Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WW3
on: April 13, 2006, 01:17:34 AM
Facing Down Iran
Our lives depend on it.
Most Westerners read the map of the world like a Broadway marquee: north is top of the bill?America, Britain, Europe, Russia?and the rest dribbles away into a mass of supporting players punctuated by occasional Star Guests: India, China, Australia. Everyone else gets rounded up into groups: ?Africa,? ?Asia,? ?Latin America.?
But if you?re one of the down-page crowd, the center of the world is wherever you happen to be. Take Iran: it doesn?t fit into any of the groups. Indeed, it?s a buffer zone between most of the important ones: to the west, it borders the Arab world; to the northwest, it borders NATO (and, if Turkey ever passes its endless audition, the European Union); to the north, the former Soviet Union and the Russian Federation?s turbulent Caucasus; to the northeast, the Stans?the newly independent states of central Asia; to the east, the old British India, now bifurcated into a Muslim-Hindu nuclear standoff. And its southern shore sits on the central artery that feeds the global economy.
If you divide the world into geographical regions, then, Iran?s neither here nor there. But if you divide it ideologically, the mullahs are ideally positioned at the center of the various provinces of Islam?the Arabs, the Turks, the Stans, and the south Asians. Who better to unite the Muslim world under one inspiring, courageous leadership? If there?s going to be an Islamic superpower, Tehran would seem to be the obvious candidate.
That moment of ascendancy is now upon us. Or as the Daily Telegraph in London reported: ?Iran?s hardline spiritual leaders have issued an unprecedented new fatwa, or holy order, sanctioning the use of atomic weapons against its enemies.? Hmm. I?m not a professional mullah, so I can?t speak to the theological soundness of the argument, but it seems a religious school in the Holy City of Qom has ruled that ?the use of nuclear weapons may not constitute a problem, according to sharia.? Well, there?s a surprise. How do you solve a problem? Like, sharia! It?s the one-stop shop for justifying all your geopolitical objectives.
The bad cop/worse cop routine the mullahs and their hothead President Ahmadinejad are playing in this period of alleged negotiation over Iran?s nuclear program is the best indication of how all negotiations with Iran will go once they?re ready to fly. This is the nuclear version of the NRA bumper sticker: ?Guns Don?t Kill People. People Kill People.? Nukes don?t nuke nations. Nations nuke nations. When the Argentine junta seized British sovereign territory in the Falklands, the generals knew that the United Kingdom was a nuclear power, but they also knew that under no conceivable scenario would Her Majesty?s Government drop the big one on Buenos Aires. The Argie generals were able to assume decency on the part of the enemy, which is a useful thing to be able to do.
But in any contretemps with Iran the other party would be foolish to make a similar assumption. That will mean the contretemps will generally be resolved in Iran?s favor. In fact, if one were a Machiavellian mullah, the first thing one would do after acquiring nukes would be to hire some obvious loon like President Ahmaddamatree to front the program. He?s the equivalent of the yobbo in the English pub who says, ?Oy, mate, you lookin? at my bird?? You haven?t given her a glance, or him; you?re at the other end of the bar head down in the Daily Mirror, trying not to catch his eye. You don?t know whether he?s longing to nut you in the face or whether he just gets a kick out of terrifying you into thinking he wants to. But, either way, you just want to get out of the room in one piece. Kooks with nukes is one-way deterrence squared.
If Belgium becomes a nuclear power, the Dutch have no reason to believe it would be a factor in, say, negotiations over a joint highway project. But Iran?s nukes will be a factor in everything. If you think, for example, the European Union and others have been fairly craven over those Danish cartoons, imagine what they?d be like if a nuclear Tehran had demanded a formal apology, a suitable punishment for the newspaper, and blasphemy laws specifically outlawing representations of the Prophet. Iran with nukes will be a suicide bomber with a radioactive waist.
If we?d understood Iran back in 1979, we?d understand better the challenges we face today. Come to that, we might not even be facing them. But, with hindsight, what strikes you about the birth of the Islamic Republic is the near total lack of interest by analysts in that adjective: Islamic. Iran was only the second Islamist state, after Saudi Arabia?and, in selecting as their own qualifying adjective the family name, the House of Saud at least indicated a conventional sense of priorities, as the legions of Saudi princes whoring and gambling in the fleshpots of the West have demonstrated exhaustively. Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue?though, as the Royal Family has belatedly discovered vis-?-vis the Islamists, they?re somewhat overdrawn on that front. The difference in Iran is simple: with the mullahs, there are no London escort agencies on retainer to supply blondes only. When they say ?Islamic Republic,? they mean it. And refusing to take their words at face value has bedeviled Western strategists for three decades.
Twenty-seven years ago, because Islam didn?t fit into the old cold war template, analysts mostly discounted it. We looked at the map like that Broadway marquee: West and East, the old double act. As with most of the down-page turf, Iran?s significance lay in which half of the act she?d sign on with. To the Left, the shah was a high-profile example of an unsavory U.S. client propped up on traditional he-may-be-a-sonofabitch-but-he?s-our-sonofabitch grounds: in those heady days SAVAK, his secret police, were a household name among Western progressives, and insofar as they took the stern-faced man in the turban seriously, they assured themselves he was a kind of novelty front for the urbane Paris ?migr? socialists who accompanied him back to Tehran. To the realpolitik Right, the issue was Soviet containment: the shah may be our sonofabitch, but he?d outlived his usefulness, and a weak Iran could prove too tempting an invitation to Moscow to fulfill the oldest of czarist dreams?a warm-water port, not to mention control of the Straits of Hormuz. Very few of us considered the strategic implications of an Islamist victory on its own terms?the notion that Iran was checking the neither-of-the-above box and that that box would prove a far greater threat to the Freeish World than Communism.
But that was always Iran?s plan. In 1989, with the Warsaw Pact disintegrating before his eyes, poor beleaguered Mikhail Gorbachev received a helpful bit of advice from the cocky young upstart on the block: ?I strongly urge that in breaking down the walls of Marxist fantasies you do not fall into the prison of the West and the Great Satan,? Ayatollah Khomeini wrote to Moscow. ?I openly announce that the Islamic Republic of Iran, as the greatest and most powerful base of the Islamic world, can easily help fill up the ideological vacuum of your system.?
Today many people in the West don?t take that any more seriously than Gorbachev did. But it?s pretty much come to pass. As Communism retreated, radical Islam seeped into Africa and south Asia and the Balkans. Crazy guys holed up in Philippine jungles and the tri-border region of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay who?d have been ?Marxist fantasists? a generation or two back are now Islamists: it?s the ideology du jour. At the point of expiry of the Soviet Union in 1991, the peoples of the central Asian republics were for the most part unaware that Iran had even had an ?Islamic revolution?; 15 years on, following the proselytizing of thousands of mullahs dispatched to the region by a specially created Iranian government agency, the Stans? traditionally moderate and in many cases alcoholically lubricated form of Islam is yielding in all but the most remote areas to a fiercer form imported from the south. As the Pentagon has begun to notice, in Iraq Tehran has been quietly duplicating the strategy that delivered southern Lebanon into its control 20 years ago. The degeneration of Baby Assad?s supposedly ?secular? Baathist tyranny into full-blown client status and the replacement of Arafat?s depraved ?secular? kleptocrat terrorists by Hamas?s even more depraved Islamist terrorists can also be seen as symptoms of Iranification.
So as a geopolitical analyst the ayatollah is not to be disdained. Our failure to understand Iran in the seventies foreshadowed our failure to understand the broader struggle today. As clashes of civilizations go, this one?s between two extremes: on the one hand, a world that has everything it needs to wage decisive war?wealth, armies, industry, technology; on the other, a world that has nothing but pure ideology and plenty of believers. (Its sole resource, oil, would stay in the ground were it not for foreign technology, foreign manpower, and a Western fetishization of domestic environmental aesthetics.)
For this to be a mortal struggle, as the cold war was, the question is: Are they a credible enemy to us?
For a projection of the likely outcome, the question is: Are we a credible enemy to them?
Four years into the ?war on terror,? the Bush administration has begun promoting a new formulation: ?the long war.? Not a reassuring name. In a short war, put your money on tanks and bombs?our strengths. In a long war, the better bet is will and manpower?their strengths, and our great weakness. Even a loser can win when he?s up against a defeatist. A big chunk of Western civilization, consciously or otherwise, has given the impression that it?s dying to surrender to somebody, anybody. Reasonably enough, Islam figures: Hey, why not us? If you add to the advantages of will and manpower a nuclear capability, the odds shift dramatically.
What, after all, is the issue underpinning every little goofy incident in the news, from those Danish cartoons of Mohammed to recommendations for polygamy by official commissions in Canada to the banning of the English flag in English prisons because it?s an insensitive ?crusader? emblem to the introduction of gender-segregated swimming sessions in municipal pools in Puget Sound? In a word, sovereignty. There is no god but Allah, and thus there is no jurisdiction but Allah?s. Ayatollah Khomeini saw himself not as the leader of a geographical polity but as a leader of a communal one: Islam. Once those urbane socialist ?migr?s were either dead or on the plane back to Paris, Iran?s nominally ?temporal? government took the same view, too: its role is not merely to run national highway departments and education ministries but to advance the cause of Islam worldwide.
If you dust off the 1933 Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, Article One reads: ?The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: (a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.? Iran fails to meet qualification (d), and has never accepted it. The signature act of the new regime was not the usual post-coup bloodletting and summary execution of the shah?s mid-ranking officials but the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran by ?students? acting with Khomeini?s blessing. Diplomatic missions are recognized as the sovereign territory of that state, and the violation thereof is an act of war. No one in Washington has to fret that Fidel Castro will bomb the U.S. Interests Section in Havana. Even in the event of an actual war, the diplomatic staff of both countries would be allowed to depart.
Yet Iran seized protected persons on U.S. soil and held them prisoner for over a year?ostensibly because Washington was planning to restore the shah. But the shah died and the hostages remained. And, when the deal was eventually done and the hostages were released, the sovereign territory of the United States remained in the hands of the gangster regime. Granted that during the Carter administration the Soviets were gobbling up real estate from Afghanistan to Grenada, it?s significant that in this wretched era the only loss of actual U.S. territory was to the Islamists.
Yet Iran paid no price. They got away with it. For the purposes of comparison, in 1980, when the U.S. hostages in Tehran were in their sixth month of captivity, Iranians opposed to the mullahs seized the Islamic Republic?s embassy in London. After six days of negotiation, Her Majesty?s Government sent SAS commandos into the building and restored it to the control of the regime. In refusing to do the same with the ?students? occupying the U.S. embassy, the Islamic Republic was explicitly declaring that it was not as other states.
We expect multilateral human-rights Democrats to be unsatisfactory on assertive nationalism, but if they won?t even stand up for international law, what?s the point? Jimmy Carter should have demanded the same service as Tehran got from the British?the swift resolution of the situation by the host government?and, if none was forthcoming, Washington should have reversed the affront to international order quickly, decisively, and in a sufficiently punitive manner. At hinge moments of history, there are never good and bad options, only bad and much much worse. Our options today are significantly worse because we didn?t take the bad one back then.
With the fatwa against Salman Rushdie, a British subject, Tehran extended its contempt for sovereignty to claiming jurisdiction over the nationals of foreign states, passing sentence on them, and conscripting citizens of other countries to carry it out. Iran?s supreme leader instructed Muslims around the world to serve as executioners of the Islamic Republic?and they did, killing not Rushdie himself but his Japanese translator, and stabbing the Italian translator, and shooting the Italian publisher, and killing three dozen persons with no connection to the book when a mob burned down a hotel because of the presence of the novelist?s Turkish translator.
Iran?s de facto head of state offered a multimillion-dollar bounty for a whack job on an obscure English novelist. And, as with the embassy siege, he got away with it.
In the latest variation on Marx?s dictum, history repeats itself: first, the unreadable London literary novel; then, the Danish funny pages. But in the 17 years between the Rushdie fatwa and the cartoon jihad, what was supposedly a freakish one-off collision between Islam and the modern world has become routine. We now think it perfectly normal for Muslims to demand the tenets of their religion be applied to society at large: the government of Sweden, for example, has been zealously closing down websites that republish those Danish cartoons. As Khomeini?s successor, Ayatollah Khamenei, has said, ?It is in our revolution?s interest, and an essential principle, that when we speak of Islamic objectives, we address all the Muslims of the world.? Or as a female Muslim demonstrator in Toronto put it: ?We won?t stop the protests until the world obeys Islamic law.?
If that?s a little too ferocious, Kofi Annan framed it rather more soothingly: ?The offensive caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad were first published in a European country which has recently acquired a significant Muslim population, and is not yet sure how to adjust to it.?
If you?ve also ?recently acquired? a significant Muslim population and you?re not sure how to ?adjust? to it, well, here?s the difference: back when my Belgian grandparents emigrated to Canada, the idea was that the immigrants assimilated to the host country. As Kofi and Co. see it, today the host country has to assimilate to the immigrants: if Islamic law forbids representations of the Prophet, then so must Danish law, and French law, and American law. Iran was the progenitor of this rapacious extraterritoriality, and, if we had understood it more clearly a generation ago, we might be in less danger of seeing large tracts of the developed world being subsumed by it today.
Yet instead the West somehow came to believe that, in a region of authoritarian monarchs and kleptocrat dictators, Iran was a comparative beacon of liberty. The British foreign secretary goes to Tehran and hangs with the mullahs and, even though he?s not a practicing Muslim (yet), ostentatiously does that ?peace be upon him? thing whenever he mentions the Prophet Mohammed. And where does the kissy-face with the A-list imams get him? Ayatollah Khamenei renewed the fatwa on Rushdie only last year. True, President Bush identified Iran as a member of the axis of evil, but a year later the country was being hailed as a ?democracy? by then-deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage and a nation that has seen a ?democratic flowering,? as State Department spokesman Richard Boucher put it.
And let?s not forget Bill Clinton?s extraordinary remarks at Davos last year: ?Iran today is, in a sense, the only country where progressive ideas enjoy a vast constituency. It is there that the ideas that I subscribe to are defended by a majority.? That?s true in the very narrow sense that there?s a certain similarity between his legal strategy and sharia when it comes to adultery and setting up the gals as the fall guys. But it seems Clinton apparently had a more general commonality in mind: ?In every single election, the guys I identify with got two-thirds to 70 percent of the vote. There is no other country in the world I can say that about, certainly not my own.? America?s first black President is beginning to sound like America?s first Islamist ex-president.
Those remarks are as nutty as Gerald Ford?s denial of Soviet influence in Eastern Europe. Iran has an impressive three-decade record of talking the talk and walking the walk?either directly or through client groups like Hezbollah. In 1994, the Argentine Israel Mutual Association was bombed in Buenos Aires. Nearly 100 people died and 250 were injured?the worst massacre of Jewish civilians since the Holocaust. An Argentine court eventually issued warrants for two Iranian diplomats plus Ali Fallahian, former intelligence minister, and Ali Akbar Parvaresh, former education minister and deputy speaker of the Majlis.
Why blow up a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires? Because it?s there. Unlike the Iranian infiltration into Bosnia and Croatia, which helped radicalize not just the local populations but Muslim supporters from Britain and Western Europe, the random slaughter in the Argentine has no strategic value except as a demonstration of muscle and reach.
Anyone who spends half an hour looking at Iranian foreign policy over the last 27 years sees five things:
contempt for the most basic international conventions;
effective promotion of radical Pan-Islamism;
a willingness to go the extra mile for Jew-killing (unlike, say, Osama);
an all-but-total synchronization between rhetoric and action.
Yet the Europeans remain in denial. Iran was supposedly the Middle Eastern state they could work with. And the chancellors and foreign ministers jetted in to court the mullahs so assiduously that they?re reluctant to give up on the strategy just because a relatively peripheral figure like the, er, head of state is sounding off about Armageddon.
Instead, Western analysts tend to go all Kremlinological. There are, after all, many factions within Iran?s ruling class. What the country?s quick-on-the-nuke president says may not be the final word on the regime?s position. Likewise, what the school of nuclear theologians in Qom says. Likewise, what former president Khatami says. Likewise, what Iran?s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, says.
But, given that they?re all in favor of the country having nukes, the point seems somewhat moot. The question then arises, what do they want them for?
By way of illustration, consider the country?s last presidential election. The final round offered a choice between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, an alumnus of the U.S. Embassy siege a quarter-century ago, and Hashemi Rafsanjani, head of the Expediency Council, which sounds like an EU foreign policy agency but is, in fact, the body that arbitrates between Iran?s political and religious leaderships. Ahmadinejad is a notorious shoot-from-the-lip apocalyptic hothead who believes in the return of the Twelfth (hidden) Imam and quite possibly that he personally is his designated deputy, and he?s also claimed that when he addressed the United Nations General Assembly last year a mystical halo appeared and bathed him in its aura. Ayatollah Rafsanjani, on the other hand, is one of those famous ?moderates.?
What?s the difference between a hothead and a moderate? Well, the extremist Ahmadinejad has called for Israel to be ?wiped off the map,? while the moderate Rafsanjani has declared that Israel is ?the most hideous occurrence in history,? which the Muslim world ?will vomit out from its midst? in one blast, because ?a single atomic bomb has the power to completely destroy Israel, while an Israeli counter-strike can only cause partial damage to the Islamic world.? Evidently wiping Israel off the map seems to be one of those rare points of bipartisan consensus in Tehran, the Iranian equivalent of a prescription drug plan for seniors: we?re just arguing over the details.
So the question is: Will they do it?
And the minute you have to ask, you know the answer. If, say, Norway or Ireland acquired nuclear weapons, we might regret the ?proliferation,? but we wouldn?t have to contemplate mushroom clouds over neighboring states. In that sense, the civilized world has already lost: to enter into negotiations with a jurisdiction headed by a Holocaust-denying millenarian nut job is, in itself, an act of profound weakness?the first concession, regardless of what weaselly settlement might eventually emerge.
Conversely, a key reason to stop Iran is to demonstrate that we can still muster the will to do so. Instead, the striking characteristic of the long diplomatic dance that brought us to this moment is how September 10th it?s all been. The free world?s delegated negotiators (the European Union) and transnational institutions (the IAEA) have continually given the impression that they?d be content just to boot it down the road to next year or the year after or find some arrangement?this decade?s Oil-for-Food or North Korean deal?that would get them off the hook. If you talk to EU foreign ministers, they?ve already psychologically accepted a nuclear Iran. Indeed, the chief characteristic of the West?s reaction to Iran?s nuclearization has been an enervated fatalism.
Back when nuclear weapons were an elite club of five relatively sane world powers, your average Western progressive was convinced the planet was about to go ka-boom any minute. The mushroom cloud was one of the most familiar images in the culture, a recurring feature of novels and album covers and movie posters. There were bestselling dystopian picture books for children, in which the handful of survivors spent their last days walking in a nuclear winter wonderland. Now a state openly committed to the annihilation of a neighboring nation has nukes, and we shrug: Can?t be helped. Just the way things are. One hears sophisticated arguments that perhaps the best thing is to let everyone get ?em, and then no one will use them. And if Iran?s head of state happens to threaten to wipe Israel off the map, we should understand that this is a rhetorical stylistic device that?s part of the Persian oral narrative tradition, and it would be a grossly Eurocentric misinterpretation to take it literally.
The fatalists have a point. We may well be headed for a world in which anybody with a few thousand bucks and the right unlisted Asian phone numbers in his Rolodex can get a nuke. But, even so, there are compelling reasons for preventing Iran in particular from going nuclear. Back in his student days at the U.S. embassy, young Mr. Ahmadinejad seized American sovereign territory, and the Americans did nothing. And I would wager that?s still how he looks at the world. And, like Rafsanjani, he would regard, say, Muslim deaths in an obliterated Jerusalem as worthy collateral damage in promoting the greater good of a Jew-free Middle East. The Palestinians and their ?right of return? have never been more than a weapon of convenience with which to chastise the West. To assume Tehran would never nuke Israel because a shift in wind direction would contaminate Ramallah is to be as ignorant of history as most Palestinians are: from Yasser Arafat?s uncle, the pro-Nazi Grand Mufti of Jerusalem during the British Mandate, to the insurgents in Iraq today, Islamists have never been shy about slaughtering Muslims in pursuit of their strategic goals.
But it doesn?t have to come to that. Go back to that Argentine bombing. It was, in fact, the second major Iranian-sponsored attack in Buenos Aires. The year before, 1993, a Hezbollah suicide bomber killed 29 people and injured hundreds more in an attack on the Israeli Embassy. In the case of the community center bombing, the killer had flown from Lebanon a few days earlier and entered Latin America through the porous tri-border region of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. Suppose Iran had had a ?dirty nuke? shipped to Hezbollah, or even the full-blown thing: Would it have been any less easy to get it into the country? And, if a significant chunk of downtown Buenos Aires were rendered uninhabitable, what would the Argentine government do? Iran can project itself to South America effortlessly, but Argentina can?t project itself to the Middle East at all. It can?t nuke Tehran, and it can?t attack Iran in conventional ways.
So any retaliation would be down to others. Would Washington act? It depends how clear the fingerprints were. If the links back to the mullahs were just a teensy-weensy bit tenuous and murky, how eager would the U.S. be to reciprocate? Bush and Rumsfeld might?but an administration of a more Clinto-Powellite bent? How much pressure would there be for investigations under UN auspices? Perhaps Hans Blix could come out of retirement, and we could have a six-month dance through Security-Council coalition-building, with the secretary of state making a last-minute flight to Khartoum to try to persuade Sudan to switch its vote.
Perhaps it?s unduly pessimistic to write the civilized world automatically into what Osama bin Laden called the ?weak horse? role (Islam being the ?strong horse?). But, if you were an Iranian ?moderate? and you?d watched the West?s reaction to the embassy seizure and the Rushdie murders and Hezbollah terrorism, wouldn?t you be thinking along those lines? I don?t suppose Buenos Aires Jews expect to have their institutions nuked any more than 12 years ago they expected to be blown up in their own city by Iranian-backed suicide bombers. Nukes have gone freelance, and there?s nothing much we can do about that, and sooner or later we?ll see the consequences?in Vancouver or Rotterdam, Glasgow or Atlanta. But, that being so, we owe it to ourselves to take the minimal precautionary step of ending the one regime whose political establishment is explicitly pledged to the nuclear annihilation of neighboring states.
Once again, we face a choice between bad and worse options. There can be no ?surgical? strike in any meaningful sense: Iran?s clients on the ground will retaliate in Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, and Europe. Nor should we put much stock in the country?s allegedly ?pro-American? youth. This shouldn?t be a touchy-feely nation-building exercise: rehabilitation may be a bonus, but the primary objective should be punishment?and incarceration. It?s up to the Iranian people how nutty a government they want to live with, but extraterritorial nuttiness has to be shown not to pay. That means swift, massive, devastating force that decapitates the regime?but no occupation.
The cost of de-nuking Iran will be high now but significantly higher with every year it?s postponed. The lesson of the Danish cartoons is the clearest reminder that what is at stake here is the credibility of our civilization. Whether or not we end the nuclearization of the Islamic Republic will be an act that defines our time.
A quarter-century ago, there was a minor British pop hit called ?Ayatollah, Don?t Khomeini Closer.? If you?re a U.S. diplomat or a British novelist, a Croat Christian or an Argentine Jew, he?s already come way too close. How much closer do you want him to get?
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Una curiosidad
on: April 11, 2006, 02:12:17 PM
Sea humilde en victoria
Hablando mas en serio, el hombre es mas importante que el estilo. Lo importante es crecer a traves de la experiencia. Busque el camino de "Ser amigos a fin del dia" y todo te saldra' bien.
Estoy escribiendo a Rainier hoy mismo. El me escribio que a Uds se les hace falta palos de rattan. Acabo de dejar un mensaje a nuestro fuente de rattan para ver cuanto nos cueste para enviar palos de rattan a Peru.
?Eres tu unos de los quienes son miembros de la Asociacion?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WW3
on: April 10, 2006, 07:41:25 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Exploiting Sectarian Fault Lines
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said over the weekend that civil war "has almost started" in Iraq and warned against a U.S. withdrawal. During an hour-long interview with Al Arabiyah television, he also said that most of the Shia in the Middle East "are loyal to Iran, and not to the countries they are living in" -- a statement that drew angry reactions from Shia leaders throughout the region on Sunday.
In Iraq, the three highest-ranking Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni leaders -- President Jalal Talabani, Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari and Parliament Speaker Adnan Pachachi -- issued a joint statement saying Mubarak had taken "a stab" at Shiite Iraqis' "patriotism and civilization."
In Kuwait, Shiite members of parliament demanded an apology from Mubarak, with Hassan Jowhar saying, "We are not begging for certificates of loyalty to our countries from Mubarak or others." In Lebanon, senior Hezbollah leader Sheikh Mohammed Yazbek labeled Mubarak's comments as "dangerous" lies that betray "fanaticism and sectarianism." He also insisted that the Shia in Lebanon are agents of no one -- saying they are loyal to their country but also support Tehran and Damascus.
The mildest of all the reactions came from Iran itself, where Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi acknowledged that Iran wields immense influence in Iraq, but said it is "spiritual" in nature and that Tehran uses this influence in efforts to bring stability to the country.
Assuming, for the moment, that Mubarak hopes to keep the Sunni-Shiite tensions now riddling Iraq from spreading to other parts of the Middle East, it would appear that his words had rather the opposite of the intended effect.
Correctly or otherwise, Egypt and other Sunni Arab states have adopted the view that the public talks between the United States and Iran, concerning Iraq, are a sign that the Sunnis of Iraq no longer will be enough to contain Iran's influence. Instead, they are bracing for the implications of an "American-Iranian deal." The Associated Press recently reported that the intelligence chiefs of Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey held a series of secret meetings last month in order to prepare for the outbreak of civil war in Iraq.
Of course, these concerns are not new. King Abdullah of Jordan warned in January 2005 about the emergence of a Shiite crescent in the Middle East. Eight months later, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said U.S. policy had thrown Iraq to the Iranians. And it is no secret that the Persian Gulf emirates see the rise of Iranian power -- absent the counterbalance that was provided by Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq -- as a major security threat. The bulwark that Baghdad once provided against Iranian expansionism is no more.
Moreover, there is no single Arab state that is as strong as Iran -- and quarrels between these states are too numerous to permit one to emerge.
It is difficult to accuse the Arab states of irrational fear. Iran has stated its objectives quite clearly. Last week, Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, commander of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, said during war games Iran staged in the Persian Gulf that the United States should accept Tehran as the regional hegemon.
Since the fall of the Hussein regime until quite recently, the Arab states had hoped that Iraq's Sunnis, sufficiently plugged into the political process in Baghdad, would be useful in checking Iran's hegemonic ambitions. It now appears, however, that continued instability in Iraq -- civil war -- is the Arab states' best hope.
This is a risky proposition. Instability in Iraq gives jihadist groups like al Qaeda an opportunity to find shelter and grow, which in itself endangers the security of these states. But given a choice between Iran becoming the regional power center and facing down threats posed by Islamist militants, the Arab states would view al Qaeda as the lesser of the two evils.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / We the Well-armed People
on: April 10, 2006, 07:38:16 AM
Permitted to conceal arms
Debbie Kavanaugh and husband Bill, who holds a concealed-carry permit, practice at the Wake County Firearms Education and Training Center.
Staff Photos by Chris Seward http://www.newsobserver.com/105/story/426887.html
Jim Nesbitt, Staff Writer
Every day, Bill Kavanaugh carries a stubby, stainless-steel .45-caliber semiautomatic -- at the grocery store or mall, in a booze-free restaurant, on a short stroll around the block, in the car for a quick jaunt or a cross-country journey.
Tucked in a well-worn, zip-up leather daybook, this gun goes where Kavanaugh does -- everywhere except the places prohibited by law, a list that includes schools, churches, courthouses, post offices and anywhere alcohol is served.
"I believe I have a responsibility to make sure my family is safe, that I'm safe, that my neighbors are safe," says Kavanaugh, 52, a telecommunications engineer. "It's a personal decision I've made to refuse to be a victim."
Kavanaugh is a street-legal pistolero, one of almost 76,000 North Carolinians who hold a permit that allows them to carry a concealed handgun under a state law enacted in 1995. Far from being a teenage gangbanger or predator in neighborhoods where weapons are illegal and crime is rampant, he fits the demographic of a typical Tar Heel permit holder -- a white, middle-age man.
Short, bald and bespectacled, Kavanaugh keeps his pistol within easy reach for that moment he hopes never happens.
Until that day, he and his wife, Debbie, who also shoots but doesn't have a concealed-carry permit, live what could be called a "tactical" lifestyle from their modest, brick-trimmed ranch home in southern Durham County.
They've worked out how they'd fight a home invasion. They keep their car doors locked and are careful about where they park at the mall or grocery store. One never goes to a drive-up ATM without the other as a backup, sitting in the car, gun at the ready.
Like an Old West gunfighter, Kavanaugh tries never to sit in a public place with his back to the door -- unless he's covered by another gun-toting friend.
People who hate guns or aren't familiar with them may find his stance distasteful or paranoid, particularly in the face of North Carolina's falling crime rate.
To them, all guns are bad. They see America's firearms fetish -- rooted in frontier myth and a latent Southern celebration of violence -- as a fearsome cultural telltale, a Neanderthal instinct they wish would just become extinct.
To them, people like Bill Kavanaugh are wild-eyed pistol wavers, paranoids who are cocked and locked to spray lead at the barest of provocations.
But if you listen to Kavanaugh explain why he carries a gun -- and does so legally -- you hear a a marked willingness to shoulder this deadly weight responsibly. He isn't content just to punch holes in paper targets at the gun range; he has taken combat pistol courses, learning how to move and look for cover during a gun fight.
You also hear a tightly knit rationale, the product of a deliberate progression. The main threads in this weave are a strong credo of personal responsibility bolstered by religious conviction and a conservative political stand.
"The good Lord requires you to defend your life," said Kavanaugh. "He gave you the power and wherewithal to take care of that life and expects you to do so."
Bill Kavanaugh also believes strongly that legally armed citizens can foil criminals. And a dollop of common sense tells him a little guy in a dangerous world needs a high-powered equalizer.
Born of experience
This last thread is powerful, laced with fear-laden memories of working late at night in the deserted office towers of New Orleans' central business district, at the height of the crack epidemic.
In a recurring, acid-etched image, he also sees the would-be carjacker who jammed a gun barrel against his wife's rib cage at a Union 76 truck stop near Meridian, Miss.
That after-midnight moment is still vivid almost 30 years after it took place during a bathroom break as the couple, their infant son and a woman friend drove from Texas back to Wilmington, the Kavanaughs' hometown.
Kavanaugh can still see the barrel of that gun as it arced from Debbie's midsection to his face and back again. He can see the calm, road-weary and clueless faces of diners in the truck stop's brightly lit cafe just a few yards from the front bumper of his car. And he can still taste the helpless bile he swallowed that night, when all he could do was reach for his wallet and pray the man would take it and run.
"I was extremely upset I could do nothing to defend my wife, my son and my wife's friend," he said. "I was not going to let myself be in that position ever again."
That Mississippi night caused Kavanaugh, an Air Force veteran, to reach for a gun.
His first pistol? A clone of that quintessentially American gun, the Colt 1911 Government Model, the .45 caliber semiautomatic designed by the legendary John Browning and carried by American soldiers and sailors through two world wars, through Korea and Vietnam.
He rarely carries anything else.
"For whatever reason, a 1911 fit my hand when I picked it up," he said. "It's like I carried one in a past life."
Where the permits are
Guns are as American as Wyatt Earp and Al Capone.
And ever since a Republican majority swept into Congress in 1994 and started taking over state legislatures, more and more states have passed concealed-carry permit laws.
North Carolina is one of 38 states with relaxed concealed-carry laws or no permit requirements for someone who wants to tote a pistol. Most of these states, including North Carolina, have "shall-issue" laws that require a sheriff or other authority to grant a permit provided the applicant doesn't have a criminal record or other disqualifying mark, pays a fee and -- if required -- submits to a criminal background check and takes a training course.
State records show there are 75,818 valid concealed-carry permits in North Carolina.
Could be the petite woman waiting to get her nails done at the local salon has a snub-nosed Smith & Wesson .38 Special five-shot revolver tucked into her fanny pack.
Maybe the well-tailored lawyer striding through the marbled lobby of a Raleigh office tower has a .40 caliber Glock semiautomatic nestled in his briefcase.
And could be the long-haul trucker sipping coffee at a Wilco truck stop has a Beretta 9mm semiautomatic -- the civilian version of the pistol American troops carry in Iraq and Afghanistan -- riding beneath his Carhartt canvas coat.
Chances are more than one in 100 they do.
And then there's Kavanaugh, sitting in his car, calmly watching Debbie step up to an ATM, his daybook open and his Para-Ordnance .45 within easy reach.
"I don't want to freak anybody out. I don't want people paranoid when I walk by," he said. "But I'm not going to be a victim again if I can help it."
Like abortion, prayer in schools and the death penalty, guns have defined one of the primary battle lines in America's cultural and political wars.
Back when the concealed-carry law was a subject of debate in the North Carolina legislature, the gunsmoke from both sides of this contentious divide got mighty thick.
Opponents sounded dire warnings of Dodge City-style shootouts. Proponents argued legally armed citizens would reduce North Carolina's crime rate and allow people to protect themselves and their families until cops could arrive.
More than 10 years later, neither the fear of blood in the streets nor the predicted crime-rate reduction have become reality, police officers and prosecutors say.
"They both were wrong," said Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong. "It's been a non-factor as far as I can see."
Triangle law enforcement officials running programs to reduce gun violence say they don't worry about the pistol-centered life of Kavanaugh or North Carolina's relatively thin cadre of concealed-carry permit holders.
Instead, their focus is riveted on the primary cause of this chronic and oft-times deadly problem -- criminals packing illegal firearms.
In the eyes of Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell, there are two distinct gun universes -- one features the pistol-packing outlaw he tries to arrest; the other is a smaller world of concealed-carry permit holders.
In reality, there's a third gun universe, a gray world peopled by firearms owners who steer clear of serious illegal activity, but don't bother with a carry permit for the handgun they routinely carry in car or pickup.
Bizzell keeps his focus on the blatantly lawless and the patently law-abiding.
"The individuals who apply for a permit are the good citizens of our county who get up and go to work every day, go to church, are family people," Bizzell said.
This accepting attitude is based on the lawman's belief that few permit holders commit a criminal act -- either by reckless use of a handgun or otherwise.
However, the state doesn't compile a list of criminal violations by permit holders, nor is there a breakdown on the reasons for denials and revocations. Instead, the state justice department just tallies permit applications, approvals, denials and revocations -- numbers that originate with the county sheriffs responsible for issuing the permits.
Why they carry
Most Triangle area sheriffs and prosecutors say they haven't had a violent crime committed by a concealed-carry permit holder in their jurisdictions.
Chatham County Sheriff Richard Webster says permit holders haven't shot up the streets or stopped crime.
"I think it's a gray line right down the middle that hasn't veered one way or the other," he said.
On the surface, there isn't a single, lock-step reason for North Carolinians who decide to get a concealed-carry permit.
Some are small-business owners who regularly carry a lot of cash. Others are lifelong shooters who see the permit as a convenience that keeps them from unintentionally violating the law when carrying a pistol, said Ken Dodd, a former Wake County Sheriff's Department captain from Garner who teaches a state-approved handgun course.
But deep down, Dodd says, most students are motivated by a fear about their vulnerability to criminal violence. Fear makes them reach for a gun, a reflex tempered by the desire to do so within the lines of the law.
When Stephanie Bennett was found murdered in her Lake Lynn apartment in May 2002, Dodd said, he saw a sudden spike in the number of students -- young, single women in particular.
"When it hits close to home, a specific crime, you'll see more people taking the class," said Dodd, whose students include judges, prosecutors and plumbers.
Polite side effect
For Kavanaugh's friends, Cindi and Gregg Swensen, the 9/11 terrorist attacks shattered their sense of safety and security.
Born in Brooklyn and raised in New Jersey, Gregg Swensen felt a bloodline jolt from the fall of the Twin Towers. Gregg's father, Sonny, was an ironworker who helped build the World Trade Center; Swensen is a former ironworker who helped erect some of the office buildings that surround the now-sacred turf known as Ground Zero.
He now sees a high-risk world where terrorists, gangbangers and criminals are on the prowl and the cops always arrive after a violent deal has already gone down.
"The criminals have gotten so brazen -- home invasions where people are sitting at home, watching TV when the door busts open and criminals rob and rape and kill," said Swensen, 40. "You know what? There is an element in this world whose intent is to kill as many of us as possible -- Americans, Westerners."
The Swensens already had a shotgun in their house for self-defense. When they decided they needed a pistol, Gregg Swensen looked to his co-worker, Bill Kavanaugh, for advice.
"I never thought in my whole life I'd own a gun," said Cindi Swensen, 52, a petite retired administrative assistant who was born and raised in New Jersey. "It never entered my realm of consciousness. I wasn't afraid of them; they just weren't relevant to me."
She and her husband both got concealed-carry permits two years ago. She carries a .38-caliber revolver in a fanny pack; he carries a .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol.
"Let me tell you about carrying a gun -- it makes you more polite," said Cindi Swensen, who describes herself as feisty and confrontational. "You don't want to do something stupid, and provoking a confrontation while carrying would be stupid. The idea that people with a permit are wild-eyed and full of road rage -- nothing could be further from the truth."
Bill Kavanaugh first got his permit in 1997 after passing a criminal background check and taking the state-mandated course on firearm safety and on the strict regimen of laws that dictate where it's legal to carry a handgun and when it's legal to pull a pistol in self-defense.
The permit marks a major turning point in his evolution into an armed private citizen who will take a day off to bend the ear of a state legislator about Second Amendment issues. He's a member of Grass Roots North Carolina, a pro-gun group, but takes pains to point out he isn't an officer or a lobbyist.
He's a true believer in the deterring power of a concealed hand gun, his faith in firepower shaped by that late-night brush with a would-be carjacker at a Mississippi truck stop.
Sitting on his living room couch, he hefts his .45-caliber pistol.
"This helps me not live in fear -- with it or without it on me," he said.
(News researchers David Raynor and Denise Jones contributed to this report.)
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Howl of Respect to our Soldiers/Veterans
on: April 10, 2006, 07:31:45 AM
On Call in Hell
He left a desk job for the front lines of Fallujah?and a horror show few doctors ever see. How Richard Jadick earned his Bronze Star.
By Pat Wingert and Evan Thomas
March 20, 2006 issue - Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here I am. Send me!"
Richard Jadick was bored. The Navy doctor was shuffling paper while Marines were heading out to Iraq. Once, many years before, Jadick had been a Marine officer, but he had missed the 1991 gulf war, stuck behind a recruiter's desk. Now he was looking forward to leading a comfortable life as what he called a "gentleman urologist." Jadick, with a Navy rank of lieutenant commander, was 38?too old, really, to be a combat surgeon.
But then a medical committee searching for help came knocking on his door. Because of an acute doctor shortage, they were having trouble finding a junior-grade Navy doctor to go with the First Battalion, Eighth Marine Regiment (the "1/8"), to Iraq. Jadick at the time was one of the senior medical officers at Camp Lejeune, N.C. "Who could we send?" they asked. Jadick thought for a moment. "Well," he said, "I could go."
His friends told him he was crazy, and his wife, a pediatrician nine months pregnant with their first child, was none too happy. But in the summer of 2004, five days after the birth of his child, Commander Jadick shipped out for Iraq. On the plane, he sat behind a gunnery staff sergeant named Ryan P. Shane. A 250-pound weight lifter, the massive Shane turned in his seat to look at Jadick. Slowly taking the measure of the 5-foot-10, 200-pound Jadick, the gunnery sergeant said, "So you're our new surgeon. That's one job I wouldn't want to have with the place where we're going." That night Jadick e-mailed his wife, "What have I gotten myself into?"
The place they were going was Fallujah. In Sunni territory west of Baghdad, the city seethed with insurgents. Jihadists had strung up the burned bodies of American contractors in the spring of 2004, and chaos had reigned ever since. By November, the United States was tired of waiting for the enemy to give up or clear out. "Over the past five months, [we] have been attacked by a faceless enemy. But the enemy has got a face. He's called Satan. He lives in Fallujah. And we're going to destroy him," said Marine Lt. Col. Gary Brandl on the eve of the attack. Jadick's regiment, the 1/8, was ordered to take what was, in effect, the Main Street of the city. For Jadick, who speaks in a gentle, matter-of-fact voice, occasionally strained by memories of the men he saved and lost, it was to be a journey to the other side of hell.
The night before the assault, Jadick hopped into a command Humvee taking a reconnaissance mission from the headquarters base outside the city. He wanted to see what he was up against. In treating traumatic injuries, there is something known as the golden hour. A badly injured person who gets to the hospital within an hour is much more likely to be saved. But Jadick knew that in combat the "golden hour" doesn't exist. Left unaided, said Jadick, the wounded "could die in 15 minutes, and there are some things that could kill them in six minutes. If they had an arterial bleed, it could be three minutes."
Jadick knew that helicopter evacuations were out of the question: there was too great a risk the choppers would get shot down. Casualties would have to be driven out of the city. It took Jadick 45 minutes to drive from the base hospital, where he would normally be stationed, to the city. Not close enough. Jadick wanted to push closer to the action.
Jadick, along with 54 Navy corpsmen, his young, sometimes teenage medical assistants, moved to the edge of the city as the assault began; the night sky was lit by tracers and rocket fire. The next morning a call came over the radio. A Navy SEAL with a sucking chest wound needed evacuation. A weapons company was heading in to rescue the man. Lacking much military training, doctors normally stay back in the rear area. But ex-Marine Jadick decided to go to the fight. As shots rang out around them, the weapons company ran and dodged down narrow alleyways toward the building where the SEAL lay wounded. Jadick was armed only with a small 9mm pistol. He thought: "If anyone actually gets close to me, I'm going to have to throw it at him." He felt slightly ridiculous, remembering a "MASH" episode in which Alan Alda tried to scare away the enemy.
In the rubble of a shot-up building, he found the SEAL conscious but bleeding badly. "Get me out of here," the man said. Helping to carry the man on a stretcher down the stairs, Jadick could hear rocket fire and shooting. The air was thick with fine dust and a familiar smell: cordite, from gunpowder. He had smelled cordite before at rifle ranges, but never like this. "It just hung in the air," he recalled.
The radio squawked. Two Marines had been wounded in an ambush in the center of the city. Jadick wanted to get his wounded SEAL back to base camp. But the voices on the radio were insisting that the two men down in the ambush were in even worse shape. It was Jadick's call. He loaded the SEAL into an armored ambulance and set off in the vehicle toward the scene of the shooting. He could hear the firing intensify. Jadick wondered, anxiously, if a rocket-propelled grenade could punch right through the ambulance's metal sides.
The ambulance stopped and Jadick peered out at the first real fire fight of his life. There were not two wounded men, but seven. As a middle-class kid growing up in upstate New York, Jadick had avidly read about war, and even applied to West Point. But he flunked the physical?poor depth perception?and went to Ithaca College on an ROTC scholarship instead. He had served as a communications officer in the Marines, but left the corps after seven years, bitter that he had been left out of the fighting in 1991. Attending medical school on a Navy scholarship, he had never seen or experienced real war?the kind of urban combat that can leave 30 to 40 percent of a unit wounded or dead.
"I can't tell you how scared I was," he recalled. "My legs wanted to stay in that vehicle, but I had to get off. I wanted to go back into that vehicle and lie under something and cry. I felt like a coward. I felt like it took me hours to make the decision to go."
But he got up and went. He felt as though he were "walking through water." Desperately seeking cover, he ran to a three-foot wall where the most badly wounded soldier lay. He lifted the man over the wall to safety. "I put him down on the ground, and he was looking at me," Jadick recalled. The man had a gaping wound in his groin. Jadick tried to "pack" the wound, stuffing sterile gauze packages into the hole torn by an AK-47 round, but he couldn't stop the bleeding. Jadick was forced to make the first of a thousand wretched decisions. "I knew I had six other people that I had to work on. So I don't know ..." Jadick paused in the retelling. "I stopped and went on to someone else." It was Jadick's first experience in battlefield triage?forget the mortally or lightly wounded, save the rest?a concept easier to philosophize about than to practice.
Bullets were hissing around him. Afraid of dying, more afraid of failing his comrades, Jadick managed to treat the wounded, to stabilize them and stop the bleeding. As he began loading men into the ambulance, an RPG screamed in?and glanced off the roof without exploding. A second RPG slammed into the wall next to them; it didn't go off, either.
One of the wounded was Ryan Shane?the massive gunnery sergeant Jadick had met on the plane. Shane's abdomen was all shot up. Jadick was unable to lift him, so the sergeant had to crawl into the ambulance by himself. "I made room for him underneath the stretchers," Jadick recalled. But he had to turn away another Marine who had been shot in the foot. There was no more room.
As a urology resident at an inner-city trauma center in Baltimore, Jadick had spent a three-month rotation handling gunshot wounds. But the inside of the darkened ambulance, bathed in red light and blood from the wounded, echoing and rattling with the combat close by, seemed far away from the sterile, scrubbed world of a hospital ER. Working with a medic, Jadick pumped Hespan (a clear blood expander) into veins and tried to pack wounds. One man was dead already. His body, on the top rack, was bleeding all over the patients below him and Jadick, too?"down my neck, everywhere," Jadick recalled.
Jadick was covered with gore by the time the ambulance reached a transfer point. People standing around the medical tent were staring at him, so he rubbed sand on his uniform. "It made it go dark," he said.
It was not yet noon on Jadick's first day in combat. A Humvee rolled up and a big, husky young Marine from Louisiana, Joel Dupuis, jumped out and began rambling on that his friend, Pvt. Paul Volpe, was going to die. Jadick ran with Dupuis to find a young Marine slumped over on the back hatch of the Humvee. Hit in the thigh, Volpe was "fluorescent-light white," recalled Jadick. His pulse was thin and weak; shock was setting in. Jadick figured the Marine had lost more than half his blood.
Jadick looked at Volpe and thought of the Marine who had died and bled all over him. "I can't let this happen again," he thought, "or there's no point in me being here." Turning to a young Navy doctor, Carlos Kennedy, Jadick instructed, "Pack him like you've never packed a guy before." Kennedy used his boot to stomp in the gauze stuffing. Meanwhile, Dupuis, who was a corpsman, found a vein to insert an IV, and a liter of Hespan started pumping into his unconscious friend.
"All of a sudden, it was the most amazing thing," recalled Jadick. "It was like Frosty the Snowman come to life." Volpe opened his eyes, looked up and asked what was going on. When he saw Dupuis's anxious face, he joked, "I'm all right, I can see your ugly-ass face."
Jadick felt the need to get still closer to the battle. Even though Volpe had reached Jadick's aid station on the edge of the city, the Marine had almost died. In effect, Jadick wanted to set up an emergency room in the middle of the battlefield. Loading up two armored ambulances, he convoyed into the city in the dead of night to establish an aid station in the prayer room of an old government building. The night was quiet, save for the drone of a C-130 gunship searching for prey. Jadick and his men found some metal plates in the street, cleaned them and draped them with sterile gauze as trays for his scalpels. They stacked sandbags by the windows. As the sun rose, the silence was broken by sniper fire.
The casualty runs began arriving in the morning, depositing their grisly cargo. Bodies stacked up. At times Jadick couldn't sterilize his instruments fast enough. "You'd just have to throw some alcohol on the stuff and use it again. I didn't get a chance to wash my hands a lot. I wore gloves as much as possible, but they'd get all torn up and my body would just get covered in blood." Jadick was still afraid. "We were still getting shot at, and there were mortar attacks. But now it was OK somehow. Maybe I had gotten used to it, or maybe just calloused."
Kneeling over a wounded Marine, Jadick was startled to see a muzzle flash from a water tower about 50 yards away. He could clearly see a sniper, his face wrapped in cloth. For a moment, Jadick, the former Marine captain, replaced Jadick, the Navy doctor. A truckload of Marines had just pulled up. "Please go kill that guy," said Jadick, and their commander sent them out to silence the man. Jadick had a fleeting struggle with the Hippocratic Oath ("Do no harm") but thought, "At some point, it's either kill or be killed."
Jadick grew close to his young corpsmen, who were frightened, like him, but cared for the wounded like brothers. "If it would help, they would hold a guy's hand. They did those things to provide comfort, and they weren't afraid to do it. That's not something I taught them. They just did it," Jadick said.
Sometimes the corpsmen behaved like the 18- and 19-year-olds they were. Jadick was miffed at one young clerk, in charge of keeping proper records, who had apparently wandered off. Unable to find the man, Jadick began cursing him, when the clerk appeared around the corner. "Where were you?" Jadick angrily demanded. "Well," the clerk said, "some guys were trying to come across through the open gate, so I shot them." Jadick laughed as he recalled the story. "That's a pretty good excuse, so I'll let you go this time," he told the man.
On the third or fourth night, a vehicle pulled up with a badly wounded Marine named Jacob Knospler. A corporal with a rifle company, Knospler had dragged the shot-up Gunnery Sergeant Shane out of harm's way a few days before. Now, fighting house to house, he had been hit in the face with grenade shrapnel. There was a hole where his mouth and jaw had been. He was conscious and crying and trying to paw at his face. "We had to hold his hands and give him a lot of morphine, as much as he could tolerate," said Jadick. Unable to put a breathing tube down his throat, Jadick worried that Knospler would gag and suffocate on his own blood, tissue and mucus on his way to surgery. He jumped into the ambulance with the wounded corporal and, working with a female medic, kept suctioning the man's horribly wounded face. After 30 minutes, they arrived at a transfer station to hand him over to a new doctor. When the doctor saw the wound, his eyes bulged. "Are you going to be OK with this?" asked Jadick. The doctor said yes, and Jadick headed back to the inferno.
That was a bad night, Jadick recalled, but not the worst. A Marine came in shot in the head. Though he was still breathing, his skull was fractured and his eyeballs were hanging on either side of his face. When Jadick removed the Marine's helmet he could feel the plates of the man's skull moving. There was a distinctive, nauseating smell?of gray matter, brain tissue.
The man died, and so did many of his wounded comrades. But there were some remarkable survivors. A Marine walked over to Jadick and said, "Doc, I've got a headache." Jadick saw with a start that there was a hole in the guy's helmet. Gingerly, Jadick removed the helmet?and saw that a bullet had, in effect, scalped the young Marine, separating a flap of skin at the hairline, but not penetrating his skull. "You're pretty lucky," Jadick said. As both men laughed, Jadick stitched him up. "You don't need to be here anymore today," he told the man, and sent him to the rear.
The laughs were few and far between. A Marine arrived with a chest wound. Jadick had seen the man, Lance Cpl. Demarkus Brown, a few days before, when he showed up with a lip sliced by shrapnel. "Doc, do I get a Purple Heart for this?" Brown had asked. Jadick had assured him that he would, sewed up the lip, and sent him back to the fight. Now the man did not seem too badly wounded. He was breathing and his eyes were open. Still, Jadick was unable to get a breathing tube down his throat. For a moment, Brown seemed to perk up when Jadick inserted a needle in his chest for a tube, but suddenly the blood began to pulse out. A major blood vessel had ruptured inside him. The man's blood pressure was so low that Jadick couldn't get an IV line working.
Jadick talked to the man. "C'mon, Brown, don't give up on me," he gently pleaded. The young man died. He had been an especially well-liked leatherneck, tough but cheerful. "To this day, he's the kid I can't get out of my head," said Jadick, as he was interviewed two years later for this story. "It was one of those things ..." Jadick paused and began to weep quietly.
For 11 days, Jadick worked night and day at his forward aid station. In late November, as the area around the government building quieted, Jadick moved his team to an abandoned pickle factory in an industrial area where fighting was still going on. The weather had turned bitter cold, so the corpsmen dug holes in the floor and built fireplaces out of rubble. Jadick worried that the IV fluids might become so chilled that the wounded would go into hypothermic shock. To try to warm the fluid to body temperature, corpsmen had the idea of taping pints to their legs and carrying them inside their cargo pockets.
The wounded kept coming. One hero was Matthew Palacios. Injured, he saw a grenade land beside him. Somehow, he had the presence of mind to fling it back, saving the men around him. Increasingly, the wounded were Marines ripped by booby traps and suicide bombers. The KIAs (Killed in Action) were so mangled that Jadick decided to build a morgue, so his young corpsmen wouldn't have to see the shattered bodies piling up.
The one injury Jadick did not see much of was posttraumatic stress disorder. One Marine had to be sent to the rear, and plenty of men complained that they didn't want to go back out and fight?but they did. The PTSD, Jadick knows, will show up for some men only after they're back home, safe but haunted by flashbacks and memories. "We all had PTSD at some level," said Jadick, who nevertheless has not sought treatment.
By mid-December, Fallujah was secured. It had been the worst urban fighting involving Americans since Vietnam. At least 53 Marines and Navy SEALs died, as did something like 1,600 insurgents. By mid-January, Jadick was home: there was an opening for a urology resident at the Medical College of Georgia. Jadick was eager to see his baby daughter and wife.
Jadick was awarded a Bronze Star with a Combat V for valor. (The medal, pinned onto Jadick in January, is the only Combat V awarded a Navy doctor thus far in the Iraq war.) His commanding officer, Lt. Col. Mark Winn, estimated that without Jadick at the front, the Marines would have lost an additional 30 men. Of the hundreds of men treated by Jadick, only one died after reaching a hospital. "I have never seen a doctor display the kind of courage and bravery that Rich did during Fallujah," said Winn. Jadick still owes the Navy a couple of years as a doctor. He's thinking of staying in beyond that. "Being a battalion surgeon is one of the greatest jobs there is," he says, in his low-key way. "So, sure, I would do it again, yeah."
? 2006 MSNBC.com
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Humor
on: April 09, 2006, 11:07:16 AM
It was the first day of school and a new student named Pedro Martinez, the son of a Mexican restaurateur, entered the fourth grade.
The teacher said, "Let's begin by reviewing some American history. "Who said, 'Give me Liberty, or give me Death?'" She saw a sea of blank faces, except for Pedro, who had his hand up.
"Patrick Henry, 1775," was his reply.
"Very good!" apprised the teacher. "Now, who said, "Government of the people by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth?"
Again, no response except from Pedro: "Abraham Lincoln, 1863."
The teacher snapped at the class, "Class, you should be ashamed! Pedro, who is new to our country, knows more about its history than you do!"
She heard a loud whisper: "Screw the Mexicans!" "Who said that?" she demanded.
Pedro put his hand up and replied, "Jim Bowie, 1836."
At that point, a student in the back said, "I'm gonna puke."
The teacher glared and asked, "All right! Now, who said that?"
Again, Pedro answered, "George Bush to the Japanese Prime Minister, 1991."
Now furious, another student yelled, "Oh yeah? Suck this!"
Pedro jumped out of his chair waving his hand and shouting to the teacher, Bill Clinton to Monica Lewinsky, 1997!"
Now, with almost a mob hysteria, teacher said, "You little shit. If you say anything else, I'll kill you!"
Pedro frantically yelled at the top of his voice, "Gary Condit to Chandra Levy, 2001."
The teacher fainted, and as the class gathered around her on the floor, someone said, "Oh shit, we're in BIG trouble now!"
Pedro whispered, "Saddam Hussein, 2003."
Finally someone throws a eraser at Pedro, someone shouted, "Duck"!
The teacher asked, "Who said that?"
Pedro answered, "Dick Cheney 2006."
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Una curiosidad
on: April 08, 2006, 07:12:34 AM
Un placer verte aqui.
1) La gran mayoria de los luchadores en nuestros Gathering son de las AMF, pero de vez en cuando hay unos con antecedentes distinatas. Una vez habia un luchador quien tenia movimiento muy distinto que rendia bien resultado. Cuando yo le pregunte' al respeto me decia que eso fue Hsing Yi, lo cual me sorprendio bastante. Cabe mencionar que tambien tenia AMF, incluyendo conmigo.
2) No me acuerdo especificamente al momento en los videos Vunak al cual refieres, pero yo diria que eso conceptos siempre han estado en los AMF-- por lo cual se encuentran en Kali Tudo.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Venezuela Pol?tica
on: April 08, 2006, 06:59:47 AM
Apr 7, 9:31 PM EDT
Venezuela Holds Five in Deaths of Brothers
By NATALIE OBIKO PEARSON
Associated Press Writer
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Five people have been detained in connection with the killing of three young brothers who were kidnapped at a bogus police checkpoint, in a crime that has sparked angry protests over Venezuela's rampant violent crime.
Attorney General Isaias Rodriguez said Friday that five suspects were being charged with willful homicide, including two detained the night before in a raid outside Caracas.
Two days of protests erupted Wednesday after the slayings of the three Faddoul brothers - John, 17; Kevin, 13; and Jason, 12 - whose bullet-riddled bodies were found Tuesday more than a month after they were kidnapped. Their driver's body was also found.
Officials said the kidnappers demanded more than $4.5 million.
Rodriguez said two shotguns were found in the raid that used ammunition that matched the type found near the boys' bodies. The attorney general said none of the suspects were active police officers, but that three belonged to a criminal gang.
Authorities have been investigating whether police or an organized crime network may have been involved in the killings of the boys, who had dual Canadian-Venezuelan citizenship.
Rodriguez said three suspects were Venezuelan, but the nationality of the remaining two was unclear. He identified the five as Edgar Martinez Velazquez, Zulia Tovar Chanti, Franklin Martinez, Luris Machado Marquez, Richard Betancourt Febres.
The slayings ignited protests criticizing the government for failing to fight police corruption and crack down on crime.
Amid the unrest, a news photographer was shot dead by an unidentified man on a motorcycle while on his way to cover a demonstration.
Many Venezuelans said the crimes highlight how violence, brutality and impunity have come to reign in this crime-wracked nation.
For the Faddoul family, it was the second encounter with kidnappings.
The father and eldest son, John, were "express kidnapped" a few years ago by men who drove them to a cash machine and later released them, said Nelly Elbarche, a cousin of the boys' mother. Classmates said the middle son, Kevin, sometimes spoke of fearing kidnappings.
Violent robberies, kidnappings and murders are frequent in Venezuela. There were 9,402 homicides reported in 2005, down slightly from 2004, according to government statistics.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / We the Well-armed People
on: April 08, 2006, 06:41:52 AM
Originally posted by Buzwardo on another thread which I feel is better located here.
When does customization of a firearm become manufacturing? That seemingly simple question is occupying the near undivided attention of the firearms industry. Observers say it is a question with the potential to become a firestorm that could put custom gunsmiths out of business; if not behind bars.
The controversy began with a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms inspection of Competitive Edge Gunworks in Bogard, Missouri. BATF and tax agents appeared and began examining the company's records. When they finished, owner Larry Crow was told he potentially faced felony charges for manufacturing firearms without a license.
Crow says he was stunned.
Agents went on to tell him that his manufacturing status would mean liability for federal excise taxes - and penalties - from the beginning of his business. There is, they told the thunderstruck Crow, no statute of limitations for failing to file Federal Excise Taxes, but there were serious penalties.
"I'm confused, " an obviously shaken Crow told The Outdoor Wire during a telephone conversation last Thursday, "and more than a little concerned."
Since the BATF visit, Crow hasn't done any gunsmithing, but has initiated the licensure process necessary to change his classification from gunsmith to manufacturer. He also says he's agreed with the BATF to settle the whole matter as quickly as possible. In the meantime, Crow says he's struggling financially, but despite the costs of waiting for his licensure process to be completed, he told The Outdoor Wire "I'm not doing any more work until the manufacturing paperwork's complete."
Whether Crow's is a single case brought by an overzealous agent or the opening shot of a BATF campaign against gunsmiths has the entire firearms industry abuzz.
If it proves to be the first shot of another fight, the stakes are very high. The fallout would be felt by virtually any company or individual involved in the gunsmithing business; from individual gunsmiths and educators teaching firearms repair to companies like Brownells or Midway USA. Those companies primarily supply componentry to gunsmiths, but also produce instructional material. The firearms they produce in the course of those instructional pieces are apparently enough to qualify them as manufacturers in this very narrow interpretation. Likewise, custom gunsmiths' samples are also apparently under scrutiny.
Consequently, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the Second Amendment Foundation, the National Rifle Association and others are looking for clarification of a single question: at what point does gunsmithing become manufacturing?
BATF regulations appear to offer a solid definition of manufacturing. It would appear, says experts, that a new, and considerably narrower definition is being used against Crow. A definition that has the potential to make virtually any change, from changing parts inside the lockworks to re-barreling or changing firearm calibers enough to constitute manufacturing. Enough, for example, to make any gunsmith's show samples or writers' samples "manufactured" and subject to taxes and penalties.
Should that become the new working definition for ATF and IRS enforcement agents, gunsmiths we've contacted the effect would be immediate and would bankrupt what they consider "one of America's remaining cottage industries."
Hamilton Bowen, of Bowen Custom Arms in Louisville, Tennessee, is a longtime gunsmith and member of the prestigious gunsmiths' guilds. He feels the narrow definition "won't stick" should it come to a fight. He also says the fight itself might be sufficient to put gunsmiths out of business.
"We might win the fight," Bowen said, "but the loss of business along with the associated legal fees for the fight would more than put most of us out of business."
"If the ATF came in and told me that I was liable for federal excise taxes and penalties for all the years I've been in business, I'd just hand them the keys and head to the unemployment office," he said. "ATF is charged with writing regulations to enforce Congressional statutes. They have the ability to clarify statutes, but this one's anything but clear."
San Antonio, Texas gunsmith Alex Hamilton agrees. "I'm essentially a sole proprietor," he says, "if the ATF came in here and started an in-depth investigation, I couldn't work for a couple of reasons. First, I'd be afraid not to be with them the whole time they were here. Secondly, the anxiety their even being here would cause would keep me from doing my job anyway."
The issue isn't licensure; manufacturing licenses are relatively inexpensive, although they add another layer of paperwork and compliance to a small business group that says it already spends a disproportionate amount of working time on compliance paperwork. A retroactivity tax liability could spell significant enough economic damage to shut most gunsmiths down.
Off the record, industry officials say they're starting to receive reports of other gunsmiths being "visited" by BATF officers. Despite those unconfirmed reports, they remain confident the situation can be clarified and a confrontation avoided.
That might be the equivalent of whistling in a graveyard.
Battles between the firearms industry and the BATF have historically been bitter, protracted affairs. Passage of recently-introduced legislation giving gunsmiths a 50-firearm annual tax exemption passed late in the prior Congressional session. The battle to get the legislation introduced, however, took 15 years. It still lacked the support to win the retroactivity gunsmiths had hoped for.
Although they unwilling to say so on the record, some gunsmiths feel the BATF may be getting a little "payback" for the passage of legislation they so vehemently opposed.
In the meantime, the National Rifle Association is attempting to mediate what may have the potential to blossom from a skirmish into a bitter war.
Eric Schwartz, clerk to the NRA's Chief Legislative Counsel, told The Outdoor Wire, "we believe there are inconsistencies by ATF and the IRS that make it difficult, if not impossible, for a law-abiding gunsmith to practice their trade."
"We'd like to see, if necessary, steps taken to address any inconsistencies and make it crystal-clear what acts are manufacturing acts and which are gunsmithing acts so our members can ply their trade in a law-abiding manner."
That might be easier said than done.
One obstacle in the way of "crystal clarity" is a multitude of statutes, regulatory language and opinions; many of which appear to contradict each other. Another; the simple fact that the question lies squarely at an intersection of IRS and BATF regulatory and enforcement areas.
Both agencies have reputations as ferocious opponents to any perceived weakening of their enforcement powers.
The Federal Excise Tax itself may prove to be a bone of litigation should a gunsmith be deemed to be a manufacturer. As observers have pointed out, a Federal Excise Tax on the firearm had already been paid - by the original manufacturer.
Deeming a firearm to have been "manufactured" in the course of customization and subject to FET appears to be a BATF attempt at "double dipping" the firearms industry.
Further, in customization and gunsmithing, labor is the major cost. The gunsmith would have already paid federal income tax on that labor. Again, this creates an apparent attempt at double-taxation.
And what about record keeping? For income tax purposes, businesses are required to maintain their records for a clearly-defined period. BATF has implied no statute of limitations on the potential FET liability for gunsmiths that find themselves declared manufacturers. Consequently, there would be a requirement that records be kept in perpetuity. That creates what legal experts call a "practical impossibility" - a situation where one federal agency creates a requirement that's "practically impossible" to satisfy. Small businesses normally operate in small spaces, i.e., tax records outside the IRS maintenance requirements are routinely destroyed as each year's taxes are filed.
Whether the BATF visit to Competitive Edge was a single agent operating under a personal interpretation of regulations or the first shot in another war between the firearms industry and the BATF is, at this point, irrelevant.
Another genie has been released from another bottle.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Top Dog's training
on: April 07, 2006, 05:59:49 AM
TD is getting ready for his move to Texas (farewell party this Sunday) so I will field the question on Lacrosse.
IMHO Lacrosse definitely is a part of TD's distinctive approach. I know very little about the sport (although my six year old son Conrad has expressed an interest, the youngest team around here is for 8 year olds) but in TD's willingness even in the mid 1980s (i.e. many years before the BJJ era) to actually run at the opponent and crash & bash him. IIRC for those of you who have "The Grandfathers Speak" check out the snippet of the first time he and Salty Dog fought for an example. (Although it was the first WEKAF championships, due to the disorganized nature of the day, the event ran well beyond the intended closing time and most of the judges had simply left and substitutes were recruited from those there. So TD and SD were happily able to disregard inconvenient rules
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Preparando su familia
on: April 07, 2006, 05:45:38 AM
Habia un comentario interesante en el hilo del cuchillo sobre todo la familia contribuyendo a la defensa contra un ataque. Eso me causa plantear el tema de este hilo: ?Como se prepara a su familia para participar en su defensa?
Enmi opinion, no hay una sola respuesta "corecta"-- las respuestas corectas sera'n muchas dependiendo del caracter de los miembros de la familia.
Por ejemplo, hay mujeres maravillosas que no tengan ningun interes en desarollar habilidades de este indole. Posible el consejo para ellas es que corran mientras tu esta's luchando con la criminal para que tu no tengas que preocuparte por ella y para llamar a la policia.
Hay otras mujeres que no quieren entrenar, pero si' son capaces de actuar. A ellas se puede ensenar unas cosas basicas. Por ejemplo si el criminal peleando contigo deja su espalda a la vista de tu mujer ella puede "revoltarle sus huevos" con una patada desde atras o que ella puede rasgarle los ojos con sus unas.
Hay otras mujeres (pocas en esta categoria) que esta'n dispuestas a entrenar, llevar cuchillo, etc.
?Como se aconseja a sus hijos? ?Que quieres que hagan? A cual edad comienzan a ser utiles en estas cosas?
?Que piensan Uds?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gender issues thread
on: April 04, 2006, 01:16:08 PM
"Even with a fertility rate near replacement level, the United States lacks
the amount of people necessary to sustain an imperial role in the world,
just as Britain lost its ability to do so after its birthrates collapsed in
the early 20th century."
Perhaps "The Return of Patriarchy" may be the promise to stimulate a
discussion about demography.
In G. we can observe that coeducation and
the supression of male aggressiveness/belligerence in schools give a
decisive adantage to girls. Under these circumstances it is much easier for
girls to take advantage of educational offers offered by schools and
universities. Perhaps you remember that these days I wrote that young women
were the first to leave those shrinking cities in the east of G: They got
the best education, were the fastest moving part of the population. Are we
living these days in some sort of matriarchy?
March/April <http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=220> 2006
The Return of Patriarchy
By Phillip Longman
Across the globe, people are choosing to have fewer children or none at all.
Governments are desperate to halt the trend, but their influence seems to
stop at the bedroom door. Are some societies destined to become extinct?
Hardly. It's more likely that conservatives will inherit the Earth. Like it
or not, a growing proportion of the next generation will be born into
families who believe that father knows best.
"If we could survive without a wife, citizens of Rome, all of us would do
without that nuisance." So proclaimed the Roman general, statesman, and
censor Quintus Caecilius Metellus Macedonicus, in 131 B.C. Still, he went on
to plead, falling birthrates required that Roman men fulfill their duty to
reproduce, no matter how irritating Roman women might have become. "Since
nature has so decreed that we cannot manage comfortably with them, nor live
in any way without them, we must plan for our lasting preservation rather
than for our temporary pleasure."
With the number of human beings having increased more than six-fold in the
past 200 years, the modern mind simply assumes that men and women, no matter
how estranged, will always breed enough children to grow the population-at
least until plague or starvation sets in. It is an assumption that not only
conforms to our long experience of a world growing ever more crowded, but
which also enjoys the endorsement of such influential thinkers as Thomas
Malthus and his many modern acolytes.
Yet, for more than a generation now, well-fed, healthy, peaceful populations
around the world have been producing too few children to avoid population
decline. That is true even though dramatic improvements in infant and child
mortality mean that far fewer children are needed today (only about 2.1 per
woman in modern societies) to avoid population loss. Birthrates are falling
far below replacement levels in one country after the next-from China,
Japan, Singapore, and South Korea, to Canada, the Caribbean, all of Europe,
Russia, and even parts of the Middle East.
Fearful of a future in which the elderly outnumber the young, many
governments are doing whatever they can to encourage people to have
children. Singapore has sponsored "speed dating" events, in hopes of
bringing busy professionals together to marry and procreate. France offers
generous tax incentives for those willing to start a family. In Sweden, the
state finances day care to ease the tension between work and family life.
Yet, though such explicitly pronatal policies may encourage people to have
children at a younger age, there is little evidence they cause people to
have more children than they otherwise would. As governments going as far
back as imperial Rome have discovered, when cultural and economic conditions
discourage parenthood, not even a dictator can force people to go forth and
Throughout the broad sweep of human history, there are many examples of
people, or classes of people, who chose to avoid the costs of parenthood.
Indeed, falling fertility is a recurring tendency of human civilization. Why
then did humans not become extinct long ago? The short answer is patriarchy.
Patriarchy does not simply mean that men rule. Indeed, it is a particular
value system that not only requires men to marry but to marry a woman of
proper station. It competes with many other male visions of the good life,
and for that reason alone is prone to come in cycles. Yet before it
degenerates, it is a cultural regime that serves to keep birthrates high
among the affluent, while also maximizing parents' investments in their
children. No advanced civilization has yet learned how to endure without it.
Through a process of cultural evolution, societies that adopted this
particular social system-which involves far more than simple male
domination-maximized their population and therefore their power, whereas
those that didn't were either overrun or absorbed. This cycle in human
history may be obnoxious to the enlightened, but it is set to make a
The Conservative Baby Boom
The historical relation between patriarchy, population, and power has deep
implications for our own time. As the United States is discovering today in
Iraq, population is still power. Smart bombs, laser-guided missiles, and
unmanned drones may vastly extend the violent reach of a hegemonic power.
But ultimately, it is often the number of boots on the ground that changes
history. Even with a fertility rate near replacement level, the United
States lacks the amount of people necessary to sustain an imperial role in
the world, just as Britain lost its ability to do so after its birthrates
collapsed in the early 20th century. For countries such as China, Germany,
Italy, Japan, and Spain, in which one-child families are now the norm, the
quality of human capital may be high, but it has literally become too rare
to put at risk.
Falling fertility is also responsible for many financial and economic
problems that dominate today's headlines. The long-term financing of social
security schemes, private pension plans, and healthcare systems has little
to do with people living longer. Gains in life expectancy at older ages have
actually been quite modest, and the rate of improvement in the United States
has diminished for each of the last three decades. Instead, the falling
ratio of workers to retirees is overwhelmingly caused by workers who were
never born. As governments raise taxes on a dwindling working-age population
to cover the growing burdens of supporting the elderly, young couples may
conclude they are even less able to afford children than their parents were,
thereby setting off a new cycle of population aging and decline.
Declining birthrates also change national temperament. In the United States,
for example, the percentage of women born in the late 1930s who remained
childless was near 10 percent. By comparison, nearly 20 percent of women
born in the late 1950s are reaching the end of their reproductive lives
without having had children. The greatly expanded childless segment of
contemporary society, whose members are drawn disproportionately from the
feminist and countercultural movements of the 1960s and 70s, will leave no
genetic legacy. Nor will their emotional or psychological influence on the
next generation compare with that of their parents.
Meanwhile, single-child families are prone to extinction. A single child
replaces one of his or her parents, but not both. Nor do single-child
families contribute much to future population. The 17.4 percent of baby
boomer women who had only one child account for a mere 7.8 percent of
children born in the next generation. By contrast, nearly a quarter of the
children of baby boomers descend from the mere 11 percent of baby boomer
women who had four or more children. These circumstances are leading to the
emergence of a new society whose members will disproportionately be
descended from parents who rejected the social tendencies that once made
childlessness and small families the norm. These values include an adherence
to traditional, patriarchal religion, and a strong identification with one's
own folk or nation.
This dynamic helps explain, for example, the gradual drift of American
culture away from secular individualism and toward religious fundamentalism.
Among states that voted for President George W. Bush in 2004, fertility
rates are 12 percent higher than in states that voted for Sen. John Kerry.
It may also help to explain the increasing popular resistance among
rank-and-file Europeans to such crown jewels of secular liberalism as the
European Union. It turns out that Europeans who are most likely to identify
themselves as "world citizens" are also those least likely to have children.
Does this mean that today's enlightened but slow-breeding societies face
extinction? Probably not, but only because they face a dramatic,
demographically driven transformation of their cultures. As has happened
many times before in history, it is a transformation that occurs as secular
and libertarian elements in society fail to reproduce, and as people
adhering to more traditional, patriarchal values inherit society by default.
At least as long ago as ancient Greek and Roman times, many sophisticated
members of society concluded that investing in children brought no
advantage. Rather, children came to be seen as a costly impediment to
self-fulfillment and worldly achievement. But, though these attitudes led to
the extinction of many individual families, they did not lead to the
extinction of society as a whole. Instead, through a process of cultural
evolution, a set of values and norms that can roughly be described as
Population Becomes Power
In the primordial past, to be sure, most societies did not coerce
reproduction, because they had to avoid breeding faster than the wild game
on which they fed. Indeed, in almost all the hunter-gatherer societies that
survived long enough to be studied by anthropologists, such as the Eskimos
and Tasmanian Bushmen, one finds customs that in one way or another
discouraged population growth. In various combinations, these have included
late marriage, genital mutilation, abortion, and infanticide. Some early
hunter-gatherer societies may have also limited population growth by giving
women high-status positions. Allowing at least some number of females to
take on roles such as priestess, sorcerer, oracle, artist, and even warrior
would have provided meaningful alternatives to motherhood and thereby
reduced overall fertility to within sustainable limits.
During the eons before agriculture emerged, there was little or no military
reason to promote high fertility. War and conquests could bring little
advantage to society. There were no granaries to raid, no livestock to
steal, no use for slaves except rape. But with the coming of the Neolithic
agricultural revolution, starting about 11,000 years ago, everything
changed. The domestication of plants and animals led to vastly increased
food supplies. Surplus food allowed cities to emerge, and freed more people
to work on projects such as building pyramids and developing a written
language to record history. But the most fateful change rendered by the
agricultural revolution was the way it turned population into power. Because
of the relative abundance of food, more and more societies discovered that
the greatest demographic threat to their survival was no longer
overpopulation, but underpopulation.
At that point, instead of dying of starvation, societies with high fertility
grew in strength and number and began menacing those with lower fertility.
In more and more places in the world, fast-breeding tribes morphed into
nations and empires and swept away any remaining, slow-breeding hunters and
gatherers. It mattered that your warriors were fierce and valiant in battle;
it mattered more that there were lots of them.
That was the lesson King Pyrrhus learned in the third century B.C., when he
marched his Greek armies into the Italian peninsula and tried to take on the
Romans. Pyrrhus initially prevailed at a great battle at Asculum. But it
was, as they say, "a Pyrrhic victory," and Pyrrhus could only conclude that
"another such victory over the Romans and we are undone." The Romans, who by
then were procreating far more rapidly than were the Greeks, kept pouring in
reinforcements-"as from a fountain continually flowing out of the city," the
Greek historian Plutarch tells us. Hopelessly outnumbered, Pyrrhus went on
to lose the war, and Greece, after falling into a long era of population
decline, eventually became a looted colony of Rome.
Like today's modern, well-fed nations, both ancient Greece and Rome
eventually found that their elites had lost interest in the often dreary
chores of family life. "In our time all Greece was visited by a dearth of
children and a general decay of population," lamented the Greek historian
Polybius around 140 B.C., just as Greece was giving in to Roman domination.
"This evil grew upon us rapidly, and without attracting attention, by our
men becoming perverted to a passion for show and money and the pleasures of
an idle life." But, as with civilizations around the globe, patriarchy, for
as long as it could be sustained, was the key to maintaining population and,
Father Knows Best?
Patriarchal societies come in many varieties and evolve through different
stages. What they have in common are customs and attitudes that collectively
serve to maximize fertility and parental investment in the next generation.
Of these, among the most important is the stigmatization of "illegitimate"
children. One measure of the degree to which patriarchy has diminished in
advanced societies is the growing acceptance of out-of-wedlock births, which
have now become the norm in Scandinavian countries, for example.
Under patriarchy, "bastards" and single mothers cannot be tolerated because
they undermine male investment in the next generation. Illegitimate children
do not take their fathers' name, and so their fathers, even if known, tend
not to take any responsibility for them. By contrast, "legitimate" children
become a source of either honor or shame to their fathers and the family
line. The notion that legitimate children belong to their fathers' family,
and not to their mothers', which has no basis in biology, gives many men
powerful emotional reasons to want children, and to want their children to
succeed in passing on their legacy. Patriarchy also leads men to keep having
children until they produce at least one son.
Another key to patriarchy's evolutionary advantage is the way it penalizes
women who do not marry and have children. Just decades ago in the
English-speaking world, such women were referred to, even by their own
mothers, as spinsters or old maids, to be pitied for their barrenness or
condemned for their selfishness. Patriarchy made the incentive of taking a
husband and becoming a full-time mother very high because it offered women
few desirable alternatives.
To be sure, a society organized on such principles may well degenerate over
time into misogyny, and eventually sterility, as occurred in both ancient
Greece and Rome. In more recent times, the patriarchal family has also
proved vulnerable to the rise of capitalism, which profits from the
diversion of female labor from the house to the workplace. But as long as
the patriarchal system avoids succumbing to these threats, it will produce a
greater quantity of children, and arguably children of higher quality, than
do societies organized by other principles, which is all that evolution
This claim is contentious. Today, after all, we associate patriarchy with
the hideous abuse of women and children, with poverty and failed states.
Taliban rebels or Muslim fanatics in Nigeria stoning an adulteress to death
come to mind. Yet these are examples of insecure societies that have
degenerated into male tyrannies, and they do not represent the form of
patriarchy that has achieved evolutionary advantage in human history. Under
a true patriarchal system, such as in early Rome or 17th-century Protestant
Europe, fathers have strong reason to take an active interest in the
children their wives bear. That is because, when men come to see themselves,
and are seen by others, as upholders of a patriarchal line, how those
children turn out directly affects their own rank and honor.
Under patriarchy, maternal investment in children also increases. As
feminist economist Nancy Folbre has observed, "Patriarchal control over
women tends to increase their specialization in reproductive labor, with
important consequences for both the quantity and the quality of their
investments in the next generation." Those consequences arguably include:
more children receiving more attention from their mothers, who, having few
other ways of finding meaning in their lives, become more skilled at keeping
their children safe and healthy. Without implying any endorsement for the
strategy, one must observe that a society that presents women with
essentially three options-be a nun, be a prostitute, or marry a man and bear
children-has stumbled upon a highly effective way to reduce the risk of
Patriarchy and Its Discontents
Patriarchy may enjoy evolutionary advantages, but nothing has ensured the
survival of any particular patriarchal society. One reason is that men can
grow weary of patriarchy's demands. Roman aristocrats, for example,
eventually became so reluctant to accept the burdens of heading a family
that Caesar Augustus felt compelled to enact steep "bachelor taxes" and
otherwise punish those who remained unwed and childless. Patriarchy may have
its privileges, but they may pale in comparison to the joys of bachelorhood
in a luxurious society-nights spent enjoyably at banquets with friends
discussing sports, war stories, or philosophy, or with alluring mistresses,
flute girls, or clever courtesans.
Women, of course, also have reason to grow weary of patriarchy, particularly
when men themselves are no longer upholding their patriarchal duties.
Historian Suzanne Cross notes that during the decades of Rome's civil wars,
Roman women of all classes had to learn how to do without men for prolonged
periods, and accordingly developed a new sense of individuality and
independence. Few women in the upper classes would agree to a marriage to an
abusive husband. Adultery and divorce became rampant.
Often, all that sustains the patriarchal family is the idea that its members
are upholding the honor of a long and noble line. Yet, once a society grows
cosmopolitan, fast-paced, and filled with new ideas, new peoples, and new
luxuries, this sense of honor and connection to one's ancestors begins to
fade, and with it, any sense of the necessity of reproduction. "When the
ordinary thought of a highly cultivated people begins to regard 'having
children' as a question of pro's and con's," Oswald Spengler, the German
historian and philosopher, once observed, "the great turning point has
The Return of Patriarchy
Yet that turning point does not necessarily mean the death of a
civilization, only its transformation. Eventually, for example, the sterile,
secular, noble families of imperial Rome died off, and with them, their
ancestors' idea of Rome. But what was once the Roman Empire remained
populated. Only the composition of the population changed. Nearly by
default, it became composed of new, highly patriarchal family units, hostile
to the secular world and enjoined by faith either to go forth and multiply
or join a monastery. With these changes came a feudal Europe, but not the
end of Europe, nor the end of Western Civilization.
We may witness a similar transformation during this century. In Europe
today, for example, how many children different people have, and under what
circumstances, correlates strongly with their beliefs on a wide range of
political and cultural attitudes. For instance, do you distrust the army?
Then, according to polling data assembled by demographers Ronny Lesthaeghe
and Johan Surkyn, you are less likely to be married and have kids-or ever to
get married and have kids-than those who say they have no objection to the
military. Or again, do you find soft drugs, homosexuality, and euthanasia
acceptable? Do you seldom, if ever, attend church? For whatever reason,
people answering affirmatively to such questions are far more likely to live
alone, or in childless, cohabitating unions, than those who answer
The great difference in fertility rates between secular individualists and
religious or cultural conservatives augurs a vast, demographically driven
change in modern societies. Consider the demographics of France, for
example. Among French women born in the early 1960s, less than a third have
three or more children. But this distinct minority of French women (most of
them presumably practicing Catholics and Muslims) produced more than 50
percent of all children born to their generation, in large measure because
so many of their contemporaries had one child or none at all.
Many childless, middle-aged people may regret the life choices that are
leading to the extinction of their family lines, and yet they have no sons
or daughters with whom to share their newfound wisdom. The plurality of
citizens who have only one child may be able to invest lavishly in that
child's education, but a single child will only replace one parent, not
both. Meanwhile, the descendants of parents who have three or more children
will be hugely overrepresented in subsequent generations, and so will the
values and ideas that led their parents to have large families.
One could argue that history, and particularly Western history, is full of
revolts of children against parents. Couldn't tomorrow's Europeans, even if
they are disproportionately raised in patriarchal, religiously minded
households, turn out to be another generation of '68?
The key difference is that during the post-World War II era, nearly all
segments of modern societies married and had children. Some had more than
others, but the disparity in family size between the religious and the
secular was not so large, and childlessness was rare. Today, by contrast,
childlessness is common, and even couples who have children typically have
just one. Tomorrow's children, therefore, unlike members of the postwar baby
boom generation, will be for the most part descendants of a comparatively
narrow and culturally conservative segment of society. To be sure, some
members of the rising generation may reject their parents' values, as always
happens. But when they look around for fellow secularists and
counterculturalists with whom to make common cause, they will find that most
of their would-be fellow travelers were quite literally never born.
Advanced societies are growing more patriarchal, whether they like it or
not. In addition to the greater fertility of conservative segments of
society, the rollback of the welfare state forced by population aging and
decline will give these elements an additional survival advantage, and
therefore spur even higher fertility. As governments hand back functions
they once appropriated from the family, notably support in old age, people
will find that they need more children to insure their golden years, and
they will seek to bind their children to them through inculcating
traditional religious values akin to the Bible's injunction to honor thy
mother and father.
Societies that are today the most secular and the most generous with their
underfunded welfare states will be the most prone to religious revivals and
a rebirth of the patriarchal family. The absolute population of Europe and
Japan may fall dramatically, but the remaining population will, by a process
similar to survival of the fittest, be adapted to a new environment in which
no one can rely on government to replace the family, and in which a
patriarchal God commands family members to suppress their individualism and
submit to father.
Phillip Longman is Bernard L. Schwartz senior fellow at the New America
Foundation. He is the author of The Empty Cradle: How Falling Birthrates
Threaten World Prosperity and What to Do About It (New York: Basic Books,
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Defanging the snake lost?
on: March 31, 2006, 01:18:13 PM
There are NO hockey gloves. The heaviest that anyone wears is "street hockey"-- these are quite light, and several fighters now go with some sort of thin leather glove (e.g. a baseball batting glove) so as to protect the hand from scraping on the fencing mask during clinch and ground but without offering any protection at all from impact.
So in answer to your question, IMHO the hand game remains 90-100% relevant as it ever was.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Political Rants
on: March 31, 2006, 01:49:08 AM
Patriots, Then and Now
With nations as with people, love them or lose them.
Thursday, March 30, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST
I had a great experience the other night. I met some of the 114 living recipients of the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military award. It was at their annual dinner, held, as it has been the past four years, at the New York Stock Exchange.
I met Nick Oresko. Nick is in his 80s, small, 5-foot-5 or so. Soft white hair, pale-pink skin, thick torso, walks with a cane. Just a nice old guy you'd pass on the street or in the airport without really seeing him. Around his neck was a sky-blue ribbon, and hanging from that ribbon the medal. He let me turn it over. It had his name, his rank, and then "1/23/45. Near Tettington, Germany."
Tettington, Germany. The Battle of the Bulge.
When I got home I looked up his citation on my beloved Internet, where you can Google heroism. U.S. Army Master Sgt. Nicholas Oresko of Company C, 302nd Infantry, 94th Infantry Division was a platoon leader in an attack against strong enemy positions:
Deadly automatic fire from the flanks pinned down his unit. Realizing that a machinegun in a nearby bunker must be eliminated, he swiftly worked ahead alone, braving bullets which struck about him, until close enough to throw a grenade into the German position. He rushed the bunker and, with pointblank rifle fire, killed all the hostile occupants who survived the grenade blast. Another machinegun opened up on him, knocking him down and seriously wounding him in the hip. Refusing to withdraw from the battle, he placed himself at the head of his platoon to continue the assault. As withering machinegun and rifle fire swept the area, he struck out alone in advance of his men to a second bunker. With a grenade, he crippled the dug-in machinegun defending this position and then wiped out the troops manning it with his rifle, completing his second self-imposed, 1-man attack. Although weak from loss of blood, he refused to be evacuated until assured the mission was successfully accomplished. Through quick thinking, indomitable courage, and unswerving devotion to the attack in the face of bitter resistance and while wounded, M /Sgt. Oresko killed 12 Germans, prevented a delay in the assault, and made it possible for Company C to obtain its objective with minimum casualties.
Nick Oresko lives in Tenafly, N.J. If courage were a bright light, Tenafly would glow.
I met Pat Brady of Sumner, Wash., an Army helicopter medevac pilot in Vietnam who'd repeatedly risked his life to save men he'd never met. And Sammy Davis, a big bluff blond from Flat Rock, Ill., on whom the writer Winston Groom based the Vietnam experiences of a character named Forrest Gump. Sgt. Davis saved men like Forrest, but he also took out a bunch of bad guys. And yes, he was wounded in the same way as Forrest. That scene in the movie where Lyndon Johnson puts the medal around Tom Hanks's neck: that's from the film of LBJ putting the medal on Sammy's neck, only they superimposed Mr. Hanks.
I talked to James Livingston of Mount Pleasant, S.C., a Marine, a warrior in Vietnam who led in battle in spite of bad wounds and worse odds. I told him I was wondering about something. Most of us try to be brave each day in whatever circumstances, which means most of us show ourselves our courage with time. What is it like, I asked, to find out when you're a young man, and in a way that's irrefutable, that you are brave? What does it do to your life when no one, including you, will ever question whether you have guts?
He shook his head. The medal didn't prove courage, he said. "It's not bravery, it's taking responsibility." Each of the recipients, he said, had taken responsibility for the men and the moment at a tense and demanding time. They'd cared for others. They took care of their men.
Other recipients sounded a refrain that lingered like Taps. They felt they'd been awarded their great honor in part in the name of unknown heroes of the armed forces who'd performed spectacular acts of courage but had died along with all the witnesses who would have told the story of what they did. For each of the holders of the Medal of Honor there had been witnesses, survivors who could testify. For some great heroes of engagements large and small, maybe the greatest heroes, no one lived to tell the tale.
And so they felt they wore their medals in part for the ones known only to God.
In a brief film on the recipients that was played at the dinner, Leo Thorsness, an Air Force veteran of Vietnam, said something that lingered. He was asked what, when he performed his great act, he was sacrificing for. He couldn't answer for a few seconds. You could tell he was searching for the right words, the right sentence. Then he said, "I get emotional about it. But we're a free country." He said it with a kind of wonder, and gratitude.
And of course, he said it all.
What this all got me thinking about, the next day, was . . . immigration. I know that seems a lurch, but there's a part of the debate that isn't sufficiently noted. There are a variety of things driving American anxiety about illegal immigration and we all know them--economic arguments, the danger of porous borders in the age of terrorism, with anyone able to come in.
But there's another thing. And it's not fear about "them." It's anxiety about us.
It's the broad public knowledge, or intuition, in America, that we are not assimilating our immigrants patriotically. And if you don't do that, you'll lose it all.
We used to do it. We loved our country with full-throated love, we had no ambivalence. We had pride and appreciation. We were a free country. We communicated our pride and delight in this in a million ways--in our schools, our movies, our popular songs, our newspapers. It was just there, in the air. Immigrants breathed it in. That's how the last great wave of immigrants, the European wave of 1880-1920, was turned into a great wave of Americans.
We are not assimilating our immigrants patriotically now. We are assimilating them culturally. Within a generation their children speak Valley Girl on cell phones. "So I'm like 'no," and he's all 'yeah,' and I'm like, 'In your dreams.' " Whether their parents are from Trinidad, Bosnia, Lebanon or Chile, their children, once Americans, know the same music, the same references, watch the same shows. And to a degree and in a way it will hold them together. But not forever and not in a crunch.
So far we are assimilating our immigrants economically, too. They come here and work. Good.
But we are not communicating love of country. We are not giving them the great legend of our country. We are losing that great legend.
What is the legend, the myth? That God made this a special place. That they're joining something special. That the streets are paved with more than gold--they're paved with the greatest thoughts man ever had, the greatest decisions he ever made, about how to live. We have free thought, free speech, freedom of worship. Look at the literature of the Republic: the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Federalist papers. Look at the great rich history, the courage and sacrifice, the house-raisings, the stubbornness. The Puritans, the Indians, the City on a Hill.
The genius cluster--Jefferson, Hamilton, Adams, Madison, Franklin, all the rest--that came along at the exact same moment to lead us. And then Washington, a great man in the greatest way, not in unearned gifts well used (i.e., a high IQ followed by high attainment) but in character, in moral nature effortfully developed. How did that happen? How did we get so lucky? (I once asked a great historian if he had thoughts on this, and he nodded. He said he had come to believe it was "providential.")
We fought a war to free slaves. We sent millions of white men to battle and destroyed a portion of our nation to free millions of black men. What kind of nation does this? We went to Europe, fought, died and won, and then taxed ourselves to save our enemies with the Marshall Plan. What kind of nation does this? Soviet communism stalked the world and we were the ones who steeled ourselves and taxed ourselves to stop it. Again: What kind of nation does this?
Only a very great one. Maybe the greatest of all.
Do we teach our immigrants that this is what they're joining? That this is the tradition they will now continue, and uphold?
Do we, today, act as if this is such a special place? No, not always, not even often. American exceptionalism is so yesterday. We don't want to be impolite. We don't want to offend. We don't want to seem narrow. In the age of globalism, honest patriotism seems like a faux pas.
And yet what is true of people is probably true of nations: if you don't have a well-grounded respect for yourself, you won't long sustain a well-grounded respect for others.
Because we do not communicate to our immigrants, legal and illegal, that they have joined something special, some of them, understandably, get the impression they've joined not a great enterprise but a big box store. A big box store on the highway where you can get anything cheap. It's a good place. But it has no legends, no meaning, and it imparts no spirit.
Who is at fault? Those of us who let the myth die, or let it change, or refused to let it be told. The politically correct nitwit teaching the seventh-grade history class who decides the impressionable young minds before him need to be informed, as their first serious history lesson, that the Founders were hypocrites, the Bill of Rights nothing new and imperfect in any case, that the Indians were victims of genocide, that Lincoln was a clinically depressed homosexual who compensated for the storms within by creating storms without . . .
You can turn any history into mud. You can turn great men and women into mud too, if you want to.
And it's not just the nitwits, wherever they are, in the schools, the academy, the media, though they're all harmful enough. It's also the people who mean to be honestly and legitimately critical, to provide a new look at the old text. They're not noticing that the old text--the legend, the myth--isn't being taught anymore. Only the commentary is. But if all the commentary is doubting and critical, how will our kids know what to love and revere? How will they know how to balance criticism if they've never heard the positive side of the argument?
Those who teach, and who think for a living about American history, need to be told: Keep the text, teach the text, and only then, if you must, deconstruct the text.
When you don't love something you lose it. If we do not teach new Americans to love their country, and not for braying or nationalistic reasons but for reasons of honest and thoughtful appreciation, and gratitude, for a history that is something new in the long story of man, then we will begin to lose it. That Medal of Honor winner, Leo Thorsness, who couldn't quite find the words--he only found it hard to put everything into words because he knew the story, the legend, and knew it so well. Only then do you become "emotional about it." Only then are you truly American.
Ms. Noonan is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal and author of "John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father," (Penguin, 2005), which you can order from the OpinionJournal bookstore. Her column appears Thursdays.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WW3
on: March 25, 2006, 09:15:01 AM
Stratfor continuously blows me away with the level of its analysis and intel. I'm really glad that my price for my premium subscription is grandfathered, but even at the current price I would pay it (Shhh! Don't tell them!) An awesome product which I recommend in the highest terms possible.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WW3
on: March 24, 2006, 10:15:08 PM
Putting Cards on the Table in Iraq
By George Friedman
The clouds couldn't have been darker last week. Everyone was talking about civil war in Iraq. Smart and informed people were talking about the real possibility of an American airstrike against Iran's nuclear capabilities. The Iranians were hurling defiance in every direction on the compass. U.S. President George W. Bush seemed to be politically on the ropes, unable to control his own party. And then seemingly out of nowhere, the Iranians offered to hold talks with the Americans on Iraq, and only Iraq. With the kind of lightning speed not seen from the White House for a while, the United States accepted. Suddenly, the two countries with the greatest stake in Iraq -- and the deepest hostility toward each other -- had agreed publicly to negotiate on Iraq.
To understand this development, we must understand that Iran and the United States have been holding quiet, secret, back-channel and off-the-record discussions for years -- but the discussions were no less important for all of that. The Iran-Contra affair, for example, could not have taken place had the Reagan administration not been talking to the Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini's representatives. There is nothing new about Americans and Iranians talking; they have been doing it for years. Each side, for their own domestic reasons, has tried to hide the talks from public view, even when they were quite public, such as the Geneva discussions over Afghanistan prior to the Sept. 11 attacks.
What is dramatically new is the public nature of these talks now, and the subject matter: Iraq.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but the real players in Iraq are now going to sit down and see if they can reach some decisions about the country's future. They are going to do this over the heads of their various clients. Obviously, the needs of those clients will have to be satisfied, but in the end, the Iraq war is at least partly about U.S.-Iranian relations, and it is clear that both sides have now decided that it is time to explore a deal -- not in a quiet Georgetown restaurant, but in full view of the world. In other words, it is time to get serious.
The offer of public talks actually was not made by Iran. The first public proposal for talks came from U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad, who several months ago reported that he had been authorized by Bush to open two lines of discussion: One was with the non-jihadist Sunni leadership in Iraq; the other was with Iran. Interestingly, Khalilzad had emphasized that he was authorized to speak with the Iranians only about Iraq and not about other subjects. In other words, discussion of Iran's nuclear program was not going to take place. What happened last week was that the Iranians finally gave Khalilzad an answer: yes.
Iran's Slow Play
As we have discussed many times, Iraq has been Iran's obsession. It is an obsession rooted in ancient history; the Bible speaks of the struggle between Babylon and Persia for regional hegemony. It has some of its roots in more recent history as well: Iran lost about 300,000 people, with about 1 million more wounded and captured, in its 1980-88 war with Iraq. That would be the equivalent of more than 1 million dead Americans and an additional 4 million wounded and captured. It is a staggering number. Nothing can be understood about Iran until the impact of this war is understood. The Iranians, then, came out of the war with two things: an utter hatred of Saddam Hussein and his regime, and determination that this sort of devastation should never happen again.
After the United States decided, in Desert Storm, not to move on to Baghdad and overthrow the Hussein regime -- and after the catastrophic failure of the Shiite rising in southern Iraq -- the Iranians established a program of covert operations that was designed to increase their control of the Shiite population in the south. The Iranians were unable to wage war against Hussein but were content, after Desert Storm, that he could not attack Iran. So they focused on increasing their influence in the south and bided their time. They could not take out Hussein, but they still wanted someone to do so. That someone was the Americans.
Iran responded to the 9/11 attacks in a predictable manner. First, Iran was as concerned by al Qaeda as the United States was. The Iranians saw themselves as the vanguard of revolutionary Islam, and they did not want to see their place usurped by Wahhabis, whom they viewed as the tool of another regional rival, Saudi Arabia. Thus, Tehran immediately offered U.S. forces the right to land, at Iranian airbases, aircraft that were damaged during operations in Afghanistan. Far more important, the Iranians used their substantial influence in western and northern Afghanistan to secure allies for the United States. They wanted the Taliban gone. This is not to say that some al Qaeda operatives, having paid or otherwise induced regional Iranian commanders, didn't receive some sanctuary in Iran; the Iranians would have given sanctuary to Osama bin Laden if that would have neutralized him. But Tehran's policy was to oppose al Qaeda and the Taliban, and to quietly support the United States in its war against them. This was no stranger, really, than the Americans giving anti-tank missiles to Khomeini in the 1980s.
But the main chance that Iran saw was getting the Americans to invade Iraq and depose their true enemy, Saddam Hussein. The United States was not led to invade Iraq by the Iranians -- that would be too simple a model. However, the Iranians, with their excellent intelligence network in Iraq, helped to smooth the way for the American decision. Apart from providing useful tactical information, the Iranians led the Americans to believe three things:
1. That Iraq did have weapons of mass destruction programs.
2. That the Iraqis would not resist U.S. operations and would greet the Americans as liberators.
3. By omission, that there would be no post-war resistance in Iraq.
Again, this was not decisive, but it formed an important part of the analytical framework through which the Americans viewed Iraq.
The Iranians wanted the United States to defeat Hussein. They wanted the United States to bear the burden of pacifying the Sunni regions of Iraq. They wanted U.S. forces to bog down in Iraq so that, in due course, the Americans would withdraw -- but only after the Sunnis were broken -- leaving behind a Shiite government that would be heavily influenced by Iran. The Iranians did everything they could to encourage the initial engagement and then stood by as the United States fought the Sunnis. They were getting what they wanted.
Counterplays and Timing
What they did not count on was American flexibility. From the first battle of Al Fallujah onward, the United States engaged in negotiations with the Sunni leadership. The United States had two goals: one, to use the Sunni presence in a new Iraqi government to block Iranian ambitions; and two, to split the Sunnis from the jihadists. It was the very success of this strategy, evident in the December 2005 elections, that caused Iraqi Shia to move away from the Iranians a bit, and, more important, caused the jihadists to launch an anti-Shiite rampage. The jihadists' goal was to force a civil war in Iraq and drive the Sunnis back into an unbreakable alliance with them.
In other words, the war was not going in favor of either the United States or Iran. The Americans were bogged down in a war that could not be won with available manpower, if by "victory" we mean breaking the Sunni-jihadist will to resist. The Iranians envisioned the re-emergence of their former Baathist enemies. Not altogether certain of the political commitments or even the political savvy of their Shiite allies in Iraq, they could now picture their worst nightmare: a coalition government in which the Sunnis, maneuvering with the Kurds and Americans, would dominate an Iraqi government. They saw Tehran's own years of maneuvering as being in jeopardy. Neither side could any longer be certain of the outcome.
In response, each side attempted, first, to rattle the other. Iran's nuclear maneuver was designed to render the Americans more forthcoming; the assumption was that a nuclear Iran would be more frightening, from the American point of view, than a Shiite Iraq. The Americans held off responding and then, a few weeks ago, began letting it be known that not only were airstrikes against Iran possible, but that in fact they were being seriously considered and that deadlines were being drawn up.
This wasn't about nuclear weapons but about Iraq, as both sides made clear when the talks were announced. Both players now have all their cards on the table. Iran bluffed nukes, the United States called the bluff and seemed about to raise. Khalilzad's request for talks was still on the table. The Iranians took it. This was not really done in order to forestall airstrikes -- the Iranians were worried about that only on the margins. What Iran had was a deep concern and an interesting opportunity.
The concern was that the situation in Iraq was spinning out of its control. The United States was no longer predictable, the Sunnis were no longer predictable, and even the Iranians' Shiite allies were not playing their proper role. The Iranians were playing for huge stakes in Iraq and there were suddenly too many moving pieces, too many things that could go wrong.
The Iranians also saw an opportunity. Bush's political position in the United States had deteriorated dramatically. As it deteriorated, his room for maneuver declined. The British had made it clear that they were planning to leave Iraq. Bush had really not been isolated before, as his critics always charged, but now he was becoming isolated -- domestically as well as internationally. Bush needed badly to break out of the political bind he was in. The administration had resisted pressure to withdraw troops under a timetable, but it no longer was clear whether Congress would permit Bush to continue to resist. The president did not want his hands tied by Congress, but it seemed to the Iranians that was exactly what was happening.
From the Iranian point of view, if ever a man has needed a deal, it is Bush. If there are going to be any negotiations, they are to happen now. From Bush's point of view, he does need a deal, but so do the Iranians -- things are ratcheting out of control from Tehran's point of view as well. For domestic Iraqi players, the room to maneuver is increasing, while the room to maneuver for foreign players is decreasing. In other words, the United States and Iran have, for the moment, the unified interest of managing Iraq, rather than seeing a civil war or a purely domestic solution.
The Next Phase of the Game
The Iranians want at least to Finlandize Iraq. During the Cold War, the Soviets did not turn Finland into a satellite, but they did have the right to veto members of its government, to influence the size and composition of its military and to require a neutral foreign policy. The Iranians wanted more, but they will settle for keeping the worst of the Baathists out of the government and for controls over Iraq's international behavior. The Americans want a coalition government within the limits of a Finlandic solution. They do not want a purely Shiite government; they want the Sunnis to deal with the jihadists, in return for guaranteed Sunni rights in Iraq. Finally, the United States wants the right to place a force in Iraq -- aircraft and perhaps 40,000 troops -- outside the urban areas, in the west. The Iranians do not really want U.S. troops so close, so they will probably argue about the number and the type. They do not want to see heavy armored units but can live with lighter units stationed to the west.
Now obviously, in this negotiation, each side will express distrust and indifference. The White House won the raise by expressing doubts as to Tehran's seriousness; the implication was that the Iranians were buying time to work on their nukes. Perhaps. But the fact is that Tehran will work on nukes as and when it wants, and Washington will destroy the nukes as and when it wants. The nukes are non-issues in the real negotiations.
There are three problems now with negotiations. One is Bush's ability to keep his coalition intact while he negotiates with a member of the "axis of evil." Another is Iran's ability to keep its coalition together while it negotiates with the "Great Satan." And third is the ability of either to impose their collective will on an increasingly self-reliant Iraqi polity. The two major powers are now ready to talk. What is not clear is whether, even together, they will be in a position to impose their will on the Iraqis. The coalitions will probably hold, and the Iraqis will probably submit. But those are three "probablies." Not good.
All wars end in negotiations. Clearly, the United States and Iran have been talking quietly for a long time. They now have decided it is time to make their talks public. That decision by itself indicates how seriously they both take these conversations now.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Weird and/or silly
on: March 22, 2006, 10:40:24 AM
By DAN HERBECK, Buffalo News
News Staff Reporter
3/21/2006 Click to view larger picture
Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News
Injured in Iraq, Army Sgt. Jason R. Lyon, a National Guardsman from Hamburg, has been declared eligible for return to combat but not qualified to deliver the mail stateside.
Click to view larger picture
While Sgt. Jason R. Lyon was serving with the Army in Iraq, he suffered a sprained ankle when he jumped off a Humvee. He also nearly had his head blown off by a roadside bomb that killed three of his friends.
After extensive medical treatment and physical therapy, military doctors have certified the Hamburg serviceman physically fit to return to combat duty in Iraq.
But the U.S. Postal Service says he is physically unfit to deliver mail.
"To me, it really seems unfair," said the National Guardsman, who was recently turned down for a postal carrier job because of the ankle injury he suffered in Baghdad in July 2004.
"The military says I can go to combat. I can march, run, fight in a war and do anything else a soldier can do. But the Postal Service says I'm not fit to deliver letters."
A frustrated Lyon, 28, spoke about his dilemma in his home Monday, showing a Buffalo News reporter his Purple Heart for wounds suffered later and a thick stack of medical reports from the Army, declaring him fully fit for military duty.
"Currently no limitations of military or civilian activity," a National Guard medical officer wrote in a report on Lyon last month.
A doctor for the Postal Service saw it differently, ruling that Lyon's ankle injury makes him unfit to be hired as a mail carrier. A physician for the Postal Service called the injury a "physical impairment" that would make it difficult for Lyon to walk or stand for long periods of time.
The decision is not meant as a personal slap at Lyon, said Karen L. Mazurkiewicz, a spokeswoman for the Western New York district of the Postal Service.
Mazurkiewicz said Lyon, who is currently unemployed, still could pursue a position as a mail clerk or custodian, and she noted that veterans do receive hiring preference.
"We have a rich history of hiring veterans, but we have to look at each candidate and make an assessment of how they would handle the physical requirements of the job," Mazurkiewicz said. "There is a lot of bending, twisting, lifting and walking on uneven surfaces for a mail carrier. . . . It is a very strenuous job."
Perhaps so, said Lyon, but no more strenuous than anything he has dealt with in 10 years with the military.
He noted that he has also worked part time for United Parcel Service, on and off, for the last five years, performing similar duties to those of a mail carrier.
Lyon, a graduate of Frontier Central High School, joined the Army in 1996. After three years on active duty, he joined the New York National Guard. He now is a member of the 101st Cavalry Reconnaissance Unit, based at the Masten Avenue Armory. He was called to duty in Iraq from December 2003 until January 2005 with the Army's 108th Infantry.
In Iraq, he suffered a minor injury that is now hurting his employment chances and a major injury that he never expects to forget.
"I twisted my ankle in Baghdad, when I jumped off a Humvee in the dark and landed in a tire rut," he said. "The Army put my ankle in a cast, and two weeks later, I was back on combat patrols. I never left the war theater. I went back to all my duties as an infantryman."
That was in July 2004. Six months later, tragedy struck the squad Lyon was leading as it drove back to its base after a long night on combat patrol in northern Baghdad.
"It had been a long night. I was just telling the guys they could put a CD in the CD player," Lyon recalled. "Then the explosion hit."
A roadside bomb tore through the heavily armored Humvee that Lyon and four other soldiers were riding in. Three of the soldiers - good friends of Lyon - were killed instantly.
"It was a professionally made explosive. It tore through the Humvee like it was a tin can," Lyon said. "I heard the explosion. The next thing I knew, I was on fire and I had blood all over me. My right ear was almost torn off. I felt terror and helplessness, but I was the sergeant, and I had to take control of the situation."
Lyon was shipped out of Iraq to Germany, and then to the United States, for months of treatment for his burns and wounds. He is now back with his National Guard unit in Buffalo. He has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, but that was not a factor cited by the Postal Service for turning down his application for postal carrier.
"Sometimes, when I am alone, I'm looking over my shoulder and feeling hyper alert," Lyon said. "But when I'm with other people, I'm fine."
The office of Rep. Brian M. Higgins, D-Buffalo, has been trying to help Lyon in his dispute but without results. On March 11, Lyon got a letter from the Postal Service, saying a doctor for the service had refused to change her medical assessment.
"It's ridiculous," said the sergeant's wife, Sarah Lyon. "He's served his country in Iraq. He's worked for UPS for years, and he's been certified to go to Iraq again, if they need him. I have absolutely no doubt he can do the job of a mail carrier."
Lyon said he wants to work as a mail carrier, rather than a clerk or custodian. He said that a mail carrier earns higher pay - about $17.80 an hour for the job he was seeking - and gets to be out in the community, working with the public.
"This is Buffalo, and there are not a lot of good jobs like that one available," Lyon said. "I'm willing to work hard, and I want a good job."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WW3
on: March 21, 2006, 08:25:08 PM
Second post of the day:
Appalling?But Not Hopeless
You see lots of rough politics and jockeying for power in Baghdad. But when facing the abyss, you also see glimpses of leadership.
By Fareed Zakaria
Three years ago this week, I watched the invasion of Iraq apprehensively. I had supported military intervention to rid the country of Saddam's tyranny, but I had also been appalled by the crude and unilateral manner in which the Bush administration handled the issue. In the first weeks after the invasion, I was very critical of several of the administration's decisions?crucially, invading with a light force and dismantling the governing structures of Iraq (including the bureaucracy and Army). My criticisms grew over the first 18 months of the invasion, a period that offered a truly depressing display of American weakness and incompetence. And yet, for all my misgivings about the way the administration has handled this policy, I've never been able to join the antiwar crowd. Nor am I convinced that Iraq is a hopeless cause that should be abandoned.
Let's remember that in 2002 and early 2003, U.S. policy toward Iraq was collapsing. The sanctions regime was becoming completely ineffective against Saddam?he had gotten quite good at cheating and smuggling?and it was simultaneously impoverishing the Iraqi people. Regular reconnaissance and bombing missions over Iraq were done through no-flight zones, which required a large U.S. and British presence in Saudi Arabia and Turkey. These circumstances were fueling a poisonous anti-Americanism throughout the Muslim world.
In his fatwa of 1998, Osama bin Laden's first two charges against the United States were that it was "occupying" Saudi Arabia and starving Iraqi women and children. The Palestinian cause was a distant third. Meanwhile Saddam had a 30-year history of attempting to build nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
The other reality by 2003 was that the United States and the international community had developed a reasonably effective process for military interventions like Iraq. The RAND Corporation released a thorough study just before the invasion pointing out that the central lesson of the 1990s was that if you went in with few troops (Haiti, Somalia), chaos prevailed, but if you went in with robust forces (Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor), it was possible to succeed.
Consider what the administration itself did in Afghanistan. It allied with local forces on the ground so that order would be maintained. It upheld the traditional structure of power and governance in the country?that is, it accepted the reality of the warlords?while working very slowly and quietly to weaken them. To deflect anti-Americanism, the military turned over the political process to the United Nations right after Kabul fell. (Most people forget that it was the U.N. that created the assembly that picked Hamid Karzai as president.) The United States gave NATO and the European Union starring roles in the country?and real power?which led them to accept real burden-sharing. The European Union actually spends more in Afghanistan than the United States does.
But Iraq turned out to be a playground for all kinds of ideological theories that the Bush administration had about the Middle East, democracy, the United Nations and the Clinton administration. It also became a playground for a series of all-consuming turf wars and policy battles between various departments and policymakers in the administration. A good part of the chaos and confusion in Washington has abated, but the chaos in Iraq has proved much harder to reverse. It is much easier to undo a longstanding social and political order than it is to put it back together again.
So why have I not given up hope? Partly it's because I have been to Iraq, met the people who are engaged in the struggle to build their country and cannot bring myself to abandon them. Iraq has no Nelson Mandelas, but many of its leaders have shown remarkable patience, courage and statesmanship. Consider the wisdom and authority of Ayatollah Sistani, or the fair-minded and effective role of the Kurds, or the persistent pleas for secularism and tolerance from men like Ayad Allawi. You see lots of rough politics and jockeying for power in Baghdad. But when the stakes get high, when the violence escalates, when facing the abyss, you also see glimpses of leadership.
There is no doubt today that the costs of the invasion have far outweighed the benefits. But in the long view of history, will that always be true? If, after all this chaos, a new and different kind of Iraqi politics emerges, it will make a difference in the region. Even now, amid the violence, one can see that. The old order in Iraq was built on fear and terror. One group dominated the land, oppressing the others. Now representatives of all three communities?Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds?are sitting down at the table, trying to construct a workable bargain they can all live with.
These sectarian power struggles can get extremely messy, and violent parties have taken advantage of every crack and cleavage. But this might be inevitable in a country coming to terms with very real divisions and disagreements. Iraq might be stumbling toward nation-building by consent, not brutality. And that is a model for the Middle East.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WW3
on: March 21, 2006, 11:36:51 AM
The Stone Face of Zarqawi
Iraq is no "distraction" from al Qaeda.
BY CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS
Tuesday, March 21, 2006 12:01 a.m.
In February 2004, our Kurdish comrades in northern Iraq intercepted a courier who was bearing a long message from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to his religious guru Osama bin Laden. The letter contained a deranged analysis of the motives of the coalition intervention ("to create the State of Greater Israel from the Nile to the Euphrates" and "accelerate the emergence of the Messiah"), but also a lethally ingenious scheme to combat it. After a lengthy and hate-filled diatribe against what he considers the vile heresy of Shiism, Zarqawi wrote of Iraq's largest confessional group that: "These in our opinion are the key to change. I mean that targeting and hitting them in their religious, political and military depth will provoke them to show the Sunnis their rabies . . . and bare the teeth of the hidden rancor working in their breasts. If we succeed in dragging them into the arena of sectarian war, it will become possible to awaken the inattentive Sunnis as they feel imminent danger."
Some of us wrote about this at the time, to warn of the sheer evil that was about to be unleashed. Knowing that their own position was a tenuous one (a fact fully admitted by Zarqawi in his report) the cadres of "al Qaeda in Mesopotamia" understood that their main chance was the deliberate stoking of a civil war. And, now that this threat has become more imminent and menacing, it is somehow blamed on the Bush administration. "Civil war" has replaced "the insurgency" as the proof that the war is "unwinnable." But in plain truth, the "civil war" is and always was the chief tactic of the "insurgency."
Since February 2004, there have been numberless attacks on Shiite religious processions and precincts. Somewhat more insulting to Islam (one might think) than a caricature in Copenhagen, these desecrations did not immediately produce the desired effect. Grand Ayatollah Sistani even stated that, if he himself fell victim, he forgave his murderers in advance and forbade retaliation in his name. This extraordinary forbearance meant that many Shiites--and Sunnis, too--refused to play Zarqawi's game. But the grim fact is, as we know from Cyprus and Bosnia and Lebanon and India, that a handful of determined psychopaths can erode in a year the sort of intercommunal fraternity that has taken centuries to evolve. If you keep pressing on the nerve of tribalism and sectarianism, you will eventually get a response. And then came the near-incredible barbarism in Samarra, and the laying waste of the golden dome.
It is not merely civil strife that is partly innate in the very make-up of Iraq. There could be an even worse war, of the sort that Thomas Hobbes pictured: a "war of all against all" in which localized gangs and mafias would become rulers of their own stretch of turf. This is what happened in Lebanon after the American withdrawal: The distinctions between Maronite and Druze and Palestinian and Shiite became blurred by a descent into minor warlordism. In Iraq, things are even more fissile. Even the "insurgents" are fighting among themselves, with local elements taking aim at imported riffraff and vice-versa. Saddam's vicious tactic, of emptying the jails on the eve of the intervention and freeing his natural constituency of thugs and bandits and rapists, was exactly designed to exacerbate an already unstable situation and make the implicit case for one-man "law and order." There is strong disagreement among and between the Shiites and the Sunnis, and between them and the Kurds, only the latter having taken steps to resolve their own internal party and regional quarrels.
America's mistake in Lebanon was first to intervene in a way that placed us on one minority side--that of the Maronites and their Israeli patrons--and then to scuttle and give Hobbes his mandate for the next 10 years. At least it can be said for the present mission in Iraq that it proposes the only alternative to civil war, dictatorship, partition or some toxic combination of all three. Absent federal democracy and power-sharing, there will not just be anarchy and fragmentation and thus a moral victory for jihadism, but opportunist interventions from Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. (That vortex, by the way, is what was waiting to engulf Iraq if the coalition had not intervened, and would have necessitated an intervention later but under even worse conditions.) There are signs that many Iraqi factions do appreciate the danger of this, even if some of them have come to the realization somewhat late. The willingness of the Kurdish leadership in particular, to sacrifice for a country that was gassing its people until quite recently, is beyond praise.
Everybody now has their own scenario for the war that should have been fought three years ago. The important revelations in "Cobra II," by Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor, about the underestimated reserve strength of the Fedayeen Saddam, give us an excellent picture of what the successor regime to the Baath Party was shaping up to be: an Islamized para-state militia ruling by means of vicious divide-and-rule as between the country's peoples. No responsible American government could possibly have allowed such a contingency to become more likely. We would then have had to intervene in a ruined rogue jihadist-hosting state that was already in a Beirut-like nightmare.
I could not help noticing, when the secret prisons of the Shiite-run "Interior Ministry" were exposed a few weeks ago, that all those wishing to complain ran straight to the nearest American base, from which help was available. For the moment, the coalition forces act as the militia for the majority of Iraqis--the inked-fingered Iraqis--who have no militia of their own. Honorable as this role may be, it is not enough in the long run. In Iraq we have made some good friends and some very, very bad enemies. (How can anyone, looking down the gun-barrel into the stone face of Zarqawi, say that fighting him is a "distraction" from fighting al Qaeda?) Over the medium term, if our apparent domestic demoralization continues, the options could come down to two. First, we might use our latent power and threaten to withdraw, implicitly asking Iraqis and their neighbors if that is really what they want, and concentrating their minds. This still runs the risk of allowing the diseased spokesmen of al Qaeda to claim victory. Second, we can demand to know, of the wider international community, if it could afford to view an imploded Iraq as a spectator. Three years ago, the smug answer to that, from most U.N. members, was "yes." This is not an irresponsibility that we can afford, either morally or practically, and even if our intervention was much too little and way too late, it has kindled in many Arab and Kurdish minds an idea of a different future. There is a war within the war, as there always is when a serious struggle is under way, but justice and necessity still combine to say that the task cannot be given up.
Mr. Hitchens, a columnist for Vanity Fair, is the author of "A Long Short War: The Postponed Liberation of Iraq" (Penguin, 2003).
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Chris Poznik
on: March 21, 2006, 07:59:36 AM
Interesting idea!!! I'll mention it to him (our nickname for him is "the tree that walks" btw) the next time I see him over at Rigan's place. My boy has started taking BJJ there and I run into him semi-regularly.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Help our troops/our cause:
on: March 20, 2006, 05:27:38 PM
By Rush Limbaugh:
I think the vast differences in compensation between victims of the September 11 casualty and those who die serving our country in Uniform are profound. No one is really talking about it either, because you just don't criticize anything having to do with September 11. Well, I can't let the numbers pass by because it says something really disturbing about the
entitlement mentality of this country. If you lost a family member in the September 11 attack, you're going to get an average of $1,185,000. The range is a minimum guarantee of $250,000, all the way up to $4.7 million.
If you are a surviving family member of an American soldier killed in action, the first check you get is a $6,000 direct death benefit, half of which is taxable.
Next, you get $1,750 for burial costs. If you are the surviving spouse, you get $833 a month until you remarry. And there's a payment of $211 per month for each child under 18. When the child hits 18, those payments come to a screeching halt.
Keep in mind that some of the people who are getting an average of $1.185 million up to $4.7 million are complaining that it's not enough. Their deaths were tragic, but for most, they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Soldiers put themselves in harms way FOR ALL OF US, and they and their families know the dangers.
We also learned over the weekend that some of the victims from the Oklahoma City bombing have started an organization asking for the same deal that the September 11 families are getting. In addition to that, some of the families of those bombed in the embassies are now asking for compensation as well.
You see where this is going, don't you? Folks, this is part and parcel of over 50 years of entitlement politics in this country. It's just really sad. Every time a pay raise comes up for the military, they usually receive next to nothing of a raise. Now the green machine is in combat in the Middle East while their families have to survive on food stamps and live in low-rent housing. Make sense?
However, our own U.S. Congress voted themselves a raise. Many of you don't know that they only have to be in Congress one time to receive a pension that is more than $15,000 per month. And most are now equal to being millionaires plus. They do not receive Social Security on retirement because they didn't have to pay into the system.
If some of the military people stay in for 20 years and get out as an E-7, they may receive a pension of $1,000 per month, and the very people who placed them in harm's way receives a pension of $15,000 per month.
I would like to see our elected officials pick up a weapon and join ranks before they start cutting out benefits and lowering pay for our sons and daughters who are now fighting.
"When do we finally do something about this?" If this doesn't seem fair to you, it is time to forward this to as many people as you can.
How many people CAN YOU send this to?
How many WILL YOU send this to?
How many WILL write your congressman?
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / FMA Footwork for Context-Based Gunfighting
on: March 18, 2006, 11:56:24 PM
Your work with SN with his PT Kali and Silat background, I suspect already offers you many clues here. My work with G. explores this area as well and I look forward to getting together with you in Tulsa. BTW it now looks like second or third week of August will be when Myke is bringing me out there-- I have some things to tighten up on my end before we can finalize.
The Adventure continues,
PS: I did a one day pistol course today where we shot 1200 rounds, including about 250 at night
My accuracy, while still quite mediocre, is distinctly better than it was thanks to my one session with you. Thanks for the help.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WW3
on: March 17, 2006, 07:10:50 AM
Geopolitical Diary: The Beginning of the End Game
It appears that the United States and Iran are now going to begin public talks on Iraq. The Iranian News Agency reported Thursday that Ali Larijani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, told a closed session of the Majlis that Iran had agreed to a request by the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq to negotiate with Washington on Iraq. Also on Thursday, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the United States is open to holding talks with Iran about Iraq. He emphasized that such talks must be confined to Iraq and not involve nuclear issues.
Barring one tremendous coincidence, the near-simultaneous announcements from Washington and Tehran clearly mean that there have been prior consultations. We long have felt that such back-channel conversations were under way. Indeed, it would be incredible if they weren't. The United States and Iran both have deep interests in Iraq, some of which coincide and some of which collide. The two countries have a history of secret diplomacy dating back to the birth of the Islamic Republic. Clearly, they have been talking and now have decided to make the talks public.
The White House emphasized that nuclear weapons would not be discussed, making it appear that it was Washington that was taking this off the table. The nuclear issue, however, is off the table because it is not the point. Iraq is and always was the key issue between the United States and Iran; nuclear weapons have been an Iranian lever to get Washington to take it more seriously. That has clearly happened.
If there is ever going to be an end game in Iraq, we are now in it. Operation Swarmer, launched Thursday, seemed designed to attack jihadists in the Sunni regions. The key to the U.S.-Sunni conversation has been getting the Sunnis into the political process and, as a result, getting the Sunnis to help liquidate the jihadists. If Swarmer was launched on the basis of Sunni intelligence, and if that intelligence turns out to be accurate, it will be a key event in recent Iraqi history. Those are big "ifs," of course. At the same time, if the Sunnis are joining the political process, then it is time for Iran to negotiate its final price on Iraq, and that appears now to be happening. Taken together, this is not the end, but the beginning of the end game, and success is not guaranteed.
The Iranians want a pro-Tehran government in Iraq. If the Sunnis are in the mix, that is not going to happen. The fallback, and essential position of Iran, is that Iraq should be completely neutral. This will hinge not only on the shape of the Baghdad government, but on certain guarantees concerning the size and armament of the Iraqi military. The last thing Tehran wants is the resurrection of a massive Iraqi military force that could threaten Iran, under a government in which Shiite domination is not permanently guaranteed.
The United States wants to build an Iraqi army to fight the jihadists. That's fine with the Iranians, but in their view that military force must be calibrated so that it is sufficient for internal missions and insufficient to threaten Iran. Whatever the structure of Iraq's new government, no on can guarantee its future. But there can be controls over the types of equipment the Iraqis can acquire. So the United States will want enough for counterinsurgency operations and will happily accept limitations on the military's size so that it cannot threaten Iran.
On the other hand, the United States -- prodded by Saudi Arabia -- does want the force to be large enough to limit Iran's ability to invade and dominate Iraq. Washington wants the balance of power in the region to re-establish itself. At the same time, the United States wants to make certain that the Iraqi government is not simply and unilaterally in the hands of the Shia, and that Sunni and Kurdish interests are protected.
If those things are achieved, then the nuclear issue will be mooted on both sides. But what is easy to write is more difficult to negotiate. Can and will the Sunnis turn on the jihadists? Can there be agreement on the size of the Iraqi military that will satisfy both Iranian concerns and America needs? How can these agreements be enforced over the long haul? Will the Iranians see President George W. Bush's political weakness as too great for credibility? Will the Americans trust that the Iranian negotiators are not setting them up? Endless questions arise.
Whether agreement can be reached is not clear. Only the basic issue is now clear. Nuclear weapons, democracy in Iraq and all the other peripheral issues will now take a backseat to the core issue: The future of Iraq being negotiated by Washington and Tehran, with the Iraqi parties arraying themselves around these discussions.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Wolves & Dogs
on: March 17, 2006, 06:32:23 AM
FOB McHenry Gets Dogged
Army News Service | Barbara Ospina | March 15, 2006
Kirkuk, Iraq - With a modified ballistic vest, a Screaming Eagle combat patch and a Combat Action Badge, Zeko still may not look like the average Soldier, but he has become a valuable asset to the troops of Forward Operating Base McHenry.
The explosive detection dog has found improvised bombs buried several feet in the hard desert ground.
Zeko has brought new meaning to the phrase ?man?s best friend,? said Bastogne Soldiers of 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, stationed at FOB McHenry.
?He?s got a good rapport with the Soldiers,? said Staff Sgt. David Silberman, Zeko?s kennel master and partner for nearly two and a half years now.
?Our missions are really broad; we support everything,? Silberman reflected. ?Every day we are learning something different for us to do.?
When it comes to his job, Zeko may be at the top of his game, but Silberman says he trains on a regular basis, just like Soldiers.
Silberman said it takes on average two and a half years to get an explosive dog certified, but it does not end there; each dog must also go through an annual certification. Each dog must have a minimum 95-percent success rate on explosive detection or the dog is decertified.
?Explosive dogs are trained in nine different explosive odors,? Silberman stated confidently, while petting his partner. ?He?s got to find every single one; he can?t miss them.?
Although Zeko is currently tested at 98.7 percent, and trained in desert warfare, Silberman takes it upon himself to keep their team up to the task by training everyday.
Using a newly built training course, Zeko practices many different obstacles.
Zeko warms up, walking through a small jump, followed by stairs and tunnels.
The real workout starts when shouts echo through the air, followed by yelping. Silberman holds Zeko tightly, while a volunteer Soldier wearing a protective sleeve runs. Then, at the right moment, Silberman releases the now vicious dog. Zeko sprints after the man, leaping into the air and locking his jaw on the Soldier?s protected arm.
Attempts to shake him off fail as Zeko just bites harder. Then with a single command from his handler, Zeko releases the Soldier and returns to sit next to Silberman. A few seconds later, Zeko is rewarded with playful hugs and praises.
Not only does this furry four-legged Soldier pull his weight in the fight against improvised explosive devices, he has become very protective of his new Bastogne comrades.
?We get to spend a lot of time with [Soldiers], he?s really close, and really protective of them,? Silberman said. ?When we are taking rounds, he?s watching and really alert of his Soldiers, so he?s got a pretty good rapport with those guys.?
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Mexico
on: March 16, 2006, 03:30:55 PM
Mexico: Too Late for New Oil to Help?
March 15, 2006 22 42 GMT
Mexican President Vicente Fox recently said a new oil field has been discovered off the coast of southern Veracruz in the Gulf of Mexico. The field, which could hold reserves of up to 10 billion barrels of crude, would significantly increase Mexico's total oil reserves, which currently stand at 46.4 billion barrels. However oil production at this site will take several years for technical reasons alone, not to mention the current legal and financial restrictions that Petroleos Mexicanos faces in developing this and other fields.
Mexican President Vicente Fox on March 14 officially announced the discovery of a new offshore oil field in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The "Deep Coatzacoalcos" oil field, located around 60 miles from the coast of southern Veracruz, could hold 10 billion barrels of crude, which amounts to more than 20 percent of Mexico's current total reserves of 46.4 billion barrels.
This discovery is important in the context of declining proven reserves. Mexico's main oil field, Cantarell, which is located off the coast of Campeche and accounts for nearly 75 percent of the country's daily production of 3.4 million barrels, has reached its production peak this year. Mexico has started developing other fields, but none of them is large enough to substitute for Cantarell. If the reserves in the Deep Coatzacoalcos field turn out to be as large as announced, Mexico could continue being a relatively important player in the oil market (it is currently the fifth-largest producer and ninth-largest exporter) and secure a stable domestic supply for years. However, it will be several years before production begins because of technical, financial and legal restrictions.
Mexico, which once based most of its exports on oil, has been able to transform and diversify its economy in the past two decades. However, the Mexican government continues to depend heavily on oil revenues to finance public expenditures; more than a third of the government's total revenues come from oil. By taking most of the profits away from state oil monopoly Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex), the government has left Pemex in a state of chronic underinvestment. This has hampered Pemex's ability to explore for new fields, exploit current fields and process and refine the extracted crude.
The Mexican government also has not used oil revenues to finance a tax reform that would help the government rely less on oil profits over the long run. Moreover, Mexico has not taken advantage of the high oil prices during the past couple of years, since it has been unable to increase production. And when Mexico finally starts producing in the currently underdeveloped oil fields, the high prices might not be there anymore.
Pemex officials admit it will take at least eight years to start producing from the Deep Coatzacoalcos field. With the most modern technology, it would take at least five years to be able to start any kind of production using deep-sea deposits such as those in the new field -- and that is without the financial constraints Pemex faces. Currently, production costs are around $4 per barrel at Cantarell and $5 per barrel at the Ku Maloop Zaap field, which is next in line for exploitation. Pemex estimates that production costs on the new deep-sea fields could reach between $11 and $12 per barrel -- before taxes charged by the Mexican government, which in 2005 equaled around 60 percent of the total sales. Additionally, Pemex faces a total debt of $50 billion. This puts significant financial limitations on the exploitation of Deep Coatzacoalcos.
Mexico not only faces technical problems -- it is clear that Pemex does not have the latest technology to minimize development time -- and high production costs, but the government also restricts private and foreign investment, which could be the only way to sensibly exploit its oil deposits. The Mexican Constitution prohibits foreign and private investment, so the government has been forced to resort to limited subcontracting and even joint investments to build refining plants outside the country. This, along with the aforementioned financial and technical restrictions, could mean that Mexico will see its role as a leading oil exporter diminish while the country faces internal bottlenecks that affect its economic competitiveness.
All the candidates running in Mexico's presidential election, which will be held July 2, have named energy as one of their main concerns. Felipe Calderon, from Fox's National Action Party, and Roberto Madrazo, from the previously long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, favor changing the law to allow private investment in exploration. However, the current front-runner, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the leftist Democratic Revolution Party, has made maintaining the current restrictions one of his campaign tenets. Lopez Obrador has promised heavy investments into Pemex's modernization, but it is not clear how he would get the money without private investment.
Fox's administration decided to concentrate most of Pemex's scarce investment resources into oil exploration. During the past five years, Pemex has invested more than an estimated $6 billion in finding reserves. The discovery of Deep Coatzacoalcos makes it look like some of that investment will pay off. However, while the discovery of the new oil reserves is good news for Mexico, it will not affect global markets in the short or medium term. Moreover, the economic significance of these reserves for the country could be very low if Mexico arrives late again by refusing to change the status quo so it can develop and take advantage of its oil riches. The discovery of the new reserves is a good opportunity to rethink Mexico's long-term oil strategy.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Howl of Respect to our Soldiers/Veterans
on: March 16, 2006, 04:18:45 AM
Posted by Kevin Sites
on Wed, Mar 15 2006, 5:39 PM ET Video Audio Photo Essay
At 29, Army Capt. Chris Nunn commands hundreds of men, millions in equipment ? and a piece of America's foreign policy objective in Afghanistan.
PAKTIKA PROVINCE, Eastern Afghanistan - Capt. Chris Nunn was bitten by a rattlesnake while enrolled in one of the U.S. military's toughest training programs: the Army's elite Ranger School.
Yet instead of washing out, he sucked it up, and was back within 48 hours, limping through the perilous "mountains" phase of the training. He eventually passed the course to earn the coveted Ranger tab.
Adopted as an infant, Nunn grew up on a cattle ranch in Panhandle, Texas, located, of course, in the Texas panhandle. He graduated from the University of Mississippi with a degree in history and entered the army as an officer through the university's ROTC program. He served in Korea as a member of the 2nd Infantry Division and during the invasion of Iraq as a member of the 101st Airborne Division.
He is a self-described "quintessential overachiever," a man who doesn't like to fail. His men even nicknamed him "the Hurricane," for those flashes of anger when people aren't measuring up to his standards.
Capt. Chris Nunn leads a reconnaissance mission in eastern Afghanistan
Now he faces what could be one of the greatest challenges of his life: command of Alpha Company, for the 10th Mountain Division's 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry. Alpha Company currently is posted in the U.S. military's easternmost outpost in Afghanistan, Forward Operating Base Tillman.
I sat down with him in the company's TOC (Tactical Operations Center) to discuss the challenges of commanding hundreds of men, millions of dollars of equipment and a piece of America's foreign policy objective in Central Asia ? all at the age of 29.
KEVIN SITES: 10th Mountain trained very hard before coming here. In fact some people say it was difficult because there was so much time away from home before this deployment. What kind of training were you doing and did it pay off?
CAPT. CHRIS NUNN: We did a lot of shooting. The battalion as a whole shot at least two million rounds. My company did a lot of movement-to-contact training, where you're out actually looking for the enemy. We did a lot of live fire, squad, platoon, company exercises.
We did engagement training, civil affairs stuff, training to meet with tribal elders. [Afghan President Hamid] Karzai's cousin even came over and talked to us. We deployed to Camp Blanding, Florida to do more exercises: situation exercises in reacting to IEDs [improvised explosive devices, or roadside bombs], giving out humanitarian assistance. I think you learn from the successes and failures of previous units that were here and we tailored our training to that.
There's still people that all they want to do is hunt down and kill people and others who understand the insurgent battlefield better. I think for the next 20 years it's going to be a counterinsurgency battlefield.
SITES: Now that you're here, how is the real life mission different from the one you trained for?
NUNN: It's really not all that different. When we showed up here we really knew where we wanted to go. Six months before I came to Afghanistan I was already e-mailing the company commander that was here [from the 82nd Airborne]. I knew when they had contact [hostile action], I knew when they hit an IED, I knew when they got new hot water heaters. We would talk once a week and e-mail several times a week. He sent me a lot of after-action reports, situation reports, etc. It went very smoothly.
SITES: What surprised you most when you first arrived here?
NUNN: Seeing a Dairy Queen at Bag [Bagram Air Force Base-north of Kabul] (laughs). I guess I was really surprised at the amount of improvement made in four years. I haven't been here before, but when I drove through Kabul, there was a used car lot, cell phones everywhere ? all the improvements that have been made that the Afghans took on themselves. Of course as you go further and further out, there's less of that.
"The first four days we were here we had a significant event every day: the IED, the contact, a rocket attack, and then two more IEDs. At that point I was thinking it was going to be a long deployment."
? Capt. Chris Nunn
It wasn't really anything militarily that surprised me. I think the things that are happening here is because the Afghans are tired of war. They got kicked around for 30 years. They want something different. All we're just doing is keeping the bad guys at bay. Let them build their country.
SITES: You were in Iraq with the 101st Airborne, and now you're here in Afghanistan. Can you compare the conflicts both in terms of what's at stake and how they're being played out?
NUNN: From my perspective, in the initial push into Iraq, we were really awed by the gratefulness of the Shiites in the south. That's what I remember from the initial push to topple Saddam. But once that initial push was over, it became just like Afghanistan. Whatever people believe the reasons were for the war ? the search for weapons of mass destruction, or those who thought President Bush was trying to avenge his dad ? what I remember is this Shiite woman crying and saying 'thank you for toppling Saddam.'
Coming into Afghanistan, it seems to me, from everyone I talk to, they want us here. They want to be recognized as an international country. They don't want to be seen as a safe haven for terrorists. The people that I talk to feel that these guys causing the problems are defaming Islam as well.
There are a lot of similarities but the cultures are different. The Afghans seem more willing to work with us. The impression I had is that the Iraqis looked down their nose at us; they wanted everything right now. Maybe that's just a product of having more infrastructure; they could see more of the world.
I think I prefer this deployment more than Iraq. Maybe because I'm a commander. I just like it better, I like the country better, I like the people better, I'm here with a great unit.
SITES: You're 29 years old and in charge of hundreds of men, millions of dollars of equipment and carrying out a U.S. foreign policy objective. Are there days you feel overwhelmed? How do you keep yourself mentally and physically where you need to be to do this job?
Nunn liaises with Afghan counterparts
NUNN: This is what I wanted to do my whole life. I love it. I'm Southern Baptist ? preachers from that faith feel like they're called to their profession. I feel like I'm called to do this job. There are days you're frustrated you want to pull out your hair, or scared for your boys because they're in contact [hostile action]. But for me it's the best job I can imagine.
The first contact we had was when one of my platoons encountered an IED. Whoever planted it planted it in a sweet spot, we couldn't get eyes on it, we had to get pretty close to see it. I'm in the TOC [Tactical Operations Center] and we heard over the radio ? the IED just detonated.
I thought, "Oh no, it's day one and I just lost some of my soldiers and one of my platoon sergeants." But 15 to 20 seconds later I heard, "We're all OK, we're all OK."
Then the next day we had an attack on Observation Post 4: small arms fire, RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades], and 107mm rockets. In fact, the first four days we were here we had a significant event every day: the IED, the contact, a rocket attack, and then two more IEDs. At that point I was thinking it was going to be a long deployment.
There was something else. We had an incident where two children were playing with unexploded ordinance. A girl and her brother were tossing back and forth a 40mm grenade, when it exploded. They brought her here and our medics worked on her nonstop, but she died here on the base. She had an abdominal wound and she was bleeding out ? we couldn't get an aircraft here in time. The boy was taken to Bagram and survived.
We've all seen dead people, but seeing that little girl that was tough ? that was a rough one. There was a lot of frustration and a lot of us felt like failures because ? well, we're the U.S. Army and we couldn't do anything. It had a big impact on all of us.
SITES: A big part of your mission is helping to train and stand up Afghan forces. How is that going?
NUNN: They're better than I expected. I didn't think they'd be that far along. They're doing independent patrols ? they've got a lot of heart. They want to be as good as we are and they're grateful for what we can teach them. They want the respect of being professionals. For example, their mortar team had never even fired a mortar, but we trained them up and now they're integrated into the fire plan.
The biggest challenge is the lack of a professional base. They spent the last 20 years fighting as warriors, not as an organized army. They don't have the institutional base that professional armies have. The NCOs [non-commissioned officers] really want that. They get fired up about learning to use a map to navigate. Whenever someone wants to learn and you give them some knowledge, they just want more. That's the case with these guys.
For complex operations I keep them under my control, but they can do independent patrols, they can do cordon searches. I've seen them doing cache [weapons] recovery. When we got into contact a while ago, one of the commanders took his guys into the field and tried to hunt the attackers down, but he didn't tell me what he was doing ? he just went. I applaud his initiative but I couldn't clear the fields of fire, and those are the kinds of mixed successes we're looking at.
SITES: Another part of the mission is to bring in lawless villages like Guyan, where you were the other day meeting with elders and military and police officials as well as handing out humanitarian aid. But when you left, one of your vehicles struck an IED. What does that say about the challenges here?
NUNN: Honestly, I didn't feel it was a slap in the face. I didn't take it personally. With any size population there will always be people for you and people against you, and some people that are just bad. You just have to expect that when you go into these places.
Harsh terrain in Afghanistan
SITES: You are in command of the most eastern outpost of the U.S. military in Afghanistan. It's an isolated place, in a war in which many people, including soldiers here, feel is forgotten or at least off the radar for most Americans. How do you operate in an environment like that?
NUNN: I look at my job like a doctor looks at his job. It's what I am; it's who I am. I was in the army before 9/11, and it was those heady days of peace when everyone loved everyone and there was no need for an army. We kind of felt forgotten then. But then 9/11 happened and we were needed again.
There's frustration and I guess there's disappointment, because for some reason Afghanistan doesn't seem as important to some as the conflict in Iraq ? and you want the recognition for your soldiers.
I wish that people could see what we're doing ? not just the shooting at bad guys, but also the distribution of humanitarian aid, having tea at endless meetings with elders, or trying to save a six-year-old girl.
If we were in this for the money we'd all quit. And we're not in it for the recognition either, but I wish people could look through my eyes and see my soldiers the same way, and have the pride in them that I do.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Seminar in Tulsa?
on: March 16, 2006, 04:16:50 AM
Myke and I are playing phone tag on this.
I am delighted to know that you (and your crew?) will be there.
BTW, the way you showed me to grip with the support hand allowed me to shoot some really nice groups at a recent Gabe Suarez seminar in LA
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Mexico
on: March 14, 2006, 01:55:58 PM
Thugs, Drugs and Coyotes on the U.S.-Mexican Border
In response to testimony that violence along the U.S.-Mexican border is at an all-time high -- and getting worse -- the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee has voted to recommend that the United States increase the number of Border Patrol agents on the job from Texas to California. Even if Congress were to approve the biggest and fastest increase discussed -- as many as 12,000 more agents over two years -- the move is unlikely to stem the wave of humanity and associated violence surging into the United States.
U.S. Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar told the committee that assaults on his agents increased 108 percent between 2004 and 2005, mainly because drug smugglers and "coyotes," those who help illegal immigrants enter the United States for a fee, are more willing than ever to fight agents when confronted, rather than run. The increase in assaults indicates not only that the stakes are getting higher in the smuggling business on both sides of the border, but that a new, more violent group of coyotes is vying for control of the human-smuggling operations in northern Mexico: Central American street gangs known as Mara Salvatruchas, or MS-13.
Meanwhile, violence is raging along the Mexican border -- and in other parts of Mexico -- between rival drug cartels that are competing for control of drug-smuggling operations into the United States as well as for control of the overall illegal drug market within Mexico. In 2005, Mexican President Vicente Fox sent the army to increasingly lawless Nuevo Laredo after two of the last three local police chiefs died at the hands of the cartels, which have started using heavy weapons to fight their wars. Across the Rio Grande in Laredo, Texas, crime rates increased as the fighting spilled over from Mexico. In Arizona, which includes the porous Tucson border sector, meanwhile, federal prosecutors handled 32 cases of kidnapping involving cartel members in 2005, compared to only two cases in 2001.
Although the insecurity along the border has increased concerns in the United States that jihadists and other militants will attempt to enter from Mexico, violence associated with the cartels, the gangs and the coyotes likely will remain the biggest threat. Terrorist infiltration across the Mexican border is possible, but risky. Rather than risk sending a valuable attack team through the violent and unstable border area, jihadists determined to commit terrorist acts in the United States are more likely to enter the country through international airports on valid passports, as did every one of the Sept. 11 hijackers.
Even if Congress were to approve nearly doubling the size of the Border Patrol from its current 11,300 agents, the agency still would be vastly outnumbered. According to the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. agents apprehended 1.1 million people along the border in 2005, although the Border Patrol's catch-and-release policy can force agents to apprehend the same person over and over. Of the total apprehensions, 139,000 of them were criminals, including many from MS-13 and other gangs. For example, of the 2,388 gang members arrested in Operation Community Shield, a two-week law enforcement round-up of illegal immigrants that began Feb. 24, 922 belonged to MS-13 gangs. The criminal element coming over the border has spread throughout the United States, to cities such as Dallas, San Diego, Washington, Miami and Raleigh, N.C. An estimated 500,000 illegal immigrants succeed in making it across the border each year.
Although the vast majority of illegal immigrants continue to be Mexicans and Central Americans lured to the United States by the hope of finding jobs, the new reality on the border, and beyond, is an ever-stronger criminal presence. Congressional debate on immigration reform, which could begin as soon as March 27, will address this new reality -- though fixing the problem will be close to impossible.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Help our troops/our cause:
on: March 14, 2006, 10:43:53 AM
Soldiers' Angels needs you to adopt a soldier.....(or airman, Marine, etc)!
Every year after the holidays we have a shortage of angels and an abundance of soldiers. Here is proof of what your help does for our service members:
To All That Have Supported Us,
My name is SGT A. and I am currently deployed to Kuwait and have been receiving packages and letters from many of your volunteers. I want to take this time to say Thank You from the bottom of my heart. Your support is unparalleled and means so much to us soldiers in our toughest times. You have been there through it all with us. You are in our thoughts and prayers as well as our loved ones. Your group is what keeps us going through rain, cold nights, hot days and everything in between. You have been a shining light to help guide many a soldier. Once again I would like to say Thank you for your unwavering support. Sincerely, SGT A
What angels do:
1) Send two packages a month. These do not have to be expensive. The key to sending support is that they will know someone cares and they get their name called at mail call, or come home to mail on their bunk. If you can send some toiletries and some snacks each month, that's great. Once you sign up, you will get a mentor who can walk you through customs forms and flat rate packages. It's addictive, actually! You'll find you won't be able to go into a store without remembering Dave, who likes Old Spice aftershave, etcetera!
2) Send two letters a week. This seems like a lot but if you sit down to write a quick note to say hi, how are you, and talk a little about things at home, you would be amazed how quickly a letter gets written. Another thing you can do is buy postcards wherever you visit and send one of those each week. Again, it's about getting the names called and letting them know that while they are "over there," those of us "back home" are thinking of them.
If you can do this, please go to soldiersangels.org and click on "Adopt a Soldier." You will receive a soldier's name and address within a couple of days, as well as an orientation letter.
IT MAKES A BIG DIFFERENCE!
We hope everyone who reads this can adopt one soldier!!
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!)
on: March 11, 2006, 12:10:28 PM
March 11, 2006
The Saturday Profile
For Muslim Who Says Violence Destroys Islam, Violent Threats
By JOHN M. BRODER
LOS ANGELES, March 10 ? Three weeks ago, Dr. Wafa Sultan was a largely unknown Syrian-American psychiatrist living outside Los Angeles, nursing a deep anger and despair about her fellow Muslims.
Today, thanks to an unusually blunt and provocative interview on Al Jazeera television on Feb. 21, she is an international sensation, hailed as a fresh voice of reason by some, and by others as a heretic and infidel who deserves to die.
In the interview, which has been viewed on the Internet more than a million times and has reached the e-mail of hundreds of thousands around the world, Dr. Sultan bitterly criticized the Muslim clerics, holy warriors and political leaders who she believes have distorted the teachings of Muhammad and the Koran for 14 centuries.
She said the world's Muslims, whom she compares unfavorably with the Jews, have descended into a vortex of self-pity and violence.
Dr. Sultan said the world was not witnessing a clash of religions or cultures, but a battle between modernity and barbarism, a battle that the forces of violent, reactionary Islam are destined to lose.
In response, clerics throughout the Muslim world have condemned her, and her telephone answering machine has filled with dark threats. But Islamic reformers have praised her for saying out loud, in Arabic and on the most widely seen television network in the Arab world, what few Muslims dare to say even in private.
"I believe our people are hostages to our own beliefs and teachings," she said in an interview this week in her home in a Los Angeles suburb.
Dr. Sultan, who is 47, wears a prim sweater and skirt, with fleece-lined slippers and heavy stockings. Her eyes and hair are jet black and her modest manner belies her intense words: "Knowledge has released me from this backward thinking. Somebody has to help free the Muslim people from these wrong beliefs."
Perhaps her most provocative words on Al Jazeera were those comparing how the Jews and Muslims have reacted to adversity. Speaking of the Holocaust, she said, "The Jews have come from the tragedy and forced the world to respect them, with their knowledge, not with their terror; with their work, not with their crying and yelling."
She went on, "We have not seen a single Jew blow himself up in a German restaurant. We have not seen a single Jew destroy a church. We have not seen a single Jew protest by killing people."
She concluded, "Only the Muslims defend their beliefs by burning down churches, killing people and destroying embassies. This path will not yield any results. The Muslims must ask themselves what they can do for humankind, before they demand that humankind respect them."
Her views caught the ear of the American Jewish Congress, which has invited her to speak in May at a conference in Israel. "We have been discussing with her the importance of her message and trying to devise the right venue for her to address Jewish leaders," said Neil B. Goldstein, executive director of the organization.
She is probably more welcome in Tel Aviv than she would be in Damascus. Shortly after the broadcast, clerics in Syria denounced her as an infidel. One said she had done Islam more damage than the Danish cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad, a wire service reported.
DR. SULTAN is "working on a book that ? if it is published ? it's going to turn the Islamic world upside down."
"I have reached the point that doesn't allow any U-turn. I have no choice. I am questioning every single teaching of our holy book."
The working title is, "The Escaped Prisoner: When God Is a Monster."
Dr. Sultan grew up in a large traditional Muslim family in Banias, Syria, a small city on the Mediterranean about a two-hour drive north of Beirut. Her father was a grain trader and a devout Muslim, and she followed the faith's strictures into adulthood.
But, she said, her life changed in 1979 when she was a medical student at the University of Aleppo, in northern Syria. At that time, the radical Muslim Brotherhood was using terrorism to try to undermine the government of President Hafez al-Assad. Gunmen of the Muslim Brotherhood burst into a classroom at the university and killed her professor as she watched, she said.
"They shot hundreds of bullets into him, shouting, 'God is great!' " she said. "At that point, I lost my trust in their god and began to question all our teachings. It was the turning point of my life, and it has led me to this present point. I had to leave. I had to look for another god."
She and her husband, who now goes by the Americanized name of David, laid plans to leave for the United States. Their visas finally came in 1989, and the Sultans and their two children (they have since had a third) settled in with friends in Cerritos, Calif., a prosperous bedroom community on the edge of Los Angeles County.
After a succession of jobs and struggles with language, Dr. Sultan has completed her American medical licensing, with the exception of a hospital residency program, which she hopes to do within a year. David operates an automotive-smog-check station. They bought a home in the Los Angeles area and put their children through local public schools. All are now American citizens.
BUT even as she settled into a comfortable middle-class American life, Dr. Sultan's anger burned within. She took to writing, first for herself, then for an Islamic reform Web site called Annaqed (The Critic), run by a Syrian expatriate in Phoenix.
An angry essay on that site by Dr. Sultan about the Muslim Brotherhood caught the attention of Al Jazeera, which invited her to debate an Algerian cleric on the air last July.
In the debate, she questioned the religious teachings that prompt young people to commit suicide in the name of God. "Why does a young Muslim man, in the prime of life, with a full life ahead, go and blow himself up?" she asked. "In our countries, religion is the sole source of education and is the only spring from which that terrorist drank until his thirst was quenched."
Her remarks set off debates around the globe and her name began appearing in Arabic newspapers and Web sites. But her fame grew exponentially when she appeared on Al Jazeera again on Feb. 21, an appearance that was translated and widely distributed by the Middle East Media Research Institute, known as Memri.
Memri said the clip of her February appearance had been viewed more than a million times.
"The clash we are witnessing around the world is not a clash of religions or a clash of civilizations," Dr. Sultan said. "It is a clash between two opposites, between two eras. It is a clash between a mentality that belongs to the Middle Ages and another mentality that belongs to the 21st century. It is a clash between civilization and backwardness, between the civilized and the primitive, between barbarity and rationality."
She said she no longer practiced Islam. "I am a secular human being," she said.
The other guest on the program, identified as an Egyptian professor of religious studies, Dr. Ibrahim al-Khouli, asked, "Are you a heretic?" He then said there was no point in rebuking or debating her, because she had blasphemed against Islam, the Prophet Muhammad and the Koran.
Dr. Sultan said she took those words as a formal fatwa, a religious condemnation. Since then, she said, she has received numerous death threats on her answering machine and by e-mail.
One message said: "Oh, you are still alive? Wait and see." She received an e-mail message the other day, in Arabic, that said, "If someone were to kill you, it would be me."
Dr. Sultan said her mother, who still lives in Syria, is afraid to contact her directly, speaking only through a sister who lives in Qatar. She said she worried more about the safety of family members here and in Syria than she did for her own.
"I have no fear," she said. "I believe in my message. It is like a million-mile journey, and I believe I have walked the first and hardest 10 miles."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WW3
on: March 09, 2006, 07:43:57 AM
The United States and Iran: Intelligence Wars
March 08, 2006 23 59 GMT
By Fred Burton
There has been a clear uptick in tensions between the United States and Iran recently. The most obvious aspect of this -- but the least interesting, in our view -- has been the escalation of rhetoric concerning Iran's nuclear program. Much more intriguing, from an intelligence perspective, is a series of lower-level events -- including the continuation of a spate of bombings in Khuzestan province, some creative blame-throwing by Iranian leaders over those bombings and over the recent explosion at the Golden Mosque in As Samarra, and the creation of a new Iran office at the U.S. State Department that will place special emphasis on a democratic transition in Tehran.
The public rhetoric is only one part of a much larger game that is always being played, and in which much of the action occurs in the shadows. It long has been our view that the nuclear program is not an end in itself for Iran; if Tehran really wanted to develop nuclear weapons, it would do so with utter secrecy. Rather, it is a mechanism that can be used as political leverage as Tehran pursues other goals. Like North Korea, Iran has found discussion of its nuclear program useful for cranking up or turning down tensions with West, and, in this case, for managing the way it is perceived within the Muslim world. To the extent that the matter is publicly discussed, the nuclear issue is basically a sideshow.
But Iran, like all nation-states, has other tools as well -- and its intelligence apparatus is an important one. Whether friends or enemies, states are constantly collecting intelligence against each other. Given certain geopolitical realities -- including the situation in Baghdad, where Iranian influence is strong but certainly not as strong as Tehran has dreamed it might become, and Iran's support for Hezbollah -- there is every reason to believe at this juncture that intelligence collection is being stepped up on both sides. What is intriguing about Tehran's reactions to the mosque bombing in Iraq, the attacks in Khuzestan and other events is that its statements on these events convey the mindset of the regime -- both its fears and what it sees as its options -- more clearly than the highly public and carefully orchestrated exchanges over the nuclear program.
In short, it appears the stage is being set on the tactical side for a covert intelligence war. If history serves as any guide, the implications of such a shift could be far-reaching: Following the 1979 revolution, Iran engaged in an assassination campaign that targeted Iranian dissidents around the world as well as Western and Jewish diplomats and businessmen, sometimes in retaliation for what it viewed as strikes against Iranian interests by Western intelligence agents. Certainly the rules of the game have changed significantly for the post-9/11 world, but a covert campaign, particularly of the sort that has been successful in the past, well could remain a viable option if an embattled Tehran feels the need to start pushing back at the West.
A History of Covert Campaigns
Western intelligence agencies first became aware of Tehran's covert campaign against its enemies soon after the revolution. The first targets were Iranian monarchists in exile, who were trying to foment a counterrevolution in Iran. Later, after many of these opponents had been eliminated and the threat brought under control, the Ministry of Information and Security (MOIS) shifted its sights to target exiled dissidents and other opponents of the regime. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, influential leaders of these groups were targeted and assassinated in a sophisticated campaign that spanned the globe.
It is interesting to note the tactics that were used in these strikes. Although Hezbollah pioneered the use of suicide bombings during the 1980s, and certainly was acting for Iran's interests at that time, there was a very different signature to MOIS assassinations. These frequently employed stealth and deception to get the assassins within close range of their targets -- close enough to kill them with pistols or knives, often in the target's home. Though many Iranian agents were caught in time, most escaped serious consequences. Meanwhile, dozens of the ayatollahs' political opponents were killed or injured in France, Italy, Germany, Turkey, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and other places.
Iranian agents also engaged in more overt attacks, including kidnappings, highly public shootings and grenade attacks in public places, and bombings. Hezbollah was quite active on this front; notable actions included the abductions of CIA station chief William F. Buckley in 1984 and U.S. Marine Lt. Col. William R. Higgins in 1988 (both men died in captivity) and the 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina. That strike was in retaliation for the death of a Hezbollah leader, Abbas Musawi, who was killed by Israeli forces in an ambush.
Another significant action, never publicly linked to the Iranians, was a well-planned strike in 1995 against U.S. consulate employees in Karachi, Pakistan. A van shuttling the employees to the consulate was ambushed and blockaded by three vehicles: a "blocking car" that cut the van off in traffic, another that boxed it in from behind, and a command-and-control vehicle from which observers never emerged. Gunmen from the first two cars slowly and methodically paced the sides of the consulate van, taking careful aim at the passengers before opening fire with their assault rifles. Two consulate employees were killed, and a third was wounded. It is believed that the MOIS staged the Karachi attack in response to the killing of an Iranian agent, for which the United States was blamed.
Covert campaigns of this sort are an important tool for a country like Iran, which has a sophisticated and highly disciplined intelligence service but which could not afford to risk an overwhelming military strike by the United States. Kidnappings and assassinations, carried out with sufficient deniability, have proved an effective way of eliminating enemies and leveraging the country's geopolitical position without incurring unacceptable risk.
This history of operations has had significant implications for intelligence missions on both sides of the fence.
For the United States, intelligence efforts would include maintaining databases on every known Iranian diplomat around the world, seeking to identify which ones are also MOIS agents. These files would be continually updated with information about the officials' personal lives, travel patterns and meeting partners. The nuclear program and potential links between Iran and militant groups in other countries also would be areas of focus. The United States could expect assistance with collections from Israel's Mossad, which has always had a robust collection operation on Iran, and from friendly Arab services such as the Jordanians and Egyptians.
Technical means of collection also would be brought to bear: satellites, unmanned aerial vehicles and communication intercepts. All U.S. national assets, including signals intelligence (sigint), imagery intelligence (imint) and human intelligence sources (humint), would be used to correlate information flowing in, in order to form as complete a picture as possible of what the Iranians are doing and what they are likely to do next.
Given its connections to militant groups like Hezbollah, Iran has shaped its collection efforts in the past toward gathering information on potential targets and planning possible retaliatory attacks. In today's setting, collections likely would be conducted by MOIS as well as by Hezbollah agents and Iranian proxies active in Iraq. If strikes were to be carried out, they likely would consist of easily deniable one-off hits and possibly attacks against the assets of governments allied with Washington or American proxies in the region. Strikes against U.S. and British troops in Iraq also would be a possibility. Target selection would be tied to what types of attacks would send the most appropriate signal to the West. It would be imperative that Iran's involvement in the action was not immediately obvious, but could be revealed to or discovered by Western intelligence after the fact.
The Game Today
All of which brings us back to recent developments and what it is that Iran seems to be thinking.
First, there was the Feb. 22 bombing of the Golden Mosque in As Samarra, a highly significant Shiite shrine. One of the interesting things about the attack was that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei very quickly, and very publicly, blamed the United States and Israel for the bombing, while urging Iraqi Shia not to retaliate against their Sunni countrymen. The statement was attention-getting, considering the degree to which the United States and Iran were cooperating on Iraqi matters prior to the Iraqi elections in December 2005. Khamenei clearly was reiterating to Washington something that has been said before: Iran, with its influence over the Shiite majority, has the means to create considerable problems for the United States in Iraq if that should become necessary. The fact that others have said this as well -- notably senior diplomat and former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani -- signals the level of unease that Tehran has in its dealings with Washington.
Iran also has continued to blame "foreigners" for a continuing string of bombings in Khuzestan province, in the oil-producing southwestern region just across the Shatt al Arab from Iraq. The attacks began last summer, around the time of Iran's presidential elections, and ethnic Arab separatists -- the majority group in the province -- have claimed responsibility for some of the bombings. Given Khuzestan's economic significance to Iran, Tehran is particularly sensitive to any instability there. And at least partly because of Khuzestan's proximity to the part of Iraq occupied by British forces, Tehran suspects that dissidents in the province are receiving covert support from MI6 -- which, from an intelligence perspective, is virtually synonymous with the CIA.
In recent weeks, Tehran has shown itself capable of some truly spectacular contortions in its claims about the activities of Western intelligence units. Among other statements, Iran's interior minister recently claimed that Tehran had "specific intelligence" proving that U.S. agents have infiltrated al Qaeda and now are ordering terrorist attacks as part of their attempts to prove their bona fides. During the same speech, the minister -- Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, who had a long career with Iran's secret police and intelligence agencies -- said that large amounts of explosives found in one of Khuzestan's cities indicated that "there was an extensive plan to deal a blow to the Islamic Republic." Though he did not supply details, the statement itself would seem to indicate that Tehran fears -- or wants to generate fears of -- an escalation in what has been a relatively low-level bombing campaign up to this point.
Iranian media also have carried several claims during the past year that Western agents have been caught spying inside Iran, that U.S. reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicles and manned aircraft have overflown its airspace, and even that the British have erected towers on the Fao Peninsula to collect sigint from Khuzestan province.
The claims, or at least the fears behind them, are not illogical. Certainly, Tehran is not deriving any comfort from the fact that the U.S. State Department is now creating an Office of Iran Affairs and publicly has stated that one of its purposes will be to promote a democratic transition in Tehran. Up to this point, the State Department has treated Iran as part of a larger bloc of Persian Gulf states; there are only a small number -- less than a dozen -- countries that have their own regional "office" in this sense. The move reflects the importance the Bush administration is placing on Iran as a long-term priority. Or, from Tehran's viewpoint, Washington is stepping up the pressure as well.
With this in mind, it is noteworthy that there have been reports of more executions in Iran of late. According to Amnesty International, Tehran carried out 29 executions in January and February -- nearly one-third of the total (94) in the entirety of 2005. By itself, of course, this statistic means little; Amnesty's reporting could be wrong, or the rate of executions might drop off later in the year, and so forth. And, of course, executions in Iran can be carried out for a wide variety of crimes, and the number of political dissidents among the total is not known.
Nonetheless, this is an indicator worth monitoring. As history has shown, political dissidents are among the first to be targeted when the Iranian regime feels threatened. That is no accident, as it is members of dissident groups who are most likely in Tehran's eyes to be working with foreign intelligence agents seeking to destabilize the regime.
Should Iran's true level of tensions with the West continue to escalate, it is possible that Tehran might return to tactics it has used successfully in the past to safeguard its interests. The movement, then, would not come in the public sphere of nuclear discussions and rhetoric, but in other, much quieter ways around the globe.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Political Rants
on: March 08, 2006, 09:44:40 AM
A Call to the Muslims of the World
from a Group of Freethinkers and
Humanists of Muslim Origin
The tragic incidents of September 11 have shocked the world. It is unthinkable that anyone could be so full of hate as to commit such heinous acts and kill so many innocent people. We people of Muslim origin are as much shaken as the rest of the world and yet we find ourselves looked upon with suspicion and distrust by our neighbours and fellow citizens. We want to cry out and tell the world that we are not terrorists, and that those who perpetrate such despicable acts are murderers and not part of us. But, in reality, because of our Muslim origins we just cannot erase the "stigma of Islamic Terrorism" from our identity!
What most Muslims will say:
"Islam would never support the killing of innocent people. Allah of the Holy Qur'an never advocated killings. This is all the work of a few misguided individuals at the fringes of society. The real Islam is sanctified from violence. We denounce all violence. Islam means peace. Islam means tolerance."
What knowledgeable Muslims should say:
That is what most Muslims think, but is it true? Does Islam really preach peace, tolerance and non-violence? The Muslims who perpetrate these crimes think differently. They believe that what they do is Jihad (holy war). They say that killing unbelievers is mandatory for every Muslim. They do not kill because they wish to break the laws of Islam but because they think this is what true Muslims should do. Those who blow-up their own bodies to kill more innocent people do so because they think they will be rewarded in Paradise. They hope to be blessed by Allah, eat celestial food, drink pure wine and enjoy the company of divine consorts. Are they completely misguided? Where did they get this distorted idea? How did they come to believe that killing innocent people pleases God? Or is it that we are misguided? Does really Islam preach violence? Does it call upon its believers to kill non-believers? We denounce those who commit acts of violence and call them extremists. But are they really extremists or are they following what the holy book, the Qur'an tells them to do? What does the Qur'an teach? Have we read the Qur'an? Do we know what kind of teachings are there? Let us go through some of them and take a closer look at what Allah says.
What the Qur'an Teaches Us:
We have used the most widely available English text of the Qur'an and readers are welcome to verify our quotes from the holy book. Please have an open mind and read through these verses again and again. The following quotes are taken from the most trusted Yusufali's translation of the Qur'an.
The Qur'an tells us: "not to make friendship with Jews and Christians" (5:51), "kill the disbelievers wherever we find them" (2:191), "murder them and treat them harshly" (9:123), "fight and slay the Pagans, seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem" (9:5). The Qur'an demands that we fight the unbelievers, and promises "If there are twenty amongst you, you will vanquish two hundred: if a hundred, you will vanquish a thousand of them" (8:65).
Allah and his messenger want us to fight the Christians and the Jews "until they pay the Jizya [a penalty tax for the non-Muslims living under Islamic rules] with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued" (9:29). Allah and his messenger announce that it is acceptable to go back on our promises (treaties) and obligations with Pagans and make war on them whenever we find ourselves strong enough to do so (9:3). Our God tells us to "fight the unbelievers" and "He will punish them by our hands, cover them with shame and help us (to victory) over them" (9:14).
The Qur'an takes away the freedom of belief from all humanity and relegates those who disbelieve in Islam to hell (5:10), calls them najis (filthy, untouchable, impure) (9:28), and orders its followers to fight the unbelievers until no other religion except Islam is left (2:193). It says that the "non-believers will go to hell and will drink boiling water" (14:17). It asks the Muslims to "slay or crucify or cut the hands and feet of the unbelievers, that they be expelled from the land with disgrace and that they shall have a great punishment in world hereafter" (5:34). And tells us that "for them (the unbelievers) garments of fire shall be cut and there shall be poured over their heads boiling water whereby whatever is in their bowels and skin shall be dissolved and they will be punished with hooked iron rods" (22:19-22) and that they not only will have "disgrace in this life, but on the Day of Judgment He shall make them taste the Penalty of burning (Fire)" (22:9). The Qur'an says that "those who invoke a god other than Allah not only should meet punishment in this world but the Penalty on the Day of Judgment will be doubled to them, and they will dwell therein in ignominy" (25:68). For those who "believe not in Allah and His Messenger, He has prepared, for those who reject Allah, a Blazing Fire!" (48:13). Although we are asked to be compassionate amongst each other, we have to be "harsh with unbelievers", our Christian, Jewish and Atheist neighbours and colleagues (48:29). As for him who does not believe in Islam, the Prophet announces with a "stern command": "Seize ye him, and bind ye him, And burn ye him in the Blazing Fire. Further, make him march in a chain, whereof the length is seventy cubits! This was he that would not believe in Allah Most High. And would not encourage the feeding of the indigent! So no friend hath he here this Day. Nor hath he any food except the corruption from the washing of wounds, Which none do eat but those in sin." (69:30-37) The Qur'an prohibits a Muslim from befriending a non-believer even if that non-believer is the father or the brother of that Muslim (9:23), (3:28). Our holy book asks us to be disobedient towards the disbelievers and their governments and strive against the unbelievers with great endeavour" (25:52) and be stern with them because they belong to Hell (66:9). The holy Prophet prescribes fighting for us and tells us that "it is good for us even if we dislike it" (2:216). Then he advises us to "strike off the heads of the disbelievers"; and after making a "wide slaughter among them, carefully tie up the remaining captives" (47:4). Our God has promised to "instill terror into the hearts of the unbelievers" and has ordered us to "smite above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them" (8:12). He also assures us that when we kill in his name "it is not us who slay them but Allah, in order that He might test the Believers by a gracious trial from Himself" (8:17). He orders us "to strike terror into the hearts of the enemies" (8:60). He has made the Jihad mandatory and warns us that "Unless we go forth, (for Jihad) He will punish us with a grievous penalty, and put others in our place" (9:39). Allah speaks to our Holy Prophet and says "O Prophet! strive hard against the unbelievers and the hypocrites, and be stern against them. Their abode is Hell - an evil refuge indeed" (9:73).
He promises us that in the fight for His cause whether we slay or are slain we return to the garden of Paradise (9:111). In Paradise he will "wed us with Houris (celestial virgins) pure beautiful ones" (56:54), and unite us with large-eyed beautiful ones while we recline on our thrones set in lines (56:20). There we are promised to eat and drink pleasantly for what we did (56:19). He also promises "boys like hidden pearls" (56:24) and "youth never altering in age like scattered pearls" (for those who have paedophiliac inclinations) (76:19). As you see, Allah has promised all sorts or rewards, gluttony and unlimited sex to Muslim men who kill unbelievers in his name. We will be admitted to Paradise where we shall find "goodly things, beautiful ones, pure ones confined to the pavilions that man has not touched them before nor jinni" (56:67-71). In the West we enjoy freedom of belief but we are not supposed to give such freedom to anyone else because it is written "If anyone desires a religion other than Islam (submission to Allah), never will it be accepted of him; and in the Hereafter He will be in the ranks of those who have lost (All spiritual good) (3:85). And He orders us to fight them on until there is no more tumult and faith in Allah is practiced everywhere (8:39).
As for women the book of Allah says that they are inferior to men and their husbands have the right to scourge them if they are found disobedient (4:34). It advises to "take a green branch and beat your wife", because a green branch is more flexible and hurts more. (38:44). It teaches that women will go to hell if they are disobedient to their husbands (66:10). It maintains that men have an advantage over the women (2:228). It not only denies the women's equal right to their inheritance (4:11-12), it also regards them as imbeciles and decrees that their witness is not admissible in the courts of law (2:282). This means that a woman who is raped cannot accuse her rapist unless she can produce a male witness. Our Holy Prophet allows us to marry up to four wives and he licensed us to sleep with our slave maids and as many 'captive' women as we may have (4:3) even if those women are already married. He himself did just that. This is why anytime a Muslim army subdues another nation, they call them kafir and allow themselves to rape their women. Pakistani soldiers allegedly raped up to 250,000 Bengali women in 1971 after they massacred 3,000,000 unarmed civilians when their religious leader decreed that Bangladeshis are un-Islamic. This is why the prison guards in Islamic regime of Iran rape the women that in their opinion are apostates prior to killing them, as they believe a virgin will not go to Hell.
Dear fellow Muslims:
Is this the Islam you believe in? Is this your Most Merciful, Most Compassionate Allah whom you worship daily? Could Allah incite you to kill other peoples? Please understand that there is no terrorist gene - but there could be a terrorist mindset. That mindset finds its most fertile ground in the tenets of Islam. Denying it, and presenting Islam to the lay public as a religion of peace similar to Buddhism, is to suppress the truth. The history of Islam between the 7th and 14th centuries is riddled with violence, fratricide and wars of aggression, starting right from the death of the Prophet and during the so-called 'pure' or orthodox caliphate. And Muhammad himself hoisted the standard of killing, looting, massacres and bloodshed. How can we deny the entire history? The behaviour of our Holy Prophet as recorded in authentic Islamic sources is quite questionable from a modern viewpoint. The Prophet was a charismatic man but he had few virtues. Imitating him in all aspects of life (following the Sunnah) is both impossible and dangerous in the 21st century. Why are we so helplessly in denial over this simple issue?
When the Prophet was in Mecca and he was still not powerful enough he called for tolerance. He said "To you be your religion, and to me my religion" (109:6). This famous quote is often misused to prove that the general principle of Qur'an is tolerance. He advised his follower to speak good to their enemies (2: 83), exhorted them to be patient (20:103) and said that "there is no compulsion in religion" (2:256). But that all changed drastically when he came to power. Then killing and slaying unbelievers with harshness and without mercy was justified in innumerable verses. The verses quoted to prove Islam's tolerance ignore many other verses that bear no trace of tolerance or forgiveness. Where is tolerance in this well-known verse "Alarzu Lillah, Walhukmu Lillah." (The Earth belongs to Allah and thus only Allah's rule should prevail all over the earth.).
Is it normal that a book revealed by God should have so many serious contradictions? The Prophet himself set the example of unleashing violence by invading the Jewish settlements, breaking treaties he had signed with them and banishing some of them after confiscating their belongings, massacring others and taking their wives and children as slaves. He inspected the youngsters and massacred all those who had pubic hair along with the men. Those who were younger he kept as slaves. He distributed the women captured in his raids among his soldiers keeping the prettiest for himself (33:50). He made sexual advances on Safiyah, a Jewish girl on the same day he captured her town Kheibar and killed her father, her husband and many of her relatives. Reyhana was another Jewish girl of Bani Quriza whom he used as a sex slave after killing all her male relatives. In the last ten years of his life he accumulated two scores of wives, concubines and sex slaves including the 9 year old Ayesha. These are not stories but records from authentic Islamic history and the Hadiths. It can be argued that this kind of behaviour was not unknown or unusual for the conquerors and leaders of the mediaeval world but these are not the activities befitting of a peaceful saint and certainly not someone who claimed to be the Mercy of God for all creation. There were known assassinations of adversaries during the Prophet's time, which he had knowledge of and had supported. Among them there was a 120 year old man, Abu 'Afak whose only crime was to compose a lyric satirical of the Prophet. (by Ibn Sa'd Kitab al Tabaqat al Kabir, Volume 2, page 32) Then when a poetess, a mother of 5 small children 'Asma' Bint Marwan wrote a poetry cursing the Arabs for letting Muhammad assassinate an old man, our Holy Prophet ordered her to be assassinated too in the middle of the night while her youngest child was suckling from her breast. (Sirat Rasul Allah (A. Guillaume's translation "The Life of Muhammad") page 675, 676).
The Prophet did develop a 'Robin Hood' image that justified raiding merchant caravans attacking cities and towns, killing people and looting their belongings in the name of social justice. Usama Bin Laden is also trying to create the same image. But Robin Hood didn't claim to be a prophet or a pacifist nor did he care for apologist arguments. He did not massacre innocent people indiscriminately nor did he profit by reducing free people to slaves and then trading them.
With the known and documented violent legacy of Islam, how can we suddenly rediscover it as a religion of peace in the free world in the 21st century? Isn't this the perpetuation of a lie by a few ambitious leaders in order to gain political control of the huge and ignorant Muslim population? They are creating a polished version of Islam by completely ignoring history. They are propagating the same old dogma for simple believing people in a crisp new modern package. Their aim: to gain political power in today's high-tension world. They want to use the confrontational power of the original Islam to catalyse new conflicts and control new circles of power.
Dear conscientious Muslims, please question yourselves. Isn't this compulsive following of a man who lived 1400 years ago leading us to doom in a changing world? Do the followers of any other religion follow one man in such an all-encompassing way? Who are we deceiving, them or ourselves? Dear brothers and sisters, see how our Umma (people) has sunk into poverty and how it lags behind the rest of the world. Isn't it because we are following a religion that is outdated and impractical? In this crucial moment of history, when a great catastrophe has befallen us and a much bigger one is lying ahead, should not we wake up from our 1400 years of slumber and see where things have gone wrong?
Hatred has filled the air and the world is bracing itself for its doomsday. Should we not ask ourselves whether we have contributed, wittingly or unwittingly, to this tragedy and whether we can stop the great disaster from happening?
Unfortunately the answer to the first question is yes. Yes we have contributed to the rise of fundamentalism by merely claiming Islam is a religion of peace, by simply being a Muslim and by saying our shahada (testimony that Allah is the only God and Muhammad is his messenger). By our shahada we have recognized Muhammad as a true messenger of God and his book as the words of God. But as you saw above those words are anything but from God. They call for killing, they are prescriptions for hate and they foment intolerance. And when the ignorant among us read those hate-laden verses, they act on them and the result is the infamous September 11, human bombs in Israel, massacres in East Timor and Bangladesh, kidnappings and killings in the Philippines, slavery in the Sudan, honour killings in Pakistan and Jordan, torture in Iran, stoning and maiming in Afghanistan and Iran, violence in Algeria, terrorism in Palestine and misery and death in every Islamic country. We are responsible because we endorse Islam and hail it as a religion of God. And we are as guilty as those who put into practice what the Qur'an preaches - and ironically we are the main victims too. If we are not terrorists, if we love peace, if we cried with the rest of the word for what happened in New York, then why are we supporting the Qur'an that preaches killing, that advocates holy war, that calls for the murder of non-Muslims? It is not the extremists who have misunderstood Islam. They do literally what the Qur'an asks them to do. It is we who misunderstand Islam. We are the ones who are confused. We are the ones who wrongly assume that Islam is the religion of peace. Islam is not a religion of peace. In its so-called "pure" form it can very well be interpreted as a doctrine of hate. Terrorists are doing just that and we the intellectual apologists of Islam are justifying it. We can stop this madness. Yes, we can avert the disaster that is hovering over our heads. Yes, we can denounce the doctrines that promote hate. Yes, we can embrace the rest of humanity with love. Yes, we can become part of a united world, members of one human family, flowers of one garden. We can dump the claim of infallibility of our Book, and the questionable legacy of our Prophet.
Dear friends, there is no time to waste. Let us put an end to this lie. Let us not fool ourselves. Islam is not a religion of peace, of tolerance, of equality or of unity of humankind. Let us read the Qur'an. Let us face the truth even if it is painful. As long as we keep this lie alive, as long as we hide our head in the sands of Arabia we are feeding terrorism. As long as you and I keep calling Qur'an the unchangeable book of God, we cannot blame those who follow the teachings therein. As long as we pay our Khums and Zakat our money goes to promote Islamic expansionism and that means terrorism, Jihad and war. Islam divides the world in two. Darul Harb (land of war) and Darul Islam (land of Islam). Darul Harb is the land of the infidels, Muslims are required to infiltrate those lands, proselytize and procreate until their numbers increase and then start the war and fight and kill the people and impose the religion of Islam on them and convert that land into Darul Islam. In all fairness we denounce this betrayal. This is abuse of the trust. How can we make war in the countries that have sheltered us? How can we kill those who have befriended us? Yet willingly or unwillingly we have become pawns in this Islamic Imperialism. Let us see what great Islamic scholars have had to say in this respect.
Dr. M. Khan the translator of Sahih Bukhari and the Qur'an into English wrote: "Allah revealed in Sura Bara'at (Repentance, IX) the order to discard (all) obligations (covenants, etc), and commanded the Muslims to fight against all the Pagans as well as against the people of the Scriptures (Jews and Christians) if they do not embrace Islam, till they pay the Jizia (a tax levied on the Jews and Christians) with willing submission and feel themselves subdued (as it is revealed in 9:29). So the Muslims were not permitted to abandon "the fighting" against them (Pagans, Jews and Christians) and to reconcile with them and to suspend hostilities against them for an unlimited period while they are strong and have the ability to fight against them. So at first "the fighting" was forbidden, then it was permitted, and after that it was made obligatory" [Introduction to English translation of Sahih Bukhari, p.xxiv.]
Dr. Sobhy as-Saleh, a contemporary Islamic academician quoted Imam Suyuti the author of Itqan Fi 'Ulum al- Qur'an who wrote: "The command to fight the infidels was delayed until the Muslims become strong, but when they were weak they were commanded to endure and be patient". [ Sobhy as_Saleh, Mabaheth Fi 'Ulum al- Qur'an, Dar al-'Ilm Lel-Malayeen, Beirut, 1983, p. 269.]
Dr. Sobhy, in a footnote, commends the opinion of a scholar named Zarkashi who said: "Allah the most high and wise revealed to Mohammad in his weak condition what suited the situation, because of his mercy to him and his followers. For if He gave them the command to fight while they were weak it would have been embarrassing and most difficult, but when the most high made Islam victorious He commanded him with what suited the situation, that is asking the people of the Book to become Muslims or to pay the levied tax, and the infidels to become Muslims or face death. These two options, to fight or to have peace return according to the strength or the weakness of the Muslims." [ibid p. 270]
Other Islamic scholars (Ibn Hazm al-Andalusi, Ga'far ar-Razi, Rabi' Ibn 'Ons, 'Abil-'Aliyah, Abd ar-Rahman Ibn Zayd Ibn 'Aslam, etc.) agree that the verse "Slay the idolaters wherever you find them" (9:5) cancelled those few earlier verses that called for tolerance in the Qur'an and were revealed when Islam was weak. Can you still say that Islam is the religion of peace?
We propose a solution.
We know too well that it is not easy to denounce our faith because it means denouncing a part of ourselves. We are a group of freethinkers and humanists with Islamic roots. Discovering the truth and leaving the religion of our fathers and forefathers was a painful experience. But after learning what Islam stands for we had no choice but to leave it. After becoming familiar with the Qur'an the choice became clear: It is either Islam or humanity. If Islam thrives, then humanity will die. We decided to side with humanity. Culturally we are still Muslims but we no longer believe in Islam as the true religion of God. We are humanists. We love humanity. We work for the unity of humankind. We work for equality between men and women. We strive for the secularization of Islamic countries, for democracy and freedom of thought, belief and expression. We decided to live no longer in self-deception but to embrace humanity, and to enter into the new millennium hand in hand with people of other cultures and beliefs in amity and in peace.
We denounce the violence that is eulogized in the Qur'an as holy war (Jihad). We condemn killing in the name of God. We believe in the sanctity of human life, not in the inviolability of beliefs and religions. We invite you to join us and the rest of humanity and become part of the family of humankind - in love, camaraderie and peace.