A few short takes on a long, cold night:

Bernard Chazelle applauds the Iraqis’ long-overdue public appreciation of George “Liberator” Bush. (See picture.)

Jeremy Scahill reads the tea leaves in Obama’s mug of advisors and sees a bitter brew ahead: This Is Change? 20 Hawks, Clintonites and Neocons to Watch for in Obama’s White House.

John Pilger finds himself less than enthralled by the election of Barack Obama, who “represents the worst of American power.” A brief excerpt:

No serious scrutiny of this is permitted within the histrionics of Obama mania, just as no serious scrutiny of the betrayal of the majority of black South Africans was permitted within the “Mandela moment”. This is especially marked in Britain, where America’s divine right to “lead” is important to elite British interests. The Observer, which supported Bush’s war in Iraq, echoing his fabricated evidence, now announces, without evidence, that “America has restored the world’s faith in its ideals”. These “ideals”, which Obama will swear to uphold, have overseen, since 1945, the destruction of 50 governments, including democracies, and 30 popular liberation movements, causing the deaths of countless men, women and children.

None of this was uttered during the election campaign. Had that been allowed, there might even have been recognition that liberalism as a narrow, supremely arrogant, war-making ideology is destroying liberalism as a reality. Prior to Blair’s criminal warmaking, ideology was denied by him and his media mystics. “Blair can be a beacon to the world,” declared the Guardian in 1997. “[He is] turning leadership into an art form.”

Today, merely insert “Obama”. As for historic moments, there is another that has gone unreported but is well under way – liberal democracy’s shift towards a corporate dictatorship, managed by people regardless of ethnicity, with the media as its clichéd façade. “True democracy,” wrote Penn Jones Jr, the Texas truth-teller, “is constant vigilance: not thinking the way you’re meant to think, and keeping your eyes wide open at all times.”

Speaking of the Change-Agent-in-Chief, Reuters tells us that Obama’s apparent favorite for the post of Pentagon supremo — the current incumbent, Bush-Cheney minion Robert Gates — is gearing up for an even bigger surge in Afghanistan than the bellicose “anti-war candidate” promised on the campaign trail:

The Pentagon is considering a plan to send more than 20,000 troops to Afghanistan over the next 12 to 18 months to help safeguard elections and quell rising Taliban violence, officials said Friday.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he and top commanders had discussed sending five brigades to Afghanistan, including four brigades of combat ground forces as well as an aviation brigade, which a defense official said would consist mainly of support troops. An Army combat brigade has about 3,500 soldiers. Gates said much of the infusion could take place before Afghanistan holds elections by next autumn.

In an aside, the story glances at a fact that is no doubt totally unrelated to the question of how productive an escalation of the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan will be:

Violence in Afghanistan has surged to the highest levels since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion toppled the country’s Taliban government.

Hmm, let’s see…a lengthening, expanding, entrenching U.S military presence for years on end… and ever-rising levels of violence, destruction, corruption and death….Nope, no correlation there. The thing to do, obviously, is to send in more and more troops. Thank God we’ve finally got someone intelligent in charge!

And how are Aghan women enjoying the fruits of their liberation? The Guardian reports on the treatment meted out to Afghan women’s rights champion, MP Shukria Barakzai — by members of the liberated government installed by the liberators themselves:

The Afghan MP Shukria Barakzai receives regular death threats for speaking out on women’s issues….Barakzai receives frequent but cryptic warnings about planned suicide attacks on her car, but no help from the government. Officials advise her to stay at home and not go to work, but offer nothing in the way of security assistance, despite her requests. She said warlords in parliament who received similar threats were immediately provided with armoured vehicles, armed guards and a safe house by the government.

“Our parliament is a collection of lords,” said Barakzai. “Warlords, drug lords, crime lords.”

In parliament, she says, she is often greeted with screams of “kill her” when she stands up to speak, and she has had no shortage of personal threats from fellow MPs. They visit her privately to tell her she will be killed if she continues to speak out on such issues as the right of a woman to have a personal passport (separate from the standard “family passport”) or against compulsory virginity tests for young women, and the right of a man to have custody of a child at two years old. It is not only men who oppose women in parliament – both Barakzai and Karokhail have faced obstruction from other female MPs on key women’s issues.

Karokhail said that, of the 68 women in the 249-strong parliament, only five were vocal on women’s issues. The majority of women in parliament vote in favour of more traditional legislation that often rules against women’s rights. Some women now fear the parliament is becoming more conservative towards women. “Talibani ideas are natural among our people, particularly their vision about women,” said Barakzai….

According to Afghan commentators, President Hamid Karzai, desperate to win next year’s elections, has been bringing former mujahideen commanders into parliament in the hope they will support him at election time. Most of these former jihadi commanders share the Taliban’s ideas about women and are expected to support legislation that will once again limit women’s freedom.

So, the “good war” to oust the Taliban has resulted in a government of “warlords, drug lords, crime lords” — and religious fanatics intent on imposing draconian sectarian rule along the line of….the Taliban.

And all of this is the bitter fruit of the long, bipartisan — and highly successful! — American effort to destroy the secular government of Afghanistan and replace it with a CIA-trained army of… religious fanatics intent on imposing draconian sectarian rule.

If we could do all that with a few proxies, just think what fruit an escalating, long-term direct involvement will bear in the decades to come!

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