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12/28/2003 Archived Entry: ""

Cartoon for the day: Pat Oliphant's "Bush makes wish to Santa."

I am encouraged that "the timetable for ending the civil occupation" of Iraq seems to be accelerating. The Washington Post reports, "Plans to privatize state-owned businesses -- a key part of a larger Bush administration goal to replace the socialist economy of deposed president Saddam Hussein with a free-market system -- have been dropped over the past few months. So too has a demand that Iraqis write a constitution before a transfer of sovereignty." The US faces a July 1 deadline for such a transfer to a provisional government. Of course, the pace of US casualties in Iraq has also accelerated. Also from the Washington Post, "From Sept. 1 through Friday, 145 service members were killed in action in Iraq, compared with 65 from May 1 to Aug. 30. The two four-month intervals cover counterinsurgency operations, far costlier than major combat operations, which President Bush declared over on May 1." Those figures do not include the casualties among "US-led occupation forces." For example, they do not include the four soldiers from Bulgaria and two from Thailand that died in a coordinated attack by rebels launched yesterday in the southern city of Karbala on Saturday. (Six Iraqis were killed and at least 172 wounded.) I don't think the figures include the rising number of suicides among the US troops in Iraq either. To quote the Chicago Tribune, "Since the Iraq conflict began, 20 GIs have taken their own lives in the theater. Military and outside experts, alarmed by the high number, hope to find out why. The Army is concerned about the deaths. Outside experts have said the rate is alarmingly high compared with the military's average suicide rate."

Eliminating the civilian occupation is a step in the right direction...but only one step.

On the privacy/"Your papers!" front...here's a disappointing development: "The European Commission has struck a deal with the US Department of Homeland Security allowing the handing over of data on EU citizens travelling to the US by airlines. The US currently requires access to airlines' Passenger Name Record (PNR) data, while EU privacy law forbids its transfer to the US. After some amendments which the Commission describes as concessions, however, the US' proposed treatment of this data has been deemed sufficient to rate an 'adequacy' finding, and thus passes muster in the Commission's view." Meanwhile, the following email from Quebec-based libertarian Pierre LeMieux advises: "There is NO legal requirement to produce government-issued photo ID, nor any personal ID, to board domestic flights in Canada. I just received a letter from the federal Department of Transport, in reply to an Access to Information request. The letter is reproduced on Subversive Liberty [Pierre's homepage]." No offense to Pierre, whom I believe is technically correct, but expect to produce documents unless you wish to miss your flight.

Best to all,

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