Top Ten: January 3, 2005

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There are at least ten wars going on right now that merit attention, plus several dozen smaller insurgencies. The top ten wars are;

1-Iraq. Although Saddams army was destroyed, and his government overthrown in 2003, his secret police and Baath Party organization remained, and continue to fight. In early 2004, Baath made a deal with al Qaeda members, who had been hiding out in Iraq, to join forces. Baath provided money and access to the support network of Iraqi secret police and party members. The Baath had good reason to fight. During three decades of Saddams rule, his enforcers did not bother to hide their identities as they terrorized the population. Thousands of Kurd and Shia Arab families know the identity of Baath Party thugs who killed, tortured or mutilated their friends and family. Already, many of these survivors have come looking for revenge. Because of this, many of Saddams thugs, and much of Saddams money, has fled the country, but most remain. Baath also made a deal with the Baath Party in Syria, acknowledging the Syrian branch as the senior one. For decades, the dispute over which branch of Baath was top dog kept Syria and Iraq at each others throats. No longer, and Syrian and Iraqi Baath Party members believe that, with al Qaedas help, they can regain control of Iraq. They dont have much choice, for as long as Baath is out of power in Iraq, Baath victims are going to seek payback. If that succeeds, Baath Party rule in Syria will be threatened as well. Perhaps as many as 20,000 Iraqis have died fighting the American and Iraqi troops in 2004. While the intensity of the fighting has increased, the area that Baath Party has some control over has steadily shrunk. This will continue as the Iraqi army and police force grow larger and more experienced.

2 - Sudan. The government made peace in the south, and that is holding. But now revolution has broken out in the western Darfur region. Government sponsored militias drover over a million tribal people, who supplied and support the rebels, out of their villages. Over 100,000 people have died from the fighting, or starvation and disease, so far. 

3 - Congo Wars (Zaire's wars of devolution). While this war is technically over, not all the participants have stopped fighting. One of the major causes of the war, the Hutu militias from Rwanda, are still operating along the border. Its tribal warfare. The Hutu, and other Bantu tribes, are the majority in the region (eastern Congo, Rwanda and Burundi.) But the minority Tutsi are more on the ball and better fighters. Despite the slaughter of over half a million Rwandan Tutsi by the Hutu ten years ago, the surviving Tutsi made a quick recovery and drove the Hutu killers into Congo, at least the ones they couldnt catch and kill. The Tutsi then crossed the border and triggered a (long overdue) revolution in Congo. The revolution is over, but the new government is as corrupt and inept as the old one. Unable to deal with the thousands of the Rwandan Hutu gunmen still camped out along the border, the tensions with Tutsi inside Congo, and across the border in Rwanda, remain. The Tutsi continue to fight back. UN peacekeepers dont have the authority to clear out the Hutu gangs, and the Congolese government has so far failed in several attempts. So the war, now undeclared, continues. Thousands die each year.

4-Colombia. The war has actually been going on for over half a century. It got a new lease on life when leftist rebel groups found out how to get rich through kidnapping and providing security for drug gangs. This made the leftist rebels less popular with many Colombians who supported their original reform goals. A new government seized on that and has been hammering the rebels. Kidnappings were down a third last year, and territory controlled by the rebels continues to shrink. But several thousand people a year are still getting killed in all the violence. 

5 - India and Pakistan conflict (Kashmir). The two countries are talking peace over Kashmir, but the fighting continues there. The rebels are Islamic radicals, and they have made themselves unpopular with many of the Kashmiris they are, in theory, fighting for. Pakistan cannot completely crack down on the Islamic radicals, and their training camps in Pakistani Kashmir. Most Pakistanis are convinced that all of Kashmir should belong to Pakistan, and consider the Islamic radicals to be heroes. The peace talks are an attempt to work out a compromise, and avoid a nuclear war between the two countries. Meanwhile, several thousand people a year are still dying as the Islamic radicals attack Indian soldiers, non-Moslems and Moslems who do not support the Islamic radicals. 

6 - Chechnya. The fighting continues, but its increasingly (pro-Russian) Chechen versus (anti-Russian) Chechen. Terrorist attacks inside Russia, have simply made the Russians more determined to crush the Chechen groups that support al Qaeda. Most Chechens are willing to accept a deal with the Russians. Actually, the deal has already been made. Chechnya will have autonomy, as soon as Chechen and Russian police are able to wipe out the hard core Chechens. This is nothing new. Its been done in Chechnya before. The only new wrinkle is the al Qaeda connection, which brings in outside money, and volunteers. But most of the killing is being done by Chechens. 

7 - Philippines. The rebels are still losing, and the violence is still declining. But many of the defeated rebels have turned to banditry and al Qaeda type terrorism. There are actually two different groups of rebels. The largest is the Moslem MILF, which is trying to make peace. But part of that deal is the suppression of al Qaeda backed terrorism. The Moslems of the southern Philippines have been fighting the non-Moslem northerners for centuries, and this enmity is not likely to disappear any time soon. The other rebel group, the Communist NPA, are increasingly turning to banditry just to keep going. This bunch wont go away either, since there is plenty of government corruption and economic inequity to rebel against. 

8 - Afghanistan. Small groups of Taliban still raid from bases in Pakistan, while al Qaeda  terrorists still try and stage attacks in Afghanistan (with less and less success.) The local Taliban are making peace with the government, after they failed miserably in their attempt to disrupt the presidential elections. Warlords and drug lords are still skirmishing with each other. The army and national police keep growing stronger, but law and order is difficult to create, and rather alien to Afghanistan in the first place. The violence killed about a thousand people in 2004, one of the lowest death rates in many a year. 

9 - Israel. The Palestinians admit that their "intifada" of terrorist attacks has failed, with Palestinians being the big losers. But all the Palestinian terrorists are willing to accept is a cease fire. Long term, the Palestinians want Israel destroyed. The Israelis want an end to the violence, but are not going to disappear as part of a peace deal acceptable to all Palestinians. 


10 War on Terror. This is less a war than it is a battle of ideas, between Islamic radicals who want to return to the 7th century, and Moslems who just want clean government. Al Qaeda is mainly at war with existing governments in Moslem countries, but goes after infidels (non-Moslems) because they are considered the cause of it all. Al Qaeda still exists, sort of. The Baath Party of Iraq is now the major source of money for al Qaeda in Iraq, and thats where most of  the al Qaeda volunteers are going. The countries these guys are coming from are glad to be rid of them, and apparently most of the volunteers get killed quickly, or come back disillusioned. Al Qaeda supporters in Saudi Arabia have tried to take on the government there, and are getting hammered. Osama bin Laden and his key aides are still hiding out somewhere (apparently along the Afghan/Pakistan border) and have been reduced to the status of cheer leaders. Al Qaeda is losing popular support among Moslems because of the large number of Moslems they are killing. This has resulted in Moslem, especially Arab, journalists publicly denouncing al Qaeda, and Islamic terrorism in general. Al Qaeda is much hated inside Iraq, again because most of al Qaedas victims are Iraqis. There are still millions of Moslems who support al Qaedas vision of world wide Islamic conquest. But nearly all these supporters are unable, or unwilling, to do anything substantial to support the cause. Non-Moslem countries with Moslem minorities are increasing their efforts to find, and jail, any active al Qaeda members. Al Qaeda remains a threat. But if you go buy what they have actually been able to accomplish, they are more potential, than actual, terrorist activity. When al Qaeda does finally fade completely away, the only ones to miss them will be the media. Islamic terrorists make for some great headlines and scarier stories. 

Meanwhile, there are a few areas where the war has diminished to what can best be described of as civil disorder. This includes Somalia (where tribal and gang violence continue to kill hundreds each year), Indonesia (where separatist rebels in Aceh and Papua fight on, but religious warfare between Christians and Moslems has largely been put down), Burundi (where die hard Hutus still hope to kill all the local Tutsis) and Sri Lanka (where there is a truce with separatist Tamil rebels, but peace still a distant goal, and the war may resume.)



 

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