Friday, March 30, 2007

As Egypt changes, so will its Security forces

We met with Mr. Wael Aboulmagd, Deputy chief of Mission and handed him a signed Open Letter for to Mubarak protesting against the amendments and condemning the thuggery attack or on political activists in Cairo and demanding their release. I will be uploading the letter also soon.

Mr. Wael said expressing our concerns and debating the amendments was very healthy. When I told him its a shame this can only happen in USA while fellows who were doing it in Egypt last night were kidnapped and beaten by security agents; he said “you don’t expect Egypt to change overnight. It will take more time for Security apparatus to change mentality”."

What could that mean? Back in Egypt last week:
"One of them started talking about how sometimes he feels bad about those protestors who get beaten and hurt. He said he feels bad especially for the girls who get assaulted in the middle. He kind of pissed me off. I told him that I heard a lot of people were getting assaulted and beaten yesterday, including girls. His excuse was that when one or two people gets beaten and hurt, it would be better than the entire group being collectively assaulted. He also said that when the designated few get beaten, the rest would get scared and they would not repeat this mistake again...

...I jumped in the conversations when the policeman was saying, “Do you really believe a bunch of them AUC students can make our lives better?”"

Conclusion: Egyptians are supposed to change and become "scared". Then the police won't assault them. That will change the mentality of the security apparatus.

However: Questions like the last one above show that the Security apparatus is considering its options: maybe the college students really can do more than a president who has spent the past twenty-six years in office.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

On the Right of Return

There they go again! The Arab leaders meeting in Riyadh have unanimously approved a Saudi "peace" initiative with Israel! The terms: If they are to recognize Israel's right to exist, Israel must:

1. Return to the 1967 borders that gave Arab leaders like Nasser the confidence to believe they could throw Israel into the sea overnight, and

2. Allow an unspecified number of Arabs to "return" to their "homes" in Israel.

What are the Arab states obliged to do? They are supposed to forcibly expel their "Palestinians" (or any other troublesome Arabs, I suppose; there is no test to see who is qualified) so they can return to their "homes" in Israel, even if these homes were purchased from them decades ago by the Jewish National Fund.

The new peace initiative is hailed as an advance over the previous Arab position of "no recognition". In reality, it is just another recipe for killing Jews. As I noted in Crossroads Arabia:
There already is a perfectly reasonable “right of return” in effect: Those refugees from 1947 who are willing to renounce violence, swear allegiance to Israel, and become peaceful productive citizens are permitted to come back: 150,000 have done so.

What the Arab states have been demanding, then, is that Israel accept back into their little country hundreds of thousands - even millions - of “refugees” (who decides who is a refugee?) who are actively hostile to the existence of Israel!

The best analogy I can think of is a man who wraps a noose around his own neck and hands the rope to his enemy, politely asking him not to give it a tug.

Hey, the septic tank spilled over! Must be your fault! Time to die!

Israel has proved time and time again that it can act with generosity and restraint. That sort of thing takes the kind of bravery that Arabs, who are so used to massacring or expelling their enemies, have little experience with. (That is also the problem U.S. troops have encountered training security forces in Iraq.) Note: I wrote these words before I heard about the latest massacre in Iraq.

Arab leaders would have to swallow hard and go a good deal further than the 2002 formula to really make peace in the region. Saudi leaders have the money to pay for everything, a huge subcontinent that could be a second home to an overly crowded population, and the credibility of a sixty-year alliance with the United States. What Saudi leaders demonstrably don’t have is the courage to try something really new, or the generosity of spirit that would allow them to open up their hearts to the Palestinian Arabs as much as the Israelis have.

Of course, the Saudis are not alone in their lack of compassion. The meanness extends throughout the Arab world and cuts deep into Arabs treatment of one another. I wrote at The Arabist last week:
What most Arabs don’t realize is the intimate connection between anti-Zionism and Arab backwardness and sufferrings: each is used to legitimize the other. To attempt to deny the viability, compassion, and justice of Zionism and Israel, writing them off as “evil”, is to mangle truth and justice to such an extent that any true evil can be perpetrated upon anyone, anywhere. Arab democrats and liberals can keep sacrificing, but they will always undermine themselves this way, because legitimizing anti-Zionism will always legitimize oppression. It is the story of the past sixty years.

Yesterday, through their expression of barely-masked hostility, the leaders of the Arab states gave every impression that they are willing to make their subjects suffer through sixty more such years of misery. Will Arabs continue to put up with this or will they toss the bums out someday?

Linked to Carnival of the Insanities, April 1, 2007

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Mauritania returns to the democratic world

The Head Heeb reports:
Nineteen months after long-time dictator Maaouiya Ould Taya was overthrown in a bloodless coup, the country's voters finished the process of choosing a president. Independent candidate Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, who won 24.79 percent of the vote in the first round on March 11, won a nail-biter against Ahmed Ould Daddah in the runoff, taking 52.85 percent of 706,703 votes cast. This result wasn't unexpected in light of the electoral alliances formed between rounds and the military's tacit backing of Abdallahi, but both the campaign and voting proceeded without major irregularities, and all parties appear to have accepted the outcome as fair.

Solomon2 used to car-pool with a U.S. government employee who had been stationed in Mauritania's capital, Nouakchott. He described the country in 1966 as so backward that when the first traffic light was installed, pedestrians were mesmerized for hours by the changing colors. I recall one story - sorry, I can't confirm it - that the World Bank was building a rail line to permit efficient mining of the country's iron deposits - for a long time its only marketable resource - but the first segment of the line was re-routed to the then-president's home village instead.

I had thought this election was just a trick by the French (Mauritania's former colonial ruler) to steal oil contracts from the Australian company that holds them, but this time it looks like democracy for real - and perhaps a model for other countries in the region.

Monday, March 26, 2007

At Pharaoh's Gate

Today is a terrible day in the annals of human freedom. Egypt, a country of
eighty million people, is engaged in a quickie referendum to approve constitutional amendments that vastly restrict the ability of its people to associate, organize, and communicate, while granting the police independence from public accountability. The amendments were pushed through the sham parliament only last week. Egypt's government has thus crossed the line from corrupt authoritarian republic to official oligarchic tyranny.

Egyptians are becoming slaves or serfs. And there is no promised land for them to escape to!

Not everyone in Egypt took this lying down. The Sandmonkey described how pro-democracy protestors were arrested - more accurately, abducted - yesterday. And today Solomon2 stood together in solidarity with a small group of people to demonstrate outside the Egyptian embassy in Washington, D.C.

By coincidence I met with two of the female demonstrators while walking from the Metro to the embassy. I think one of them was Nora Yunis of the aptly-named

I introduced myself as an American. They said my presence would be very important. I had to laugh a little at this vast exaggeration of my influence!

The embassy itself has twin-window architecture that one of the girls said reminded her of the ancient temples. As we approached I studied the building carefully.

"Luxor?" I guessed.

"Yes, have you been there?"


"It's a good place to visit in the winter."

Seen from the front, the marble gate of the embassy is tall and looks substantial. But behind it is mostly empty air, a low roof from the gate to the glass entrance spanning the driveway, providing a little cover to officials as they go in and out.

How stereotypically Egyptian, I thought: a large useless edifice for the sole purpose of impressing the weak-minded with the power of the ruler, yet with little substance to support it. Its most important function is to cloud men's minds, the same way Western banks are sometimes made to look like Roman temples: to give people the illusion of permanence and security, when in reality your money has been loaned elsewhere!

Us demonstrators showed up pretty close to eleven o'clock, as planned. Unlike the "S.S." in Egypt, the Uniform Division of the Secret Service is elaborately polite. At the very beginning of the demonstration an officer spoke with the organizer and negotiated an excellent location where the demo would take place: an eight-foot wide strip between the security barrier and the curb directly in front of the embassy.

(In the bad old Soviet days, police forced to the other side of the street. However, at this location, the other side of the street is also an embassy!)

The demonstrators employed a photographer, and one or two U.S. reporters also showed up, but nobody from the MSM. As far as I know, I was the only non-Egyptian American actually marching with the protestors. I had never met any of the protestors before.

"Give Mubarak a Visa and Take Him Condoleeza!"

That was the only slogan in English, I think, but I couldn't bring myself to utter it; give us your tired and your poor, but I don't want the likes of Mubarak here! Still, it was the most popular and energizing chant. As I can't understand Arabic, I stayed mostly silent.

We marched back and forth in our little area in front of the embassy. Luckily they let me borrow their signs. Oddly enough, the more people marched and chanted, the happier they became. I was most proud to carry the "Freedom for Bloggers" and "Free Abdul Karim" posters - but of course, that was selfish of me. More important were the signs carefully citing the constitutional amendments that will restrict Egyptian freedoms: "Article 76", "Article 88", and "President for Life!". I even carried a sign citing Amnesty International's criticism of the Mubarak regime.

Around 11:30am the ambassador's car, which had been waiting out front, left the embassy compound with a single male occupant in the rear seat. We made sure to flash our signs at him.

Some of the embassy staff stood just inside the glass entrance to stare at us. At times I stopped marching to allow my sign and I to stare directly back. The first staffer retreated under my glare; later ones were more defiant.

The highlight of the demonstration was when we read and presented a letter of protest to the Egyptian ambassador. The police officer we negotiated with offerred to help deliver it. I held one of the signs flat to make a "table" so everyone could sign the letter more easily. "This is American support for democracy!" I quipped.

The reporter then fished for a quote from me: "I hate to see a democracy slide into tyranny." I left soon after that.

Was it a funeral or a coming-out party? Neither one, I guess. People were still sad, but by coming together the world seemed a little brighter. A light illuminating the darkness descending upon Egypt.

Passover starts next week. Darkness was the ninth plague. The tenth plague was the death of the Egyptian first-born. Let's work to make sure history doesn't repeat itself once more.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Al-Qaeda's Next Target?

American Schools:
The attackers will “mow down every kid and teacher they see” as they move in to seize the school. They’ll plant bombs throughout the buildings, and “ rape, murder and throw out bodies like they did in Russia.” Emergency vehicles responding and children fleeing will be blown up by car bombs in the parking lot.

In all, 100 to 300 children could be slaughtered in a first strike. Terrorists capable of this are already embedded in communities “all over America,” Grossman and Rassa agreed. More will probably gain entry surreptitiously from Mexico, making southern California potentially a prime target.

I agree that schools are the next likely target. Don't be surprised when it happens.

What's my solution to this? I'm working on an answer. Hint: It won't be pleasant.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

"Our terrorism is blessed"

"Our terrorism is blessed, a divine da'wa.
We destroyed America with a civilian airplane.
The WTC was turned into a pile of rubble.
The WTC was turned into a pile of rubble.
Oh where are the days, how did we spend them?
They've gone in the twinkling of an eye.
How sweet is their memory."

Never forget why they fight and why we fight: because America represents the best of human civilization. An Al-Qaeda/Taliban music video, courtesy of Memri.

Monday, March 05, 2007

The slow but quickening death of Hezbollah

A year ago Michael Totten described a Lebanese-Israeli border on the brink. Eight months ago Hezbollah's bombardment of Israel inspired the anti-Israel world to look to the "resistance" militia for leadership.

Today, it is widely said that Hezbollah has once more been re-armed. However, within UNIFIL's territory south of the Litani river, the truth is gradually spreading, buried deep in news stories with deceptive headlines like "There will be another war in the summer": Hezbollah is being disarmed!
February 22: Averaging around 200 patrols a day, the Unifil forces, working with the Lebanese army, have been locating and demolishing those Hizbullah bunkers and long-range rocket launchers that were not destroyed by Israeli air strikes during the war.
March 5: A further 10,000 Lebanese troops have been deployed to the area, tasked with preventing any militia groups, first among them Hezbollah, carrying weapons south of the Litani River. UNIFIL now make up to 400 patrols a day, said McDowall, accessing "all areas" of southern Lebanon, a region that was formerly tightly controlled by Hezbollah..."We continue to turn up rockets and weapons," said McDowall. "The Lebanese army are performing well and their activities are closely coordinated with us..."

Note carefully that these operations go beyond the mandate of UNSC 1701 (interdicting Hezbollah's re-supply) and are fulfilling the mandate of UNSC 1559 by gathering caches of Hezbollah's existing weapons. This is only possible because of the co-operation between the Lebanese Army and UNIFIL, and improved intelligence related to Hezbollah, as revealed by Hezbollah's own complaints about such activities. It isn't difficult to guess that such intelligence mostly consists of phoned-in tips from Lebanese Shi'a disillusioned with the "Party of God" who secretly wish for a quick exit of its yellow-flagged fist from their everyday lives.

Hopefully these operations will continue, and aren't just a temporary show for visiting U.N. officials. U.N. officials visited Lebanon last week to discuss Lebanon's continued violations of UNSC 1701 - the Israeli "abductees" still haven't been returned - and Israeli overflights of Lebanese territory - a violation of sovereignty, yes, but the SC spokesman was careful to not characterize them as violations of the cease-fire.

As Hezbollah declines, so does the shadow lift from the minds of the Lebanese, as their calls for Hezbollah's ejection from Lebanese politics and society grow bolder and more frequent: can anyone in Lebanon who truly cares about his country trust anyone brandishing a yellow Hezbollah flag?...Hezbollah has no place in Lebanon's future, the time to disarm and disband is now."

Hezbollah isn't taking this lying down; they have a fallback plan: purchasing land north of the Litani for their exclusive use. However, since these areas are open ground, it seems they are meant to be purely military compounds, secure bases for the Iranian-supported puppet army that is the true nature of the Hezbollah beast.

In other words, Hezbollah has lost the support of the people, and Hezbollah knows it. How deep will Hezbollah's leaders have to dig their new bunkers to secure themselves not just from bombs, but from the enmity of the Lebanese people?

Update: In what I fear will be a replay of the failed Western intervention of the early 80s, it looks like Lebanese politicians may try to preserve Hezbollah after all, just so they can keep their fingers in the pie. Once that happens, expect to see the firmness the Lebanese Army has displayed thus far fade away - if Hezbollah is going to stay, the soldiers will want their families to stay alive as well - U.N. peacekeepers attacked, and UNIFIL withdrawn or reduced to its previous ineffectual scope of operations, while Hezbollah whoops it up, rearms for another war, and slaughters its Lebanese enemies.

In other words, Lebanese politicians may be preparing to betray their constituencies once more, out of a desire for personal gain and glory. Ordinary Lebanese can fight this by applying the "people power" of mass demonstrations. However, if everything fails, the deals are made, and everything falls apart, Lebanese can take some comfort in the thought that, although their own fate may be sealed, in the 80s many of the leaders who betrayed them were murdered as well.

Yet such schadenfreude ultimately only plays into the hands of the Asad regime in Damascus. Consider:
1) According to Michael Totten, small arms sales in Lebanon have tripled recently.
2) Hezbollah's pansy in the Lebanese government, the General Security Department, controls the borders.
3) Shipments of small arms from Syria have been seized recently only after they have passed the border.

The conclusion is inescapable: Hezbollah's enemies have been purchasing their arms through Hezbollah's own proxies. The only possible reason for that would be if someone - obviously the Syrian regime - looks forward to promoting disorder throughout the country.

So one of the desired end scenarios of Hezbollah's puppet-masters is to write off Hezbollah's putative leadership as a failure. No wonder Nasrallah is reported to be looking glum nowadays.

2001 days

since 9-11. I think Al Qaeda would have done something to commemorate the anniversary yesterday or today if they could. Losers! Let's work hard to make sure they stay that way.