Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Too Titillating!

Saudi Lawyer Takes On Religious Court System (H/T: Crossroads Arabia):
Lahem, a 35-year-old father of two, contends that the police oppress people in the name of religion and act as if the law doesn't apply to them. He wants to prove them wrong.

"If we win this case, it will have more of an impact than a dozen lectures or newspaper articles," he said. "It will send a powerful message to them, and to the public, who view men of the cloth as untouchable. It will prove that nobody is above the rule of law."

Over the past three years, Lahem has taken on the country's most controversial and sensitive cases and turned them into high-profile indictments of the justice system. He has been thrown in jail several times and banned from traveling abroad. But he continues to fight what he considers an antiquated judiciary, out of step with basic human rights.

Congratulations, Saudi Arabia. You are now where the West was 250 years ago, just before John Wilkes successfully challenged the British system of general warrants. After that freedom of the press was secure and orders to government officials had to be specific and they were henceforth legally responsible to the courts for their actions; the law now applied to everybody. Abuse of governmental authority was thus drastically reduced, and freedom of the press assured. American Revolutionists who supported Wilkes enshrined his victory in the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which forbids invasive search and seizure without a judicial warrant.

Unfortunately this important episode in the history of civil rights is not commonly taught in schools, probably because the specifics of Wilkes' case were not just political but also pornographic. Sometimes history is just too titillating to be taught!

Monday, December 25, 2006

"Why Germany Endures Hitler"

Davids Medienkritik, the English-language German media review blog, has unearthed this 1934 article from The American Mercury:
Why have not the Germans risen up against the crazed gangsters who have made the name of their fatherland a byword in the civilized world – who have placed a stain on it which a whole generation will not be able to wipe out? The history of most European countries and even of little Ireland is full of the names of voluntary martyrs, of men and women who deliberately courted death in opposing despotism...

Optimists who believe that Hitler may eventually modify some of the laws against this people have no conception of the extent to which the Germans’ minds have been poisoned against the Jews for nine centuries. Anti-Semitism, the chief point in the Nazi leader’s program, appealed to a greater part of the German people than did any other point. In almost every department of life the Jews were represented out of all proportion to their numbers. This was especially true in the arts, sciences and learned professions. Only 1% of the whole population consisted of Jews, but 28% of Germany’s Nobel Prize winners belong to that race. The explanation lies, of course, in the Jews’ greater intellectual alertness, persistence and energy, but a people taught to regard itself as the real Chosen People, and at the same time burdened with the inferiority complex engendered by their long history of travail and disaster, could naturally not accept such a conclusion. For them the explanation lay in Jewish dishonesty, tricky and unfair dealing...

“But if Hitler goes, what then?”
Communism? Civil war? Chaos?
A people accustomed to freedom would not hesitate. But the Germans have never known freedom as it is known by politically enlightened peoples...

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Soul of Amarji the Heretic

A Syrian exile shares his inner torment, perhaps seeking an answer, or at least a reply:
Guilt is a would-be messiah’s constant companion, so, naturally, as a man mired in messianic expectations, - and how could a liberal heretic working within the context of a traditional Arab-Muslim society not be so afflicted? – I am riddled with guilt...my basic motivation was my constant obsession in remaining true to myself. But in doing this, and in following the dictates of my conscience and taking them to their logical conclusions, a process that took me on a long journey through different modes of religiosity and heresy, I ended up turning my back on the very foundations of my culture. I have made myself irrelevant to the very people that I sought, and seek still, to change. Somehow, and in being true to who I am, I stopped being true to my people and to my calling. But then, can I really be true to my people on their own terms? How can be a messiah then? How can I save the world?

For yes, even a secular heretic like me can still speak of a calling, of salvation...Yes, you can actually take faith out of the Arab. His Messiah Complex, however, is a completely different matter -

My response:
This is deep. To be so self-honest must have been very draining. I am honored that you choose to share your soul with us.

the whole point of messianic aspirations is to be able to belong somewhere, at some point in time, somehow, to something that you can believe in, because you have built it yourself.

In this respect, both the sociopolitical liberals and the religious and nationalist radicals are the same.


What if you managed to displace Asad from his throne? Could you accept being kicked out by the ballot box, as American presidents do? Could you accept that the people, who may not share your vision, might want to kick you out? Or if you choose to stay despite losing, which means you will always have to fear others seeking your weaknesses for a chance to become messiahs themselves?

I realized the limitations of my messianism: I cannot save the world, at least not at that point, but I can save my family, not to mention myself.

Perhaps it is not for us to save the world, but rather for us to enable it to be saved by enabling the people to save themselves without a messiah: through education, democratic party politics, freedom of speech and thought, etc.

But that's rather unsatisfying, isn't it? Not much room for messiahs that way. Yet the Western Experience has shown that this is the true way to liberate the people, to allow souls to make their own choices - even if we consider them to be bad ones, like wearing bikinis or chadors or changing religion or listening to bad music.

I have to be relevant to both worlds, I have to belong to both, I have to breathe my soul into both, and I have to save both, save me from both and save both from me. I have to be a multi-faceted messiah, it seems, to make all this work.

So my question is, do you believe in yourself, or in the values you believe will save your people?

On the one side is "Saddam", on the other is "Havel". If you choose "Saddam", then you are a messiah and we have seen you must deal with guilt or deny guilt entirely. If you choose Havel, there is disappointment and frustration, yet guilt is replaced by a quiet moral serenity.

The choice is yours; the fate is that of your people.

Addendum: Perhaps the Winston Churchill approach is a kind of middle ground:
“Every man can be a hero in this great struggle. Not since civilization sprang up between The Rivers 5,000 years ago has there been a crisis, and I say, an opportunity, like this. Allah has joined the fight on our side. He sent the Americans to destroy Saddam, but only we, my brothers, we Iraqis, we citizens, can win this war and throw out the evil from among us.

“When the history of our land is written 50 years from now, 500 years from now, 1000 years from now, people will ask what did their ancestors do in the Great War Against Evil? Every man who wields a rifle will be remembered. Every man who identifies the evil ones will be remembered. Their deeds recorded. Their contribution acknowledged. Your posterity will look back with pride and say, ‘Yes, my Fathers, my ancestors, honored their family and their clan and drove out the evil in this great battle of civilizations.’

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Golda Meir, President Kennedy, & Terrorism

Flashbacks from the fascinating declassified archives of the U.S. State Department:
121. Memorandum of Conversation/1/

Palm Beach, Florida, December 27, 1962, 10 a.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 784A.13/12-2762. Secret; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Talbot and approved in the White House on January 18, 1963. A summary of this memorandum of conversation was sent to certain posts in circular telegram 1168, January 4, 1963. (Ibid., 611.84A/1-463)

SUBJECT

Conversation with Israel Foreign Minister Meir

PARTICIPANTS
The President
Foreign Minister Golda Meir of Israel
Ambassador Harman of Israel
Myer Feldman, Deputy Special Counsel to the President [middle]
Phillips Talbot, Assistant Secretary of State for NEA
Robert Komer, White House Staff

Initiating a 70 minute discussion, Foreign Minister Meir said she brought greetings to the President from the Prime Minister of Israel. All the people of Israel, she said, have been watching with joy what the President has been doing, especially the way in which he handled the Cuban crisis. Israel saw it not just as a Cuba-US issue but as a big problem affecting the world, and is delighted at the way it came out.

Israel, she continued, has never questioned whether it should be in the free world. Its path is clear. Thus it appreciates US actions and has gained much encouragement from American concern with its security and from American friendship and understanding. She was glad that this talk was taking place after the meeting of the General Assembly, and would like to convey to the President the Israeli feelings about their area and their neighbors.

She is not really surprised when people do not see Israel's security problems as the Israelis do, Mrs. Meir said, but she does ask that others try to understand Israeli views. Israel is not anti-Arab. From the beginning it has been Israel's desire to live at peace with the Arabs. There is an identity in the kind of developments the US and Israel would like to see in the Middle East, i.e. each wishes an area in which every country is independent, free of fear and free to concentrate on its own development. Israel is sometimes called the only democratic country in the Middle East. Israelis would like to see all the countries in the area both democratic and rapidly developing. Their region should be one of cooperation among the countries for the common good. The area is underdeveloped, but Israel believes that it has possibilities and that Arabs would not suffer from cooperating with Israel in the direction of development.

Israel is perfectly prepared to live within its present borders. It doesn't want more land; it doesn't need, for example, Jordanian sand. On Israel's borders are four Arab countries. Israel has never had real trouble with Lebanon. Cows occasionally wander over the border from Lebanon and are sent back. Girls in the Israeli army may get lost and wander across the Lebanese border, but they are very politely returned. None of the incidents are serious...

Then, Mrs. Meir went on, there is the refugee problem. She asked the President to understand that Israel wants to see this problem solved. In 1949 it had said it would take up to 100,000 refugees back. Even though there was no peace, close to 40,000 came back. There are 230,000 to 240,000 Arabs living in Israel, about 11% of the population. Not all of them are peaceful citizens. For example, as development programs go forward peoples' houses sometimes have to be moved for new roads or other facilities. Although no one likes his house to be destroyed, Jewish citizens accept it even if they don't like it. But a few months ago when a new road was to be cut through an Arab village, there was a quite different reaction. We were accused of taking something away from the Arabs. They said they would put their women and children right in front of any bulldozers brought in. This is the sort of line they always take.

The question is this: even if Israel is to accept a very small number of Arabs, for what purposes would they be coming in? In the United Nations the Arabs repeat frankly and openly for hours and hours the one refrain that Israel has no right to exist and must disappear. This is the situation. Israel knows about Arab plans to bring Arabs back to Israel and then to make an Algeria out of Israel. They would create difficulties within the country; then when the Israeli Government would do what any state would have to do under the circumstances, the Arab countries would come to the help of these returning Arab refugees.

The Government is Israel has two responsibilities, Mrs. Meir said. On the one hand it is responsible for the security and welfare of the people. But in this generation the leaders of Israel have another responsibility. Twice before in history there has been Jewish sovereignty, but both times the country was occupied and the people dispersed. This generation has tried for the third time to establish a sovereign state, and this could be the last time. The whole world remembers what happened in Europe...If something happens again so that the Jews are dispersed from Israel, this could be the last time. That is not a happy idea...

In response the President said that he appreciated Mrs. Meir's full statement. In considering the problems of the world we should think of the future and especially of the next year or two. Her last point was particularly important: the burden which the United States carries for the free world. No other country carries the same responsibility for distant countries, for Korea, South Vietnam, India and Pakistan, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and elsewhere. Our concern is in maintaining the balance of power in the interest of the free world. This is why we find ourselves involved in issues between the Somalis and Ethiopians, Indians and Pakistanis, Cambodians and Thais, and so many other disputes which are not part of what we see as the central struggle, i.e. the struggle of free peoples...

The United States, the President said, has a special relationship with Israel in the Middle East really comparable only to that which it has with Britain over a wide range of world affairs. But for us to play properly the role we are called upon to play, we cannot afford the luxury of identifying Israel--or Pakistan, or certain other countries--as our exclusive friends, hewing to the line of close and intimate allies (for we feel that about Israel though it is not a formal ally) and letting other countries go. If we pulled out of the Arab Middle East and maintained our ties only with Israel this would not be in Israel's interest.

To be effective in our own interest and to help Israel, the President continued, we have to maintain our position in the Middle East generally. Our interest is best served if there is a group of sovereign countries associated with the West. We are in a position then to make clear to the Arabs that we will maintain our friendship with Israel and our security guarantees...

Those were the days. I note that although Israel's geography, politics, international standing, and leadership has changed, the attitude of the United States to the Israeli-Arab conflict remains the same, while Arabs are increasingly returning to the rejectionist position of forty years ago, now armed with Western weapons and anti-Israel media sympathy.

Yet such events as the repeated Israeli invasions of Lebanon were not unexpected, as one post-Munich cable noted [caps in original]:
AS LONG AS TERRORIST WAR IS INFLICTED ON ISRAEL, ISRAELIS, AS MUCH AS WE MAY WISH IT WERE OTHERWISE, WILL INEVITABLY WAGE COUNTER-WAR, AS WITNESS RECENT RETALIATORY RAIDS AGAINST FEDAYEEN INSTALLATIONS IN LEBANON AND SYRIA. AREA SITUATION CAN QUICKLY BECOME VERY DANGEROUS UNDER SUCH CIRCUMSTANCES. FURTHERMORE, ARAB DIPLOMATIC EFFORTS AT UN AND IN OTHER INTERNATIONAL FORUMS IN FAVOR OF PEACEFUL RESOLUTION OF ARAB ISRAELI CONFLICT LOSE CREDIBILITY WHEN ARABS AT SAME TIME ARE SEEN AS PROMOTING, TACITLY OR EXPLICITLY, INDISCRIMINATE VIOLENCE.

Even with the mainstream media on their side, do "Arab diplomatic efforts" really have more credibility today?

The cable continues. Why America's "Arab Friends" continue to support Black September seems to be a puzzle to the writer:
...POINT OUT BLACK SEPTEMBER ORGANIZATION (BSO) HAS CLAIMED CREDIT NOT ONLY FOR MUNICH MASSACRE BUT ALSO FOR MURDER OF JORDANIAN PRIME MINISTER WASFI TELL IN CAIRO IN NOVEMBER 1971, ATTEMPTED MURDER OF JORDANIAN AMBASSADOR TO U.K. ZAID RIFAI IN DECEMBER 1971, HIJACKING OF SABENA JETLINER TO TEL AVIV IN MAY 1972, AND BLOWING UP OF OIL STORAGE TANKS IN TRIESTE IN AUGUST 1972. OUR INFORMATION INDICATES THAT BSO HAS CLANDESTINE LINKS WITH FATAH. YASIR ARAFAT, HEAD OF PALESTINE LIBERATION ORGANIZATION (THE OVERALL UMBRELLA ORGANIZATION) AND FATAH (MAIN COMPONENT OF PLO), WAS QUOTED AFTER MUNICH MASSACRE AS EMPHASIZING UNITY OF ALL FEDAYEEN ACTION, THUS LENDING CREDENCE TO INDICATIONS OF LINKAGE OF BSO TO FATAH. IT IS THUS NOT CREDIBLE TO MAKE DISTINCTION, AS TERRORIST ORGANIZATIONS AND CERTAIN ARAB GOVERNMENTS SOMETIMES TRY TO DO, BETWEEN "RESPECTABLE" FEDAYEEN ORGANIZATIONS AND THOSE ENGAGING IN INDISCRIMINATE TERRORISM. WE THEREFORE HOPE THAT GOVERNMENTS WILL EXPRESS PUBLICLY THEIR CONDEMNATION NOT ONLY OF BSO BUT OF FEDAYEEN TERRORISM IN GENERAL AND AT THE SAME TIME CALL PUBLICLY ON STATES HARBORING OR SUPPORTING TERRORISTS TO CEASE THIS SUPPORT. YOU SHOULD ALSO POINT OUT THAT SILENCE ON PART OF GOVERNMENTS WOULD CONTRIBUTE TO PERPETUATION OF MYTH THAT THERE IS NO CONNECTION BETWEEN "RESPECTABLE" FEDAYEEN AND THOSE PRACTICING TERRORISM.

Yes, even in the early 70s the U.S. government realized that the platitude, "There is no connection between 'respectable' fedayeen and those practicing terrorism" against their own people was a myth! A stroke of wisdom that ought to be remembered today, by Arabs and Americans alike. For as long as enough Arabs value the "dignity" of "resistance" over the courage necessary to establish a decent government with self-critical democratic values and goodwill towards its neighbors, isn't it certain such terrorism will continue?

Monday, November 27, 2006

Why We Rarely Hear From Moderate Muslims

Here is what can happen if a Muslim writes a letter to the local newspaper denouncing Al-Qaeda (h/t LGF):

"You have written bad things about Muslims in your article, and you can't say anything bad about Muslims in front of non-believers." Several members of his mosque threatened him: "They had all intentions of causing harm to me."

Update, 11/28/06: Eteraz interviews the author:
"Jihad doesn't mean fighting. Honest earning can be Jihad. I have four kids and a wife. If I go and work and bring honest food for them out of my hard work. That is Jihad. Now, Bin Laden and Zawahiri, they are somewhere in the tribal areas of Pakistan and the Muslims there have to realize that these guys are not Champions of Islam and all they need to do is hand them over to the law. That is Jihad."

Friday, November 24, 2006

Material Spirituality

We are not just born to shop, nor are we merely born to pray:

The former attitude leads inexorably to the notion that the highest ideals of society should be to encourage poverty, homelessness, nudity, and hunger. From the perspective of the "spiritualists", malnourished children in societies of mud huts wearing rags and owning nothing- would be the epitome of human existence. The Madonna attitude, on the other end of the dialectic, condemns us to meaningless and empty lives given over in pursuit of meaningless and empty things.

But human beings are not either spiritual or material. They are both these things at all times. [Dr. Sanity]
...when some success-hating commentator condemns America for being the world's leading consumer, tell him that he is evading the underlying fact: that this country is the world's leading producer. And then, as you sit down to dinner, celebrate the spiritual significance of the holiday by raising a toast to the virtue of your own productive ability and to America's productive giants, past and present. [Dr. Gary Hull, Capitalism Magazine]

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Colorado Bows to the Saudis

One well-known weakness of the U.S. is that we have difficulty paying attention to more than one foreign crisis at a time. So while Hezbollah is getting Lebanon ready to burn - a subject I've been commenting about on various Lebanon-oriented blogs, especially Michael Totten's - I thought it might be a good idea to peek outside the tent to see what was going on elsewhere.

John Burgess blogged about the return today of Colorado's Attorney General from Saudi Arabia, where he was subject to several days of "aggressive questioning" - that is, interrogation - by the Saudi King and lesser persons of importance on the conviction of Homaidan Al-Turki for the enslavement and rape of his Indonesian maid:
In what I consider to be a nice piece of public diplomacy, Colorado Attorney General Suthers went to Saudi Arabia to explain the process by which Homaidan Al-Turki was convicted...At the very least, in defending the American judicial system he made it clear that Americans stand behind and respect that system.

I was not pleased:
I watched the video. Suthers actually said that he was certain he didn't change any minds. He also discovered, in the course of sessions of "aggressive questioning" by the Saudi King and his advisors, and again by the Interior minister, that his interlocutors were poorly briefed as to the specifics of the case - they simply didn't do their homework.

The stumbling block here was Saudi sexist and racist prejudice: the word of an Indonesian maid (no matter what her religion is) isn't to be believed over that of a Saudi male, so the only possible explanation must be anti-Muslim prejudice. So the defendant's family tried to shield their boy by equating his fate to that of all Muslims.

The key revelation to the Saudis was that they didn't know that two other maids had also testified that they had been sexually assaulted by the defendant. In Islam, a woman's testimony is half a man's, correct? Therefore the testimony of three women is superior to that of one male.

A measure of Saudi embarassment may be found in the total absence of this story from Saudi newspapers since this Arab News article of November 17th. That story described Suthers' meeting with the defendant's relatives and the Saudi Human Rights Commission. Gee, how many AGs look forward to meeting the relatives of people they convicted away from their home turf, at the total mercy of their hosts, surrounded by people primed to accuse them of violating the defendant's human rights?

Maybe this is a PR triumph, but you would have to be a diplomat to understand that. It does not appear to be a case of reciprocation: has any Saudi prosecutor ever flown to the U.S. to be grilled by a Congressional committee for failure to prosecute, or keep in prison, known terrorists? I can't see that attorney generals all over the country haven't received another message entirely: that ultimately they can be held accountable to the Saudi royal family, not their elected constituency.

To dispel this negative impression, the Saudi government could release a statement assuring Americans that they will never ask that this sort of episode be repeated ever again, and if they have future questions on such matters, they will be handled on U.S. soil just like everybody else.

As the Rocky Mountain News wrote:
Did it really need a personal trip to the Saudi King?...Foreign nationals are convicted in Colorado courts on a regular basis. Surely Al-Turki's friends and relations are not the first to consider their loved one a victim of alleged American intolerance and bias. Shall we dispatch the AG on a lengthy mission to smooth ruffled feathers and justify our legal system every time these suspicions surface - or only when they involve a monarch presiding over one of the most reactionary autocracies on Earth?

I'm quite upset that one question the AG had to deal with was if President Bush could issue a pardon to al-Turki. Suthers had to personally deny that the president had jurisdiction over this case. We've seen how Clinton abused his pardoning authority; clearly, the Saudi King was expecting something similar from President Bush.

The implication is that Suthers' trip to Saudi Arabia was necessary to explain the excuse for the president's inactivity on behalf of a well-connected Saudi family. As if President Bush needed a note from his mother to tell his teacher that the dog ate his homework. [Linked at The Carnival of the Insanities]

Addendum: All federal charges - labor and immigration violations - against al-Turki were dropped in September, the U.S. attorney saying that prosecution wasn't necessary after the state case.

Update, 11/23: Debbie Schlussel was kind enough to provide this link to a detailed story in the Rocky Mountain News:
For all of the coverage the case has received, Suthers said Saudi officials seemed surprised at two aspects that had not been reported there. They did not know that two other women had testified at the trial as having experienced similar treatment. They also did not realize that Al-Turki did not testify during the trial.

While that choice is a defendant's right in an American court, it carries a different impact in Saudi Arabia, Suthers said.

"In the Saudi system, the failure to testify is very significant. When somebody makes an accusation, you're expected to respond," he said.

David Harsani has also penned an interesting commentary in today's Denver Post: Saudis need a mirror to see injustice.

Update, 11/29/06: It appears that Homaidan al-Turki's family connections are a carefully guarded secret. While the names of his wife and children are publicized, his parents, aunts, and uncles are simply referred to as "influential relatives", even by those Americans who have met them.

There is a Lieutenant-General Mansour al-Turki who is the director of the Haj affairs department in the directorate of public security and is the Foreign Ministry spokesman, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Jeddah is Saleh Al-Turki, an Abdul-Aziz Al-Turki is Secretary General of the Organization of Arab Oil Exporting States, and of course the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. is also named al-Turki. There is nothing beyond the names to suggest a connection.

However, Abdullah Al-Turki is Secretary-General of the Muslim World League, a religious organization of some influence which publishes books for worldwide distribution - and Homaidan al-Turki's business, Al-Basheer Publications, may have sold some of these. The connection would seem tenuous save for the fact that Suthers emphasized the al-Turki family's religious influence: "His father is an imam".

In the meantime, the case of Hamaidan al-Turki has vanished from the Saudi and American press entirely, in keeping with Suthers' contention that Homaidan al-Turki's "family has a lot of clout with the press over there."

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Lebanon Model

We're back to what I wrote over a year ago: the Cedar Revolution will die unless the Lebanese ultimately confront Hezbollah.

Sometimes I wonder what would happen if Siniora broke from Hezbollah completely and appealed to the U.N. to start disarming Hezbollah by force? Everyone here tells me it can't be done - Hezb is too thoroughly integrated into the Shia population. I suppose it would mean war.

Yet wouldn't such a war be preferable to the nightmare that seems sure to follow if Siniora doesn't make such an appeal? I think Nasrallah is counting on the fact that Lebanese would rather sit back and let their democracy wither than stand up and risk conflict. All of Lebanon appears to be his hostage, more today than during the Israel-Hezbollah war because there is no such conflict to divert Hezbollah's energies from domestic matters.

The danger for the West is that Lebanon is becoming a perfect model for turning a democracy into a religious dictatorship - nearly the opposite of what the U.S. is trying to to in Iraq. The steps are simple enough:

1) Infiltrate or organize the Muslim population;
2) Concentrate your followers geographically so they can control the local government;
3) Arm your followers to take control of local families throught terror and local governement through the ballot box;
4) Seek state power under the pretext of avoiding a confrontation with the outside community;
5) Start a conflict with a designated "enemy", trumpeting armed followers as "patriots".
6) Label the outside, mostly unarmed community "traitors" and use inside knowledge of government and armed followers to overthrow the government.

There seems to be no reason why the "Lebanon Model" couldn't work in any country where the citizenry possesses the values demonstrated by the majority of Lebanese citizens: valuing peace, prosperity, "group rights" and order over the rule of law and personal freedom.

UPDATE: Michael Totten has a plan:
I am suggesting a changing of targets. Lightly hitting Syria instead of massively hitting Lebanon is a plea to tone down the belligerence and channel what remains in a more productive direction.

I replied something like this (a glitch wiped out my original comment):

If Israel hits Syria, do you think the international community would show Israel sympathy and understanding?Or would efforts to arm the Gazans redouble and calls for jihad increase? I see Jordan recalling its ambassador and closing borders. I see Egypt renouncing the Camp David accords and vowing belligerence with Israel (without, of course, giving back the territory Camp David yielded to Egypt). I see Syria reveling in its role of "victim" and Asad collecting Saudi cash for arms and terrorism. I see Iraqis goaded into attacking U.S. troops, lest their families be attacked by death squads and militias.

And while the U.S. is busy trying to dampen fires in the MidEast, Hezbollah will be bolder than ever in its campaign to subvert Lebanon's democracy, because it knows no one will be looking, and if they are Hezbollah can use Israel's "aggression" to justify its own dastardly deeds.

MJT, please do not persist believing in the fantasy that that "Israel bombing Syria" is the action that will start Lebanon down the road to solving its problems.

UPDATE: Abu Kais accuses Hezbollah of treason. Oh, really?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Islamic Plague

Killing Little Children for the Cause:
[S]ince Islam was founded on the use of violence to spread the faith, and enforce discipline among followers, there's no end to this custom of conjuring up imaginary threats, and then getting violent over the issue.

What is this issue this time? Is it the dastardly effects of the Global War on Terror? No, it's telling The Faithful that polio vaccine shots will sterilize them. A rash of polio cases among Muslims has been the result:
WHO and its partners had to give up their goal of eradicating polio globally by 2005. Responding to the cascade of outbreaks caused by Nigeria cost an extra $200 million last year alone, said Heymann.

I suppose the U.S. pays about one-third of that amount. Tens of millions of taxpayers dollars all to treat people deluded by their "Islamic" leaders.

Worse, the fiction is spreading internationally:
Pakistan, a recent court petition — citing Nigerian documents that claim the vaccine contains estrogen — asks the government to end the polio eradication program. In the past, polio vaccinators in Quetta have been stoned and chased out by angry locals.

The misinformation battle can take place anywhere. Let's not ignore it.

After all, who cared what the Taliban taught in Afghanistan before 9-11? Last year Quetta was alleged to be the headquarters for the Taliban's General Staff! Thus, to accept the propagation of falsehoods, even those seemingly unrelated to the War on Terror, can work to serve the enemy's purposes.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A Hezbolli Speaks

Over at Michael Totten:
Mr. Totten, let me be incredibly honest; I have read your blog for some time, but have refrained from commenting. I can say that I find your views abhorrable, in so far as they (more often than not) justify murder based on Israel's right to self-defense. Mr. Totten, if Israel wanted to defend itself, if Israel believed we were on an equal footing as human beings, if Israel believed in human rights, if Israel believed in the real rules of war, let it fight on the battlefield, let it invade and snatch our rocket launchers from us. To hide behind F-16s and then make unsubstantiated accusations that we hide amongst civilians...

The Hezbolli believes he is entitled to his own facts. He continues:

why does it not give us the patch of land that we are demanding?

Because the U.N. says it isn't yours.

these prisoners were supposed to be exchanged as per an understanding

It was Hezbollah who violated the "understandings" by not even providing information about the state of health of Israeli prisoners. In the most recent conflict, the cessation-of-hostilities agreement called for the unconditional release of Israeli "abductees" - another treaty promise that Hezbollah decided to violate.

it is not just the issue of land or prisoners, but the maps of minefields

Not a major obstacle, I think.

Fourth, we did not attack Israel. Our targeting (given that we merely have a ceasefire between us) of the soldiers was legitimate -

Exactly backwards.

There's no moral or legal argument left for you, Hezbolli. Why should anyone listen to you? Do they not endanger their very souls by following you? And are you not lost yourself, until you seek redemption by submission?

His reply:
They listen because they believe wholeheartedly in the justice of our arguments and cause. They listen because we are one and the same: Hizbullah is the people, and the people are Hizbullah. We are from the people and for the people. We are from the people and for the people. Our history attests to this. We have given Lebanon more martyrs and restored its dignity more than any other party. We have restored the lost pride of the Arab and Muslim peoples. We do not need anyone to listen to us. We believe, and we act. The rest are incidental byproducts, rather than deliberately sought after. We are not lost; we have shown those who were lost, the way. And we have proven time and again that we stand by our word. Our honesty and faith are our keys to success in our struggle for liberation and against injustice.

And if they didn't agree, you have the guns to convince or kill them, don't you? The Nazis and the Communists were exactly the same.
We are not much different in that respect from nations that take pride...We want and demand treatment on equal terms, not as inferiors. That is the root of our struggle against America.

There it is. He's grown up in a tough neighborhood where the big and strong always bully the weaker into obedience. In such an environment big bullies are defeated when others bullies gang up on them, and there's no better way to inspire bullies to band together than to propose taking down the biggest "bullies" in the neighborhood - Israel and the United States.

The idea that there could be someone big and strong out there who isn't primarily interested in fighting is quite a foreign concept, something to be rejected outright even if understood, for he would still feel small and weak. He's projecting his values upon law-abiding free nations and using that to justify his attacks.

For the Hezbolli, this isn't about security or religion. It's about pride and power. In the West he'd be in jail, intensive therapy, or a CEO. Such structure is not available to him, or simply is not desired because it is so at odds with his indoctrination.

We are resisting all oppressors, be they local or foreign; we are resisting all those who wish to see us be slaves to American policies and interests (including those who are already slaves, like the KSA, and all other Arab countries); we are resisting those who wish to see our waters appropriated by Israel. We are resisting all those who wish to take us back to our past position of deprivation and humiliation...Why should we recognize Israel in return for nothing? Israel does not recognize our legitimacy, or the legitimacy of our people's grievances and their right to resist the occupation.

Compare to:

...With the occupation of the Ruhr, France had accomplished a conspicuous breach of the Versailles Treaty. In so doing, she had also put herself in conflict with a number of signatory powers, and especially with England and Italy. France could no longer hope for any support on the part of these states for her own selfish campaign of plunder. She herself, therefore, had to bring the adventure - and that is what it was at first - to some happy conclusion. For a national German government there could be but a single course, that which honor prescribed. It was certain that for the present France could not be opposed by active force of arms; but we had to realize clearly that any negotiations, unless backed by power, would be absurd and fruitless. Without the possibility of active resistance, it was absurd to adopt the standpoint 'We shall enter into no negotiations'; but it was even more senseless to end by entering into negotiations after all, without having meanwhile equipped ourselves with power.

- Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf


This dialogue is not over yet...

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Moping & Hoping

Moping is how I spent last night. In front of the computer screen, gaping at the returns. I knew they would be bad for the Republicans, but I didn't realize just how bad.

Some people are praising the Democrats today for their "restraint". That's incorrect. The Democrats simply weren't prepared for the size of their victory. They were prepared to crow about their gains and to vow to keep attacking the Republican control of Congress for the remainder of Bush's term. Now they're the ones running the show.

Paradoxically, that gives me hope. Democrats have to choose between sabotaging everything or working with the President. If they choose sabotage, they may well spoil their chances for winning the presidency in 2008. If they choose cooperation, then as the party beloved by the mainstream media, the President's policies - whatever they will be - will have greater public support than before.

Nevertheless, there is still the danger that the Class of '06 will be a reprise of the Class of '74, which was noted for cutting off all funding for military operations in Indochina, thus dooming South Vietnam when North Vietnam mounted a full-scale ground invasion. The media blamed the defeat on President Nixon, who was also on the track to impeachment before he resigned. The mistrust of Republicans and government in general was then leveraged into winning Jimmy Carter the Presidency in 1976.

The era of Jimmy Carter's presidency is widely referred to as "the age of malaise", yet Democrats consider it the high point of post-Kennedy liberalism. A large slice of the Democratic Party believes Iraq is unwinnable and wishes to pull out of the country as soon as possible. Even before the election, there was talk that if the Democrats would win, impeachment proceedings would be next.

Will the Democrats repeat the same course of action? I think not. George W. Bush is not the sullen, unpersonable, and physically unattractive person Richard Nixon was. George W. Bush has no real "Watergate" hiding in the wings -- all allegations against him so far are make-believe. The War on Terror threatens the U.S. directly, not just an country obscure to most Americans. Finally, the country doesn't really want another Watergate agony, and I think the moderate side of the Democratic Party is wise enough to realize that.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

On Saudi Educational Reforms

Retired diplomat John Burgess reports in detail on the 15th Annual Arab-U.S. Policymakers Conference held in D.C. last week:

Dr. Khalil Al-Khalil, Member of the Majlis Al-Shoura and Professor at Imam Mohammed ibn Saud Univ. spoke next about educational reform in the Kingdom. He gave a history of education in the KSA, noting that its first curriculum and textbooks were Egyptian (this in the 1920s and 30s) and provided statistics about the numbers of schools and students in the KSA. He pointed out that the United States remains the first choice for Saudi students who wish to study abroad, even with the hassles over visas.

Education reforms are real and they are really taking place, he said. But reforms take time; they don't happen overnight. He said that it would take 3, 4, even 5 years before their effect is felt.

Dr. Eleanor Abdella Doumato spoke next on "Teaching Islam". She noted that there are still problems in the texts used in teaching religion. Curiously, though, she said, the textbooks used to teach "civics" (oddly, only to male students), is far more global in its lessons, telling students that they need to work on cooperative behavior, they need to work hard, and they need to work with kindness. Textbooks used in the 10th Grade discuss relations between countries and the need for tolerance. She found these texts to be a strength upon which the Ministry of Education could build and certainly should be teaching in the girls' schools as well.

Dr. Doumato took exception to some of the widely published reports on Saudi education that have run through the American media, singling out the Freedom House report of 2005 (recently rehashed in 2006). She found misreprentation and factually false statements, as when the report said that Saudi texts don't recognize Israel when, in fact, they do. On the same page the report criticized, she found both caption to a map and text on the page that acknowledged Israel.

It is striking that five years after 9-11 Saudi educators are still concentrating their discussions on reforms at the high-school textbook stage. Was any feedback or studies of the effects of reform presented? Any reports from students about the differences reforms have made? Did no one point out that the weak emphasis on global "civics" only comes after 10 years of an education known to promote a highly negative view of non-Muslims? Is the plan is for younger children to keep receiving such biased instruction? By the time such children reach high school any other form of instruction may fall on deaf ears.

I note that in 2004 TashMaTash broadcast an episode that poked fun at the reforms, showing that at the highest levels of the educational establishment the reforms were intended to be ignored. This episode of TashMaTash was NOT condemned by the clergy. The implication is that "reforms" are mere window dressing intended to stifle Western or reformist criticism. Did Doumato's presentation do anything to dispel such fears? The examples Doumato cited of Freedom House errors seem too minor to matter.

Finally, Saudi Arabia exports or subsidizes religious instruction and textbooks to many Arab and non-Arab Muslim schools around the world. Are there steps to revise these curricula as well or will the "hate lessons" within them remain unchanged?

Linked to Carnival of the Insanities

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Dark Side to YouTube

YouTube is extremely addicting.
Here is another Silver Surfer episode: Return to Zenn-La.

Wonderful stuff. I can understand why Google wants to pay over a billion dollars for the company: it is easy to for users to add material, and its search interface is swifter and easier to use than those of rivals like RealPlayer. Indeed, they essentially have no rivals in this market.

However, there are two dark sides to the company: copyright infringement and political bias. Copyright is mostly a matter for Hollywood types to tackle, but the bias issue is discussed by Noel Sheppard over at The American Thinker. Sheppard points out that YouTube has a record of selectively removing and deleting conservative and anti-Islamofacist videos, and this problem is getting worse. One of Google's "senior advisors" and shareholders is Al Gore, and Google itself donates millions to lefty organizations like MoveOn.org.

As video blogging is the latest hot trend, we may be witnessing an institutionalized attempt to squelch conservative political commentary by controlling its distribution. Let's hope YouTube develops some competition, and fast!

Friday, October 13, 2006

The World's Most Clever Leader

As much as I support him, it isn't George W. Bush. No, the world's most clever leader is undoubtedly General Pervez Musharraf, the current President of Pakistan. He's certainly more clever than you or I. You don't rise up to the top of the military through the intelligence service and then depose your president just at the moment of your dismissal without great smarts and an even greater capacity for betrayal.

Musharraf is under attack by all sides, from within his country and from without, by both democrats and Islamofascists and many people in between. The Islamists want him dead. The West doubts his commitment to the Global War on Terror. Currently, he is being severely criticized for essentially surrendering the province of North Waziristan to the Taliban: the Taliban controls the area and in exchange it promises to kick out "foreign" militants and not to attack government troops.

Indeed, Pakistan is accused of supplying the Taliban itself:

Nato's report on Operation Medusa, an intense battle that lasted from September 4-17 in the Panjwai district, demonstrates the extent of the Taliban's military capability and states clearly that Pakistan's Interservices Intelligence (ISI) is involved in supplying it.

The predictable result of this apparent victory by and resupply of the militants is their immediate push to expand their area of control into nearby Afghanistan. But let's see how this push has developed so far:

Hundreds of Taliban reinforcements in pick-up trucks who crossed over from Quetta – waved on by Pakistani border guards – were destroyed by Nato air and artillery strikes...The Taliban repeatedly massed in large formations, and was destroyed at a ratio of 100 to 1

Let's re-write the story a bit: having failed to flush out the Taliban from their holes and fortresses in North Wazirstan, the Pakistani Army resorted to deception and channelled the Taliban into open fighting on the battlefield, where they were utterly decimated by NATO airpower and troops.

See how clever Musharraf is? He didn't even have to have his troops do any of the fighting. Did they report on Taliban movements? 100:1 kill ratios don't happen without effective military intelligence. Musharraf could always blame it on those magic Predator drones, right?

So is Musharraf on our side, after all? Yet Bill Roggio reports:
Al-Qaeda and the Taliban continue their campaign to eradicate any opposition to their rule in North Waziristan. Two more "spies" have been assassinated in North Waziristan...This is yet another violation of the Waziristan Accord.

and the Telegraph article points out
Nato is now mapping the entire Taliban support structure in Balochistan [south of Waziristan], from ISI- run training camps near Quetta to huge ammunition dumps, arrival points for Taliban's new weapons and meeting places of the shura, or leadership council

I can't be certain where this is going. The Global War on Terror is about defeating terrorists, and repeated defeats on the battlefield are an important element. Will Musharraf continue to push terrorists into the battlefield? Will Musharraf continue to support the domestic expansion of the Taliban and its allies? Will he eventually declare Waziristan and Baluchistan to be in revolt or even independent countries, and thus invite the West to invade and subdue his enemies? Only Musharraf knows, and maybe he hasn't yet decided these questions.

Or will Musharraf be assassinated, with effects unknown to all? That question alone is enough to make potential assassins hesitate. So Musharraf gets to live yet another day. A very clever man indeed.

Update, 11/1/06

So he did it - Musharaff's army supposedly attacked a madrassa in Bajaur province, reportedly killing 80 armed militants. However, the rumor on the street is that the U.S. did it with armed drones, and the government of Pakistan is only pretending it is responsible for the attack. Why am I not surprised?

For a little background on what these madrassas are like, read last year's blog entry on Holy Warrior Education - a visit to Taliban chief Mullah Omar's madrassa.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Sadr Paradox

As Iraqi politicians go, Muqtada al-Sadr is one of the baddies, though perhaps not the worst. U.S. forces fought his forces numerous times, and my understanding is that even Western news organizations know for sure that the death toll from the extra-judicial summary executions of his "Mahdi Army" number in the thousands.

Bill Roggio describes the plan to chop the tooth-deprived leader down to size. My comment:
So the strategy is to quietly deprive Sadr of his army and leave him hanging, unsupported. The problem with that is that he will not be discredited. He can then wait for a bit, claim that his militia dissolved because his intentions were peaceful all along, then secretly recruit once more and invent some pretext to send a new militia into action.

This fate can only be avoided if the idea of militias is discredited. As Islam puts a premium on leadership by armed action, how can that be possible unless more Iraqis value good government over the literal demands of their religion, and are willing to preserve it through armed action, if necessary?

I compute, then, that the Iraqi government itself must openly show more gumption in going after Sadr. Yet that can't happen without contradicting the current strategy, is that not so? Paradox.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

A Guantanamo Story for Erev Yom Kippur

Courtesy of Mother Jones, an interview with a totally innocent ex-prisoner from Guantanamo:
The Americans interrogated him about Al Qaeda. “They asked me what I knew about the terrorists,” he says. “Did I know where they were?” They asked if his passport was fake, and if he’d seen or met Osama bin Laden. “Of course, I’d heard about him on the radio and TV,” Umarov says. “But how would I, a student, know much about him if people who came from a powerful country like America did not know anything about him”...

When the questions were over, they locked him in a concrete room for 10 days. The room was three feet long and one and a half feet wide and insufferably hot. He wore iron handcuffs. It was impossible to stand up or move about. “All my thoughts were about how my life was going to end,” he says. He worried about his brother Ahliddin, about an unpaid debt to his neighbors, and about the times in his life when he had made people angry or upset...

“I was taken to the dark room,” he says. “The soldiers took all my clothes and left me there.” The room was made of iron; it measured three feet by five feet. At night, frigid air was pumped through a hole in its ceiling, and its small window was covered by Plexiglas so the air couldn’t leave. Two electric coils provided dim light, and during the day, they were turned up to heat the cell to a very high temperature....

(Sigh.) Although I have not a government official of any sort, I am a citizen of this democracy, a democracy engaged in fighting a war with an enemy who has the ultimate aim of destroying us or eliminating our liberty to be as free in our lives as we can be without hurting anyone else. I firmly believe that this country should keep fighting. But we Americans are not omnipotent, nor are we omniscient.

On Erev Yom Kippur, Jews ask for forgiveness from others. I cannot speak for anyone else, but for those out there who have been unjustly wronged by America, I would ask your forgiveness for any such act America has committed out of thoughtlessness, ignorance, or poor judgment. Sometimes we make our decisions are flawed, sometimes we have bad apples (and as Abu Gharaib shows, our system allows us to remove them from power when discovered), but we usually try to the the right thing for everybody.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Media War II

One of my favorite blogs is Crossroads Arabia. Its author is John Burgess, a retired U.S. diplomat with extensive experience, mostly in Saudi Arabia. His choices of tidbits from the Arab press, along with his commentary, are windows to cultures mostly unknown to Jewish Americans.

Today he chooses an article from Arab News about a recently concluded forum titled "In God's Name" sponsored by The Clinton Global Initiative. [Actually, it appears to have been a CNN Pipeline discussion on September 20th, no link available.]

What held the reporter's attention was the spectacle of Shimon Peres being grilled for "Israel's human rights abuses". The reporter was impressed that Peres did not shrink, rant, or interrupt when confronted by such accusations, but that he calmly waited until it was his turn to respond, whereupon "his artful Oscar-winning performance" won the crowd "in spite of all the facts statistics and odds so neatly and logically stacked up against him by the other more glamorous participants". The Arab representatives speaking there, whom she characterizes as "some of the best we have" were, it seems, mere bitter complainers and "no one likes people who whine and complain."

The reporter then argues that Arabs failed in the comparison as Jews didn't whine because "they were too busy educating themselves, working hard and buying up those very media institutions that are now allowing them to influence the world. They counteracted systematic campaigns of disinformation by spreading their own information...[and] turned the situation around making sure that everyone in the region danced to their tune."

Essentially, this article endorses the view that Arabs or Muslims should concentrate on increasing their appeal to and control of Western media, as The Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) urged earlier this month.

Note the open acknowledgement that Jews are counteracting disinformation. I pointed out that:
Regardless of the presence of Jews in the newsroom, if there was a "Jewish" agenda controlling the Western press, wouldn't Israel and Jews worldwide would be portrayed far more favorably? However, organizations like AP Television News Middle East Services provide "customized" - that is to say, censored or restricted distribution - news to their Middle East "clients" via "dedicated Arabic-speaking production teams." APTN-MES probably controls a substantial fraction of the worldwide distribution of APTN images and video reporting from the Middle East. How likely is it that APTN-MES would be willing to record and distribute video that negatively portrayed such organizations as Hezbollah and Hamas?

Indeed, how do we know that this wasn't what happened during the recent Israel-Hezbollah war?

I wonder how much of APTV-MES reporting is actually propaganda or espionage carried out under the cover of "customized" reporting. I don't know if Reuters has an arrangement similar to AP, but Reuters has recently been accused of loaning armored vehicles to terrorists in Gaza, and the uproar over its role in wartime "fauxtography" resulted in Reuters firing one of its Lebanese correspondents.

Foreigners are forbidden under U.S. law to buying controlling stakes in U.S. defense firms, but the U.S. mainstream media are fair game. I suppose it is much easier for oil-rich Arabs and Muslims to buy large stakes in the MSM and insist upon being favorably portrayed than it is for them to actually make themselves and their causes more appealing, especially by dumping the anti-Semitic arguments as John Burgess suggests. I think everybody can expect the quality of MSM reporting to decline even further should the leaders of the Arab and Muslim world continue to pursue this course of action.

Update, 10/1

In God's Name was broadcast by CNN International last week. The transcript is here.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Men of Letters

Taking advantage of a last-minute invitation, I'm liveblogging the PajamasMedia get-together at the National Press Club. My first time attending one of these things. It certainly is a pleasure to meet many people whom I've only read from before. I met hard-driving Pamela right at the door, and intrepid travel-blogger Michael Totten (does being taller make one braver?) a few moments later, publisher Adam Bellow, and many more.

(I no longer use a notebook computer at these events; I laboriously type everything into my handheld "toy" - a Dell Axim X51. With the rhinoskin cover, I can pretty much carry my computer in my back pocket. I'll do the editing later.)

As I meet and greet old friends for the first time, my mind fixes on an analogy to our little community of bloggers. The more I think about it, the more certain I am that it applies:

We bloggers are "men of letters".

Most people don't realize that what we call the mainstream media really only dates back to the first daily newspapers of the early eighteenth century. Before that, and for over a hundred years later, it was the letter-writers who shaped the world. The salons of the French and the coffee-houses of the English are the places where politics, science, and culture were shaped. Us bloggers use email and blog posts to communicate. Our spiritual predecessors used letters and
mass-produced pamphlets.

It was the letter-writers who have the fame and infamy for creating the French and American revolutions; newspapers were a poor accessory.

I date the end of the era of the dominance of the letter-writers to the election of Andrew Jackson in the nineteenth century. For the first time, the great size and ease of communications of the United States of America permitted an unprecedented campaign of national vilification of a devoted public servant...

Ah, I should be paying more attention to the lecture. Benjamin Franklin in a
green suit? I love it!...Reynolds talks about his invitation to the White House
today and the dangers of faction...


The men of letters essentially organized themselves to replace the monarchs and courtiers of their time with the rule of men like themselves. When newspapers grew more prominent in the public consciousness, the letter-men peacefully yielded leadership to the democratic majority -

Ah, Barone is striking near as he talks of drawing and quartering courtiers.
"Real partisanship", as he puts it...


Because of their scale and advertising support

- oh come on, the baby-boom generation wasn't ALL bad -

newspapers have displaced pamphlets for nearly two centuries. The rise of weblogs and the ease of email may now be swinging the reins of democratic power back into the hands of the class which created it in the first place.

May we use that power well and to the benefit of all mankind.

Update: A rebuttal from Tristam Shandy tries to trash us PJM folks by comparing us specifically to Thomas Paine. That's really good. Paine's Common Sense convinced many colonists of the tyranny of George III, just as Charles Johnson's exposure of the CBS "Rathergate" scandal convinced many Americans of the tyranny of the mainstream media. Later, Paine supported the French Revolution, but not the Regicide or the Terror.

When he died, one newspaper obituary read: "He had lived long, did some good and much harm." Perhaps when we pass on, we will have the honor of the MSM characterizing us the same way.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

A Hot Recipe

Courtesy Leilouta:

Recipe for Muslim Anger:
Take non-Muslim comment containing the word Mohammed.
Knead in distortion and lies.
Sprinkle with righteous indignation.
Let rise for a day or two.
Add demands for apology.
Set aside.
Reject explanations.
Bake.
Distribute to hungry mouths.

This delicious dish will give the eater the strength and courage to burn flags, destroy property, and kill 70 year old women who spend their life in the service of God.

Flawless, yet I think the last ingredient is optional. The souls twisted by Islamofacism are hungry for righteous anger, not mouths.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

And now, something completely different...


I am a great fan of Marvel Comics, though I've had to give up reading them for more adult pursuits. However, The Origin of the Silver Surfer is now available on YouTube. Don't miss Stan Lee's timeless story of noble victory and sacrifice!

P.S: Can anyone make out the lyrics in the introduction? It's in at least three languages, isn't it?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

"What 1701 means for Lebanon's Security"

First, with respect to Israel, the resolution "calls for a full cessation of hostilities based upon...the immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations."

That leaves out a lot. In the full text of 1701 paragraph 3 states an unequivocal precondition:

"Emphasizing the need for an end of violence, but at the same time emphasizing the need to address urgently the causes that have given rise to the current crisis, including by the unconditional release of the abducted Israeli soldiers."

There you have it. If Israel resumes "offensive military operations" it is not a violation of 1701 as long as its "abducted" soldiers are not returned. The current peace Lebanon enjoys, then, isn't due to any sort of international pressure upon Israel but is simply an expression of unmatched Israeli goodwill. Hezbollah has expressed its desires clearly but obviously considers itself too weak to dare resume hostilities itself.

If the Lebanese government feels threatened by a Chapter VII resolution due to Hizbollah noncompliance, UNSC 1559 calls for the disarming of Lebanese militias - meaning Hizbollah, as far as the international community is concerned - and nothing stops the Siniora government from simply asking U.N. forces to assist it in doing so. This assisted disarming of a recalcitrant Hezbollah would be advertised as a step at complying with 1701 and a way to forstall future Israeli "offensive military operations", and thus is the best course possible to increase Lebanon's security.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

"Moral Clarity in the Middle East"

Courtesy of Syria Comment, transcript and links to a speech at the New America Foundation by Ambassador James Robbins [excerpt]:
At one point the U.N. had circulated the first draft of the Bonn declaration, which is essentially Afghanistan’s interim constitution. It was the Iranian envoy who noted that there was no mention of democracy. “Maybe a document like this ought to mention democracy” he suggested. I allowed as how that was probably a good idea. I have to note that my instructions didn’t say anything about democracy. We weren’t on a democracy campaign at that stage.

Whether you agree with the Ambassador or not, this is thought-provoking stuff. The video offers a rebuttal w/Q&A.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Why you should visit Solomon's House frequently

Do you not understand your heroes have destroyed a country for no good reason?...you come to spout your nonsense in the midst of their attempts to heal...Go away. Go be with your heroes and talk of your bombing successes... We don't care why you barged in.
- HB, September 4th, 2006

[we] did not think, even 1% that the capture would lead to a war at this time and of this magnitude. You ask me, if I had known on July 11 … that the operation would lead to such a war, would I do it? I say no, absolutely not”.
Hassan Nasrallah, August 27th, 2006

Once upon a time, a country existed that rocketed its neighbors indiscrimately...when avenging Allied tanks encountered resisting German villages, they reduced the buildings to mere memorials, and the villagers to penury. No one seems to consider these actions a crime today. What would be wrong if Israel levelled Gaza and drove its inhabitants away tomorrow?
- Solomon2, July 9th, 2006


Look at that last date: three days before Hezbollah abducted the Israeli soldiers. If enough Lebanese had read those words might Nasrallah have aborted the operation, so that hundreds of Lebanese and Israelis would still be alive today, with their homes intact? Do you still think it is desirable for me to stop blogging and commenting?

I know that the Lebanese have had enough of war and wish to heal now. Yet Lebanon needs to do more before peace can be assured. Return the Israeli soldiers. Every other Arab nation - Syria, Egypt, and Jordan - has returned captured Israeli soldiers per agreement. Only Lebanon is breaking its word - and paragraph 3 of UNSC 1701 states that their UNCONDITIONAL return is a precondition of the cease-fire. For the sake of a last inhumane dig at Israel, are you not risking renewed war and violating Lebanon's national honor and unity?

Monday, September 04, 2006

Consumed by Demons

A few months ago a Lebanese-Canadian executive who blogs using the moniker Perpetual Refugee traveled to Israel to assume control of his company's subsidiary from the incompetent Israeli management. Expecting a hostile reception and prepared to wield his wrath as revenge for the humiliation he felt as a child in Israeli-occupied Lebanon, he instead discovered warmth, affection, and devotion as the Israelis looked to him as their leader. He thus experienced what he called "Decompression", feeling at ease encountering Israelis as people, not as an enemy. He accepted and dealt with the shock of meeting his former occupiers and "ghosts" --the Israeli Arabs whom other Arabs never seem to talk about. Soon he was dreaming of this future between the Lebanese and Israeli peoples:
I can image the drive up to Beirut from Tel Aviv. You'd of course take the scenic route. The Mediterranean always on your left hand side. I would assume you'd leave in the morning, the sun already having risen in the east. It would be sunny. It usually is. As you drive north past Haifa, the terrain starts to roll. The hills become mountains. Acrne. Nahariyya. Then the border. The Lebanese customs officer smiles and being Lebanese, starts to chat you up. He'll impress you with a 'Bokaltov' followed by 'Bienvenue a Liban'. You enter without any problems....

Then Hezbollah launched rockets into northern Israel and captured two Israeli soldiers. For their safe return, Hezbollah demanded nothing less than the release of a Lebanese criminal who proudly confessed to and was convicted of cruelly killing a four year-old Israeli girl after murdering her father. Had Israel accepted such an exchange, the freed criminal would have been hailed as a hero, a bold statement to the world that killing innocent Jews was an activity to be accepted and encouraged. A previous prisoner exchange in 2004 had thus demonstrably brought no peace. The Lebanese themselves seemed to have accepted that this was the proper state of affairs -- in my opinion, they felt no responsibility for Hezbollahs actions, even though Hezbollah was part of their elected government.

Faced by such an existential threat, Israel responded with a military offensive to greatly reduce Hezbollah's power and its entrenchment in the Shi'ite society of Southern Lebanon. Doubtless when Israelis stop thinking that Arabs are out to kill them, Israelis will stop attacking them in self-defense.

This summer's conflict puts a different perspective on our Perpetual Refugee. He saw his family and acquaintances as weak and defeated, and decided that was unacceptable. He has made a value choice: that for him and his kind to have power over others is more important than ideals of universal peace, freedom, and prosperity, and rule of law. To him, Israelis are now the terrorists, and it doesn't matter one little bit that had it not been for Hezbollah's attacks and kidnappings, Israel would never have responded with a military offensive.

Of all the acts Hezbollah has perpetrated, the creation and perpetuation of lasting hatreds is the most despicable, and probably one of the outcomes its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, desired most.

The Perpetual Refugee is now lost to us, consumed by the very demons he tried so hard to escape from. Let us mourn.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Why Aid to Lebanon?

Lebanon has 300 tons of gold in reserve. At $20 million a ton, that's about $6 billion. Why does Lebanon need more cash from international donors? And what portion of it is intended as "blood money" for the families, both Lebanese and Israeli, whose relatives were unjustly slain through Hezbollah's viciousness?

The pressing needs for Lebanon are material aid and the resumption of economic activity, correct? That can best be done by freeing up Lebanon's ports from the Israeli blockade, and probably the quickest way to do that is to release the prisoners unconditionally, as UNSC 1701 requires. True, UNSC 1701 doesn't require Israel to lift its blockade, but returning the prisoners will probably result in international pressure for Israel to do so.

Remember, in every war that Israel fought with Syria, Jordan, and Egypt, prisoners were returned per agreement afterwards. Only Lebanon has a history of reneging on such agreements. Siniora claims that Lebanon "will be the last country" to sign a peace treaty with Israel. I call that optimistic; if Lebanon maintains is present course, there will never be a peace treaty at all, perhaps not even a Lebanon to sign a peace treaty with.

Enjoy your $2 billion in "aid". Whether the money can actually deliver aid to suffering Lebanese I don't know. What the money can deliver to politicians who will control the funds everybody knows.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Will the next Hezbollah attack be something like this?

Annan's comments about the Israeli blockade today may be interpreted by Hezbollah as an open invitation to resume attacking Israeli shipping. Such a comment could re-start the Israel-Hezbollah War again:

Hezbollah is clearly worried about just what the peacekeeping forces will do once they are deployed in Lebanon. However, Hezbollah has rid Lebanon of peacekeeping troops before. Hezbollah may choose to strike "at Israeli ships" just as ships of the peacekeeping force are approaching Lebanon's shores. Some missiles will hit the peacekeeper's ships and Hezbollah will somehow blame Israel as being responsible, especially if the attack against the Israeli ships is unsuccessful again. Peacekeepers take Hezbollah's thinly-veiled warning to heart, abandon their mission, and go home.

I bring up this subject only to suggest that peacekeeping troops take the proper precautions as they deploy their troops in Lebanon. Not everybody wants you to be there.

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Crusaders Return

The comedy of France trying to squeeze out of its peacekeeping commitment to Lebanon is amusing but unsuprising. As Jed Babbin, former deputy undersecretary of defense said:
"Going to war without France is like going deer hunting without an accordion. You just leave a lot of useless noisy baggage behind."

France has realized, too late, that they have been outmaneuvered by American diplomacy. True, UNSC 1701 doesn't invoke Chapter 7 in demanding that the ceasefire and arms-smuggling ban be enforced. However, UNSC 1559 does invoke Chapter 7 when it comes to disarming Hezbollah.

So French-led peacekeeping troops may indeed have to use force to disarm Hezbollah or face additional embarassments. They cannot stick to their usual routine of siding with whatever armed party threatens French forces most and bleating that they are doing their job. Thus do the Crusaders - universally referred to by medieval Arab authors as "Franks" - unwillingly return to duty at their old stomping grounds.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Letter to Maya

As Hezbollah takes advantage of the current cease-fire to thumb its nose at the Lebanese government and reinforce its troops in south Lebanon under the cover of returning refugees, some Lebanese are venting their emotions:
Your stupid comment makes me support HA even more.

Maya, it's interesting to see how your view has evolved:

"Blame ourselves":

What gets to me is that both the Israelis and hezbollah are delighted at this opportunity to fire at each other, with no consideration for the impact it can have on civilian life, civilian infrastructure, the political stability of the country, and the country's economy...At the end of the day, all of this is our fault. We had the opportunity to unite, following the March 14th movement, but we ruined our chances and bitterly divided - thus creating a gap between Hezbollah and the rest of the government.

To "It's also Israel's fault":

It's easy for Israel to point the finger to the Lebanese government and blame them for not disarming Hezbollah. But, then again, Israel never managed to disarm Hezbollah eiter, and they are supposedly one of the strongest armies in the world! In 2000, they fled the South and never finished with Hezbollah.

To this:

I have never heard, seen, or otherwise suspect that Hezbollah hides arms among civilians.

Then:

Bombing for peace is like raping for love.

Finally:

...Israel's actions in the past month has only convinved me that there is no way to make peace with Isarael. Not now.

Clearly Nasrallah understands his people quite well: over time, Lebanese will rearrange their emotions to hide their own failures and put the blame exclusively on others.

Maya, do you still respect yourself for feeling the way you do? Do you think G-d will forgive you for this?

Friday, August 11, 2006

Invincible Hezbollah?

The Thinking Lebanese says so:
...to claim a victory without occupying Lebanon, Israel needs to destroy all twelve thousand of Hezbollah's missiles, and to ensure that it withdraws at its own time and pace. To claim victory, Hezbollah has to thwart these plans and retain the ability to fire no more than two or three rockets into northern Israel and at the withdrawing Israeli troops on the last day of fighting, thereby showing it still has the ability to and that Israel's military campaign had failed.

Yet the director of The Jerusalem Summit, argues that Hezbollah need only be routed, for -
Our victory lies in accomplishing Israel's mission: being the light unto nations. Our victory would mean transforming their conscious and their social structures, liberating Islam from the demons of bestiality that have taken possession of their spiritual realm.

Israel must achieve security by liberating Arabs, not destroying them, and it is Israel, not Americans, who are best able to achieve this:
Israel must develop a clear theo-political strategy and work hard to implement it. It is Israel – not American neo-cons – who should spearhead the offensive on the distorted Islam. Israel must be the spiritual leader in this great war, because it is Isaac who knows the soul of Ishmael as a soul of one's brother.

So as far as Israel is concerned, victory may be achieved even if Hezbollah fires the occasional rocket capability once Israel stops shooting. Yet in the Middle East outside of Israel it is perception, not reality, that matters. It will be for the Lebanese themselves to decide who "won" this conflict and act accordingly: whether to keep supporting Hezbollah after the Israel stops shooting, or to dismantle its military structure.

Given their past record, I have trouble believing that Lebanese politicians will actually follow the path of peace, but I do think it is possible. Lebanon can now justify foreign military assistance to disarm Hezbollah, arguing that this will rob Israel of a pretext for military operations against Lebanon.

On a more depressing note, Mehdi Khalaji of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy argues that
Even if one day Hizballah is disarmed, either as a result of a voluntary agreement or successful Israeli efforts to devastate its arsenal, its social and political capital, so closely tied to Iranian power, will enable it to remain a real political threat in the region. That popularity may enable Hizballah to transform itself into the largest and most influential political force in Lebanon, a party that can use any potential free and fair election to become an important force in the government. Therefore, disarming Hizballah should not be considered a sufficient step...A total severing of ties between Hizballah and Iran is probably the only way to eliminate Hizballah’s threat to the region and prevent Iran from using the group as an effective tool for its anti-Western ideological agenda.

Sometimes there are no good solutions, only less-bad ones. If Hezbollah remains an active and existential security threat to Israel, there is one more alternative to the total destruction of Lebanon:
It is only because Israel's previous wars have been won relatively quickly that Israel felt secure within its small bounds. If Israel cannot achieve its security goals by destroying 80%+ of Hezbollah and departing, then the obvious alternative is for Israel to stay permanently, annex Lebanese territory for settlements, and toss out the local population. The Israelis have no desire to do it, yet it may have to happen!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Ancient Israeli-Arab Alliance

Israelis and Arabs weren't always fighting each other, but you have to go back 2,859 years to find their common cause.

Apparently, this was the first appearance of Arab tribes in the history books - and Jews and Arabs were allies. Can it happen again?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Nasrallah in English

As soon as the halt to the air strikes ended and the Israelis started attacking our cities and villages and infrastructure and civilians, the resistance launched more than 300 rockets on settlements in one day, having in mind that what they had gotten used to was between 100 and 150, or 179, or 190, whatever number we wanted or asked for from our brothers; but this number today was deliberate, and the resistance also hit Afula and Beit She’an, and the resistance can – and I assure you of this, based on yesterday’s and today’s performance – launch as many rockets as it wants -
[Unfortunately, I have lost the link to the blogger who sweated over this ten-page translation.]

It seems amazing that Nasrallah has the gift of making even war stories dull and tedious. Maybe he sounds better in Arabic?