Blog of Mass Distraction

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Under New Ownership

Jalal Talabani is the new President of Iraq. This is supposed to be a big deal because he's the first non-Arab to be the head of state of an Arab country.1 The position is largely ceremonial but, also being the leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, Talabani can have significant influence on the Kurdish independence movement. This would of course be worrisome to Turkey2 which, along with a couple of other countries, opposes Kurdish independence. Since being selected Talabani has tried to distance himself from the independence movement. But Talabani is also known to be an opportunist, since he's worked with both against and with Saddam Hussein and against and with Iran.

Also, Zalmay Khalilzad has been named as the replacement for John Negroponte as ambassador to Iraq. He leaves his position as envoy/ambassador to Afghanistan and his successful implementation of US policy there.3 He is perhaps most highly regarded among hyper-conservative circles for his ability to work with extremists, oppressors and war criminals, as he did in Afghanistan while ensuring US interests. In Afghanistan he's been able to work with General Dostum, former Taliban members and of course selected Hamid Karzai for President of Afghanistan (who was approved and appointed by the Afghan elite). Perhaps the US hopes he can once again bring extremists that have come to Iraq to the barganing table to make sure that US interests can be preserved (without having to bother with extremists or oppression).

The big news here however is the released testimony from the sponsorship inquiry. Jean Brault, former head of Groupaction, gave testimony before justice John Gomery that he had paid large sums of money to senior Liberal party members and Jacques Corriveau, friend of former PM Chretien. He also had to keep several Liberal loyalists on his payroll without them actually doing anything for him. This was in return for high paying contracts that were part of the sponsorship program. The talk of exchanging envelopes stuffed with money and other shady dealings has given the federal Liberal party, particularly those politicians from Quebec, a black eye. The Conservative party and especially the Bloq Quebecois can smell blood in the water and there is much talk now of a spring election. Neither of these parties, however, will be looking for a confidence vote yet because neither wants to rush into an election unless they're sure they can win something. Polls done recently have put Stephen Harper's Conservatives ahead of the Liberal party since the publication of this testimony. While another election this soon would not please the Canadian public, Harper may try for it sooner rather than later.
In my own opinion, I think that if the Liberals want to get past this they need to do some serious house cleaning. Martin claims that he's done and is continuing to do just that; he's fired and asked for charges against those involved. He also ended the sponsorship program when he became PM and the inquiry was started at his request. However, him being finance minister at the time still leaves questions and doubts as to his credibility. Martin really should step down as PM and clear out the remaining higher up with any ties to the sponsorship affair and/or other Quebec Liberals. Let the Liberals get a chance to redeem themselves as a party, and hopefully prevent Harper from instituting the kinds of harmful changes across Canada that Harris and Eves inflicted on Ontario during their time in office.

1. Wikipedia article on Talabani
2. Turkey has openly said and even threatened moves to stop an independent Kurdistan.
3. Larry Everest on Zalmay Khalilzad.


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