Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere
on: June 08, 2008, 09:20:41 PM
Council: Mongtomery schools cave to pressue with Islam book
Jun 7, 2008 7:21 AM (1 day ago) by Leah Fabel, The Examiner
» 1 day ago: Council: Mongtomery schools cave to pressue with Islam book «
# 1 of 5,322
Filed under: Washington, D.C. , Leah Fabel , Textbooks
Washington, D.C. (Map, News) -
A new report issued by the American Textbook Council says books approved for use in local school districts for teaching middle and high school students about Islam caved in to political correctness and dumbed down the topic at a critical moment in its history.
"Textbook editors try to avoid any subject that could turn into a political grenade," wrote Gilbert Sewall, director of the council, who railed against five popular history texts for "adjust[ing] the definition of jihad or sharia or remov[ing] these words from lessons to avoid inconvenient truths."
Sewall complains the word jihad has gone through an "amazing cultural reorchestration" in textbooks, losing any connotation of violence. He cites Houghton Mifflin's popular middle school text, "Across the Centuries," which has been approved for use in Montgomery County Schools. It defines "jihad" as a struggle "to do one's best to resist temptation and overcome evil."
"But that is, literally, the translation of jihad," said Reza Aslan, a religion scholar and acclaimed author of "No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam." Aslan explained that the definition does not preclude a militant interpretation.
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A statement from Montgomery County Public Schools said that all text used by teachers had been properly vetted and were appropriate for classroom uses.
Aslan said groups like Sewall's are often more concerned about advancing their own interpretation of Islam than they are about defining its parts and then allowing interpretation to happen at the classroom level.
Sewall's report blames publishing companies for allowing the influence of groups like the California-based Council on Islamic Education to serve throughout the editorial process as "screeners" for textbooks, softening or deleting potentially unflattering topics within the faith.
"Fundamentally I'm worried about dumbing down textbooks," he said, "by groups that come to state education officials saying we want this and that - and publishers need to find a happy medium."
Maryland state delegate Saqib Ali refrained from joining the fray. "The job of assigning curriculum is best left to educators and the school board, and I trust their judgment," he firstname.lastname@example.org://www.examiner.com/a-1429570~Council__Mongtomery_schools_cave_to_pressue_with_Islam_book.html?cid=temp-popular
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Tokyo Knife Attack
on: June 08, 2008, 05:44:12 PM
It also shows what happens when none of the victimes or onlookers are armed.
If someone has some good article(s) on this would they please post it in the "knives for bad" or "Crimes involving knives" or whatever the name of it is thread? Please discuss on that thread as well.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 27, 28-29 DBMA Camp with Guro Crafty
on: June 08, 2008, 12:10:26 PM
Bruno's ticket is bought and the basic out line of the plan is this.
1) Seminar will be held in Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach
2) Three days. We understand that many people will not be able to come on Friday, so not to worry if this is the case with you.
The Adventure continues!
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Venezuela Pol?tica
on: June 08, 2008, 11:41:48 AM
June 8, 2008
Chávez Suffers Military and Policy Setbacks
By SIMON ROMERO
On the same day Colombia said it had captured a Venezuelan national guard officer carrying 40,000 AK-47 assault rifle cartridges believed to be intended for leftist guerrillas, President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela said Saturday he would withdraw a decree overhauling intelligence policies that he had made earlier that week.
The rare reversal by Mr. Chávez came amid intensifying criticism in Venezuela from human rights groups.
The capture of the Venezuelan officer in eastern Colombia could reignite tensions between the neighboring countries over Venezuela’s support for the rebel group FARC.
Colombia’s attorney general, Mario Iguarán, said Saturday that security forces had captured the national guard officer carrying cartridges that the Colombian authorities believe were intended for the FARC.
While Mr. Chávez’s government did not immediately comment on the arrest of the Venezuelan officer, who was identified as Manuel Teobaldo Agudo Escalona, the episode suggests that pressure could mount in Washington to add Venezuela to the list of countries that are state sponsors of terrorism.
Colombian officials have recently said that Venezuela tried to provide arms and financing for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, basing their claims on references to such dealings in archives from computers obtained in an April raid on the rebels. The United States and the European Union classify the FARC as terrorists.
Venezuela, which expresses ideological solidarity with the Marxist-inspired FARC, has said that no further proof of such assistance has emerged. But that was before Colombia announced the arrest of the Venezuelan officer, captured in Puerto Nariño in eastern Colombia with another Venezuelan citizen and two Colombians.
The type of cartridges in the possession of the four men are used in assault rifles commonly employed by the FARC, which has been active in Colombia for more than four decades. Colombia, one of the largest recipients of American counterinsurgency aid outside the Middle East, has recently killed several senior FARC commanders.
Amid festering tension with Colombia, including claims that Colombian paramilitaries were fomenting destabilization plots, President Chávez quietly unveiled his intelligence law in late May, which would have abolished the DISIP secret police and DIM military intelligence, replacing them with new intelligence and counterintelligence agencies.
But in a rare act of self-criticism on Saturday, Mr. Chávez acknowledged the ire that his intelligence overhaul had provoked among legal scholars and human rights groups, which said Mr. Chávez was attempting to introduce a police state by forcing judges to cooperate with intelligence services and criminalizing dissent.
“Where we made mistakes we must accept that and not defend the indefensible,” Mr. Chávez said at a campaign rally in Zulia State for gubernatorial and mayoral candidates from his Socialist party. “There is no dictatorship here,” he continued. “No one here is coerced into saying more than they want to say.”
Reeling from the defeat of a constitutional reform in December that would have expanded his powers, Mr. Chávez, in his 10th year in power, is facing multiple challenges as a reinvigorated opposition fields candidates in regional elections this year and Venezuela’s economic growth slows despite record oil prices.http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/08/wo...8venez.html?hp
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Stock Market
on: June 08, 2008, 11:30:12 AM
I think if you look at POT's chart you will see that the price of 50 is not so long ago. I got hipped to it in something Scott Grannis shared with me. The logic presented to me seemed very strong and so I entered into a position.
I have been following and ignoring
DMG's advice for years now. GOOG is very solid for me and recently he kept me from panicking out of my position
ISRG I ignored him on
And MA I followed on
I followed on VMW too
Thanks for the tip on SMS, I will look into it.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / CAIR intimidates public school into access to students?
on: June 08, 2008, 11:20:00 AM
In Defense of the Constitution
News & Analysis
009/08 June 8, 2008
CAIR: Intimidating Public School?
On 31 May, Erica Mellon posted a blog entry to the "School Zone" titled
"Friendswood superintendent: Islam presentation not meant for students".
(The "School Zone" blog is sponsored by the Houston Chronicle; Ms. Mellon is the
Chronicle's education reporter.)http://blogs.chron.com/schoolzone/2008/05/friendswood_superintendent_isl_1.html
In the blog post, Ms. Mellon quotes a letter by Trish Hanks, Friendswood Independent
School District Superintendent. From the letter:
"In response to an incident that occurred between students at Friendswood Junior
High School and the perception and fear that it caused to some involved, Robin Lowe,
principal, was contacted by the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and
told that they considered the incident a hate crime and had reported it to the FBI.
Mrs. Lowe and Sherry Green, Deputy Superintendent, attended a meeting with
representatives of CAIR."
An unexplained "hate crime" has, according to CAIR, been committed and CAIR has
reported the crime to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
End of story?
No. Apparently, a report to the FBI isn't good enough. From the letter:
"At the meeting, CAIR requested an opportunity to present factual and basic
information about Muslims to students at Friendswood Junior High School since the
school is predominantly Anglo Christian."
Did CAIR intimidate the principal and deputy superintendent? CAIR representatives
report a "hate crime" and request time to do a presentation on Islam; no connection?
Further confusing the issue, the Galveston Daily News reports that Asmara Siddiqi
denies that CAIR contacted the FBI because "...the school decided to resolve the
This raises two questions:
1) Is CAIR now threatening school administrators to gain secret access to American
2) Why was CAIR, with a proven track record of supporting Islamic terrorism,
invited to the school in the first place?
The Friendswood School invited representatives of an Islamic-terrorist supporting
organization to make a presentation to the most vulnerable of our citizens: our
children. What could these children possibly learn from a hateful organization like
CAIR, one that is on record praising Islamic terrorist groups that have and continue
to target and terror-murder innocent school children?
No representative of CAIR should be allowed access to any student, in any school, at
any time, for any reason. The insanity of allowing CAIR representatives into
schools must end, now. No administrator, at any level, should have the authority to
grant CAIR access to children under any circumstances.
The principal of Friendswood School has been reassigned.http://www.kltv.com/Global/story.asp?S=8434780&nav=1TjD
Dr. Daniel Pipes, a well-known expert in the field of Islamist extremism, has
commented on this case. For his thoughts:http://www.danielpipes.org/blog/2003/12/cair-active-in-schools.html
If you come across information regarding CAIR in the public/private schools, please
let us know. Include as much information as you have; name of school, presentation
offered, when offered, who was/will be in attendance, dates/times, etc. Our goal is
to report any interaction between CAIR and school students/staff and hopefully work
toward the day when all schools will, as a matter of course, refuse CAIR access to
students or staff.
CAIR has no legitimate reason to meet with school students or staff; help us make
this a reality.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: June 08, 2008, 12:15:22 AM
A thoughtful Indian friend forwards me the following:
While this sort of thing is usual at the Indo-Pak border, at the present
time...Mush may use this as a pretext to bring back military rule....Yash
Pak troops fire at Indian post
8 Jun 2008, 0232 hrs IST,Anil Kotwal,TNN
JAMMU: In yet another incident of unprovoked cross-border firing,
Pakistani troops targeted second battalion of Eighth Gurkha Rifles at the
Krnati post along the Line of Control in Poonch district's Mendhar area,
official sources said in Jammu.
Sources also said intermittent firing was reported for more than an hour at
the post on Thursday. They said the Gurkhas returned the fire without
suffering any casualty. Army spokesperson Lt Col S D Goswami, however,
refused to comment on the latest ceasefire violation.
Pakistani troops had resorted to firing at Regal in Samba, Salhutri in
Mendhar and Tangdhar in Kupwara sector in violation of ceasefire agreement.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizen-Police interactions
on: June 07, 2008, 11:49:40 AM
The question arose on the WT forum as to whether a citizen could video interactions with the police without their knowing about it. Here's the response that made the best sense to me:
The law in California is fairly simple for recording conversations. It is illegal (a misdemeanor) to record (including video recordings accompanied by sound) conversations that are intended by the parties to be private or confidential. See California Penal Code section 632. The test of whether a conversation is intended to be private turns on the reasonable objective (not subjective) expectations of the parties that their conversation would remain private. California courts have generally held that conversations in a public place or in any area where the parties could not have reasonably expected their conversation to be private can be recorded. I don't know if there is any case law on point but I would expect that a police officer who has pulled someone over for a traffic violation was not intending that his conversation was going to remain confidential. After all, many police agencies tape record the stops themselves and the traffic stops almost invariably occur in public spaces. I think you are safe (at least legally) taping the conversation in California.
Contrast the CA law requiring both people to know if a phone conversation is being recorded.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Support our troops
on: June 07, 2008, 07:36:49 AM
Another Haditha Marine cleared
“Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them,” Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) said in May 2006, “and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood.” Murtha was referring to the Haditha “massacre,” an incident in which 24 Iraqi civilians were killed after a roadside bomb killed Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas in November 2005. Five Marines had already seen charges against them dropped, and this week brought a sixth. 1st Lt. Andrew Grayson finally got the not-guilty verdict for which he had waited more than two years. Grayson, who was actually not even present with the others at Haditha, was found not guilty of making false statements, obstruction of justice and attempting to separate from service fraudulently. One Marine, Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, still awaits trial, but it seems to us that Murtha and others who have made a spectacle of the situation should be preparing their apologies.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Catching up
on: June 07, 2008, 07:36:01 AM
I've been on the road, and so have not posted on this thread for several days:
"Reading, reflection and time have convinced me that the interests
of society require the observation of those moral precepts...in
which all religions agree."
-- Thomas Jefferson (Westmoreland County Petition, 2 November 1785)
Reference: Religion and the Founding of the American Republic,
Hutson, (84); original Westmoreland County, petition, November 2,
1785, to V
"First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his
countrymen, he was second to none in humble and enduring scenes
of private life. Pious, just humane, temperate, and sincere;
uniform dignified, and commanding; his example was as edifying
to all around him as were the effects of that example lasting;
correct throughout, vice shuddered in his presence and virtue
always felt his fostering hand. The purity of his private charter
gave effulgence to his public virtues;. Such was the man for
whom our nation morns"
-- John Marshall (official eulogy of George Washington, delivered
by Richard Henry Lee, 26 December 1799)
Reference: Patriot Sage, Spalding
"The best service that can be rendered to a Country, next to that
of giving it liberty, is in diffusing the mental improvement
equally essential to the preservation, and the enjoyment of
-- James Madison (letter to Littleton Dennis Teackle, 29 March
Reference: Advice to My Country, Mattern ed. (42); original
Madison Papers in the Library of Congress
"No one more sincerely wishes the spread of information among
mankind than I do, and none has greater confidence in its effect
towards supporting free and good government."
-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to Trustees for the Lottery of East
Tennessee College, 6 May 1810)
Reference: The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, ed.,
vol. 5 (521)
“We should always remember that our strength still lies in our faith in the good sense of the American people.” “There’s no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.” “Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid.” “To those who are fainthearted and unsure, I have this message: If you’re afraid of the future, then get out of the way, stand aside. The people of this country are ready to move again.” “We must remove government’s smothering hand from where it does harm.” “Trust but verify.” “I have wondered at times what the Ten Commandments would have looked like if Moses had run them through the U.S. Congress.” “We’ve long thought there are two things in Washington that are unbalanced—the budget and the liberals.” —Ronald Reagan
“The public cannot be too curious concerning the characters of public men.” —Samuel Adams
“If we can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people, under the pretence of taking care of them, they must become happy.”—Thomas Jefferson
“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their consciences.” —C.S. Lewis
“An opportunity society awaits us. We need only believe in ourselves and give men and women of faith, courage, and vision the freedom to build it. Let others run down America and seek to punish success. Let them call you greedy for not wanting government to take more and more of your earnings. Let them defend their tombstone society of wage and price guidelines, mandatory quotas, tax increases, planned shortages, and shared sacrifices. We want no part of that mess, thank you very much. We will encourage all Americans—men and women, young and old, individuals of every race, creed, and color—to succeed and be healthy, happy, and whole. This is our goal. We see America not falling behind, but moving ahead; our citizens not fearful and divided, but confident and united by shared values of faith, family, work, neighborhood, peace and freedom.” —Ronald Reagan
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Six year old hero
on: June 07, 2008, 07:21:00 AM
Not exactly defense, but certainly heroic:http://www.wsbtv.com/news/16479379/detail.html
FAYETTEVILLE, Ga. -- Adults didn't see a drowning 5-year-old, but his 6-year-old friend did.Haden Stusak, 6, of Fayetteville is being called a hero after he dived into a pool to investigate a shadow on the bottom that turned out to be his friend.Josiah Buddah, 5, and Haden are buddies. Haden is a good swimmer, but Josiah can't swim without his water wings.On Sunday, Josiah took off his water wings and sank to the bottom of the deep end."I was scared, I was scared," said Josiah.An adult spotted a shadow in the pool, but couldn't get to it. No one knew the shadow was Josiah. But Haden got curious and dove down to investigate. He had been practicing diving to the bottom. When he discovered Josiah, he grabbed him and pulled him to the surface.VIDEO: 6-Year-Old Saves 5-Year-Old Friend From Drowning
"Well, I grabbed him like that; he was like unconscious. I grabbed him and I was swimming like this," said Haden."He jumped inside the water; he helped me get back up," said Josiah.Two nurses and doctor started CPR."They took me to the hospital," said Josiah. "I was dead and couldn't breathe."It all happened in seconds."I could have been burying my baby this week, so just to know that he's here, No. 1, is amazing, because to see your child lifeless for a few minutes, you think it's over," said Josiah's mother, Judith Buddha."So I called 'Help, help, he drowned,'" said Haden.Haden's parents told Channel 2 they ask him not to talk so loudly and to keep his voice down. This is one time they're glad they heard his screams.Josiah is doing well and is now swimming with a float suit. He will start lessons in a couple of weeks.And in true hero fashion, Haden says what he did was no big deal."We're friends. That's what friends do," said Haden.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena
on: June 07, 2008, 07:11:18 AM
The Audacity of Death
By DANIEL ALLOTT
June 5, 2008
According to Barack Obama, Gianna Jessen shouldn't exist.
Miss Jessen is an exquisite example of what antiabortion advocates call a "survivor." Well into her third trimester of pregnancy, Gianna's biological mother was injected with a saline solution intended to induce a chemical abortion at a Los Angeles County abortion center. Eighteen hours later, and precious minutes before the abortionist's arrival, Gianna emerged. Premature and with severe injuries that resulted in cerebral palsy. But alive.
Had the abortionist been present at her birth, Gianna would have been killed, perhaps by suffocation. As it was, a startled nurse called an ambulance, and Gianna was rushed to a nearby hospital, where, weighing just two pounds, she was placed in an incubator, then, months later, in foster care.
Gianna survived then, and thrives now, because, as she told me recently with a laugh, "I guess I don't die easy." Which is what the abortionist might have thought as he signed his victim's birth certificate. Gianna's medical records state that she was "born during saline abortion."
* * *
As an Illinois state senator, Barack Obama twice opposed legislation to define as "persons" babies who survive late-term abortions. Babies like Gianna. Mr. Obama said in a speech on the Illinois Senate floor that he could not accept that babies wholly emerged from their mother's wombs are "persons," and thus deserving of equal protection under the Constitution's 14th Amendment.
A federal version on the same legislation passed the Senate unanimously and with the support of all but 15 members of the House. Gianna was present when President Bush signed the Born Alive Infants Protection Act in 2002.
When I asked Gianna to reflect on Mr. Obama's candidacy, she paused, then said, "I really hope the American people will have their eyes wide open and choose to be discerning. . . . He is extreme, extreme, extreme."
"Extreme" may not be the impression the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have bought Mr. Obama's autobiography have been left with. In "The Audacity of Hope," Mr. Obama's presidential manifesto, he calls abortion "undeniably difficult," "a very difficult issue," "never a good thing" and "a wrenching moral issue."
He laments his party's "litmus test" for "orthodoxy" on abortion and other issues, and even admits, "I do not presume to know the answer to that question." That question being the moral status of the fetus, who he nonetheless concedes has "moral weight."
Those statements are seriously made but, alas, cannot be taken at all seriously. Mr. Obama has compiled a 100% lifetime "pro-choice" voting record, including votes against any and all restrictions on late-term abortions and parental involvement in teenagers' abortions.
To Mr. Obama, abortion, or "reproductive justice," is "one of the most fundamental rights we possess." And he promises, "the first thing I'd do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act," which would overturn hundreds of federal and state laws limiting abortion, including the federal ban on partial-birth abortion and bans on public funding of abortion.
Then there's Mr. Obama's aforementioned opposition to laws that protect babies born-alive during botched abortions. If partial-birth abortion is, as Democratic icon Daniel Patrick Moynihan labeled it, "too close to infanticide," then what is killing fully-birthed babies?
* * *
On the campaign trail, Mr. Obama seldom speaks about abortion and its related issues. But his few moments of candor are illuminative. When speaking extemporaneously, Mr. Obama will admit things like "I don't want [my daughters] punished with a baby." Or he'll say that voting for legislation allowing Terri Schiavo's family to take its case from state courts to federal courts in an effort to stop her euthanasia was his "biggest mistake" in the Senate. Biggest mistake?
Worst of all are Mr. Obama's accusations against antiabortion advocates. He recently compared his relationship with unrepentant domestic terrorist William Ayers, a member of a group responsible for bombing government buildings, to his friendship with stalwart pro-life physician and senator Tom Coburn.
In his campaign book, Mr. Obama accuses "most anti-abortion activists" of secretly desiring more partial-birth abortions "because the image the procedure evokes in the mind of the public has helped them win converts to their position."
All this explains why the National Abortion Rights Action League voted unanimously to endorse Mr. Obama over Hillary Clinton, as did abortion activist Frances Kissling, who called Mrs. Clinton "not radical enough on abortion."
It's surprising that 18- to 30-year-olds, the most pro-life demographic in a generation, are the same voting bloc from which Barack Obama, the most antilife presidential candidate ever, draws his most ardent supporters.
What's not surprising is that Gianna Jessen, who turned 31 last month, plans not to support Obama.
In "The Audacity of Hope," Mr. Obama denounces abortion absolutism on both ends of the ideological spectrum. That is audacious indeed considering Obama's record, which epitomizes the very radicalism and extremism he denounces.
Mr. Allott is senior writer at American Values, a Washington-area public policy organization.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: We are winning
on: June 07, 2008, 06:42:53 AM
Iraq and the Election
June 6, 2008; Page A14
This spring, the Iraqi army routed insurgents in three of their most important urban strongholds. These gains follow the success of the surge in crushing al Qaeda in the Sunni triangle, meaning that we are at last on the verge of winning in Iraq and securing a strategic victory in the Middle East. Question: Is this emerging victory – achieved at a cost of more than 4,000 American lives – something we are prepared to abandon after November?
* * *
The good news in Iraq is increasingly undeniable, even to the media. In March, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered Iraqi troops to retake the southern Shiite city of Basra from Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army. After a shaky start, the city has now been liberated from Sadrist goon squads, and it is mostly peaceful. "The presence of the Iraqi army has made people safe, not 100%, but 90%," a Basra barber told the Washington Post. The army is pursuing the Sadrists in their last redoubt, Amarah, while other radicals have followed Moqtada to Iran.
Mr. Maliki then repeated the exercise in Sadr City, the Mahdi Army's Baghdad stronghold. Mr. Sadr backed down from a full-scale confrontation, following an Iranian-brokered "truce" that had all the hallmarks of a de facto surrender. Meanwhile, Iraqi army operations in the northern city of Mosul recently netted more than 1,000 suspected Sunni insurgents in al Qaeda's last major urban sanctuary. The remaining terrorists were forced to scatter to the countryside or flee for Syria. "They've never been closer to defeat than they are now," says U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker, who is not given to claims of premature progress.
For three consecutive weeks, the number of violent incidents have been at their lowest level since the spring of 2004. The number of U.S. combat fatalities last month, 19, was the lowest of the entire war, and Iraqi military and civilian deaths are also sharply down. In the first five months of this year, 4,500 insurgent weapons caches were found, compared to 6,900 for all of 2007. These numbers have sometimes moved in the wrong direction and may do so again, particularly during major combat operations. But the trend is unmistakably positive.
The military gains have, in turn, had salutary political consequences. Mr. Maliki's decision to take Basra forced Iraq's political class to take sides – either with the government, or the Sadrist militias. All but the Sadrists chose Mr. Maliki, even some who had thought of trying to topple the government. The prime minister has emerged stronger and with more support from all ethnic groups, not merely from fellow Shiites. Insofar as "political reconciliation" is supposed to be the acid test of progress in Iraq, it is happening.
The Iraqi military is also improving, partly from the confidence gained from its recent successes. The government now counts more than half a million men under arms, and the army is emerging as a reliable and multiethnic national institution. The lead division that took Basra in March was largely led by Sunni officers, who were nonetheless welcomed by the city's Shiites.
All of this means that it is now possible to foresee not merely a stable Iraq, but also one that can achieve our original strategic goals in the region. The strategist Frederick Kagan – an architect of the surge – makes the analogy to West Germany during the Cold War. A secure and pro-American Iraq would be crucial to expanding U.S. influence in the Arab heart of the Middle East, and especially to containing Iran. A democratic Iraq can serve as an alternative pole of Shiite power in the region, as well as an alternative political model to theocratic, radical Tehran.
All of this depends, however, on securing the progress of the last 18 months, and this means not departing too soon. The gains of recent weeks mean that the five surge brigades can return home this summer without sacrificing security. But both al Qaeda and Iranian-backed Special Groups are likely to stage some kind of offensive in the fall – not least to influence the Iraqi provincial and U.S. elections.
The insurgents know they've lost militarily, so their goal will be to make enough violent noise to prevail politically. Inside Iraq, the Sadrists will try to intimidate Iraqis from supporting competing Shiite groups. But the bigger immediate prize will be in the U.S., where they hope that a President Barack Obama would follow through on his pledge to abandon Iraq.
That kind of withdrawal is the only way we can now lose in Iraq. The minute it is announced, the Iraqis who have allied themselves with us would have to recalculate their prospects in a post-U.S. era. Iran and its proxies would immediately leap in influence – precisely the kind of outcome that Mr. Obama now claims to want to prevent. Progress toward political reconciliation might well stop, as the various Iraq factions worry about their own security without America's mediating presence.
* * *
By contrast, a permanent U.S. military presence – albeit one reduced over time – would give Iraqis the confidence to continue their political maturation. Another Iraq national election is scheduled for next year, and it is an opportunity for democracy to put down even deeper roots. It's crucial for Americans to understand that, apart from the Sadrists, all factions of Iraqi politics now support some kind of U.S.-Iraq status of forces agreement to succeed the U.N. mandate that expires later this year.
We are winning in Iraq. Indeed, we can now say with certainty that we will win, as long as we don't repeat our earlier mistakes and seek to draw down too soon. This is the improving Iraq that the next U.S. President will inherit, and it is the heart of the Iraq debate Americans should have in November.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Noonan
on: June 07, 2008, 06:37:04 AM
I love Peggy Noonan, but in my opinion she has been getting a bit wooly headed of late. There's some of that on display here, but there are good points too.
By PEGGY NOONAN
June 6, 2008; Page A11
It is the most amazing thing that a young black man who was just a few short years ago unknown to most of his countrymen—really, unknown—could, this week, win the presidential nomination of one of our two great political parties. It is even more amazing that this historic news could be overshadowed by the personal drama and spite of the woman who lost to him.
I like it that she spent the campaign accusing America of being sexist, of treating her differently because she is a woman, and then, when she lacked the grace to congratulate the victor, she sent her stewards out to tell the press she just needs time, it's so emotional. In other words, she needs space because she's a woman.
A friend sent, by instant message, the AP flash that ran at 16:56 ET on 06-03-2008. There it was suddenly on my screen:
"*** WASHINGTON (AP)—Obama clinches Democratic nomination, making him first black candidate to lead his party."
A great old-school bulletin, and of course it carried a huge and moving message. It is good when barriers fall; it's good when possibilities seem to open up to more people, especially the young, who are always watching. (That's what's wrong with them, they're always watching, and we're always doing terrible things, like, say, not congratulating the winner on the night he won.)
But what I thought of when the friend sent the flash was something another friend told me months ago. It was the night Mr. Obama won Alabama. My friend was watching on TV, in his suburban den. His 10-year-old daughter walked in, looked, saw "Obama Wins" and "Alabama." She said, "Daddy, we saw a documentary on Martin Luther King Day in school." She said, "That's where they used the hoses." Suddenly my friend saw it new. That's the place they used the water hoses on the civil rights marchers crossing the bridge. And now look. The black man thanking Alabama for his victory.
What kind of place makes a change like this? Only a great nation. We should love it tenderly every day of our lives.
* * *
We will hear a lot of tasteful tributes this weekend to Hillary Clinton's grit and fortitude. The Washington-based media may go a little over the top, but only out of relief. They know her well and recoil at what she stands for. They also know they don't like her, so to balance it out they'll gush.
But this I believe is the truth: America dodged a bullet. That was the other meaning of the culminating events of this week.
Mrs. Clinton would have been a disaster as president. Mr. Obama may prove a disaster, and John McCain may, but she would be. Mr. Obama may lie, and Mr. McCain may lie, but she would lie. And she would have brought the whole rattling caravan of Clintonism with her—the scandal-making that is compulsive, the drama that is unending, the sheer, daily madness that is her, and him.
We have been spared this. Those who did it deserve to be thanked. May I rise in a toast to the Democratic Party.
They had a great and roaring fight, a state-by-state struggle unprecedented in the history of presidential primaries. They created the truly national primary. They brought 36 million people to the polls, including the young, minorities and first-time voters. They brought a kind of dogged brio to the year.
All of this is impressive, but more than that, they threw off Clintonism. They threw off the idea that corruption is part of the game, an acceptable fact. They threw off the idea that dynasticism was an unstoppable dynamic in modern politics, that Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton could, would, go on forever. They said: "No, that is not the way we do it."
They threw off the idea of inevitability. Mrs. Clinton didn't lose because she had no money or organization, she didn't lose because she had no fame or name, she didn't lose because her policies were unusual or dramatically unpopular within her party. She lost because enough Democrats looked at her and thought: I don't like that, I don't like the way she does it, I'm not going there. Most candidates lose over things, not over their essential nature. But that is what happened here. For all her accomplishments and success, it was her sketchy character that in the end did her in.
But the voters had to make the decision. So, to the Democrats: A nod. A bow. Well done.
May this mark the beginning of the remoralization of a great party.
* * *
Should he make her his vice president? He shouldn't, and he won't.
The only ones who could force him to do it are party elders, and they don't like Mrs. Clinton. They're the ones who finally forced her from the race. Their antipathy was not apparent when she was inevitable. It is obvious now.
She would never be content to be vice president. She'd be plotting against him from day one. She'd put poison in his tea.
She brings Bill.
She undercuts the cleanness of Obama's message. She doesn't turn the page, she is the page.
She would give Republicans something to get excited about. She will revivify them. They're not excited about Mr. McCain, but they could become excited about opposing her.
Her presence on the ticket would force the party to have two breakthrough moments when a rule of political life, and life in general, is: one breakthrough at a time.
He doesn't need her. He needs a boring white man. Because he's an interesting black man. He needs a sober, experienced, older establishment player who will be respected by the press, the first responders of the political game. They'll set the tone in which the choice is celebrated, or not. He needs someone like Sam Nunn. Or, actually, Sam Nunn. He could throw a wild pass at Jim Webb because he has a real-guy, Southern, semi-working-class persona, and a Scots-Irish grit and chippiness. He is from important Virginia, has Vietnam boots and is moderate.
Choosing Mrs. Clinton would make Mr. Obama look weak. No one would believe he picked her because he respected or liked her. They'd think he was appeasing her. This is not something he can afford! And in any case some people cannot be appeased. Voters would assume she and her people did their voodoo—I have 18 million voters!—and he fell for it. She doesn't have 18 million voters, she got 18 million votes. It is telling the way she thinks of them, as if they are working-class automatons awaiting her command.
As for reports of their rage, there are always dead-enders, and frantic lovers of this candidate or that. This goes under the larger heading "lonely people." But there's reason to think, and some Democratic insiders do think it, that a lot of the supposed pro-Clinton furor is ginned up on Web sites by the Clinton campaign, and even manufactured by the Clinton campaign, to prove Clinton loyalists are real and their demands must be met. In any case, you can see how Mrs. Clinton views her supposed working-class heroes by what she is doing with them now: using them as a bargaining chip to get whatever she wants.
Democrats this year have the winning fever, and Democrats will come out. By November they will be united.
Also, he doesn't like her. He recoils. Just like his party.
See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors
on: June 07, 2008, 06:32:18 AM
Thank you for that reminder-- I had forgotten that about Reagan. (Is there a chance he was posturing for the Arab world?)
I would add though that here there is the matter of US control over Iraqi airspace. Unless Israel launches missiles from its submarines (a rarely discussed capability) then to get to Iran and back US acquiescence would appear to be necessary.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters
on: June 07, 2008, 06:28:17 AM
"Poor Americans, so close to Mexico, and with a still unsecured border......."
A witty rejoinder GM, and entirely valid-- we are in complete agreement about the border and that Mexico's inability to have opportunity for its people within its own borders presents profound problems for us.
I would also add that if Americans weren't buying the cocaine that we do, the drug trade would not be what it is. (For the record, in my opinion our "War on Drugs" is a tremendous mistake.)
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread
on: June 07, 2008, 06:22:21 AM
I am on the road at the moment and am reminded that I still owe you a more substantive answer to your previous post. For the moment though, I address this
"One -- Should gay marriage be legal according to the US Constitution and State Constitutions and various case law etc?
Two --- Is allowing gay marriage the right thing to do?"
The first question properly presented is whether the US Constitution or any of the State Consitutions compel the recognition of gay marriage-- as was just held by the CA Supreme Court.
To me the answer is clearly not. Marriage in our country and culture has always been defined as between a man and a woman, and the court simply imperialisiticaly misused and abused its power in our system to impose its believe that marriage should be legally redefined over the expressly stated views via initiative of the people of California.
I'm not trying to stop gays from living together and doing what they do. I AM saying other people are free to make of it what they will and that liberalism becomes fascism when it seeks to make "thought crimes" legal crimes.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere
on: June 06, 2008, 08:29:33 PM
Bruce Blumberg, who is the chair of the Academic Senate Council on Student Experience at the University of California-Irvine, wasn’t happy about a recent PJM article I co-wrote with Jonathan Movroydis. In the piece, we make the claim that UCI administrators have capitulated to the university’s radical Muslim Student Union (MSU), whose members regularly voice support for terrorist groups and denounce America and Israel.
In an email posted by Jerry Pournelle, Blumberg writes that “no one” in the “media or on campus” is aware of the inaction on the part of the administration and the UCI Police Department that is alleged in the article. It appears that Blumberg, like most of the UCI faculty and administration, will never come the defense of students who can think for themselves, will stand up for their civil liberties, and won’t flock with the rest of the sheep.
During the academic year at UCI, the MSU holds several hateful events, including an annual anti-Israel week. Although MSU events certainly fall within the bounds of “free speech,” freedom of speech and expression does not include the right of MSU members to engage in blatant harassment. Nor should it enable UCI administrators to restrict the freedoms of other individuals at the university campus.
For example, student journalist Jonathan Movroydis and his brother were harassed out of an auditorium for simply recording a lecture by the radical imam Amir Abdel Malik-Ali in 2007. University officials allowed for members of the MSU to police their own event and allowed the group to prohibit filming at a public university event. Fortunately, California Assemblyman Chuck Devore was able to convince UCI Chancellor Michael Drake to reverse the campus taping policy. The administration, however, has been unwilling to fully enforce this new rule.
Moreover, UC Irvine police officers will stand idly while intimidation occurs, and administrators continue efforts to censor certain groups and people on the campus. I learned this firsthand last year, when I had a camera shoved in my face by a member of the MSU. At the scene a police officer refused to take a statement from me. Because I was appalled and could not believe that shoving a camera in someone’s face would be considered lawful behavior, I could not let such a matter fall. After several phone calls and e-mails, I was finally able to schedule a meeting with Edgar Dormitorio, Dean of Judicial Affairs at UCI, and given the opportunity to file a complaint with the police department on campus. I had the perpetrator’s face on camera and witnesses. However, no action has yet been taken against the student.
While I studied at UCI, I witnessed an affirmative action bake sale being shut down by administrators. Because a group of students wanted to sell cupcakes at different suggested prices for various racial groups in order to demonstrate what they felt were the injustices of affirmative action, the administration decided to completely shut down the event for what appeared to be “sensitivity” issues. Regardless of one’s position on affirmative action, it is outrageous that one’s view on a college campus, which so often promotes itself as the marketplace of different ideas, would be restricted by the administration.
Interestingly enough, when the Muslim Student Union brings speakers who have called for genocidal actions against Jews and Israelis, the administration refuses to speak out against this blatant hate speech.
MSU’s right to free speech does not require the administration to be silent when the group’s members call for the destruction of Israel and threaten students who are Israel supporters . At the very least, administrators should uphold the rights of all students and make certain that individuals have the right to film and protest. The university should refrain from selective enforcement of its rules and regulations.
Thus far the administration at UCI has been extremely negligent. An independent task force investigation recently issued findings that clearly suggest anti-Semitism, anti-Americanism, and pro-terror speech is well documented at UC Irvine. The full report can be read here.
According to this independent investigation, harassment and intimidation has occurred on campus and the administration has not worked to alleviate the problems that plague the campus. Instead, the administration’s lack of response and selective enforcement of policy has aided groups like the MSU in vilifying other students and groups.
For instance, when an anti-hate rally took place after a cardboard “apartheid wall” put up on campus by the MSU was vandalized in 2004, Vice Chancellor Manuel Gomez refused to invite Jewish organizations. In a more recent incident, a non-Jewish student described the atmosphere at UCI as dominated by a philosophy that looks at the United States and Israel as enemies, while supporting terror organizations. The same student had a professor who had a picture of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on her computer. She also recounts an argument with an Iranian student who said “f- Israel” and pulled down his trousers to show his swastika tattoo.
In his email, Blumberg implies that the situation at UCI is a “pro-Israel” and “pro-Palestine” issue with mistreatment on both sides. With all due respect to Dr. Blumberg, he has got to venture outside his office a bit more. If the Academic Senate Council really supports the freedoms of all students and believes that UCI is truly a beacon of “free speech,” they are doing a poor job of showing it. They could learn a thing or two from Democratic Representative Brad Sherman, who recently urged Chancellor Drake to “publicly denounce” the MSU’s hate speech.
As a recent alumnus of the university, I will continue to advise my friends and family members not to attend UC Irvine unless changes are made.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / FDR and Gold
on: June 05, 2008, 09:33:22 PM
Contracts as Good as Gold
By AMITY SHLAES
June 5, 2008
People these days fear inflation. We also fear changing rates of inflation. And most of the tools we might use to protect ourselves, such as the Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities bond or gold stocks, are imperfect. TIPS are, after all, based on an inflation-measure whose accuracy is itself controversial – the Consumer Price Index.
So it's worth remembering that, 75 years ago today, President Franklin D. Roosevelt destroyed an inflation hedge that was literally as good as gold: the so-called "gold clause." This helped prolong the Depression and has been causing damage ever since.
Consider an investor in the gold standard era. An ounce of gold was worth $20.67 and you could, at least in theory, trade your greenbacks for gold at the bank. The gold standard checked a government's willingness to inflate, since it started losing gold when it did so. Those who traded bonds knew a confidence we can never know.
Washington, like all governments, could occasionally cheat on the gold standard – suspend it, limit the ability of citizens to convert paper into gold, and so on. But investors could protect themselves by writing a gold clause into their contracts. Such a clause promised a borrower that he could be repaid "in gold coin of the United States of America of or equal to the present standard of weight and fineness." The gold clause fostered economic growth in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by making it easier for young industries to raise capital. Since investors protected by these clauses knew they would get their money back, interest rates were lower. To finance World War I, Washington even inserted gold clauses into Liberty Loans.
The powerful deflation of the early 1930s gave Roosevelt the excuse to end the gold standard. Dirt-low commodity prices, starving farmers, bank seizures of homes, 20% unemployment: All these miseries shouted, "looser money now!" The agricultural community, including eccentric Agriculture Secretary Henry Wallace, viewed the end of the gold standard as the ultimate revenge of the farmers punishing Wall Street for its 1920s prosperity.
One night in April, 1933, FDR surprised a bunch of advisers, saying "Congratulate me." He'd taken the country off the gold standard, and now planned to personally manage the dollar's exchange rate and price levels. Hearing the news, colleagues "began to scold Mr. Roosevelt as though he were a perverse and particularly backward schoolboy," recalled Ray Moley. Secretary of State Cordell Hull, the great free trader, "looked as though he had been stabbed in the back. FDR took out a ten-dollar bill, examined it and said 'Ha! . . . How do I know it's any good? Only the fact that I think it is makes it so.'"
Congress then drafted a joint resolution declaring gold clauses – protection against any damage Roosevelt might do – to be "against public policy." Roosevelt couldn't wait to see the resolution become law. Henry Wallace wrote that Roosevelt "looked up at the clock and put down 4:40 p.m., June 5, 1933 and signed his name."
Randall Kroszner, a governor at the Federal Reserve Board, has studied this period and has noted that the price went up on most stocks and bonds, even gold-clause bonds, when the Supreme Court eventually validated FDR's action. Mr. Kroszner and others argue that the abrogation of the gold clause had some virtue because it reduced the cost and inconvenience of debt renegotiation in a period of credit crisis.
But you can also argue that those price movements were more an expression of relief that a futile battle was over rather than a vote of approval. In my own review of the period I found evidence that snatching away from investors the perfect inflation hedge hurt the economy.
The market rally in the spring of 1933 slowed as investors watched FDR fiddle with the dollar and commodities over the course of the fall. In 1934, FDR thought better of it all and fixed the dollar to gold again, albeit now at $35 dollars an ounce. But the abrogation of the gold clause suggested that Washington had no regard for property rights. The general uncertainty generated by government economic policies did not abate. Capital went on strike. The Great Depression endured to the end of the decade. The positive transparency that the Securities and Exchange Commission or the creation of deposit insurance brought to markets was offset by losses like that of the gold clause.
And from then on, the federal government enjoyed wider license to inflate. Without the gold-clause option, citizens tried out other hedges – today a line about the CPI may stand where the old gold line once stood. In the 1970s, Sen. Jesse Helms pushed for repeal of the old abrogation, and eventually, with the support of Treasury Secretary William Simon, he won. But the average investor never used the clause to the same extent.
Today, as in the last days of the gold clause, officials like Mr. Kroszner of the Fed's Board of Governors are weighing a difficult choice between efficient crisis management and property rights. People don't talk more about the damage of monetary uncertainty because that damage is so spread out – harder to discern than, say, a single giant event like the implosion of Bear Stearns. But the old gold clause footnote explains why we may see yet more angst over the Consumer Price Index, the TIPS bond, or even LIBOR, the London Interbank rate. We have lost our bearings and our confidence in money generally.
After a majority of the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the gold clause abrogation, Justice James McReynolds read the dissent. Today McReynolds is generally regarded as an irrelevant reactionary, a footnote himself. But his rueful words ring true for those trying to reckon the dollar's future. It was, he said, "impossible to estimate the result of what has been done."
Miss Shlaes is a senior fellow in economic history at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of "The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression," out in paperback this week (Harper Perennial).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rove
on: June 05, 2008, 09:30:47 PM
Lincoln's Rule: Organization Matters
By KARL ROVE
June 5, 2008
Politics has become hi-tech with sophisticated databases, the Internet, TV ads, focus groups and polls.
But a lanky Sangamon County, Ill., lawyer described the essential task of politics in 1840 in a letter to his Whig campaign committee. Make a list of the voters, he wrote, ascertain for whom they will vote, have undecided voters talked to by someone they hold in confidence, and, on Election Day, get all Whig voters to the polls.
Barack Obama feeds his volunteers.
Abraham Lincoln was a great president, but he was also a very practical politician. And Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama would be wise to take his advice. In a close election, organization matters a lot.
Mr. Obama's background as a community organizer makes him comfortable with organizing. His supporters are demonstrating great energy and enthusiasm. Many are Internet savvy, making communicating with them inexpensive and fast. The long primary season has given Mr. Obama's team time to grow, test and learn. Left-wing groups like the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (Acorn) and unions are already actively registering new Democrats in battleground states. And Democrats now have a single national voter database, albeit more than a decade after the GOP built its own database.
However, Mr. Obama could repeat a big mistake Howard Dean made in 2004 when he had college students call on voters with whom they shared little. This violated Lincoln's rule.
Mr. Obama has a serious problem with some traditional Democratic voters. He consistently lost blue-collar households in the primaries. A recent Pew poll shows him slipping among white women (down eight points over the past month) and voters without a college degree (down seven points). Mr. Obama's support among Latino voters was a tepid 34% in the 13 primary contests with an appreciable number of Hispanics. He carried a majority of the Hispanic vote in only one state – his home state of Illinois, which he won by the slim margin of 50%-49%.
Mr. Obama also can't count on his voter-registration strength. His allies Acorn and the NAACP pay a bounty for each new voter registered, so their workers often register people who don't exist or who are already registered.
Mr. McCain's strengths start with him doing better among Independents and Democrats than any other Republican. Three times as many Democrats say they will cross party lines to vote for him than Republicans who say they will support Mr. Obama, a recent Newsweek poll found. Mr. McCain is also winning 41% of Hispanic voters, according to a recent Gallup poll. And while he still needs to win over working class voters (especially Catholics) and older white women, the openings are there.
Mr. McCain has a superior tool available to him – the GOP's Victory Committee, with its 72-Hour program that uses sophisticated targeting and vast numbers of volunteers to focus on Lincoln's four tasks.
In 2004, the Victory Committee proved its value when the Democrats far outspent the GOP, but still failed to beat Republican turnout. Fueled by George Soros's money, Democratic 527s (independent political groups) along with the Democratic National Committee and John Kerry's campaign spent a combined $121 million more than Republicans. Yet the GOP registered more voters and identified persuadable households better than Democrats, and got 12 million more Bush voters to the polls than in 2000. Democratic dollars were no match for the Victory Program's "microtargeted" database and detailed planning.
On the debit side, Mr. McCain hasn't historically valued organization, dismissing its tedious requirements as unnecessary. Mr. McCain also has an "enthusiasm deficit" with grassroots GOP activists who work the phones, walk the neighborhoods and register the voters. And he has no grassroots groups to match the Democrats, outside of the National Rifle Association and Right to Life. Mr. McCain will have to build coalitions of veterans, Catholics, Latinos, small business people, evangelicals and women in key states to close the enthusiasm gap.
There's time, but not much time, for both candidates to build effective organizations. Public interest is likely to wane in the coming months and then pick up with a bang at the end of August. The candidates will need to have their structures in place before then.
So how are the candidates doing in building their organizations? I had a colleague call the parties' headquarters in 12 battleground states to ask who the Obama and McCain state chairmen were. Mr. Obama has four states with a chairman and eight without. Mr. McCain has nine states with chairmen and three without. Having a state chairman doesn't automatically translate into an effective organization, but having one is an essential early step.
Mr. McCain has many obstacles to overcome this year, including a political environment that favors Democrats. Mr. Obama is stumbling across the primary finish line barely ahead of Hillary Clinton, and faces big problems in uniting his party. Organization could provide the winning margin in the fall.
Mr. Rove is the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.
See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO to Iraq
on: June 05, 2008, 09:27:41 PM
Why Obama Must Go to Iraq
By PETE HEGSETH
June 5, 2008
Earlier this year, I spent five days in Iraq, walking the same streets in Baghdad where I had served two years earlier as an infantry platoon leader in the 101st Airborne Division.
The visit reinforced for me not only the immense complexity of the war – so often lost in our domestic political debate – but also the importance of taking the time to visit Iraq to talk with the soldiers and Marines serving on the front lines in order to grasp the changing dynamics of a fluid battlefield.
It is for this reason that the failure of Sen. Barack Obama to travel to Iraq over the past two and a half years is worrisome, and a legitimate issue in this presidential election.
Since his election to the United States Senate in 2004, Mr. Obama has traveled to Iraq just once – in January 2006. This was more than a year before Gen. David Petraeus took command and the surge began. It was also several months before Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government came into office. Although Mr. Obama frequently criticizes the Iraqi leader on the campaign trail, he has never actually met him.
Mr. Obama's conduct is strikingly different from that of Sen. John McCain, who has been to Iraq eight times since 2003 – including three times since surge forces began to arrive in Baghdad. The senior senator from Arizona has made it his mission to truly understand what is happening on the ground, in all its messy reality.
Mr. Obama has dismissed the value of such trips, suggesting they are stage-managed productions designated to obfuscate, not illuminate, the truth. This has become an all-too-common sentiment within the Democratic Party leadership, especially since the surge began to transform conditions on the ground for the better. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has denied that there is any value in visiting the troops in Iraq, and has never done so.
In fairness, there are a number of Democrats who visit Iraq frequently – namely Sens. Joe Biden, who has made eight Iraq trips, and Jack Reed, with 10 trips. Mr. Obama's absence and cynicism stands in stark contrast to their serious approach. It is especially problematic given his intention to become our next commander in chief.
As anyone who has spent time on the ground in Iraq – speaking with troops of all ranks and backgrounds – can tell you, it is hardly a mission impossible to get them out to speak bluntly and openly about the problems they face.
Indeed, Mr. McCain's own frequent and vociferous criticisms of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his warnings, as early as 2003, that the Bush administration was pursuing a flawed strategy in Iraq, were directly informed by his firsthand interactions during his trips to Iraq. Troops and commanders warned him that we lacked sufficient forces to defeat al Qaeda and Iranian-backed militias, and they were correct.
In turn, Mr. McCain's early advocacy for the surge and his prescient conviction that it would succeed were rooted not only in his extensive knowledge of military affairs, but in his close consultations with troops serving in the theater. They recognized that the new strategy was succeeding far before the mainstream media in the U.S. was willing to acknowledge these gains.
That Mr. Obama apparently doubts his ability to distinguish spin from reality, and to draw bad news out of subordinates, does not bode well for his possible future as our nation's chief executive. As I'm sure he will discover, if he wins the White House, these are among the most important skills for a president to possess.
Even more astonishing than Mr. Obama's absence from Iraq, however, is the fact that he has apparently never sought out a single one-on-one meeting with Gen. Petraeus. The general has made repeated trips back to Washington, but Mr. Obama has shown no interest in meeting privately with him. It's enough to make you wonder who exactly Mr. Obama listens to when it comes to Iraq?
Mr. Obama frequently decries the danger of "dogmatists" and "ideologues" in public policy, yet he himself has proven consistently uninterested in putting himself in situations where he might be confronted with the hard complexities of this war. It suggests a dangerous degree of detachment and overconfidence in his own judgment.
After all, Mr. Obama was among those in January 2007 who stridently opposed the surge and confidently predicted its failure – even going so far as to vote against funding our soldiers in the field unless the Bush administration abandoned this new approach. It is now clear that Mr. Obama's judgment on the surge was spectacularly wrong.
Yet rather than admit his mistake, Mr. Obama has instead tried to downplay or disparage the gains our troops have achieved in the past 12 months, clinging to a set of talking points that increasingly seem as divorced from reality as some in the Bush administration were at the darkest moments of the war.
Mr. Obama continues to insist that "Iraq's political leaders have made no progress in resolving the political differences at the heart of their civil war" – despite the passage of numerous pieces of benchmark legislation by the Iraqi Parliament and unequivocal evidence of grassroots reconciliation across the country.
Mr. Obama also continues to claim that America has "simply thrown U.S. troops at the problem, and it has not worked" – despite the dramatic reduction in violence in precisely those areas of Iraq where American forces have surged, and since handed over to Iraqi Security Forces.
And of course, Mr. Obama persists in his pledge to withdraw all combat forces from Iraq, on a fixed timeline, beginning the moment he enters office – regardless of the recommendations of our commanders on the ground, regardless of conditions on the ground, and regardless, in short, of reality.
America is longing for an informed and principled debate about the future of Iraq. However, such a debate seems unlikely if the Democratic nominee for president won't take the time to truly understand the dynamics on the ground, let alone meet with commanders.
The time for talking points is over. Too much is at stake. When will Mr. Obama finally return to Iraq and see the situation for himself?
Mr. Hegseth, chairman of Vets for Freedom, served in Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division and returned as an embedded reporter.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics
on: June 05, 2008, 09:04:33 PM
You make your points well.
For me not throwing away our sacrifices in Iraq especially now that things are looking up, carries A LOT of weight with me. BO opposed the Surge, and now wants to undo the proof that he was profoundly wrong.
McCain's record on gun rights is not perfect, but BO's intentions are absolutley terrible.
BO would open the borders, give driver licenses to illegals and make dariver licenses sufficient proof to vote.
BO would socialize health care. You think it is expensive now-- wait until BO makes it free! McCain at least seeks steps towards freer markets.
The matter of judicial appointments also carries heavy weight with me-- BO would be affirmative action for liberals in action-- the juidges he would appoint would put us under the UN, castrate the second amendment, and much more and worse.
June 5, 2008
In today's Political Diary:
- From Green to Blue
- Haunted by Rezko
- Yes, Virginia, Virginia Will Matter in 2008
- Not Ready for Prime Time
Climate Change Collapse
Environmentalists are stunned that their global warming agenda is in collapse.
Senator Harry Reid has all but conceded he lacks the vote for passage in the Senate
and that it's time to move on. Backers of the Warner-Lieberman cap-and-trade bill
always knew they would face a veto from President Bush, but they wanted to flex
their political muscle and build momentum for 2009. That strategy backfired. The
green groups now look as politically intimidating as the skinny kid on the beach who
gets sand kicked in his face.
Those groups spent millions advertising and lobbying to push the cap-and-trade bill
through the Senate. But it would appear the political consensus on global warming
was as exaggerated as the alleged scientific consensus. "With gasoline selling at $4
a gallon, the Democrats picked the worst possible time to bring up cap and trade,"
says Dan Clifton, a political analyst for Strategas Research Partners. "This issue
is starting to feel like the Hillary health care plan."
It's a good analogy. Originally, Hillary health care had towering levels of support,
but once people looked at the cost and complexity they cringed. Jobs were on the
mind yesterday of Senator Arlen Specter, who has endorsed a tamer version of
cap-and-trade. "Workers in Pennsylvania worry that this will send jobs to China," he
tells me. They're smart to worry. Look no further than the failure of the Kyoto
countries to live up to their promised emissions cuts. Bjorn Lomborg, the author of
the Skeptical Environmentalist, tells me: "The Europeans are so far behind schedule,
it is almost inconceivable that they will meet their targets."
Even John McCain, a cap-and-trade original co-sponsor, now says that this scheme
won't fly until China and India sign on -- which could be never.
Senators also criticized Warner-Lieberman's failure to clearly specify what would
happen with the vast revenues the climate bill would generate -- some $1 trillion
over the first decade, which environmental groups wanted as a slush fund to finance
"green technologies." Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire insisted the proceeds be
used for other tax cuts, like the elimination of the corporate income tax. The
Natural Resources Defense Council desperately tried to persuade Congress in the 11th
hour that the expensive price tag is a bargain because "the cost of inaction" would
reach $1.8 trillion by 2100 due to increased hurricanes and rising oceans -- an
argument without a shred of scientific or fiscal credibility.
Republicans in the Senate this week did such a masterful job of picking the cap and
trade bill apart with objections, yesterday Barbara Boxer of California was pulling
her hair out with frustration, as one Republican leadership staffer put it.
Environmentalists have always eyed 2009 as the real target year for enactment. But
there was no show of strength this week and cap-and-trade may have reached its
political high water mark. Conservatives at least are in a far stronger position now
to demand major pro-growth tax cuts in exchange for new global warming taxes.
-- Stephen Moore
And Then There's Rezko
Barack Obama released a statement last night saying he was "saddened" that Tony
Rezko, his old friend and top fundraiser, had been convicted on 16 out of 24 counts
of fraud and political corruption by a Chicago jury. Previously, Mr. Obama felt
compelled to donate over $150,000 in Rezko-linked campaign contributions to charity.
But that probably won't be enough to erase Tony Rezko from the 2008 fall campaign as
an issue. Mr. Rezko offered Mr. Obama a job back in 1990 just as he was leaving
Harvard Law School. Mr. Obama didn't take it, but nonetheless became close to the
Syrian-born political fixer. In 2005, Mr. Rezko was helpful in Mr. Obama's purchase
of a large Hyde Park house by having his wife, Rita, buy the adjoining garden on the
same day Mr. Obama closed his transaction. Mr. Obama has since said the move was a
"bone-headed" mistake, especially since newspapers were already full of reports that
Mr. Rezko was being investigated on charges he had corruptly influenced appointments
made by Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Mr. Obama has yet to answer a lot of questions about his relationship with Mr. Rezko
or his business partner, Iraqi-British billionaire Nadhmi Auchi. He claims the Rezko
case simply highlights the need for more campaign finance reform laws. Yesterday, he
issued a statement adding that the man convicted in a Chicago courtroom "isn't the
Tony Rezko I knew." Hmmm... But Mr. Obama knew him as a close friend and ally for
over 20 years as Mr. Rezko rose to become Illinois' top political fixer. Exactly
which Tony Rezko did Mr. Obama know?
As for Gov. Blagojevich, Chicago political observers believe the Rezko verdict will
tighten the net around him. Federal prosecutors have already subpoenaed his campaign
records, scrutinized his donors, and looked into his wife's real estate dealings.
-- John Fund
Obama in Wilder Country
Like Barack Obama, Doug Wilder was serving only his second year in state-wide office
when, in September 1991, he launched a run for president. Elected in 1989 as
governor of Virginia and the first black governor of any state, his achievement had
been all the more impressive for coming in a state where just three decades earlier
much of the Democratic Party leadership had declared "Massive Resistance" to
However, his presidential star never burned as brightly as Mr. Obama's and Mr.
Wilder is now finishing up a stint as the reformist mayor of troubled Richmond. But
his home state could still play a pivotal role in sending the first African-American
to the White House. Tonight Mr. Obama will speak in Virginia in his first campaign
event since wrapping up the nomination.
Despite the fact that Virginia has voted Republican in 10 straight presidential
elections, the Old Dominion appears up for grabs in Mr. Obama's fall race against
John McCain. The Illinois Senator will need to score big gains in the overwhelmingly
Democratic suburbs in Northern Virginia if he's to carry the state. He'll also
likely need to win some Appalachian counties in western Virginia, which Hillary
Clinton won in the February 12 primary and where Mr. Wilder won a surprising amount
of support in his 1989 gubernatorial victory.
According to his Richmond mayoral office, Mr. Wilder will not be attending Mr.
Obama's event tonight, but he's sure to campaign for him over the next five months.
"As I watched last night the certification of the nomination of Barack Obama, I was
filled with many emotions," Mr. Wilder said yesterday. "I was proud and appreciative
of how far we had come in this country.... He has done this without making any
claims to be running to 'make history' but instead, to be the best possible
candidate for the position."
-- Kyle Trygstad, RealClearPolitics.com
The Gang That Couldn't Primary Straight
Republicans have had terrible problems recruiting top-notch Senate candidates this
year, but in Massachusetts and Montana they appear to have recruited Keystone Kops.
In Massachusetts, former Air Force officer Jim Ogonowski was at least a credible
candidate, having nearly won a special election for the House last year. He promptly
built on that showing by announcing he would challenge Sen. John Kerry. But there
was the small matter of making the ballot.
This week it was revealed that Mr. Ogonowski had only turned in 9,970 legal
signatures on his petitions, falling 30 short of the required number. This means the
lone GOP candidate on the primary ballot will be security business owner Jeff Beatty
-- by no means the party's first choice.
But at least Mr. Beatty is serious. In Montana, Republicans this week had to witness
the humiliating spectacle of seeing their Senate nomination go to an 85-year-old
eccentric who was the Green Party's candidate in the last statewide election and
only ran as a Republican this time because he wanted a bigger stage for his platform
to turn the U.S. into a parliamentary democracy.
Butte attorney Bob Kelleher has lost 14 previous races for office, having started
out as a Democrat who finally switched to the Greens after 30 years of losses. The
Green Party repudiated him, saying he didn't represent its views either. Now he's
the Republican Party's headache. At least the debates between Mr. Kelleher and
Senate incumbent Max Baucus will be entertaining.
-- John Fund
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Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics
on: June 04, 2008, 09:26:15 PM
June 4, 2008
In today's Political Diary:
- Obama By a Nose (Uplifted)
- Hillary for Veep?
- Osama School of Journalism (Quote of the Day I)
- Bad Man (Quote of the Day II)
- Voters vs. the Climate Gang
A Less Than Convincing Victory
Barack Obama effectively won the Democratic nomination last night, and he must be
relieved the long primary season is over. Every primary since early March has
demonstrated a worrying inability on his part to expand his coalition within the
Democratic Party. The Montana and South Dakota primaries last night showed him once
again winning upper-class Democrats who frequent Starbucks, while salt-of-the-earth
Democrats who like Dunkin Donuts coffee are still with Hillary Clinton.
In Montana, Mr. Obama won 75% of the vote in trendy Bozeman, where Ted Turner and
other celebrities have ranches. He won only 50% in Billings, the state's largest
city. He won college-educated voters but not those without college educations.
Meanwhile, in winning South Dakota yesterday, Mrs. Clinton won six out of ten female
voters and split men with Mr. Obama.
There are other troubling signs for Mr. Obama in yesterday's primary numbers. Once
again, Mrs. Clinton carried the one-fifth of voters who made up their minds in the
last week of campaigning -- winning that group by six points in Montana and a
stunning 26 points in South Dakota.
Worse for Mr. Obama, about one-fourth of Clinton voters in Montana told exit
pollsters they would plump for John McCain in November if his opponent is Barack
Obama. Another 10% said they planned to stay home. In South Dakota, about 15% of
Clinton supporters indicated a preference for Mr. McCain and an equal number said
they didn't plan to vote in the fall.
Mr. Obama has pulled off a remarkable feat in snatching the nomination from someone
who once appeared to be an invincible frontrunner. But he did so without ever
cracking into Mrs. Clinton's support among working-class, female, and older white
voters. Mr. Obama's hopes of winning the White House will hinge on whether he can
reach those voters in the fall election.
-- John Fund.
Inside the Tent or Out?
Can Hillary Clinton cajole or bully Barack Obama into putting her on his ticket as
the vice presidential candidate? It won't be for lack of trying. Yesterday, Mrs.
Clinton said she "was open" to the idea. In reality, her allies behind the scenes
are pushing the idea hard, with the emphasis on bullying.
"Last night, when Obama went over the top in delegates and could claim the
nomination as his, Hillary organized a rally of all of her supporters, directly
competing for airtime with the newly minted nominee," notes Dick Morris, the former
Clinton political consultant who is now a strong critic of the couple.
On another front, a group called HillaryGrassrootsCampaign.com sent out an email
last night claiming to represent a half-million Hillary backers "who are ready to be
'former' Democrats because of the contempt and disregard that has been shown to the
many party faithful who support Sen. Clinton's presidential candidacy." The implied
message is that Hillary backers might be coaxed back into the fold if she were made
the vice presidential nominee.
On the surface, Mrs. Clinton has a good argument that she could combine her
lower-income supporters with the upscale liberals that form the heart of Mr. Obama's
coalition. But in reality, the bitterness that Obama advisers, especially his wife
Michelle, harbor against Mrs. Clinton may override any matchmaking efforts.
Then there is the issue of governing. Should Mr. Obama become president, no doubt
Mrs. Clinton will demand a relevant role shaping public policy -- and one that could
conflict with Obama priorities. There's also the issue of Bill Clinton, who would
soak up Washington media attention as the spouse of a vice president. Given the
former president's recent penchant for seemingly uncontrollable outbursts, not all
the attention would necessarily be good.
Mrs. Clinton may desperately want the visibility of the vice presidential nomination
as a way to extend her political shelf life for a future presidential run. But right
now, she is far from having convinced Team Obama that she can transform herself into
a trusted and loyal member of their team.
-- John Fund
Quote of the Day I
"The New York Times won the Pulitzer for revealing the fact of the Terrorist
Surveillance Program. Now, with all due respect to being here in the National Press
Club with a lot of my friends in the press, I thought the idea that The New York
Times would win the Pulitzer Prize, one of the highest awards in journalism, for
revealing one of the nation's most important secrets and telling the enemy how it
was we were intercepting their communications, frankly was less than honorable. It
bothered me, greatly" -- Vice President Dick Cheney, speaking Monday at the Gerald
R. Ford Journalism Prize Luncheon:
Quote of the Day II
"Why do we love to believe that mankind is a plague upon the Earth? We view anything
and everything that happens in nature, no matter how barbaric, bloody, or
destructive, as good. Indeed, the word 'natural' has no negative connotation at all.
If a volcano like Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines dumps millions of tons of sulfur
into the stratosphere, cooling the Earth for two or three years, this is simply
Mother Nature at work. If humans did it, we would call it an environmental
catastrophe" -- University of Alabama climate scientist Roy Spencer, writing in
Voters on Cap and Trade: Just Say No
Today the Senate will take its first major vote on the cap-and-trade
Lieberman-Warner bill to reduce global warming. It's expected to fail to get the 60
votes needed for passage, but what's more important is that the U.S. voting public
is almost universally against paying the costs.
A just-released Wilson Research Poll commissioned by the National Center for Public
Policy Research finds that 91% of respondents do not want to pay even the
conservative cost estimates associated with cap and trade. The poll also found that
71% are not willing to pay more for electricity and 65% don't want to pay even a
penny more at the pump for gasoline.
"If you ask the public do they want to do something to fight global warming, they
say 'sure,'" says David Ridenour, the director of NCPPR. "But when you ask them if
they want to pay more for cap and trade, they almost universally say 'no.'" In other
words, only if it's a free lunch are voters willing to go along. And given the high
costs and uncertainty of any benefits from policies to prevent climate change, it's
far from clear that voters are being irrational here.
A spokesman from the Pew Center on Global Climate Change objects that such polls and
studies don't take account of the "offsetting benefits to the economy from cap and
trade." But those benefits are speculative at best. A study by climate expert
Patrick J. Michaels of the University of Virginia estimates that cap and trade would
only lower temperatures by 0.01 degrees by 2050, which is hardly going to yield
major economic windfalls.
The Lieberman-Warner plan would increase petroleum prices by 5.9% by 2015, according
to Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. The
National Association of Manufacturers estimates that the Lieberman-Warner proposal
would increase electricity prices by about 13%. With oil prices exceeding $120 a
barrel, Americans want the Senate to find ways to lower, not raise, their energy
-- Stephen Moore
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Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Unraveling part 2
on: June 04, 2008, 08:58:12 PM
Hanif Qadir, now 42, revealed to us that he himself was recruited by Al Qaeda after the U.S. overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Jihadist recruiters in east London, no doubt noting wealth, sought out Qadir, who had earned enough money running a car repair shop to buy a Rolls-Royce and live in some style. "The guy who handled me was a Syrian called Abu Sufiyan. ... I'm sure he was from Al Qaeda," recalls Qadir. "He was good at telling you what you wanted to hear ... he touched all my emotional buttons." Qadir agreed to join. He drew up a will and, in December 2002, bought a first-class ticket to Pakistan. But, as the truck he was in crossed the dirt roads into Afghanistan, a chance occurrence changed his life: A truck, carrying wounded fighters, approached them from the other direction. Among them was a young Punjabi boy whose white robes were stained with blood. "These are evil people," another of the wounded shouted. "[W]e came here to fight jihad, but they are just using us as cannon fodder." Qadir's truckload of wannabe jihadists made a u-turn. "That kid, he was like an angel. He kicked me back into reality," recalls Qadir. "When I landed back in the U.K., I wanted to find [the Al Qaeda recruiters] and cut their heads off."
Qadir never found them, but he became determined to stop others like him from being recruited. In 2004, he and his brother opened the gym and community center in the Walthamstow neighborhood of east London. Soon, hundreds of young Muslims were attending.
The scale of the challenge was quickly clear. Soon after the center opened, he got wind that pro-Al Qaeda militants were secretly booking rooms there for their meetings. Worse, in the summer of 2006, several of those arrested in connection with the Al Qaeda airlines plot, including alleged ringleader Abdulla Ahmed Ali, were found to have attended his gym. But, rather than shutting the radicals out, Qadir continued to allow them to meet. "Sometimes our youngsters get into debates with these people, for example on jihad, and make them look ridiculous in front of their followers," he says. Qadir believes his approach is finally starting to pay off: "The extremists are burning out: The number of radicals in Walthamstow is diminishing, not growing."
At another mosque in London, the Muslim Brotherhood joined forces with the British authorities to reclaim the institution from pro-Al Qaeda militants. The Brotherhood is the most powerful Islamist group in the Arab world, with chapters throughout Europe and North America. It has long opposed Al Qaeda's jihad, a stance that so angered Zawahiri that he published a book, The Bitter Harvest, condemning the organization in 1991. From the late '90s, the Finsbury Park mosque in London had been dominated by the pro-Al Qaeda cleric Abu Hamza Al Masri. During that time, few selfrespecting jihadists traveling through London passed up the free accommodation in its basement. Visitors included Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called "twentieth hijacker" of the September 11 plot, and Richard Reid, who tried to down a U.S.-bound airliner with a shoe bomb in December 2001.
In 2003, British police shut the mosque, but Abu Hamza's followers continued to have a strong presence in the area. In February 2005, police helped broker a deal for the mosque to re-open under the leadership of the local chapter of the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), a Muslim Brotherhood group. No sooner had the moderates gained control of the Finsbury Park mosque than they were confronted by Abu Hamza's angry followers, led by the pugnacious Atilla Ahmet, who calls himself "the number-one Al Qaeda in Europe" and who, in October, pled guilty to providing British Muslims with terrorist training. "They brought sticks and knives with them," recalls Kamal El Helbawy, spokesman for the new trustees at the mosque.
Undeterred, a few days later Helbawy gave the first Friday sermon, explaining that this was a new start for the mosque and stressing how important it was for Muslims to live in harmony with their neighbors. Detective Inspector Lambert, the Metropolitan police officer who helped broker the takeover, says that, because of its social welfare work and its track record supporting the Palestinian cause, the MAB has "big street cred in the area and [has] made an impact on Abu Hamza's young followers."
Salman Al Oudah, the Saudi preacher, spoke at the re-opened mosque in 2006, as has Abdullah Anas, an Algerian former mujahedin fighter based in London who has been a critic of Al Qaeda for years. Anas worked with bin Laden in Pakistan during the '80s, fought in Afghanistan for almost a decade against the communists, and married the daughter of a Palestinian cleric who is still lionized as the spiritual godfather of the jihadist movement, the most radical wing of which would morph into Al Qaeda. Anas told us that his critiques of Al Qaeda were not well-received in 2003, but that, "in the last two or three years, there has been a change in opinion," citing the Madrid and London bombings as turning points. In 2006, Anas went public with his criticisms of Al Qaeda, in an interview with Asharq Al Awsat, one of the leading newspapers in the Arab world, criticizing the London subway bombings as "criminal deeds ... prohibited by the Sharia."
Detective Inspector Lambert told us preachers like Anas and Al Oudah "can't be discounted. ... When you have Muslim leaders who are attacked both by Al Qaeda supporters and by commentators who oppose engagement [with Islamists], then they are in a useful position."
In December, Al Qaeda's campaign of violence reached new depths in the eyes of many Muslims, with a plot to launch attacks in Saudi Arabia while millions were gathered for the Hajj. Saudi security services arrested 28 Al Qaeda militants in Mecca, Medina, and Riyadh, whose targets allegedly included religious leaders critical of Al Qaeda, among them the Saudi Grand Mufti Sheikh Abd Al Aziz Al Sheikh, who responded to the plot by ruling that Al Qaeda operatives should be punished by execution, crucifixion, or exile. Plotting such attacks during the Hajj could not have been more counterproductive to Al Qaeda's cause, says Abdullah Anas, who was making the pilgrimage to Mecca himself. "People over there ... were very angry. The feeling was, how was it possible for Muslims to do that? I still can't quite believe it myself. The mood was one of shock, real shock."
Is Al Qaeda going to dissipate as a result of the criticism from its former mentors and allies? Despite the recent internal criticism, probably not in the short term. As one of us reported in The New Republic early last year, Al Qaeda, on the verge of defeat in 2002, has regrouped and is now able to launch significant terrorist operations in Europe ("Where You Bin?" January 29, 2007). And, last summer, U.S. intelligence agencies judged that Al Qaeda had "regenerated its [U.S.] Homeland attack capability" in Pakistan's tribal areas. Since then, Al Qaeda and the Taliban have only entrenched their position further, launching a record number of suicide attacks in Pakistan in the past year. Afghanistan, Algeria, and Iraq also saw record numbers of suicide attacks in 2007 (though the group's capabilities have deteriorated in Iraq of late). Meanwhile, Al Qaeda is still able to find recruits in the West. In November, Jonathan Evans, the head of Britain's domestic intelligence agency MI5, said that record numbers of U.K. residents are now supportive of Al Qaeda, with around 2,000 posing a "direct threat to national security and public safety." That means that Al Qaeda will threaten the United States and its allies for many years to come.
However, encoded in the DNA of apocalyptic jihadist groups like Al Qaeda are the seeds of their own long-term destruction: Their victims are often Muslim civilians; they don't offer a positive vision of the future (but rather the prospect of Taliban-style regimes from Morocco to Indonesia); they keep expanding their list of enemies, including any Muslim who doesn't precisely share their world view; and they seem incapable of becoming politically successful movements because their ideology prevents them from making the real-world compromises that would allow them to engage in genuine politics.
Which means that the repudiation of Al Qaeda's leaders by its former religious, military, and political guides will help hasten the implosion of the jihadist terrorist movement. As Churchill remarked after the battle of El Alamein in 1942, which he saw as turning the tide in World War II, "[T]his is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."
Noman Benotman, bin Laden's Libyan former companion-in-arms, assesses that Al Qaeda's recent resurgence, which he says has been fueled by the Iraq war, will not last. "There may be a wave of violence right now, but ... in five years, Al Qaeda will be more isolated than ever. No one will give a toss about them." And, given the religio-ideological basis of Al Qaeda's jihad, the religious condemnation now being offered by scholars and fighters once close to the organization is arguably the most important development in stopping the group's spread since September 11. Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell tacitly acknowledged this in his yearly report to Congress in February, when he testified that, "Over the past year, a number of religious leaders and fellow extremists who once had significant influence with Al Qaeda have publicly criticized it and its affiliates for the use of violent tactics."
Most of these clerics and former militants, of course, have not suddenly switched to particularly progressive forms of Islam or fallen in love with the United States (all those we talked to saw the Iraqi insurgency as a defensive jihad), but their anti-Al Qaeda positions are making Americans safer. If this is a war of ideas, it is their ideas, not the West's, that matter. The U.S. government neither has the credibility nor the Islamic knowledge to effectively debate Al Qaeda's leaders, but the clerics and militants who have turned against them do. Juan Zarate, a former federal prosecutor and a key counterterrorism adviser to President Bush, acknowledged as much in a speech in April when he said, "These challenges from within Muslim communities and even extremist circles will be insurmountable at the end of the day for Al Qaeda."
These new critics, in concert with mainstream Muslim leaders, have created a powerful coalition countering Al Qaeda's ideology. According to Pew polls, support for Al Qaeda has been dropping around the Muslim world in recent years. The numbers supporting suicide bombings in Indonesia, Lebanon, and Bangladesh, for instance, have dropped by half or more in the last five years. In Saudi Arabia, only 10 percent now have a favorable view of Al Qaeda, according to a December poll by Terror Free Tomorrow, a Washington-based think tank. Following a wave of suicide attacks in Pakistan in the past year, support for suicide operations amongst Pakistanis has dropped to 9 percent (it was 33 percent five years ago), while favorable views of bin Laden in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan, around where he is believed to be hiding, have plummeted to 4 percent from 70 percent since August 2007.
Unsurprisingly, Al Qaeda's leaders have been thrown on the defensive. In December, bin Laden released a tape that stressed that "the Muslim victims who fall during the operations against the infidel Crusaders ... are not the intended targets." Bin Laden warned the former mujahedin now turning on Al Qaeda that, whatever their track records as jihadists, they had now committed one of the "nullifiers of Islam," which is helping the "infidels against the Muslims."
Kamal El Helbawy, the Muslim Brotherhood leader who helped bring in moderates at the Finsbury Park mosque in London, believes that Al Qaeda's days may be numbered: "No government, no police force, is achieving what these [religious] scholars are achieving. To defeat terrorism, to convince the radicals ... you have to persuade them that theirs is not the path to paradise."
Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank are research fellows at New York University's Center on Law and Security. Peter Bergen is also a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and the author of The Osama Bin Laden I Know.
© The New Republic 2008
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Unraveling
on: June 04, 2008, 08:57:23 PM
by Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank
The jihadist revolt against bin Laden.
Post Date Wednesday, June 11, 2008
DISCUSS ARTICLE  | PRINT | EMAIL ARTICLE
Within a few minutes of Noman Benotman's arrival at the Kandahar guest house, Osama bin Laden came to welcome him. The journey from Kabul had been hard, 17 hours in a Toyota pickup truck bumping along what passed as the main highway to southern Afghanistan. It was the summer of 2000, and Benotman, then a leader of a group trying to overthrow the Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, had been invited by bin Laden to a conference of jihadists from around the Arab world, the first of its kind since Al Qaeda had moved to Afghanistan in 1996. Benotman, the scion of an aristocratic family marginalized by Qaddafi, had known bin Laden from their days fighting the Afghan communist government in the early '90s, a period when Benotman established himself as a leader of the militant Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.
Credit: Courtesy of Noman Benotman
View Larger Image
Noman Benotman on a Libyan government private jet bound for Tripoli on a secret mission in January 2007.
The night of Benotman's arrival, bin Laden threw a lavish banquet in the main hall of his compound, an unusual extravagance for the frugal Al Qaeda leader. As bin Laden circulated, making small talk, large dishes of rice and platters of whole roasted lamb were served to some 200 jihadists, many of whom had come from around the Middle East. "It was one big reunification," Benotman recalls. "The leaders of most of the jihadist groups in the Arab world were there and almost everybody within Al Qaeda."
Bin Laden was trying to win over other militant groups to the global jihad he had announced against the United States in 1998. Over the next five days, bin Laden and his top aides, including Ayman Al Zawahiri, met with a dozen or so jihadist leaders. They sat on the floor in a circle with large cushions arrayed around them to discuss the future of their movement. "This was a big strategy meeting," Benotman told one of us late last year, in his first account of the meeting to a reporter. "We talked about everything, where are we going, what are the lessons of the past twenty years."
Despite the warm welcome, Benotman surprised his hosts with a bleak assessment of their prospects. "I told them that the jihadist movement had failed. That we had gone from one disaster to another, like in Algeria, because we had not mobilized the people," recalls Benotman, referring to the Algerian civil war launched by jihadists in the '90s that left more than 100,000 dead and destroyed whatever local support the militants had once enjoyed. Benotman also told bin Laden that the Al Qaeda leader's decision to target the United States would only sabotage attempts by groups like Benotman's to overthrow the secular dictatorships in the Arab world. "We made a clear-cut request for him to stop his campaign against the United States because it was going to lead to nowhere," Benotman recalls, "but they laughed when I told them that America would attack the whole region if they launched another attack against it."
Benotman says that bin Laden tried to placate him with a promise: "I have one more operation, and after that I will quit"--an apparent reference to September 11. "I can't call this one back because that would demoralize the whole organization," Benotman remembers bin Laden saying.
After the attacks, Benotman, now living in London, resigned from the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, realizing that the United States, in its war on terrorism, would differentiate little between Al Qaeda and his organization.
Benotman, however, did more than just retire. In January 2007, under a veil of secrecy, he flew to Tripoli in a private jet chartered by the Libyan government to try to persuade the imprisoned senior leadership of his former group to enter into peace negotiations with the regime. He was successful. This May, Benotman told us that the two parties could be as little as three months away from an agreement that would see the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group formally end its operations in Libya and denounce Al Qaeda's global jihad. At that point, the group would also publicly refute recent claims by Al Qaeda that the two organizations had joined forces.
This past November, Benotman went public with his own criticism of Al Qaeda in an open letter to Zawahiri, absorbed and well-received, he says, by the jihadist leaders in Tripoli. In the letter, Benotman recalled his Kandahar warnings and called on Al Qaeda to end all operations in Arab countries and in the West. The citizens of Western countries were blameless and should not be the target of terrorist attacks, argued Benotman, his refined English accent, smart suit, trimmed beard, and easygoing demeanor making it hard to imagine that he was once on the front lines in Afghanistan.
Although Benotman's public rebuke of Al Qaeda went unnoticed in the United States, it received wide attention in the Arabic press. In repudiating Al Qaeda, Benotman was adding his voice to a rising tide of anger in the Islamic world toward Al Qaeda and its affiliates, whose victims since September 11 have mostly been fellow Muslims. Significantly, he was also joining a larger group of religious scholars, former fighters, and militants who had once had great influence over Al Qaeda's leaders, and who--alarmed by the targeting of civilians in the West, the senseless killings in Muslim countries, and Al Qaeda's barbaric tactics in Iraq--have turned against the organization, many just in the past year.
After September 11, there was considerable fear in the West that we were headed for a clash of civilizations with the Muslim world led by bin Laden, who would entice masses of young Muslims into his jihadist movement. But the religious leaders and former militants who are now critiquing Al Qaeda's terrorist campaign--both in the Middle East and in Muslim enclaves in the West-- make that less likely. The potential repercussions for Al Qaeda cannot be underestimated because, unlike most mainstream Muslim leaders, Al Qaeda's new critics have the jihadist credentials to make their criticisms bite. "The starting point has to be that jihad is legitimate, otherwise no one will listen, " says Benotman, who sees the Iraqi insurgency as a legitimate jihad. "The reaction [to my criticism of Al Qaeda] has been beyond imagination. It has made the radicals very angry. They are very shaky about it."
Why have clerics and militants once considered allies by Al Qaeda's leaders turned against them? To a large extent, it is because Al Qaeda and its affiliates have increasingly adopted the doctrine of takfir, by which they claim the right to decide who is a "true" Muslim. Al Qaeda's Muslim critics know what results from this takfiri view: First, the radicals deem some Muslims apostates; after that, the radicals start killing them. This fatal progression happened in both Algeria and Egypt in the 1990s. It is now taking place even more dramatically in Iraq, where Al Qaeda's suicide bombers have killed more than 10,000 Iraqis, most of them targeted simply for being Shia. Recently, Al Qaeda in Iraq has turned its fire on Sunnis who oppose its diktats, a fact not lost on the Islamic world's Sunni majority.
Additionally, Al Qaeda and its affiliates have killed thousands of Muslim civilians elsewhere since September 11: hundreds of ordinary Afghans killed every year by the Taliban, dozens of Saudis killed by terrorists since 2003, scores of Jordanians massacred at a wedding at a U.S. hotel in Amman in November 2005. Even those sympathetic to Al Qaeda have started to notice. "Excuse me Mr. Zawahiri but who is it who is killing with Your Excellency's blessing, the innocents in Baghdad, Morocco and Algeria?" one supporter asked in an online Q&A with Al Qaeda's deputy leader in April that was posted widely on jihadist websites. All this has created a dawning recognition among Muslims that the ideological virus that unleashed September 11 and the terrorist attacks in London and Madrid is the same virus now wreaking havoc in the Muslim world.
Two months before Benotman's letter to Zawahiri was publicized in the Arab press, Al Qaeda received a blow from one of bin Laden's erstwhile heroes, Sheikh Salman Al Oudah, a Saudi religious scholar. Around the sixth anniversary of September 11, Al Oudah addressed Al Qaeda's leader on MBC, a widely watched Middle East TV network: "My brother Osama, how much blood has been spilt? How many innocent people, children, elderly, and women have been killed ... in the name of Al Qaeda? Will you be happy to meet God Almighty carrying the burden of these hundreds of thousands or millions [of victims] on your back?"
What was noteworthy about Al Oudah's statement was that it was not simply a condemnation of terrorism, or even of September 11, but that it was a personal rebuke, which clerics in the Muslim world have shied away from. In Saudi Arabia in February, one of us met with Al Oudah, who rarely speaks to Western reporters. Dressed in the long black robe fringed with gold that is worn by those accorded respect in Saudi society, Al Oudah recalled meeting with bin Laden--a "simple man without scholarly religious credentials, an attractive personality who spoke well," he said--in the northern Saudi region of Qassim in 1990. Al Oudah explained that he had criticized Al Qaeda for years but until now had not directed it at bin Laden himself: "Most religious scholars have directed criticism at acts of terrorism, not a particular person. ... I don't expect a positive effect on bin Laden personally as a result of my statement. It's really a message to his followers."
Al Oudah's rebuke was also significant because he is considered one of the fathers of the Sahwa, the fundamentalist awakening movement that swept through Saudi Arabia in the '80s. His sermons against the U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia following Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of Kuwait helped turn bin Laden against the United States. And bin Laden told one of us in 1997 that Al Oudah's 1994 imprisonment by the Saudi regime was one of the reasons he was calling for attacks on U.S. targets. Al Oudah is also one of 26 Saudi clerics who, in 2004, handed down a religious ruling urging Iraqis to fight the U.S. occupation of their country. He is, in short, not someone Al Qaeda can paint as an American sympathizer or a tool of the Saudi government.
Tellingly, Al Qaeda has not responded to Al Oudah's critique, but the research organization Political Islam Online tracked postings on six Islamist websites and the websites of Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya TV networks in the week after Al Oudah's statements; it found that more than two-thirds of respondents reacted favorably. Al Oudah's large youth following in the Muslim world has helped his anti-Al Qaeda message resonate. In 2006, for instance, he addressed a gathering of around 20,000 young British Muslims in London's East End. "Oudah is well known by all the youth. It's almost a celebrity culture out there. ... He has definitely helped to offset Al Qaeda's rhetoric," one young imam told us.
More doubt about Al Qaeda was planted in the Muslim world when Sayyid Imam Al Sharif, the ideological godfather of Al Qaeda, sensationally withdrew his support in a book written last year from his prison cell in Cairo. Al Sharif, generally known as "Dr. Fadl," was an architect of the doctrine of takfir, arguing that Muslims who did not support armed jihad or who participated in elections were kuffar, unbelievers. Although Dr. Fadl never explicitly called for such individuals to be killed, his takfiri treatises from 1988 and 1993 gave theological cover to jihadists targeting civilians.
Dr. Fadl was also Zawahiri's mentor. Like his protégé, he is a skilled surgeon and moved in militant circles when he was a member of Cairo University's medical faculty in the '70s. In 1981, when Anwar Sadat was assassinated and Zawahiri was jailed in connection with the plot, Dr. Fadl fled to Peshawar, Pakistan, where he operated on wounded mujahedin fighting the Soviets. After Zawahiri's release from jail, he joined Dr. Fadl in Peshawar, where they established a new branch of the "Jihad group" that would later morph into Al Qaeda. Osama Rushdi, a former Egyptian jihadist then living in Peshawar, recalls that there was little doubt about Dr. Fadl's importance: "He was like the big boss in the Mafia in Chicago." And bin Laden also owed a deeply personal debt to Dr. Fadl; in Sudan in 1993, the doctor operated on Al Qaeda's leader after he was hurt in an assassination attempt.
So it was an unwelcome surprise for Al Qaeda's leaders when Dr. Fadl's new book, Rationalization of Jihad, was serialized in an independent Egyptian newspaper in November. The incentive for writing the book, he explained, was that "jihad ... was blemished with grave Sharia violations during recent years. ... [N]ow there are those who kill hundreds, including women and children, Muslims and non Muslims in the name of Jihad!" Dr Fadl ruled that Al Qaeda's bombings in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere were illegitimate and that terrorism against civilians in Western countries was wrong. He also took on Al Qaeda's leaders directly in an interview with the Al Hayat newspaper. "Zawahiri and his Emir bin Laden [are] extremely immoral," he said. "I have spoken about this in order to warn the youth against them, youth who are seduced by them, and don't know them."
Dr. Fadl's harsh words attracted attention throughout the Arabic-speaking world; even a majority of Zawahiri's own Jihad group jailed in Egyptian prisons signed on and promised to end their armed struggle. In December, Zawahiri released an audiotape lambasting his former mentor, accusing him of being in league with the "bloodthirsty betrayer" Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak; and, in a 200-page book titled The Exoneration, published in March, he replied at greater length, portraying Dr. Fadl as a prisoner trying to curry favor with Egypt's security services and the author of "a desperate attempt (under American sponsorship) to confront the high tide of the jihadist awakening."
Ultimately, the ideological battle against Al Qaeda in the West may be won in places such as Leyton and Walthamstow, largely Muslim enclaves in east London, whose residents included five of the eight alleged British Al Qaeda operatives currently on trial for plotting to bring down U.S.-bound passenger jets in 2006. It is in Britain that many leaders of the jihadist movement have settled as political refugees, and "Londonistan" has long been a key barometer of future Islamist trends. There are probably more supporters of Al Qaeda in Britain than any other Western country, and, because most British Muslims are of Pakistani origin, British militants easily can obtain terrorist training in the tribal areas of Pakistan, Al Qaeda's main operational hub since September 11. And now, because it is difficult for Al Qaeda to send Middle Eastern passport holders to the United States, the organization has particularly targeted radicalized Muslims in Britain for recruitment. So the nexus between militant British Muslims, Pakistan, and Al Qaeda has become the leading terrorist threat to the United States.
Over the last half-year, we have made several trips to London to interview militants who have defected from Al Qaeda, retired mujahedin, Muslim community leaders, and members of the security services. Most say that, when Al Qaeda's bombs went off in London in 2005, sympathy for the terrorists evaporated.
In Leyton, the neighborhood mosque is on the main road, a street of terraced houses, halal food joints, and South Asian hairdressers. Around 1,000 people attend Friday prayers there each week.
Usama Hassan, one of the imams at the mosque, has a Ph.D. in artificial intelligence from Imperial College in London, read theoretical physics at Cambridge, and now teaches at Middlesex University. But he also trained in a jihadist camp in Afghanistan in the '90s and, until a few years ago, was openly supportive of bin Laden. And, in another unusual twist, he is now one of the most prominent critics of Al Qaeda. Over several cups of Earl Grey in the tea room next to the mosque, Hassan--loquacious and intelligent, every bit the university lecturer--explained how he had switched sides.
Raised in London by Pakistani parents, Hassan arrived in Cambridge in 1989 and, feeling culturally isolated, fell in with Jamiat Ihyaa Minhaaj Al Sunnah (JIMAS), a student organization then supportive of jihads in Palestine, Kashmir, and Afghanistan. In December 1990, Hassan traveled to Afghanistan, where he briefly attended an Arab jihadist camp. He was shown how to use Kalashnikovs and M-16s and was taken to the front lines, where a shell landed near his group's position. "My feeling was, if I was killed, then brilliant, I would be a martyr," he recalls. Later, as a post-graduate student in London, Hassan played a lead role in the student Islamic Society, then a hotbed of radical activism. "At the time I was very anti-American. ... It was all black and white for us. I used to be impressed with bin Laden. There was no other leadership in the Muslim world standing up for Muslims." When September 11 happened, Hassan says the view in his circle was that "Al Qaeda had given one back to George Bush."
Still, as Al Qaeda continued to target civilians for attacks, Hassan began to rethink. His employment by an artificial intelligence consulting firm also integrated him back toward mainstream British life. "It was a slow process and involved a lot of soul-searching. ... Over time, I became convinced that bin Laden was dangerous and an extremist." The July 2005 bombings in London were the clincher. "I was devastated by the attack," he says. "My feeling was, how dare they attack my city."
Three days after the London bombings, the Leyton mosque held an emergency meeting; about 300 people attended. "We explained that these acts were evil, that they were haram," recalls Hassan. It was not the easiest of crowds; one youngster stormed out, shouting, "As far as I'm concerned, fifty dead kuffar is not a problem."
In Friday sermons since then, Hassan says that he has hammered home the difference between legitimate jihad and terrorism, despite a death threat from pro-Al Qaeda militants: "I think I'm listened to by the young because I have street cred from having spent time in a [jihadist] training camp. ... Jihadist experience is especially important for young kids because otherwise they tend to think he is just a sell-out who is a lot of talk." This spring, Hassan helped launch the Quilliam Foundation, an organization set up by former Islamist extremists to counter radicalism by making speeches to young Muslims in Great Britain about how they had been duped into embracing hatred of the West.
Such counter-radicalization efforts will help lower the pool of potential recruits for Al Qaeda--the only way the organization can be defeated in the long term. But the reality facing British counterterrorism officials, such as Detective Inspector Robert Lambert, the recently departed head of the Metropolitan police's Muslim Contact Unit, is that "Al Qaeda values dozens of recruits more than hundreds of supporters." In order to target the most radical extremists, the Metropolitan police have backed the efforts of a Muslim community group, the Active Change Foundation, based around a gym in Walthamstow run by Hanif and Imtiaz Qadir, two brothers of Kashmiri descent.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / More on the Steyn Trial
on: June 04, 2008, 08:42:30 PM
Here's more on the Steyn trial of my previous post:http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/...f-461ff39cb6cd
The show trial begins
The Ottawa Citizen
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
The writings of Canada's most talented journalist, Mark Steyn, went on trial in Vancouver on Monday, in a case designed to challenge freedom of the press. It is a show trial, under the arbitrary powers given to Canada's obscene "human rights" commissions, by Section 13 of our Human Rights Act.
I wrote "obscene" advisedly. A respondent who comes before Canada's "human rights" tribunals has none of the defences formerly guaranteed in common law. The truth is no defence, reasonable intention is no defence, nor material harmlessness, there are no rules of evidence, no precedents, nor case law of any kind. The commissars running the tribunals need have no legal training, exhibit none, and owe their appointments to networking among leftwing activists.
I wrote "show trial" advisedly, for there has been a 100 per cent conviction rate in cases brought to "human rights" tribunals under Section 13.
Take this in:
A group of Islamist fanatics, claiming to speak for every Muslim in Canada, charged Maclean's magazine with "spreading hatred against Muslims" for having printed a lucid and reasonable (if controversial) excerpt from Steyn's bestselling book, America Alone. This is a news story that should be on the front page of every newspaper in Canada, every day until it is resolved.
Everything about this case stinks to high heaven. It was brought before three different "human rights" tribunals simultaneously. The British Columbian venue was openly "jurisdiction shopped" because the province's human rights tribunals have an especially egregious record for ignoring respondents' most basic Charter rights. The charges were brought more than a year after the article appeared. There was an open attempt at extortion, when representatives of the complainant called a press conference in which an offer was made to retract the charges for unspecified considerations.
The case is the more ludicrous because the allegations brought are semi-literate (for instance, Steyn's quotations of lunatic Islamist imams are confused with Steyn's own assertions). The remedies sought keep changing; the arguments keep changing; the explanation of why the complainant has brought the case and what he hopes to gain from it has kept changing. And now the show trial has begun, the prosecution is presenting a parade of entirely irrelevant testimony. (Has Steyn properly understood the Koran? Etc.)
A farce, but a farce that has huge consequences for Canada: for by such methods free speech and free press are being snuffed out. The Left may think they have found the ideal method to silence anyone who challenges their insane, "politically correct" ideas, but have instead created a monster that can as easily eat them next.
This is a disaster also for Canada's Muslims, for the views of fanatical Islamists are being presented as representative of all. No single person has done so much to advance contempt for Islam in this country as Mohamed Elmasry, president of the Canadian Islamic Congress, the complainant in this case, whose public assertions include, for example, the view every adult Israeli citizen is a valid target for Palestinian hitmen.
The bland acceptance of this man, by mainstream Canadian media, as the definitive spokesman for Muslim interests in Canada, cannot be blamed on the Muslim community. Innumerable Muslims have disavowed him, and yet are entirely ignored. Indeed: Mark Steyn has been among the few journalists distinguishing between camps. He would be: for he has plenty of Muslim supporters.
There is some good news. It appears the Harper government has finally been goaded into calling a public inquiry into proceedings of at least the federal "human rights" commission. Some good may come from public confirmation of the outrageous, often sick behaviour of its members and hangers-on, which Canada's leading bloggers have been documenting.
But the problem is at once more urgent and much broader than any carefully-focused inquiry can present. For what radical activists have achieved through "human rights" commissions is now endemic, in all kinds of "star chamber" and "kangaroo court" operations, in everything from the tax system to provisions of family law.
Another crucial point:
While media attention to Mark Steyn's show trial is inadequate, it is nevertheless the best publicized case ever to come before our "human rights" bureaucracies. Most of the victims of these neo-Maoist tribunals have been "little people," with nothing like the resources Maclean's magazine has put in play to defend itself and Steyn, and no media reporting whatever. They have been persecuted, stripped of their livelihoods and savings, demonized among their neighbours, made to endure humiliating "re-education" programs - without lawyers, without assistance of any kind -- all for exercising rights that any Canadian would have taken for granted a mere generation ago.
I want justice for Mark Steyn. But I also want justice for all these little people, who have been crushed under the jackboot of "political correction."
David Warren's column appears Sunday, Wednesday and Saturday.
© The Ottawa Citizen 2008
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Why we went to Iraq
on: June 04, 2008, 06:24:02 PM
Why We Went to Iraq
By FOUAD AJAMI
June 4, 2008
Of all that has been written about the play of things in Iraq, nothing that I have seen approximates the truth of what our ambassador to Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, recently said of this war: "In the end, how we leave and what we leave behind will be more important than how we came."
It is odd, then, that critics have launched a new attack on the origins of the war at precisely the time a new order in Iraq is taking hold. But American liberal opinion is obsessive today. Scott McClellan can't be accused of strategic thinking, but he has been anointed a peer of Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft. A witness and a presumed insider – a "Texas loyalist" – has "flipped."
Associated Press Photo/Nabil al-Jurani
Iraqi Army soldiers secure Basra, April 2008.
Mr. McClellan wades into the deep question of whether this war was a war of "necessity" or a war of "choice." He does so in the sixth year of the war, at a time when many have forgotten what was thought and said before its onset. The nation was gripped by legitimate concern over gathering dangers in the aftermath of 9/11. Kabul and the war against the Taliban had not sufficed, for those were Arabs who struck America on 9/11. A war of deterrence had to be waged against Arab radicalism, and Saddam Hussein had drawn the short straw. He had not ducked, he had not scurried for cover. He openly mocked America's grief, taunted its power.
We don't need to overwork the stereotype that Arabs understand and respond to the logic of force, but this is a region sensitive to the wind, and to the will of outside powers. Before America struck into Iraq, a mere 18 months after 9/11, there had been glee in the Arab world, a sense that America had gotten its comeuppance. There were regimes hunkering down, feigning friendship with America while aiding and abetting the forces of terror.
Liberal opinion in America and Europe may have scoffed when President Bush drew a strict moral line between order and radicalism – he even inserted into the political vocabulary the unfashionable notion of evil – but this sort of clarity is in the nature of things in that Greater Middle East. It is in categories of good and evil that men and women in those lands describe their world. The unyielding campaign waged by this president made a deep impression on them.
Nowadays, we hear many who have never had a kind word to say about the Iraq War pronounce on the retreat of the jihadists. It is as though the Islamists had gone back to their texts and returned with second thoughts about their violent utopia. It is as though the financiers and the "charities" that aided the terror had reconsidered their loyalties and opted out of that sly, cynical trade. Nothing could be further from the truth. If Islamism is on the ropes, if the regimes in the saddle in key Arab states now show greater resolve in taking on the forces of radicalism, no small credit ought to be given to this American project in Iraq.
We should give the "theorists" of terror their due and read them with some discernment. To a man, they have told us that they have been bloodied in Iraq, that they have been surprised by the stoicism of the Americans, by the staying power of the Bush administration.
There is no way of convincing a certain segment of opinion that there are indeed wars of "necessity." A case can always be made that an aggressor ought to be given what he seeks, that the costs of war are prohibitively high when measured against the murky ways of peace and of daily life.
"Wars are not self-starting," the noted philosopher Michael Walzer wrote in his seminal book, "Just and Unjust Wars." "They may 'break out,' like an accidental fire, under conditions difficult to analyze and where the attribution of responsibility seems impossible. But usually they are more like arson than accident: war has human agents as well as human victims."
Fair enough. In the narrow sense of command and power, this war in Iraq is Mr. Bush's war. But it is an evasion of responsibility to leave this war at his doorstep. This was a war fought with congressional authorization, with the warrant of popular acceptance, and the sanction of United Nations resolutions which called for Iraq's disarmament. It is the political good fortune (in the world of Democratic Party activists) that Sen. Barack Obama was spared the burden of a vote in the United States Senate to authorize the war. By his telling, he would have us believe that he would have cast a vote against it. But there is no sure way of knowing whether he would have stood up to the wind.
With the luxury of hindsight, the critics of the war now depict the arguments made for it as a case of manipulation and deceit. This is odd and misplaced: The claims about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction were to prove incorrect, but they were made in good faith.
It is also obtuse and willful to depict in dark colors the effort made to "sell" the war. Wars can't be waged in stealth, and making the moral case for them is an obligation incumbent on the leaders who launch them. If anything, there were stretches of time, and critical turning points, when the administration abdicated the fight for public opinion.
Nor is there anything unprecedented, or particularly dishonest, about the way the rationale for the war shifted when the hunt for weapons of mass destruction had run aground. True, the goal of a democratic Iraq – and the broader agenda of the war as a spearhead of "reform" in Arab and Muslim lands – emerged a year or so after the onset of the war. But the aims of practically every war always shift with the course of combat, and with historical circumstances. Need we recall that the abolition of slavery had not been an "original" war aim, and that the Emancipation Proclamation was, by Lincoln's own admission, a product of circumstances? A war for the Union had become a victory for abolitionism.
America had not been prepared for nation-building in Iraq; we had not known Iraq and Iraqis or understood the depth of Iraq's breakdown. But there was nothing so startling or unusual about the connection George W. Bush made between American security and the "reform" of the Arab condition. As America's pact with the Arab autocrats had hatched a monster, it was logical and prudent to look for a new way.
"When a calf falls, a thousand knives flash," goes an Arabic proverb. The authority of this administration is ebbing away, the war in Iraq is unloved, and even the "loyalists" now see these years of panic and peril as a time of exaggerated fear.
It is not easy to tell people of threats and dangers they have been spared. The war put on notice regimes and conspirators who had harbored dark thoughts about America and who, in the course of the 1990s, were led to believe that terrible deeds against America would go unpunished. A different lesson was taught in Iraq. Nowadays, the burden of the war, in blood and treasure, is easy to see, while the gains, subtle and real, are harder to demonstrate. Last month, American casualties in Iraq were at their lowest since 2003. The Sunnis also have broken with al Qaeda, and the Shiite-led government has taken the war to the Mahdi Army: Is it any wonder that the critics have returned to the origins of the war?
Five months from now, the American public will vote on this war, in the most dramatic and definitive of ways. There will be people who heed Ambassador Crocker's admonition. And there will be others keen on retelling how we made our way to Iraq.
Mr. Ajami, a Bradley Prize recipient, teaches at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of "The Foreigner's Gift" (Free Press, 2006).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mark Steyn on Trial in Canada; Jordan subpoenas; Bardot fined
on: June 04, 2008, 06:18:36 PM
VANCOUVER -In the subterranean bowels of a provincial courthouse, a bizarre and frightening spectacle starts to unfold. At issue are the pointed musings of Mark Steyn, a journalist and author living in the United States. A lengthy excerpt from his controversial book, America Alone, was published two years ago in Toronto-based Maclean's magazine, a weekly publication owned by Toronto-based Roger's Publishing Ltd.
The book excerpt ran as a cover story, entitled "Why the Future Belongs to Islam," and argued that Western democracy is threatened by the spread of Islam. In response, a human rights complaint was made here, in British Columbia, by an electrical engineer living in Waterloo, Ont.
That's the bizarre part, or one slice of it. None of the main players starring in this quasi-judicial drama actually live or work in B. C. Not Mr. Steyn, not the editors responsible for Maclean's, and not Mohamed Elmasry, a Muslim who launched a complaint to the B. C. Human Rights Tribunal on behalf of all Muslims in this province.
Neither Mr. Steyn, nor his editors, nor Mr. Elmasry were in sight when the tribunal panel began the week-long hearing yesterday. Mr. Steyn will not testify, say lawyers for Maclean's. Nor will Mr. Elmasry, the aggrieved. So why bring the complaint forward here? Because Mr. Elmasry can. This thanks to provincial human rights legislation of a breadth and elasticity not known in other parts of Canada.
Mr. Elmasry, the president of the Canadian Islamic Congress, and a highly controversial figure himself -- especially among Jewish groups -- claims the Steyn excerpt denigrated and vilified Canadian Muslims and promoted hatred of an identifiable group.
He is not obliged to demonstrate what harm occurred to whom, or to what degree. Maclean's magazine and Mr. Steyn could still be found to have violated B. C.'s Human Rights Code. No proof of damage is required.
Meanwhile, if found to have violated the code, Maclean's faces sanctions, including payment to the complainant "an amount that the member or panel considers appropriate to compensate that person for injury to dignity, feelings and self respect or to any of them."...
Packing the small gallery behind them were Mark Steyn supporters, Internet bloggers, and others opposed to limits placed on free speech.
Mr. Joseph opened with a blistering attack. The Steyn excerpt that Maclean's published in October, 2006, presented Muslims as "a violent people" who hold traditional Canadian values "in contempt," he alleged. Their religion was portrayed as "inhuman" and "violent." Even the cover image that Maclean's chose to run with the Steyn excerpt was hauled before the inquiry. The image of two Muslim women, along with the magazine's cover line, "could have been the picture of a horror cult movie," declared Mr. Joseph.
He soon swerved off topic, referring to inflammatory passages from Mr. Steyn's book that did not appear in Maclean's. He mentioned "20 other articles" that ran in Maclean's, beginning in January, 2005; these were also unkind to Muslims, he alleged, even if they were not part of his client's complaint. Mr. Joseph even slammed Maclean's for publishing letters from readers praising the magazine and Mr. Steyn.
Full article here.http://www.nationalpost.com/opinion/...3fda2ca5dd&p=1
A Danish cartoonist and ten newspaper editors have reportedly been summoned by Jordan's public prosecutor on charges of "blasphemy" for reprinting cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
According to the Copenhagen Post, prosecutor Hassan Abdullat has subpoenaed the 11 Danes for drawing and reprinting cartoons they say offend Islam, charging them with "threatening the national peace."
Under Jordanian law, reproducing images of the Prophet Muhammad inside — or even outside the country — is illegal under the Jordanian Justice Act, the newspaper wrote.
A lawyer representing "The Prophet Unites Us," a Jordanian group angling for the prosecution, said that if the Danish journalists did not appear in Jordan for legal proceedings, the next step would be to inform Interpol and seek their arrest.
But the Danish foreign ministry said that the journalists would not be forcibly deported, as the printing of the controversial cartoons is not a punishable offense in Denmark.
Jordanian courts have not issued an indictment, but lawyers are hoping the case will help establish an international law against slandering religion, according to Danish reports.
Abdullat has summoned Kurt Westergaard, a cartoonist facing death threats for his depiction of the Prophet Muhammad wearing a turban in the shape of a bomb.
Abdullat also subpoenaed the editors of ten newspapers that reprinted the infamous cartoon in March, the paper reported.
The summons came just one day after the Danish embassy in Pakistan was destroyed in a bombing that killed 6, apparently a reprisal for the reprinting of the cartoons.
Brigitte Bardot fined £12,000 for racial hatred after claiming Muslims are destroying France
Last updated at 5:55 PM on 03rd June 2008
French film star Brigitte Bardot was today convicted of provoking discrimination and racial hatred for writing that Muslims are destroying France.
A Paris court also handed down a €15,000 ($11,920) fine against the former screen siren turned animal rights campaigner.
A leading French anti-racism group known as MRAP filed a lawsuit last year over a letter Bardot, 73, sent to then-Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy.
The remarks by the star, who helped popularise the bikini during her heyday in the 1950s, were published in her foundation's quarterly journal.
In the December 2006 letter to Mr Sarkozy, now the president, Bardot said France is "tired of being led by the nose by this population that is destroying us, destroying our country by imposing its acts."
The actress, who is most famous for her sex kitten role in And God Created Woman, was referring to the Muslim feast of Eid el-Kebir, celebrated by slaughtering sheep.
Bardot's lawyer, Francois-Xavier Kelidjian, said he would talk to her about the possibility of an appeal.
"She is tired of this type of proceedings," he said.
"She has the impression that people want to silence her. She will not be silenced in her defense of animal rights."
The court also ordered Bardot to pay €1,000 (£795) in damages to MRAP, as well as one symbolic euro to two other anti-racism groups.
French anti-racism laws prevent inciting hatred and discrimination on racial or religious or racial grounds.
Bardot had been convicted four times previously for inciting racial hatred.
She was first fined in 1997 for her comments published in Le Figaro newspaper.
A year later she was convicted for making a statement about the growing number of mosques in France "while our church bells fall silent".
In 1998 she was convicted for making a statement about the growing number of mosques in France.
In a book she wrote in 1999, called "Le Carre de Pluton" (Pluto's Square), she again criticised Muslim sheep slaughter and was fined 30,000 francs £3,000).
In a 2001 article named, Open Letter to My Lost France, she lamented: "...my country, France, my homeland, my land is again invaded by an overpopulation of foreigners, especially Muslims."
In her 2003 book, A Scream in the Silence, she warned of the “Islamicisation of France”, and said of Muslim immigration: “Over the last twenty years, we have given in to a subterranean, dangerous, and uncontrolled infiltration, which not only resists adjusting to our laws and customs but which will, as the years pass, attempt to impose its own."
She was fined €5,000 (then worth £2,900)
Find this story at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz...ng-France.html
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Obama We Don't Know
on: June 04, 2008, 06:15:27 PM
e Obama We Don't Know
June 4, 2008; Page A20
With Barack Obama clinching the Democratic Party nomination, it is worth noting what an extraordinary moment this is. Democrats are nominating a freshman Senator barely three years out of the Illinois legislature whom most of America still hardly knows. The polls say he is the odds-on favorite to become our next President.
Think about this in historical context. Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were relatively unknown, but both had at least been prominent Governors. John Kerry, Walter Mondale, Al Gore and even George McGovern were all long-time Washington figures. Republican nominees tend to be even more familiar, for better or worse. In Mr. Obama, Democrats are taking a leap of faith that is daring even by their risky standards.
No doubt this is part of his enormous appeal. Amid public anger over politics as usual, the Illinois Senator is unhaunted by Beltway experience. His personal story – of mixed race, and up from nowhere through Harvard – resonates in an America where the two most popular cultural icons are Tiger Woods and Oprah. His political gifts are formidable, especially his ability to connect with audiences from the platform.
Above all, Mr. Obama has fashioned a message that fits the political moment and the public's desire for "change." At his best, he offers Americans tired of war and political rancor the promise of fresh national unity and purpose. Young people in particular are taken by it. But more than a few Republicans are also drawn to this "postpartisan" vision.
Mr. Obama has also shown great skill in running his campaign. No one – including us – gave him much chance of defeating the Clinton machine. No doubt he benefited from the desire of even many Democrats to impeach the polarizing Clinton era. But he also beat Hillary and Bill at their own game. He raised more money, and he outworked them in the small-state caucuses that provided him with his narrow delegate margin. Even now, he is far better organized in swing states than is John McCain's campaign. All of this speaks well of his preparation for November, and perhaps for his potential to govern.
Yet govern how and to what end? This is the Obama Americans don't know. For all of his inspiring rhetoric about bipartisanship, his voting record is among the most partisan in the Senate. His policy agenda is conventionally liberal across the board – more so than Hillary Clinton's, and more so than that of any Democratic nominee since 1968.
We can't find a single issue on which Mr. Obama has broken with his party's left-wing interest groups. Early on he gave a bow to merit pay for teachers, but that quickly sank beneath the waves of new money he wants to spend on the same broken public schools. He takes the Teamsters line against free trade, to the point of unilaterally rewriting Nafta. He wants to raise taxes even above the levels of the Clinton era, including a huge increase in the payroll tax. Perhaps now Mr. Obama will tack to the center, but somehow he will have to explain why the "change" he's proposing isn't merely more of the same, circa 1965.
There is also the matter of judgment, and the roots of his political character. We were among those inclined at first to downplay his association with the Trinity United Church. But Mr. Obama's handling of the episode has raised doubts about his candor and convictions. He has by stages moved from denying that his 20-year attendance was an issue at all; to denying he'd heard Rev. Jeremiah Wright's incendiary remarks; to criticizing certain of those remarks while praising Rev. Wright himself; to repudiating the words and the reverend; and finally this weekend to leaving the church.
Most disingenuously, he said on Saturday that the entire issue caught him by surprise. Yet he was aware enough of the political risk that he kept Rev. Wright off the stage during his announcement speech more than a year ago.
A 2004 Chicago Sun-Times interview with Mr. Obama mentioned three men as his religious guides. One was Rev. Wright. Another was Father Michael Pfleger, the Louis Farrakhan ally whose recent remarks caused Mr. Obama to resign from Trinity, but for whose Chicago church Mr. Obama channeled at least $225,000 in grants as a state senator. Until recently, the priest was connected to the campaign, which flew him to Iowa to host an interfaith forum. Father Pfleger's testimony for the candidate has since been scrubbed from Mr. Obama's campaign Web site. A third mentor was Illinois state Senator James Meeks, another Chicago pastor who has generated controversy for mixing pulpit and politics.
The point is not that Mr. Obama now shares the radical views of these men. The concern is that by the Senator's own admission they have been major moral influences, and their views are starkly at odds with the candidate's vision as a transracial peacemaker. Their patronage was also useful as Mr. Obama was making his way in Chicago politics. But only now, in the glare of a national campaign, is he distancing himself from them. The question is what in fact Mr. Obama does believe.
The young Senator has been a supernova exploding into our politics, more phenomenon than conventional candidate. His achievement in winning the Democratic nomination has been impressive. Now comes a harder audience. The presidency has to be earned, and Americans have a right to know much more about the gifted man who is the least tested and experienced major party nominee in modern times.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Water
on: June 03, 2008, 09:37:02 PM
June 3, 2008
In Spain, Water Is a New Battleground
By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL
FORTUNA, Spain — Lush fields of lettuce and hothouses of tomatoes line the roads.
Verdant new developments of plush pastel vacation homes beckon buyers from Britain
and Germany. Golf courses — dozens of them, all recently built — give way to the
beach. At last, this hardscrabble corner of southeast Spain is thriving.
There is only one problem with the picture of bounty: this province, Murcia, is
running out of water. Swaths of southeast Spain are steadily turning into desert, a
process spurred on by global warming and poorly planned development.
Murcia, traditionally a poor farming region, has undergone a resort-building boom in
recent years, even as many of its farmers have switched to more thirsty crops,
encouraged by water transfer plans, which have become increasingly untenable. The
combination has put new pressures on the land and its dwindling supply of water.
This year, farmers are fighting developers over water rights. They are fighting one
another over who gets to water their crops. And in a sign of their mounting
desperation, they are buying and selling water like gold on a rapidly growing black
market, mostly from illegal wells.
Southern Spain has long been plagued by cyclical droughts, but the current crisis,
scientists say, probably reflects a more permanent climate change brought on by
global warming. And it is a harbinger of a new kind of conflict.
The battles of yesterday were fought over land, they warn. Those of the present
center on oil. But those of the future — a future made hotter and drier by climate
change in much of the world — seem likely to focus on water, they say.
“Water will be the environmental issue this year — the problem is urgent and
immediate,” said Barbara Helferrich, a spokeswoman for the European Union’s
Environment Directorate. “If you already have water shortages in spring, you know
it’s going to be a really bad summer.”
Dozens of world leaders will be meeting at the United Nations Food and Agriculture
Organization headquarters in Rome starting Tuesday to address a global food crisis
caused in part by water shortages in Africa, Australia and here in southern Spain.
Climate change means that creeping deserts may eventually drive 135 million people
off their land, the United Nations estimates. Most of them are in the developing
world. But Southern Europe is experiencing the problem now, its climate drying to
the point that it is becoming more like Africa’s, scientists say.
For Murcia, the arrival of the water crisis has been accelerated by developers and
farmers who have hewed to water-hungry ventures highly unsuited to a drier, warmer
climate: crops like lettuce that need ample irrigation, resorts that promise a
swimming pool in the yard, acres of freshly sodded golf courses that sop up millions
of gallons a day.
“I come under a lot of pressure to release water from farmers and also from
developers,” said Antonio Pérez Gracia, the water manager here in Fortuna, sipping
coffee with farmers in a bar in the town’s dusty square. He rued the fact that he
could provide each property owner with only 30 percent of its government-determined
“I’m not sure what we’ll do this summer,” he added, noting that the local aquifer
was sinking so quickly that the pumps would not reach it soon. “I come under a lot
of pressure to release water, from farmers and also from developers. They can
complain as much as they want, but if there’s no more water, there’s no more water.”
Rubén Vives, a farmer who relies on Mr. Pérez Gracia’s largess, said he could not
afford the black market water prices. “This year, my livelihood is in danger,” said
Mr. Vives, who has farmed low-water crops like lemons here for nearly two decades.
The hundreds of thousands of wells — most of them illegal — that have in the past
provided a temporary reprieve from thirst have depleted underground water to the
point of no return. Water from northern Spain that was once transferred here has
also slowed to a trickle, as wetter northern provinces are drying up, too.
The scramble for water has set off scandals. Local officials are in prison for
taking payoffs to grant building permits in places where there is not adequate
water. Chema Gil, a journalist who exposed one such scheme, has been subject to
death threats, carries pepper spray and is guarded day and night by the Guardia
Civil, a police force with military and civilian functions.
“The model of Murcia is completely unsustainable,” Mr. Gil said. “We consume two and
a half times more water than the system can recover. So where do you get it? Import
it from elsewhere? Dry up the aquifer? With climate change we’re heading into a
cul-de-sac. All the water we’re using to water lettuce and golf courses will be
needed just to drink.”
Facing a national crisis, Spain has become something of an unwitting laboratory,
sponsoring a European conference on water issues this summer and announcing a
national action plan this year to fight desertification. That plan includes a shift
to more efficient methods of irrigation, as well as an extensive program of
desalinization plants to provide the fresh water that nature does not.
The Spanish Environment Ministry estimates that one-third of the county is at risk
of turning into desert from a combination of climate change and poor land use.
Still, national officials visibly stiffen when asked about the “Africanization” of
Spain’s climate — a term now common among scientists.
“We are in much better shape than Africa, but within the E.U. our situation is
serious,” said Antonio Serrano Rodríguez, the secretary general for land and
biodiversity at Spain’s Environment Ministry.
Still, Mr. Serrano and others acknowledge the broad outlines of the problem. “There
will be places that can’t be farmed any more, that were marginal and are now
useless,” Mr. Serrano said. “We have parts of the country that are close to the
While southern Spain has always been dry and plagued by cyclical droughts, the
average surface temperature in Spain has risen 2.7 degrees compared with about 1.4
degrees globally since 1880, records show.
Rainfall here is predicted to fall 20 percent from this year to 2020, and 40 percent
by 2070, according to United Nations projections.
The changes on the Almarcha family farm in Albanilla over the past three decades are
a testament to that hotter, drier climate here. Until two decades ago, the farm grew
wheat and barley, watered only by rain. As rainfall dropped, Carlo Almarcha, 51,
switched to growing almonds.
About 10 years ago, he quit almonds and changed to organic peaches and pears, “since
they need less water,” he explained. Recently he took up olives and figs, “which
resist drought and are less sensitive to weather.”
Mr. Almarcha participates in a government water trading system, started last year,
in which farmers pay three times the normal price — 33 cents instead of 12 per cubic
meter — to get extra water. The black market rate is even higher. Still, his outlook
“You used to know that this week in spring there will be rain,” he said, standing in
his work boots on parched soil of an olive grove that was once a wheat field. “Now
you never know when or if it will come. Also, there’s no winter any more and plants
need cold to rest. So there’s less growth. Sometimes none. Even plants all seem
While Mr. Almarcha has gradually moved toward less thirsty crops, the government’s
previous water transfer plans have moved many farmers in the opposite direction. The
farmers have shifted to producing a wide range of water-hungry fruits and vegetables
that had never been grown in the south. Murcia is traditionally known for figs and
“You can’t grow strawberries naturally in Huelva — it’s too hot,” said Raquel
Montón, a climate specialist at Greenpeace in Madrid, referring to the nearby
strawberry capital of Spain. “In Sarragosa, which is a desert, we grow corn, the
most water-thirsty crop. It’s insane. The only thing that would be more insane is
putting up casinos and golf courses.” Which, of course, Murcia has.
In 2001, a new land use law in Murcia made it far easier for residents to sell land
for resort development. Though southern Spain has long had elaborate systems for
managing its relatively scarce water, today everyone, it seems, has found ways to
get around them.
Grass on golf courses or surrounding villas is sometimes labeled a “crop,” making
owners eligible for water that would not be allocated to keep leisure space green.
Foreign investors plant a few trees and call their vacation homes “farms” so they
are eligible for irrigation water, Mr. Pérez Gracia said.
“Once a property owner’s got a water allotment, he asks for a change of land use,”
he explained. “Then he’s got his property and he’s got his water. It’s supposed to
be for irrigation, but people use it for what they want. No one knows if it goes to
a swimming pool.”
While he said his “heart goes out to the real farmers,” he did not have the
personnel to monitor how people use their allotments.
With so much money to be made, officials set aside laws and policies that might
encourage sustainable development, Mr. Gil, the journalist, said. At first, he was
vilified in the community when he wrote articles critical of the developments.
Recently, as people are discovering that the water is running out, the attitude is
But even so, people and politicians tend to regard water as a limitless resource.
“Politicians think in four-year blocks, so it’s O.K. as long as it doesn’t run out
on their watch,” said Ms. Montón of Greenpeace. “People think about it, but they
don’t really think about what happens tomorrow. They don’t worry until they turn on
the tap and nothing flows.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Big Read
on: June 03, 2008, 09:13:21 PM
By George Friedman
The Saudis are hosting an interfaith conference June 4. Four hundred Islamic scholars from around the world will be there, with one day devoted to interfaith issues. Saudi King Abdullah will open the conference, over which Saudi Shura Council head Saleh bin Huma will preside. This is clearly intended to be a major event, not minimized by the fact that Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Iran’s most influential leader — who heads Iran’s Assembly of Experts, the body that elects and can remove the Supreme Leader — will be attending as well. Rafsanjani was specifically invited by the Saudi ambassador to Iran last Wednesday with the following message: “King Abdullah believes you have a great stature in the Islamic world … and he has assigned me the duty of inviting you to the conference.” We would not have expected to see a meeting on interfaith dialogue even a year ago.
For its part, al Qaeda condemned the conference. Its spokesman, Abu Yahya al-Libi, said of Abdullah via videotape that “He who is called the defender of monotheism by sycophantic clerics is raising the flag of brotherhood between religions … and thinks he has found the wisdom to stop wars and prevent the causes of enmity between religions and peoples.” He went on to say “By God, if you don’t resist heroically against this wanton tyrant … the day will come when church bells will ring in the heart of the Arabian Peninsula.” In the past, the Saudis have been very careful not to push al Qaeda, or the kingdom’s own conservatives, too far.
One reason for the change might be the increasing focus by conservative Saudi clerics on the Shia, particularly Iran and Hezbollah. Twenty-two leading conservative clerics issued a statement condemning the Shia as destabilizing the Arab world and hostile to Sunnis. More important, they claimed that Iran and Hezbollah are only pretending to be hostile to the United States and Jews. In a translation by The Associated Press, the clerics said that “If they (Shiites) have a country, they humiliate and exert control in their rule over Sunnis. They sow strife, corruption and destruction among Muslims and destabilize security in Muslim countries … such as Yemen.” This view paralleled statements by al Qaeda No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri a few weeks back.
No Fear of the Conservatives
To begin understanding all this, we need to start with the obvious fact that the Saudi government is no longer afraid of antagonizing conservatives. It should be remembered that there was extensive al Qaeda activity in Saudi Arabia in 2003 and 2004 after the Saudis increased their cooperation with the United States. The Saudis eliminated this activity, and the royal family has done extensive work in decreasing its internal rifts as well as reaching out to tribal leaders. Nevertheless, the Saudi government has been careful not to push too far. Holding a meeting to study interfaith dialogue would appear to be crossing the line. But clearly the Saudis don’t think so.
There are three reasons for this. First, al Qaeda has been crippled inside Saudi Arabia and in the broader region. The U.S. boast that al Qaeda in Iraq is on the run is no exaggeration. Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia and Iraq are on the run because of a split among Sunni conservatives. Conservative Sunnis have their roots in local communities. Al Qaeda is an international grouping that moves into communities from the outside. As such, they threaten the interests of local Sunni leaders who are more unlikely to share theological values with al Qaeda in the long-term, and don’t want to be displaced as communal leaders nor want to see their communities destroyed in al Qaeda’s adventures. Theology aside, al Qaeda pushed its position too far, and those Sunnis who might theoretically support them have come to see them as a threat.
Second, and far more important, there is Saudi money. At current oil prices, the Saudis are absolutely loaded with cash. In the Arabian Peninsula as elsewhere, money buys friends. In Arabia, the rulers have traditionally bound tribes and sects to them through money. At present, the Saudis can overwhelm theological doubts with very large grants and gifts. The Saudi government did not enjoy 2004 and does not want a repeat. It is therefore carefully strengthening its ties inside Saudi Arabia and throughout the Sunni world using money as a bonding agent. That means that conservative Sunnis who normally would oppose this kind of a conference are less apt to openly criticize it.
Third, there is the deepening Sunni-Shiite split. In Christian history, wars between co-religionists like Roman Catholics and Protestants were brutal, and the distrust still echoes today. The Sunni-Shiite split, like the Catholic-Protestant split, ranges across theological and national interests. Iran is the major Shiite nation. It is mistrusted and feared by the Sunni Saudis, whose enormous wealth and military weakness leaves them vulnerable to the Iranians and forces them into an alliance with the Americans.
At this particular point, where Tehran’s mismanagement of Iran’s economy and particularly its oil industry has caused it to be left out of the greatest benefits of the surge in oil prices, the Saudis are worried that internal Iranian tensions and ambitions will cause Tehran at least to increase its subversive activities among Shia in the Arabian Peninsula and in Lebanon. Hence conservative Saudi clerics have focused their attacks on Iran and Hezbollah — officially without government sanction, but clearly not shut down by the government.
Protecting the Oil Bonanza
Behind all of this, something much deeper and more important is going on. With crude prices in the range of $130 a barrel, the Saudis are now making more money on oil than they could have imagined five years ago when the price was below $40 a barrel. The Saudis don’t know how long these prices will last. Endless debates are raging over whether high oil prices are the result of speculation, the policy of the U.S. Federal Reserve, conspiracy by the oil companies and so on. The single fact the Saudis can be certain of is that the price of oil is high, they don’t know how long it will remain high, and they don’t want anything interfering with their amassing vast financial reserves that might have to sustain them in lean times should they come.
In short, the Saudis are trying to reduce the threat of war in the region. War is at this moment the single greatest threat to their interests. In particular, they are afraid of any war that would close the Strait of Hormuz, through which a large portion of the oil they sell flows. The only real threat to the strait is a war between the United States and Iran in which the Iranians countered an American attack or blockade by mining the strait. It is assumed that the United States could readily deal with any Iranian countermove, but the Saudis have watched the Americans in Iraq and they are not impressed. From the Saudi point of view, not having a war is the far better option.
At the same time, if the Iranians decide to press the issue, the Saudis would be in no position to defend themselves. It is assumed that the United States would protect the Saudi oil fields out of self-interest. But any American government — and here they are looking past the Bush administration — might find it politically difficult to come to the aid of a country perceived as radically Islamist. Should another contingency come to pass, and the Iranians — either through insurgency or attack — do the unexpected, it is in the Saudi interest to create an image that is more compatible with U.S. tastes. And of course nothing does that better than interfaith dialogue. At this point, the Saudis are only at the point of discussing interfaith dialogue, but this still sets the stage.
It also creates a forum in which to drive home to the Iranians, via Rafsanjani, the unease the Saudis feel about Iranian intentions, using Hezbollah as an example. In permitting public attacks on the Shia, the Saudis do two things. First, they placate a domestic conservative constituency by retargeting them against Shiites. Second, they are boosting the theological framework to allow them to support groups who oppose the Shia. In particular that means supporting groups in Lebanon who oppose Hezbollah and Sunni groups in Iraq seeking more power in the Shiite dominated government. In doing this, Riyadh signals the Iranians that the Saudis are in a position to challenge their fundamental interests in the region — while Iran is not going to be starting Shiite uprisings in Arabia while the price of oil is high and the Shia can be made content.
Pacifying the Region
The Saudis are engaged in a massive maneuver to try to pacify the region, if not forever, then for at least as long as oil prices are high. The Saudis are quietly encouraging the Syrian-Israeli peace talks along with the Turks, and one of the reasons for Syrian participation is undoubtedly assurances of Saudi investments in Syria and Lebanon from which Damascus can benefit. The Saudis also are encouraging Israeli-Palestinian talks, and there is, we suspect, Saudi pressure on Hamas to be more cooperative in those talks. The Saudis have no interest in an Israeli-Syrian or Israeli-Hezbollah conflict right now that might destabilize the region.
Finally, the Saudis have had enough of the war in Iraq. They do not want increased Iranian power in Iraq. They do not want to see the Sunnis marginalized. They do not want to see al Qaeda dominating the Iraqi Sunnis. They have influence with the Iraqi Sunnis, and money buys even more. Ever since 2003, with the exception of the Kurdish region, the development of Iraqi oil has been stalled. Iraqis of all factions are aware of how much money they’ve lost because of their civil war. This is a lever that the Saudis can use in encouraging some sort of peace in Iraq.
It is not that Saudi Arabia has become pacifist by any means. Nor are they expecting (or, frankly, interested in) lasting peace. They are interested in assuring sufficient stability over the coming months and years so they can concentrate on making money from oil. To do this they need to carry out a complex maneuver. They need to refocus their own religious conservatives against the Shia. They need to hem in Iran, the main Shiite power. They need to reposition themselves politically in the United States, the country that ultimately guarantees Saudi national security. And they need to at least lower the temperature in Middle Eastern conflicts or, better still, forge peace treaties.
The Saudis don’t care if these treaties are permanent, but neither would they object if they were. Like any state, Saudi Arabia has interests to pursue; these interests change over time, but right now is the time for stability. Later is later. It is therefore no surprise that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak visited Riyadh for talks this weekend. The discussions weren’t theological in nature. Mubarak shares with the Saudis an interest in an Israeli-Palestinian peace. Mubarak fears the spread of Hamas’ ideas back into Egypt and he wants the radical Palestinian group kept in its Gaza box. A large cache of weapons uncovered in the Sinai last week, including surface to air missiles, is as much a threat to Egypt as to Israel. Mubarak has been in no position to conclude such an agreement, even though he has tried to broker it. The Saudis have the financial muscle to make it happen. Clearly the Egyptians and Saudis have much to discuss.
We are not at the dawn of a new age in the Middle East. We are in a period where one country has become politically powerful because of mushrooming wealth, and wants to use that power to make more wealth. A lasting peace is not likely in the Middle East. But increased stability is possible, and while interfaith dialogue does not strike us as a vehicle to this end, hundreds of millions in oil revenue does. Peace has been made on weaker foundations.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico
on: June 03, 2008, 09:02:09 PM
Mexico Security Memo: June 2, 2008
Stratfor Today » June 2, 2008 | 2137 GMT
Tracking Mexico’s Drug Cartels
Record Violence, Same Government Response
Last month’s 493 drug-related killings in Mexico made May the deadliest month yet in the government’s fight against drug cartels, according to tallies reported by Mexican media. In addition to increasing overall violence, a closer look at the homicides reveals other disturbing — albeit not too surprising — trends. The 64 police officers killed during May is more than twice the average of 27 killed per month during January through April. The geographic distribution of the violence is a continuation of trends we observed over the past several months. The violence is concentrated primarily in areas controlled by the Juarez cartel, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera, and the Beltran Leyva brothers. Chihuahua and Sinaloa states account for more than 50 percent of the killings, followed by Guerrero, Durango, Sonora, and Baja California states. Gulf territory states like Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas accounted for less than 3 percent of the killings.
The passing of yet another record month in Mexico’s struggle against the cartels provides an opportunity to consider the government’s response to the violence. Stratfor has been waiting for decisive action from the Mexican government since the May 8 assassination of the acting head of the country’s federal police. Such action has yet to occur, however, and recent statements by the administration of President Felipe Calderon gave no hint that any change in strategy is forthcoming. This past week, Calderon and several Cabinet secretaries publicly defended the administration’s strategy, citing progress thus far and repeating the oft-heard statement that this would be a long-term struggle requiring cooperation at all levels of government as well as with the military. Other activities such as routine small-scale troop deployments and raids continued as usual.
It is still unclear exactly what options Mexico City has in order to curb the escalating violence. For whatever reason, the government has not mobilized substantially more military forces over the past several months, opting instead to redeploy active forces from one hot spot to another. The government has 27,000 troops deployed to various hot spots of drug-trafficking related violence out of approximately 240,000 total troops. Other options, such as negotiating with cartel leaders, probably would not be practical given the fractured nature of criminal organizations in Mexico and their penchant for breaking their agreements. At this point, however, Calderon may not yet be feeling pressure to consider such options. The violence is still concentrated primarily among those involved in the drug trade and in cities long considered cartel strongholds. This certainly will not always be the case, and Stratfor has observed several ways in which violence is already increasingly affecting the civilian population. That, combined with the increasing threat to police, probably will represent the tipping point after which the government steps up its operations as the war on the cartels continues to escalate.
Border Smuggling Happenings
Two men were shot dead this week at a ranch located near Guadalupe, Chihuahua state, a small town which lies just across the border from Tornillo, Texas, on a remote part of the border. One of the victims was a former mayor of Guadalupe; his daughter was killed three days later on the day of the ex-mayor’s funeral when a man traveling in a vehicle shot her while she was driving. Her seven-year-old daughter was wounded in the attack, which according to many reports occurred as she was driving as part of her father’s funeral procession. Police have not announced a motive for the killings, and there is no known connection between this family and smuggling or drug trafficking organizations. This incident highlights the value to smugglers of private property adjacent to the border, however, and such violence directed against families seems consistent with narcotics activity.
Authorities in the United States believe the majority of illicit drugs entering the United States from Mexico arrive via official ports of entry, either hidden among legitimate goods or in the trunks of cars waved through by corrupt border officials. A smaller portion of drugs are smuggled through tunnels or overland through holes in border fences. Frequently, these smuggling efforts are aided by private property owners along the international border, who own land where drug shipments can be staged before finally being exported to the United States. While these types of smugglings are believed to constitute a minority of drug shipments to the United States, however, continuing security operations and the arrests of corrupt border officials in cartel strongholds like Reynosa and Ciudad Juarez may prompt drug traffickers to rely more heavily on remote locations like Guadalupe to bring drugs across the border.
(click to view map)
Seven federal agents died during a raid on a safe-house in Culiacan, Sinaloa state, which sparked a four hour firefight. The suspects in the safe-house repelled the raid with automatic weapons and fragmentation grenades. The incident claimed the largest number of federal agents killed in a single action during the fight against the cartels.
Authorities in Mexico City announced the deployment of 200 additional federal agents to Sinaloa state as part of a “complete offensive” against organized crime there.
The body of an unidentified man was found in a vehicle near Mexico City, wrapped in a blanket and with two gunshot wounds.
Soldiers in Suchiate, Chiapas state, reported the seizure of approximately 500 pounds of cocaine from a farm. The drugs were found hidden among a truck full of bananas.
The bodies of three men were found along a road in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state. They were bound at the hands and appeared to have been shot execution style.
Two severed heads were found along a highway in Durango state. A note next to one of the heads read, in part, “We can respond too.”
The body of a state police commander in Sinaloa state was found along a river near Culiacan, Sinaloa state. Authorities believe he had been abducted the day before.
A former federal agent died in Mexico City after being shot nine times outside his home midday. He reportedly had worked at Mexico City’s international airport, and been involved in the seizure of drug and ephedra shipments destined for the Sinaloa cartel. The assassinations of other federal police officers also have been linked to drug shipments at the airport.
The body of a woman was found alongside a highway in Tabasco state along with a note that read, in part, “Keep talking, informant. The army is not going to protect you and yours.”
Motorists in Zapotlan del Rey, Jalisco state, found a suitcase on a roadside that contained the body of an unidentified woman bearing signs of torture.
Four unidentified men, one of whom may have been a police officer, were shot by gunmen in a vehicle as they stood outside a store in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state.
One man died and another was wounded when they were shot by gunmen as they traveled in a vehicle in Zapopan, Jalisco state.
Authorities in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, reported discovering the body of a man beside a road along with a note that read, in part, “To those that still don’t believe and work with El Chapo Guzman. Sincerely, La Linea.”
The police chiefs of two towns in Chihuahua state — Nuevo Casas Grandes and Ignacio Zaragoza — resigned from their positions.
Federal police arrested eight men and one woman in a suspected cartel safe-house in Reynosa, Tamaulipas state. During the raid, authorities seized firearms, grenades, eight vehicles, radios, more than 8,000 rounds of ammunition, and 60 pounds of cocaine.
The bodies of two men and one woman with several gunshot wounds were found at an intersection in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe
on: June 03, 2008, 06:41:55 PM
Islamic extremists to get therapy not jail in Government's new 'anti-radicalisation' plan
By DAILY MAIL REPORTER
Last updated at 3:53 PM on 03rd June 2008
Islamic extremists could receive counselling instead of criminal charges under new Government plans to 'deradicalise' religious fanatics issued today.
The move is part of a £12.5m Home Office plan which give councils guidance about how to prevent extremism spreading.
People who fall under the influence of violent organisations will not automatically face prosecution under the new plan.
Instead it will concentrate on a national 'deradicalisation' programme that will try to persuade extremists to change their views through therapy and counselling from community groups.
The scheme will seek to reverse the process of indoctrination carried out by al Qaida-related extremists, using unnamed 'specialised techniques'.
Community groups and councils in England and Wales will get cash from a £12.5m fund to implement the new measures.
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said: 'The national security challenges we face demand fresh approaches.
'A key element of our strategy aims to stop people getting involved in extremist violence.
'We are investing at local level to build resilient communities, which are equipped to confront violent extremism and support the most vulnerable individuals.'
However the plan came in for criticism for being pointless.
Shadow home secretary David Davis said of today's publication: 'This is pointless when the Government is fuelling the problem it is seeking to solve with its draconian approach to 42 days.'
Ms Smith is facing a battle with MPs to extend the time police can hold terror suspects without charge from 28 days to 42 days.
The 72-page plan also said councils should make sure they have systems to remove funding or other support from inappropriate groups.
Councils should ask police to vet anyone involved in projects that receive government anti-radicalisation funding, it urged.
However local groups that challenge the messages of violent extremists should be supported, it went on.
If a group is found to be promoting violent extremism, local agencies and the police should consider disrupting or removing funding, and deny access to public facilities, the document added.
The measures on 'de-radicalisation' are based on examples overseas and on a scheme in Leicester which 'aims to encourage young people to feel more valued and to eradicate myths and assumptions which lead to young people becoming alienated and disempowered'.
Communities Secretary Hazel Blears said: 'Preventing violent extremism is about supporting local people to build resilient communities where extremists and their messages of hate cannot take root.
'Nationally and locally there is a growing alliance against violent extremism. A majority of individuals and organisations are working together to prevent radicalisation and extremism in a small minority of communities.
'We are putting funding where it is needed and today's new guidance sets out our clear expectations around what local authorities and their partners should achieve.
'Local leadership is vital and it is those people that know their communities best - community leaders, local authorities, police and schools - who, with support from government, provide the key to tackling this issue.
'Whilst no-one pretends it is easy we are already seeing some fantastic work including projects working with some of the most vulnerable young people, work to strengthen governance in mosques and the capacity of imams and Muslim women beginning to take a stronger role.'
A Home Office spokesman said the maps referred to in today's strategy document were already being drawn up.
They would not focus only on Muslim extremism but 'anywhere prone to extremist talk and violent behaviour,' he said.
'This is not an anti-Muslim document,' he said. 'It will cover denominations of all faiths.'http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti...tion-plan.html
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Self-Defense Law
on: June 03, 2008, 06:40:01 PM
Man with gun is shot and killed insteadhttp://www.dailynews.com/ci_9453065?source=rss
A man who pointed a gun at his intended victim was shot by the victim instead, police said.
Rosalio DeLa Rosa, 22, and 17-year-old accomplice where in a market near Parthenia Street and Woodley Avenue on Sunday at around 12:55 a.m. when they became involved in a dispute with Anthony DeLa Cruz, police said.
During the argument, DeLa Rosa claimed his gang affiliation and asked DeLa Cruz "where you from?" DeLa Cruz denied any gang ties and left the market in his vehicle. DeLa Rosa and the juvenile followed DeLa Cruz in their vehicle, brandishing a gun at DeLa Cruz several times before using their vehicle to stop DeLa Cruz' vehicle.
As DeLa Rosa got out of his vehicle he pointed a gun at DeLa Cruz. DeLa Cruz, in fear for his life, fired his own gun at DeLa Rosa, striking him once and causing him and the gun to fall to the ground. The juvenile then picked up the gun and fired the weapon at DeLa Cruz, but it misfired. DeLa Cruz fired at the minor, striking him once in the torso.
DeLa Cruz fled the location and flagged down police. He was arrested.
DeLa Rosa and the minor were both taken to a local hospital where DeLa Rosa was pronounced dead. The minor was treated for his injury, booked for murder and is being held without bail. DeLa Cruz was booked on a manslaughter charge and is being held on $100,000 bail.
Anyone with information about this crime is asked to call Van Nuys Homicide Detectives M. Martinez or L. Lowande at (818) 374-0040. On off
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq
on: June 03, 2008, 12:38:30 AM
Iraq hits milestones on U.S. troop deaths, oil
Sun Jun 1, 2008 12:22pm EDT
* U.S. monthly death toll drops to new low
* Iraq says oil production at post-war high
* Australia pulls out combat troops
By Ross Colvin
BAGHDAD, June 1 (Reuters) - U.S. troop deaths in Iraq fell to their lowest level last month since the 2003 invasion and officials said on Sunday improved security also helped the country boost oil production in May to a post-war high.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Iraq's oil minister credited better security for the two milestones, which illustrated a dramatic turnabout in the fortunes of a country on the brink of all-out sectarian civil war just 12 months ago.
"We've still got a distance to go but I think lower casualty rates are a reflection of some real progress," Gates told reporters in Singapore. "The key will be to continue to sustain the progress we have seen."
American generals have stressed that the security gains are both fragile and reversible. That was shown in March, when an Iraqi government offensive against Shi'ite militias in southern Basra sparked a surge in violence in the capital and other cities, catching U.S. and Iraqi officials off guard.
The U.S. military said 19 soldiers died in May, the lowest monthly death toll in a five-year-old war that has so far claimed the lives of more than 4,000 American soldiers.
Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani told Reuters in an interview that the improved security had helped Iraq, which has the world's third-largest oil reserves, raise oil production to a post-war high of 2.5 million barrels per day in May.
Iraq's oil industry, hit by decades of sanctions, war and neglect, was a vulnerable target for saboteurs after the U.S. invasion. Attacks on pipelines quickly destroyed any hopes of using Iraq's vast oil reserves to fund its reconstruction.
The military says violence in Iraq is now at a four-year low following crackdowns by U.S. and Iraqi forces on Shi'ite militias in southern Basra and Baghdad and on al Qaeda in the northern city of Mosul, its last major urban stronghold.
"In May we have exceeded for the first time a 2 million barrels per day export rate. In production we have exceeded 2.5 million bpd," Shahristani said.
The number of Iraqi civilians killed in May also fell, to 505, after reaching a seven-month high of 968 in April, figures compiled by the interior, defence and health ministries showed.
U.S. officials credit the turnaround in security to President George W. Bush's decision to send 30,000 extra troops to Iraq, a rebellion by Sunni tribal leaders against al Qaeda, and a ceasefire by anti-American Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
But a suicide bombing in the town of Hit in western Anbar province on Saturday night that killed the local police chief underscored the fragility of Iraq's improved security.
Police said a suicide bomber blew himself up at a checkpoint, killing police chief Lieutenant-Colonel Khalil Ibrahim al-Jazzaa, eight other policemen and four civilians.
In Iraq's more stable south, about 500 Australian troops pulled out of their base in the city of Nassiriya, signalling an end to Australia's combat mission in the country.
Australia, a close U.S. ally, was one of the first countries to commit troops to the Iraq invasion, but Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his Labour party won election last November largely on Rudd's campaign promise to bring the troops home this year.
The war is also a big issue in the U.S. presidential election, with Republican nominee John McCain vowing not to withdraw troops until the war is won, and his Democratic opponents Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton promising to bring them home as soon as possible.
Baghdad and the United States are negotiating a new deal that will provide a legal basis for U.S. troops in Iraq when their United Nations mandate expires at the end of the year.
Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in a rare statement on the talks that they were at their early stages, but he acknowledged there were differences between Iraq and the United States over what should be included in the agreement.
"The Iraqi side has a vision and their draft differs from the American side and their vision," he said.
The talks have angered many Iraqis who suspect the United States of wanting to keep a permanent presence in Iraq, and on Friday thousands of Iraqis answered a call by Moqtada al-Sadr to protest against the negotiations.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki meanwhile asked France to supply sophisticated weaponry during a visit by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner on Sunday. (Additional reporting by Haider al-Nasrallah in Nassiriya, Ammar al-Awani in Ramadi, Adrian Croft, Ahmed Rasheed, Michael Georgy and Aws Qusay in Baghdad and Andrew Gray in Singapore; Editing by Charles Dick)
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Military Solution to Terrorism
on: June 03, 2008, 12:33:14 AM
There Is a Military Solution to Terror
June 3, 2008; Page A19
Sadr City in Baghdad, the northeastern districts of Sri Lanka and the Guaviare province of Colombia have little in common culturally, historically or politically. But they are crucial reference points on a global map in which long-running insurgencies suddenly find themselves on the verge of defeat.
For the week of May 16-23, there were 300 "violent incidents" in Iraq. That's down from 1,600 last June and the lowest recorded since March 2004. Al Qaeda has been crushed by a combination of U.S. arms and Sunni tribal resistance. On the Shiite side, Moqtada al Sadr's Mahdi Army was routed by Iraqi troops in Basra and later crumbled in its Sadr City stronghold.
In Colombia, the 44-year-old FARC guerrilla movement is now at its lowest ebb. Three of its top commanders died in March, and the number of FARC attacks is down by more than two-thirds since 2002. In the face of a stepped-up campaign by the Colombian military (funded, equipped and trained by the U.S.), the group is now experiencing mass desertions. Former FARC leaders describe a movement that is losing any semblance of ideological coherence and operational effectiveness.
In Sri Lanka, a military offensive by the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa has wrested control of seven of the nine districts previously held by the rebel group LTTE, better known as the Tamil Tigers. Mr. Rajapaksa now promises victory by the end of the year, even as the Tigers continue to launch high-profile terrorist attacks.
All this is good news in its own right. Better yet, it explodes the mindless shibboleth that there is "no military solution" when it comes to dealing with insurgencies. On the contrary, it turns out that the best way to end an insurgency is, quite simply, to beat it.
Why was this not obvious before? When military strategies fail – as they did in Vietnam while the U.S. pursued the tactics of attrition, or in Iraq prior to the surge – the idea that there can be no military solution has a way of taking hold with civilians and generals eager to deflect blame. This is how we arrived at the notion that "political reconciliation" is a precondition of military success, not a result of it.
There's also a tendency to misjudge the aims and ambitions of the insurgents: To think they can be mollified via one political concession or another. Former Colombian president Andres Pastrana sought to appease the FARC by ceding to them a territory the size of Switzerland. The predictable result was to embolden the guerrillas, who were adept at sensing and exploiting weakness.
The deeper problem here is the belief that the best way to deal with insurgents is to address the "root causes" of the grievance that purportedly prompted them to take up arms. But what most of these insurgencies seek isn't social or moral redress: It's absolute power. Like other "liberation movements" (the PLO comes to mind), the Tigers are notorious for killing other Tamils seen as less than hard line in their views of the conflict. The failure to defeat these insurgencies thus becomes the primary obstacle to achieving a reasonable political settlement acceptable to both sides.
This isn't to say that political strategies shouldn't be pursued in tandem with military ones. Gen. David Petraeus was shrewd to exploit the growing enmity between al Qaeda and their Sunni hosts by offering former insurgents a place in the country's security forces as "Sons of Iraq." (The liberal use of "emergency funds," aka political bribes, also helped.) Colombian President Álvaro Uribe has more than just extended amnesty for "demobilized" guerrillas; he's also given them jobs in the army.
But these political approaches only work when the intended beneficiaries can be reasonably confident that they are joining the winning side. Nobody was abandoning the FARC when Mr. Pastrana lay prostrate before it. It was only after Mr. Uribe turned the guerrilla lifestyle into a day-and-night nightmare that the movement's luster finally started to fade.
Defeating an insurgency is never easy even with the best strategies and circumstances. Insurgents rarely declare surrender, and breakaway factions can create a perception of menace even when their actual strength is minuscule. It helps when the top insurgent leaders are killed or captured: Peru's Shining Path, for instance, mostly collapsed with the capture of Abimael Guzmán. Yet the Kurdish PKK is now resurgent nine years after the imprisonment of Abdullah Ocalan, thanks to the sanctuary it enjoys in Northern Iraq.
Still, it's no small thing that neither the PKK nor the Shining Path are capable of killing tens of thousands of people and terrorizing whole societies, as they were in the 1980s. Among other things, beating an insurgency allows a genuine process of reconciliation and redress to take place, and in a spirit of malice toward none. But those are words best spoken after the terrible swift sword has done its work.
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Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ross McGinnis RIP
on: June 03, 2008, 12:31:21 AM
A Man in Full
June 3, 2008; Page A20
Next week on Flag Day, Army Private First Class Ross McGinnis would have turned 21 years old. Yesterday, President Bush presented his family with a posthumous Medal of Honor, the nation's highest award for courage in combat. It was the fourth time the Medal has been awarded for those who have served in Iraq.
Associated Press Photo/Family photo via The Oil City Derrick
Private First Class Ross Andrew McGinnis
In the gunner's hatch of a Humvee driving through Baghdad on December 4, 2006, Private McGinnis saw a grenade fly through the hatch, rolling to where it could have injured the four other soldiers inside. In easy position to leap and save himself, McGinnis instead jumped to cover the grenade with his body to shield his comrades.
The four men he saved were all at the White House yesterday to pay their respects. They and his parents, Thomas and Romayne McGinnis, knew Ross as one who, at 137 pounds and six feet tall, had barely outgrown his boyhood when he joined the Army on his 17th birthday, the first day he was eligible to enlist. The Knox, Pennsylvania native was known not to take things too seriously, the soldiers said – and yet in an instant he displayed the self-sacrifice that defines heroism in battle across generations. Although he didn't grow while he was in the Army, "he seemed to stand a lot taller," his father said. "He was a man."
All of America's men and women in uniform today are volunteers, and they have answered the call knowing they may be put in harm's way. "Supporting the troops" has become a mantra in our politics, but the true heroism of our soldiers goes beyond the slogans and politics to countless individual acts of courage under fire. At the moment it mattered, in a war worth fighting, Ross McGinnis honored America's finest traditions and our own better natures.
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