory in England in more than 15 years (Leeds) could only balance an earlier defeat at the Lord's. First test victory in Australia for 24 years (Adelaide) is followed immediately by a 9-wicket loss in Melbourne. A win at Multan is followed by a defeat at Lahore. (For a change we actually went onto win this series at Rawalpindi.)

And now to add to this sorry tale comes the pathetic defeat at Durban following closely on the heels of the first ever victory in South Africa.

And quite often, on those occasions when India actually wins test series, the team duly loses in the one-days (as in West Indies this year). Or a stellar one-day phase is marred by disappointments in tests (as in the period preceding the West Indies tour). It will not do to be too happy for too long.

The fortune does not seem to favor us either. If God is playing dice then it is quite biased against Indian cricket team. Recalling all the instances when Indian team was denied test wins because of rain is a deeply painful exercise. Johannesburg ten years ago comes to mind, where India was just two wickets away from a win. On the other hand how many times rain promised a last-minute rescue for India only to cheat in the end. The way sun actually came out for a while today after a refreshingly gloomy start, one can not help but suspect a divine conspiracy against India. Though it has to be said, India was ridiculously inept today. A slightly more decent show could have saved them, what with clouds returning at the end. An unbiased person might almost see today's result as just.

The way Indian top order folded up today was truly embarrassing. The first six wickets fell in just 28 overs. The last four managed to last for another 28 overs. In every little period of play possible, we lost wickets. Sehwag went in the 8 overs before tea on the fourth day and Dravid was out just before bad light ended the day. Today Tendulkar left in the first over and Jaffer committed suicide eight balls later. Laxman and Ganguly survived for another 12 overs before perishing within 10 balls of each other. It was as if these mighty batsmen were going out of their way to ensure that South Africans don't face the disappointment so familiar to them (being denied victory because of bad weather). To be sure, there were a couple of umpiring mistakes, but they did not lose the match for India.

The batsmen will do well to get their act together in, well, two more days.

December 27, 2006

Israeli Plan to Remove Some Roadblocks is Not a Concession.

There have been some interesting recent developments in the Israel-Palestine standoff. It is widely seen that one (Israeli commitment to dismantle some roadblocks) is a welcome concession by Israel and the other (Israeli plans to build a new settlement in the West Bank), an unfortunate violation of international law and American-backed roadmap.
The second is indeed a move utterly contemptuous of the international system. Apart from token criticism (even by the US) nothing will transpire to stop Israel. Israel will in all likelihood go ahead and build the settlement further encroaching into Palestine and dealing a blow to totally valid national aspirations of Palestinians.

The first is more interesting. It is hard to see it as a great concession by Israel. They merely promise to scale back a tiny bit the great injustice they are perpetrating. A concession by definition gives away something legitimately held. If I stole 100 dollars from you, and promise to give back 5, it is by no means a concession. It is a sad commentary on the ingrained injustice of the world system, where might always makes right, that scaling back a few injustices by Israel is hailed as a concession for peace.

It is altogether a different story whether Israel will actually implement its plan to dismantle a few roadblocks (out of more than 500). According to this revealing article by Meron Benvenisti, there is every reason to suppose that this promise of Israel will never be fulfilled. That of course will not be reported widely. Quite conveniently Israel did not announce when it plans to actually dismantle. So it can never be concluded that they failed to meet their promise.

The above article
analyzes the great significance of roadblocks to Israeli ambitions to control every aspect of life in the Occupied territories and if possible drive the Palestine population away. It makes for grim reading.
The hundreds of permanent and mobile roadblocks, the constructed and improvised ones, the cement blocks and the revolving gates, the mounds of earth and the ditches, are all designed for one purpose: to show who has the power to control the lives of the Palestinians. Small groups of young, inexperienced and frightened soldiers serve as the agents of the power that forces millions of people to behave according to arbitrary rules that interrupt the most basic routines of their lives. This domination is implemented for the most part without any need for force, by exploiting the fear of the Palestinians.

The disdain for the Palestinians and the arrogant use of a mentality of submissiveness is reflected not only by the roadblocks themselves but by the checking procedures, which are conducted without any sensitivity to the dignity and needs of the Palestinians, who are expected to wait in line in silence or else be "punished."

Moreover, these roadblocks destroy whatever semblance of a coherent social life that Palestinians have.

The geographical division [caused by roadblocks] has fragmented the Palestinian community into weak and impoverished sub-communities, where centers are disconnected from peripheries, urban centers are eroding and rural areas becoming poor, families are separated, and medical treatment is denied along with access to higher education. This division is imposed in the hopes that the political and social siege will result in demographic distress and perhaps to emigration.

Incidentally, this is another great article by Amira Hass explaining how Israeli policy on Palestinian entry into Israel is breaking up families and creating thousands of new refugees.

December 22, 2006

A Great Website.

I stumbled upon this absolutely amazing website today: WorldCat Libraries. It searches for any book you specify and returns a list of the closest libraries (you specify a zip code) that have the book. What is more, when you click on a library it takes you directly to the status page of the book in that particular library.

For instance, let us take the book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid by Jimmy Carter. I randomly picked the zip code 58260 (happens to be Amidon, North Dakota) . The closest library to Amidon which has this book is Dickinson Public Library which is 38 miles away. There is one copy of the book in this library.

Needless to say this is extremely convenient. Of course I, being a student in a university, use the catalog of the university libraries. But I realize now that many of the books I want are also in the city public library. So I can use that facility. It's also great because it searches very fast.

This is my first look. Quite possibly there are many other cool features.

December 19, 2006

The Role of Philanthropy.

What is the place for charity in our lives? How much money should we give for philanthropic purposes? Is it a virtue to even do so? These are some of the questions studied in this article in the Sunday New York Times magazine, What Should a Billionaire Give - and What Should You?, by the Princeton philosopher Peter Singer.

Considered the father of animal rights movement, Peter Singer employs very "amateurish" sort of philosophical arguments to conclude that philanthropy is a virtue and he enthusiastically enumerates the great things that are possible when people really get down to serious "giving". (I am using the word "amateurish" in a very precise sense to indicate their accessibility to an amateur, and imply no disrespect for the arguments.)

He first establishes that the rich should give. After considering the Hobbesian egoism and Kantian sense of duty as possible motivations for charity, he proposes several arguments.

Suppose you are rich. You see in front of you a poor and destitute person whose situation can be bettered with "minimal inconvenience or trouble" for you. Even if it is true that you had no hand in his destitution, Singer says that you "ought to" help him. "Anything else would be callous, indecent and, in a word, wrong" he says. Whatever the merits (or lack thereof) of this as a logical argument, there is very little one can fault.

Then he says it is in fact not true that rich countries had no role in the poverty of poor countries. Citing the philosopher Thomas Pogge, he says that "at least some of [American] affluence comes at the expense of the poor". For instance, when multinationals deal with governments of poor countries they pay little or no attention to the nature or legitimacy of those governments. This provides a great incentive for corrupt leaders of poor, but resource-rich countries, to grab power and trade away the natural resources, in stead of using them for their own people. This rush for personal enrichment also leads to "a cycle of coups, civil wars and corruption..." in those poor countries further contributing for the destitution of the people.

It is widely thought that when a man earns his wealth honestly no one has any moral right to advise him how to spend it. Singer argues that even this is not completely valid. It is easy to see that many factors play a part in wealth-creation. There are a number of skills that go into the make-up of any organization. These skills (for instance, technological or organizational) are created in a suitable societal structure for which some price should be paid. Merely paying a salary to the manager in an office is probably not enough to cover the costs for the entire system that played a part in creating that manager. Indeed, according to Nobel prize-winning economist Herbert Simon, "“social capital” is responsible for at least 90 percent of what people earn in wealthy societies like those of the United States or northwestern Europe."

Singer also emphasizes that private philanthropy is very important in addition to government aid. Private donors are not beholden to various pressures and interests. They can directly address the problem, instead of spending a lot of energy and time on packaging it in a palatable manner. Government aid comes with many strings attached and is often inefficient or even counter-productive. For instance, millions of condoms distributed in Africa to tackle AIDS are required to be made in America though it is much cheaper to manufacture them in some Asian countries. Political compulsions mean that less than a quarter of US aid goes to the world's poorest countries.

"The rich, then, should give" Singer concludes. The question then is how much should they give.

In 2000 at the United Nations Millennium Summit world leaders gathered and pledged to meet certain goals by 2015. They included among others, reducing the number of world's extremely poor and hungry by one half.
Last year a United Nations task force, led by the Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs, estimated the annual cost of meeting these goals to be $121 billion in 2006, rising to $189 billion by 2015. When we take account of existing official development aid promises, the additional amount needed each year to meet the goals is only $48 billion for 2006 and $74 billion for 2015.

Singer then goes on to calculate how much the richest Americans "could reasonably give".

The richest 0.01 percent of Americans (about 14,400 tax units) earn on average $12,775,000, with total earnings of $184 billion (minimum income being $5 million). These are pretax incomes. Now he supposes that these people could "reasonably" and "without much hardship" give away a third of their income. That is, about $4.3 million each and about $61 billion in total.

He continues down the income chain until he covers the top 10 percent American tax units. He reduces the reasonable give away for each lower group (for example the top 10 percent not covered in earlier groups gives away only 10 percent of their incomes).

Finally he comes up with the impressive figure of $404 billion (just from the top 10 percent of American families) well above the deficit in the budget for Millennium goals.

While the picture he paints is rosy, it is not very realistic for the simple reason that these families need to pay substantial amount of income tax in addition to the money he thinks is reasonable to give away. It may be realistic for somebody earning $12 million to give away $4 million, but if he is already paying $4 million tax, then it is surely not reasonable to expect him to pay another $4 million.

Nevertheless, the point in Singer's analysis is well taken. His contention that the Millennium Development goals are "indecently, shockingly modest" rings true. He is correct when he says, "[t]he target we should be setting for ourselves is not halving the proportion of people living in extreme poverty, and without enough to eat, but ensuring that no one, or virtually no one, needs to live in such degrading conditions."

December 17, 2006

Palestine is burning with internal feuds now. After an unconstitutional call by Abbas for elections, Hamas reacted in characteristic manner. The international community and Israel are to blame for the move by Abbas. They have cruelly withheld the aid (and in Israel's case, Palestinian money) forcing further misery on already miserable people. This naturally led to large-scale public uproar which Abbas is trying to cash-in on. Palestinian people are sure to sympathize with Hamas. But economic and livelihood realities always trump any ideological concerns and people may be willing to vote for Fatah in case of elections.

In all this drama the biggest losers, as always, are the Palestinian people.

Incidentally, this is a nice article by Gideon Levy tearing to pieces the common supposition of a model Israeli judicial system that is a lone beacon of hope for Palestinians. He finds them as reprehensible as successive Israeli administrations. Analyzing the 11-year Supreme Court presidency of Aharon Barak, he talks about how the court under Barak's presidency or following his legacy essentially legitimized many Israeli crimes. A very thought-provoking article.

December 13, 2006

Interesting Articles.

This is a nice article by Amira Hass detailing the humanitarian crisis facing Palestinian people. She describes how desperately poor Palestinians are and how much Israeli policies (withholding tax and custom revenues, making it hard for Palestinians to do business) are aggravating the situation.

This is a good article by Robert Frisk explaining how Baker report suggests that the American empire is on the verge of collapse. He tries to bring out the parallels with the disappearance of Roman empire. We will have to wait and see if his analysis is born out by the reality.

This is a kind of funny article by Yossi Paritzky claiming that the current avatar of the strong US-Israel alliance is mainly fundamentalist. During travels in American South he discovers the appalling extent of lunacy of Christian right and according to him this lunatic crowd is in fact the base of Bush team and plays the major role in formulating the foreign policy. May be.

I have no doubts as to how crazy these people are or that their insane ideas receive audience in the Bush white house. However, I do not think this is the most important motivation for the foreign policy. Uncritical American support for Israeli policies is not a recent phenomenon - it has been there for at least forty years now. No doubt it reached new heights in the current administration. Partly it is due to the neo-conservative ideology of "black and white", whereby Israel is "good" or "on our side", and the other side is "against us", or "evil", or "terrorists". Partly it is due to the efficiency of "Israel Lobby" which found more sympathetic audience in the current administration. The religious fervor is no doubt a factor. But I doubt if it is the most important one.

December 12, 2006

"Good Fences Make Good Neighbors"

This article by Michael Kinsley in Guardian on why Israeli policies in occupied Palestine territories do not amount to "apartheid" is one of the most ludicrous and illogical you will ever read.

Whether Israel is practicing apartheid is a serious issue and it has to be studied in depth before any conclusion is reached. But this guy just confuses everything and makes silly arguments.

He says, "[i]n the six decades since the founding of Israel, there have been about one and a half new ideas for solving the most intractable problem on the map of the world." According to him one of these ideas is the brilliant plan of Ariel Sharon (who he admits "supervised the Sabra and Shatila massacres of Palestinians back in 1982...") to build a wall separating Israel and Palestine. Apparently animated by the words of Robert Frost: "Good fences make good neighbors."

Now this is one of the most appalling arguments I ever came across. When you build a fence between you and your neighbor, you either build it on the accepted border between your homes, or a little inside your own area. You don't build a fence well into your neighbor's area and expect that it will make for good neighbors. Any sane person can see that Israel is doing exactly that. The Wall being built by Israel is well into Palestine region as defined by the whole world.

Then he goes on to do a ridiculously literal comparison between South Africa and Israel and concludes that later is no apartheid. He points out that the whites in South Africa forced black people to a far-off place to create a purely white country. He says that this is not happening in occupied territories. Of course not. There are many different modalities. What happened in SA is a version of apartheid. To argue that apartheid is only that which strictly adheres to the SA model is silly.

There may be many valid arguments to prove that there is no apartheid in occupied territories (I have not come across any). But Kinsley offers none. His idea was to criticize Carter's new book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. But he completely disregards the various totally important points raised by Carter, like the degrading treatment of Palestinians through the system of roadblocks, different roads, different licence plates etc. Here is an article by Carter defending his book. Instead of addressing these legitimate questions Kinsley only comes up with meaningless abstractions.

December 11, 2006

Blame the Iraqis - Part 2.

I wrote a few days ago that a lot of people in America are now trying to shift blame for Iraqi debacle onto Iraqis. This is a really good article in this context by Peter Beinart in the New Republic (requires free registration).

He points out the fact that for most of Iraqi history (since its creation out of the Ottoman empire in 1919) the relations between Shiites and Sunnis were largely cordial, and at any rate any conflict between them was subordinated to a strong sense of Iraqi nationalism. Indeed, quoting Iraqi historian Reidar Visser, Beinart says, "in all of Iraqi history, the Shia South has never launched a broad-based movement to secede". Moreover, there was a strong tradition of cooperation and harmony between the two communities as long as there was order and security in Iraq.

All this began to change in the aftermath of the Iran-Iraq war of 1980s and the first Gulf war in 1991. The US bombing in 1991 and the subsequent sanctions in 1990s devastated the civil society in Iraq leading to social unrest. Traditional ties began to weaken in the face of uncertainties and hardships. In the words of Beinart, "[i]f your survival depends on it, you'll develop a neo-Nazi or Nation of Islam identity awfully fast".

The current Iraq war of course completed the disaster for Iraqi people. There was a total collapse of all infrastructure and social organizations.
A Zogby survey in August 2003 found that almost 30 percent of Iraqis had friends or family killed in the war or its anarchic aftermath. Basic services like water and electricity remained scarce as the U.S. reconstruction effort foundered because of corruption and lack of security. Unemployment hit 50 percent.

It is immoral for Americans to suppose they have no responsibility for all this.
It may be too late for the United States to provide the security required for those bonds of civility to return to Iraq. But we should, at least, have the decency to acknowledge that it was Americans (not Iraqis) who bore the responsibility under international law to provide security after Americans (not Iraqis) overthrew Saddam. It was we who failed and then handed Iraqi politicians the poisoned chalice of a government that did not sit atop a state. To be sure, Iraq's elected leaders are an uninspiring bunch. But the state fell, the army was disbanded, chaos reigned, the insurgency began, reconstruction faltered, and the die was cast in 2003-- before Iraqis first went to the polls.

December 10, 2006

General Augusto Pinochet, one of the most brutal dictators in South American history, died today. A buddy of Henry Kissinger and Margaret Thatcher, Pinochet took over power in a military coup on September 11, 1973 from a democratically elected Chilean government of Salvador Allende and effectively controlled the country till late 90s. More than 3000 people were killed or disappeared in his reign and toward the end of his life he faced numerous legal problems connected to his human rights record and corruption. He is credited with giving wings to economic progress of Chile that saw it transformed into one of the most prosperous countries in South America. He is also widely held responsible for the smooth transition to democracy after his dictatorship.

This is the gist of what one could read in various newspaper accounts of his death. With a few exceptions, none of the reports goes beyond these talking points to mention a few inconvenient facts. What are those inconvenient facts? The not so thinly disguised American support for the coup that brought Pinochet to power and the indulgence of many American administrations in the face of reports of widespread human rights violations (as a typical example, a detailed and more than 2500-word story in the New York Times does not even mention this). But it is well-established now. The Nixon administration ran a well-planned campaign to destabilize the Allende government (by financing strikes, spreading propaganda , supporting military opposition etc). Any talk of the "other 9/11" is naturally embarrassing. Indeed, as Colin Powell said, "[i]t is not part of American history we are proud of".

As for the supposedly "beneficial" legacy of Pinochet, namely the relative prosperity of Chile, as a result of his policies, there are many troubling aspects to it.

Oftentimes it is the left-wing ideologues who are (rightly) faulted for supposing that they know better. Indeed, this is the reason why one Marxist leader after another, assumed dictatorship insisting that everyone simply trust him. Ironically in Chile's case it is the right-wing ideologue Pinochet who thought he knew better. That prompted him to overthrow the first democratically elected Marxist president in the world. Any argument acquitting Pinochet on the basis of good consequences is not valid.

December 9, 2006

This and this are two nice articles by Gideon Levy in Haaretz. They tell a touching story of Palestinian tragedy. Whether it is the heart-breaking case of a 15-year old boy murdered by Israel or the pathetic lives of Gazans facing perpetual Israeli ill-treatment, one can't escape the feeling that there is something horribly wrong with this world. While one has a general idea of the injustice, reading about intimate stories of real people conveys something of the potency of that injustice. All the talk of the complexities of international system and how it is not easy for the uninitiated to grasp everything rings shallow in the face of heart-rending sobbing of a father at the burial of his beloved youngest child, or the inquiry by an innocent three-year old of his mother "But why? What did we do?".

December 6, 2006

Palestinians in Israeli Jails.

More than 8000 Palestinians are held by Israel as political prisoners. Around 800 of these are "administrative detainees", meaning that they are held without charge or trial indefinitely. The fate of these prisoners comes into the fickle focus of the world media once in a while. The recent Israeli offer to release some prisoners in exchange for a kidnapped Israeli soldier means that once again people are talking about the thousands of unfortunate Palestinians languishing in Israeli jails.

This is an excellent article by Amira Hass discussing the plight of these prisoners. It is a great article because it posits the situation of Palestinians in Israeli jails right along that of Israelis in Palestinian custody, and places the problem in a proper historical context.

As the article explains Israel practices inhuman policies with regard to Palestinian prisoners denying them even basic rights.
[A Palestinian] is imprisoned on Israeli territory, in Ashkelon Prison, although international law forbids the imprisonment of members of an occupied nation in the territory of the occupying country. Like the other Palestinian prisoners, he is imprisoned as a criminal offender and not recognized as a prisoner of war. But he and his friends do not receive the rights of criminals, such as the basic right to family visits. [Prisoner]'s mother last visited him about a year ago, after not having seen him for five and a half years. For about three years, the military authorities did not allow residents of the West Bank, and primarily the northern West Bank, to visit their imprisoned loved ones.

The article does not mince words in assigning the blame where it belongs - on Israeli authorities. It also mentions how this policy backfires on Israel by adding fuel to legitimate Palestinian concerns and strengthening the hand of extremists.

Finally, the article puts all this in context.
Of course, this phenomenon is not unique to Israel: The British, the whites in South Africa, the French, also portrayed those who were active in the resistance movement to their imposed rule as bloodthirsty terrorists. They also had difficulty understanding the argument that those same criminals with blood on their hands (whom the opposing side describes as freedom fighters) have the same right to be free as do the soldiers and policemen who under the orders of the dominant country killed and wounded civilians from among the dominated population.

A Novel Method of Stealing.

Charan is a young musician. He is well-known in his area's music circle and is fairly busy with concerts. It is not uncommon for him to receive calls from strangers asking to meet with him. He got such a call a few days ago.

A meeting was arranged and Charan met with the caller in a restaurant. In the course of the discussion that ensued the caller asked to use Charan's cell phone to give a missed call to someone who would then call back. Obviously Charan agreed and gave his phone. Then the stranger claiming that he was not getting signal stepped out. He promptly made off with the phone.

One wonders at the elaborateness of this theft, particularly considering the relatively meager return (Charan's cell phone is one of those easily and cheaply available ones). The question is: is it worth alerting Charan (and probably many people associated to Charan) to future, possibly more lucrative, ventures?

December 4, 2006

Blame the Iraqis.

A few of weeks ago I wrote about the attempts to bring a closure to the debate on Iraq war. One new method seems to be taking shape. There are a number of key voices shifting blame to Iraqi people suggesting an innate inability on their part for civilized conduct.

This is problematic as a cover-up for American blunders for several reasons.

First, as I wrote earlier the original reasons for going to war had absolutely nothing to do with spreading democracy or liberating Iraqi people. As such any short-comings of Iraqi people in the graciousness department have no bearing on any evaluation of American actions.

The blame-the-Iraqis strategy doesn't work even if one supposes (as I don't) for a moment that a peaceful Iraq would have justified going to war. It is true that much of the violence taking place in Iraq today is among Iraqis - with Shiites killing Sunnis and vice versa. There is little in this ancient and bloody rivalry that has to do with American presence. Consequently Americans can not be blamed for the existence of this rivalry. On the other hand, they could, and should, be blamed for providing an easy atmosphere where this rivalry is ruthlessly pursued. As soon as Americans took up the responsibility of holding Iraq together after removing Saddam, their foremost duty should have been to maintain security. They failed miserably at this. Brutal and inexcusable as Saddam Hussein's reign had been, he was at least able to keep the people largely peaceful (though at the cost of suppressing the majority Shiites). No amount of theorizing on the tribal propensities of Iraqis is going to wash off this historic failing of Americans.

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