Tuesday, September 30, 2003

PLAME-UPDATE: Here are the latest developments in the Plame-affair:

  • Questions have arisen on Valerie Plame's exact position. Was Plame a covert CIA agent or just an analyst behind a desk in Langley? Kevin Drum makes a decent and compelling case, but the best I've heard is by Larry Johnson, a former CIA analyst and counterterrorism official at the State Department. He appeared on Jim Lehrer's Newshour:
    Let's be very clear about what happened. This is not an alleged abuse. This is a confirmed abuse. I worked with this woman. She started training with me. She has been undercover for three decades, she is not as Bob Novak suggested a CIA analyst. But given that, I was a CIA analyst for four years. I was undercover. I could not divulge to my family outside of my wife that I worked for the Central Intelligence Agency until I left the agency on September 30, 1989. At that point I could admit it.

    So the fact that she's been undercover for three decades and that has been divulged is outrageous because she was put undercover for certain reasons. One, she works in an area where people she meets with overseas could be compromised. When you start tracing back who she met with, even people who innocently met with her, who are not involved in CIA operations, could be compromised. For these journalists to argue that this is no big deal and if I hear another Republican operative suggesting that well, this was just an analyst fine, let them go undercover. Let's put them overseas and let's out them and then see how they like it. They won't be able to stand the heat.


    I say this as a registered Republican. I'm on record giving contributions to the George Bush campaign. This is not about partisan politics. This is about a betrayal, a political smear of an individual with no relevance to the story. Publishing her name in that story added nothing to it. His entire intent was correctly as Ambassador Wilson noted: to intimidate, to suggest that there was some impropriety that somehow his wife was in a decision making position to influence his ability to go over and savage a stupid policy, an erroneous policy and frankly, what was a false policy of suggesting that there were nuclear material in Iraq that required this war. This was about a political attack. To pretend that it's something else and to get into this parsing of words, I tell you, it sickens me to be a Republican to see this.


    You do not -- it is not up to the journalists to decide which officer they are going to out. We saw this in the 70s with Marchetti and others and Philip Agee who outed officers and they were killed. I don't want to wait until we get a body count. The principle's established: do not divulge the names of these people. In my own career trainee class I did not know Joe's wife last name; we went by our first initials.


    I was in the same class with her. I was Larry J. In fact, when I first saw her last name I didn't recognize her until one of other my classmates who's out now called me up and said, hey. To realize this is a terrific woman, she's a woman of great integrity and other people that don't know her were trying to suggest that she is the one that initiated that. That is such nonsense. This is a woman who is very solid, very low key and not about show boating.
  • As I mentioned yesterday, the Department of Justice has ordered the F.B.I. to investigate. But the chance of finding the alleged culprit is small. Can Robert Novak, or any of the other 5 reporters be ordered to testify? Eugene Volokh makes the case. I'm not convinced the full 100% though.

  • Atrios informs that the Guardian's D.C. correspondent Julian Borger tells us that reporters are privately acknowledging that Karl Rove was the leaker. Because I rate the Guardian's credibility not as high as the Washington Post's, I remain skeptical of this claim. (Borger is the one of the first to report on Rumsfeld's Office of Special Plans.

  • Alberto Gonzales, Counsel to the President, has sent two letters to the White House staff. Josh Marshall has them.

    As the scandal grows, I'll be sharing images like the one below. Enjoy.

  • TALIB PRANKS: Who would've thought? The once infamous and notorious Taliban are now reduced to… childish pranks that could be mistaken for something a bunch of high-school students could’ve done. I'm talking about this pranker in particular. Keep an eye on the trouble-maker.

    Monday, September 29, 2003

    BREAKING...: From tomorrow's Washington Post. Key grafs...

    A senior official quoted Bush as saying, "I want to get to the bottom of this," during a meeting yesterday morning with a few top aides, including Rove. Senior intelligence officials said yesterday that the CIA filed what they termed a "crime report" with the Justice Department in late July, shortly after syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak, citing two unnamed administration sources, identified Wilson's wife by name. The CIA report pointed to a "possible violation of federal criminal law involving the unauthorized disclosure of classified information."


    Another journalist yesterday confirmed receiving a call from an administration official providing the same information about Wilson's wife before the Novak column appeared on July 14 in The Post and other newspapers.

    The journalist, who asked not to be identified because of possible legal ramifications, said that the information was provided as part of an effort to discredit Wilson, but that the CIA information was not treated as especially sensitive. "The official I spoke with thought this was a part of Wilson's story that wasn't known and cast doubt on his whole mission," the person said, declining to identify the official he spoke with. "They thought Wilson was having a good ride and this was part of Wilson's story."


    Wilson said yesterday that he believes Rove "at a minimum condoned the leak," but said he has no evidence Rove was the original leaker. Wilson said that based on reporters' statements, he believes Rove participated in calls that drew attention to his wife's occupation after Novak's column was published. "My knowledge is based on a reporter who called me right after he had spoken to Rove and said that Rove had said my wife was fair game," Wilson said. He said that conversation occurred on July 21.

    Wilson said a producer from another network told him about the same time, "The White House is saying things about you and your wife that are so off the wall that we won't use them." Wilson said the series of similar calls he received, which included four journalists from three networks, stopped on July 22, after he appeared on NBC's "Today" show and said the disclosure of his wife's maiden name could jeopardize the "entire network that she may have established."
    The article also mentions that "[i]f the department's career counter-espionage lawyers find grounds for a full investigation, Attorney General John D. Ashcroft will have to decide whether to name a special counsel to oversee the case." But as mentioned in the post below, the New York Times is already reporting that Ashcroft has opted for a FBI investigation instead of a special council. To be continued.

    VALERIE PLAME: News-item of the day (and the many days to come, presumably): the Valerie Plame-affair. It goes as follows. In the event that you are not familiar with this story, it is as follows: Ambassador Joseph Wilson went to Niger in 2002 to look into the possibility that Iraq had sought to purchase uranium from that country. According to the Washington Post, "senior administration officials" made phone calls to "at least six journalists" revealing Valerie Plame's name and identity.

    The Democrats are doing what the Republicans did during the Lewinsky-affair: asking for an independent council. Back than the Democrats replied that the Department of Justice could handle it. Today, they're doing the exact opposite. The Democrats are calling for an independent council, while the Republicans, or the White House at least (for now), say that the Justice Department can handle it. The Independent Council Statute, first enacted in 1978 that had to be renewed every 5 years, expired and was subsequently not renewed in 1999, since neither Republicans like it when they're being gored or Democrats don't like it when they're being gored.

    Right now there's a pseudo- Independent Council provision which would makes it largely independent, but he or she can still be fired by the Attorney-General, which would be a politically stupid and (with the elections coming up in 1 year) suicidal move.

    All we can do is speculate, which is fun, but I will leave that to the experts: Kevin Drum and Josh Marshall.

    I will be covering breaking news if there is any, but I hope to get back to subjects I have touched upon earlier. My prediction of the outcome of all of this? Well, a) the leakers aren't going to get caught b) a lot of political firestorm that will divide this country even more and c) Bush trying to cover his ass up. Yeah, it seems vague, but that's my skeptical looks on a country that's so incredibly politically divided. Questions still remain: is it true? Did a senior White House administration official blow Plame's cover?

    Stay tuned.

    UPDATE: I need to use my words more carefully from now on. The Democtars are calling for an independent investigation.

    ANOTHER UPDATE: Has Attorney-General John Ashcroft told the FBI to start investigating? Blogger Swopa exerpts from tomorrow's New York Times:

    Mr. Ashcroft decided over the last several days to move ahead with a preliminary inquiry, and the Justice Department notified the F.B.I. late today that the bureau would lead the investigation.

    Sunday, September 28, 2003

    SYSTEMATIC TERRORISM: Israel's racist laws in action. The IDF is fighting terrorism; ethnically cleansing Arabs from Jerusalem one at a time. This isn't an accident; it's explicitly-stated, intentional government policy to achieve the Israeli demographic objective. It is done to preempt any challenge to the Israeli claim and sovereignty of Jerusalem. Because when Israel is forced to make peace, by the public or international community, it has already won.

    Saturday, September 27, 2003

    VDH BACKS WARLORDS: (Please excuse me for plagarizing Slate.) Victor Davis Hanson's latest column:

    Example: "For all the criticism about warlords, it is now likely that Afghanistan will never again be turned over to al Qaeda to train thousands to conduct the type of murder we saw on September 11."
    What it means: Al-Qaeda has been eradicated from Afghanistan and they won't come back.
    What it hides: Al-Qaeda and the Taliban are launching attacks from their safe-haven in Pakistan. Osama hasn't been caught. We back warlords who oppress Afghans of any other ethnicity than their own.
    Subtext: We're winning. Stop spinning.

    CLINTON-LOVIN' MUSLIMS: I didn't agree with some of Clinton's policies. But when it comes down to his personality and charisma: I really like the guy. Anyways, he recently traveled to Srebrenica to commemorate the massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys. Albanians see him, well, as a hero!

    Thousands of Kosovo Albanians turned out to greet the man they see as their liberator from a decade of repression under then Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic. Schoolchildren got the day off and well-wishers waving the Star and Stripes thronged Pristina’s Bill Clinton Boulevard as his motorcade drove by.

    Loud applause erupted when Clinton, while also preaching ethnic reconciliation with Serbs, gave what Kosovo Albanians may be keen to interpret as implicit support for their drive for complete independence from Serbia.

    “I love this country,” he told a packed Pristina University hall in a speech which, like much of his visit, was broadcast live on television.

    “I want to see you move toward self-government...,” he said after receiving an honorary doctorate. True to form, Clinton later worked the crowd waiting outside, shaking hands as NATO-led peacekeepers and U.N. police held people back.

    Unlike many other predominantly Muslim places in the world, the United States is genuinely popular in this landlocked territory of two million, placed under U.N.-led administration in the summer of 1999 after NATO’s 11-week air war.

    “There is a holiday in Kosovo today because Clinton is here,” said local journalist Blerta Foniqi, 20, as she waited for him to arrive. “He’s one of Kosovo’s most loved people,” said her colleague."
    They don't like the Dutch though.

    THE HOUSE OF CARLYLE SA'UD: Guess what? Robert Jordan, the American ambassador to Saudi Arabia is resigning because of "personal reasons." In case you didn't know, Jordan is an old buddy of Bush. He used to be Bush's personal lawyer; he contributed $2,500 to the GOP of which a thousand bucks went to Bush; he defended Bush in a probe of insider trading allegations in 1990; and he works for the Houston-based law firm Baker Botts. Baker Botts represents more than half of the Fortune 100 companies and the Carlyle Group. And the "Baker" in "Baker Botts" is James Baker III, former secretary of State under the first President Bush.

    I'm not doubting that Mr. Jordan is leaving for "personal reasons." But let me go out on a limb and guess that he'll go back to defending the Saudis against that trillion dollar law suit on behalf of the the victims of 9/11.

    Friday, September 26, 2003

    REMOVE ARAFAT: Sarcasm at its best. The question asked is: 'should Yasser Arafat be removed?' Here's my favorite:

    "Hey, there's nothing like martyring a leader to calm the Palestinian extremists."

    EDWARD SAID CONTINUED: To treat Edward Said solely, or even primarily, as a political figure is necessarily to produce a distorted view of his life. He is, first and foremost, a literary critic. Here is a man who advocated peaceful settlement, who had many, many Jewish friends and who wrote compassionately about Jewish deaths and the need for reconcilliation. And yet, because he supported full rights for Palestinians, and critiqued Zionism, and supported a secular state, and was a leftist, he is pilloried by the same people who claim to want to see a 'peaceful Palestinian'. The reality is that some people want submission, not debate. They want death of the enemy, not peace. The same people who claim that there's no such thing as a "Palestinian," claimed that he wasn't a "real" one. Garbage was written about his past which took three years to write and was debunked in less than three minutes. The hate expressed towards Said, on the blogs, are an honorbadge for Said. Rest in peace.

    And back to regular blogging.

    UPDATE: Said obituaries: The New York Times, Guardian, The Washington Post, Christopher Hitchens, Ahdaf Soueif and IE with many more. Among the bloggers: Aziz Poonawalla, Jonathan Edelstein and Bill Connolly.

    ANOTHER UPDATE: Orientalist is #35 on Amazon.

    Thursday, September 25, 2003

    EDWARD SAID: Edward Said has died at the age of 67, losing his decade-long battle with leukemia. The announcement of his death is heart-breaking and we will mournhim, yet we must not forget him. As an intellectual of the first rank, he led the academic fight for the Palestinian cause. Unabashed and unashamed he led to the forefront of the Pro-Palestinian academia in the United States.

    He was not perfect. He was angry and arrogant. He was boiling with rage, but rightfully so. He was a truly eloquent spokesperson and hated (by the Jewish right) for daring to come so energetically to the defense the people of Palestine.

    I express my condolences to Edward Said's wife, family and friends.

    "We belong to God, and to Him is our return."
    (Qur'an 2:156)

    IRAQ'S LIBERALOZATION: I haven't commented on the "Sale of Iraq"--the plan that promises Iraq open foreign privatization--but it looks like the Iraqi Governing Council has backed down, saying that it "can't be considered official."

    What Issandr El Amrani said.

    Wednesday, September 24, 2003

    MASSOUD POST: If you're looking for my commemoration-post of Ahmed Shah Massoud, it was posted on Tuesday, September 09th, 2003. The permalinks don't work (have they ever worked?), so scroll down a bit.

    By the way, I'm working on a nice graphic to use as an header.

    Al-Jazeera banned from Iraq

    Department of Defense Agence France Press

    Iraq's Governing Council today banned the American television station Fox News Arab satellite television stations Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya from covering official activities here for two weeks, a statement said.

    It said the ban was a warning to the stations and other broadcasters for inciting anti-Baathist anti-United States violence.

    "Fox News Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya will temporarily be excluded from any coverage of Governing Council activities or official press conferences, and correspondents of the two channels will not be allowed to find out what the hell we're doing enter ministries or government offices for two weeks," the statement said.

    The statement made no mention of coverage of occupational activities US military activities or the workings of the puppet council Coalition Provisional Authority.

    A military spokesman, Major William Thurmond, said, "That decision has not been made."

    Neo-conservative Paul Wolfowitz US officials have accused the American-based Fox News Qatar-based Al-Jazeera and the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya of giving too much prominence to anti-Baathist anti-US attacks, and of providing a forum for backers of the occupation of Iraq ousted president Saddam Hussein.
    Back to the studio, where Abu has an analysis of this news.

    PIRATE OF THE YEAR: If you think about it, piracy is really a natural fit for al-Qaeda and the Taliban terrorists. They already possess several of the traits we usually associate with pirates. Pirates and terrorists tend to be men with facial hair who hang out almost exclusively with other men (a trait they also share with The Village People, but I won't get into that). Pirates are often short a working eye or two. Well, it just so happens that the Taliban's leader Mullah Omar only has one eye. Sheikh Abdel-Rahman, the Egyptian who supposedly masterminded the 1993 World Trade Center attacks, is blind! British-based cleric and al-Qaeda supporter Abu Hamza is not only optically odd-numbered, but when his right hand was blown off while clearing mines in Afghanistan, he replaced it the ultimate in pirate-chic, a metal hook! And, rumor has it that Osama bin Laden played Maj. Gen. Stanley in his boarding school's production of Gilbert & Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance. But that's just a rumor.

    This year's Pirate of the Year award goes to "Mullah"1 Mohammed Omar. If you happen to see him, please let me know.

    1 Pirate Omar is not really a Mullah. His religious studies were interrupted by the Soviet invasion in 1979. He lived simply as a village clergyman until, he claims, he had a dream in which the Prophet Muhammad revealed that he, Omar, should lead the country out of lawlessness and immorality.

    DISARMING THE WARLORDS: I promised a response to wire reports concerning Karzai's Defense Ministry-reform. Agence France Press report the following appointments:

    Eight appointments were given to members of the Pashtun majority… [t]he deputy ministerial position has been given to a Pashtun, Major General Farooq Wardak. He replaced General Bismullah Khan, a close ally of powerful Tajik Defense Minister Marshal Mohammad Qasim Fahim, who was made army chief.

    Five Tajiks, four Hazaras, two Uzbeks, one Baluchi and one Nuristani were also named to new positions, the ministry said.
    Even though the reform is a good (first) step from the quite reluctant Karzai, the status quo remains; the Ministry of Defense remains firmly under control of the Tajik Northern Alliance, led by Defense Minister Mohammad Qasim Fahim, even though the Pashtuns gained the largest representation. Karzai's opponents and rival warlords—mostly Pashtuns—have always complained of Northern Alliance-hegemony and ethnic under-representation in the Defense of Ministry and therefore remaining wary of giving up power or arms. The question remains if Fahim's rivals will be sufficiently confident and convinced enough, in the new ethnic and factional representation in the ministry, to go along with an ambitious plan, announced yesterday, to disarm and demobilize 100,000 factional fighters. The plan would start in the cities of Kunduz, Gardez and Mazer-e-Sharif, slowly moving the disarmament drive to Kandahar and Kabul.

    Moving power away from Fahim and his fellow Northern Alliance commanders won’t be easy. Their grip on Kabul is still going strong, almost 2 years after the Bonn agreement ordered the removal of Northern Alliance soldiers and tanks. That has not happened.

    The Northern Alliance’s fixation with Ahmed Shah Masoud, the martyred hero, has subsided but their political ambitions have joined forces with genuine reverence in keeping his spirit alive. They’re anxious to keep the flames of nostalgia for their lost hero burning in an effort to boost their political standing making it difficult to block their influence over the local population. Divided by their own differences and lacking a common political agenda, Northern Alliance leaders are using the figure of Masoud as a symbol around which to rally support. And most of the time—it’s works.

    UPDATE: All those fired were Tajiks.

    Tuesday, September 23, 2003

    TARGET OF THE PATRIOT ACT: So what is Ashcroft using the Patriot Act for?

    If you're an American citizen, if you're a Palestinian activist, if the government unsuccessfully has tried to deport you for 16 years, if the courts have ruled your deportation unconstitutional and if you're still in the United States...than you might be a target of the Patriot Act.

    Monday, September 22, 2003

    UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY: Just got my hands on the United Nations General Assembly schedule for the coming week.

    President Bush will speak Tuesday shortly after 10:15 A.M. after the head of state of Brazil. President Karzai will speak after 3:00 P.M after the head of state of Paraguy. Karzai won't be visiting Washington, just New York. If anyone can find the either President's schedule, please drop me an e-mail. Thanks.

    HYPOCRITICAL STATEMENT OF THE DAY:"People who live in the big settlements don't even think of themselves as settlers. They would feel insulted if they were left outside the fence. Personally, I think it's better not to have any fences at all. Why should we willingly put ourselves in ghettoes?"
    - Einat Dayan, an administrator at the 7,000-student College of Judea and Samaria of the Ariel settlement in the West Bank

    WE INVADE, YOU PAY: Outrage of the day: apparently, Russia wants the Afghan government to recognize the $9.8 billion debt it somehow owes.

    A U.S. official said on Saturday that Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin told Treasury Secretary John Snow Russia would contribute aid to Afghanistan once the issue of Afghan debts owed to Russia was settled. Kudrin told Snow that Russia calculates it is owed $9.8 billion by Afghanistan, debt that Afghanistan wants forgiven but which Russia is prepared to consider heavily discounting to a total $2 billion.

    "The Russians are considering discounting 80 percent of the debt," the U.S. official said. "Then they said when the debt is restructured, then they will donate to the Afghanistan reconstruction."
    Let me get this straight: you invade, but we pay for the costs? (For the record, the Soviets invaded in 1979 and left in 1989 after we gave them their Vietnam.)

    The mind boggles.

    NEWS ROUND-UP: According to some news reports (no link yet), Hamid Karzai has set an October 15-deadline for warlords "disarm, demobilize and reintegrate" warlords, including Ismail Khan (Herat), Abdul Rashid Dostum (Mazer-e-Sharif) and Gul Agha Sherzai (Kandahar). Apparently, this move and his alleged "re-shuffle" are just part of the first stage of reforming and restructuring the Afghan government. I vaguely remember a National Security Council (yes, Afghanistan has one) decision on May 20th that basically said the same things about warlords' private fighters. Karzai will leave tomorrow, Tuesday, for visits to Great Britain, Canada and the United States. According to the UN-sponsored Bonn agreement, "participants [including the Northern Alliance] in the UN Talks on Afghanistan pledge to withdraw all military units from Kabul and other urban centers or other areas in which the UN mandated force is deployed." This, of course, never happened. Tanks are seen all over Kabul and Defense Minister Fahim's Northern Alliance fighters form a police force together with the peacekeeping force. They love rob taxi-drivers and shopkeepers, arrest political opponents and arrest critical journalists. (Recently, the Kabul police chief--an ally of [Defense Minister] Fahim and [Education Minister] Qanuni--was fired. I extensively wrote about it here.)

    Newsday has a decent article on the steady progress being made in Kandahar, the Taliban's former capital. Good news amid the troubling reports that are heard almost daily.

    More good news: the U.S. military has confirmed the death of two senior Taliban commanders; Mullah Abdur Rahim and Mohammad Gul Neyazi. Both were staging anti-coalition attacks from just area known was Waziristan, where there's staunch Pashtun support for the Taliban. Rahim was rumored to be dead for a week now and was wounded in February of this year. Mullah Omar appointed Mullah Abdus Samad, a former "intelligence officer," to help him.

    ISAF-EXPANSION UPDATE: Jaap de Hoop Scheffer is the new NATO secretary-general, who supports the idea of peacekeepers outside of Kabul. NATO is currently drawing plans to expand the peacekeeping force. Kofi Annan and Antonio Maria Costa, head of the UN office on drugs and crime, is also pushing NATO to cut drug trafficking routes in Afghanistan.

    Sources tell me that the size of an expanded ISAF-mission will depend on the willingness of the biggest contributors to send more troops, but thinks a deal is very likely. The source is also reporting on cabinet in-fighting between those who oppose the expansion and those who welcome it. "The warlords don't want to loose their control and they make their money by opium poppy cultivation through local commanders."

    The United Nations will debate on the ISAF-mandate in December.

    Sunday, September 21, 2003

    TARGET OF THE PATRIOT ACT: Attorney-general Ashcroft is making fun of the deserved criticsm of the Patriot Act:

    "The charges of the hysterics are revealed for what they are: castles in the air," he scoffed. "Built on misrepresentation. Supported by unfounded fear. Held aloft by hysteria." And he continued: "Allow me to take a moment to clarify who should, and who should not, be worried about these tools in the hands of law enforcement. If you are spending a lot of time surveilling nuclear power plants with your al Qaeda pals, you might be a target of the Patriot Act. If your idea of a vacation is two weeks in a terrorist training camp, you might be a target of the Patriot Act. If you have cave-side dinners with a certain terrorist thug named bin Laden . . . if you enjoy swapping recipes for chemical weapons from your 'Joy of Jihad' cookbook . . . you might be a target of the Patriot Act."
    If you're a journalist, the journalist's roomate, a taxi driver, a student or a newspaper salesman.... you might be a target of the Patriot Act. If you're a dissident....you might be a target of the Patriot Act.

    Somehow that part of the speech was left out.

    DEFENSE MINISTRY RE-SHUFFLE: The Associated Press is reporting on a re-shuffle in the Ministry Defense, approved by Karzai. I'm skeptical and that story isn't telling the whole story. I'll definitely get back to this when I learn more.

    Karzai is visiting Canada, Great Britian and the White House. Also, more on this too.

    THE IRAQI-HIGHWAY: Tapped is worried that the new Iraqi army (among other things) is being built the same way the Kabul-Kandahar highway is being build. Time to ask the question again: are you going to finish an road army that is useful or half-finish an road army that is perfect?

    John Snow, U.S. Treasury Secretary, visited Kabul today, meeting with Karzai (and leaving him a nice letter too!). I love the talk about "peace," and "prosperity." But talk money, Mr. Moneyman! The Washington Post:

    the U.S. Treasury secretary, John W. Snow, said during a visit here that total U.S. funding for Afghan reconstruction would be about $1 billion in 2004, twice as much as in 2003, the Reuters news agency reported.
    The LA Times:
    [Finance Minister] Ghani said Afghanistan needed $30 billion more over the next five years. Aides said that despite his upbeat public demeanor, Ghani spoke out because he privately believes the needs of Afghanistan are considered a distant second to those of Iraq in the eyes of the U.S. and its allies.
    But wait. There's a plan:
    Snow said the rebuilding of Afghanistan, as well as Iraq, was a responsibility that must be shared among many countries. "We're hoping to get the amount the U.S. is coming up with at least matched" by participants at the Group of 7 meeting this weekend in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, as well as other U.S. allies, the Treasury secretary said.
    Donor conference, you say? You mean the guys who were nice enough to promise us $4.5 billion in reconstruction funding last year? Asia Times:
    [US relief organization CARE] argues that donors have failed to follow through on earlier promises of desperately needed reconstruction assistance. Moreover, what aid is being provided is becoming increasingly expensive because of the insecurity that is growing outside the capital Kabul, the only part of the country that is patrolled by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
    Here's the State Department travel advisory for Afghanistan in case you missed it:
    Afghan-Americans returning to Afghanistan to recover property have become involved in complicated disputes and, even given favorable court proceedings, often face retaliatory actions including threats of kidnapping for ransom.
    Recover what property, Foggy Bottom?

    Don't get me wrong here. I'm happy that the John Snow was generous enough to double aid for Afghanistan? But compare the $2 billion Afghanistan gets to the $20 billion Iraq gets. Big difference.

    Saturday, September 20, 2003

    ISAF EXPANSION: First off, I want to refer you to Constitution-Afg.com, maintained by Afghanistan's Constitutional Commission. Take a look around.

    Mr. De Hoop Scheffer is the Netherland's foreign minister and is very influential inside NATO. Rumors are going around he might be the next secretary-general, but he's disliked by the French and the German because he favored and supported the war in Iraq. There are already a very small number of Dutch troops in southern Iraq.

    Back to the point. Since the Dutch led the ISAF-force together with the German for a couple of months and because the Dutch also have a pretty good contribution of troops in Kabul, they may be they key to expanding the peacekeeping force. Here's a questionnaire by a Karimi, a Turkish member of the Green party. (Raw translated by me, of course.)

    Question 2 (by Karimi): Is it true that on during a recent NATO-meeting on September 10th, the possibility of an ISAF-expansion to other Afghan cities was discussed? And if so, what is the Dutch position?

    Answer (by De Hoop Scheffer): Indeed the possibility of an ISAF-mandate expansion was discussed. Our position is that an expansion of the force will contribute to the improvement of the security situation in Afghanistan, in the framework of bi- and multi-lateral action. The main condition for an expansion is the adjustment of the stabilizing-force. The United Nations security-council will decide on an expansion before December 20th, the day the mandate for the ISAF ends. It is up to NATO to decide whether it's willing to take that role. Presumably, the details of a possible expansion will be made by NATO.

    [Rest of it is formality, declaring his support for the Loya Jirga; the Bonn process; his support in principle to disarm warlords; reformation of the Ministry of Defense; and 4 million euro in further contribution]

    Make of it what you will. We'll hear more in December, hopefully positively.

    Friday, September 19, 2003

    THEY WANT THE RADIOACTIVE STUFF: As is filling the world with Wahabi mosques isn't enough, now the Saudis want that dangerous radioactive stuff too. The Guardian is telling us that the House of Sa'ud is looking into the option of acquiring nuclear weapons.

    Saudi Arabia, in response to the current upheaval in the Middle East, has embarked on a strategic review that includes acquiring nuclear weapons, the Guardian has learned.
    This new threat of proliferation in one of the most dangerous regions of the world comes on top of a crisis over Iran's alleged nuclear program.

    A strategy paper being considered at the highest levels in Riyadh sets out three options:

  • To acquire a nuclear capability as a deterrent;

  • To maintain or enter into an alliance with an existing nuclear power that would offer protection;

  • To try to reach a regional agreement on having a nuclear-free Middle East.
  • The first option worked out for Kim Jung Il, who basically is using nuclear blackmail to achieve his objections and aspirations. To make their point even stronger, they assured us that they're "for real" by promising to test their nuke.

    The second option would make the House of Sa'ud part of the league of which the Pakistanis are already part of. The Saudi's dealings with Pakistan have been strong ever since the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, especially with the oh-so-vicious ISI. In addition, million--if not billions--have helped the financing of madrassahs and radicalization of Pakistan. (There's also the alleged rumor that the ISI and House of Sa'ud had backroom deals.) It's entirely possible that Pakistan may lend a hand in obtaining nuclear weapons.

    The third option is an utterly brilliant diplomatic move. A nuclear-free Middle East would mean that Israel would have to give up its own nuclear arsenal, the likelihood of which is exactly zero. It did happen back in April of this year when Syria introduced a UN Security Council resolution calling for the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction, including nukes, in the Middle East. Of course Israel told them to eat shit and die, instead of sending fighter jets over the Bashar Assad's house.

    This is all speculation. I don't think nukes will help Saudi Arabia. In fact, I think they already have a far more powerful weapon. Oil. If the Saudis stop pumping oil, it will be more devastating than, say, a dirty bomb in D.C. Cutting of oil would be suicidal, but so would the use of a nuclear weapon.

    But now, to make you feel good after leaving this blog, close your eyes. Imagine a Saudi Arabia in the throws of an uprising against the monarchy, with nukes pointed at Israel (or scarier, one supplied to al-Qaeda). Feeling good already?

    FRIEDMAN ON CRACK: Thomas Friedman has lost sanity and all balance. He now writes that France is becoming our enemy.

    Is that why they saved 100 American lives in Liberia, back in June?

    And than there are the idiots who agree, saying that "sooner or later, the United States will decide that "you're for us or against us" applies to France, too." So are we going to target the French in, say, Kabul? Because the French are working against our interest, bringing peace and stability to a war-torn city. Oh, wait, they're doing our dirty work. Oops.

    BAD NEWS: This is what the Washington Post is reporting on Fairfax County, the county I live in:

    The Fairfax County Water Authority's three water treatment plants lost power, leaving the system with no more than 6 to 8 hours of clean water, some of which will be needed for firefighting. If power stays off for longer, customers on higher ground will start losing water pressure, followed by those in lower elevations.

    "If we don't get power returned by daylight, the system will begin to deteriorate," said James Warfield Jr., executive officer of the Fairfax County Water Authority, said at 2 a.m. Friday morning. "More and more customers will start losing water."

    If storage tanks go dry, Warfield said, there is the potential for backflow, where contaminants from residential plumbing enter the system.
    Bad, bad news. And than there's this:
    More than 700,000 electric customers in the Washington area had lost power, and scores of traffic lights had gone dark. The outages affected businesses as well as residences. The Washington Post lost power at its Springfield printing plant.

    JUST SHOCKING: Some things just shock you. Rafiullah Habibi, known better as Rafi, has an Afghan store in Alexandria, Virginia. I ocassionaly buy something there, but my father visits the store far more often. He visited the store three weeks ago to buy some rice. Rafi wasn't there, so my father asked where he was. "On vacation," a family member behind the counter replied.

    But it wasn't true. He was arrested in an alleged heroin ring, the Washington Post reported this past Tuesday. But that's not all. There's the thing not mentioned in the article: they are being suspected of funding, somehow, al-Qaeda.

    I was shocked. Just stunned. We all know Rafi and he's a good man, or so we think. Not anti-American, racial or anything. We all know he was rich and that he made money off of dead Afghan artists, but who cared? The rumor that it was tied to al-Qaeda is a unsubstantiated one. Questions remain. But what if the rumor turns out to be true? Common criminal or terrorist supporter? How far was he involved? Did he know what he was doing? Nobody knows, but there's more than enough speculation. In the meanwhile, I'll be grilling my family-members for more information.

    AFGHANISTAN UPDATE: I've been too busy to post anything today (or is it yesterday?). Been busy with dealing with the consequenses of hurricane (which is now a tropical storm) Isabel. Right now, we're having 50 mph winds gusts and awkward sounds coming from the roof of the house, presumably from various objects hitting the house. We all thought it was going to be a big one, but I think the local news networks simply overhyped it ("it" being the hurricane, of course). It has rained since noon today, which has created floods and mandatory evacuations about 15 miles from here (because of it being parallel to the Potomac River). Meanwhile, we have about 2 million without power (or so I heard; not sure about the accuracy of that number) in a state of 6 million. We haven't lost any power, but my lamp did start acting up. Schools and the federal government are shut down tomorrow too and the National Guard is helping out in the capitol.

    Anyway, Steven Jones is posting on the politically detoriating situation in Afghanistan. I guess I was too busy fantasizing about Massoud to post anything about it. [Edit-Link doesn't work. Go here and look for "Troubles in Afghanistan's future."

    Meanwhile, heads are rolling in Kabul. Basir Salangi, the Kabul police chief, has been dismissed because of an ungoing scandal, something I have been trying to write about since it perfectly characterizes the situation in Afghanistan. Salangi bulldozed poor people's homes (with possessions still inside) in the Wazir Akhar Khan neighbourhood to make way luxurious homes for... Defense Minister Fahim (Massoud's long-time buddy) and Education Minister Qanuni. Google won't tell you that Salangi used to be a northern alliance commander, and a member of Shura-e Nazar. (Shura-e-Nazar is an alliance created after the Soviet Union's invasion. It's a military alliance, not a political one. Most are members of Jamiat-e Islami and Nahzat-e Mille, the main Northern Alliance political parties.) Salangi's "police force" love to extort taxi drivers. Oh, and extort shopkeepers. And arrest political opponents. And beat up critical journalists.

    By the standards of Afghanistan, this is small fry. Yet this is not without significance, not least because it fuels opposition to the government, and to the international and American forces that are supporting it, in the interim President Hamid Karzai's patchy power base. It also underscores a point that so many Afghans have been making: no warlords in the government.

    But, of course, there is some good news out there: privatization has started with foreign banks coming into Afghanistan. We're part of the Silk Road again. Bush is sending 2 billion in extra aid and there's more hints of an ISAF-expansion, even though I remain skeptical of that happening. All in all, the message remains the same and it will stay this way for years to come: there's a lot work to be done. Don't forget us. (This message is also destined for you too, Democratic Presidential Candidates!)

    UPDATE: Big boom. A huge tree just fell in front of our house! I was afraid it was going to fall, so I had warned the neighbors not to park there, just in case. No damage, fortunately. I'm a damn savior for the insurance companies! This does mean I will have to take out the chainsaw and start cutting tomorrow, since the tree is in front of our house. Oh, well.

    Wednesday, September 17, 2003

    SULLIVAN'S ILLITERACY: Andrew Sullivan's reading comprehension problems surface again:

    Who says we can't keep an award for a legend in media bias? Here's the Guardian today on the Israel-Palestinian impasse:
    The militant groups abandoned the truce on August 21 after Israel assassinated a Hamas leader in a missile strike that followed a suicide bombing which killed 22 people in Jerusalem.
    Wouldn't that chronology suggest that the truce was ended first by the suicide bombing - or would that imply that Israel isn't always at fault?
    To answer your question: The suicide bombing was preceded by kiling of Mohammed Seder, head of Islamic Jihad's armed wing in Hebron, on August 14th. Before that two Hamas militants and an Israeli soldier are killed in Israeli raid on West Bank refugee camp. On the same day. two more Palestinians are killed in protests. Is it of importance? No.

    Why is he accusing the Guardian of bias? That sentence--that one sentence--implies a fact: the date of the terror groups' abandonment of their truce, which occured on August 22 after the IAF assassinated two Hamas leaders. The assassination was in retaliation, tit-for-tat style, for the Jerusalem bombing.

    What I think? He's mad because the Guardian called him a "neo-conservative." The Guardian hit the nail again when they called it "the domain of the Freedom Fry-munching, BBC-hating, anti-European, talk-radio-style Republicans." And that's what Sullivan is.

    AXIS OF ISABEL: Yes, I'm part of the Axis of Isabel. I live in Herndon, (Northern) Virginia about 20 miles west of Washington D.C and in Isabel's path. No word yet on whether my boss expects me at work. Some surrounding counties have closed their schools for the next two days. Virginia has declared a state of emergency. The hurricane is supposed to reach our area around Thursday-night.

    I will keep you updated.

    Tuesday, September 16, 2003

    IRAQI LOYA JIRGA: Juan Cole, Professor of History at the University of Michigan, informs us about the preparation of drafting a new constitution and holding elections.

    Fuad Masum, head of the Preparatory Committee for the Iraqi Constitution, announced Sunday that his committee's report would be out at the end of September. The committee sees two principal ways of proceeding toward an elected constitutional convention. One would be to hold town meeting style elections in each of the 19 provinces, producing 150 delegates, with perhaps 10 delegates chosen by Muslim clerics. The other way would be to do a census first, creating electoral rolls. Masum said that this way of proceeding would take two years, according to most experts.
    The very first thing that came in my mind was "Loya Jirga."

    A little bit of background on Loya Jirga.

    In Pashto, the word "Loya" means great and "Jirga" stands for council or meeting. (I don't speak Pashto, just Dari. A phone call to my mother, who does speak Pashto, had to be made.) Legend has it that when it was time to select a King for the newly urbanized Aryan tribes, some five thousand years ago, a great council of herdsmen, horsemen, farmers and craftsmen and women was held in the open air. It was during this council that an eagle appeared from the heavens and put a crown on the head of Yama the first King in the first city the Aryans had built south of the River Oxus. More Afghan Loya Jirgas have been "recorded" ranging from Emperor Kanishka's measures to reform Buddhism to Genghis Khan in the 13th century. Genghis convened a number of other Loya Jirgas and his last one was in 1221 in Samarkent. In Afghan history, Loya Jirgas have been called to decide on great and sometimes grave national issues. Usually the rulers have convened the Jirgas. The first Loya Jirga in recent Afghan history occurred in 1928 convened by King Amanullah and the nullification of the same by the proceeding Administration of King Nadir Shah.

    Central to the process of installing a democracy in Afghanistan, laid out in the Bonn agreement, was the convening of an Emergency Loya Jirga, a traditional Afghan Grand Council. Traditionally, tribal elders and political leaders attend Loya Jirgas. Afghans place a lot of confidence in their elders for their experience. Local tribal and even village leaders are selected because of their long-standing service, age and family status. The Bonn meeting resulted in an agreement that a Loya Jirga (Grand Council) would be held in June of 2002 to determine the composition of a more permanent government structure. Did it turn out to be a New England Town Meeting-style, democratic debate about the future of the Afghan nation? Uhm, no. All it did was legitimize everything that was decided before hand. In no way was it traditional or legitimate, no matter how you spin it.

    Under the German beer tent in Kabul a lot of things happened: violence, vote-buying, manipulation, money, threats, you name it. Zalmay Khalilizad was Bush's enjoy who had to take care of everything. Khalilzad (worked for Unocal, neo-con) was the same man who apologized in a Washington Post editorial in 1999 saying that the Taliban "does not practice the anti-U.S. style of fundamentalism practiced by Iran." He continued by saying that the U.S. "should be willing to offer recognition and humanitarian assistance and to promote international economic reconstruction." He was a Taliban-apologist and not a man of principle, evidently.

    So the Loya Jirga summoned in Kabul and about 1600 delegates showed up. Everyone wanted former King Mohammed Zahir Shah (overthrown by cousin Daoud Khan and the Communists while enjoying Rome in 1964) because he was the only one respected and with enough support who could force the warlords into submission. Khalilizad did what he could behind the scene. The outcome? "This is a rubber stamp. Everything has already been decided by the powerful ones. Everything seems to have been decided. But we don't need anyone to decide for us. We have had enough of foreign interference in our country." Female delegates said that. They were given a voice but nobody listened. Karzai was confirmed; the same for the Cabinet and that was it.

    What does this have to do with Iraq? Everything. Or nothing. Is Paul Bremer another Khalilzad? It's what I'm afraid of, but Afghanistan and Iraq are very, very different. Iraq's majority is Shiite, while Afghanistan is Sunni. Iraq is an Arab country, while Afghanistan is not. Let's just hope the Bush administration is serious about democracy. True democracy...

    POWELL'S REVISIONIST HISTORY: State Department Secretary Colin Powell visited a ceremony in remembrance of the gassing of 5,000 Kurds in the Iraqi Kurdistan town of Halabja in 1988. At the ceremony, he said the following:

    What can I say to you? I cannot tell you that choking mothers died holding their choking babies to their chests. You know that. I cannot tell you that Saddam Hussein was a murderous tyrant. You know that. I cannot tell you that the world should have acted sooner. You know that. I cannot tell you of the suffering of those who were poisoned but nevertheless lived. You know that.
    In March of 1988, Tehran-backed Kurdish insurgents controlled Halabja. Around 5,000 men, women and children were gassed. What did the US government do about it then? Nothing. Worse, so strong was the hold of the pro-Iraq lobby on the Republican administration of President Ronald Reagan, it succeeded in getting the White House to frustrate the Senate's attempt to penalize Baghdad for violating the Geneva Protocol on Chemical Weapons, which it had signed. This led Saddam to believe that Washington was firmly on his side--a conclusion that paved the way for his invasion of Kuwait and the 1991 Gulf War, the full consequences of which played out this March and April.

    Powell misleadingly suggests (and so have other White House officials going back to Bush 41) that Iraqi forces were solely responsible for the incident. He may or may not be aware that shortly after Halabja, the Pentagon initiated a study into the alleged massacre. The three authors, Stephen Pelletiere, Lt. Col. Douglas Johnson, and Professor Leif Rosenberger, reported in their 1990 US Army War College Strategic Studies Institute’s paper, Lessons Learned: The Iran-Iraq War that there is no evidence that "Iraq perpetrated the attack." The document has been open source material for the past 12 years, yet it is always somehow overlooked or ignored, likely the latter. According to eyewitness accounts, the Kurdish victims’ mouths and extremities turned blue, a sign of the use of blood agents, i.e. cyanogen chloride. According to Pelletiere, the former senior CIA political analyst on Iraq throughout the entire Iran-Iraq War, Iraq has no history of using those two agents, and did not possess the technology to make them either- Iran did.

    On top of that, the Washington Post and LA Times quoted U.S. intelligence sources who said that helicopters originally bought for crop dusting, were actually used in the Halabja massacre. Former NSC official Howard Teicher wrote a book titled Pillars to Desert Storm: America's Flawed Vision in the Middle East from Nixon to Bush. On page 275, Teicher acknowledges the sale and use of the choppers. Do American officials have Kurdish blood on their hands?

    Furthermore, it was Powell himself, at the time national security adviser under Reagan, who continued to push for more support for Saddam Hussein.

    Was Halabja the target of ethnic cleansing by Iraqi forces? Or were they the victim of attacks and counter-attacks by both Iran and Iraq in efforts to retake the strategically located village? Stephen Pelletiere maintains the position that it was likely Iranian gas that killed the Kurds. Powell tells us it was evil Saddam. Who was it? We may never know.

    Monday, September 15, 2003

    GOOD MOVE BY BUSH: Reuters is reporting that the Bush administration has decided to block some funds of the $9 billion package of U.S. loan guarantees to Israel, because of continued settlement activities in Palestinian territories. Even though it does not mention what settlement(s), my best guess would be the Ariel settlement that lies deep inside the West Bank, which houses around 20,000 Jewish settlers at the moment. I applaud Bush for taking this step, even if it's simply following what the legislation instructs. I can imagine how hard it is to satisfy both the Zionists in Israel and in the South (better known as Tom Delay's constituency).

    Also, under consideration is to cut more if Sharon keeps building his wall inside Palestinian territory to protect his beloved settlements. I hope he follows up on it. Israel, being the welfare state that it is, needs the money especially in these days, when the economy is not at its best.

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Bush administration said on Monday it would withhold some funds from Israel because of its settlement activities in Palestinian areas. But the administration said it has yet to decide whether to penalize Israel over construction of a security fence, which President Bush called "a problem" for U.S. efforts to build trust between Israelis and Palestinians.

    The deductions would come from a $9 billion package of U.S. loan guarantees to help Israel weather a deep recession and fiscal crisis stemming in large part from the three-year-old Palestinian militant revolt against Israel for independence. An administration official said the dollar-amounts for any deductions have yet to be determined.
    (Hat tip: The Agonist)

    UPDATE: Brian Ulrich comments:
    Similar actions by the first President Bush helped push Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir out of office and helped the Oslo peace process get moving, and one hopes this will have a similar result, forcing Israel to at least not make the situation worse for the Palestinians than it already is.

    QUOTE OF THE DAY: The biased headline is titled "U.S. agents limit scrutiny of illegal-immigrant arrests." If you read the article, you find out that the limits do not apply Arabs and Muslims. How odd. Police Chief Raymond Fluck of Green Lane, Montgomery County is quoted as saying:

    "Before 9/11, if you had a person who was illegal, it was hard to get them picked up. Now, if it's an Arab or Muslim, they come in a heartbeat. But not for the others."
    In a heartbeat! We Muslims are quite popular, obviously.

    But it's quite contrary to official policy, ain't it?

    Sunday, September 14, 2003

    THE LIES CONTINUE: As you may remember, on March 16th of this year, Vice-President talked to Tim Russert on Meet the Press predicting exactly the opposite of today’s situation in Iraq. A serious miscalculation or an outright lie? It’s perfectly possible that Cheney really did not expect what happened – the ugly looting and Ba’athist resistance of the occupation. Today Cheney spoke to Russert again, and yes, he continued his campaign of misinformation, by deceiving and misleading watchers at home.

    MR. RUSSERT: The Washington Post asked the American people about Saddam Hussein, and this is what they said: 69 percent said he was involved in the September 11 attacks. Are you surprised by that?

    VICE PRES. CHENEY: No. I think it’s not surprising that people make that connection.

    MR. RUSSERT: But is there a connection?

    VICE PRES. CHENEY: We don’t know. You and I talked about this two years ago. I can remember you asking me this question just a few days after the original attack. At the time I said no, we didn’t have any evidence of that. Subsequent to that, we’ve learned a couple of things. We learned more and more that there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda that stretched back through most of the decade of the ’90s, that it involved training, for example, on BW and CW, that al-Qaeda sent personnel to Baghdad to get trained on the systems that are involved. The Iraqis providing bomb-making expertise and advice to the al-Qaeda organization.

    We know, for example, in connection with the original World Trade Center bombing in ’93 that one of the bombers was Iraqi, returned to Iraq after the attack of ’93. And we’ve learned subsequent to that, since we went into Baghdad and got into the intelligence files, that this individual probably also received financing from the Iraqi government as well as safe haven.

    Now, is there a connection between the Iraqi government and the original World Trade Center bombing in ’93? We know, as I say, that one of the perpetrators of that act did, in fact, receive support from the Iraqi government after the fact. With respect to 9/11, of course, we’ve had the story that’s been public out there. The Czechs alleged that Mohamed Atta, the lead attacker, met in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence official five months before the attack, but we’ve never been able to develop anymore of that yet either in terms of confirming it or discrediting it. We just don’t know.
    Let’s take a look at these claims.

    The first claim, that al-Qaeda sent personnel to Baghdad presumably refers to Abu Mussab al Zarqawi, a Jordanian-born Palestinian. President Bush referred to him in his October 7, 2002 speech and Colin Powell used it on February 5 when he presented his case against Saddam Hussein to the UN Security Council. The Washington Post quoted senior administration officals who doubted al-Zarqawi’s connections with al-Qaeda. Newsweek and Agence-France Presse even cited German court papers that alleged that al-Zarqawi became disentanched with bin Laden’s assertation that the Qu’ran allowed the killing of women and children.The only evidence that is confirmed is that al-Zarqawi searched for physical treatment in Baghdad. Whether he had connections with Saddam Hussein is very doubtful and unlikely.

    The second claim is that of Abdul Rahman Yasin. He met the suspects of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing in Jersey City. He liived together with them and most definitely aided them. Whether he did any actual planning is unknown. He was arrested by the FBI and cooperated, giving telephone numbers and names. He was released, after which he fled to Iraq. There’s no evidence of Iraqi involvement in the bombing, just speculation by conspiracy theorist who lacked any conclusive evidence.

    Thirdly is the old Mohammad Atta story. Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ahani, then consul and second secretary of the Iraqi embassy in the Czech Republic, allegedly met in April 2001. Mohammad Atta was in Virginia Beach at that time. Newsweek quoted FBI and CIA officials who had officially concluded that no such meeting ever occurred based on reports from Czech intelligence which had “quietly acknowledged that they may have been mistaken about the whole thing.”

    Any sane person’s conclusion of this is that Cheney is simply doing what he does best: make up shit. All of these claims have been discredited and proved false. It would be libelous to suggest otherwise.

    ARAFAT'S EXPULSION: I don't know what to make of it. I don't quite see what Sharon is trying to accomplish with this. His expulsion will make him a living legend. Am I the only one who thinks that Tunis and Cairo will actually make it easier for Arafat to exercise control over Fatah or his future puppet in comparison to his half-destroyed compund in Ramallah? Putting Arafat on trial would be a embaressment, because it's likely he has a copy of the Kahane Commission report somewhere. Besides, is anyone convinced that this is being done for the sake of peace? If so, than it's in complete contradiction of Sharon's actions. The Soviet Union didn't build their wall in Berlin because they wanted to live in peace and harmony with the West.

    Of course, the Jerusalem Post is in it's usual insane, ranting-mode:

    [W]e must kill Yasser Arafat, because the world leaves us no alternative.
    Following the roadmap? Dismanteling the settlements and outposts? Normalizing Palestinian life? Withdrawing to the status-quo of September 28th, 2000? Ending violence against Palestinians everywhere? Stop demolishments of Palestinian homes? Ending destruction of Palestinian institutions and infrastructure? Lift curfews? Excuse me for repeating the Roadmap.

    It's this deranged notion of thinking by those who have lost all sanity and balance that leaves the prospect of peace so far away. Here's a newsflash: Russia, the United States, the United Nations, the European Union, the Arab League and the Palestinians have all said the same thing, yet you did not listen. While your leaders met at Aqaba, your soldiers kept grabbing land. Am I the only one who does not think that the fate of the Palestinians and Israelis, of the region itself, relies on what Yasser Arafat or Mahmoud Abbas eat for breakfast, but on the occupying power who hold all the cards?

    On a related note, there's a New York Times article on the city of Abu Dis, which emphasizes the problem that the Jewish settlements pose.
    Just down the slope to the east, blocking any growth by Abu Dis in that direction, is the giant fenced Israeli settlement of Maale Adumin, with its precisely planned lanes, red-tiled roofs and emerald lawns. Maale Adumin has some 30,000 residents, compared with the roughly 50,000 people in Abu Dis and its neighboring villages.
    Abu Dis lies just inside the West Bank, south-east of Jerusalem. According to another website on the city, Ma'li Adumim (alternative spelling of Maale Adumin) is an old colony. In June of 2000, another settlement by the name of "Kedma Tzion" was build. A satelite map of Abu Dis can be found here. (Note that this city is being called a "future Palestinian capital" by some.

    Saturday, September 13, 2003

    I just had to re-produce this letter from Ball State Daily News:

    For the second year in a row, the Rev. Marc Monte of Faith Baptist Church in Avon used his pulpit to address the "evils" of Islam on the Sunday before Sept. 11.

    In an interview with the Indianapolis Star, Monte called Islam "dangerous and hate-promoting." He compared the Quran to KKK literature and Hitler's "Mein Kampf," adding, "I ... smelled a stinking, bloated, dead rat on every page."

    It seems that, on the second anniversary of the Sept. 11 tragedy, we still don't understand that Islam isn't the enemy -- religious extremism is.

    Islam doesn't promote hate or violence; the very word means "submission." Religious extremism promotes both, but members of other faiths have also been known to wrap their political goals in such fanaticism.

    Just ask an Irishman about the IRA and the Ulster Volunteers during the Troubles.

    Christianity hardly has a clean record -- countless people have been killed in its name. Jesus was pretty hard on hypocrites, so it's strange that some who claim to follow him feel safe condemning another faith on the grounds of violence.

    Arrogant attacks on mainstream Islam only make it easier for extremist groups like al-Qaida to recruit new members, and by using religion to promote hatred, Monte has lowered himself to the level of Osama bin Laden. He is as far removed from most Christians as the Sept. 11 hijackers are from most Muslims.

    The Quran itself says that Allah does not love those who exceed the limits in fighting (2.190) and that there should be no hostility except against oppressors (2.193).

    So what did Monte see that scared him so much?

    Perhaps it was this: "When you march up to attack a city, first offer it terms of peace. If it agrees to your terms of peace and opens its gates to you, all the people to be found in it shall serve you in forced labor. But if it refuses to make peace with you and instead offers you battle ... put every male in it to the sword."

    No, wait, that couldn't be it. That's from the Bible (Deuteronomy 20:10-13).

    Guess you can catch a whiff of "rat" in any religious text if you try hard enough.

    Friday, September 12, 2003

    Do you want to meet the person that saved 2600 lives on September 11th? His name is Rick Rescorla. He was the head of security for the investment firm Morgan Stanley Dean Witter. I consider him the greatest American hero. E-v-e-r. You will not meet any person more courageous and fearsome than Rescorla. He fought against Communists in Cyprus and Rhodesia. He fought in Vietnam. In 1990, he evaluated the security in the twin towers and pointed out a weak point. That same point was where a truck bomb exploded in 1993, killing 6 and wounding thousands. He evacuated everone and was the very last person leaving the building. His biggest act of bravery came on that fateful day, September 11, 2001:

    Rick Rescorla's morning is shrouded in some mystery. The tower went dark. Fire raged. Windows shattered. Rescorla headed upstairs before moving down; he helped evacuate several people above the 50th Floor. Stephan Newhouse, chairman of Morgan Stanley International, said at a memorial service in Hayle that Rescorla was spotted as high as the 72nd floor, then worked his way down, clearing floors as he went. He was telling people to stay calm, pace themselves, get off their cell phones, keep moving. At one point, he was so exhausted he had to sit for a few minutes, although he continued barking orders through his bullhorn. Morgan Stanley officials said he called headquarters shortly before the tower collapsed to say he was going back up to search for stragglers.

    John Olson, a Morgan Stanley regional director, saw Rescorla reassuring colleagues in the 10th-floor stairwell. "Rick, you've got to get out, too," Olson told him. "As soon as I make sure everyone else is out," Rescorla replied.


    Rick did not make it out. Neither did two of his security officers who were at his side. But only three other Morgan Stanley employees died when their building was obliterated. However, over 2600 employees of Dean Whitter walked out of the south tower and in to the rest of their lives that morning.
    Read his story here. Read it and weep. When you've done that, sign the online petition calling on the President to award the Medal of Freedom to Rick Rescorla.

    Thursday, September 11, 2003


    Never again.

    Never forgot. (And yes, that's a Palestinian boy in the Gaza Strip.)


    Osama in Afghan clothes? That just sick. I hope he remembers that we still have a have a fatwa so we can fire that Hellfire-missile soon. Afghan schoolgirls sure agree: "Death to Osama!"

    Wednesday, September 10, 2003

    "A this rate, instead of Abu Mazen, we'll have Abu Ala, and he'll be replaced by Abu Ali, and then Abu Jilda or whoever - there are a lot of Abu's in the world."
    - Israeli Tourism Minister Benny Elon, on the consequenses of expelling Yasser Arafat

    UPDATE: Elon is one of the hardliners (see later in the same article) who supports the ethnic cleansing (transfer, shoot-em-all, what's the difference?) policy.

    Tuesday, September 09, 2003

    Ahmad Shah Massoud was Afghanistan's greatest. He fought in jihad, never abondoning his people, against the Soviets and the terrorists. "We fight for freedom. The last thing I want is to live in slavery. You can have everything: food, clothes, a place where to live, but all those things do not have any value, if you have no freedom, pride, independence," Massoud said. He has always been like that: proud and independent, he was devoted to his Fatherland and dreamed to see it free sometime. He was fighting against the Soviets in the Afghan war, and then against the Taliban. He is the combination of a warrior and a politician, his authority was acknowledged in the West, and no one can say what you could see in Afghanistan at present moment, if he was alive. Maybe he could unite Afghan tribes and establish law and order in the country. Maybe.

    Two days before September 11th, they killed Massoud. Two al-Qaeda terrorists posing as journalists murdered him. I remember the day, I heard shouting coming from the basement... "The killed the Lion! They killed the Lion!" My brother kept yelling and yelling and repeating and repeating until I understood what he meant. They killed the Lion of Panjshir.

    Osama, the coward that he was, knew that Massoud was so strong...they had to kill him first, before they butchered 3,000 innocent people in New York and Washington. Osama, martyred my hero, and I will celebrate his forthcoming execution like nothing else.

    "O, Massoud! You fought for us! You were a great warrior. We will never forget you. Sleep now Lion, rest, relax."

    Monday, September 08, 2003

    Billmon discusses the Arab League's decison to recognize and grant the Iraqi Governing Council a seat.

    What strikes me, though, is the degree to which the Arab League has now been prostituted to Anglo-American power -- thanks primarily to the Egyptians and to a lesser extent the Saudis. The administration reportedly pressed down hard on some sensitive spots to get the result it wanted.

    Truly, the League has come a long, long way since the 1967 Khartoum Conference, which produced the famous "Three Nos" -- no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with Israel, no peace with Israel.

    But in achieving this victory, I wonder whether the administration may not have wrecked whatever is left of the League's own legitimacy -- and thus its usefulness as a front for American power. The bullying (and bribing) tactics applied were so obvious and so transparent, it's hard to see how the end product could be viewed with anything other than disgust and rage by a wide swath of Arab popular opinion.
    From the point of view of the Arab street this completely delegitimatizes the Arab nations, since it recognizes the invasion and occupation as legitimate. The Arab world was stunned at the speed of Saddam's overthrow and Iraq's lack of resistance, but saw Saddam's demise as his own fault, yet al-Jazeera's exclusive news coverage (showing the everyday humiliation of Iraqis by American "colonizers") makes Arabs feel humiliated and angry.

    The Arab League's effectiveness as a regional organisation has been severely hampered by divisions between its member states over the past decades, ranging from the Cold War, were some sided with the West and some with the Soviets to the first Gulf war. Back than, some fought alongside us, some opposed while some stayed neutral.

    One simply has to question if the League has any effect at all? It does nothing beyound supporing Palestinians against Israeli occupation, but it issues declarations and that's it. Besides the boycott of Israel, the League is a gathering of non-elected, non-democratic despots, which we unfortunately have to deal with it.

    I haven't discussed Iraq at length in a while, so I will take the time to do that right now.

    Dick Cheney's prediction in an interview by Tim Russert on March 16th. Mr. Russert asked: "If your analysis is not correct, and we're not treated as liberators, but as conquerors, and the Iraqis begin to resist, particularly in Baghdad, do you think the American people are prepared for a long, costly, and bloody battle with significant American casualties?" Vice-President Cheney answered: "Well, I don't think it's likely to unfold that way, Tim, because I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators...[...]...the read we get on the people of Iraq is there is no question but what they want to the get rid of Saddam Hussein and they will welcome as liberators the United States when we come to do that...[...]... Now, I can't say with certainty that there will be no battle for Baghdad...[...]...But to suggest that we need several hundred thousand troops there after military operations cease, after the conflict ends, I don't think is accurate. I think that's an overstatement."

    As it turned out, there's fierce resistance to American occupation and British as well. It has cost almost a hundred soldiers their lives, with a total dead of 167 since May 2nd, when Bush announced the end of military operations in Iraq. The Pentagon originally figured on reducing troop strength to 30,000 by September of 2003--yes, that's this year--which obviously is in complete contradiction of reality. Basic services such as electricity and water should never been a problem, yet both are far from pre-war levels. According to the Army's Corps of Engineers, along 700 miles of Iraq's high-voltage distribution there are now 623 destroyed towers, in contrast to 20 just after the war. (Hat tip: Left I) Iraqi oil revenues were supposed to cover the costs of the occupation we were told. One U.S. official said back in January that: "[The oil] is going to fund the U.S. military presence there. They're not just going to take the Iraqi oil and use it for Iraq's purpose. They will charge the Iraqis for the U.S. cost of operating in Iraq. I don't think they're planning as far as I know to use Iraqi oil to pay for the invasion, but they are going to use it to pay for the occupation." Of course, this plan failed also.

    The situation today: more troops had been killed since major combat operations ceased, Paul Bremer is our second civil administrator in Iraq, Bernard Kerik (former New York City Police Commissioner) has left abruptly (even though he promised to "at least six months - until the job is done," yet only three months have past), ammunication facilities visited by U.S. troops but left behind have been used to kill Americans, al-Qaeda has made a presence in Iraq, the most holy shrine of Shi'ite Islam has been bombed, and finally, no weapons of mass destruction have been found.

    We reach the simple conclusion that the post-war planning--surprise!--simply was very bad. And plan B is active now, just to let you know.

    So Bush is asking for 87 billion for Iraq? I warned you a long time ago that oil revenues alone wouldn't make up for all of the costs.

    So now we know that the oil revenues aren't enough. Our allies aren't up to the challenge. Our Plan A failed and now we switched to plan B. But I'm sure that Cheney won't give up $180,000 a year (or is it one million?) in deferred compensation he gets from Halliburton, to help remove the burden from the American taxpayers' shoulders.

    But when asked what I personally would do for 87 billion... I'd get it changed to pennies, just to see the pile. That would make my day.


    [Rumsfeld] said if Washington's enemies believed Bush might waver or his opponents prevail, that could increase support for their activities.

    "They take heart in that and that leads to more money going into these activities or that leads to more recruits or that leads to more encouragement or that leads to more staying power," he told reporters traveling with him on his plane.

    "Obviously that does make our task more difficult."

    "Terrorists studied...instances when the United States was dealt a blow and tucked in, and persuaded themselves that they could in fact cause us to acquiesce in whatever it is they wanted to do," he said. "The United States is not going to do that, President (George W.) Bush is not going to do that."
    Aiding the terrorists, huh? Funny at best, but it's interesting that Rumsfeld brought up Somalia. Anybody else remember the heated Republican senators calling for a withdrawal from Mogadishu? It was a Republican-controlled Congress that pushed Clinton to withdraw troops.

    Neither do I think that terrorists "studied" Somalia, we just had Osama laughing at us on videos. (By the way, the Somalis were probably trained by Osama linked guys but evidence is circumstanstial, this book claims. In one interview, bin Laden even claimed that the Americans were trying to get him through Somalia. Bin Laden was in neighboring Sudan at the time.)

    UPDATE: Aziz Poonawalla recognizes a pattern:
    The Administration has waged a War on Dissent from the first hours after 9-11, starting with Ari Fleischer's famous Orwellian warning to all Americans that:
    "they need to watch what they say and what they do, and this is not a time for remarks like that; there never is."
    or John Ashcroft who labeled debate on the tradeoff of security vs. liberty as "tactics" that "aid terrorists for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve." Ashcroft went on to later explicitly label dissent as "traitorous" and claimed that "those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty" are aiding the terrorists.
    UPDATE 2: Atrios is not laughing:
    Frankly I'm getting a little tired of being told I'm a traitor and that I'm responsible for getting our troops killed by the guys who created this whole mess in the first place.

    This is the sickest kind of political discourse imaginable, and the fact that it's standard stuff these days and not being met with universal outrage by our liberal media shows how low we've gone.

    Andrew Sullivan writes:

    The extra beauty of this strategy is that it creates a target for Islamist terrorists that is not Israel. A key objective of the current U.S. strategy is to show that Israel is not the fundamental cause of instability and mayhem in the Middle East - but a victim of the same kind of pathological religious extremism that has destroyed Iran, brutalized Afghanistan and blackmailed Saudi Arabia.
    So would Mr. Sullivan rather have Iraqi Muslims die in Najaf and Baghdad rather than Israeli Jews in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv? Maybe, but that's not my point even though it's a disgusting thought.

    The conflict of Israel has nothing to do with religious extremism. It does have to do with Palestinians and Israelis being killed, slaughtered, wounded, shot, bombed, kidnapped and ethnically cleansed. It has to do with elderly Jewish settlers beating up Palestinian kids. It has to do with Palestinians blowing up Jewish children. Israelis and Palestinians have brutalized and blackmailed each other; not "religious extremism." If Mr. Sullivan thinks that, he may want to talk to any Palestinian or Israeli.

    Sunday, September 07, 2003

    I don't usually comment on American politics, especially state-level. But the following caught my attention today:

    California Gov. Gray Davis on Saturday took a dig at Republican gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger, telling one potential voter at a campaign stop that "you shouldn't be governor unless you can pronounce the name of the state."

    And the Schwarzenegger campaign wants a formal apology.

    In his public remarks to about 300 members of the Los Angeles Ironworkers Local 433, Davis suggested Schwarzenegger -- whom he referred to only as "the actor" -- would repeal Davis-backed union gains such as daily overtime pay and family-leave benefits, reported the Sacramento Bee.

    "I've signed 300 bills to help working people," Davis said. "These are measures that strengthen your lives. Now my opponent, this actor, says 'I'm not going to ask for support from working people because they are a special interest.' He's got part of it right. You are special, and you have an important and special role to play in our future, and I am proud to stand with you."

    Whipped into an anti-Schwarzenegger frenzy at the picnic, one crowd member screamed, "He's a foreigner!" as Davis criticized the Austrian-born Terminator, who hopes to take over his seat in the Oct. 7 recall election.

    The man who made the foreigner comment later apologized to Davis for making the remark.

    Davis told him not to worry, the Bee reported, and added with a smile, "You shouldn't be governor unless you can pronounce the name of the state," in an apparent reference to Schwarzenegger's Austrian accent.

    Later at an Asian American rally against the recall in Alhambra, an appointee to the Workforce Investment Board suggested that Schwarzenegger's accent hindered his governing abilities.

    "He can't even speak English well. How can he govern the state of California?" Sukhee Kang, who emigrated from South Korea in 1977, asked the crowd before Davis arrived, the Bee reported.
    First of, my stand on re-call. I don't live in California, but I'm against the recall. The Republicans have been trying to subvert democracy, starting with the Lewinsky affair, than 2000 elections and this year's California recall. Blaming Gray Davis for the recall is stupid too, since he's not caused it. If you blame the California legislature, than I'd agree. Bushamante or Davis, I don't really care.

    But what's up with this vicious attack? A couple of weeks ago, Davis said that "when Republicans can't win elections fair and square, they resort to this, I am going to fight this recall and the right-wing forces behind it." And I agred. His speech was great and he's incredibly charasmatic too, much like Clinton. I'm fine with Davis mocking Schwarznegger as "the actor" because that's what he is and that's the only reason a media-cult is following him in every step.

    But Schwarznegger meets all the requirements and as long as he's an American citizen, he's not a foreigner. Does the fact that he wasn't born in America make him less electable than Davis in the eyes of honest voters? Absolutely not. Does the fact that he's a not a politican, but an actor make him less electable? Yes. Attack him on his incompetence. We, the Left, would be ganging up on any Republican doing this.

    Friday, September 05, 2003

    I'll be doing a weekly round-up of underreported news on Afghanistan, followed by brief comments.

  • Pashtun tribes on the Afghan-Pakistan border are providing arms to the re-emerging Taliban, the Daily Telegraph is reporting. In addition, rumors are that special forces are co-operatin with Pakistani troops in the Mohmand agency, which the Pakistanis entered for the first time last week. During the same week, Pakistani army officers were arrested who were allegedly co-operating with the Taliban.

  • Afghans are fed-up with the warlords, and are now working with the Taliban to get rid of them, the Associated Press is reporting. At least, that's what the Taliban--or whatever is left of it--is claiming: ''We know they don't like the Taliban, but they hate the looters and killers even more.''

  • E-Ariana has an interesting article on Afghan Supreme Court Chief Justice Maulavi Fazl Hadi Shinwari and President Bush's ironic statements. More irony: Shinwari is a Wahabi. Afghanistan is slowly returning to the Taliban-like attitudes, since moderates are being stifled by Islamic radicals and powerful warlords.

    Scott McClellan answering journalists' questions during last Tuesday's White House briefing on the Taliban's re-emergence in Afghanistan.

    Q: The Talibans are back now in Afghanistan and are fighting and we have multinational forces, that's true. But how come the Talibans are still there?

    Mr. McClellan: We continue to make progress in Afghanistan. There, again, you have enemies of peace and enemies of freedom, and enemies of the people of Afghanistan. That's why we're continuing our efforts to bring those former -- those Taliban members to justice, as well, and bring any terrorists there in that country to justice, too. We're making some important progress.
    Important progress? What progress? Take the reconstruction of the Kabul-Kandahar highway, for example. The United States, Japan and Saudi Arabia collected $180 million dollar to re-build the road, mainly consisting of potholes and shell holes. Newsweek's Richard Wolffe comments on the road and the "progress" that has reported to been made on the road:
    [T]he road is still short of money, in spite of the international promises to help pay for the project. Aid workers complain that the new road is being built so quickly now "to meet the end-of-year deadline" that it will rapidly fall apart. Administration officials insist such criticism of the road construction is misplaced. "Are you going to finish a road that is useful or half-finish a road that is perfect?" asked one.

    However, supporters of President Bush's foreign policy team believe the road project faces an even more fundamental problem than the depth of its asphalt. Republican senators who recently returned from the region concluded that the road will remain half-finished without adequate security to protect those driving along it. "You've still got a security vacuum in the south," says one Senate aide. "The big question is: if you increase traffic along this road, aren't you going to create a soft target for bandits, looters, thugs and the Taliban?"
    Not exactly what you read in the New York Times, is it? Instead of re-building the 300-mile road that takes 2 days of travel, the White House has resorted to look-good politics. Yes, the road will be finished, but as the reporter asked: is it going to be a nice photo-op or a job well done? An obvious observation is that Afghanistan has essentially fallen off the radar screen, especially in the wake of the war and occupation of Iraq. Afghanistan has been neglected. Even though I'm happy that our $900 million of our tax-money is going to Afghanistan, most of it goes re-training the Afghan army, police and shoring up Karzai's unstable government. A small fraction of that amount goes to rebuilding Afghanistan, in the sense of the word. If the Bush administration chooses to help the Afghan people through aid--unlike Iraq where intentions and priorities are different--than Afghan aid must be the highest priority. And to answer the question of the so-called Senate aide: if we build and secure this road, than trade, travel and commerce will resume. A NATO-peacekeeping expansion may be necesarry, but if that is what it takes, than the Bush administration must push for it.

    My nation has been devastated by nearly a quarter-century of continuous war and it is scarred by tribal feuds that go back centuries more. In addition, time may not be on our side. The resurgent Taliban is recruiting more members and becoming increasingly bold in Afghanistan's southern and eastern reaches. Iraq has tended to suck up most of the oxygen in the war on terrorism and it has pushed Afghanistan down the agenda as a Bush administration priority. But Afghanistan is where the war began, and, lest we forget, the mastermind of 9/11, Osama bin Laden, and his host, Mullah Mohammed Omar, are still at large. "Have we forgotten?" was the question, when television networks made clear that they had no special programming to commemorate the second anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. I ask that very same question. Have we forgotten?