A troubling piece by Steven Vincent in the NYT about the growth of sectarianism in Basra. Vincent - whose work I've linked to before - fears that the British policy of handing over security to the local police as quickly as possible plays into the hands of Shiite extremists. Residents, he says, want a much firmer line on respect for human rights and democracy:
Unfortunately, this is precisely what the British aren't doing. Fearing to appear like colonial occupiers, they avoid any hint of ideological indoctrination: in my time with them, not once did I see an instructor explain such basics of democracy as the politically neutral role of the police in a civil society. Nor did I see anyone question the alarming number of religious posters on the walls of Basran police stations. When I asked British troops if the security sector reform strategy included measures to encourage cadets to identify with the national government rather than their neighborhood mosque, I received polite shrugs: not our job,mate.
The results are apparent. At the city's university, for example, self-appointed monitors patrol the campuses, ensuring that women's attire and makeup are properly Islamic. "I'd like to throw them off the grounds, but who will do it?" a university administrator asked me. "Most of our police belong to the same religious parties as the monitors."
Are the Brits too hands-off? A similar message comes across in Rory Stewart's Telegraph review (not yet on-line) of Mark Etherington's book on life after Saddam. Stewart finds that Etherington - former governor of Kut - is a staunch admirer of gung-ho Americans:
Their planes are a symbol of "transcendent and effortless power", their generals "laconic and measured, the rocks to which we instinctively clung". He particularly admires his American deputy who "still had a bit of the frontier in him... a first-class horseman... loyal to a fault, led from the front and accepted responsibility unhestitatingly". Etherington puts a high emphasis on loyalty, but he is intensely critical of his Foreign Office employers and their emphasis on cultural sensitivity, prudence and subtlety. He seems them as pompous, ignorant, indecisive and "risk-averse".
Thanks to the wonders of wireless, I can do a tiny bit of blogging while at WOMAD. It's pretty wet here. Youssou N'Dour is in full swing as midnight approaches. The crowd is damp but undaunted. Another typical British summer's day is coming to a close. They say it may be drier tomorrow. And I did at least manage to avoid hearing George Monbiot discuss climate change on the One World Platform.
Best act of the day: Lura, a new young singer from Cape Verde. Make a note of the name.
Albert Scardino quits... Great work, Scott. Val McQueen fills in the background at TCS.
Scott also has a post on racism and the victim of the police shooting, Jean Charles de Menezes. I've been wondering about his background. The family members in Brazil that I've seen on the TV news are white, although my wife thought there was a black grandmother. At least one of his cousins in London is mixed-race. We're back in ambiguous, Human Stain territory, something I've written about before. My relatives on the Jamaican side of my family range from dark-brown to ginger-haired. In the Caribbean people are used to working out the subtle differences; the British haven't had quite so much practice. Some well-intentioned people can be a little too eager to get to grips with the question. I once went for an informal interview with a BBC executive whose opening gambit was " I thought you were an octoroon..." That's not a term you hear often today.
As for the implications of the new racial profiling, post 7/7, Eve Garrard responds to Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. The Wall Street Journal's Tunku Varadjaran has his own thoughts:
I fit a visual "profile," and the fit is most disconcerting. The fact that I am neither Muslim nor Pakistani is irrelevant: Who except the most absurdly expert physiognomist or anthropologist could tell from my face that I am not an Ali, or a Mohammed, or a Hassan; that my ancestors are all from deepest South India; and that my line has worshipped not Allah but Lord Shiva--mightiest deity of the Hindu pantheon--for 2,000 years? I will be mistaken for Muslim at some point--just as earlier this week in Manhattan five young men were pulled off a sightseeing bus and handcuffed by police on suspicion that they might have been Islamist terrorists. Their names, published in the papers, revealed that they were in fact all Sikhs and Hindus--something few could have established by simply looking at them. (The Sikhs here were short-haired and unturbanned.)
I wish I could think of a way out of this, but I can't.
It so happened that Lucy, who found daily life rather chaotic, entered a more solid world when she opened the piano. She was then no longer either deferential or patronizing; no longer either a rebel or a slave. The kingdom of music is not the kingdom of this world; it will accept those whom breeding and intellect and culture have alike rejected. The commonplace person begins to play, and shoots into the empyrean without effort, whilst we look up, marvelling how he has escaped us, and thinking how we would worship him and love him, would he but translate his experiences into human words, and his experiences into human actions.
Fred Siegel's new biography of Rudolph Giuliani is reviewed in the Economist:
New Yorkers who backed Mr Dinkins over Mr Giuliani now like to claim that the policies that slashed crime were already coming in when Rudy took office. Mr Siegel shows that Mr Giuliani really does deserve the credit. Police numbers were rising under Mr Dinkins, but that would not have done much without Rudy's "broken windows" and "zero tolerance" policies of cracking down on minor crime on the correct assumption that the "small" criminals were also doing most of the nastier crime.
Ironically, Mr Giuliani's war on crime went so well that in 2000 New Yorkers began to complain that the police had too much power. Mr Giuliani's typically abrasive response to such talk inflamed his critics, prompting a plunge in his popularity that continued until September 11th.