Hand-writing a sunny, optimistic "Let Freedom Reign!" on news of Iraq's so-called sovereignty, Bush either doesn't know or doesn't care a lick about who we've installed as leader over there.

Steve Weissman of Truthout says Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, our new point-man in Baghdad, is little more than "Saddam-lite."

Though Allawi might look like a puppet to his compatriots, Washington will find him far tougher to control than the CIA's man in Kabul, the soft-spoken Hamid Karzai. Dr. Allawi remains at heart a Baathist nasty.

"He likes to think of himself as a man of ideas," a former CIA case officer told New Yorker's Sy Hersh. But. "his strongest virtue is that he's a thug."

Juan Cole, a historian of the Middle East at the University of Michigan, smells the same beast. "He is infatuated with reviving the Baath secret police or mukhabarat, and bringing back Saddam's domestic spies," writes Cole. "Unlike the regular army, which had dirty and clean elements, all of the secret police are dirty, and if they are restored, civil liberties are a dead letter."

Sounds like there's a little bit of Bush administration in the Middle East for now.


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