Sunday, June 24, 2007


Simply too cool not to share: of my oldest, closest friends Thayer Walker convinced Outside Magazine — more like Outside Magazine convinced Thayer to let them drop him off on a deserted island with a mask, a knife and the clothes on his back to see how long he could survive.
Thayer tells his story in a series of podcast videos here. Best of all, he answered my questions here.

Friday, June 22, 2007


Updates at Michael Yon, IraqSlogger, Mudville Gazette, and The Fourth Rail. The current concern isn't winning the battle, but preventing Al-Qaida's leaders from escaping, so U.S. troops need not return to fight them again. Local Iraqi commanders are not considered competent or motivated enough even to deliver humanitarian aid - not a surprise after the revelations of Iraqi unconcern in the Iraqi Orphans Scandal.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Eyewitness: The Conquest of Gaza

Reporter Dion Nissenbaum told the border guard that he was heading to Gaza for a short holiday. Instead he was an eyewitness to Hamas' conquest of the territory from Fatah. Note especially the coordination of massed, unarmed demonstrators with Hamas gunmen:
Nearby, another demonstrator marched up to a Fatah gunman taking protection along a wall and pushed him backwards. The startled Fatah fighter fired a round at the demonstrator’s feet, but he was unfazed and kept pushing the gunman back until he was swarmed by other angry marchers. Another Fatah fighter rushed into the crowd and tried unsuccessfully to disburse the crowd by firing into the air.

Hossam, Nissenbaum's translator,
collapsed in tears on his couch as his bashful five-year-old daughter played in the next room.

“I can’t go on like this,” he said. “I’ve got to get out. This is no life for my daughter. This is shit. These are kids. They don’t even know what they are doing. They are being used by political leaders on both sides.”

Read it all.

Update: Read Nissenbaum's story for McClatchy Newspapers here.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Gaza is the Middle East's Unloved, Unwanted Child

It’s going to be on the Palestinians’ shoulders to demand and get good governance. I’m not holding my breath…

It’s sad. The Palestinian Arabs’ leaders are so utterly vile - quick to kill or rob dissidents and willing to drown their subjects in sewage so they can better kill Jews — that invasion and re-occupation would seem to be a kindness. Yet Gazans can’t look to Israel for this favor anymore, though many escaped across the border to Israel before Hamas sealed it. The international community won’t do is as long as Hamas et al insist on retaining their “right” to attack Israel. Nor can Gazans easily ignore the men with guns because it is they who control the external funds that are Gaza’s life support.

Gaza is the middle east’s unloved, unwanted child. Though Egypt occupied it from Israel’s independence to 1967, Egypt didn’t want it back. Nor did Israel especially wish to keep it: a popular Israeli play of the 1980s featured a Begin-like character dragging a trash can around with the label “Gaza” on it. It’s not surprising to me that Gazans would seek comfort by becoming yet another satellite of modern-day Persia.

It isn’t a new choice for them, either. In ancient times Gaza held out against Alexander’s army for months, giving its Persian masters additional time to muster a huge army. If you accept that Hezbollah is Iran’s weapon against Israel in case Iran’s nuclear program is ever attacked, it’s easy to think that Gaza is meant to serve the same function.

I note that when Gaza finally fell to Alexander, its male population was slaughtered to the last man. Although the Israelis don’t do such things (or else the Palestinians in the occupied territories would have ceased to exist decades ago), people should keep in mind that it wasn’t just the rocket attacks that prompted Israel’s incursions into Lebanon and Gaza last year, but, I think, the feeling Israelis had that their normal, peaceful lives could not last if these attacks were allowed to continue with impunity.

What to do about the Palestinian Arabs? I long ago recommended that the world should cut off aid to them entirely. In the case of heavily overpopulated Gaza, that would compel the Arabs to forget “pride” and conquest and seek mutually satisfactory arrangements with surrounding states and a market-based system at home lest they face starvation - in other words, peace!

Friday, June 15, 2007

What happens when you reject Zionism

It's tough to advocate human freedom and reject Zionism at the same time. The justice of Zionism is so firmly rooted that insistence on rejecting it naturally leads to the rejection of reason itself, and eventually civilized norms of tolerance. Egyptian commentator Kamal Gabriel points out in the Arabic on-line journal Elaph. MEMRI translation is here, I offer the Google translation for comparison:
What is happening now in the Gaza Strip, since Israel withdrew in, a clear example of what we expose ourselves, attendant rules between brothers home, the wretched, wretched Power returns culture, the biggest and most dangerous to be a result of differences in viewpoints among the opponents, or be due to the absence of strong central authority, or even what they call chaos disarmament, all of this is definitely, but in more serious matter, which failed to overcome bilateral meetings between the parties, or meetings sponsored by a third party, in Gaza or Cairo or Mecca, or even Arab summit conferences folklore, That is the fighting of everyone against everyone and Kauda basic structure is mental, psychological, which is by the Palestinian people, as a corollary of the speech inciting hostility prevailing, and adopted by all directions and the Palestinian factions, religious, nationalist and leftist revolutionary, and a speech aimed sow hatred and the option of resorting to violence and bloodshed to enjoy, It was primarily directed against what they called the Israeli enemy, and that his removal every likelihood or tendency of rational understanding, or resorting to discussion, dialogue and negotiation...

Perhaps no one noticed-and where we think in the absence of reason and rationality - that you extracted from the individual or the total culture of the use of reason and peaceful dialogue, and replaces the culture of violence and the killing of controversial, you can not yet harnessed and directed to employ against a specific single, what we call the beginning is the Zionist enemy...Thus, our blessed the flames of violence and hatred which extends from the Zionist enemy, extend to each of Isadegh or help, even if it helps us, too, and rely on him for everything from medicine to food, and extending Envena our dislike to America, England and the rest of the Western world, and press ahead...Still walking our mujahid or sweet nothingness, and the corollary to the rule of the culture and psychology of violence and spreading, that is what we see and harder and defied all attempts at containment of violence between brothers, who all agree that they proletarian all standards...

...The crisis in the region is not in the size of their differences in views or differences in interests with their neighbors or with the world, and that this can find them reason and dialogue solutions wholly or partially, or completely satisfactory can be accepted or even intolerable, But the real crisis is that the peoples of the region need rehabilitation psychological and cultural, must be preceded by the letter of incitement and violence and hatred, all colors and classifications, but can this happen, the fire of hatred erupted in the trees, and stone? ! !

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The World Civil War & The Final Option

In the Israeli view, Fatah is engaged in a holding action in the Gaza Strip. Residents only rouse themselves and feel real enthusiasm for battle if harm is done to members of one of the clans, whose people feel obliged to react.

This is what I feel happens as Islamists take over: the civil protections offered by the state disappear, so people must rely on family to protect themselves from the injustices of the new regime. Large families become a necessity, simply for protection.

Hence the persistence of the tribal system and tribal conflict throughout the Muslim World. Discord and conflict are diminished or at least obscured when aggressions are directed outward, either by jihadis or imperialists. Eventually a kind of quasi-stable power balance is established between the central power and the surviving local tribal groups; however, the economic and social costs of the fragmentation are never overcome, as parochialism becomes necessary for survival. (Outsiders are at high risk of being robbed, killed, or kidnapped.) Controlled religion becomes the only unifying force for large endeavors, and freedom of thought dwindles.

This system was stable for eight hundred years, until the progress of the Western world left Islam far behind in military, economic, and demographic progress. The Ottoman Turks, long skeptical of their own system, decided to junk it, trading a loose religious-based empire for a smaller national, secular system that they felt benefited them more.

We can see that "Islamic rule" thus tends to displace democratic or highly centralized monarchic institutions in favor of tribal ones. It is difficult to kick the "tribal" habit, as Michael Yon describes in his latest amazing report, which includes this vignette about the recruitment of Iraqi policemen:
The Abu Nimr tribe, the dominant tribe in the area, was trying to grab too many slots. And so during one meeting with sheiks and police commanders, while perhaps a hundred potential recruits were waiting outside for screening, tribal sheiks and police chiefs were haggling over details

Rather than establishing the rule-of-law, the coalition risks establishing rule-by-law, for tribal members, as they gather more power, will seek to exercise power in an irresponsible, undemocratic fashion. Indeed, this is how Saddam grew into a monster and his Tikriti faction gained preeminence.

Iraqis can't yet deal with removing such people, and in the city of Hit the "final option" was for them to task a brave American battalion commander to do the job and arrest the local constable. If the Americans hadn't been there, assassination would have been "the final option".

This is how we must measure progress in Iraq. A must-read!