I’m off travelling again! (Hey – it’s summer!) This time it’s to the United States. Equipment-wise, I should be in ever better shape than I was in Prague to continue posting to EuroSavant – once I am through with my main engagement over there, that is, and that’s starting from Monday, 1 September (inclusive). Just keep in mind that I’ll be in a later time-zone, meaning that I’ll likely be posting at a later point during the day than what you might be used to. Then I’m back to home-base the following Saturday, 6 September.
Archive for August, 2003
I’ve always envied Miami Herald humor columnist Dave Barry‘s seemingly endless supply of “alert readers,” ready to send word to him whenever they catch sight of any phenomenon out there having to do with the subject at hand – in Dave Barry’s case, namely the bizarre. But now even I am starting to attract “alert readers,” one of whom pointed my attention to a recent article in the British newspaper The Independent about how the Americans are not ready yet to give up to Polish-controlled forces quite all of the vital sector that is supposed to be entrusted to them as of 1 September, not in light of recent troubles within that sector.
Of course, the “€S way” is to take any such English-language reporting as merely an initial guide, and then to go seek confirmation and possible amplification in the relevant foreign press. Sure enough, Gazeta Wyborcza also recently had an article telling about, and analyzing, this new development. (more…)
That bomb-blast in Baghdad that killed UN special envoy to Iraq Sergio Vieira de Mello also tolled an early end to this summer’s “silly season,” i.e. the period when nothing much of note happens. (Not that we had much of a “silly season” anyway, what with the thousands of abandoned elderly in France – and elsewhere – dying of the extreme heat at the beginning of August, an occurrence covered in EuroSavant here.) That blast brought into sharp relief the question: What to do about Iraq? Riding this theme in the typical €S way, yesterday I presented some reporting and commentary on that question from out of the Dutch press, and today I turn to the German. (more…)
I’m back now from Prague – and what a mess has arisen since I left last Tuesday, the 19th! That was the day that UN headquarters in Baghdad was attacked by a suicide truck-bomber, who caused the deaths of twenty-three personnel including UN Iraq envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello.
This is obviously a “gut check” moment. Things have not been going well there, and now there is this atrocity; do we stay or do we flee? Among other things, this warrants a check of the Dutch press to see what is being said there. (more…)
We’ve been following this story in EuroSavant: the war-of-words between Italy and Germany that sprung up shortly after Silvio Berlusconi took up the EU presidency at the beginning of June and, following his inaugural speech before the European Parliament, declared in the heat of accusation and counter-accusation that German MEP Martin Schulz would make a good Nazi concentration camp Kapo in an Italian film currently under production. Italian Minister for the Economy and Tourism Stefano Stefani followed this up with some unkind words about German tourists in Italy, whereupon German Bundeskanzler Gerhard Schröder decided not to join their ranks this summer, as he usually does. (Apparently he simply stayed home and vacationed in Hannover, where he is from – a particularly appropriate choice in light of the millions of his countrymen, and others across the EU, forced to do the same thing by financial considerations in this year-of-recession 2003.) (more…)
Yesterday, 21 August, was the 35th anniversary of the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 that put an end to the “Prague Spring,” and here in Prague that story is getting big play in the media. This is even though it’s all about the past, specifically a quite unpleasant incident from the past which presumably nearly every Czech knows about (whether s/he experienced it directly or not) and which perhaps s/he would just rather forget. Respekt is probably the leading Czech journal of commentary, with a quite impressive battle-record of offending (and being threatened by) post-1989 governments, and in its current issue it approaches the event from a different angle. It was not the case that the Red Army invaded the country (accompanied by symbolic contingents from Warsaw Pact “allies”) and that was that: end of the “Prague Spring.” Rather, the Communist tightening-down of the country back to the pre-1968 level of repression (or, in some respects, an even worse state) actually proceeded over the course of a year-and-a-half, into 1970. In other words, not that much changed in Czech society right after the invasion; the oppressive changes came later, gradually, in the face of a Czechoslovak populace which could see what was happening but did little about it. It was this same populace which had been enthusiastic for its new freedoms in the first part of 1968, prior to the invasion, introduced by the then-government led by Aleksander Dubcek. So how could the re-introduction of a Communist dictatorship happen? What are the lessons for today? These sorts of questions are intelligently explored by Tomas Nemecek in his article entitled Mráz prišel zevnitr, or “The Freeze Came from Within.” (more…)
Business pursuits impel me to Prague today, through this weekend. Back on Monday the 25th. But I know quite a good and cheap (and even under-used!) Internet café there; I should be able to post an entry or two from the Golden City.
Room with a View on the Euphrates: that’s the title of yesterday’s piece in the leading Polish Daily Rzeczpospolita updating the progress of the Polish contingent of troops that is now mostly in Kuwait, acclimatizing itself there and training in preparation to take over its assigned occupation sector in Iraq at the beginning of next month. (more…)
The great European Heat Wave of summer 2003 has now itself died down, but the heat is still definitely on the government and public health authorities in France, where the Health Ministry estimates that up to 3,000 people might have died – and other sources estimate up to 5,000. Today Prof. Lucien Abenhaïm, the French directeur général de la santé – “director general of health,” or namely the professional physician filling the role in the Health Ministry similar to the US Surgeon General – submitted his resignation to Health Minister Jean-François Mattei. Only last Friday, interviewed in English by the BBC World Service, he had opined that he should not resign, and said he wasn’t particularly worried about holding down his job. Of course, many in France believe that it is M. Mattei himself who should resign in light of the public health crisis from the heat that seemed to take the government by surprise.
Belgian Lt. General Francis Briquemont: Ever heard of him? Quite probably not, for although he did emerge onto the international stage in the early 1990s, his appearance there was brief – in fact, briefer than anyone could have expected. He was placed in command in July, 1993, of 12,000 multinational troops constituting UN forces in the former Yugoslavia – in the middle of the period of inter-ethnic conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina – for a tour of duty of one year. Yet he resigned this command after only six months, in early January of 1994, claiming that his job was impossible in view of the “fantastic” gap between UN rhetoric about Bosnia and what it was actually prepared to commit manpower and resources to accomplish.
So General Briquemont speaks his mind, and backs it up with action. Now retired, he is back again, “thinking outside the box” – to put things mildly – in a pair of thoughtful articles in Belgium’s La Libre Belgique that step back and examine the implications – and the fall-out – from the Anglo-American drive last spring to go to war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and the divisions exposed by the EU’s (failed) attempt to formulate a unified response. (more…)
I do go look at the on-line Polish press from time to time – I promise! “Poles in Iraq” still lives! – but lately there’s been little that I’ve found about the ongoing deployment of Polish peace-keepers to Kuwait, for eventual transfer to the assigned Polish occupation zone in Iraq. They’re simply deploying these days – that’s all.
But Polish news organizations nonetheless can still come up with stories out of Iraq that are largely overlooked by the English-language press. For example, as Gazeta Wyborcza reports today (from the Polish Press Agency, but also from Agence France-Press), Rada Zarzadzajaca chce przejac bezpieczenstwo w Bagdadzie – “The Governing Council wants to take over security for Baghdad.” (more…)
Reviewing recent EuroSavant coverage, one subject clearly stands out: Iraq. “Democracy in Iraq,” “It’s Hot in Iraq,” “Iraq Through Spanish Eyes,” etc. Maybe I should just change the name of this weblog to something like “IraqSavant” – is the .com domain name still available? (If it was, it isn’t by now!) I do try to avoid excessive concentration on one subject, or on one particular national press. But to a great extent what continues to happen in Iraq remains of great concern and interest, especially in August (the “silly season” or “cucumber time,” etc., when little else that’s truly attention-worthy ever happens, except maybe for travel accidents: crashing airliners, the Russian submarine Kursk, etc.), and especially now that more nations are being drawn into involvement, having generously agreed to assist the Americans and the British in occupation duties.
So here’s a change: How about a fairly in-depth treatment from the recent German press about what’s been going on in . . . um, Afghanistan? No wait, this is truly interesting, especially from the German point of view. You see, the Germans and Dutch last Monday finally came to the end of their six months of joint responsibility for the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force), charged with helping Hamid Karzai and his Afghan Transitional Administration with establishing security in the country. So were there sighs of relief all around last Monday from the Deutsch and the Dutch? Not exactly: next to take up the ISAF baton is NATO, and of course both Germany and the Netherlands are long-standing members of NATO. In fact, at last Monday’s handover ceremony German lieutenant general Norbert van Heyst formally handed over ISAF’s green banner . . . to German lieutenant general Goetz Gliemeroth, acting for NATO! (more…)
Al Gore, George A. Akerlof (Nobel-Winning Economist), and the Bush Administration’s Disastrous PoliciesWednesday, August 13th, 2003
You might be aware that former Vice-President Al Gore emerged from the shadows last week to deliver a major speech at New York University (NYU) in Manhattan, his first such speech in almost a year. For this one, his theme was the repeated pattern of “false impressions” that the Bush administration has fed the American people: that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the 9/11 attacks and has worked closely with al-Qaeda, that Iraqis would greet invading GIs as liberators, etc. – but he cited plenty “false impressions” in economic policy, too.
The speech seems to have been a success (cf. an account of the event in the New Yorker), although in the course of it Gore reiterated that he is not a candidate for president, but will eventually endorse one. You can get the speech’s prepared text here. In it, Gore makes reference to a recent interview published in the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel with Nobel Prize-winning (2001) American economist George A. Akerlof, and includes in his speech some eyebrow-raising citations: “This is the worst government the US has ever had in its more than 200 years of history . . . . What we have here is a form of looting.”
So I had to go and find that interview on Der Spiegel Online. And a remarkable interview it is, too – the quotations Gore used in his speech were fully consistent with its general tone. Actually, Akerlof even goes further, advocating ziviler Ungehorsam – “civil disobedience” – against the Bush administration policies which he decries. (Although not pushed so far that people actually stop paying their taxes – he’s far too much of an economist through-and-through to go that far!) Ladies and gentlemen, here is the interview in English (the language in which it was originally conducted by Spiegel editor Matthias Streitz, of course); I recommend that you take a look at it.
(Note: “More” adds nothing more than an additional self-absorbed, personal note about this episode. Recommended only for die-hard €S fans or family members.) (more…)
Bundeskanzler Schröder gave up his usual yearly vacation in Italy this year, you’ll recall, shortly after the row Silvio Berlusconi caused in the European Parliament with German MEP Martin Schulz in the first week of July, followed by rather insensitive comments about German tourists from (former) Italian state secretary for economic affairs Stefano Stefani. (If you need to catch up on this subject, you can start your review of EuroSavant coverage here.) But soon he’ll be heading back to Italy for a visit.
This good news about the dawning of German-Italian reconciliation comes not from the German press, but from the Dutch newspaper Het Parool. (And I got the news that Schröder would give Italy a pass this summer originally from the Flemish newspaper Gazet van Antwerpen: How is it that LowLands journals can keep scooping their German counterparts like this when it comes to practical details that we want to know, like just where the Bundeskanzler will be and will not be? Although it looks like Het Parool got this information from the BBC.) There’s a catch: Schröder will be travelling to Italy on 22 August not for some delayed vacation (too late for that: the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports that his cabinet returns to work today), but to meet with president of the European Commission Romano Prodi in Verona, ostensibly to attend a showing of the opera “Carmen” there. Prodi is a leading rival of the Italian premier. But there’s also a counter-catch: the mayor of Verona has also invited Berlusconi to attend that same opera performance. No word yet on whether he intends to accept this invitation.
That battalion of marines that makes up the core of the 1,164 Dutch troops on occupation duty in southern Iraq will be going home earlier than originally planned – after four months, rather than after six. The NRC Handelsblad, along with several of its competitors in the Dutch press yesterday revealed this latest decision from the Ministry of Defense. The reason? It turns out it can get awful hot in Iraq, with temperatures climbing to 45 or even 50 degrees Centigrade (that’s 113 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit);as a result it would be “not responsible,” according to the Ministry, to make the marines stay there for the full six months. (more…)
Spain is not among those countries listed over on the left side, under “Publications that I monitor, by country.” But that doesn’t mean that I couldn’t systematically cover the Spanish press as well, if I so chose. It’s more a matter of where my interests lie (more in Central/Eastern Europe than in the Iberian Peninsula) and my degree of comfort with the language, determining how quickly, comfortably, and effectively I can read texts.
But I can’t rule out that interesting articles will come up in the Spanish press that I’ll want to tell you about – as happened today (aided by an oblique reference from a German news site, plus some serendipity). In fact, I’m rather pleased that the commentary piece I found in ABC de Madrid (a conservative Spanish newspaper), entitled Napoleón en Bagdad (you can translate that one for yourself, ¿no?) fits in rather nicely with my current theme of national commentary on the tribulations being encountered by America and her allies in occupied Iraq. (more…)
Can democracy be established in Iraq? Would that then solve our problems, our “gripe,” with that country? Or do we really want democracy there at all?
Die Zeit On-Line is currently particularly rich with opinion pieces which address these issues, and so (in different ways) are natural sequels to Georges Suffert’s assessment in Le Figaro of the American efforts in Iraq which I reviewed here. For one, there is the article by Richard Herzinger which was the subject of my last post: Yes, things are going well in Iraq and democracy is being built, is his view. Anyway, even if they aren’t going well Europeans have their own obligation to help out to make sure that they do.
But then there are a couple of additional pieces sharing homepage-space on the current Die Zeit website which take rather more subtle views. Jens Jessen offers an interesting viewpoint in Die hilflosen Missionäre – “the helpless missionaries.” OK, our objective is to transplant our political system, democracy, into Iraq; it’s also to transplant our economic system (namely capitalism) there. The rationale behind these objectives is that successfully completing them will ensure that Iraq will become a friendly, reasonable sort of state that we can welcome back into the community of nations. (more…)
A welcome antidote to the half-hearted support for Coalition (and particularly American) efforts in Iraq of Frenchman Georges Suffert, discussed in my last €S posting, comes from Germany, and specifically from Richard Herzinger writing in Die Zeit: Der Moralismus des Zynikers, or “The Morality of the Cynic.” The key fact so often overlooked by Germans watching from the sidelines, Herzinger claims, is that, slowly but surely, real progress is being made in Iraq. Rather than view events through “the eyeglasses of an anti-imperialistic resistance-romanticism,” as he accuses many of his compatriots of doing – or worse, actively hoping for failure there, so that German resistance to the war against Saddam Hussein can in the end be proved “right” – Germans (and all Europeans) have a duty to support the occupation authorities to ensure that Iraq is ultimately rebuilt as prosperous and democratic, a goal which lies no less in the interest of the Old Continent as it does of America. (more…)
It has been one hundred days since George W. Bush flew onto that aircraft carrier off of California to stand beneath a giant banner reading “Mission Accomplished” and declare that major combat operations in Iraq had come to an end. Nonetheless, events since then – such as the deaths there of 119 further American soldiers, and the continued survival of Saddam Hussein – have shown that the American engagement in Iraq is far from done. The Bush administration marked this 100-day anniversary both by releasing to the public a 24-page report entitled “Results in Iraq: 100 Days Toward Security and Freedom,” and by plucking the President himself out of vacation-mode at his Crawford ranch to speak reporters for 18 minutes (this according to an account in the Washington Post). “We’ve made a lot of progress in a hundred days, and I am pleased with the progress we’ve made, but fully recognize we’ve got a lot more work to do,” was his pronouncement.
Point – Counter-Point: Writing in Le Figaro, Georges Suffert gives an appraisal from the French point-of-view of what the Americans have accomplished in Iraq, and in that part of the world in general, in an editorial entitled Bush dans les sables du Proche-Orient, or “Bush in the sands of the Mid-East.” (more…)
Now that we’ve been on the subject in recent days of the support in various countries for the deployment of their troops on occupation duty in Iraq (Hungary and Poland already discussed), this article from the Reformatorisch Dagblad is timely. “Most of the Dutch are for military support in Iraq,” it proclaims in its headline. The particulars (from a survey of one thousand respondents undertaken by the Amsterdam-based TNS NIPO research organization): 60% of those polled supported the Dutch cabinet’s decision to send troops to Iraq, while “almost one-third” want no Dutch military presence in Iraq. Such support comes mainly from the right-wing of the Dutch political spectrum (from CDA and VVD members – and those are the two main parties making up the present governing coalition). Tellingly, 48% of those surveyed considered the actual danger that there will be Dutch killed or wounded to be small; 45% thought that the risk was substantial. Unfortunately, there’s no indication in the article of any attempt to get closer to the “cut-and-run” question that has been the central theme of recent €S coverage: i.e. what degree of Dutch casualties would cause you to start to advocate the unilateral withdrawal from Iraq of the Dutch troops there?
“There are Dutch troops in Iraq?” you may ask. Yes indeed: currently around 1,100 of them deployed in the south, under British command. But it seems that they are slated to pass under Polish command once the Poles and their allies deploy and take over their assigned sector at the beginning of next month. This article here (in English, but from the on-line Agenzia Giornalistica Italia) speaks of both Italy and the Netherlands balking at having to place their troops under Polish command. I don’t find anything yet from the Dutch press to substantiate this unseemly allied squabble, but I will keep on the look-out and let you know of anything that comes up.
Back to Poland, and on the news front there’s still little to report concerning the current deployment of Polish troops to the Middle East for eventual duty in the Polish security sector in Iraq. What I find today I find in Gazeta Wyborcza (and I confess that not everything cited here is dated 7 August). There’s this news item about further troops flying out: About 250 soldiers this time, of the Tenth Mechanized Battalion, flying out of Wroclaw, their commander proudly mentions that they’ve been well-trained for their mission, starting from the end of last year, peace-keeping, building-searching, convoy-running, yada yada. Much better is this: Been wondering exactly where the Polish sector in Iraq is going to be? Then check out this dynamite map on Gazeta Wyborcza‘s site (in .jpg format, and of course with accompanying Polish text). Looks like they drew the short straw: Their area straddles the Tigris and Euphrates just south of Baghdad, and includes such past trouble-spots as Karbala, Najaf, and al-Hilla. Well wait a second, this is in the mostly Shiite region, and I do believe that the Shiites have become more cooperative with the occupation lately, at least to some extent. (See my recent reporting from the German press about the plum cabinet jobs Shiite politicians are being assigned by the Governing Council.) Most violent trouble these days – or at least most reported trouble – seems to come from Baghdad and the “Sunni triangle” further north, places like Tikrit and around al-Fallujah.
If the news side is still sparse, on the commentary side we’ve hit the mother lode with Maciej Letowski’s piece for Gazeta Wyborcza entitled Nikt nie rodzi sie zolnierzem, or “Nobody Is Born a Soldier.” (more…)
In what is otherwise a Dutch press mainly preoccupied with the fierce summer heat and the related hazards it brings (forest fires; something called blauwalgen – “blue algae?” – that actually looks like an oil patch on the water and can cause health problems for swimmers; swimmers drowning in those outdoor water-sports areas not actually denied them by the presence of blauwalgen), one subset of Dutch society is busy getting set for more attacks. Indeed, more attacks have been explicitly forecast, resulting in a general alert having been just recently sounded for only the second time this year. (And it looks like it just might be serious this time, folks: apparently no part of recent indications pointing to imminent mayhem originate from British intelligence.) (more…)
As the 2,500 Polish troops deploy this week into Kuwait, preliminary to their taking over responsibility for their security sector in Iraq at the beginning of next month, they can at least be thankful that not too many of them read Hungarian. (Indeed, as we know well, few people outside Hungary and the Hungarian populations in the regions of the immediate vicinity enjoy that privilege.) You remember that mortaring last Thursday of the Iraqi base in the future Polish sector? It may have not caused any sort of casualties, it may not even have caused any material damage other than some clods of earth being transferred from here to there, but that base will be for the use of not only the Poles but their allied troops as well, including Romanians and Hungarians, thank you very much. If there were incoming mortar rounds then, there surely could easily be more where those came from, and the Hungarians are already starting to get nervous, if recent comments to the (Hungarian) press by defense minister Ferenc Juhász (in English: Frank Shepherd) are any indication. (more…)
Here’s a great article in the Guardian that should appeal to football fans (that’s “soccer” in the States) interested in the “Gulliver’s Travels” quality of Manchester United’s recent trip across the Atlantic to try to build up interest in the game there. Superstars like Ruud van Nistlerooy and Ryan Giggs able to simply walk out of their hotels and check out the city, unharrassed, because nobody over there even recognizes them! (Strangely, the most-recognized player on the Manchester United team was Tim Howard, the new second-string goalie who’s redeeming feature was that he happens to be American himself.) And about how, often enough, their “checking out the city” was highlighted by visits to the excellent local strip joints – just enough excitement and aesthetic reward, it seems, for the lads who otherwise had to suffer through a tour of four games (all won handily) in a country whose fans and whose journalists still, it seems, don’t really understand or appreciated their sport – and so, by extension, their team.
One thing the German papers can all agree about covering is the record heatwave currently raging there. (It’s sunny and somewhat warm here in Amsterdam, too, but not really too bad.) But that’s boring; my cursory examination of the heatwave-related articles in the various German on-line papers unfortunately failed to turn up any piquant points of the “man-bites-dog” variety that I could usefully bring to your attention, not even any weather researchers willing to see the current wave as the forerunner of a longer warming trend in Northern Hemisphere temperatures.
Otherwise we could talk about Liberia. Maybe some other time; instead there is some interesting coverage in the German press of the ongoing situation in Iraq. (Unfortunately, none of it – yet! – discusses the deployment of Polish troops going on there.) Die Welt has an interesting article about the so-called “terror tourists”. These are the Islamic volunteers out of lands such as Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, the Palestinian areas, and, yes, Egypt and Saudi Arabia (the former the second-largest recipient world-wide of US foreign aid money, by the way) who come into Iraq via Syria and Iran to conduct their jihad against the western occupation troops there, and the Americans in particular. There could be as many as a thousand of these “terror tourists” in-country already, according to the estimates of Middle Eastern intelligence agencies, and their contribution is doing much to keep up the resistance to occupation forces in the face of waning resistance from Iraqi Baath party holdouts and uncertainty among radical Shiite groups in southern Iraq as to whether it would be a better idea to fight the occupiers or join them in the effort to rebuild the country.
And there is this further report in Die Welt about the first ministerial post in the transitional Iraqi government having been assigned. The winner is Adib el Dschadradschi (German spelling), of the Independent Democrat party, who was designated as Iraqi foreign minister. The Iraqi Governing Council is the authority behind this move, and Die Welt‘s report indicates that they’ve also already made their decisions on who is to occupy a further eleven of the twenty-five total ministerial posts they need to fill. Interestingly, the post of interior minister (i.e. controller of the national police) is said to be slated for a member of the Shiite “Dawa” party – a very influential Shiite political party, which for a while there was unsure whether it wouldn’t just be better to hold back and resist the Americans in their own jihad, rather than actually try to work with them to get the country back on its feet. And another important Shiite party, with particularly strong connections to Iran, the SCIRI, will be given the Science and Education ministry. Well, it is true that, on the basis of numbers, the Shiites constitute the majority of Iraq’s population.
As I mentioned in my last post, yesterday was when Polish soldiers started to fly out to their security mission as part of the occupying forces in Iraq – via a first stop in Kuwait. Amid continuing light-to-non-existent coverage in the on-line Polish press, at least an article in today’s on-line Gazeta Wyborcza does discuss these events, but not in any great amplitude. We do find out from which airports the soldiers are flying out (Goleniowo, near Szczecin – up near the Baltic coast – and Strachowice, which is Wroclaw’s airport, and so way down in Lower Silesia near the Czech border). But we don’t find out how many flights, when they will actually take off, or how many soldiers will be in each such airplane – this is confidential for security reasons, as Polish Defense Ministry press spokesman Colonel Eugeniusz Mleczak explains to the Gazeta Wyborcza reporter. All told, 2,400 Polish soldiers will be in Iraq, taking care of Poland’s assigned security zone there, joined by contingents from other nations, under Polish command, to result in a total of over 9,000 soldiers to work with in that sector.
All Polish soldiers taking part in Poland’s peace-keeping mission in Iraq, the article states, are volunteers.
A brief accompanying article (apparently transcribed from a Radio TOK FM broadcast) reveals that the Polish chemical warfare contingent which is already in Iraq is soon to be withdrawn back to Poland – no word on when, no word on how many soldiers make it up – because it is no longer realistic to talk of a chemical threat there.
After considerable time, effort, and expense (see previous posts for the details), my Polish has been considerably re-charged. And just in time, too: this first week in August marks the deployment of Polish troops to the Middle East, to eventually take up security duties in the assigned Polish security sector in Iraq. To be more specific, the Polish troops first fly to Kuwait – starting today, 4 August – to start with two weeks of acclimatization. Then they will join the 400 Polish troops already in Iraq for some military exercises. Finally, around 3 September they will begin formally taking up security responsibility for their assigned sector, in central Iraq to the north of Babylon. The International Division in charge of that sector, under Polish command, will number some 9,300 troops of 25 different nationalities.
For me, this offers a fascinating parallel phenomenon to the experiences of the American and British troops already present in Iraq and trying to bring some security and rebuilding to that country. So I think it might be interesting, for me and for the burgeoning ranks of my beloved readers, to start a semi-regular “Iraq Watch” feature in which I try to report from the Polish press on current Polish attitudes to what their troops are doing over there. As we know too well, things are going rather less well than expected for the American troops, who have been dying in low but regular numbers (to accidents, but also rather often as the result of deliberate attacks) since major combat there ceased back in April. For British troops, too, I hasten to add. Similar difficulties for the Poles seem inevitable. Indeed, last Thursday as President Alkesander Kwasniewski was bidding the troops farewell at two different, widely-separated military bases in Poland, someone was already mortaring a Polish base inside Iraq – but causing no casualties or even material damage, according to the BBC World Service report.
Poland is new at this sort of thing; actually, as I remember how it was expressed in a commentary I heard on Polish radio, the Poles are different from the Brits and the Americans in that their history (and particularly their recent history) has in fact been one of being the occupied, not the occupier. Will this matter? Might this make them more sensitive to the plight of local Iraqis, and so able to enjoy better, more peaceful relations with them? Poland is new to NATO, new to overseas deployments; make no mistake that there is doubt out there as to whether they are up to the assignment, notwithstanding the help they will be provided by twenty-four other nation-friends. Of course, I wish them well, but the Polish deployment should still be rather interesting to observe – starting from the assertion in one picture caption that those troops will surely be over there for (only) six months – and I invite you to look over my shoulder as I do so. (more…)
EuroSavant has gotten some nice mentions elsewhere on-line lately. Among those, allow me to mention this one (under Thursday, July 31, 2003) from E-Media Tidbits. I’m delighted, but that is also somewhat of a mixed blessing, in that it is obvious that my usual posting schedule (that normally alternates between daily and every-other-day) has taken a hit during my recent stay in Poland. New visitors may get the mistaken impression that my rather slower publishing schedule of this Polish stay is my customary schedule. So I’d like to reiterate – especially to all those new visitors, spurred by these recent nice mentions – that I will certainly get back up to my former level of activity once I’m back at home base in Amsterdam, in two day’s time. Naturally, I’ll also be doing more of the multiple-media-source, comparative treatment analysis articles that I feel represent the high-point of what this medium, and this particular weblog, is capable of.
Summertime is here – and that’s not ice hockey-time anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere, of course. (Its winter in the Southern Hemisphere, but there they simply don’t play ice hockey.) Instead, summertime is “Stanley Cup Tour” time, i.e. when each player on the NHL Stanley Cup-winning team (plus, apparently, “franchise staff”) gets to “take possession” of the Cup for 24 hours in his hometown, wherever that may happen to be. This year you can keep track of the Stanley Cup Tour (on a rather delayed and incomplete basis, I have to say) on the website of the Hockey Hall of Fame. For example, the Cup made the trek up to Anchorage, Alaska, on July 15, because New Jersey Devil center Scott Gomez hails from there. (This was not for the first time; Gomez was also on the Devils team that won the NHL championship back in 2000. You can read all about this year’s festivities here.)
One reason I have to add “delayed” to my description of the Devils’ Stanley Cup Tour site is that it is not on that site (nor, indeed, from any American on-line media I can find; no mention was made even on Google News) that one can read that the Cup has apparently gone missing – not in Alaska, granted, but on a trip it was supposed to make to the eastern Czech Republic/Slovakia. Instead, we’re tipped off about this in the Czech newspaper Mlada Fronta Dnes; they take hockey – and I mean NHL hockey – very seriously in that part of the world, too. (more…)