Just in case there's anyone out there still unsure about the whether nation-building is a bad idea, the Los Angeles Times brings a gem of a story about how you can lead an Iraqi horse to the water of equal-opportunity employment, but you just can't make him drink. Not even when your country is paying the water bill.
The Iraqi government has ordered all policewomen to hand in their guns for redistribution to men or face having their pay withheld, the Times reports. The move thwarts a U.S. initiative to bring women into the nation's police force.
The Interior Ministry, which oversees the police, issued the order late last month, according to ministry documents, U.S. officials and several of the women. Probably sensing this was going to tick off the Americans, ministry officials refused to pick up the phone or return messages when Times reporter Tina Susman called asking for an explanation.
Critics say the move is the latest sign of the religious and cultural conservatism that has taken hold in Iraq since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein ushered in a government dominated by Shiite Muslims. Other recent signs include a dozen women killed by religious militants in Basra for not covering their hair or dressing modestly. In Baghdad, once a secular metropolis, it is rare to see women without scarves covering their hair.
U.S. trainers began recruiting women in early 2004 and were so swamped with applicants they had to turn many away. By the end of that year, about 1,000 women had graduated. Since U.S. authorities handed over responsibility for police recruitment and training to Iraqi authorities in February 2006, the number of female recruits has dropped to virtually zero.
U.S. Army Brig. Gen. David Phillips, who has led the effort to recruit female officers, said an official in the Interior Ministry told him: "Females are taken care of by men in our country. They are not out there being police officers."
Huckabee Takes Heat For Cuba Flip-Flop
Even in his weaker moments, it's easy to see why Mike Huckabee seems to have the word "likable" tattooed across his dimpled face.
Yesterday, after getting called out in the last few days for radically changing his stance on the U.S. trade embargo of Cuba in an bald attempt to suck up to Florida primary voters, the Los Angeles Times reports, he stood before a crowd at a Cuban restaurant in Miami and basically admitted as much with startlingly little embarrassment.
"Rather than seeing it as some huge change, I would call it, rather, the simple reality that I'm running for president of the United States, not for re-election as governor of Arkansas," he said. "I've got to look at this as an issue that touches the whole country."
Of course, cornered men are often candid. In 2002, while Arkansas governor, he wrote a letter to President Bush saying the embargo was bad for his state's rice growers.
Now that he's staring down Florida's crucial Jan. 29 Republican primary (in which Cuban exiles make up 10 percent of the voters) he's had a drastic change of heart. He has vowed to come down even harder than Bush on Fidel Castro's regime and pledged to veto any effort to end the sanctions.
His far-less-likeable rival, Fred Thompson, still pouting because Huckabee was stealing the social conservative votes he had been banking on, gave reporters quotes from Huckabee's 2002 letter before the GOP debate on Spanish-language network Univision.
Yet somehow, Huckabee managed to turn the flip-flop into a comfy pair of beach sandals - the kind that Florida primary voters might themselves wearing.
"I really wasn't aware of a lot of the issues that exist between Cuba and the United States," Huckabee said, adding that his flexibility on policy should be viewed as a good thing. "I'll be the first to tell you I'm always subject - and I hope we all area - to learning, to growing, and never being so stubborn and maybe bull-headed."
Waterboarding Is Torture, Says Ex-CIA Officer
The furor of the missing CIA interrogation videos has brought one former spook out of the shadows to set the record straight: The waterboarding of the al Qaeda terrorist suspect he helped interrogate "probably saved lives," he told the Washington Post, but he now regards the tactic as torture.
That seems like a logical conclusion if the story he tells is true. John Kiriakou served as a CIA interrogator in Pakistan and participated in the capture and questioning of Zayn Abidin Muhammed Huseein abu Zubaida, the first high-ranking al Qaeda member captured after Sept. 11, 2001.
Abu Zubaida, we can assume from his bio, was one bad dude. But he broke in just 35 seconds after interrogators strapped him to a board, wrapped his nose and mouth in cellophane and forced water into his throat in a technique that simulates drowning.
After initially being ideologically zealous, defiant and uncooperative, he told interrogators he'd tell them whatever they wanted.
Which, of course, was the problem. In documents prepared for a military hearing at Guantanamo Bay, where he is still held, Abu Zubaida asserted that he was tortured by the CIA, and that he told his questioner what they wanted to hear to make the torture stop.
Kiriakou says that Abu Zubaida's information averted further attacks, but the added that "Americans are better than that." The CIA has generally supported such coercive techniques as necessary, while the FBI has opposed them as counterproductive and unreliable.
Kiriakou's remarks came a day before top CIA officials are to appear before a closed congressional hearing to account for the decision to destroy recordings of the interrogations of Abu Zubaida and another senior captive.
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