Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Looking Back on 2006

... And reading the year ahead
By H.D.S. Greenway | January 3, 2006

LOOKING FORWARD instead of backward, here are some of the events that dominated the news in the new year, 2006.

With its new immigration and guest worker proposals going nowhere, and the insurgency soaring in Iraq, the Bush administration decided to solve both problems at once by accepting a proposal from the Joint Chiefs Of Staff that the badly strained US military stand down in Iraq, to be replaced with a new American Foreign Legion along the lines of the legendary French model.

Potential immigrants and undocumented workers already in the United States were asked to join the Foreign Legion to fight in Iraq by June 1. After five years of service, those still left alive were promised automatic citizenship, as their counterparts in the French Foreign Legion are offered. ''It's going to be one heck of a lot safer than trying to cross our borders," said President Bush, who simultaneously announced that anti-terrorist walls would be built along the entire length of the Mexican and Canadian frontiers.

Insiders said that the president had promised Senator John McCain, who has been calling for more troops in Iraq, that there would be close to 900,000 legionnaires in Iraq by Thanksgiving. The president promised congressman John Murtha that all American citizens fighting in Iraq would be out by Christmas.

Representative Tom Tancredo of Colorado said: ''This is a good start, but there is much more work to do." Democrats, with the exception of Senator Joe Lieberman, objected, but offered no coherent reasons why. Senator John Kerry said he would have voted against such a proposal in Vietnam. Some patriotic conservative groups worried, however, that ''Foreign Legion" sounded too French.

In Baghdad, Ahmed Chalabi, whose party did badly at the polls in Iraq, announced that he would run for president of Iran, if the United States would give him a little help. He told an audience of neoconservatives in Washington that regime change in Iran, under his leadership, would be friendly to both the United States and Israel. He is said to be favored by the Pentagon, but to face reservations by the State Department and the CIA.

The trial of Saddam Hussein came to a halt when Donald Rumsfeld refused an Iraqi court subpoena to appear as a witness for the defense. Photographs of Rumsfeld shaking hands with Hussein were recirculated, and Hussein alleged that Rumsfeld had been briefed on all of Hussein's plans.

Following the resignation of Rumsfeld, after tapes of his meetings with Hussein were leaked to National Public Radio, Bush surprised the world with the announcement that Tony Blair would be his new secretary of defense. Blair told the British people that he could easily serve in the Pentagon as well as the House of Commons, and that the move would further cement the ''special relationship." He explained to the European Union that the move would allow him to tame the Bush administration's more aggressive instincts.

Former Massachusetts governor William Weld announced that he was giving up his race for governor of New York to make a bid for the leadership of Britain's Conservative Party. ''Hell, my family's been carpet bagging in New York since the 17th century," Weld told Larry King. ''Britain's where we're really from."

In business news, 2006 saw China's successful bid to buy both General Motors and Ford, with the promise that exhaust pipes for all models would continue be made in the United States. The struggling Pontiac model would re-emerge as the Pu Yi, after China's last emperor.

The media world was shocked when, in an out of court settlement, I. Lewis ''Scooter" Libby and former reporter Judith Miller were elected to the board of the New York Times Company.

Vice President Dick Cheney's office and the attorney general came up with new guidelines for interrogation in 2006. Torture would be replaced by hurting, with ''hurting with extreme prejudice" reserved for tough cases held by CIA. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice went on a European tour to explain the new policy.

The CIA itself was rocked by scandal when it was revealed that CIA case officers had been abusing their perks by claiming frequent flyer miles for rendition flights.

Rumsfeld, Ahmed Chalabi, and former Enron chief Kenneth ''Kennyboy" Lay were given medals of freedom by Bush in a Christmas Eve ceremony, as was Michael ''Brownie" Brown for his work in the 2005 hurricane season. Happy New Year.
© Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

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