Busy, busy, busy

Some interesting links I don't have time to blog about at length:

The federal government received failing and mediocre grades yesterday from the former Sept. 11 commission, whose members said in a final report that the Bush administration and Congress have balked at enacting numerous reforms that could save American lives and prevent another terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

The 10-member bipartisan panel -- whose book-length report about the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks became a surprise bestseller -- issued a "report card" that included 5 F's, 12 D's and two "incompletes" in categories including airline passenger screening and improving first responders' communication system.

The group also said there has been little progress in forcing federal agencies to share intelligence and terrorism information and sharply criticized government efforts to secure weapons of mass destruction or establish clear standards for the proper treatment of U.S. detainees.
  • A letter from Human Rights Watch to Condoleeza Rice about the State Dept.'s comments on the elections in Egypt, which has received some prominent coverage here in the opposition press:
We are writing to express our astonishment at the statements yesterday by State Department spokesman Sean McCormack regarding state-inspired violence and irregularities in Egypt’s parliamentary elections. Mr. McCormack’s statements, including his assertion that the State Department has “not received, at this point, any indication that the Egyptian Government isn’t interested in having peaceful, free and fair elections,� are utterly disconnected from the reality of what is happening in Egypt today. They make a mockery of the policies you and President Bush have articulated on numerous occasions this year regarding the importance of respect for democratic freedoms in the Middle East generally and in Egypt in particular.
  • Novelist Adhaf Soueif has published her diary of the last few months in The Guardian. It is rather predictable considering she is related to some of Egypt's most prominent leftist activists and even, yes, the very politicized yet apolitical (or is it the other way around?) blogger Alaa of Manalaa.net:
Most Egyptians believe the country is being plundered for the enrichment of an elite that owes allegiance to foreign powers. This is not a new state of affairs. There's even (as there would be) an old proverb that says "Masr kheirha legheirha" - Egypt's bounty is for outsiders. But what colours today's scene with tremendous urgency is a fear the ruling regime will attempt to perpetuate itself for another generation, handing power from Mubarak the father to Mubarak the son through the ruling National Democratic Party. Hence there is a perception that if power is not wrested from this regime, then Egyptians can wave goodbye to any hope of reasonable levels of economic prosperity and social justice. Life is already very hard. If pushed the remaining few centimetres into despair, who knows what forces the country might succumb to? And if Egypt descends into chaos, what will the effect be on the rest of the region? It is the conviction that the country needs to be saved now that is driving the turbulence in universities, courts, unions, and on the streets.
  • Republican presidential hopeful Chuck Hagel visits Cairo and impresses all with his eloquence and political acumen:
Q: Parliamentary elections are going on, what is your opinion on it?

Senator Hagel: I have a difficult time just dealing with my own elections, and so I never venture guesses or opinions on any one else's elections, although I think it is important to have elections. I am a great proponent of elections, if you win (laughter). But we are seeing more elections in this part of the world, and I think that is a very good sign. All people of all nations need opportunities to express themselves, and govern themselves and that's what elections are about, and elections produce self-governance.
WHILE the Bush administration and its critics escalated the debate last week over how long our troops should stay in Iraq, I was able to see the issue through the eyes of America's friends in the Persian Gulf region. The Arab states agree on one thing: Iran is emerging as the big winner of the American invasion, and both President Bush's new strategy and the Democratic responses to it dangerously miss the point. It's a devastating critique. And, unfortunately, it is correct.
  • The ICG has a new report out on Lebanon in which they recommend against pressure to disarm Hizbullah, the organization the Bush administration has said is more dangerous than Al Qaeda:
While short-term efforts to disarm Hizbollah are likely to backfire in the absence of progress on the peace process, some steps could be taken to gradually integrate its military wing under national army control.