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NightWatch 20091101


For the Night of 1 November 2009

Pakistan: For the record. Pakistani security forces have taken control of Kotkai in South Waziristan, the village home to Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan leader Hakimullah Mehsud, The News reported 1 November, citing police sources. At least five militants were killed by security forces during operations in the Kani Karam, Toda Cheena and Sararogha areas of South Waziristan.

The problem with the story above is that this is at least the second time official sources announced security forces have taken control of Kotkai. No official statements to the press about progress in the South Waziristan operations should be credited.

Afghanistan: Presidential candidate Dr. Abdullah Abdullah announced his withdrawal from the 7 November runoff election, Reuters and almost all news services reported.

The waste of time, money and energy in staging a runoff election has now been made to appear embarrassingly ill-advised and to have exposed an intelligence and policy failure. Who didn't know Abdullah Abdullah's intentions? NATO allies are probably sighing with relief that the fiction has ended.

Abdullah Abdullah has done his country a great service not only by saving it the expense and aggravation of a runoff, but by saving countless Afghan lives whom the Taliban swore they would kill to disrupt the runoff. Moreover he averted further aggravation of ethnic tensions and polarization of the tribes because nearly everyone knew a Tajik victory would make unavoidable a Pashtun civil war.

In withdrawing, Abdullah Abdullah also ended the silly Western charade about legitimate elections in Afghanistan, which contains the world's poorest and least educated electorate. His candor and refusal to be manipulated by outsiders are refreshing.

The election was a pointless diversion that had no impact on the fight in the 400 districts, except to make it worse, even had it been as clean as a hound's tooth.

Lebanon-Israel: A blinding flash of the obvious. Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon confirmed that Israel is running intelligence-gathering networks in Lebanon. "When we are in conflict with an enemy, we gather information about them," Haaretz quoted Ya'alon as saying on Saturday.

"The moment Hezbollah renewed their attacks, we began to collect intelligence. We will stop when Hezbollah disarms itself and the Israel-Lebanon border is a border of peace," he added.

He did not admit that Israeli saboteurs were responsible for the two explosions in southern Lebanon last month, after Hezbollah discovered cables used for spying in the al-Abbad area. But then he probably did not need to.

Nicaragua: Update. Police in Nicaragua removed U.S. Ambassador Robert Callahan to safety following a confrontation with demonstrators at a university in Managua on 30 October, DPA reported. Callahan had been attending an event with other ambassadors, where he criticized the recent Nicaraguan Supreme Court decision to remove term limits so as to allow President Daniel Ortega to run for a second term. Supporters of Ortega threw fireworks at Callahan, and Callahan took refuge in a classroom at the Central American University until police removed him to safety.

Comment: The ambassador deserves credit for courage but perhaps not so much for good sense. Nearly every president elected in a Latin American or African country in 2009 and not overthrown has succeeded in removing term limits.

Some one needs to tell the State Department about the condition of democracy these days. It is not healthy in the less developed world. And yet, even the Burmese junta and Kim Chong-il in North Korea accept the need for elections to legitimate their regimes. Elections legitimate almost anything… even dictators recognize that.

Of course, elections are not the same as democracy in the sense of government by the people, but it is difficult to argue that their vote does not represent the will of the people.

The near universal recognition of the value of elections represents a milestone in the history of world government. It does not signify the advent of an era of good government anywhere; prevention of violent government overthrows followed by elections; or an end to assassinations followed by elections.

US energies would seem more profitably focused on the substance of whether and how well a government serves the needs and wants of its people, rather than on whether an election is legitimate. At least the US ambassador was not hurt.

Honduras: Lawmakers will wait until Tuesday to consider a U.S.-brokered agreement that could return deposed President Manuel Zelaya to power, despite diplomats' pleas not to delay an end to the country's four-month-old political crisis.

Monday is a holiday in Honduras, and many legislators are busy campaigning for the 29 November elections that will also elect a new president. The US-brokered deal requires an opinion by the Honduran Supreme Court and approval by the Honduran Congress.

The Supreme Court already ruled 15-0 that Zelaya was a constitutional usurper in June. This same Congress voted 122 to 6 to throw Zelaya out as a constitutional criminal. Zelaya's Liberal Party has a majority in the Congress. It is also President Micheletti's party.

While diplomats might seek credit for an agreement, the constitutional crisis is not ended and will only be ended by the 29 November elections. Zelaya gambled on usurping the constitution and lost.

The US has led Latin American countries in backing a sore loser. The US policy supporting democracy looks inconsistent, poorly thought out and inexpertly and unevenly applied. That is primarily because one size does not fit all.

End of NightWatch for 1 November.

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