Cowlix Wearing my mind on my sleeve

Sunday, February 24, 2002 Permanent link to this day
Boiling over

The Intensification of Global Instability: Stratfor points out the growing number of crises around the world and expects that the numbers will continue to grow, particularly with the continued expansion of the War on Terror.

Consider the events of the past week, in no particular order:

  • Colombia has plunged into civil war.
  • Venezuela, a major oil producer, is experiencing a major political crisis over its president, Hugo Chavez.
  • In Afghanistan, the CIA has issued a report (published on the front page of the New York Times) warning that internal chaos is looming.
  • In the Middle East, Palestinians have shifted tactics toward waging guerrilla war, and Israel is contemplating a major shift in its own strategy.
  • In Iran, a majority of the Majlis has signed a petition demanding an investigation of U.S. charges that elements in Iran have aided al Qaeda members in escaping Afghanistan. This action creates a massive internal confrontation between forces around the Ayatollah Ali Khameni and those around President Mohammad Khatami, with a very uncertain outcome.
  • What has emerged from U.S. President George W. Bush's meeting with the Japanese prime minister is that Japan has no idea how to manage its intensifying financial crisis. One of the world's major economies appears to be inching toward meltdown.

[via New World Disorder]

Just a couple of decades off?

The Facial Recognition System

Back in 1984, we congratulated ourselves on the difference between our lives of liberty and democracy and the dystopian universe George Orwell imagined in his landmark novel, a place where government-operated televisions spied on their viewers and hidden cameras monitored private lives. But while we smugly engaged in what amounted to nearly two decades of back-slapping, engineers were developing biometric technologies that could remake our society into Orwell's Oceania, all in the name of progress. The most disturbing of these technologies are facial recognition systems, computer-powered cameras that can identify an individual based on facial characteristics captured by the camera's lens.

The Bush Doctrine

The Bush Doctrine Unfolds

The full sweep of the new Bush Doctrine was on display this past week, as President Bush traveled through North Asia delivering a consistent and powerful message: American security and global security require a determined assault not just on terrorists but on the three-headed hydra of tyranny, terror, and weapons of mass destruction. The imperative of regime change was the core message of Bush's State of the Union address. This week Bush made plain that the implications of his doctrine go beyond North Korea, Iran, and Iraq, the "axis of evil." Just as the Reagan Doctrine-- primarily aimed at overthrowing Communist regimes--ended up toppling right-wing dictatorships in the Philippines and South Korea, so, too, the Bush Doctrine could help undo dictatorships not only in Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, but also in, for example, China and Saudi Arabia.

Tears from Africa

Letters from Zimbabwe, from Cathy Buckle.

There are now 27 days until the Presedential Elections and every day is one of disbelief. Yesterday, in the space of ten minutes I met two people, the first a white farmer who was recently shot by armed men who had ambushed him outside his farm gate.The farmer is back on his land and waiting to be allowed to grow food. My second meeting was with a "real" war veteran who has had nothing to do with the insanity of the past two years and is waiting to be able to have a normal life and carry on with his small business. We are all waiting now and I continue to wear a small yellow ribbon pinned to my shirt in silent protest at the suffering in my country - I hope in 27 days I wall be able to take it off.
-- February 9th, 2002

[via The Idler]

Americas Command

Canada Wary of U.S. Anti-Terror Plan that

A U.S. proposal to integrate Canadian troops into a North American command system that would defend the continent against terrorist attacks has some Canadians questioning how the system would affect their country's sovereignty.

See also: Canada aims to join 'Americas Command'

Ottawa's top military brass are pushing to put Canadian troops and warships on the front lines under a U.S. plan for an integrated, continental defence structure in the war against terrorism.

A Pentagon proposal for an "Americas Command" could lead to a single, integrated command, putting some Canadian troops and warships in a continental-defence structure, taking orders from a joint command deep in Colorado's Cheyenne Mountain.

The Americas Command is not a post-9/11 concept: it was a recommendation from the National Defense Panel report in 1997:

Americas Command would include the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean Basin, and all of South America. The Americas Command would be responsible for the ocean approaches to the United States throughout the Maritime and Air Defense Zones. Its primary missions would be to defend the Americas from foreign threats, deter the use of weapons of mass destruction against the United States, and build cooperation among the nations of North, Central, and South America.

KGB in Afghanistan

Spies, Lies and the Distortion of History: on the history of the KGB's involvement in Afghanistan, as told by a Vasili Mitrokhin. His paper, The KGB in Afghanistan, is being made available as part of the Cold War International History Project.

To a greater extent than any other armed conflict on the planet, Afghanistan's unfinished 24-year war has been shaped by rival foreign intelligence agencies: The Soviet Union's KGB, America's CIA, Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, Saudi Arabia's General Intelligence Department and Iran's multiple clandestine services. They primed various Afghan factions with cash and weapons, secretly trained guerrilla forces, financed propaganda and manipulated political conventions.

When spies help construct a civil war, one seed they sow is confusion. Afghans today have little basis to trust their own recent history; too much remains hidden. The country has become a cauldron of interlocking conspiracies, both real and imagined, a maze of fractured mirrors designed by warmakers who embraced deception as a winning weapon. Afghanistan's successful reconstruction as even a semi-normal country, then, must eventually include some reclamation by Afghans of the truth about their recent past.

Speechwriters of evil

New Rules of Political Rhetoric: Makr Lilla calls Bush to task for using Reagan's style of rhetoric in a world where it no longer applies.

The reviews are in, and they are bad. President Bush's characterization of Iraq, Iran and North Korea as an "axis of evil" has been met by our allies' puzzled annoyance and by massive rallies in Iran that only strengthened hard-line elements there. How, one wonders, did the president and his speech writers blunder into this mess?


Desperation Drives a Zimbabwean Exodus South

Every night, the emigrants from the Zimbabwe side of the border creep to the rushing river and consider the dangers ahead. There are crocodiles ready to topple stealthy boats. There are twists of barbed wire and miles of electrified fence.

But they look across the river and pine for South Africa, a land of stability and hope.

Good old days

Old Rivals, Old Tunes

Murders and a bit of mayhem were anticipated during the peace-building process. But nobody expected a lack of international unity to destabilize the interim government in Kabul so quickly.


Karzai's high-wire act on the international stage-where he has received accolades from everyone from United States and European leaders to American fashion designers-has faltered at home. This is not due to lack of trying, but because of a lack of international support where it is needed. In recent weeks Karzai has toured world capitals trying to galvanize support for extending the International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, to Afghanistan's four other major cities: Kandahar, Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif and Jalalabad. His appeals have so far fallen on deaf ears.

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Copyright © 2001-2002 by Wes Cowley