Good Reads: Qaddafi loyalist town fights back, Guantánamo detainees, and Chinese villagers who don't officially exist
After a weekend dominated by Sept. 11 remembrances, today's papers look at the rest of the world's goings on, with fighting in one of Qaddafi's last holdouts, former Guantánamo detainees adjusting to life in Afghanistan, and a look into how China's central planning leaves many villagers behind.
As stories go, it’s hard to follow Sept. 11, or even the 10th anniversary reminiscences of that terrible event.
But here are some stories that show why reporters get paid the big bucks, helping readers see what else is happening in the world.
In Libya, another son of former strongman leader Muammar Qaddafi has shown up in Niger, as the men we used to refer to as “rebels” start their assault on one of the last holdouts of Mr. Qaddafi’s loyalists. Is Qaddafi himself holed up in Bani Walid, or is he in his hometown of Sirte? The Monitor’s Scott Peterson reports on the fighting outside of Bani Walid, where loyalists are offering up tough resistance.
Back in Tripoli, the Los Angeles Times’s Patrick J. McDonnell meets up with a key member of Qaddafi’s former inner circle and pieces together the puzzle of how the regime made decisions in the last few days of its tenure. Why didn’t the Qaddafi family negotiate with the opposition?
The answer, as Mr. McDonnell sums up nicely at the top of his piece, is “Kadafi's stubbornness, his apparent failure to recognize the imminent peril and the desire of his son, Seif Islam, to inherit his father's position.” This, at least, is the version of truth according to ex-Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim, recently captured in hiding at a relative’s house and now being held at a rebel military camp.
Stories like this one can be golden, providing a window into the hidden world of a despot. But there are perils in basing a story on the perspective of a single individual, and particularly one who may have self-preservation motives. McDonnell makes all this clear in his story, and he notes that the interview “was monitored on and off by rebel commanders with limited English.” McConnell also includes the warnings of rebel leaders, one of whom says, "He should be arrested; he incited hatred.”
In the Washington Post, we find a useful reminder that it wasn’t only Americans who suffered during the past 10 years of war that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Among the most obvious are the people of Afghanistan, including those arrested and detained at Guantánamo Bay Naval Base without trial, and recently released without judgment or apology by US forces.
The Post’s Ernesto Londoño catches up with Haji Sahib Rohullah Wakil, a grey-whiskered man from Kandahar who is now setting up a support group for other former Guantánamo detainees. He says that he doesn’t harbor ill will against the Americans, but he does think they should leave, for the good of Afghanistan.
“The existence of the foreign troops is an excuse for the Taliban” to fight, he said. “Once the foreign troops leave, the people will stand against them and defend their districts and provinces.”
Another former Guantánamo detainee, Haji Shahzada, has a darker view. “What they have done is created more enmity. Once the Americans go, they will leave behind a river of blood.”
Tales such as these, combined with very bad economic numbers, create the perception in the up-and-coming countries of Africa and Latin America that the Western world is on a sharp decline. For many countries – such as Nigeria which recently decided to shift its foreign currency reserves from US dollars to Chinese yuan – the future lies with emerging economic powers like China.
If so, it may be worth taking a closer look at how Chinese society works, and what portions of Chinese society benefit and suffer from the central-governing decisions made in Beijing.
The Telegraph’s Peter Foster visits the village of Blue Dragon Mountain. It’s a village that officially doesn’t exist. Central planners condemned the village, and bulldozers leveled it in 1998 to make way for a reservoir to provide drinking water to the nearby city of Harbin. The residents of Blue Mountain Dragon were then given a small amount of compensation, but it was not enough for them to relocate to new cities and new homes, so many villagers returned.
And by doing so, the villagers of Blue Dragon Mountain ceased to exist. Electricity was cut. ID cards were rescinded. Children who leave the village can’t get salaried jobs, so they are forced to do casual labor. With no official ID, residents can’t open bank accounts, can’t apply for medical insurance, and can’t even purchase a railway ticket.
It’s a situation that affects perhaps tens of millions of Chinese, Foster writes, adding, “Pressure to change the resident's registration system is building, but China's authorities are also reluctant to give up on a system that allows them a key measure of control over China's development, preventing the kind of slums seen in other BRIC nations like India or Brazil.”