First read on elections, and 'Zany' Zinni
Here's my first take on the provincial elections. I'll write-up a more detailed analysis once the initial results come out.
But there's one thing that's happened that speaks to the new Obama administration's understanding of Iraq, and that would be the farce-like pick of retired General Anthony Zinni for the job of U.S. ambassador to Iraq.
Zinni was told he had the job. Then he was snubbed. And later he was told he wouldn't be getting it; the White House had settled on Christopher Hill, a veteran diplomat with very little background on the Middle East.
The real scandal is that Zinni was being seriously considered for the job in the first place. One wouldn't expect him to have too many brownie points with the current Iraqi political class, having ridiculed and fought them hard in the days when they were still the Iraqi opposition. He was dead set against any serious attempts to bring down the Saddam regime.
Who in their right minds would have thought that Zinni would be a good fit for Baghdad?
In 2000, Zinni made some very caustic comments about the Iraqi opposition while at a reception at the Bahraini Embassy in Washington DC. These were carried by the equally caustic Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper, a London-based paper edited by the odious Abdel-Bari Atwan, who had turned it into a beacon of apologia for Saddam and Al-Qaeda. It should be noted that several U.S.-based analysts find this rag credible.
I wrote an Op-Ed for that paper as a response to Zinni, published on May 10, 2000. You can view it here (PDF file, in Arabic). There's a typo in the published version where the Arabic word for 'general' was, deliberately it seems, rendered into 'butcher'. In this piece I wondered whether Zinni, who was still in uniform at the time, would turn out to be one of many soon-to-be retired generals and diplomats who'd moonlight as deal-fixers between Gulf states and arms contractors, as an explanation for his relentless defense of the status quo in the region.
On the day the column came out, a top-ranking U.S. diplomat fired off an e-mail chiding me for this ad hominen attack on Zinni, describing the general as a "a hero to many in washington, including me, and more to the point, many, many people in the Congress".
This was my response back:
General Antony Zinni is no hero of mine. He is not the
hero of many, many other Iraqis, nor of the cause for
democracy and freedom in Iraq. That is all I am
Furthermore, what good is an active INC media
operation that cannot even defend itself in the face
Should we just roll over and play dead when El
Generalissimo says so?
We are no lackeys to U.S. officials...We are partners,
and we behave with poise, professionalism, patriotism
and pride: that is why we are resented by some in
Washington and others in the Gulf.
....Apologies to the English language: I was obscenely alliterative in my younger days.