Thursday, October 30, 2003

MICHAEL TOTTEN ON TAKING RISKS: Michael Totten, liberal turned hawk, is right on one issue: liberals are mad, but it's not because we "taking down" a dictator. In fact, I think uou could say that liberals are mad at Bush for every single thing he has one in Iraq, except removing Saddam Hussein.

I remember the day, and it wasn't so long ago, that liberals like me were attacking our government for supporting dictators. Now these new "liberals," or whatever they want to call themselves, attack our government for taking down dictators.

Yep. I suppose they could plead "isolationism" as an excuse for the inconsistency. But the left has never been isolationist. Never. That's the position of the old right. The tragedy of the liberals is that a whole swath has run off the farm to join Pat Buchanan in Palookaville. And I used to say that if Buchanan were elected president I'd have to move to Canada.
We invaded Iraq, because it was perceived a "growing and grave threat." We went in because Saddam supposedly had WmD which he could deliver to terroists at any time. But when no WmD were found, when no al-Qaeda members were found anywhere under Saddam's control, when Bush's case crumbled, the hawks flip-flopped. The justifications switched almost weekly. But when all their justifications were exposed as bogus, they found a place to duck when they were looking for cover.

We never went to war to remove a vicious dictator. We never went to war to liberate an oppresed people. Even if we did go to war because Saddam was such a miserable and vicious bastard, it wouldn't be worth it. Or so says Paul Wolfowitz.
The truth is that for reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on which was weapons of mass destruction as the core reason, but... there have always been three fundamental concerns. One is weapons of mass destruction, the second is support for terrorism, the third is the criminal treatment of the Iraqi people. Actually I guess you could say there's a fourth overriding one which is the connection between the first two... The third one by itself, as I think I said earlier, is a reason to help the Iraqis but it's not a reason to put American kids' lives at risk, certainly not on the scale we did it.
While we're on the subject, what has America's most dastardly neocon and prime architect of the Iraq war been up to lately?
[Wolfowitz] praised past "great leaders" such as the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, King Hussein of Jordan and former Israeli leaders Shimon Perez and the assassinated Yitzhak Rabin. "The cause of peace in the Middle East will be enormously advanced if Israelis and Palestinians can demonstrate overwhelming numbers in support of compromise and in opposition to terrorism," Wolfowitz said.

He had harsh words for both sides, criticizing Israel for continuing settlements in the occupied territories and causing Palestinian suffering in those territories. He said Palestinians must stop terrorist attacks on Israel. "If the Palestinians would adopt the ways of Gandhi, I think they could, in fact, make enormous changes very, very quickly," Wolfowitz said. "I believe in the power of individuals demonstrating peacefully. The bombings and the violent response to the bombings in the last several months have certainly been a big setback, and we've got to get it back on track," Wolfowitz said. Wolfowitz also voiced support Thursday for an unofficial drive for a two-state solution to conflict in the Middle East, showing the administration's frustration with hard-line leaders on both sides.

Wolfowitz praised the petition drive by a prominent Palestinian moderate and the former head of Israel's secret service. Wolfowitz said he met last week with Israeli Adm. Ami Ayalon and Palestinian professor Sari Nusseibeh, who say they have collected 100,000 Israeli and 60,000 Palestinian signatures on their petition in just three months.

Their petition calls for Israel to withdraw to the borders it had before the 1967 war in which it captured the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The document calls for a demilitarized Palestinian state in those territories.

In a lecture at Georgetown University, Wolfowitz said the petition's principles "look very much like" the Bush administration's "road map" to a peaceful, two-state solution by 2005. "One of the keys to achieving peace is to somehow mobilize majorities on both sides so the extremists who oppose it can be isolated," Wolfowitz said. "As Americans, we know there are times when great changes can extend from the grass roots."
That's Jerusalem Post's "Man of the Year" for ya.

FILE THIS UNDER "IT WAS ABOUT TIME:" At least there are some clear-thinking people left in Jerusalem.

Israel's army commander was on a collision course with Ariel Sharon yesterday after he attacked the prime minister's hardline security policies for damaging "our strategic interests". Lt-Gen Moshe Ya'alon, the chief of staff, gave a detailed critique of every aspect of Mr Sharon's approach to the Palestinians. He called for the easing of travel restrictions in the West Bank and criticised the government's public debate on the future of Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader.

Gen Ya'alon's criticisms, delivered in a briefing to three Israeli newspapers, were all the more surprising because of his hawkish reputation. At the height of the intifada last year he argued for punitive measures to "sear into the Palestinian consciousness" that Israel was invincible. Yet Gen Ya'alon's latest words betray deep unease in the security establishment over Israel's failure to end the three-year uprising.

Yesterday he told Shaul Mofaz, the defence minister, that he was responsible for critical remarks attributed to "army officials" that appeared in Yedioth Ahronoth, the biggest-selling Israeli daily. Gen Ya'alon refused to retract any of his words, despite reports that Mr Sharon was "furious". The general told the newspaper that Israel's policies in the occupied territories were "operating contrary to our strategic interests".

Restrictions imposed on the West Bank prevent Palestinians from moving between cities or using the main road network and 482 military checkpoints divide the West Bank into 300 clusters.

Gen Ya'alon said these restrictions were increasing hatred of Israel and encouraging terrorism. He wanted them lifted, but the defence minister had vetoed anything more than minor adjustments. Gen Ya'alon said the Gaza Strip, which is fenced off from Israel, and Palestinian towns such as Bethlehem and Jericho, where few terrorist attacks are organised, should see most restrictions lifted. This proposal had also been blocked. "There is no hope, no expectations for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, nor in Bethlehem and Jericho," said Gen Ya'alon. He voiced unease over the "security fence" which Israel is building to keep out Palestinian suicide bombers by sealing off the West Bank.
Noted without comment.

BREAKING NEWS: You may have heard about the shutdown of three congressional buildings after a toy gun's image was seen on a X-Ray machine. I work about 300 yards from the Capitol, but the Cannon building is even beyond that and out of my sight. I have seen black SUVs (most likely SWAT teams) speed by and congressional staffers walk toward metro-stations. I guess this is a good sign and assurance of tight security.

UPDATE: In an un-related incident, two kids are shot in front of a high-school in south-east D.C. Guess it's all part of the daily life in Washington.

LEWIS & WOOLSEY: The Wall Street Journal has a joint editorial by Bernard Lewis and James Woolsey with a plan to bring back the old Hashemite family to rule Iraq. Yes, Jordan and Iraq; one country ruled by the Hashemites, at the same time implementing the 1925 Constitution with minor changes. This, of course, is ridicilous. Iraqis hate Jordanians and most cetainly hate this idea. If you want excellent commentary on this story and a good laugh... read Abu Aardvark.

Where have you gone, Prince Hassan of Jordan, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you, ooh ooh oooh... What's that you say, Mr. Lewis and Mr. Woolsey, Joltin' Hassan was replaced at the last minute by his brother's son Abdullah and is now cooling his heels thinking big thoughts all day... hey, hey, hey.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

LESSON IN TERROR: Matthew Yglesias points to this little nugget by NRO's David Frum. Frum writes about the upside and the great lessons terrorism teaches us--or, to be more exact, Arabs.

The grisly events in Baghdad shock and horrify--but they also underscore the logic of the Iraq campaign. So long as the victims of terrorism were Westerners, it was not going to be easy to persuade the people of the Middle East of the moral wrongness of terror. You will sometimes hear moderate Palestinians condemn suicide bombing as "counter-productive," but almost never as "immoral." Alas, that's just how human beings are: We accept the sufferings of others with remarkable calm. Now, though, the Islamic extremists are turning their violence on the people of Baghdad and institutions that serve those people. It's as vivid a lesson as possible of what is at issue in the war on terror--and precisely the kind of lesson most likely to change minds in the Arab world.
So why didn't we just fly planes into buildings in Baghad or bomb heavily populated residential areas? Last time the terrorists killed innocent Iraqis at the United Nations, it was a good sign because they were hitting soft targets. Even if this wasn't an insane suggestion (and it is), it would inflame the anti-American sentiment.

I wonder if Frum agrees that 9/11 was a lesson for what the American government did in, say, Chile or Iran.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

CIA CONTRACTORS KILLED: Does somebody know more about this? Apparently, two CIA contractors "tracking terrorists" have been killed in Afghanistan. But the CIA never publicly states that its agents (or contractors for that matter) have died nor does it release their names. I could be wrong here but it seems odd to me.

AFGHANISTAN UPDATE: I said it and I'll say it again. The Washington Post seems to be the only newspaper with decent coverage of Afghanistan.

Karzai has stepped up to the plate. These are decisive times. Can Karzai handle the warlords and will the warlords give up without a fight? As I've noted, warlords Abdul Rashid Dostum and Atta Mohammad have been battling for power in northern Afghanistan, especially around Mazer-e-Sharif. The two sides have fought numerous times last year and last month the battle heated up again. An instable cease-fire was declared but Karzai moved even further. On Monday, both Dostum and Mohammad were removed from power. In another move today, 300 newly trained police officers took over in Mazer-e-Sharif.

The man behind all of this seems to be Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali. He's an exile who worked at the Voice of America and is close to Hamid Karzai. He was also behind the firing of the Kabul police-chief after a housing-scandal. Read both stories for the details.

UPDATE: Brian Ulrich is fact-checking my ass in the comments section. Dostum and Mohammad weren't removed, but low-level commanders were. When you hear and conflicting reports, you mess things up.

JEW-HATER: From Bruce Jackson's op-ed in the Washington Post...

In dollar terms, we are witnessing the largest illegal expropriation of Jewish property in _______ since the Nazi seizures during the 1930s.
Fill in the blank. Maybe we should have shift of focus on anti-Semitism, huh? He's responsible for major-crimes in Checnya, than tries to join the ummah and than this. Maybe the Left and the Right can join forces on this issue. It would be rair. Read the op-ed to find out what's to fill in the blank.

(Sorry for being absent lately. Start of Ramadan, work and family-business prevented me from being able to blog.)

Saturday, October 25, 2003

TALIBAN'S COMEBACK: A couple of people have e-mailed me about different wire reports alleging that the Afghan government has been talking to "moderate" Taliban members in order to sway them to join the government and end the Taliban insurgence in southern provinces. I talked to several people who are more a bit more knowledgeable than me. This is what they had to say.

The Taliban is not only waging a guerilla war in the southern provinces of Zabul, Paktia and Kandahar, but has started a PR-offensive. The Taliban has come forward to journalists from several lesser-known news organizations and has been granting interviews to top officials. Balochistan and Waziristan are two provinces on the Pakistani side that have usually been totally closed off from Westerners and anyone from the Pakistani government. Things have changed though and now journalists are invited and talked to. The border towns on the Afghan-Pakistani border are solid staging grounds for Taliban and al-Qaeda who then infiltrate into Afghanistan.

The Afghan government and Western officials (Zalmay Khalilzad being the prime and only suspect) are seeking the cooperation of "moderate" Taliban officials (and this is surely not the first time) like Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil. Two reasons: The Bush administration has growing frustrated with the inability of restoring order in areas outside of the capital, even sending American troops to fight Taliban insurgents, and looked for other solutions. The second reasons: the present government in Kabul is far from being accepted by the Pashtuns in the south as adequately representing their interests. Having failed thus far in its efforts to find Pashtun political leaders, who would be acceptable to their community and at the same time be attentive to the interests of the West, they turned to earlier discarded ideas. But who's behind the new idea? Pervez Musharraf. Musharraf's idea of seeking the cooperation of what Musharraf describes as moderate Taliban was floated earlier to prevent the Northern Alliance from entering Kabul, something Musharraf feared would cause civil unrest in his own country. This, in addition to an expanded ISAF-force, is hoped to bring stability. Success is all but guaranteed mainly because the Taliban has a complex web of leadership.

Attention has turned to Iraq. The result? Better and more Taliban-cadres safely operating from their sanctuaries in Pakistan, with Musharraf unable and unwilling to move against them.

UPDATE: My prediction of what's going to happen to Muttawakil? Exile. Maybe Britain or some Arab country.

AFGHANISTAN UPDATE: The latest briefing on Afghanistan:

  • The Afghan government has officialy launched the UN-sponsored "Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Program" (DDR), kicking it off in the far northern province of Kunduz, which borders Uzbekistan. The program was formed to disarm the 100,000 militia loyal to different warlords and integrate them into civilian life. I am and remain pessimistic, but the Washington Post, which seems to be the only newspaper with decent coverage of Afghanistan, has a more optimistic piece. According to the story, in return for their weapons, "each fighter [is] handed a plastic ID card that entitled him to $200, a change of civilian clothes, a box of food and vocational training and employment counseling in such fields as land mine clearance, road construction and factory work." While Fahim-loyalist Gen. Daud Khan's (not the cousin of Zahir Shah, whom he disposed), disarmament of 1,000 fighters was a good, and mostly ceremonial sign, it won't be this easy in other places, I'm sure.

  • Defense Minister Mohammed Fahim is trying to ethnically and factionally balance his department to satisfy his critics. But he's still firmly in control with chief of staff Gen. Bismullah Khan beside him. Equal representation means nothing when you have tanks in the capital and defy the Bonn accord. It's about Fahim; what he does what he doesn't do; his opponents act according to Fahim's moves. This issue, too, comes down to the pacification of Afghanistan. With recent clashes between warlords (one loyal to Fahim) continuing despite cease-fires, the warlords will keep their arms as a deterrent and safe-guard from losing power.

  • The New York Times reviews Saira Shah's first book, "''The Storyteller's Daughter''. Shah is known most notably for her excellent documentary "Beneath the Veil," an undercover, under-burqa project that captured the brutality of the Taliban. Shah is the daughter of an aristocrat; an author and lyricist in the sufist tradition, Idries Shah. Idries Shah and Jelaluddin Rumi are two great Afghan sufis. I'm just sayin'.
  • Friday, October 24, 2003

    NOT SO MODERATE MUSLIMS: Via the unvaluable Atrios, I read this transcript of an interview with John Loftus on the Olbermann show...

    LOFTUS: Well, you know, it's a funny story. About a year-and-a-half ago, people in the intelligence community came and said-guys like Alamoudi and Sami al-Arian and other terrorists weren't being touched because they'd been ordered not to investigate the cases, not to prosecute them, because there were being funded by the Saudis and a political decision was being made at the highest levels, don't do anything that would embarrass the Saudi government. So, of course I immediately volunteered to do it and I filed a lawsuit, against al-Arian charging him with being a major terrorist for Islamic Jihad, most of his money came from Saudi charities in Virginia.

    Now, Alamoudi's headquarters were in the same place, he was raided the same day, on March 20. An hour after I filed my lawsuit, the U.S. government finally got off its butt and they raided these offices. And, the stuff that they're taking out of there now is absolutely horrendous. Al-Arian has now, finally been indicted, an along with Alamoudi, today.

    But, who was it that fixed the cases? How could these guys operate for more than a decade immune from prosecution? And, the answer is coming out in a very strange place. What Alamoudi and al-Arian have in common is a guy named Grover Norquist. He’s the super lobbyist. Newt Gingrich's guy, the one the NRA calls on, head of American taxpayers. He is the guy that was hired by Alamoudi to head up the Islamic institute and he's the registered agent for Alamoudi, personally, and for the Islamic Institute.

    Grover Norquist's best friend is Karl Rove, the White House chief of staff, and apparently Norquist was able to fix things. He got extreme right wing Muslim people to be the gatekeepers in the White House. That's why moderate Americans couldn't speak out after 9/11. Moderate Muslims couldn't get into the White House because Norquist's friends were blocking their access.

    OLBERMANN: How does this tie back into the thing that apparently pulled the stopper out of the drain, if you will-The developers at Guantanamo bay? How rotten is the system of the interpreters and the chaplains-the Muslim Chaplains that Alamoudi was involved in setting up?

    LOFTUS: It's as rotten as it gets. Think of the Muslim chaplain's program that he set up as a spy service for al-Qaeda. The damage that's been done is extreme. It wasn't just sending home mom and dad messages from the prisoners. These guys, this network in Guantanamo, stole the CIA's briefing books. Everything that the CIA knew about al-Qaeda is now back in al-Qaeda hands. That's about as bad an intelligence setback as you can get.

    OLBERMANN: John, how does this end up? How far will the investigation into this necessarily have to go to get to the bottom of it?

    LOFTUS: There's a lot more to go. Norquist had a lot of other clients. There's a whole alphabet soup of Saudi agencies that funded terrorism in this country. They had an awful lot of protection. And, one of the things we may find about 9/11 is that people out in the field weren't allowed to connect the dots and questions will be asked whether guys like Grover Norquist were part of the problem?
    Ignore all the other stuff as circumstantial and focus on the White House-Norquist-Alamoudi connection. Norquist makes sure that his Muslim friends, who say that they are moderate and representative of American Muslims, are the ones that get the photo-op with Bush and are close with the White House. I have heard this kind of talk about American-Muslim groups from the likes of National Review and Daniel Pipes so I always treated it as garbage. The recent arrest of Alamoudi has raised questions about the people who claim to represent our interests.

    You can connect the dots and pull your conclusions, because I sure can't. It's circumstantial and suspect, but that doesn't mean it's not true. We shouldn't be afraid of asking questions, though.

    HMMM: One of the visitors from Israel came here by searching for "haaretz hamas likud funded 70s." Hmmmm.

    Thursday, October 23, 2003

    AFGHAN VOICE EXCLUSIVE: Here's an exclusive picture of Miss Afghanistan in traditional Afghan clothing. Remember--Afghan Voice brought it to you first!

    UPDATE: ABC News story from December of 2001 on the first and, until a short while ago, the only Miss Afghanistan.

    AL-SADR WATCH: Aziz Poonawalla tends to paint a more rosy picture of Muqtada al-Sadr. I have called him a street thug, because, well, that's what I think he is. I don't think he's interested in representing Iraqi Shiites (he doesn't) or living up to his father's (Iraq's grand ayatollah murdered by Saddam Hussein in February of 1999) legacy. Al-Sadr is out for power and has done everything to fill the void left by the precipitous fall of Saddam Hussein; I agree with him on that. Aziz also brings up the point of Khomeinism in Iraq and its potential of becoming reality. Do Iraq's Shiites want a Khomeini-style theocracy in Iraq? It's true we can only speculate but a good guess would be that most don't.

    Aziz also debunks the notion that Al-Sadr wants to set up a Khomeini-style, but I think he relies on a minimal amount of quotes. There are contradictory claims from Juan Cole, for example, who writes in the Boston Review that both Sadr and the Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) seek "a clerically dominated Islamic republic in Iraq."

    Al-Sadr may be openly challenging the United States-led occupation of Iraq, but he also has threathened the authority of clerics currently holding power. Last week, he (violently) challenged authority in Karbala. He failed.

    MISS AFGHANISTAN: Meet my future wife. BBC says she studies in California. Maybe something closer to home, please?

    Wednesday, October 22, 2003

    THE SPIRIT OF RAMADAN: Searching for 'Ramadan' at Google News can be fun. Some of the uplifting stories you'll find.

  • U.S. plans to lift Baghdad curfew for Ramadan

  • Jakarta to stop forced evictions during Ramadan

  • Chirac named as best date in Cairo

  • But than there's this story: Plan to arrest maverick Iraqi cleric for murder
    Coalition and Iraqi officials are preparing an arrest warrant for the firebrand Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr over his alleged involvement with the brutal murder of a rival cleric last spring, sources close to the Iraqi governing council told the Guardian yesterday. The warrant, which has yet to be finalised, cites Mr Sadr for instigating a deadly attack on Abdel Majid al-Khoei, who was stabbed to death by a mob in the Shia holy city of Najaf on April 10.

    ....It is said to be signed by Tahir Jalil Habboush - a senior mukhabarat officer under the former regime who now works with the coalition authorities - and is based on the confessions of 23 men who were involved in the killing. "The belief of the coalition is that al-Sadr is not containable," the council source said. "They believe there is enough evidence that Muqtada was involved in the Khoei assassination and want to act to clip his wings before he can cause any more damage."

    ..."If they go down to Najaf to arrest him, his house will be surrounded by a human shield, and there would be a massacre before they get him," said Murtadha Nouri, a journalist with the newspaper Al-Adala. He warned that the planned showdown could backfire: "Given the antipathy towards the US, that could well play into his hands."

    ...The bulk of the evidence against Mr Sadr is understood to be based on confessions from 23 men arrested after the attack. Three are reported to have confessed to the stabbing while another 20 said they prevented Mr Khoei from seeking help while bleeding to death. Under questioning, they admitted receiving direct instructions from the young cleric, the source said.
    What's next? Desecrating Qu'rans? No, it couldn't be.

    RUMMY'S DISSENT: Apparently USA Today got their hands on a Pentagon-memo written by Rumsfeld to General Dick Meyers, Paul Wolfowitz, Pete Pace and Doug Faith. InstaHack goes on to call it a leak, but the article itself (remember--always click on the link!) suggests no such thing. The memo isn't likely to be classified or anything of that matter and was given to three different members of Congress. In the memo he wrote the following:

    Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?
    I wonder too. But Iraq isn't the place to find them.

    (**UPDATE: Leaks get published on the Pentagon's website now? Thanks to Jesse.**)

    Rumsfeld also points to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. A quick refresher course on Gulbuddin (he's often referred to by his first name, like many Afghans are): Gulbuddin leads the Hezb-i-Islami, which translates to "Party of Islam." He's a Sunni Pashtun and he was an early member of the Khalq and Parcham. He became a disaffected Marxists and started his Islamist movement in Pakistan. He used to be the darling of Pakistani intelligence agency, the ISI and therefore received millions, if not billions, in CIA-money and a large amount of Stingers, I suspect. After the Soviet puppet-government fell in 1992, Gulbuddin became Prime Minister, serving under President, Burhanuddin Rabbani. Then in early 1994, he broke with the government and went on to shell Kabul together with Abdul Rashid Dostum, which was Gulbuddin's claim to fame. Liberate it and then bomb it once in a while. It was the most destructive of Kabul. Thousands were killed, while more were injured and forced to flee. A year later, Gulbuddin and Rabbani's Northern Alliance teamed together again, this time taking on Dostum and the Taliban. The Northern Alliance was forced north to Mazer-i-Sharif and Gulbuddin fled to take refuge in Iran. The Pakistanis switched sides and favored the Taliban. Some time after the Northern Alliance took Kabul; Gulbuddin returned to Afghanistan and was speculated to have teamed up with (mostly) Taliban and al-Qaeda. Although his relations with the Taliban went sour a long time ago, this claim is likely to be true. Technically, he isn't Taliban (as Rumsfeld claims he is part of) but another vicious power-mad warlord. The Hellfire missile that was fired at Gulbuddin in May of last year missed him, but it did send a signal.

    Everyone claims that Gulbuddin is either the CIA's, Pakistan's or Taliban's puppet. But he's not. He has his own agenda and works for himself. As long as he's out there, he's a threat. And it's a good thing he's a target.

    ELECTRONIC JIHAD: A message to Muslims around the world. It seems that Muslims have been the perpetrators behind this week's multiple Denial-of-Service attacks on Zionist propaganda conservative blogs. Please join me in condeming these horrible atta....

    Or not. I actually thought funny how fast they blamed it on al-Qaeda. The time has ended when everybody would just blame it on the Canadians.

    Warbloggers: Life. Get one.

    Tuesday, October 21, 2003

    VIDEO FROM AFGHANISTAN: You really have to take a look at the Washington Post's video series from Afghanistan. Pretty amazing.

    Monday, October 20, 2003

    HONEST REVIEWS: Earlier this week we had an honest conservative with an honest review of Al Franken's "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right." Becky Miller called Franken's book "amazing." This time around we have an honest review of Alan Dershowitz's "The Case For Israel" by Adam Rubin, assistant professor of Jewish history at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles. Look, I'm not into demonizing Israel's hard-core supporters (unless they do something that totally discredits themselves) because it's a) time-consuming b) childish and c) tiring. I'd just like to quote Rubin's review.... is the latest in a long tradition of hasbarah, propaganda, that is not unlike the material produced by the Israeli Office of Hasbarah in years past, or pamphlets issues today by various pro-Israel advocacy groups in the United States... In seeking to "make the case for Israel," Dershowitz, a professor of law at Harvard and prominent defense attorney, has abandoned any pretense of balance, nuance or objectivity, all of which are guiding values for professional historians.


    Dershowitz also uses evidence from Morris to argue that the Arab leaders of Haifa encouraged their community to leave. What emerges from Dershowitz’s selective use of Morris’ book is an account of the refugee problem that places responsibility for the problem squarely on the shoulders of the Palestinians themselves.

    However, Dershowitz neglects to mention Morris’ conclusion, based on detailed research and stated quite clearly in several of his books (including those cited by Dershowitz), that the majority of Palestinian refugees were in some cases expelled by Jewish forces and in others fled out of fear of expulsion or massacre by those forces. On the very same pages Dershowitz cites to make his argument for Palestinian culpability, Morris writes the following:

    "During the second stage, while there was clearly no policy of expulsion, the Haganah’s Plan D clearly resulted in mass flight. Commanders were authorized to clear the populace out of villages and certain urban districts, and to raze the villages if they felt a military need. Many commanders identified with the aim of ending up with a Jewish State with as small an Arab minority as possible. Some generals, such as [Yigal] Allon, clearly acted as if driven by such a goal.... Ben-Gurion clearly wanted as few Arabs as possible to remain in the Jewish State. But there was still no systematic expulsion policy.... Yet Israeli troops ... were far more inclined to expel Palestinians than they had been during the first half of the war. In Operation Yoav, Allon took care to leave almost no Arab communities along his lines of advance."

    Clearly, Morris’ argument is considerably more complicated and morally ambiguous than the simplistic version Dershowitz presents. The latter has violated a cardinal rule of historical scholarship: an author is responsible for weighing all evidence at his or her disposal before making a conclusion, even if some of that evidence contradicts one’s own argument or bias.
    Norman Finkelstein recently accused Dershowitz of plagarism, saying that he had made extensive use of "From Time Immemorial," which turned out be one great hoax as exposed by Finkelstein.

    SAUDI PUPPETS: John Cole is surprised by Mark Steyn's column in which Steyn says the following:

    [Joseph Wilson, who's wife's name was leaked by two White House officials] was never an intelligence specialist, he's no longer a "career diplomat," but he is, like so many other retired ambassadors, on the House of Saud's payroll. And the Saudis were vehemently opposed to war with Saddam.
    Does it sounds like defamation? Wilson is made out to be a Saudi puppet, because he's an scholar at the Middle East Institute. The Middle East Institute isn't the only one on the Saudi payroll: the Meridian International Center and the Middle East Policy Council are just two more. The interesting things is that all of "institutes", "centers" and "councils" are full of former government officials.

    A couple of examples. Walter Cutler served as an ambassador to Saudi Arabia (twice) and now heads the Meridian International Center after having left the Foreign Service. Three other former Foreign Service members--Charles Freeman, Frank Carlucci, and Hermann Eilts--are on the Middle East Policy Council. Wyche Fowler and Ned Walker are the Chairman and President of the Middle East Institute, respectively. Both served as ambassadors to Saudi Arabia. Other members of the Middle East Institute including Defense secretary James Schlesinger and formber FBI and CIA Director William Webster. According to former CIA-operative Robert Baer, the Middle East Institute receives $200,000 of its $1.5 million budget from the House of Sa'ud. (Baer also claims that Colin Powell received $100,000 for a speech at Tufts University that was paid by Prince Sultan and Prince Turki through Issam Fares, the prime minister of Lebanon.)

    But it all comes to this: Washington D.C. is dirty. Saudi money is used to curry favor with Washington officials by carefully and generously giving patronage to everything from presidential libraries, university chairs, Middle East study centers and think tanks to American defense contractors, arms makers, plane manufacturers, K Street lobbying firms, oil services, and construction companies such as Bechtel and Halliburton. Oh, and the White House. So why single out Wilson? He's not the only Saudi apologist.

    Besides, it has nothing to do with the leaking of his wife's name.

    HITCHENS: I have never refrained from bashing Christopher Hitchens, but if you've disagreed with me in the pact, maybe his latest piece will convince you that he's shrill.

    Shorther Chris:

    I hate religions of all sorts.

    BOYKIN WORSHIPS PAGANS: I briefly commented on the General Boykin controversy and since then he has issued a non-apology put together by Pentagon lawyers. In the apology, Boykin argues that his reference to idol worship refers to Somali warlord Osman Ato's "worship of money and power." This, though, contradicts his original statement:

    "He went on CNN and he laughed at us, and he said, 'They'll never get me because Allah will protect me. Allah will protect me.' Well, you know what, I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God, and his was an idol."
    His apology is (reluctantly) accepted, but since these statements have been publicly noted, it--I suspect--will discourage a lot of patriotic Muslims of enlisting in the army or becoming linguists at the FBI.

    In addition to that, Fareed Zakaria puts the smack-down on Boykin and suggests that he should be fired. Pointing to the findings of a commission set up by Bush, he notes that 12 percent of respondents surveyed in Arab and Muslim countries believed that "Americans respect Arab/Islamic values." Tolerating Boykin would definitely send the wrong message.

    Sunday, October 19, 2003

    ARAB-AMERICANS' CHOICE: Even Arab-Americans like Howard Dean more than Joe Lieberman. Personally, I think that Bush has permanently lost the Arab vote, but he's gaining on the Jewish vote.

    FRIEDMAN AND DEMOCRACY: I don't know about this guy, but he does sounds less moronic than usual. The first paragraph of his latest column just confuses me:

    should have known something was up when a Saudi diplomat recently asked me, "Do you know what kind of woman is most sought after as a wife by Saudi men today?" No, I said, what kind? "A woman with a job."
    Okay, admit it: Saudi Arabia would be the last Arab country you'd expect to start the implantation of the Arab Human Development Report. He says that it should implemented from the outside, while the authors of the report themselves think it should be done from the inside. But how is this related to 9/11 and the "cause of terrorism?" The thinking goes that there's something wrong in general in the Arab world which causes this huge resentment against the West and especially the United States. But is it? We can confirm the following: there is no Arab democracy, Arab women are uniformly an oppressed majority, and in science and technology every Arab state is behind the rest of the world. My question: how does this cause and create terrorism and terrorists? Mohammad Atta and 18 other men were cut off from their original countries for years. Atta was radicalized in a mosque in Berlin, not Cairo. After that, he was brainwashed in al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. Atta went to Berlin to get an engineering degree. To the Fareed Zakarias and Tom Friendmans out there: are the flaws pointed out in the report related to terrorism and if so, how?

    And I'm still not sure how one democratic can change the whole region. Is Washington really serious about this whole deal? Brian Ulrich notes the same thing:
    A current goal of U.S. foreign policy is to promote democracy in the Arab world. Egypt is one of the largest recipients of U.S. aid. Why is the Bush administration not pressuring Egypt to become more democratic?
    Do the neo-cons really want a democratic Arab world or are they out to bring the Middle East crashing down, giving Mecca and Medina to Osama bin Laden and seize the Saudi oil-fields?

    LATEST FROM AFGHANISTAN: Rumor is that former King Mohammad Zahir Shah will be moving back to his home in Rome. Almost hitting 90, he isn't the healties Afghan around. I have a question: will the Saudis continue to pay for the monthy cost of his life?

    The new Afghan constition is on its way and it's a balancing act between democracy and Islam, but that doesn't mean that they're mutually exclusive. It still remains a balancing act watched closely by the Iraqis. The Loya Jirga, which I have touched upon in length earlier, will be held on December 10th. (And yes, I will have an translation of it as soon as it's released.)

    Dissappointing news from Canada: Canadian Prime Minister Chretien said Canda won't be sending additional troops for the ISAF-expansion. I get the feeling that the Canadian military brass thinks otherwise. Germany (part of the irrelevant old Europe), on the other hand, will probably send 450 new soldiers, Deutsche Welle reports.

    UPDATE: I decided to post excerpts from previous constitutions so we'll be able to compare them to the new one:

    1923 Constitution
    Article 1: Afghanistan is completely free and independent in the administration of its domestic and foreign affairs. All parts and areas of the country are under the authority of his majesty the king and are to be treated as a single unit without discrimination between different parts of the country.

    Article 2: The religion of Afghanistan is the sacred religion of Islam. Followers of other religions such as Jews and Hindus residing in Afghanistan are entitled to the full protection of the state provided they do not disturb the public peace.

    Article 13: Subjects of Afghanistan shall have the right to submit individual or collective petitions to government officials for the redress of acts committed by officials or others against the Sharia [religious law] or other laws of the country.

    1963 Constitution
    Article 1: Afghanistan is a constitutional monarchy; an independent, unitary and indivisible state. Sovereignty in Afghanistan belongs to the nation.

    Article 21: In case the King dies before his successor has completed twenty years of life, the Queen shall act as regent until his successor reaches the stipulated age. In case the Queen be not living, the Electoral College, provided under Article 19 of this Constitution, shall elect someone from amongst the male lineal descendants of his majesty Mohammad Nadir Shah, the martyr, to act as regent.

    Article 32: Afghan citizens have the right to assemble unarmed, without prior permission of the state, for the achievement of legitimate and peaceful purposes. Afghan citizens have the right to form political parties, in accordance with the terms of the law, provided that: 1) The aims and activities of the party and the ideas on which the organization of the party is based are not opposed to the values embodied in this constitution.

    1976 Constitution
    Article 2: The exercise of power by the people, the majority of whom consists of farmers, workers, the enlightened people and the youth.

    Article 8: The elimination of exploitation in all its forms and manifestations.

    Article 27: All the people of Afghanistan, both women and men, without discrimination and privilege, have equal rights and obligations before the law.

    Article 41: Work is the right, honor and duty of every Afghan who has the capability of doing it. The major purpose of the laws that shall be promulgated to regulate work is to reach the stage in which the rights and interests of all toilers, farmers, workers and trades are protected, suitable working conditions provided, and in which relations between the worker and the employer are regulated on a just and progressive basis. The choice of work and vocation is free, within the terms determined by the law.

    1987 Constitution

    Article 2: The sacred religion of Islam is the religion of Afghanistan. In the Republic of Afghanistan no law shall run counter to the principles of the sacred religion of Islam and other values enshrined in this constitution.

    Article 6: The National Front of the Republic of Afghanistan, as the broadest, sociopolitical organization, unites political parties, social organizations and individual members enrolled in their ranks for ensuring their active participation in the social, political and civic spheres on the basis of a common program.

    Article 19: In the Republic of Afghanistan, state, mixed, cooperative, religious trust, and private property as well as properties of political and social organizations exist. The state protects all forms of lawful properties.

    Article 21: The state shall assist strengthening and expansion of cooperatives and shall encourage the voluntary participation of the people to this end.

    Article 23: The state guarantees the right of ownership of land of the peasants and other land owners in accordance with the law. The state shall adopt necessary measures for the realization of democratic changes in agriculture keeping in view the interests of peasants and other land owners. The state encourages the establishment of big agricultural and
    mechanized state, mixed and private farms and helps the reclamation of virgin lands.

    Article 29: The hereditary right to property shall be guaranteed by law on the basis of Islamic Sharia.

    Saturday, October 18, 2003

    LUNACY WATCH #1: I can't decide who to give the "Asshat of the Day Award." The Democrats (minus 4), General Boykin or Mahathir Mohammad? All three.

  • Why in the world did the Democrats (minus Zell Miller, Maria Cantwell, Daniel K. Inouye, and Joseph R. Biden Jr.) and some Republicans (that would be Ben Nighthorse Campbell, John Ensign, Graham, Olympia J. Snowe, Sam Brownback, Saxby Chambliss, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins) vote for an amendment to turn half of the reconstruction aid for Iraq into a loan? Yes, I'm all for debt-forgiveness even though that would cancel the $184 that Halliburton is owed. The foreign debt is already estimated to be between $60 billion to more than $130 billion and I'm a little curious where Kevin Drum gets his $300 billion number. The New York Times hints at "$150 billion to $200 billion." I guess nobody really knows. As Juan Cole notes:
    It will be years before Iraq can produce much more than three to five million barrels a day. A good deal of that petroleum, and much of the profit from it, will be needed for internal reconstruction and debt servicing.
    And, of course, paying for the debt that Saddam caused. There's much more outrage out there, so let me just say that this is incredibly stupid. This is like kicking the Iraqis in the teeth. And it hurts, damnit.

  • General Boykin calls my god "an idol," thinks that the war on terrorism is a holy war, and says the enemy is Satan. How do they find this guy? And no, this isn't just political-correctness. According to Terry of the Nitpicker blog, General Boykin should be guilty of violating article 88 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Department of Defense directive 1344.10, Chapter 2 of the CGSC Handbook and Army Regulation 670-1. If he's sent on gardening leave, which is where he should be sent, he should be given a copy of Thomas Jefferson's treatise on the separation of church and state.

  • Add a third to the list: Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed. He has been labeled a "moderate" by the media, mainly because he has done some good things for his country. Mohammad was speaking in front of the Organization of the Islamic Conference during its 10th summit., when he said this in his welcoming speech:
    It cannot be that there is no other way. 1.3 billion Muslims cannot be defeated by a few million Jews. There must be a way.


    We are actually very strong. 1.3 billion people cannot be simply wiped out. The Europeans killed 6 million Jews out of 12 million. But today the Jews rule this world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them.


    We are up against a people who think. They survived 2000 years of pogroms not by hitting back, but by thinking. They invented and successfully promoted Socialism, Communism, human rights and democracy so that persecuting them would appear to be wrong, so they may enjoy equal rights with others. With these they have now gained control of the most powerful countries and they, this tiny community, have become a world power. We cannot fight them through brawn alone. We must use our brains also.

    Of late because of their power and their apparent success they have become arrogant. And arrogant people, like angry people will make mistakes, will forget to think.

    They are already beginning to make mistakes. And they will make more mistakes. There may be windows of opportunity for us now and in the future. We must seize these opportunities.
    We Muslims must face a harsh reality: we have a problem with anti-Semitism. It's not always been like this and most of it started with the creature of the Jewish state. Hatred of Jews in the Islamic and Arab world is as rampant as that of crazy conspiracy theories. And we must realize that there's no denial to this and solve it. One can criticize appropriately the treatment of Palestinians and not be a racist ideologue. But one can also, like Mr. Mohammad, move away from these appropriate criticism to anti-Semitic trash-talk. No, the Jews don't rule the world. (I actually think that Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia is more influential on the President compared to, say, Ariel Sharon.) Deal with it. Wake up. Face the facts. We are lagging behind and there's a reason that Jews have been successfull in so many things. It's not because of their "evil Jewry-ness" but because they've worked harded and therefore earned it. If we spent more time educating ourselves and our children, we wouldn't have time to hate.

    How is it possible that such hatred has become almost a standard? How can a Muslim think that the Jews control the world? The Qu'ran teaches us that Allah controls the world. Suddenly the Jews have taken over? We must overcome our obsession with these sham politics. Life is much simpler when it consists of anesthetized existence, punctuated now and then by angry shouts about ghosts in the shadows and nightmares in our dreams, preventing us from being what we do not have the courage to become. Al-Muhajabah once said that "Muslims sometimes are just too stupid to be evil." Too true, sister.

  • Wednesday, October 15, 2003

    NEWS ROUND-UP: I hope you don't mind the bullet-format. Here we go:

  • A bomb in Northern Gaza killed three security guards who were traveling in a U.S. diplomatic convoy. The convoy carried a cultural delegate from the U.S. embassy who where to interview Palestinian candidates for a Fulbright scholarship. Al-Aqsa Martyr Brigades, Islamic Jihad and Hamas have all denied responsibility, which makes the situation even more complicated. The Palestinian Authority is claiming that it had warned about the possibility of an attack and had suggested changing travel routines. I'm not a big fan of Yasser Arafat and his Palestinian Authority, but this claim doesn't sound that crazy or odd at all; I think it's pretty plausible. The method of the bombing--a roadside bomb--reminds one of recent events of Baghdad. It also reminds us of other American casualties. Also read this Ha'aretz analysis.

  • While right-wingers are claiming that Iraq is not that bad (and they're right to some extent), Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani's militia and a street thug's Muqtada al-Sadr's army of the Mahdi are battling on the streets of Karbala. Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez indicated that the Coalition may have to "respond very forcefully" and that "a confrontation is possible." Tough words. Will there be a confrontation? Will the Iraqi Governing Council back it? And more importantly: how is it going to respond? So many questions, yet no answers. If you ask me, I don't think that arresting a firebrand during Ramadan is such a good idea, to put it nicely. (Juan Cole has more details.)

  • Speaking of Ramadan (which starts October 25th), there is a debate (yes, a debate in Islam; no joke) in Canada on the so-called "moon ruling." It's "science vs. reality." Fasting during Ramadan starts when the moon goes down and ends when the moon comes up. Three top Muslim scholars in Egypt say that even though you can't see the moon, the moon is scientifically there so you can start eating. The Canadian Islamic Congress agrees. But some don't. It's an interesting article and somehow refreshing. (I personally follow the "scientific rule." I pick up a free Calendar that the local Afghan market gives away.)
  • Tuesday, October 14, 2003

    AFGHANISTAN UPDATE: Afghans have always been great entrepreneurs. There are dozens of Afghan markets and restaurants just in Northern Virginia alone. Many Afghan-American, from this exact region, have gone to Kabul to take up the task of funding and managing the private sector. Since Halliburton is not very interested in Afghanistan, I think that the task of privatization is in the hands of exiled Afghan refugees returning to rebuild Afghanistan. The Washington Post has a good story on this matter and it notes that "$4.5 billion in private development projects have been registered with the government, from pharmaceutical plants to fruit-packing operations." Can you believe that? A country ravaged for 20+ years and almost 5 billion in investment! Also, take a look at the guy in the picture. He's selling skittles and Nesquik.

    And then there's more great news: the U.N. Security Council has voted to expand the ISAF-force in cities beyond Kabul. I actually expected this vote to happen in December but apparently NATO's secretary general, George Robertson and Germany took the initiative to make it happen faster, which would pressure NATO's members for the expanded mission.

    Al Jazeera is reporting that Taliban fighters have shot four policemen in Uruzgan province, which is not a border providence (where such attacks have happened most of the time) but two provinces inside Afghanistan. Those peacekeepers better hurry. Brian Ulrich has more.

    CLUELESS: So clueless it makes you want to rip your head off. Here's Sullivan:

    It seems to me that the anti-Bush crowd has been missing the real story, as usual. Instead of attempting to parse the administration's arguments before the war, they'd do better to focus on the Pentagon's massive incompetence after the war.
    Here's Newsweek:

    And here's Time Magazine:

    Monday, October 13, 2003

    OPPOSITION TO THE TURKS: The Iraqi Governing Council is the worst puppet-government. Ever.

    Al-Hakim's three-day visit to Syria, which for a long time was a close ally of his group, comes a week after Israeli warplanes attacked a camp near Damascus that Israel claimed was a training center for the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad. Syria denied the allegations and said Palestinian militants abandoned the camp years ago.

    "Iraq and Syria, people and states, are brotherly, and their fate is the same. Therefore, we stand by their side," al-Hakim told reporters. "When there is an aggression against Syria, it is an aggression against Iraq." Asked if he considers attacks against U.S. troops to be terrorist acts, al-Hakim said, "We believe that many of these operations are terrorist acts because they target civilians, scholars, oil and water installations and public establishments. We consider these operations terrorist acts and increase instability in Iraq. They are harmful and are rejected by Iraqi people," he said.
    You wanted democracy right? Democracy at work, ladies and gentleman.

    As for Turkey, it's been an odd relationship. The Turks have been a longtime ally, ever since they entered NATO in 1952 and fought alongside us in the Korean War. We've developed and maintained several major military installations on Turkish bases. Although no American combat forces are based in Turkey, the air force uses less than half a dozen bases under NATO auspices for training exercises. The opposition to the Iraq war ran high, with more than 90% of the Turkish public. At the end, like a true democracy, the parliamentary couldn't get the support of the parliamentary to allow American troops to use Turkey as staging bases for the invasion of Iraq. This time around it was easier to get the Turks' support, but it didn't come easy. The cost? Around $850,000 per Turkish soldier.

    We have two cases of democracy in the Middle-East--something the Bush administration allegedly waged this war for--in which both times they've acted against our interests. When one opposed it, the other supported it. When the other came through and supported us, the other opposed it. Gotta love democracy.

    NOT HOME: Globe and Mail tries to call Islam, but Islam is not home.

    Also: Operation Soda Mountain happened a while ago, but it seems like Operation War Crimes is just getting started. Our own West Bank, anyone? (Hmmm. Did this play a role, somehow?)

    THE STREET-THUG CALLED AL-SADR: After the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime there were three prominent candidates to lead the Shiites of Iraq: Muqtada al-Sadr, Ayatollah Mohammed Baqer al-Hakim and Sayyed Abdul Majid al-Khoei. Both Al-Khoei and al-Hakim are killed and now there's one left: Al-Sadr. Unfortunately, he's the anti-American fundamentalist street thug.

    Al-Sadra's popularity, which is growing by the day, owes everything to the reputation of his father, Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Sadeq al-Sadr, who was assassinated by Hussein's regime in 1999. (He, his two sons and his driver were shot in their car.) The residents of Saddam City, which houses around 2 million Shiites, renamed it Sadr City in memory of their murdered spiritual leader. Meanwhile, Al-Sadr quickly filled the power vacuum left by the collapse of the Baath party and the security vacuum left by U.S. forces. From his base near Najaf he sent his men around the country to set up neighborhood committees and control local assets. They took over hospitals, collected garbage, guarded warehouses, established roadblocks to deter looters, protected electricity and water stations and turned Baath offices into religious centers. (Read more about this smart move and who's puppet he is in this New York Magazine article.)

    Al-Sadr announced on Friday that he would set up a shadow Islamic government. Juan Cole comments:

    That young Shiite sectarian leader Muqtada al-Sadr has chosen this anniversary to announce that he will form an Iraqi government points to the millenarian beliefs of the Sadrists. (Milleniarian movements typically believe that the world as we know it is about to end through divine intervention.) Many Iraqis assume that the bewildering events of the past 6 months indicate that the return of the Mahdi is near. Some may think that Muqtada is the Mahdi. Mahdist movements in Islam have often turned violent, and several have fought against Western imperialism. Most Americans have heard of the Sudanese Mahdi, if only via the film Khartoum, who opposed British expansion into Egypt and the Sudan. But there were millenarian overtones to some Algerian revolts against the French, and among Muslims who revolted against the British in India in 1857. Also the Shiites produced the Babi movement, which threw Iran into turmoil in the 1840s and 1850s and had an anti-Western cast. Some of Khomeini's following was from millenarian Shiites.

    The Sadrists don't need millenarian ideas to be militantly anti-Western, but such beliefs can bolster reckless violence. After all, if the world as we know it is about to be turned upside down by God, then what have we got to lose? Muqtada has instructed his followers to organize marches and processions in Baghdad and other cities in support of the new "government" once it is announced, according to al-Hayat.


    The Western press keeps saying that the extent of Muqtada's influence is unknown. I'd guess he has about 2 million followers in Iraq. It is a guess, but an educated one. The reporters are confused that they are told by mainstream Shiites that Muqtada is too young and inexperienced to have such influence. But he leads a sectarian movement, not a mainstream one. In American terms, Muqtada is more like David Koreish, and Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani is more like an Episcopalian bishop. Except that Muqtada has a huge following compared to any American sect I know of.


    Muqtada also plans to name ministers of Foreign Affairs, Finance, etc. He calls on his followers to support this 'government' with "peaceful" demonstrations. Al-Hayat newspaper says that Muqtada has claimed that his government would represent the Iraqi people, whereas the Interim Governing Council was merely appointed by a foreign power, the US, and was not elected in accordance with Muslim law. (Muqtada doesn't seem to realize the irony that his own proposed government is also appointed, only by him, rather than elected; though perhaps there has been informal consultation (shura) with his lieutenants).
    Paul Bremer and his people need to do some desperate damage control. Earlier this week, thousands of Shiites came out in Sadr City to protest the arrest of a local imam, and than to protest the killing of two of their fellow Shiites. Ramadan starts in less than two weeks and unless you don't get things under control I expect things to get worse. Remember that in Shia Islam, there is a strong theme of martyrdom and suffering. You don't want Al-Sadr or one of his close friends in jail or, worse, dead.

    Also, on Saturday, hundreds of thousands of Shiites came out in Karbala on Saturday, to commemorate the birth of the Twelfth Imam, Muhammad al-Mahdi. A beatiful sight if you ask me. I am Sunni, and I think I would be the wrong person to be asked in detail about Al-Mahdi and the commeration. Aziz Poonawalla would be a much better candidate.

    Sunday, October 12, 2003

    THE BETRAYAL OF THE MARSH ARABS: Do you know who Marsh Arabs are? The chance is small, and if you don’t than you should either read Wilfred Thesiger’s “The Marsh Arabs” or look at the front page of Saturday’s Washington Post. Titled “'A Gift From God' Renews a Village,” it brings the story of Shiite Marsh Arabs (marsh dwellers), who’s marches are revitalized by Iraqi engineers and by U.S. soldiers after they were drained by Saddam Hussein after the first Gulf War. Out-of-job journalist Andrew Sullivan brings it up and asks:

    How can you not be moved by such a story? How can you not be proud of what we have done?
    Sure Sully, I am happy. But not incredibly happy. I was before though, but something ruined the mood. You know what it was? It was this article titled: “House GOP Cuts ZIP Code, Garbage Truck Funds From Iraq Plan”. In the article, the following is mentioned:
    [D]ropped from Bush's request is $100 million for restoring Iraq's marshlands, systematically emptied and destroyed by deposed President Saddam Hussein's government to punish Shiite Muslims who live there.
    It seems that the House Appropriations Committee, led by representative Bill Young (R-Fla) decided to not “waste” money to restore what Saddam Hussein has taken away from some 300,000 people. Representative Young calls it an “improvement.” Restoring the marshes take more than just opening gates smashing dams, but it’s a damn good start. What the Marsh Arabs really need is that $100 million was for. But don’t expect a peep from Sully. And yes, I am proud of the soldiers. But not of Bill Young and his fellow Republicans.

    See more naiveness here and here.

    Friday, October 10, 2003

    DEFINITION OF "QUAGMIRE": From this week's Time Magazine:

    T[he] Chechenization strategy — intended to remove the war as an issue in Putin's re-election campaign next spring — is reminiscent of the U.S.'s attempts to declare victory and get out of Vietnam three decades ago. It also has echoes in the U.S.'s current predicament in Iraq, as Bush seemed to acknowledge at a news conference with Putin at Camp David two weeks ago when he said, "Terrorists must be opposed wherever they spread chaos and destruction, including Chechnya." In Chechnya guerrillas have fended off a superior military force and used terrorist tactics to take the battle from Grozny to the streets of Moscow.


    As many as seven Russian soldiers are being killed every day in Chechnya, according to close observers of the war. Moscow rarely publishes its losses, but last February the Kremlin admitted to almost 4,600 soldiers dead since late 1999--more than it lost in the first Chechen war but still considered a gross understatement.


    Many doubt the Russians will ever leave. "Russian generals have zero enthusiasm" for Chechenization, says Deputy Prime Minister Doshukayev, because there's too much money to be made in Chechnya. The arms and explosives that kill Russian troops come straight from the Russian bases, according to local people and foreign observers. Russians deal the weapons on the black market even though they will be used to kill fellow soldiers. Guerrillas don't have to smuggle arms into Chechnya, says pro-Kadyrov newspaper editor Lechi Magomayev, because "they can buy them at the nearest base." Chechen officials say the military is also involved in oil smuggling and other rackets.
    Don't be fooled or deceived.

    More on Chechnya here.

    NOBEL PEACE PRIZE: Shirin Ebadi has become the 3rd Muslim and 11th woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Good call. From her biography...

    Ebadi represents reformed Islam, and argues for a new interpretation of Islamic law which is in harmony with vital human rights such as democracy, equality before the law, religious freedom and freedom of speech. As for religious freedom, it should be noted that Ebadi also includes the rights of members of the bahai community, which has had problems in Iran ever since its foundation.

    EDIT: Argh. Stupid Blogger ate half my post. I shall continue.

    Ebadi is a courageous and seldom voice in the Islamic world and now has become a spokesperson for the voiceless. Winning the prize does not only promote the Iranian cause, but it gives her the kind of immunity that would prevent the Iranian authorities from locking her up again, as they've done numerous times (the last time being 1999 if I'm correct). It's also an improvement over murderers, like Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin in 1994 and Henry Kissinger and Le Doc Tho in 1973.

    Oxblog with more. (Oh, and don't miss Patrick Belton's article on the "Arab and Muslim capital of the United States;" Dearborn, Michigan. Very impressive.)

    That's all for now.

    Thursday, October 09, 2003

    NOBEL FOR KARZAI: This is strange. Hamid Karzai is speculated to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. The committee does not release the names of any candidates, but this "Nobel shortlist" most likely stems from names being guessed by Nobel watchers. The alleged guess list:

    ... Silva for trying to overcome social injustice in Brazil; Russian anti-war group Mothers in Black; jailed Iranian dissident Hashem Aghajari; Russian human rights activist Sergei Kovalyev; Italian charity The Community of Sant' Egidio; the Salvation Army; American politicians Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar for their Cooperative Threat Reduction Program; and Karzai. Other nominees include U2 singer, social activist Bon, pop singer Michael Jackson, former Illinois Gov. George Ryan, President Bush, Prime Minister Tony Blair, French President Jacques Chirac, jailed Israeli nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu, Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng, Women in Black for promoting Israeli-Palestinian ties, and Cuban human rights activist Oswaldo Paya Sardinas.
    Yes, Karzai is included, but the bets are against him:
    [T]he Web-based betting site Centrebet gave John Paul 2-1 odds of winning the prize, ahead of Havel (8-1), who received this year's Gandhi Peace Prize. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was given 14-1 odds, while Afghan leader Hamid Karzai had 25-1 odds.
    Reuters is saying that the Pope is poised to win, but will only get the price if it's shared with an anti-war Muslim. Or something like that. Karzai is a Muslim, but he supported the war on Iraq.

    Very strange indeed. The winner will be announced tomorrow.

    WARLORD-DISPUTE UPDATE: The Associated Press' Amir Shah (one of the few journalists in Kabul when it fell) is reporting that Atta Mohammad and Dostum have signed a U.N-brokered cease-fire...

    After fighting that killed dozens of people, rival warlords in northern Afghanistan said Thursday that they had reached a truce and would begin withdrawing tanks and other weapons within 48 hours. But with soldiers squared off along a tense battlefield, it was not clear whether the cease-fire would hold despite assurances from both sides. The fighting between the two groups "both nominally loyal to President Hamid Karzai" was the worst in northern Afghanistan in months, with one side claiming more than 60 people were killed.

    One warlord, Atta Mohammed, said the truce took effect immediately and that both sides would return all weaponry to their bases in 48 hours. "I am sure this cease-fire will hold," Mohammed told The Associated Press. Gen. Majid Rozi, a senior commander for northern warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum, confirmed the details of the truce and said the withdrawal of weapons had begun. The agreement followed talks involving Afghan Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali and British Ambassador Ron Nash.

    "If there is no peace in the north of the country, it will damage the trust the international community has in us," Jalali said after the signing of the truce on Thursday.


    It was not immediately clear what sparked the fighting. A government spokesman in Kabul said it was most likely due to disputes over land or access to water, the cause of repeated clashes in the past two years. The U.S. military in Afghanistan said it was concerned about the fighting and was closely monitoring it. Hours after the signing of the truce, the battlefield was still tense, commanders said, and it was not clear whether the deal would hold.

    Residents of Mazar-e-Sharif were less than optimistic. "I do not believe in this cease-fire. It will just collapse," said Abdul Kadir, a guest house owner. Another resident, a teacher who only gave her name as Aziza, said foreign peacekeepers were needed to stop the fighting. "Please Mr. Karzai send ... (peacekeeping) troops to Mazar-e-Sharif," she said.
    These kinds of cease-fires have been signed several times (under international pressure and pressure from Kabul) in the past 2 years, but they're not permanent truces; they won't prevent further bloodshed. The last few months have been a calm period for the warlords, and instead focus was on the Taliban insurgence. Maybe we can tell General Abizaid (Lebanese-American by the way) to fight the warlords the way he fights the Taliban: with B-52 bombers.

    And the Contra Costa Time has the background story on Karzai's new Afghan ambassador to the United States, Said Jawan, an Afghan-American living in Oakland. Maybe I'll meet him when I go to the Afghan embassy in two weeks.

    THANKS PATRICK: So that's the person who's been sending you over here, huh? Keep visiting guys.

    WARLORDS AT IT AGAIN: Atta Mohammed versus Abdul Rashid Dostum at it again. I haven't counted all their clashes, but it's been more than a dozen times.

    Dostum is a vicious man. He sided with Afghan communists and the Soviets, than joined the mujahedin. When the Taliban gained power, he sided with them. He split and the Taliban drove him into exile--twice; once in 1997 and again in 1998. He came back in 2001 to fight along with the Northern Alliance and U.S. special forces. The Tajik versus Uzbek fighting started in the beginning of 2002 when both Mohammad and Dostum focused on control of Mazar-e-Sharif, in the north. They both fought against the Taliban and now both are wearing Western tailored business suits. (Yes, that's right: warlords in suits. Nobody matches Afghan warlordism.) Even though Dostum is the deputy Afghan Defense Minister, it's Mohammad who's being backed by Defense Minister Fahim, because Mohammad (like Fahim) is Tajik and member of the Jamiat-e-Islami faction. Another reason Fahim is backing Mohammad: Dostum relaunched his old political party, the National Islamic Movement, or Jombesh-i-Milli Islami. Known simply as Jombesh, the group has a platform that rests on secular democracy (despite its name) and respect for minority rights, which translates to a federalist agenda. Dostum has hit out in speeches at "extremism" and "fundamentalism." Read: Jamiat-e-Islami.

    Even though warlords are supposed to be disarmed in a U.N-sponsored plan starting October 15th, fighting will continue. Dostum is one politician who still fields an army. Whoever rules in Kabul is not apt to forget it.

    UPDATE: If you want to know what Dostum's different costumes, check out the Google image search. You have him in Soviet fatigue, traditional Afghan clothes and yes, in a suit.

    Wednesday, October 08, 2003

    FEMALE FATWAS: The Washington Post on women in India issuing fatwas:

    Last month, a woman here approached a panel of religious scholars on a vexing matter of Islamic law. What did the prophet Muhammad have to say about beauty aids such as tinted contact lenses, cosmetics, nail polish, leg waxing and creams for lightening facial hair?

    The scholars consulted their religious texts and a few days later got back to her with an answer: Yes to limited applications of blush and eyeliner. No to everything else.

    The answer was supplied in the form of a fatwa, a religious edict that is normally issued by a panel of male Islamic judges known as muftis. But this fatwa carried an extra measure of expertise. Its authors were women.

    "Within limits, makeup is okay," said one of them, Nazima Aziz, from behind the black veil that obscured all but her large and apparently unmade-up eyes. "But when you use a colored contact lens you're trying to change the way you look. You're not allowed to alter or change the form that Allah has given you."

    Aziz, 22, is a muftia, one of three who make up a newly inaugurated, all-female fatwa panel -- or dar-ul-iftah -- that operates out of a girls' religious school in this once princely capital about 750 miles south of New Delhi.

    School administrators, Indian news reports and some academic experts say the panel is the first of its kind in India and perhaps the Sunni Muslim world. In any case, it is a striking departure from the norm. For centuries, Muslim women have had to rely on men for official religious guidance on gender-sensitive matters from makeup to menstruation. Now they can drop a line -- in writing or by e-mail -- to the muftias of Jamiat-ul-Mominat, as the girls' religious school is known.

    Questions received so far have addressed the wearing of high heels outside the home, the obligation of fathers to provide child support after a divorce and the propriety of wearing bangles before marriage, among other things.

    "Before, they would go to their husbands, or to the man of the family, and he would take her problems to the mufti, and the male would bring the answer back to her," said Mohammed Hassanuddin, who has often figured in that process as the school's chief mufti.
    Read it all.

    AFGHANISTAN UPDATE: Daniel Drezner talks about nation-building in Afghanistan and the progress--or lack thereof-- that's been made recently. He notes a Chicago Tribune article about the city of Gardez, serving as a model for an instable Afghanistan.

    The U.S. military chose Gardez, a three-hour drive southeast of Kabul, as the pilot for its first Provincial Reconstruction Team, a concept the U.S. military hopes will restore stability and bolster reconstruction efforts across the country.

    The team is made up of about 60 military and civil affairs officers doing mostly humanitarian work. But their presence was an undoubted deterrence to any thoughts of resistance the warlords may have had, said Asadullah Wafa, the governor of Paktia province. "Without the Americans, this would be very difficult," he said. "They are helping us a lot."
    New Zealand has an Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamian and Germany may join in.

    Meanwhile, there's increased talk of a NATO-expansion and from what I can make up, Germany and the Netherlands are going to be taking a leading role (as they've done in past; they shared the ISAF-command for 6 months). There also... the Serbs. Yes, they're sending about 1,000 combat troops (not peacekeepers) which demonstrates just how desperate we need these guys. Brian Ulrich notes that Serbia and Montenegro have a gendarmerie. Time Magazine notes that the initial deployment to Afghanistan is a "mix of 250 army officers and members of the gendarmerie."

    Some have noted Washington Post article which reports a split-up between Northern Alliance and Hamid Karzai. Even though I wouldn't call it a "revolt" I do think this needs a closer look. Do the people of Northern Alliance want to chose a presidential candidate or do they want to use their tanks against Karzai? The rumors that Burhanuddin Rabbani may be the candidate (which I think are false) does indicate that Jamiat-e Islami and Nahzat-e Mille, the main Northern Alliance political parties, may remain aligned. I predict that Fahim, who's firmly in control, may nominate himself or someone very close; using Ahmed Shah Massoud's posters to keep the flames of nostalgia for him burning in an effort to boost their political standing.

    UPDATE: Take a look at the latest Reuters/AP pictures.

    Tuesday, October 07, 2003

    HITCHENS: Hitchens opposes abortion. Hitchens admires Two Live Crew. Hitchens supports Columbus's extermination of Native Americans. Hitchens wants to invade Iraq. Hitchens takes shots at dead people. Hitchens wants to invade Iran.

    The man amazes me. Having sided with the late Edward Said for years, he now calls the neoconservatives of D.C. his comrades. And because of that--rushing so fast to the right--he gets more press and more publicity. But for Hitchens it's lucrative nonsense that he's peddling. It's not exactly a martyr's fate defecting from The Nation, a frills-free liberal magazine, to Atlantic Monthly, the well-heeled house organ of Zionist crazies. His credibility is also nearing zero, if not at zero already. I'm not an apologist for Turkish human rights abuses (to the contrary), but the fact remains that his former wife and mother of his children, Eleni Meleagrou, is a Greek who is employed by a Greek-American lobby. He hates Turkey for personal reasons. Period.

    I could go on and complain for hours. Go on and read Hitchens wishing for bloodshed in Iran that, I think, will inevitably lead to a disastrous civil war between the conservative religious faction against the rest of the population. Here's a lesson from the newly liberated Iraq you visited: no matter how bad your government is, people will unite to repel foreign invaders. Most Iranians want to get rid of the current regime, but they'll be better off on their own.

    In the meanwhile, I'm thinking about starting a petition urging Hitchens to serve in the Sunni Triangle.

    Monday, October 06, 2003

    SHOUT-OUT TO BUSH HATERS: Do you hate President Bush so much that you'll vote for any Democrat to get him out of office? Are you a real Bush hater? If not, Fred Hiatt fives you a very good reason to become one:

    The description [see below] of Putin's Russia was so outlandishly fictional, so at odds with the KGB-inspired screw-tightening that has been the hallmark of Putin's regime, that the only possible conclusion was that Bush just doesn't care. Aides said Bush delivered a different message in private. But his public message seemed to be: Stand by my side and proclaim yourself an ally in the war on terror, and all else may be forgiven. You can shut down your media, rig elections, send troops rampaging through Chechnya, and Bush will stay mum.


    Putin pockets his Camp David and Crawford visits and his accolades from his friend George, and then stiffs the United States on Iraq, stiffs the United States on Iran and won't even talk about Chechnya. China hosts a six-nation conference on North Korea, heralded by the administration as a sign of great cooperation, and then attacks the United States as the intransigent party.


    Muslims everywhere know that Putin has been engaged since 1999 in a ruthless campaign against the Muslim population of Chechnya. They know that just yesterday he rigged an election in that rebellious province by forcing every credible candidate but his own to withdraw. When he praises Putin's vision of "democracy and freedom and rule of law in Russia," how can Bush expect anyone to believe that he is any more serious about his own commitment to democracy and freedom in Afghanistan or Iraq?
    Hiatt was referring to Putin's visit to Camp David last Saturday, where Bush praised and hailed Russia's anti-democratic and brutal human rights violations:
    I respect President Putin's vision for Russia: a country at peace within its borders, with its neighbors, and with the world, a country in which democracy and freedom and rule of law thrive.
    And no, he wasn't being sarcastic.

    And if you think that Chechnya's recent election (in which—surprise!—Putin-puppet Ahmad Kadyrov "won") wasn't an outright sham and a farce, than I really would like to give you a backhand across the head.

    Sunday, October 05, 2003

    ISRAEL STRIKES SYRIA: In retaliation to the bombing of an Arab restaurant in Haifa, the Israeli air force targeted an alleged Islamic Jihad-trainings camp deep inside Syria. Sure, it does bring over the "Better listen or we'll blow the crap out of you!" point, but is Israel going to target foreign countries everytime there's a suicide bombing? Once is acceptable, but multiple times just escalates the situation. To put it simply: it was just reckless, but I do think it send a message. Will Syria learn its lesson? I'm sorry, but I don't see them cave to Israeli pressure. And Israeli Ambassador Dan Gillerman saying things like "it was as if bin laden would have asked for a Security Council meeting after 9/11" doesn't help either.

    Doesn't mean I'm not confused by all of this. I thought Arafat was to blame. Don't tell me you didn't get that feeling over the past few weeks?

    UPDATE: Brian Ulrich comments:

    Everyone stop and consider the target of the recent terrorist attack in Haifa: a restaurant partially owned and frequented by Arabs in a city famous for its multicultural atmosphere. This was an assault on the peace process as surely as any of those timed to derail important initiatives or inflame tensions in sensitive areas. Not only that, but as they have before, the terrorists have shown they do not care if Arabs they consider collaborators are killed in their attacks. In this there is a warning.
    Read the rest. (Not that I completely agree though.)

    PROOF THAT RUSH WAS WRONG: If Rush Limbaugh still thinks that McNabb is overrated, he should've seen the Eagles vs. Redskins game this afternoon. Paul Ramsey took a heavy beating (what, 15 sacks in the first quarter?) but had his "insanely good" and "insanely bad" moments. Unfortunately, he had definitely more "insanely bad" moments. Especially when the Skins needed those 3 points. Coming back from a 11-point deficit is still a great achievement. (I don't blame BloggerCon though, but the dozens of penalties. Steve needs to work on that.)

    CRACKHEAD OF THE DAY AWARD: Representative Cass Ballenger (R-NC) says: "Muslims in hoods across the street and Congress doesn't allow bribes. How could this marriage last any longer?!"

    U.S. Rep. Cass Ballenger blames the breakup of his 50-year marriage partly on the stress of living near a leading American Muslim advocacy group that he and his wife worried was so close to the U.S. Capitol that "they could blow the place up." Another stress on their marriage: the decision by "we holier-than-thou Republicans" in the House, Ballenger said, to ban gifts -- including meals and theater tickets from lobbyists -- that once meant "a social life for (congressional) wives."

    Ballenger, a Republican from Hickory, called the Council on American-Islamic Relations -- whose headquarters are across the street from his Capitol Hill home -- a "fund-raising arm" for terrorist groups and said he reported CAIR to the FBI and CIA. Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the group, which looks out for Muslims' civil rights and sponsors interfaith gatherings, said Friday that Ballenger's unsubstantiated remarks were bigoted.

    The nine-term Republican made the comments during a Wednesday evening phone interview with The Observer, in which he discussed his legal separation from his wife, Donna. It was the couple's proximity to CAIR after Sept. 11, 2001,"bugged the hell" out of his wife, he said. "Diagonally across from my house, up goes a sign -- CAIR ... the fund-raising arm for Hezbollah," said Ballenger, 76, referring to a Lebanese militia group the United States has labeled a terrorist organization. "I reported them to the FBI and CIA." Ballenger said in the post 9-11 environment in Washington, his wife, a homemaker, was anxious about all the activity at CAIR, including people unloading boxes and women "wearing hoods," or headscarves, going in and out of the office building on New Jersey Avenue. "That's 2 1/2 blocks from the Capitol," he added, "and they could blow it up."

    "This is out-and-out bigotry," Hooper said. "It's unworthy of an elected official at the national level. ... You wonder what he's been doing in Congress if this is the kind of analysis he does: `You're a Muslim, so you're guilty.' " This isn't the first time Ballenger has been criticized for comments some consider insensitive. Last December, in another interview with The Observer, he said that then-Rep. Cynthia McKinney, an African American from Georgia known for her abrasive style, had stirred in him "a little bit of a segregationist feeling. I mean, she was such a bitch." He later apologized for what he called "pretty stupid remarks" even as an aide was painting white the black lawn jockey -- a symbol of racial insensitivity to many -- in Ballenger's front yard.

    [S]he echoed Ballenger's comments on CAIR and on her feelings about living across the street from the group's headquarters. "It's a very good location if you really wanted to raise trouble," she said.

    Ballenger's wife also agreed with him that the GOP-controlled House's 1995 decision to restrict the money spent on members of Congress and their spouses had helped turn Washington into "a lousy place to live. ...It used to be you'd get invitations to the symphony or the theater ... I don't think you should get $1,000 trips to the Bahamas (from lobbyists). But I don't see where a dinner or a theater ticket is that bad. We had friends who are lobbyists."
    Is he supporting the War on Terror Muslim Environmentalists, already? Now please sing along:
    Times have changed,
    Our kids are getting worse,
    They won't obey their parents,
    they just wan't to fart and curse

    Should we blame the government?
    Or blame society?
    Or should we blame the images on TV?

    No! Blame Canada! Blame Canada!

    With all thier beedy little eyes,
    have packed thier heads so full of lies,

    No! Blame Canada! Blame Canada!

    We need to form a full assault,
    It's canadas fault,

    Don't blame me for my son Stan,
    He saw the darn cartoon and now hes of to join the klan,
    And my boy Eric once had my picture on his shelf,
    But now when I see him he tells me to fuck myself,

    Well? Blame Canada! Blame Canada!

    It seems that everythings gone wrong,
    Since Canada came along

    Blame Canada! Blame Canada!

    They're not even a real country anyway,

    My son could have been a doctor or a lawyer rich and true,
    Instead he burned up like a piggy on a barbeque,
    Should we blame the matches? Should we blame the fire?
    Or the doctors who allowed him to expire,

    Heck no! Blame Canada! Blame Canada!
    With all their hockey hollabaloo,
    And that bitch Ann Murray too

    Blame Canada! Shame on Cana-da!

    WESLEY CLARK: What to make of Wesley Clark? The guy became the tenth Democratic Presidential candidate and looked pretty good in his first debate. A look at the post-Clark polls showed his immediate competitiveness with front-runner Howard Dean. Clark, a four-star general, was the NATO Supreme Allied Commander in charge of the military campaign against Yugoslavia in 1999. He's also a prominent advocate of diplomacy and multilateralism.

    Recently he spoke to Josh Marshall and had the following to say:

    The proxy states, Syria, Lebanon, whatever. These states are not -- they need to transform. But, why is it impossible to take an authoritarian regime in the Middle East and see it gradually transform into something democratic, as opposed to going in, knocking it off, ending up with hundreds of billions of dollars of expenses. And killing people. And in the meantime, leaving this real source of the problems -- the states that were our putative allies during the Cold War -- leaving them there. Egypt. Saudi Arabia. Pakistan.
    Earlier on, Clark criticized the Bush administration's policy on state-sponsorship of terrorism:
    It's the principal strategic mistake behind the administration's policy. If you look at all the states that were named as the principal adversaries, they're on the periphery of international terrorism today. Syria -- OK, supporting Hezbollah and Hamas -- yeah, they're terrorist organizations. They're focused on Israel. They're getting support from Iran. It's wrong. Shouldn't be there. But they're there. What about Saudi Arabia? There's a source of the funding, the source of the ideology, the source of the recruits. What about Pakistan? With thousands of madrassas churning out ideologically-driven foot soldiers for the war on terror. Neither of those are at the front of the military operations.
    I would summarize my interpretation of Clark's argument as follows... "Bush is targeting the irrelevant terrorism supporters and we should be focused on the real source of terrorism in the region, like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Egypt. Sure, Iran, Syria and the like are bad, but we can't take them all out. And they don't pose a global threat." And I'd agree with that. Completely. The countries mentioned--Syria, Iran, Lebanon and the like--are not our problem; they're Israel's. Let them deal with it.

    But questions still remain and I'm very curious to find out his answers. So what if the Saudis and Pakistanis are our biggest problem, how are you going to deal with them and what kind of diplomatic or militaristic solution are you suggesting? The closer we get to 2004, the more answers (I anticipate) we get.

    There's also the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There's this interview from this week's Rolling Stone:
    How do you grade the Bush administration's attempt to forge peace between Israel and the Palestinians?

    Right now we've got the worst possible regional dynamic, and we've got to change it. You cannot make peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. I don't care if the president of the United States sits there in Gaza and forces the two sides to talk -- they can't. The question of conflict is coming from outside. You've got to get people in the Middle East to say they don't want war. But unfortunately, we seem to want it.

    How about the question of Israel. Do you think Ariel Sharon needs to be hemmed in?

    Israel has a unique problem. It is beset by nations that want to destroy it. Any nation that is under attack has the right to self-defense. And the right to self-defense is the right to strike pre-emptively to disrupt the threat. Therefore I totally support Israel's effort to go after these terrorists before they can strike Israel. Israel must be willing to participate in negotiations. But if it's going to ever have its chance at the negotiating table, Israel also has to show [its survival doesn't depend on making a deal]. So, the process of building the fence [separating the occupied territories from the rest of the country] is very important. It says to the Arab world, the clock is ticking, we're not prepared to make unlimited concessions, we have our principles and we will fight for them.

    But that doesn't mean the U.S. should behave and strike the way Israel does. Two entirely different things. We can make Israel safer by not doing that. We need to bring a council together like we did for the Balkans: Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iran. And instead of telling them we're going to nuke them, we've got to give them an incentive to want to participate in preventing conflict in the Middle East. The process has to be driven by optimism and hope, not fear. We will be there for Israel, and they will survive and be a great nation.

    What about the Palestinians?

    The Palestinians have always been used by the Arabs as a weapon against Israel. The Palestinians are the most educated, most Westernized, most enterprising, least tribal of all the Middle Eastern groups. They were a force for the modernization and economic development in Middle Eastern countries. They were a source of instability and insecurity for the ruling elite. So they were pushed back and not given the rights of citizenship, not given the opportunity to be assimilated. All that's gotta be unwound. They're human beings like everyone else, and they've gotta be given a chance.
    Several points to be made here.

    His answer to the first question comes over kind of vague to me, but he attributes many of the problems of the conflict from outside forces and to a certain degree that's true, whether it's support for Hamas or interference in the peace-process. But the biggest problem remains: the main problem comes from the conflict itself, the extremists on both sides pulling the strings. And on one side it's Ariel Sharon and Likud. On the other side it's Yasser Arafat, who's convinced the world that his puppet (Mahmoud Abbas) worked independently. And those are the people to deal with. And that leads to the second question.

    He supports the extremist (Sharon); he supports the apartheid wall; and supports Israel's pre-emptive strikes (which have showed to work against Israel and to be inefficient). There's my fundamental agreement. I'm convinced a solution is to be found at the negotiating table and not through violence.

    Than he makes the point, on which I agree, that Palestinians are being used as a propaganda weapon against Israel. But it's sad that he has to remind people that the Palestinians "are human beings like everyone else" and that they deserve a chance. He'd have a very short career if he suggested the same thing about other groups like, say, Jews, if you will.

    All by all, he still has to answer many questions. I'm not endorsing anyone yet, but I will continue to cover Clark and the rest of the relevant candidates over the coming months.