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The good, the bad and the ugly

By Carol Devine-Molin
web posted November 12, 2007

A review of the past week's big news stories demonstrates some subtle, but significant, changes in the usual gestalt. Mind you, the drumbeat of negativity that we've come to expect from the mainstream media was certainly there, but, as to Iraq, there was some minimally upbeat reportage as well. Moreover, the evolving circumstances in Pakistan are rather intriguing: Yes, General Musharraf's imposition of "emergency rule" is terribly unpalatable, but what motivated this extraordinary action? Was Musharraf desperate to keep Pakistan's nuclear arsenal out of the hands of radical Islamists or was he involved in nothing more than a cold, calculating power grab?

Let's start with "the good" news: The liberal mainstream media -- also known as "big media" or "old media" -- is finally reporting on an important story that any avid consumer of news, including Internet "new media" and foreign sources, has been aware of for the past few months. Specifically, the Petraeus surge is working, al-Qaida is being decimated and Iraq is considerably safer. A recent Associated Press column notes: "More than four months after U.S. forces completed a 30,000-strong force buildup, the death toll for both Iraqis and Americans has fallen dramatically for two months running." But this is by no means a thoroughly well rounded AP piece with proper context.

Sure, there was a prior column of significance in the New York Times dated July 30th entitled "A War We Just Might Win", authored by Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, both scholars from the Left-leaning Brookings think tank, which indicated that Iraq was in the midst of a notable turn-around that could very well herald propitious circumstances. But since August, there's been a stony silence on Iraq from the old media "gatekeepers of news", which is profoundly biased in favor of the Democrat "defeatist" Party. Suffice to say that good news out of Iraq is bad news for the Democrats.

That being said, the old media was loath to report on Iraq's improving landscape since it would redound to President Bush and the Republicans. Nor would I expect these journalists to provide their readership with the Big Picture: Syria and Iran had been working hand-in-glove all along with al-Qaida to stoke the fires of sectarian violence in Iraq. The al-Qaida bombings and other atrocities perpetrated against the civilian population were intended to pit the various Iraqi factions against each other and keep the country in chaos. Now that al-Qaida has been largely routed, violence has been significantly quelled in Iraq. There's demonstrably a new synergy in play. Political progress is bubbling up from the local level, and slow strides are being implemented at the national level.

As to future news coverage on Iraq, what can we expect? Big media journalists can no longer completely ignore the reality of "on the ground" success. They're beginning to generate a few bare bones stories on Iraq only because it's blatantly obvious what's transpiring there. Moreover, this is a pivotal election year with Senator Hillary Clinton as the presumptive presidential nominee and an opportunity for the Democrats to control both Houses of Congress in addition to the oval office. Because success in Iraq violates both Democrat templates -- "the war is lost" and "the war was a mistake" -- the mainstream media propagandists are going to be extremely mindful of how they craft the Iraq message being disseminated to the public.

Now, let's address "bad news": There's a plethora of awful news generated by big media -- in fact, it's the norm -- so I'll speak to the story that's got my dander up as a New Yorker. And, of course, it's Governor Elliot Spitzer's attempt to foist a change upon the system that would permit illegal aliens to obtain drivers' licenses. New York State law requires a valid Social Security number, but presto-chango, as per arrangement with Homeland Security, a foreign passport will now be acceptable. Ostensibly, licensing illegals would make the roads safer and force them to obtain insurance coverage. Have studies verified these assumptions? Call me skeptical, but I'd like to see the data.

Moreover, whatever happened to a driver's license as a privilege to be earned? Illegal aliens are already in violation of our nation's laws, but that no longer seems to matter in this brave new world where laws are subverted and twisted to accommodate the agenda of politicians. A driver's license is a "breeder document" utilized to attain other documents and expedite significant transactions -- Experts indicate that illegal aliens would find it easy to purchase shotguns and rifles. Then why the heck is Homeland Security willing to accommodate Spitzer? Clearly, I don't always trust the judgment of the feds.

Regarding the Spitzer plan, John Fund of the Wall Street Journal notes, "It stops just short of being an engraved invitation for people to commit voter fraud." It doesn't take a member of Mensa to figure this out. Illegal aliens are sure to vote Democrat. The obvious conclusion to be drawn is that Spitzer is willing to engage in any method at his disposal to expand Democrat power and wipe out the Republican Party in New York State. No wonder Spitzer, "the steamroller", has generated a firestorm of criticism on this and other matters.

The GOP-led New York State Senate indicates that it intends to derail attempts to license illegal aliens. In addition, lawsuits have already been filed by a government watchdog group, Judicial Watch, and by Rensselaer County Clerk Frank J. Merola to prevent the implementation of Governor Spitzer's proposal. Hopefully, common sense and security concerns will prevail on this issue.

Pervez MusharrafFinally, let's discuss the "ugly" news that came down the transom this last week. It's clearly repugnant when the constitution of a nation is suspended and martial law imposed. General Pervez Musharraf's declared "state of emergency" in Pakistan has also left the world perplexed. Pakistan was supposed to be transitioning toward democracy, with Musharraf to engage in a power-sharing arrangement with former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. That never came about despite US prodding. Mind you, although Bhutto is the darling of the international community, she too has been linked to political corruption, which, in fact, is systemic in Pakistan.

From Musharraf's perspective, a hostile judiciary and rising Islamic extremism prompted his actions. Frankly, he was facing legitimate challenge by the Pakistani Supreme Court, which was poised to rule that his presidential re-election was unconstitutional in light of his failure to relinquish his position as chief of the army. With his back against the wall, Musharraf imposed strict domestic measures, including a massive crackdown. Thousands of individuals have been detained by Musharraf, notably the Pakistani Supreme Court Chief Justice, civil rights activists, lawyers, journalists and opposition leaders. Even Benazir Bhutto was temporarily held under house arrest for a short period. For freedom loving people worldwide, this is a shocking state of affairs. Clearly, Musharraf doesn't possess the political skills and finesse of western politicos. In the parlance of the west, Musharraf overplayed his hand and will inevitably experience profound blowback.

The current tumult not only bodes poorly for Pakistan, but highly jeopardizes Musharraf's chances of maintaining a leadership role once the dust settles. This has vital implications for the US, which relied upon Musharraf as a key ally in the war on terror. As of this writing, Musharraf continues to retain essential support from army backers. But for how long? In practical terms, he's bought himself a limited amount of time. From the looks of things, Musharraf intends to hold his domestic opposition at bay, while persevering against the radical Islamists.

All that being said, religious zealots are indeed creating dire circumstances in Pakistan. According to the UK Guardian, "The Swat valley in northern Pakistan has a dark new reputation, as the frontline in the country's faltering war on Islamist extremism. On Saturday General Pervez Musharraf cited surging violence in Swat - including suicide bombings, beheadings and kidnappings - as a justification for the imposition of emergency rule. His security forces are battling an Islamist militia led by Maulana Fazlullah, a radical cleric with a flair for theatrics who wants to turn Swat into a mini Islamic fiefdom."

Musharraf's house of cards appears ready to collapse. But the larger concern is who will ultimately gain control of the nukes? ESR

Carol Devine-Molin is a regular contributor to several online magazines.

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