Sunday, August 31, 2003

NEW DESIGN AND SERVER
I will be searching for a new design, because I'm getting annoyed by this one. I'll also find another server; a more reliable one. If you have any recommendations for designs, or if you can make on, than please contact me.

PAKISTAN
It's reported that Pakistan is finally cracking down on Taliban movement accross the border from Pakistan into Afghanistan. This obvious move comes a week after Musharraf had a meeting with a John McCain led delegation of Congressmen, whom discussed the "war on terror." I have always voiced (not so mild) concern of Pakistan's policy (but not on this blog) of effectively ignoring its Pashtun extremists who are happily enaging in destablizing the war-torn country.

Pakistan being an ally does not mean it will follow everything we wish. Like every other country, Pakistan is acting in it's self interest; like it acted in its self interest after 9/11 to takes sides with the U.S., to avoid being carpet-bombed.

The situation is complicated. The Pakistan-Afghanistan border in the Chaman area is very complicated. It lies in Balochistan province, of which Quetta is the capital. Chaman city, which is less than 100 kilometers from Kandahar across the border, comprises mostly shops and markets (it is perhaps the largest market of smuggled and stolen goods in the region, with merchandise flowing from Karachi port in Pakistan, Port Abbas in Iran and even from Europe via Russia). The bulk of the population lives in surrounding villages, which are densely populated. And because of local disrespect for the "artificial" border separating Pashtun areas, many of the villages are located both in Pakistan and in Afghanistan. One house even has its courtyard in Afghanistan, and its rooms in Pakistan. Even electricity flows into Afghanistan from Pakistan, and the local people generally refer to themselves as "Afghans" regardless of their official Pakistani or Afghan origins. Ethnically, they come from the same Pashtun stock, split into two major tribes, the Noor Zai and the Achakzai.

Two examples of people from the area illustrate the meaningless of the border. Hafiz Hamdullah is a provincial minister in the Balochistan government, but he hails from the Afghan part of the divide. He received a religious education in Pakistan and became a member of the Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Islam Fazalur Rahman group, which is how he came to be a minister. Mullah Abdul Razzak, meanwhile, lives in the Pakistani part of the divide, but he took part in the early years of the Taliban movement, rising to minister defense in the Taliban regime.

These geographical realities play into the hands of the Taliban because neither the Afghan government nor the Pakistani government can stop the flow of people (let alone smuggled goods and electricity) from criss-crossing the border. This is why when the two governments a few months ago attempted to restrict movement by imposing visas, the ban became a laughing stock on the both sides of the border. There are several options, but most of them are moot. My suggestion would be either to a) send American soldiers from Bagram aided by fighter jets, although this would be hsrd since the Talibs return to their houses when they flee; or b) send a drone, give them intel and let Pakistan deal with them.

Friday, August 29, 2003

VISITORS
I just checked my visitor statistics and found out that somebody is visiting from the University of Tehran Informatics, in Tehran, Iran. Whoever the person is, I want to say: welcome. (And if you have satelite TV, drop me an e-mail because I have a question for you.) Also, regular visitors from Holland--where I lived for 13 years--and the United Nations. To you and everybody else: don't forget to bookmark my blog and thanks for visiting.

ANOTHER SAD DAY...
Death toll rises to 82 killed and 229 hurt in the aftermath of a car bombing at Imam Ali mosque in Najaf which killed important Iraqi Shiite cleric Ayatollah Mohammed Baqer Al-Hakim during Friday prayers. Al-Hakim headed the biggest Iraqi Shiite party SAIRI - Supreme Assembly of the Islamic Revolution. Last week, his uncle, Ayatollah Seyed al Hakim, survived an assassination attempt, but his three bodyguards were killed. Al-Hakim was the key to post-war calm in the majority Shiite community of Iraq since he returned from Iran exile, where he had stayed for the last 20 years. His brother, Abd al Aziz al-Hakim, is member of US-appointed governing council. Rumors are that Al Qaeda are behind the attacks on Shiite leaders to stir up Shiite-Sunni strife in Iraq.

Al-Hakim was born in 1939 in the holy city of Najaf in southern Iraq to a family steeped in Shi'a religious scholarship. In 1977 he was arrested, together with thousands others, and accused of instigating disturbances against the government and was sentenced to prison for life. Together with other political prisoners, Baqir Al-Hakim was pardoned a year later. He escaped and went to Iran during the beginning of the Iran-Iraq war. In Iran, he organized the "The Islamic Revolutionary Bureau in Iraq," which subsequently became "The Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI)."

UPDATE: From May of this year, by Xinhuanet:

"Iraq must be governed by Iraqis, not foreigners. The Iraqi people don't accept a government imposed on us. We are capable of doing so with the help of God. We want a democratic government, representing the Iraqi nation,the Iraqi people, the Muslims, Christians and all the minorities. We don't want extremist Islam, but an Islam of independence, justice and freedom. We have gone such a long way in such hard times, we are now on the road to security and stability. This is a jihad (holy war) of reconstruction after the destruction of the oppressors
[Edited by me so only quotes would appear.] His death is not only a great loss, but an ingredient for future instability and disaster. The usual suspects for today's assassination:

  • Al-Qaeda trying to create an all out Sunni-Shiite war in Iraq.

  • Opposing Shiite factions: Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali al-Sistani and Muqtada al-Sadr, two of the most senior Shiite leaders.

  • Ba'ath Party loyalists either working alone, with Ansar al-Islam, or with jihadists to create the usual mayhem. Most unlikely
  • Thursday, August 28, 2003

    RECENT STORIES

    - The Guardian has a story on Susan Nathan, a Jew who decided to live in an Arab town in Israel.

    - Al Bawaba on a dispute over a fatwa, which prohibited Islamic and Arab parties from dealing with the Iraqi Government Council.

    - Asia Times has an amazing interview with the cousin of the (former?) Taliban Defense Minister (who turns out to be Pakistani.)

    - Again by Asia Times, part 1 and part 2 on the Sunni-Shiite divide in Islam. An excellent historic overview and analysis. And how to build a bridge to connect the two. Highly recommended.

    - Slate has a collection of anti-Israel cartoons which got the cartoonist, Malcolm Evens, fired.

    - IPC reporting on a woman giving birth to a baby which dies at the spot. Sad, very sad.

    - CNN on Palestinian in Gaza.

    - The New York Times on the tensions rising at Temple Mount, better known as Haram al-Sharif.

    - Debka File on the possibility of European troops in the Palestinian territories--or something along the lines.

    If I find time, I will discuss some of these issues. Unfortunately, I'm very busy.

    Wednesday, August 27, 2003

    NO MENTION OF CONDEMNATIONS
    The Indian Muslim Council-USA condemned the bomb blasts in Mumbai on August 25. More than 45 were killed after multiple blasts in the financial capital.

    Rasheed Ahmed, Vice-President of IMC-USA said, "We are always deeply pained by such senseless acts of violence. We callon the Indian government to arrest the perpetrators of this heinous act and swiftly bring them to justice and seek maximum penalty under the law. We are confident that Indian government will not let the violence escalate to avoid further loss
    of life and civility. We stand in sympathy with the families and friends of those who lost their lives and call on all Indians to join together and condemn all violence against innocent civilians."
    Why do I mention this? Muslims around the world are accused of silently supporting terrorist attacks--"silence is consent"-- because the media rarely or never mentions Islamic condemnation of terrorism. Apparentely and obviously, for the mainstream media, good news is no news (as I've personally experienced throughout the years). Just like today, the blast itself was big news, IMC-USA's condemnation was not. (Google News is useful for the play by play.)

    More interestingly, in India (which is home to the 2nd biggest Islamic community) hundreds of Muslims marched in sympathy for the victims and prayed near the blast site for the victims. Any takers from the liberal media?

    Tuesday, August 26, 2003

    JUST IN...
    Just reported on CNN and by Associated Press two minutes ago. Three rockets fired at car in Gaza, wounding 7.

    UPDATE: Haaretz has more. Total of 20 reported wounded and 2 killed.

    UPDATE 2: Instead a 65-year old man is murdered. Wounded: 27 and rising.

    UPDATE 3: Eli smells a bias by the "liberal media." Fair and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) has an excellent overview of events and notes a strong misinterpretation and bias. (By the way, Eli's Left I On The News is an excellent blog and I recommend it. Most definitely worth a look.)

    Monday, August 25, 2003

    WHY THE MIDDLE EAST NEEDS DEMOCRACY
    There is a way to stop anti-Western and anti-American terrorism, in my opinion. Democracy is the way. Regardless of the assertion that the people of the Middle-East prefer to live under the thumbs of despots, monarchs and zealots "because they hate the West", democracy is the way. Want US soldiers out of the holy land? Why would you blow yourself up to send this message--which gets lost in the explosion--when you could elect an official who would make it illegal and undo it? Want your government to stop doing business with the US because Americans are "Zionist pigs"? Why kill yourself and others when you can vote to stop the practice? Why do Middle-Eastern terrorist kill Westerners? Because they are forced to go to an extreme, when they're not given a voice. They simply can't make their voices heard any other way. To speak up in their own country would mean death. And, their national despot would cover up both the protests and the killings. Given the choice, I think people--all people--would rather vote than kill.

    PENTAGON STILL USES TELEGRAMS?
    Well, you can always do it the old way, right? Uggabugga noted the following:

    The United States has asked Israel to check the possibility of pumping oil from Iraq to the oil refineries in Haifa. The request came in a telegram last week from a senior Pentagon official to a top Foreign Ministry official in Jerusalem.
    Still using telegrams? How much of our taxmoney goes across the Potomac?

    ISRAEL ORDERS INVESTIGATION
    The Israeli MP is finally--after months of footbragging--ordered to investigate the death of James Miller, who was murdered on May 2nd by Israeli soldiers. Expect a whitewashing soon.

    SUSPECTS OF THE U.N. BOMBING
    The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (not my favorite source, but it'll do for today) suggests that an extremist group called Al-Jama'a al-Salafiya al-Mujahida was behind the United Nations bombing that killed 21 people. Some points of Al-Jama'a al-Salafiya al-Mujahida summarized:

  • A hatred of Americans, but "respectful" to Christian and Jews

  • Reject any form of democracy and instead offer their own unique system of governance - the Islamic caliphate and its institutions.

  • Based on the Salafi Islamic commentaries of Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab and Ibn Taymiyya (Wahabi version of Salafi Islam).

  • Have claimed about a dozen guerilla attacks so far.


  • I will keep you updated on Al-Jama'a al-Salafiya al-Mujahida, if there are any developments.

    UPDATE: Not ruling out al-Qaeda, even though Al-Jama'a al-Salafiya al-Mujahida could be an affiliatte. In bin Laden's November 3 speech, he railed against the United Nations, calling it "a tool of crime" and the Arab leaders who participated "infidels." The United Nations, headed by Sergio Vieira de Mello, worked to seperate East-Timor from Muslim Indonesia. Saudi Arabia and Syria's borders are perfectly crossable.

    UPDATE 2: Reuters (via the Washington Post) reports that al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility on this website. It's an Islamic reformist website, but not reform as in the way Iranians are calling for, if you know what I mean. They justify the 9/11 attacks, call for an end of relations with the U.S., etc.

    IRAN DEPORTS AL-QAEDA
    Via Gulf Daily News: IRNA is reporting that Iran has extradited Saudi members of al-Qaeda who have slipped into Iran and were arrested. Whether this report is true is anyone's guess but there's no reason to doubt it besides the fact that Iran and Saudi Arabia were bitter enemies for decades, even though recentely the two regimes are becoming friendlier towards each other. There's also the fact that Iran and al-Qaeda are opposed to each other, especially after 9/11. Iran is trying to ease U.S. pressure by letting al-Qaeda roam around Iran, but when there's tought talk from Washington Iran is ready to detain and hand over a handful of al-Qaeda. This might gain them credibility in the world community, but Bush administration knows what game Tehran is playing.

    UPDATE: "Seday-E-Edalat" daily (meaning "Voice of the Government") reports that the hand-over occured in June of this year, during a visit by the Saudi Foreign Minister.

    KHOMEINI'S GRANDSON
    In an interview with the program News and Views of the Voice of America, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini repeated calls for America to overthrow the regime in Iran. Residing in on the banks of the Tigris River, Khomeini warned that he was a target of an assassination earlier this month.

    Saturday, August 23, 2003

    HAMAS: RENAMING ENEMIES
    Hamas is swiftly changing enemies. Abdel Aziz Rantisi said that Bush is Islam's biggest enemy after it froze 5 European-based Hamas-assets. I'm confused. I though Israel was the biggest enemy? Not that anyone cares though. Wake me when these guys are dead.

    SHARON RE-DO
    Israel has decided to re-open Jerusalem's Temple Mount, better known as the Dome of Rock or Haram al-Sharif.

    Israeli Minister of Public Security Tzachi Hanegbi said the reopening proved Israel was not intimidated by the bus bombing. "Jews and Christians, or anyone who is not Muslim" should be allowed in, he said. Sources said the decision was made by Israeli authorities in conjunction with Muslim religious leaders, all of whom hope the reopening will spur tourism, which has been in decline. But some Muslims fiercely reject the right of Jews to visit the site.
    What happened last time a "non-Muslim" visited the site? On September 28 2000, Ariel Sharon made a visit to the site with 1,000 policeman, which led to the start of the second Intifada, or the al-Aqsa Intifada, with violent clashes between policeman (who used clubs and live bullets) and rock-throwing Palestinians.

    Revisiting history? Looks like it. Three Israeli right-wingers are planning to visit Haram al-Sharif. Expect pictures like this:

    Friday, August 22, 2003

    WEAKNESS OF THE ROAD MAP
    Time Magazine's Tony Karon writes:

    The blame for the breakdown will inevitably land at Abbas's door — the Bush Administration and Sharon will chide him for failing to find the political will to act against terrorism; the Palestinians will chide him for being duped by them. But the problem may lie not only with the actor, but with the script: The "roadmap" has not changed the salient reality for the Israelis, which is that terrorists with no interest in a peace process can, at will, exercise the option of killing Israeli children on the streets of Israeli cities. Nor has it changed the salient reality for the Palestinians, which is a life of collective punishment under an Israeli occupation that imprisons them in their cities and separates them from their land, whether to expand Jewish settlements and their attendant infrastructure, or to build the security wall that will lock them into a patchwork of enclaves comprising less than half of the West Bank. It is its inability to transform those realities that is the inherent weakness of the "roadmap" plan.
    So how to solve that problem? Both Israelis and Palestinians want basically the same thing: normal life. For Israelis, it's life without fear of riding a bus. For Palestinians, it's life without roadblocks and house demolitions. Ariel Sharon is once more relying on the IDF, whose position is ideally suited to his needs. For him, retaliation is a must; derailment of a peace process is the goal and old military tactics is the tool.

    Yitzhak Rabin knew that the term 'Holy Land' is nothing but fifth rate skewed theology. He knew that peace would come by starving terrorism at it's roots: peace for land. (Unfortunately, his succesors did not exactly live up to it: settlements grew immense, more land was grabbed and water was rerouted to settlements. Instead of starving terrorism, it starved the Palestinians.) Palestinian public support for terror is created by misery and repression. Create a livable and peaceful environment for Palestinians and public support will cease. "We will negotiate as if there were no terrorism, and fight the terrorists as if there were no negotiations," Rabin said. Sharon must do that.

    WHO DID ISRAEL ASSASSINATE?
    Ariel Sharon was not willing to give Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinians a chance to start cracking down on the terror groups. Maybe I was optimistic when I wrote about a turning point for Abbas? Yes, it was a turning point, a moment of truth, but not for Abbas. Sharon--undermining every and all peace efforts--went after the radical group's leaders himself instead of giving Abbas a chance to do what the Road Map tells him. Now, with the truce over, there's talk of another truce being forged in part by Mubarak, who send his top aid.

    Who did Israel strike against? The five missiles hit the car of Ismail Abu Shanab, a moderate of Hamas, his 2 bodyguards and a total of 17 injured. And yes, Abu Shanab is a moderate--at least in Hamas terms, that is. On the eve of the June 4 Aqaba summit, he was interviewed by Ted Koppel on ABC's Nightline and he made such moderate statements that Koppel had to ask him to repeat his answers several times. He pushed the hardest for the cease-fire and even suggested that piece could be achieved if Israel pulled back from the occupied territories. A transcript of the interview reveals much, including the fact that Hamas would be open to peace offers.

    TED KOPPEL: Ismail Abu Shanab, a spokesman and senior leader for the Palestinian organization Hamas. Mr. Abu Shanab spent seven years in an Israeli prison and is a U.S.-trained engineer. He joins us tonight -- (inaudible) -- just finished in Sharm el-Sheik, the one that is scheduled to take place tomorrow in Aqaba. What is the Hamas view on either or both?

    ISMAIL ABU SHANAB: Yes, this summit came as an alternative because [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon refused to attend this summit. So to please Egypt and not to upset other Arab countries, so it is some kind of compromise. So it is not the real summit. Tomorrow will be the real summit between Abu Mazen [an alias for Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas] and Sharon and President Bush.

    KOPPEL: And what are your -- what are your expectations from that summit?

    ABU SHANAB: First of all, the United Nations now troops — I mean, the American troops now are in Iraq, so the Americans are part of the Middle East, and this reality wants to be implemented more and more on the ground, and the United States wants to reorganize the Middle East and the whole region according to the interests of the United States and the interests of the Israelis. In this sense, we consider it as an American program for the rearrangement of the Middle East, and we do not hope not much more out of this summit.

    KOPPEL: There is some reason, some expectation that Abu Mazen has an agreement from your organization that you will refrain from violence over the next six months. Is that true? Is it an exaggeration?

    ABU SHANAB: Abu Mazen proposed cease-fire to give a chance for the peace efforts and to convince the United States and the whole world that the Palestinians are willing to give the peace effort a chance. So we discussed this issue and we told him that we propose many times this chance for the Israelis and Sharon will never listen to these voices. Do you have any guarantee for this? He said, "No, I don't have any guarantee."

    So we will continue our discussion to come out with something that strengthens the united -- the unity, internal unity and internal relationship among Palestinians and to give a chance for all peace efforts and to reveal all of the tricks that Sharon is playing and his tactics in front of the international media.

    KOPPEL: I don't want to misinterpret what you said, Mr. Abu Shanab, but it sounds to me as though Hamas has made no guarantees, no specific offer then.

    ABU SHANAB: Yes, the decision is not being taken by the central part of Hamas, but the discussion is continuing, and we hope that we will reach agreement between us and Abu Mazen, and this needs the next week to conclude all of these discussions.

    KOPPEL: You probably have as good a sense as I do right now, almost certainly better than I do, of what the expectations are for the summit tomorrow. You know that in all probability the Israeli prime minister will offer to withdraw some of the settlers, close down some of the settlements, agree to allow a larger number of Palestinians to work inside Israel, release at least a few political prisoners.

    If that is what emerges from the summit tomorrow, will Hamas agree to a cease-fire?

    ABU SHANAB: As I said, toward continuing the whole process until the Palestinians release all of their prisoners, until -- I mean the Israelis release all the Palestinian prisoners inside Israeli jails, and this number got to be more than 7,000 Palestinian prisoners, many of them -- or 1,000 of them are being arrested for more than 10 years. So this is very, very sensitive issue to the Palestinians, the living, and the way of Palestinian living to ease the tension among Palestinians, this is not the maximum need for the Palestinians. It is part of our life and, second, we want to see an independent Palestinian state. We want to see Israelis' full withdrawal from our land. We don't want to see Israeli settlements on our ground.

    If those steps are starting point toward the full achieving of all what I said, this will be good, positive sign, and must (inaudible) this.

    KOPPEL: If, in fact, those preliminary steps that I just spoke of come out of that meeting tomorrow, my question to you is: Will Hamas stop the suicide bombings, stop the attacks on Israeli civilians and others, as the negotiating process continues?

    ABU SHANAB: Yes, this is giving us a good chance for convincing Palestinians to take on and see the next steps. I am sure that the Palestinians are willing to live in peace and Palestinians will encourage all positive signs toward their goals and achieving their independent state and releasing their prisoners.

    KOPPEL: I realize, Mr. Abu Shanab, that it's very difficult sometimes to conduct an interview in a second language. I want to be sure that you understood my question and that I understood your answer. Will the killings stop for the time being while negotiations continue?

    ABU SHANAB: Definitely yes, and this is my message to the whole parties, that we want to live in peace and we defend ourselves against Israeli attacks. All the violence in the region comes from the occupation. If the Palestinian -- if the occupation stops, I think Palestinians are willing to live in peace and stop all kinds of violence.

    KOPPEL: But when you say when the occupation stops, I was very careful in laying out the preliminary conditions. The occupation may be minimized. It may be diminished. It clearly will not stop immediately. And if prisoners are released, all the prisoners will not be released immediately. My question is: After those preliminary steps, will the killings stop?

    ABU SHANAB: Yes, we offered -- I said we offered this opportunity before, and we will offer it later on, and we are ready to offer it at any time if there is a guarantee that those preliminary steps will be taken as a part of a full withdrawal, a part of a wide-scale withdrawal, and not the -- I mean, the final steps. So we want the United States to guarantee all of these things and the Israeli withdrawal, even if it is step by step.

    KOPPEL: So you are really counting on the United States to be the honest broker in these negotiations?

    ABU SHANAB: Yes, because this is the only power which can pressure Israel to withdraw. Palestinians, Arabs, international community are not capable of pressuring Israel except the United States role in this event.

    KOPPEL: You know what the road map to peace is. Does that satisfy you if that road map is actually implemented over the next three years, will that be sufficient for the leadership of Hamas?

    ABU SHANAB: There are many problems with the road map, but there is an important issue inside the road map which gives the Palestinians an independent state, without borders, without sovereignty, and all of these difficulties. This is why we reject the whole plan, but if the Americans are serious about the road map, it means that they want to assure us that the final stage we will get our independent state, circled, the independent state, by many Israeli obstacles and criticism for the road map, and they want to circle it by many mines so (inaudible) the whole process. In this sense, I understand that the road map have -- has a chance to succeed if the Americans block the Israeli efforts to destroy it.
    More from Left I on The News, by Eli, who notes the following about the strike:
    One wonders what was being "prevented" by the murder of three people who were not even accused (nevertheless convicted) of any crime (nevertheless any crime punishable by death). Indeed, writing in today's NY Times, James Bennet reports: "An Israeli security official acknowledged that the missile strike would increase violence. 'There is almost no doubt about that.'"
    The Guardian asks the question: Who Broke The Truce and provides a chronology of the events. Note the killing of Mohammed Seder on June 14th and two Hamas militants on August 8th. Eli notes once again:
    John King reporting on CNN, echoing sentiments I've heard on several other news reports today, claims that the end of the ceasefire (between Israel and Palestinians) was "all set in motion by the suicide bombing two days ago," clearly placing the blame on the Palestinians for this turn of events. But just last week, it was Israel who killed a leader of Islamic Jihad in Hebron, bringing vows to avenge that death. That may or may not have been the immediate trigger for the suicide bombing, since the NY Times claims that "in a videotaped statement, the bomber who committed the attack tonight attributed it primarily to an incident that took place before the cease-fire was declared, the army's killing in June of a local Hamas leader in Hebron." Of course the Palestinians don't have an army with tanks and helicopter gunships, and when they retaliate for a murder, it can take months of planning and doesn't necessarily happen with 24 or 48 hours of the triggering event. In any case, any objective observer would understand that the claim that the breakdown of the ceasefire was "set in motion by the suicide bombing" is complete nonsense. American news commentators, however, and even news anchors like King, unfortunately don't qualify as objective observers.
    Expect things to get bogged down soon. Except escelations from both sides and expect a season of bloodshed because both sides are controlled by extremists. Sharon tries to eliminate the moderates on the Palestinian side--Abbas, Dahlan, Shanab--and Hamas lost it's restraint. With Israel being the occupying force, it is virtually the party which had the means to decide not only its own strategies on how to deal with the Middle East Conflict but also the Palestinian reaction. More force and atrocities are only a recipe for a violent, uncalculated or even inhuman Palestinian response. The assumption that any harsh measure, military or otherwise can dismantle terrorist groups or dry out their financial resources has historically been proven to be too optimistic. The more realistic and pragmatic approach is to recognize the national and human rights of the Palestinian people, thus leaving no soil for the extremist seeds to grow and flourish. Do you expect Hamas and Islamic Jihad to simply turn their cheek to Israel's repeated assassinations? What about the Palestinian children and other innocents killed and injured as Irael vainly attemps to chop off all the heads of the terrorists? The choice between war and peace is for Israel to ponder and decide. I already know the outcome; I'm hoping that lives will be spared on both sides. Hang on for a harsh ride.

    MAZEN DANA UPDATE 2
    I hope to get my hands on more footage of Mazen Dana in the occupied territories. If possible, I can make them available for download or streaming. Also, Reuters has promised me to send the footage of Mazen Dana's last shot in which he gets shot and falls to the ground. I can't promise anything, but I'll do my best.

    Mazen Dana's funeral was held in Hebron on August 20th, where he was buried. Colleagues held a mock funeral in his memory. Dana left behind four children. A special dedication with pictures and video will be published soon in Mazen Dana's memory, inshallah.

    In the meantime, his death has received more and more coverage since the incident. An overview:

    Salon.com does an interview with Patricia Naylor, the maker of the PBS/Frontline documentary about Palestinian journalists in the occupied territory.

    The Indepedent reveals that Dana was shot at close range and eyewitnesses claim that it was not an accident.

    Democracy Now! has a radio interview (audio, video and transcript) with Paul Holmes, former Reuters supervisor of Dana, and Abed Qusini, a Reuters colleague of Dana.

    Wednesday, August 20, 2003

    SHOWDOWN FOR ABBAS
    Al Quds newspaper (Arabic only) reports that Israeli tanks are surrounding Ramallah, Jenin and Nablus, preparing for a retaliatory strike in response to yesterday's horrible, dispicable and deadly bus bombing in Jerusalem, which took the life of 20 people, making it one of the deadliest terrorist bombing of the al-Aqsa Intifada. Meanwhile, Mahmoud Abbas is trying to avoid any Israeli response: he's putting forth four demands to Yasser Arafat and is threathening with a resignation of the full cabinet if the demands are not met. This shows that Abbas himself has not yet gained control over the security forces and that Arafat still runs the show from Ramallah. Haaretz details the demands:

  • That he and the Fatah central committee present a written declaration supporting action by the Palestinian Authority against Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

  • That he support moves to dismantle the armed wings of both Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

  • That he authorize direct steps against the two groups, such as a ban on media appearances, action against affiliated organisations and action to block funding.

  • That Arafat unite all the Palestinian security organizations under one authority, the interior ministry.
  • In another unprecedented move, the Palestinian Authority is banning any interviews with Hamas, Islamic Jihad or al-Aqsa members. Earlier in the day, Abbas ordered the arrest of suspects involved in yesterday's bombing.

    This is the moment of truth for Mahmoud Abbas, yes. I'm not sure he can do it all alone though. He definitely needs help from the Bush administration, or the State Department for that matter.. He's going to need to have some cooperation from the Israelis but this is a moment of truth from two perspectives, one in terms of his role in charge of the Palestinian Authority but also vis-a-vis Arafat. Will he be able to proceed with the direction he clearly wants to go or will Arafat block his way? If Arafat does so, then I think the prognosis is going to be extremely bad for the Palestinians, and in specific for Abbas.

    Abbas has to deliver and do it fast. Not only in response to violence, but something tangible for the Palestinian people. Palestinians look back at the hudna since June 29 and they see that 32 Palestinians have been killed, that incursions have continued, that home demolitions have gone on and on, that only car thiefs and common criminals were not released and they see no tangible results. They see Abbas as a puppet who pays lip service but never really delivered the goods. Both the U.S. and Israel need to show the people that there is improvement in these impoverished territories. They need to show some good will, a measure of good will to stop the settlement activities as has been called for in the road map, which still hasn't happened. I believe if that happens, if we move in the direction as laid out, then Abbas has a chance of survivability. Otherwise, he's doomed.

    UPDATE: Haaretz: Two dead, four injured in Tul Karm. IDF enters Jenin. IDF enters Nablus; engages in shooting. One Palestinian teenager reported dead.

    Tuesday, August 19, 2003

    HUMAN SUFFERING CONTINUES
    It was a day of human suffering and blood. First thing in the morning was the news of a suicide bombing of the the Canan hotel which is home to the U.N. mission in Baghdad, Iraq. Sergio Vieira de Mello and Nadia Younis are confirmed dead and there are rumors that de Mello was the main target. Casualties: 17 dead, 100+ wounded. (Jerusalem Post reports of 20 dead.

    Awful pictures were seen via Reuters. A suicide bomber blew himself up in a lower-class Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem, which borders the Arab side of East Jerusalem. A total of 18 dead were reported, including 5 children. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility.

    More bloodshed in Afghanistan.

    Do I need to comment? This has been a depressing, awful day. Remember the lost souls, whether Jewish toddlers, Mr. de Mello or Afghan policeman.

    Part of a family of militant right-wing Zionists who emigrated to Jerusalem from Russia and Poland, Amas Oz rebelled against his parents and joined Kibbutz Hulda at age 15. There he obtained his secondary education and, after completing his military service, returned to the kibbutz. His first stories were published in the leading literary quarterly Keshet when he was in his early twenties before the kibbutz assembly sent him to Jerusalem to study philosophy and literature at the Hebrew University. Oz fought on the Sinai front during the 1967 Six Day War. Since then he has actively campaigned for peace both in politics and literature; now Oz is perhaps Israel's foremost writer and has been a leading figure in the Israeli peace movement since 1967.

    The New York Times published his editorial today called "The Two Cowards." He calls both Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas cowards because they are afraid to face fanatic Arabs (terror groups) and extremist Jews (settlers) who he calls enemies of peace. Read it yourself.

    In the Middle East, it is no longer a war between Israel and Palestine. Since the cease-fire began more than seven weeks ago, public opinion surveys both in Israel and Palestine consistently show that a clear majority on both sides endorses the cease-fire, supports the road map to peace and favors the idea of a two-state solution, Israel next to Palestine.

    Yes, everybody is unhappy about those solutions, everybody is full of suspicions and mistrust, everybody who says "yes" says so with clenched teeth. Nevertheless, some 70 percent of the people on both sides are ready for peace.

    The enemies of peace are the fanatics on both sides: those who reject any compromise, those who claim that the other side has the right only to die or to disappear. How can it be that these fanatic Arabs and extremist Jews manage to block the road for peace and to push us all again and again into the infernal cycle of violence and vengeance?

    The answer is simple: the leaders on both sides are cowards. Both Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian prime minister, realize that there can be no progress before the extremists are contained and overruled. Yet each of these leaders wants the other to launch an internal civil war while he just sits and watches. Each of these leaders wants the internal battle to take place inside the other's family.

    This is not going to work. If the Israelis and Palestinians have to negotiate under fire, let them do so -- but it will have to be under fire from both sides. If we have to break the back of the enemies of peace, it will have to be done simultaneously on both sides.

    Simultaneity is the key word. Palestine has to disarm the rejectionists' terror organizations at the same time Israel removes -- by force if necessary -- all the unauthorized settlements. Everybody knows it, but where is the courage of the leaders?
    UPDATE: Strangly--or not--the Guardian publishes the same editorial, except for the second to last sentence. Also, this one is called "Two Dr Jekylls, two Mr Hydes" referring to the second to last sentece.

    Monday, August 18, 2003

    PIPES BASHING
    "Daniel Pipes serves peace as mush as Mother Theresa served the high jump in the Olympic games," says Jihad Al Khazen. "Pipes believes that Palestinians need to be defeated more than Israel needs to triumph," an opinion that I won't argue with, but will settle with spitting in Pipe's face," he continues. Read the whole thing. Enjoyable funny and Al Khazen puts the smack-down on Pipes when he ends saying, "we shall wait and see whether radicalism and crime or moderation and peace will triumph."

    "LIBERAL" MEDIA NOT GETTING IT RIGHT
    I was riding the metro when I read the a New York Times article titled Talks Stall on Transfer of 2 West Bank Cities. The article notes the failure to reach an agreement over the issue of the two Palestinian cities, Qalqilya and Jericho. The real problem is misrepresentation. There is no 'handing over being' done, at all. Jericho is already under control of Palestinian security forces and a so-called "transfer" would mean that there won't be"any significance to the Israeli handover for the Palestinians, except that [the Israelis] want the Palestinians to police the traffic in the city." Another misrepresentation about the term "transfer" or "hand-over" is the fact that Israeli soldiers will retreat and remove checkpoints from inside cities (like Jericho) but besiege the city and set up move to or set up new checkpoints at the borderline of the cities. None of these points are addressed.

    One of may new favorite blogs, Left I on the News has more:

    Just last Friday, three days ago, news outlets were giving prominent play to this story: "Israel has agreed to hand control of four West Bank cities back to the Palestinians." By today, though, it turns out there was no such "agreement," as reported for example here: "Israeli and Palestinian commanders failed to reach an agreement late Sunday night over Israel's planned transfer to Palestinian security control of two West Bank cities." The other two cities? They've already become an afterthought, a mere "possibility": "Mr. Mofaz also held out the possibility of withdrawing later this month from two more cities, Ramallah and Tulkarm, if Israel judged that Mr. Dahlan's approach toward terrorism and the wanted men was effective."
    The media jumped the gun, leaving the impression of another 'concession' from the Israeli side. Untrue, of course.

    MAZEN DANA FOLLOW-UP
    From the same blog, Eli notes that MSNBC, CNN and the New York Times fail to mention by whom Mazen Dana was shot and beaten up. As linked to earlier, Dana was--and note this--shot three times with live ammunition, about seventy to eighty times with rubber bullets and was beaten about one hundred time by soldiers. Two times his hands were broken.

    Nael al-Shyoukhi, Dana's longtime partner comments on Dana's killing in the Reuters article.
    They saw us and they knew about our identities and our mission," Shyoukhi said. The incident happened in the afternoon in daylight. The soldier agreed to their request to film an overview of the prison from a bridge nearby. "After we filmed we went into the car and prepared to go when a convoy led by a tank arrived and Mazen stepped out of the car to film. I followed him and Mazen walked three to four meters (yards). We were noted and seen clearly," Shyoukhi said. "A soldier on the tank shot at us. I lay on the ground. I heard Mazen and I saw him scream and touching his chest. "I cried at the soldier, telling him you killed a journalist. They shouted at me and asked me to step back and I said 'I will step back, but please help, please help and stop the bleed'. "They tried to help him but Mazen bled heavily. Mazen took a last breath and died before my eyes."

    MAZEN DANA
    Mazen Dana, a Palestinian camera-man for Reuters, was shot 6 times and killed by U.S. soldiers while he was filming outside the Abu Ghraib, which is currently being run by U.S. forces. Frames for his last film show a U.S. tank firing at Dana, after which he falls on to ground. Dana was shot numerous times by Israeli soldiers in Hebron and the occupied territories. He was forced to quit camerca-work by his employer, Reuters, and was re-trained as an editor. After the war started in Iraq, Dana picked up his own job and returned to the line of fire. It cost him his life. Dana leaves behind a young wife, four children and an army of people who will remember him as a voice of Palestinians, a hero and an idol.



    See here footage of a PBS documentary about Mazen Dana and other Palestinian journalist being shot by Israeli soldiers

    Pictures of Mazen Dana

    Nightline interview with Mazen Dana

    Sunday, August 17, 2003

    ON DANIEL PIPES
    I have been to busy to write anything on this, so I will now. It appears that President Bush had decided to sidestep Congress and appoint Daniel Pipes to the U.S. Institute of Peace. In the same week, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer was busy whitewashing Daniel Pipes. Let me challenge both Mr. Krauthammer and Daniel Pipes. In the column, Krauthammer writes:

    Unlike most of the complacent and clueless Middle East academic establishment, which specializes in the brotherhood of man and the perfidy of the United States, Pipes has for years been warning that the radical element within Islam posed a serious and growing threat to the United States....During the decades when America slept, Pipes was among the very first to understand the dangers of Islamic radicalism...Sept. 11, 2001, demonstrated his prescience. Like most prophets, he is now being punished for being right.
    Did he warn of Islamic radicalism? Yes, indeed. I have read the book and he both ignores important and critical historical facts. For example, he cited the decade-long Iran-Iraq war as how Islamic states are inherently war-mongering states, but he doesn't float around the name of Saddam Hussein once, even though it was Hussein's secular Iraq that started the war.

    And yes, he is being punished for what he says. Aftert the Oklahoma bombing in 1995, Pipes wrote in USA TODAY that "people need to understand that this is just the beginning. The [Islamic] fundamentalists are on the upsurge, and they make it clear that they are targeting us. They are absolutely obsessed with us." Not only was Pipes wrong; he seems to be the one that's obsessed.
    The main charge is that he is anti-Muslim. This is false. Pipes is scrupulous in making the distinction between radical Islam and moderate Islam. Indeed, he says, "Militant Islam is the problem, and moderate Islam is the solution."
    Daniel Pipes said: "If militant Islam is the problem..." He never in fact acknowledges that he personally thinks that there's a difference between militant Islam and moderate Islam. He made this statement on April 10 of this year, at a time when Pipes started to gain more and more attention from the mainstream media. Why hasn't Pipes reached out to Muslims with more statements like these alleged by Krauthammer? Instead, he spends his time calling black converts to Islam, "virulently anti-American, anti-Christian and anti-Semitic." Why does he keep isolating and accusing Islamic reformists of being Islamists? My fellow American Muslims know why.

    Even Christopher Hitchens--leftist turned neo-conservative--who coined the term "Islamofascism" turned against Daniel Pipes. Hitchens hit the nail in the coffin in one sentence:
    The objection to Pipes is not, in any case, strictly a political one. It is an objection to a person who confuses scholarship with propaganda and who pursues petty vendettas with scant regard for objectivity.

    YES, YES, YES...NO
    The National Review editors did an great editorial on the "see-no-evil" policy towards the Saudis. The House of Saud is the primary source of terrorism. They both materially and spiritually create terrorism and their dangerous extremist sect of Islam called Wahhabism is being spread to moderate Islamic countries through mosques and institutions, who on their part create Taliban foot-soldier and the killers of Daniel Pearl. At the same time gives true Muslims and true Islam a bad image. They only tackle the issue of Saudi involvement in 9/11, though, but seriously go of course when they blame the wrong people when they write this unsubstantial paragraph

    Why does the Bush administration treat the Saudis with kid gloves? Partly because of State Department Arabism, and State Department love-thy-enemy. Partly because of a misguided policy of Muslim outreach, which in practice reaches out to established, and corrupt, Muslim groups in this country. Partly because of inertia. The United States was allied with the Saudis in the Cold War and the first Gulf War; it is hard to see them now as weaselly or treacherous.
    Frist of all, there is no involvement of State regarding any policy towards Saudi Arabia; it comes straight from the White House. How come they are blaming the State Department for of blocking any attempt to get the Saudis to stop funding terrorists. It's President Bush himself, who's father and neo-con friends have business ties to the Saudis (which ensure their retirement fund), that blocks any effort from Congress at attempting to uncover the truth.

    Crown-prince Faisal met with Bush, not Powell. The Department of Treasury failed to give a list of Saudis investigated for terrorists links to Congressional GOP members; not the State Department. If they're accusing the State Department of siding with the enemy, will they have the cojones to accuse the President? Of course, not. Even though it is crystal-clear who's doing the appeasement.

    Excellent point made? Check. Convinced? Check. The usual unnecessary idiotic absurd ranting paragraph included? Check. They never learn.

    Saturday, August 16, 2003

    ISRAELI DIPLOMACY
    No, it's not peace talks. Israel likes to send jets over the residences of international leaders.

    Israeli warplanes flew at low altitudes this week over the holiday residence of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as a message to Syria to rein in the Hizbollah guerrilla group, Israeli television said on Friday. Channel One said Assad was staying at the holiday residence in the northern Syrian city of Latakia when the planes flew overhead on Sunday.

    Israeli warplanes have not overflown Syria since Israel ended a 22-year occupation of South Lebanon in 2000. Syria has long been the dominating outside power in Lebanon and has had forces there since its civil war in the 1970s. Syria made no comment on the Israeli report.

    Israeli planes also broke the sound barrier over Beirut earlier this week, shaking buildings and setting off car alarms in retaliation for Hizbollah shelling that killed an Israeli teenager on Sunday
    I really have no sympathy for Assad or any other Arab leader for that matter, but sending jets over a country's leader isn't going to help. It sounds more like incitement than a good intended message. It's not like the Syrians are shitting in their pants, ready to agree to any peace agreement and become a friendly nation.

    TALIB COMEDY
    Afghanistan's former Taliban on Friday denied involvement in a bomb blast this week that killed at least 15 people on a passenger bus in the southern province of Helmand. The attack on Wednesday, in which six children and a woman were among the dead, came on one of the bloodiest days since the hardline regime was ousted from power late in 2001, raising fears of a resurgence of the Islamic militia. More than 60 people died in the 24 hours from late Tuesday, 25 of them in a factional clash and 21 in fighting between Afghan forces and suspected Taliban and al Qaeda rebels near the border with Pakistan.

    "The Taliban are busy ousting infidels from Afghanistan and the Taliban are carrying out activities against their agents," Mullah Abdul Rauf, a Taliban official, told Reuters by satellite telephone from an undisclosed location. The Taliban are not linked to the deaths of innocent people and the Taliban feel sorry for those deaths," he said, referring to the Helmand bus attack which local officials have blamed on the ousted militia.
    The Taliban has never had great media relations, but this sounds more like a bad impression of Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf, the Iraqi Information Minister, than an honest testimony.

    "We're busy killing infidels. We don't have time to kill children and women like we did in the old days."

    THE ISLAMIC SOLUTION TO AN OUTAGE

    "To denounce the lack of services provided by the Americans, pray to Muhammad," he said as the crowd roared back their prayer. "To denounce the lack of electricity, pray to Muhammad."
    Via Eschaton: the New York Times reports about Shiites solving their own electricity outage problem and forming militias (2nd Amendment-style) to protect their holy sites.

    Thanks to Eschaton once more: obviously, the Republicans were too busy making the government small enough to make it fit in our bedroom, to care about America's problems. President Bush was lobbying against fixing our nation's electrical grid and the Republicans voted down the bill that proposes fixing our grids three seperate times. Quite sad. We can blame the Canadians all we want, but it's like the mayor of Ontario said: "The Americans never take any responsibility for anything." Change 'Americans' to 'Republicans' and you hit the nail in the coffin.

    Friday, August 15, 2003

    AFGHANISTAN ROUND-UP
    A alleged insurgency day of attack leaves 60+ dead. Taliban and Afghan forces battled in Khost which ended up in 16 guerillas and 5 Pakistanian border forces dead. A terrorist attack on a bus in Helmand left 15 dead, including 6 poor innocent children.

    This violent week led President Karzai to purge several provincial officals, including the governors of Kandahar, Zabul and Wardak. In addition, the security chiefs of Kandahar, Kunar, Paktia, Khost, Tahar and Logar were replaced also. In a most dangerous move, Karzai stripped warlord Ismail Khan of his military command but retained his status as governor of Herat.

    The Economist has a decent article on Afghanistan and analyzes the future for Afghanistan. He warns on the drug trade, warlords, ISAF expansion and humanitarian aid.

    There's the good:

    Whether or not Afghanistan can survive comes down, in part, to one simple question: are the forces of national integration there greater than the forces of local disintegration?

    Optimists say yes. They think Afghanistan is more stable than at any time in the past 24 years. Many, perhaps all, of the terrorist training camps in the country have been destroyed. A soon-to-be-released study by foreign and local aid agencies suggests most Afghans think security has improved. Incrementally, optimists say, a semblance of national government is returning. On August 13th, the government in Kabul removed the warlord Gul Agha Sherzai from his post as governor of Kandahar and stripped Ismail Khan, the powerful governor of Herat, of his other role as regional military commander. A paper decree may not worry Mr Khan much, but it, and the removal of Mr Sherzai, shows the determination of the government.

    On the optimists go. Afghanistan enjoys a legitimate government, confirmed by a representative loya jirga. There is considerable progress in writing a constitution and organising elections for next year, with suffrage for women. The new national currency, the afghani, is widely accepted and stable. The economy grew by 28% last year, according to preliminary IMF estimates. Two million or more refugees have returned home to rebuild their lives. That—together with the remarkable absence of any ethnic separatist movements—underlines Afghans' belief in their own country. There has been no major humanitarian crisis. Donors remain committed to their promises. America has tripled its aid to $1 billion this year; it will pressure others to do the same.
    The bad:


    Deep division and instability, as portrayed by this map


    And the ugly:


    Spending statistics: reason to be pessimistic

    Thursday, August 14, 2003

    Knee-jerk Bush critics will no doubt poke fun or scorn at these post-Iraq multilateralist efforts. As someone almost said once, let them eat yellowcake. An improving climate in transatlantic relations as the bitterness over Iraq recedes makes this strategy the best bet for the next six months, and probably beyond. U.S. officials believe they can use that time to put new obstacles in the way of the Iranian and North Korean programs.

    But Sharon's presentation to Bush challenges the assumptions and viability of the emerging U.S. nonproliferation strategy on Iran. U.S. intelligence estimates that put Iran's covert nuclear weapons drive about four years short of being able to turn plutonium into a workable nuclear warhead overstate the time factor by at least 100 percent, Sharon argued. One to two years is his projected timeline.

    To be sure, Sharon would face formidable logistical and political problems in trying to update Israel's successful preemptive 1981 strike against Iraq's Osirak reactor. His Oval Office briefing may have been designed to pressure Bush to move more forcefully on Iran rather than to advertise an impending Israeli action.

    Israeli leaders have consistently warned Americans for two decades that Iran's Islamic regime is a mortal enemy for the Jewish state and must not be underestimated. Sharon's account, while apparently more urgent and dramatic than past presentations, fits a pattern of Israel "treating a nuclear-arming Iran as an immediate existential threat," says one U.S. official, while Washington does not.

    But it is Israel's experience with Osirak that makes Sharon's alarming words impossible to ignore. The trigger for that strike was intelligence that the Iraqi reactor was about to be loaded with nuclear fuel. Hitting it after the loading would have risked spreading radioactive contamination across a wide area in the Middle East. And after the 1991 Gulf War it was discovered that outside assessments -- including Israel's -- underestimated how close Saddam Hussein had been to getting the bomb.
    Poor Jim Hoagland must be a sad man. He describes how Ariel Sharon--certified war criminal--brought with him a three-star general who "showered" Bush with a dossier on Iran's progress on allegedly developing nuclear weapons. Jimmy praises and is supportive of Ariel Sharon's attempt at pushing the United States at launching a pre-emptive strike against Iran's nuclear reactors. So how to analyze of Sharon's presentation to the President? I vaguely remember how Israel wanted a war on Iraq, badly and how they pushed for this war with unsubstantiated and unconfirmed intelligence coming from Tel Aviv itself.
    The OSP [Office of Special Plans] was an open and largely unfiltered conduit to the White House not only for the Iraqi opposition. It also forged close ties to a parallel, ad hoc intelligence operation inside Ariel Sharon's office in Israel specifically to bypass Mossad and provide the Bush administration with more alarmist reports on Saddam's Iraq than Mossad was prepared to authorise.

    "None of the Israelis who came were cleared into the Pentagon through normal channels," said one source familiar with the visits. Instead, they were waved in on Mr Feith's authority without having to fill in the usual forms. The exchange of information continued a long-standing relationship Mr Feith and other Washington neo-conservatives had with Israel's Likud party.

    In 1996, he and Richard Perle - now an influential Pentagon figure - served as advisers to the then Likud leader, Binyamin Netanyahu. In a policy paper they wrote, entitled A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm, the two advisers said that Saddam would have to be destroyed, and Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Iran would have to be overthrown or destabilised, for Israel to be truly safe.
    So whatever may come from Israel that involves any Arab, Muslim or hostile country can be labeled permantently garbage. Yes, showing nice photographs and charts is neat, but can exxagerated and be used to deceive. Not to mention that Israel itself has more than 200 nukes and jails anyone who blows the whistle and confirms it.

    I think it's sad to say that Iran can legitimize their nukes by claiming that Israel has nuclear weapons. Those who want to assert that it's surrounded by hostile nations must wake up. Especially, the Middle East has to be nuke-free. Secondly, the Bush administration is excited about re-introducing nuclear wars, by developing mini-nukes even though they are a potentially more destructive force than the bombs dropped on Japan.

    As Hoagland demonstrates, knee-jerk (using Jim's term now) Bush apologists just don't get it. The vital need for multilateralism was one of the compelling reasons not to go to war in Iraq in the teeth of almost unanimous world-wide opposition. We needed (and need) the help of our allies in responding to real global threats, as in North Korea and apparently in Iran. We didn't need to undermine our allies and our alliances by determining to pursue a foolish war and an unmanageable peace in Iraq, and we certainly didn't need to be misled into this folly by the Oval Office and #10 Downing Street who "sexed up" the threat to make the war palatable to the people. It's sad that this president has frittered away our national credibility and shredded our global alliances pursuing the financial interests of Halliburton and other GOP contributors. It makes the task of responding to legitimate global threats all that more difficult, as those of us who opposed the insanity of the Iraq invasion pointed out at the time. Hoagland needs to get his knees checked before he offers such inane commentary on those who, with obvious justification, oppose this administration's version of foreign policy.

    VIOLENCE ISN'T THE ONLY PROBLEM
    Briefly commenting on yesterday's inhumane suicide bombings. People are focusing too much on the violence itself, while ignoring the environment and causes. Yes, terrorism must be addressed first and is the most important aspect to both the Israelis and Palestinians. But the targetting of Jewish settlers just points out what else needs to be addressed here. It's not a settlement-freeze that's needed; a complete removal of all illegal Jewish settlements is needed. It's the one sidedness of the United States on the issue, it's the claim of both parties to the same land, it's the occupation: it's everything. The lesson of Oslo is simple: real peace comes with real justice--to both sides. Both must enjoy freedom, their own state, and acceptance and recognition of each other's peoples. Whether it's a shopping mall or a crowded street, whether the target is Jew or Muslim; whether they're Palestinian or Israeli, it's not important: there's too much focus on violence. What needs to be addressed are the problems and causes of terrorism. Open your eyes and see that both people are suffering. Work against the suffering of both people and we will make process. Slowly, but surely.

    Wednesday, August 13, 2003

    OCCUPATION RESPONSIBILITIES
    As the occupier in Iraq we have to realize that were in this for the long haul. This is a long-term occupation and we have to shoulder all the responsibilities" that come with it. This would include running the private sector and the economy as a whole, securing and stabilizing the whole country and protect Iraq's and it's own interests by safeguarding Iraq's sovereignity. As you can see, I have moved on, on the issue of the invasion itself and rather would like to focus on the long-term commitment and strategy for Iraq, since the Pentagon's plan.... Well, the Pentagon didn't have one. And the White House had a quite simple but clear plan: re-align Iraq to America's and Israel's interests. I will talk about this issue in the coming days--hopefully tonight or tomorrow--but for now I'd like to quote Thomas Friedman, who reminds us that the short-term needs are fundamental for a partnership.

    It would be a tragic irony if the greatest technological power in the history of the world came to the cradle of civilization with its revolutionary ideas and found itself defeated because it couldn't keep the electricity on.

    About Ah-nuld
    Even though I don't live in California, I want to say something about Arnold. He's a moderate conservative and unlike his colleagues he does not want the state to lift all regulations on business and regulate your sex life instead. He just wants to end all regulations. Period. Not to mention that he went AWOL and is friends with Jew-murdering Nazis.

    YOUR TAX MONEY
    The Weekly Standard has an article about the financial cost of securing Iraq. And yes, that does not include rebuilding Saddam's infrastruce. The costs are anyone's guess. Larry Lindsey said $100 billion (1% of our GDP); Philip Carroll recently said $20 to $40 billion. And that's not the bad news.

    Revenue from the sale of Iraq's oil cannot begin to finance the reconstruction of the country. Bremer, in what may be his ticket out of Baghdad and into the private sector with Lindsey, knows this: "We are going to have to spend a lot more money than we are going to get revenue, even once we get oil production back to prewar levels." Which means that Wolfowitz is either innumerate (unlikely), or is being economical with the truth when he says, "We're dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon."
    And that comes on top of the $700 billion deficit, tax cuts and a slow recovery of the economy. I know what Bush's dad is thinking right now: “ My son: Great war, bad economy. (turns to son) I shall call you: MINI-ME! ”

    ZAKARIA's APPOINTMENT IS A GOOD THING
    Fareed Zakaria has been named to the U.S. Advisory Group on Public Diplomacy for the Arab and Muslim world. I agree with Fareed Zakaria half of the time--if not most of the time. I disagree on him on some fundamentally religious stands but overall I think he will be a good contribution. It's always better to have Zakaria here--who's Indian--than some neo-con, or some Islamophobic bigot by the name of Daniel Pipes.

    SLOW, BUT CONSTANT PACE TOWARDS DEMOCRACY IN IRAQ
    The Governing Council in Iraq announces that it will not write the constitutution, but rather it would "devise the mechanism." I guess that means guide and direct the proceess.

    In one of its first major decisions, Iraq's interim government appointed a 25-member team today to draw up a procedure to produce a new constitution. Ibrahim Jafari, president of the Iraqi Governing Council, said at a news conference that the committee would not write the constitution itself, but rather devise the mechanism by which it would be drafted.

    "The task of the constitutional committee is to move with all segments of society to decide on the best mechanism for writing the draft of the constitution," Mr. Jafari said.
    This is a good move. I doubt that if Ahmad Chalabi writes the Constitution, the mullahs and everyday Iraqis alike will respond with gun-fire celebration, like they did after the partial end of Arab absolutism. Pushing democratization too aggressively is dangerous and will probably backfire--especially in the Middle East. Without a sufficiently high GDP per capita, respect for the rule of law, and construction of a rich, complex social order democracy either takes illiberal forms or curdles into rump authoritarianism. A slow and cautious process towards Islamic or secular democracy (it does not matter to me which one it is) must be taken. The members of the Governing Council are indisputately not the representatives of the Iraqi people, but they are the right mix of people from all ethnicities, religion and gender, which can show that democratization is possible in the Arab and Islamic world. (Only one fatwa coming from the still fragile and unstable An-Nasiriyah. I'm looking up Sheik Asad al-Nasseri's credibility and history.) A long-term military occupation is also in Iraq's interest: Germany and Japan are success stories that went to a similar kind of process. Bosnia and Kosovo are stable and to different degrees democratic. The jury is out on Afghanistan and certainly must not be forgotten. What I would like to see in a stable Iraq is a show of indepedency: oppose Washington. By doing that, the future leaders of Iraq will earn both respect and credibility, from everyone. From the mullahs, to the Sunnis, to the Kurds. Maybe even Washington.

    Tuesday, August 12, 2003



    Monday, August 11, 2003

    I already told you about the sad and secretive talk of Mahdi Obeidi, as reported by Joshua Marshall. He's another case of manipulated intelligence, being held in Kuwait because he's not agreeing with the CIA on claims made on weapons of mass destruction (remember those?!). The good man refers to this Newsweek article by Michael Hirsh which confirms and elaborates on the story. Don't be afraid--go on and read it.

    SORRY...JEWS AND CHRISTINIANS ONLY

    In addition, the defense that both Jefferson and Madison gave of the right to religious liberty depends crucially on a specifically Jewish and Christian concept of God. Theirs is not a Hindu, Buddhist, or Muslim concept, let alone the concept of God in Aristotle or Plato, Kant or Leibniz. It is the concept of a God who reads our intentions, hearts, and consciences, not just our outward behavior. This God demands to be worshiped in spirit and in truth. This God singles us out one by one, and renders the arena in which He meets the individual conscience sacred.
    That's Robert Novak in National Review concerning the Pryor-controversy. So what the Founding Fathers meant to say was:
    Congress shall make laws establishing the morality of Christianity and Judaism, prohibiting the free exercise [of religion] by Muslims, Hindus and Buddhist.
    That's scary. I wonder what Novak thinks the 2nd amendment says. What Novak is saying is that Judaism and Christianity are morally superior than any other religion. At least, that's what our Founding Fathers meant, right?

    Thomas Jefferson wrote in his autobiography
    "The bill for establishing religious freedom... I had drawn in all the latitude of reason and right. It still met with opposition; but with some mutilations in the preamble, it was finally passed; and a singular proposition proved that it's protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word 'Jesus Christ,' so that it should read 'a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion.' The insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of it's protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and infidel of every denomination."
    Don't tell Osama. I think it might piss him of even more.

    (Thanks to good ol' Matthew.)

    THE WALL ON THE GREEN LINE; NOT INSIDE PALESTINIAN TERRITORY
    Rafi Dajani of the American Task Force on Palestine summarizes what I've been trying to say about the wall, in a response to Robert Novak's op-ed:

    Regarding the Aug. 3 Outlook interview with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the issue is not whether Israel has the right to build a fence. It does have the right to protect its citizens. But the fence should be on Israeli land and not on confiscated Palestinian land, which affects the livelihood of tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians.

    The fence is being built on Palestinian land to absorb Israeli West Bank settlements that would be left outside the fence if it were built along the 1967 border. The settlements themselves are in occupied territory in violation of international law and numerous United Nations resolutions.

    Finally, once all phases of the fence are complete, the Palestinian population will be confined to three unconnected cantons on only 55 percent of the Palestinians' West Bank land. This is hardly consistent with President Bush's vision of an independent and viable Palestinian state.
    ABBAS GOES ROME
    Now the Associated Press reports that Mahmoud Abbas will be meeting with...the pope.
    Pope John Paul II will meet with Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas on Aug. 26 at the pontiff's summer residence outside Rome, Palestinian officials said Monday.
    Well, that's another way of strengthening Abbas. Not so sure it will help. The pope and the Dixie Chicks combined couldn't stop Bush from going to war.

    VALERIE PLAME AFFAIR UPDATE
    Robert Novak alleged in a column in the Nation that the wife of former Ambassador Wilson, Valerie Plame, was allegedly fired by "unnamed senior officials in the White House," after he raised ire with the Bush administration after publishing an op-ed in the New York Times. In that op-ed, Wilson suggested that the White House had twisted and exxagerated WMD claims.

    In recent developments, Wilson told the St. Petersburg Times that he knew who it was that blew the cover of Plame, but he wouldn't disclose it. And he won't back down either.

    Wilson will not confirm that his wife was or is a CIA operative, though Newsday has reported that a senior intelligence official confirmed it. Specifically, Plame was reported to be a Directorate of Operations undercover officer. (The New York Times reported Friday that Plame is "known to friends as an energy industry analyst.")

    "But," Wilson said, "hypothetically, I will say that if what Novak asserts is true, then laws were broken. And if it's true, they (the administration) took off the board an important national security asset (Plame) in order to protect some yo-yo's political concerns."

    He said he believes that political operatives in the White House gave his wife's name to Novak, and he thinks he knows who they are. But he's "not ready, yet" to name them. He hopes an investigation - by the FBI, Congress or both - will take care of that.
    So he thinks he knows who it is, but is not ready yet to spill the beans. More pressure for investigations or bluff? To be continued.

    LIES, LIES, AND FREE PUBLICITY
    You know, Al Franken is a weird guy. But he can be funny sometimes. I like his humor, not his politics. He's writing a new book called "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right." Now, Fox News filed a trademark infringement suit claiming that it has registered the trademark "Fair and Balanced" in 1995.

    Thanks for the free publicity, Fox.

    UPDATE: How can I not link to Franken's book on Amazon? Here you go.

    UPDATE 2: Kos with more.

    The New York Times on NATO taking over peacekeeping in Afghanistan.

    NATO takes over the force from the joint leadership of Germany and the Netherlands. It has committed to leading the force until Afghanistan holds elections — tentatively planned for June 2004 — and perhaps beyond. That commitment will allow for a continuing headquarters, force commander, strategic coordination, command and control and political direction, Mr. Rizzo noted today.

    Germany, which sparred with the Bush administration over the war in Iraq, was among the countries that urged NATO to take on the Afghan mission, and the first NATO commander of the security force is a German, Lt. Gen. Gцtz F. E. Gliemeroth.
    Okay, okay. I want to know: are troops going to keep the peace only in Kabul or are the fine men of NATO aware that there's an Afghanistan outside of Kabul?
    On Sunday, a NATO spokesman indicated that after "some months" of settling into the command, it might weigh an expansion beyond Kabul. In The Wall Street Journal Europe today, the American ambassador to NATO, Nicholas Burns, wrote that expansion of the security force "will need to be considered seriously once NATO has settled into its role in Kabul." The current parameters for the force — Kabul and its environs — are defined by United Nations mandate.

    Jean Arnault, the deputy special representative of the United Nations secretary general, said today that "if one wants to succeed in maintaining security in Kabul, then one cannot ignore insecurity in the rest of the country."
    God is Great. This makes me incredibly happy.

    Fact is that in terms of the war on terrorism, Afghanistan is a hotbed for terrorists thanks to Pakistan, unlike Iraq. Taliban forces are re-capturing strongholds, killing aidworkers outside of Kabul and threathening the local population. The situation is, well, dire and chaotic.

    Tom Tomorrow posted an excerpt from Sunday's Meet the Press where Seigenthaler talks about this LA Times article (re-print via the Sun; thanks to Tom again):
    MR. SEIGENTHALER: Let me turn now to the war on terror and Afghanistan and show you an article from Monday’s LA Times and get your reaction. It said, “U.S. forces have their hands full trying to subdue attacks in Iraq. But with the slow buildup of a national Afghan army, an inadequate U.S. and coalition presence and poor progress on reconstruction projects, Afghanistan is spiraling out of control and risks becoming a ‘narco-mafia’ state, some humanitarian agencies warn. Already the signs are there — a boom in opium production, rampant banditry and huge swaths of territory unsafe for Western aid workers. The central government has almost no power over regional warlords who control roads and extort money from truck drivers, choking commerce and trade. If the country slips into anarchy, it risks becoming a haven for resurgent Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters. And the point of U.S. military action here could be lost — a major setback in the war against terrorism.” Senator, there are reports the Bush administration is considering $1 billion in aid to Afghanistan. Do you think that’s a good idea?

    SEN. LUGAR: Yes, it certainly is, and furthermore the assumption of authority by the NATO powers in Afghanistan is a step forward. President Karzai has a five-year budget. He knows where the holes are, and that is the moneys that are needed for policing and need for infrastructure change so they can have some commerce. There is a good plan, good leadership, but we’re going to have to do much more. Afghanistan cannot be a failed state; otherwise they’ll be an incubator for terrorism, for the al-Qaeda types, just as it was before. To recycle all of that would be totally unacceptable.

    MEDIA WAR
    I was notified (hat tip: EI) of a new Guardian article addressing an issue the anti-Palestinian propaganda machine Honest Reporting had raised.

    On August 7th the Guardian reported that “the Israelis have arrested almost as many Palestinians since the beginning of the ceasefire five weeks ago as they released yesterday.” The author, Chris McGreal, quoted Arafat denouncing the released as "deceit," in one article. In another article from two days earlier, by the same author, Arafat was quoted as saying, "they say they are going to release 400, and then they turn around and arrest 800. What is this? Deception? Are they laughing at us? Is this the implementation of the road map?"

    The propagandists published a "communique" the next day, on August 6th, "encouraging the reader to challenge The Guardian to provide evidence for their claim" that Israel had arrested almost as many Palestinians as it had released. On Saturday, August 9th, the Guardian published a clarification standing by its earlier reporting. The IDF has apparently told the Guardian's Jerusalem reporter that they "have [arrested] 237 'wanted Palestinians' since the declaration of the ceasefire on June 29, of whom 72 were arrested in the first week of August."

    I have sent an e-mail to Honest Reporting asking to withdraw their communique or publish a clarification on their website. I also asked them to comment on the Guardian's clarification. No word yet, but if I receive anything, I will let it be known.

    WHO CARES: SAYS AMERICA
    The head of the 9/11 commission, Thomas Kean is one of the directors of Amerada Hess corporation, which has partnered up with Delta Oil Ltd, which is in part controlled by Khalid bin Mafhouz for the Delta-Hess venture. Mahfouz, who happens to be Osama Bin Laden's brother in law* was funnelling millions to Bin Laden as late as 1999.

    Surprised? I'm not. Happens all the time, right?

    [* = as reported on Federal News Service on September 3rd, 1998]

    On Christopher Hitchens...
    He went from anti-Israeli leftie working with Palestinian hero Edward Said to neoconservative Trotsky-revisionist leftie, not glancing to his sides, to see the forces with whom he's sided with.

    The great public intellectual who once stood up for Chile, Vietnam and Palestinians against the imperialist depredations of the West is now a siding with the moral idiocy of the hawks. He's an arrogant prick and his so-called moral thunder doesn't sit well with me. You know why I'm writing this? He did a long piece on Slate.com that talks about why Bob Hope.....wasn't funny. Ever.. I mean, come on! Becoming an apologist for Bush and the PNAC is one thing, but demoralizing someone's death is another. I've come to the conclusion: Hitchens is an asshole. A sellout. He went were the money was. On the right.

    Sunday, August 10, 2003

    DADDY....YOU WERE A TYRANT. AND THE WORST KIND OF TYRANT
    When the grandson of the father of Islamic revolution asks a superpower to invade his country, you know that--how do I put this--things are seriously fucked up. And that's why Thomas Friedman interviewed Sayyid Hussein Khomeini (father of guess who), who fled to Iraq in protest of the political situation in Iran. I don't like him using the term 'liberal Muslim.' You hear 'radical Muslim' 10 out of 10 times and you never hear 'liberal Muslim'. Call them true Muslims, devout and true believers even if it makes you opinionated. This is not political correctness, this is the truth.

    To the point. Religion and totalitarianism. It doesn't go together: the ayatollahs of Shiite Islam, the Wahabis of Saudi Arabia and the Talibans of al-Qaeda stand for the same thing: religious totalitarianism. For them, there's no difference between state and religion.

    For example, Khatami is using Islam as a poltical cover. He has promised great reforms, but has delivered little to nothing. In Islam, the ruler or the caliph works to best of his capacity. The Quran says, "The believers are told to follow God, the Prophet and the ruler above them." In this injunction, it is implied that the ruler has to follow God and the prophet. If the ruler does not follow God and the prophet, the people are not obliged to follow the ruler. In fact, if he is oppressing people, which is against Islam, the people have an obligation to stand up to this ruler even if he is a Muslim. This is from the saying of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to stand up to a tyrant and speak a word of truth as one of the best forms of jihad.

    There are those who call for secularism in Iran. Is that against Islam? I think not. Rationalism, secularism, democracy, and human rights together within Islamic society has never been tried and therefor we don't know whether it's possible. Islam is applicable in all places in all times. The problem is: Which Islam? Is it the anachronistic legalism of a scholarly tradition which declared the "door of individual interpretation" closed a millennium ago, the ethereal Islam of the mystics, or perhaps Islamic modernism, "fundamentalism," liberalism, conservatism or traditionalism? Proclaiming, as many contemporary Islamist groups do, that "Islam is the solution!" is really no solution at all. Slogans don't repay foreign debts, build housing and infrastructure, feed the hungry, spark investment, regulate societies or solve foreign policy disputes. The problem of Muslim decline, seized upon by the secularists with such alacrity, is a real dilemma that must be addressed. The answers, unfortunately, are not ready-made.

    Iraq will soon tell. (Afghanistan is an Islamic state but I can't judge when the state only includes Kabul.) Shiite cleric, Sayyid Iyad Jamaleddine comments on religion and state:

    "We want a secular constitution. That is the most important point. If we write a secular constitution and separate religion from state, that would be the end of despotism and it would liberate religion as well as the human being. . . . The Islamic religion has been hijacked for 14 centuries by the hands of the state. The state dominated religion, not the other way around. It used religion for its own ends. Tyrants ruled this nation for 14 centuries and they covered their tyranny with the cloak of religion. . . . When I called for secularism in Nasiriya (in the first postwar gathering of Iraqi leaders), they started saying things against me. But last week I had some calls from Qum, thanking me for presenting this thesis and saying, `We understand what you are calling for, but we cannot say so publicly.'

    "Secularism is not blasphemy. I am a Muslim. I am devoted to my religion. I want to get it back from the state and that is why I want a secular state. . . . When young people come to religion, not because the state orders them to but because they feel it themselves in their hearts, it actually increases religious devotion. . . . The problem of the Middle East cannot be solved unless all the states in the area become secular. . . . I call for opening the door for Ijtihad [reinterpretation of the Koran in light of changing circumstances]. The Koran is a book to be interpreted [by] each age. Each epoch should not be tied to interpretations from 1,000 years ago. We should be open to interpretations based on new and changing times."

    BA-DOOM TISH!
    Sunday's Washington Post headline is this

    Depiction of Threat Outgrew Supporting Evidence
    Not that this surprises me a bit, but the Washington Post is the only one, until now, to come with such a blunt headline. Excerpts from the story, that traces the story of a CIA analyst called Joe, on the
    An engineer-turned-CIA analyst, Joe had helped build the U.S. government case that Iraq posed a nuclear threat. He landed in Vienna on Jan. 22 and drove to the U.S. diplomatic mission downtown. In a conference room 32 floors above the Danube River, he told United Nations nuclear inspectors they were making a serious mistake.

    At issue was Iraq's efforts to buy high-strength aluminum tubes. The U.S. government said those tubes were for centrifuges to enrich uranium for a nuclear bomb. But the IAEA, the world's nuclear watchdog, had uncovered strong evidence that Iraq was using them for conventional rockets.

    Joe described the rocket story as a transparent Iraqi lie. According to people familiar with his presentation, which circulated before and afterward among government and outside specialists, Joe said the specialized aluminum in the tubes was "overspecified," "inappropriate" and "excessively strong." No one, he told the inspectors, would waste the costly alloy on a rocket.
    Moving on to the yellowcake-disaster. The Bush administration admitted that it was a mistake to include it in the State of the Union speech, but at the end stood by it, citing the Brits's evidence. But it's still unclear on what evidence that claim is based on, or whether there's any evidence at all. The Independent:
    Only Britain has refused to withdraw or apologise, even after the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, admitted this month that the CIA had sought to dissuade the Government from maintaining its uranium claim. He and Tony Blair continue to insist that Britain had "separate intelligence" proving the Niger connection, though the only hint they have given as to its nature is that it concerns a visit to the country by an Iraqi representative in 1999. "Former Niger government officials believed that this was in connection with the procurement of yellow cake [uranium]," according to Mr Straw, clinging to the last vestiges of credibility. Since by his own account Mr Zahawie met only the President of Niger, who died soon afterwards, the whole claim appears to be based on shaky supposition.