Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: January 03, 2008, 11:28:51 PM
A lucid point PC
What do you make of this?
WHEN, in May 1991, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi of India was killed by a suicide bomber, there was an international outpouring of grief. Recent days have seen the same with the death of Benazir Bhutto: another glamorous, Western-educated scion of a great South Asian political dynasty tragically assassinated at an election rally.
There is, however, an important difference between the two deaths: while Mr. Gandhi was assassinated by Sri Lankan Hindu extremists because of his policy of confronting them, Ms. Bhutto was apparently the victim of Islamist militant groups that she allowed to flourish under her administrations in the 1980s and 1990s.
It was under Ms. Bhutto’s watch that the Pakistani intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, first installed the Taliban in Afghanistan. It was also at that time that hundreds of young Islamic militants were recruited from the madrassas to do the agency’s dirty work in Indian Kashmir. It seems that, like some terrorist equivalent of Frankenstein’s monster, the extremists turned on both the person and the state that had helped bring them into being.
While it is true that the recruitment of jihadists had started before she took office and that Ms. Bhutto was insufficiently strong — or competent — to have had full control over either the intelligence services or the Pakistani Army when she was in office, it is equally naïve to believe she had no influence over her country’s foreign policy toward its two most important neighbors, India and Afghanistan.
Everyone now knows how disastrous the rule of the Taliban turned out to be in Afghanistan, how brutally it subjected women and how it allowed Al Qaeda to train in camps within its territory. But another, and in the long term perhaps equally perilous, legacy of Ms. Bhutto’s tenure is often forgotten: the turning of Kashmir into a jihadist playground.
In 1989, when the insurgency in the Indian portion of the disputed region first began, it was largely an amateur affair of young, secular-minded Kashmiri Muslims rising village by village and wielding homemade weapons — firearms fashioned from the steering shafts of rickshaws and so on. By the early ’90s, however, Pakistan was sending over the border thousands of well-trained, heavily armed and ideologically hardened jihadis. Some were the same sorts of exiled Arab radicals who were at the same time forming Al Qaeda in Peshawar, in northwestern Pakistan.
By 1993, during Ms. Bhutto’s second term, the Arab and Afghan jihadis (and their Inter-Services Intelligence masters) had really begun to take over the uprising from the locals. It was at this stage that the secular leadership of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front began losing ground to hard-line Islamist outfits like Hizbul Mujahedeen.
I asked Benazir Bhutto about her Kashmir policy and the potential dangers of the growing role of religious extremists in the conflict during an interview in 1994. “India tries to gloss over its policy of repression in Kashmir,” she replied. “India does have might, but has been unable to crush the people of Kashmir. We are not prepared to keep silent, and collude with repression.”
Hamid Gul, who was the head of the intelligence agency during her first administration, was more forthcoming still. “The Kashmiri people have risen up,” he told me, “and it is the national purpose of Pakistan to help liberate them.” He continued, “If the jihadis go out and contain India, tying down their army on their own soil, for a legitimate cause, why should we not support them?”
Benazir Bhutto’s death is, of course, a calamity, particularly as she embodied the hopes of so many liberal Pakistanis. But, contrary to the commentary we’ve seen in the last week, she was not comparable to Myanmar’s Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Ms. Bhutto’s governments were widely criticized by Amnesty International and other groups for their use of death squads and terrible record on deaths in police custody, abductions and torture. As for her democratic bona fides, she had no qualms about banning rallies by opposing political parties while in power.
Within her own party, she declared herself the president for life and controlled all decisions. She rejected her brother Murtaza’s bid to challenge her for its leadership and when he persisted, he was shot dead in highly suspicious circumstances during a police ambush outside the Bhutto family home.
Benazir Bhutto was certainly a brave and secular-minded woman. But the obituaries painting her as dying to save democracy distort history. Instead, she was a natural autocrat who did little for human rights, a calculating politician who was complicit in Pakistan’s becoming the region’s principal jihadi paymaster while she also ramped up an insurgency in Kashmir that has brought two nuclear powers to the brink of war.
William Dalrymple is the author, most recently, of “The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty, Delhi, 1857.”
Here's this from Stratfor:
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said Jan. 2 he will deploy the army during the general elections scheduled for Feb. 18. He did not say what would happen to anyone brazen enough to question the results.
The political situation in Pakistan is chaotic and delicate. The Dec. 27 assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto undid most of the political compromises made in the past several months — Bhutto was widely expected to be invited into the government in the aftermath of the upcoming elections. Now Pakistan’s various factions — especially those within the military, the only institution in Pakistan that truly matters — are all scrambling for alternatives.
For Musharraf, Bhutto’s departure from this world is a mixed blessing. While it certainly complicates his efforts to maintain control — Bhutto would have, after all, been joining his government — it also forces everyone else into a new round of negotiations with each other. As president and, until recently, military chief, Musharraf holds an institutional advantage in that race. He is one man with an apparatus at his back, rather than a collection of men who need to consult and build an alliance.
But as one might expect in a country where the military holds supreme power, Musharraf’s strength comes far more from his links to the military than his holding of the presidency. Thus it attracted our attention on Thursday when Army Chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, chairing his first corps commanders conference since becoming chief of the army, flatly stated, “Ultimately it is the will of the people and their support that is decisive.” That, he said, will allow the army to “thwart and defeat all kinds of threats.”
This statement is the first sign that Musharraf and Kayani may not be on the same page as far as how to deal with the issue of elections. There are two potential outcomes of the Feb. 18 elections, both equally dangerous for Musharraf’s political health.
The first possibility is that the election is viewed by his opponents –- the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) — as reasonably free and fair, because it has produced a parliament dominated by them. The resulting government will in turn eventually be engaged in a tug of war over power between an aggressive parliament and a presidency asserting its right to oversight of the political system. This is not to mention the problems Musharraf could face in attempts to legalize his Nov. 3 move to suspend the constitution. Nevertheless, two past presidents were forced to step down by the military in similar gridlock situations during the 1990s.
A second possibility is that the opposition gets fewer seats than it is expecting and the pro-Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League emerges with a disproportionately greater number of seats. Such a move is very likely to stir up the proverbial hornet’s nest. A much more organized and sustained version of the rioting that took place in the aftermath of Bhutto’s assassination can be expected.
Given that his opponents have little faith in the judiciary or the election commission, which they see as consisting of Musharraf appointees, agitation is an even more likely recourse on the part of the opposition. Musharraf is well aware of this potential scenario, which is why he has specifically noted that the army will remain deployed even after the elections and that no one will be allowed to engage in civil disturbances. But this assumes that the army chief will order troops to open fire on unarmed demonstrators angry over what they perceive as government foul play in the elections.
Considering the current political climate and the existing negative sentiment against the army’s hold over the state, Kayani is unlikely to play with fire to salvage the future of one man, even if it is the president. His statements on Thursday serve as an indicator of what he is likely to do when faced with such a situation.
In no country is a spat between the president and the army something to scoff at, and Pakistan is not exactly known for having robust civilian oversight of the military. We are hardly to the point of a coup yet, but this is how the path to a coup starts.
Musharraf should know. He staged the last one.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Stock Market
on: January 03, 2008, 02:07:32 PM
POT is nearing a triple for me
PAAS is virtually a quadruple
Got out of CELG in time to keep nice profit intact
CWCO got hit hard for misleading accounting
LNOP is scaring me
-- but here's this: http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/080103/ukth006.html?.v=6
LanOptics to Complete Acquisition of Substantially All of EZchip's Equity
Thursday January 3, 8:00 am ET
LanOptics Trading Moves to NASDAQ Global Market Applied to Change Trading Symbol to "EZCH"
YOKNEAM, Israel, January 3 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- LanOptics Ltd. (NASDAQ: LNOP - News), a provider of Ethernet network processors, announced today that the last two principal shareholder groups of its subsidiary, EZchip Technologies Ltd., have elected to exchange all of their shares of EZchip for shares of LanOptics. This exchange represents the last major step in LanOptics' long-term plan to acquire 100% ownership of EZchip.
LanOptics will acquire preferred shares of EZchip from the two principal shareholders, representing the equivalent of 20,047,365 EZchip ordinary shares, in exchange for the issuance of 5,011,841 LanOptics shares. The resulting dilution in each LanOptics shareholder's percentage of ownership will be substantially offset by the increase in LanOptics' holdings in EZchip. LanOptics' business consists exclusively of the business of EZchip, a company that is engaged in the development and sales of Ethernet network processors.
Following the exchange, LanOptics will own approximately 99% of the outstanding share capital of EZchip, or 89% on a fully diluted basis. The residue represents unissued EZchip shares subject to outstanding EZchip options held by current and former employees of EZchip. Pursuant to the exchange agreement, LanOptics is required to register the shares issued in the exchange with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
LanOptics further announced that starting tomorrow January 4, 2008, the company's ordinary shares will be traded on the NASDAQ Global MarketSM. The company has also applied to change its trading symbol from "LNOP" to "EZCH" effective January 17, 2008.
"It is an exciting day in the history of our company and the beginning of a new era," commented Eli Fruchter, the Chairman of LanOptics and CEO of EZchip. "It has been our long-term goal to acquire full ownership of EZchip and we are excited to finally reach this milestone. We expect the rationalizing of our corporate structure and the unifying of the shareholdings in the two companies under our EZchip brand name to further support the company's continued growth and allow various efficiencies in the operation of the businesses."
"We are also delighted to announce our upgrade to the NASDAQ Global MarketSM - a testament to the company's recent results and increased trading in the company's shares. We expect the move to the more prestigious NASDAQ Global MarketSM, combined with our new trading symbol - "EZCH", once approved, will provide greater visibility and liquidity to our shares and promote our EZchip brand name recognition," Mr. Fruchter added.
This press release shall not constitute an offer to sell or solicitation of an offer to buy, any securities of LanOptics.
LanOptics' business consists exclusively of the business of EZchip, a company that is engaged in the development and marketing of Ethernet network processors for networking equipment. EZchip provides its customers with solutions that scale from 1-Gigabit to 100-Gigabits per second with a common architecture and software across all products. EZchip's network processors provide the flexibility and integration that enable triple-play data, voice and video services in systems that make up the new Carrier Ethernet networks. Flexibility and integration make EZchip's solutions ideal for building systems for a wide range of applications in telecom networks, enterprise backbones and data centers. For more information on LanOptics and EZchip, visit the web site at http://www.ezchip.com
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: January 03, 2008, 07:20:26 AM
Pakistan, Bhutto and the U.S.-Jihadist Endgame
January 2, 2008 | 2205 GMT
By George Friedman
The endgame of the U.S.-jihadist war always had to be played out in Pakistan. There are two reasons that could account for this. The first is simple: Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda command cell are located in Pakistan. The war cannot end while the command cell functions or has a chance of regenerating. The second reason is more complicated. The United States and NATO are engaged in a war in Afghanistan. Where the Soviets lost with 300,000 troops, the Americans and NATO are fighting with less than 50,000. Any hope of defeating the Taliban, or of reaching some sort of accommodation, depends on isolating them from Pakistan. So long as the Taliban have sanctuary and logistical support from Pakistan, transferring all coalition troops in Iraq to Afghanistan would have no effect. And withdrawing from Afghanistan would return the situation to the status quo before Sept. 11. If dealing with the Taliban and destroying al Qaeda are part of any endgame, the key lies in Pakistan.
U.S. strategy in Pakistan has been to support Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and rely on him to purge and shape his country’s army to the extent possible to gain its support in attacking al Qaeda in the North, contain Islamist radicals in the rest of the country and interdict supplies and reinforcements flowing to the Taliban from Pakistan. It was always understood that this strategy was triply flawed.
First, under the best of circumstances, a completely united and motivated Pakistani army’s ability to carry out this mission effectively was doubtful. And second, the Pakistani army was — and is — not completely united and motivated. Not only was it divided, one of its major divisions lay between Taliban supporters sympathetic to al Qaeda and a mixed bag of factions with other competing interests. Distinguishing between who was on which side in a complex and shifting constellation of relationships was just about impossible. That meant the army the United States was relying on to support the U.S. mission was, from the American viewpoint, inherently flawed.
It must be remembered that the mujahideen’s war against the Soviets in Afghanistan shaped the current Pakistani army. Allied with the Americans and Saudis, the Pakistani army — and particularly its intelligence apparatus, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) — had as its mission the creation of a jihadist force in Afghanistan to fight the Soviets. The United States lost interest in Afghanistan after the fall of the Soviet Union, but the Pakistanis did not have that option. Afghanistan was right next door. An interesting thing happened at that point. Having helped forge the mujahideen and its successor, the Taliban, the Pakistani army and ISI in turn were heavily influenced by their Afghan clients’ values. Patron and client became allies. And this created a military force that was extremely unreliable from the U.S. viewpoint.
Third, Musharraf’s intentions were inherently unpredictable. As a creature of the Pakistani army, Musharraf reflects all of the ambivalences and tensions of that institution. His primary interest was in holding on to power. To do that, he needed to avoid American military action in Pakistan while simultaneously reassuring radical Islamists he was not a mere tool of the United States. Given the complexity of his position, no one could ever be certain of where Musharraf stood. His position was entirely tactical, shifting as political necessity required. He was constantly placating the various parties, but since the process of placation for the Americans meant that he take action against the jihadists, constant ineffective action by Musharraf resulted. He took enough action to keep the Americans at bay, not enough to force his Islamist enemies to take effective action against him.
Ever since Sept. 11, Musharraf has walked this tightrope, shifting his balance from one side to the other, with the primary aim of not falling off the rope. This proved unsatisfactory to the United States, as well as to Musharraf’s Islamist opponents. While he irritated everybody, the view from all factions — inside and outside Pakistan — was that, given the circumstances, Musharraf was better than the alternative. Indeed, that could have been his campaign slogan: “Vote for Musharraf: Everything Else is Worse.”
From the U.S. point of view, Musharraf and the Pakistani army might have been unreliable, but any alternative imaginable would be even worse. Even if their actions were ineffective, some actions were taken. At the very least, they were not acting openly and consistently against the United States. Were Musharraf and the Pakistani army to act consistently against U.S. interests as Russian logistical support for U.S. operations in Afghanistan waned, the U.S./NATO position in Afghanistan could simply crack.
Therefore, the U.S. policy in Pakistan was to do everything possible to make certain Musharraf didn’t fall or, more precisely, to make sure the Pakistani army didn’t fragment and its leadership didn’t move into direct and open opposition to the United States. The United States understood that the more it pressed Musharraf and the more he gave, the less likely he was to survive and the less certain became the Pakistani army’s cohesion. Thus, the U.S. strategy was to press for action, but not to the point of destabilizing Pakistan beyond its natural instability. The priority was to maintain Musharraf in power, and failing that, to maintain the Pakistani army as a cohesive, non-Islamist force.
In all of this, there was one institution that, on the whole, had to support him. That was the Pakistani army. The Pakistani army was the one functioning national institution in Pakistan. For the senior leaders, it was a vehicle to maintain their own power and position. For the lowest enlisted man, the army was a means for upward mobility, an escape from the grinding poverty of the slums and villages. The Pakistani army obviously was factionalized, but no faction had an interest in seeing the army fragment. Their own futures were at stake. And therefore, so long as Musharraf kept the army together, they would live with him. Even the less radical Islamists took that view.
A single personality cannot maintain a balancing act like this indefinitely; one of three things will happen. First, he can fall off the rope and become the prisoner of one of the factions. Second, he can lose credibility with all factions — with the basic political configuration remaining intact but with the system putting forth a new personality to preside. Third, he can build up his power, crush the factions and start calling the shots. This last is the hardest strategy, because in this case, it would be converting a role held due to the lack of alternatives into a position of power. That is a long reach.
Nevertheless, that is why Musharraf decided to declare a state of emergency. No one was satisfied with him any longer, and pressure was building for him to “take off his uniform” — in other words, to turn the army over to someone else and rule as a civilian. Musharraf understood that it was only a matter of time before his personal position collapsed and the army realized that, given the circumstances, the collapse of Musharraf could mean the fragmentation of the army. Musharraf therefore tried to get control of the situation by declaring a state of emergency and getting the military backing for it. His goal was to convert the state of emergency — and taking off his uniform — into a position from which to consolidate his power.
It worked to an extent. The army backed the state of emergency. No senior leader challenged him. There were no mutinies among the troops. There was no general uprising. He was condemned by everyone from the jihadists to the Americans, but no one took any significant action against him. The situation was precarious, but it appeared he might well emerge from the state of emergency in a politically enhanced position. Enhanced was the best he could hope for. He would not be able to get off the tightrope, but at the same time, simply calling a state of emergency and not triggering a massive response would enhance his position.
Parliamentary elections were scheduled for Jan. 8 and are now delayed until Feb. 18. Given the fragmentation of Pakistani society, the most likely outcome was a highly fragmented parliament, one that would be hard-pressed to legislate, let alone to serve as a powerbase. In the likely event of gridlock, Musharraf’s position as the indispensable — if disliked — man would be strengthened. By last week, Musharraf must have been looking forward to the elections. Elections would confirm his position, which was that the civil institutions could not function and that the army, with or without him as official head, had to remain the center of the Pakistani polity.
Then someone killed Benazir Bhutto and changed the entire dynamic of Pakistan. Though Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party probably would have gained a substantial number of seats, it was unlikely to sweep the election and seriously threaten the military’s hold on power. Bhutto was simply one of the many forces competing for power. As a woman, representing an essentially secular party, she was unlikely to be a decisive winner. In many ways, she reminds us of Mikhail Gorbachev, who was much more admired by Westerners than he ever was by Russians. She was highly visible and a factor in Pakistani politics, but if Musharraf were threatened, the threat would not come from her.
Therefore, her murder is a mystery. It is actually a mystery on two levels. First, it is not clear who did it. Second, it is not clear how the deed was done. The murder of a major political leader is always hard to unravel. Confusion reigns from the first bullet fired in a crowd. The first account of events always turns out to be wrong, as do the second through fifth accounts, too. That is how conspiracy theories are spawned. Getting the facts straight in any murder is tough. Getting them straight in a political assassination is even harder. Paradoxically, more people witnessing such incidents translates into greater confusion, since everyone has a different perspective and a different tale. Conspiracy theorists can have a field day picking and choosing among confused reports by shocked and untrained observers.
Nevertheless, the confusion in this case appears to be way beyond the norm. Was there a bomber and a separate shooter with a pistol next to her car? If this were indeed a professional job, why was the shooter inappropriately armed with a pistol? Was Bhutto killed by the pistol-wielding shooter, shrapnel from the bomb, a bullet from a third assassin on a nearby building or even inside her car, or by falling after the bomb detonated? How did the killer or killers know Bhutto would stand up and expose herself through her armored vehicle’s sunroof? Very few of the details so far make sense.
And that reflects the fact that nothing about the assassination makes sense. Who would want Bhutto dead? Musharraf had little motivation. He had enemies, and she was one of them, but she was far from the most dangerous of them. And killing her would threaten an election that did not threaten him or his transition to a new status. Ordering her death thus would not have made a great deal of sense for Musharraf.
Whoever ordered her death would have had one of two motives. First, they wanted to destabilize Pakistan, or second, they wanted to kill her in such a way as to weaken Musharraf’s position by showing that the state of emergency had failed. The jihadists certainly had every reason to want to kill her — along with a long list of Pakistani politicians, including Musharraf. They want to destabilize Pakistan, but if they can do so and implicate Musharraf at the same time, so much the sweeter.
The loser in the assassination was Musharraf. He is probably too canny a politician to have planned the killing without anticipating this outcome. Whoever did this wanted to do more than kill Bhutto. They wanted to derail Musharraf’s attempt to retain his control over the government. This was a complex operation designed to create confusion.
Our first suspect is al Qaeda sympathizers who would benefit from the confusion spawned by the killing of an important political leader. The more allegations of complicity in the killing are thrown against the regime, the more the military regime is destabilized — thus expanding opportunities for jihadists to sow even more instability. Our second suspects are elements in the army wanting to use the assassination to force Musharraf out, replace him with a new personality and justify a massive crackdown.
Two parties we cannot imagine as suspects in the killing are the United States and Musharraf; neither benefited from the killing. Musharraf now faces the political abyss and the United States faces the destabilization of Pakistan as the Taliban is splintering and various jihadist leaders are fragmenting. This is the last moment the United States would choose to destabilize Pakistan. Our best guess is that the killing was al Qaeda doing what it does best. The theory that it was anti-Musharraf elements in the army comes in at a very distant second.
But the United States now faces its endgame under far less than ideal conditions. Iraq is stabilizing. That might reverse, but for now it is stabilizing. The Taliban is strong, but it is under pressure and has serious internal problems. The endgame always was supposed to come in Pakistan, but this is far from how the Americans wanted to play it out. The United States is not going to get an aggressive, anti-Islamist military in Pakistan, but it badly needs more than a Pakistani military that is half-heartedly and tenuously committed to the fight. Salvaging Musharraf is getting harder with each passing day. So that means that a new personality, such as Pakistani military chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, must become Washington’s new man in Pakistan. In this endgame, all that the Americans want is the status quo in Pakistan. It is all they can get. And given the way U.S. luck is running, they might not even get that.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Seinfeld campaign
on: January 03, 2008, 07:08:36 AM
The Seinfeld Campaign
By FRED BARNES
January 3, 2008; Page A13
Des Moines, Iowa
If there's one thing a presidential campaign should provide, it's a sense of what a candidate's presidency would look like. We got that in 1992 with Bill Clinton, who campaigned as a moderate Democrat and mostly governed that way as president. The same was true in 2000 with George W. Bush. The 9/11 attacks changed his national security policy, but his domestic policies (tax cuts, the faith-based initiative) were the staples of his campaign.
Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee and his wife after a rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Tuesday, Jan. 1.
The 2008 presidential race is different: Voters are scarcely getting any glimpse of how the next president would perform in the White House. Instead, the campaign has been dominated by uninformative debates with too many marginal candidates and by a series of unimportant squabbles.
On top of that, both Democratic and Republican candidates are spending an enormous amount of time making frivolous distinctions among themselves and their rivals. As the first actual voting begins today in the Iowa caucuses, it's only a slight exaggeration to say that voters have been cheated.
We know, of course, that the Democratic candidates are liberals and the Republicans tend to be conservative to one degree or another. But we knew this from the early beginnings of the campaign more than a year ago.
Since then, many of the candidates have issued position papers or taken detailed stands on various issues. But these are mostly of interest to policy wonks, single issue groups and some elements of the press. They aren't intended to attract much attention, and they haven't.
What matters is what the voters see and hear -- the public campaign. And it's here where the voters are learning disturbingly little from the candidates on how they'd act as president.
On the Democratic side, Sen. Hillary Clinton emphasizes her experience. But it's unclear whether that experience consists of anything more than having been the wife of a governor, first lady when husband Bill Clinton was president, and more recently a senator.
There's no evidence her experience ever involved crafting policy (except her failed health-care plan) or a critical role in decision making. As first lady, she never had a security clearance or attended meetings of the National Security Council. So who can tell if her experience would actually give her an advantage, as her husband insists, if a crisis occurs while she's president? I doubt if voters can.
Sen. Barack Obama's candidacy is centered on an equally vague point. He would end political polarization in Washington, seek bipartisan solutions, and heal divisions in the country. But how would he achieve this epic task? How would he "bring us together"?
That's still a mystery. And there's nothing in his record in Washington to indicate he's a champion of bipartisanship rather than a conventional Democratic liberal.
In his autobiography, "The Audacity of Hope," he praises the "gang of 14" senators, half Democrats, half Republicans, who blocked a change in Senate rules on judicial nominations and cleared the way for a handful of confirmations. But Mr. Obama declined to join the bipartisan effort, because it facilitated the confirmation of a few conservative judges.
John Edwards, the third major Democratic candidate, has made "corporate greed and influence" in Washington his chief talking point. It's an old-fashioned populist pitch that emphasizes class sentiment rather than a realistic presidential agenda. Can voters tell if this is anything more than hot air? I don't think so.
The Republicans aren't much better in conveying an idea of their presidencies. Rather, they've all insisted that they are the next Ronald Reagan. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney told USA Today that Reagan "knew how to build consensus and achieve victory" in the Cold War. "Those are the kinds of skills I have worked to develop." Republican consultant Ed Rollins, who has joined Mike Huckabee's campaign, claims that Mr. Huckabee sounded just like you-know-who -- Reagan. In truth, all the claims to be Reagan-like are unpersuasive and, I suspect, unhelpful to voters.
The arguments among the candidates haven't helped either. For weeks, Mr. Romney and ex-New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani attacked each other on immigration, each asserting his rival was soft on illegal immigrants. This debate was hardly illuminating, and I'd be surprised if voters could make heads or tails of it. Mr. Huckabee, too, is bound to have left voters scratching their heads. He first advocated compassion toward illegals, then was warmly endorsed by one of the harshest critics of illegal immigration, Minuteman leader Jim Gilchrist.
Even less revealing has been the effort by Mrs. Clinton and Messrs. Obama and Edwards to claim the distinction as the best agent of change. Mrs. Clinton says her experience in Washington means she knows best how to achieve change. Mr. Obama says the opposite, that his aloofness from the ways of Washington means he's not tied down by Beltway connections. Mr. Edwards suggests his readiness to combat corporate interests gives the best prospects for change. To put it mildly, this is an inane dispute.
Here's the crux of the problem with the 2008 campaign. The next president will have to deal with three enduring issues: Iraq, immigration and entitlements. Yes, taxes and spending are important, but these three are overriding. On Iraq, Democrats have stuck with their positions fashioned when the war was being lost. But what would they do when faced in 2009 with, in all likelihood, a more stable Iraq in which the insurgency has been defeated? We don't know. What a Republican president would do is more knowable. He'd be likely to follow Mr. Bush's lead.
On immigration, Republicans, even John McCain, have moved away from comprehensive reform that comes to grips with 12 million illegals who are already in America and not about to leave. What would they do beyond stiffer border enforcement? Who knows? The Democratic candidates are more favorably disposed toward comprehensive reform, but they aren't talking this up. So what they'd do is also far from certain.
Finally, there's Social Security and Medicare. Mr. Bush's failed effort to reform Social Security in 2005 appears to have cooled not only interest in coping with rising entitlement costs, but also any interest in seriously discussing the issue in the campaign.
Republican Fred Thompson has talked about entitlements, but the other candidates haven't bothered to respond to him. Mrs. Clinton says she'd do something but she hasn't said what. So the campaign has provided no clarity on entitlements, and voters are left not knowing what to expect.
Maybe we shouldn't expect to learn much from a presidential campaign. Franklin Roosevelt, after all, ran as a budget balancer in 1932 but, once elected, unleashed the New Deal. However, 1932 should be the exception and not the rule. We'll never get a perfect picture of the next presidency during a campaign. But a glimpse or a serious hint or a fleeting idea would help. That's what voters deserve and have a right to expect.
Mr. Barnes is executive editor of The Weekly Standard and a Fox News commentator.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson: Law
on: January 03, 2008, 06:51:06 AM
"We lay it down as a fundamental, that laws, to be just, must
give a reciprocation of right; that, without this, they are
mere arbitrary rules of conduct, founded in force, and not in
-- Thomas Jefferson (Notes on the state of Virginia, 1782)
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues
on: January 02, 2008, 06:40:19 PM
Terrorism arrests made on Texas border
Insurgents connected to Hezbollah, Hamas, al-Qaida detained
By: Jeff Carlton (The Associated Press)
DALLAS - Texas' top homeland security official said Wednesday that terrorists with ties to Hezbollah, Hamas and al-Qaida have been arrested crossing the Texas border with Mexico in recent years.
"Has there ever been anyone linked to terrorism arrested?" Texas Homeland Security Director Steve McCraw said in a speech to the North Texas Crime Commission. "Yes, there was."
His remarks appear to be among the most specific on the topic of terrorism arrests along the Texas-Mexico border. Local and elected officials have alluded to this happening but have been short on details.
Leticia Zamarripa, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement in El Paso, said Wednesday she was unaware of any border arrests of people with terrorist ties. An ICE spokeswoman in San Antonio did not return phone messages left by The Associated Press. U.S. Border Patrol spokesman Lloyd M. Easterling was unable to comment.
However, McCraw's remarks are similar to those made recently by National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell, who last month told the El Paso Times that a small number of people with known links to terrorist organizations have been caught crossing the border.
McCraw identified the most notable figure captured as Farida Goolam Mahomed Ahmed, who was arrested in July 2004 at the McAllen airport. She carried $7,300 in various currencies and a South African passport with pages missing. Federal officials later learned she waded across the Rio Grande.
After her arrest, U.S. Customs and Border Protection issued a release saying she was wanted for questioning about the bombing of a U.S. Consulate office, jibing with similar statements from a U.S. congressman.
But the department quickly retracted the terrorism connection, calling it "inaccurate on several levels." Michael Shelby, then the U.S. attorney in Houston, said in January 2005 that any suggestion Ahmed was involved in terrorism "is in error."
According to federal court records, Ahmed pleaded guilty to improper entry by an alien, making a false statement and false use of a passport. She was sentenced to time served and deported to South Africa. Other details of the case were sealed.
But on Wednesday, McCraw described Ahmed as having ties to an insurgent group in Pakistan and whose specialty was smuggling Afghanis and other foreign nationals across the border.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Michael Friel could not confirm details about Ahmed on Wednesday.
McCraw also said that since March 2006, 347 people from what he called "terrorism-related countries" have been arrested crossing the border in Texas. The number of Iraqis captured at the border has tripled since last year, he said.
"A porous border without question is a national security threat," he said.
Terrorism isn't the only concern for homeland security officials in Texas, McCraw said. The state's size, population and geography make it susceptible to all sorts of disasters, both natural and man-made. Emergency responders must also be prepared for natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and wildfires, he said.
The state has made significant strides in emergency planning since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and Hurricane Rita, McCraw said. Plans include cooperating with large private companies, including grocery stores, Wal-Mart and the oil industry, to help the state respond during disasters.
"This is not a shot at FEMA, but we can't depend on FEMA to protect Texas," McCraw said. "The governor's mandate has made it clear: If those buses don't come, we better have our own buses. If that food doesn't come,we better have our own food. If that water doesn't come, we better have our own water to take care of Texas." © Copyright 2008 The Daily Texan
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere
on: January 02, 2008, 05:47:36 PM
Muhammad and Mrs. Jones - Kenny Gamble's Philadelphia Muslim Enclave
By Beila Rabinowitz
January 1, 2008 - San Francisco, CA - PipeLineNews.org - Kenny Gamble is best known for being "the architect of the Philly Soul Sound." His catalog of hits includes "Me and Mrs. Jones" and he and longtime collaborator Leon Huff are slated to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame next year. But Gamble is also the architect of a planned stealth Islamist enclave in Philadelphia where he is better known in Muslim circles as Brother Luqman Abdul Haqq.
Gamble has admitted that he intends to bring about the Muslim community in South Philadelphia through his "Universal Companies" and proclaims that his state and federally subsidized funded building endeavors are part of an Islamist blueprint, "We are not down here just for Universal-we are down here for Islam."
In 1975 after a personal crisis Gamble converted to Islam and took the name of Luqman Abdul Haqq. Founding an organization called "The United Muslim Movement," he opened a masjid of the same name. In 1993 he formed the "Universal Companies" specializing in urban revitalization projects. Both UMM and UC's mission statements are virtually identical.
Recently the United Muslim Masjid which Gamble founded and built "hosted" a conference call from Jamil Al Amin, the former H. Rap Brown, now serving a life sentence for murdering a police officer:
"...A highlight of one meeting, for example, was when we had Imam Jamil Al-Amin on speaker phone talking to us from his Georgia prison. MANA and its members have raised and donated several thousands of dollars to his family and legal defense team. Imam Jamil has recently been transferred to a "supermax" prison in Colorado, and we ask that you make du'a for him." [source, http://www.mana-net.org/pages.php?ID=&NUM=164
Gamble is also a member of the Majlis Ash Shura Council of MANA, the Muslim Alliance in North America, which is led by Siraj Wahhaj. MANA was created to support cop killer Al Amin. Siraj Wahhaj is perhaps most infamous as having been named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 by Federal prosecutor Mary Jo White.
"The catalyst for the founding of MANA was the arrest of Imam Jamil in March, 2000. Imam Jamil's arrest placed Al-Ummah (Imam Jamil?s organization) under intense pressure. In April, 2000 the leadership of Al-Ummah met in Philadelphia and decided that they needed to expand the base of the organization and to get more people involved to help in the efforts to free Imam Jamil and in the efforts of dawah and other Islamic work...On April 21 an executive committee was elected, which included: Imam Siraj and Imam Talib, in addition to Luqman Abdul Haqq, Asim Abdur Rashid, Amir al-Islam, Ihsan Bagby, Zaid Shakir and Hamza Yusuf…We ask Allah (SWT) to increase the good efforts of Universal Companies, United Muslim Movement, MANA, and others committed to helping our people, our communities and society-at-large." [source, http://www.wrmea.com/archives/july01/0107082.html
It's hard to imagine how such a problematic proposal has gone this far without intense public scrutiny. Aside from considering the wisdom of creating what might amount to a little Somalia in a major urban center, there are the obvious questions regarding government funding - under the transparent guise of urban renewal - of what is clearly a hard-core Muslim da'wa [faith spreading] program.
Everything about Gamble's stealth plan for a government subsidized Muslim ghetto - "one of the best kept secrets of Muslim America" - suggests a need for concern; indeed one wonders if Pennsylvania taxpayers are even aware that their tax dollars are going to help Gamble's plans to build "jihad central" while calling it "a neighborhood transformation initiative," a so-far effective strategy, having garnered $1.6 billion in government and private grants and funding.
Now that the secret is out, it's time that Pennsylvanians move to stop Gamble's participation in this project. His motives are self-serving, thoroughly inconsistent with the concept of the American melting pot and obliterate the separation between church and state.
© 1999-2008 PipeLineNews.org LLC, Beila Rabinowitz, all rights reserved. http://www.pipelinenews.org/index.cf...le01.01.08.htm
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China
on: January 02, 2008, 05:23:51 PM
China Flexes Its Muscles
By GORDON G. CHANG
January 2, 2008; Page A11
The U.S. Navy said it was "befuddled" by Beijing's last-minute November denial of a long-arranged port call for the Kitty Hawk carrier group in Hong Kong. This turndown was on top of China's refusal to provide shelter for two U.S. minesweepers seeking refuge from a storm, and its rejection of a routine visit for a frigate, the Reuben James. The Air Force also received a "no" for a regular C-17 flight to resupply the American consulate in Hong Kong.
The immediate causes of these rebuffs may be American arms sales to Taiwan, which China regards as sovereign territory, and the award of a congressional medal to the Dalai Lama, with whom Beijing has had a multi-decade spat. But so many turndowns suggest the decisions were made at the highest levels of the Chinese central government -- and at a time when senior leaders are reorienting the country's foreign policy. Washington's relations with Beijing, in short, appear headed for increasing disagreement and tension.
Deng Xiaoping, who turned China away from Maoist revolution, believed that the country should "bide time" and keep a low profile in international affairs. Deng wanted Beijing to "seek cooperation and avoid confrontation," especially with the U.S. China, after a series of disastrous episodes like the Cultural Revolution and the Tiananmen massacre, needed a peaceful environment and the help of outsiders to rebuild its shattered economy.
Deng's successor, Jiang Zemin, followed this general approach even though he wanted Beijing to pursue his "big country" ambitions. Mr. Jiang desired recognition for China's growing status, but he saw his nation working cooperatively with the U.S. and its allies as partners.
Current President Hu Jintao has shifted China in a new direction. Like Mr. Jiang, he believes that the country should assert itself. But unlike his predecessor, he seems to think that China should actively work to restructure the international system to be more to Beijing's liking. In short, the current leader appears to see his country mostly working against the U.S.
The shape of China's grand strategy became apparent after a series of meetings in Beijing in the second half of 2006. In August, the Communist Party convened its Central Work Conference on Foreign Affairs. The meeting, the culmination of a half-year, top-to-bottom review of the country's external policies, brought together for the first time all members of the Politburo, provincial governors and Party secretaries, the State Council and central government ministers, about 60 ambassadors and 30 other diplomats, and key military officers with foreign affairs responsibilities.
Significantly, the public summary of the meeting did not include references to the invariably cited "bide time" strategy of Deng Xiaoping -- an indication of a fundamental change in thinking. Adopting the new tone, that same month Beijing's top U.N. diplomat in Geneva, Sha Zukang, told the U.S. to "shut up" about China's military buildup.
Later in the year, senior leaders met one or more times to confirm the new foreign policy direction. As veteran China watcher Willy Lam has noted, Mr. Hu and the leadership decided "to make a clean break with Deng's cautious axioms and instead, embark on a path of high-profile force projection."
Mr. Hu's reorientation of foreign policy is a consequence of his increasing reliance on the People's Liberation Army as a political base inside the Party. Since the middle of 2004, he stepped up efforts to court senior generals for support of his efforts to assert supremacy over Jiang Zemin, who has been clinging to power and blocking some of his initiatives. The military, for example, appears to have been behind Mr. Hu's partially successful effort, in the run-up to last year's 17th Party Congress, to pick his own successor.
It seems that at the massive conclave, held once every five years, Mr. Hu obtained the assistance of the more hawkish officers of the PLA in return for accelerating increases in military spending, promoting some of them to senior positions -- especially Gen. Chen Bingde to be the chief of general staff -- and steering the country toward a more assertive posture toward other nations in general, and Taiwan in particular.
There are several other incidents consistent with China's new assertive posture. In October 2006, a Chinese submarine for the first time surfaced in the middle of an American carrier group. This episode, occurring in the Philippine Sea southeast of Okinawa, was an obvious warning to the U.S. Navy to stay away. And in January of last year, the PLA, in an unmistakable display of military power, destroyed one of China's old weather satellites with a ground-based missile.
Beijing's military has also started to boast about its new weapons and war-fighting capabilities. Peace Mission 2007, cooperative military exercises in Central Asia in August, was China's first large-scale foreign military deployment, and recent military maneuvers, apparently rehearsals to take Taiwan and disputed islands in the South China Sea, were remarkable in scope and sophistication.
China's new ambitions have been confirmed by Hong Yuan, a military strategist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, who noted a significant departure from Beijing's prior posture. China, he said in October, intended to project force in areas "way beyond the Taiwan Strait."
China's military assertiveness has been matched by tougher diplomacy. Last year, a series of high-level meetings showed that Beijing has moved closer to Moscow to cement their "friendship for generations" and confirm their opposition to American initiatives, especially to stop the Iranian nuclear program.
China's sustained campaign against German Chancellor Angela Merkel for meeting the Dalai Lama in September is also notably intense. China even threatened military and political responses over economic disputes -- such as those relating to market barriers and intellectual property piracy -- at last month's session of the "Strategic Economic Dialogue," the high-level talks between the U.S. and China.
The Kitty Hawk port call fits into this pattern. In the past, this snub would have merely been the product of petulance. Today, it is another indication of a change in China's approach to the world.
Last month, Washington and Beijing agreed to put the Kitty Hawk and similar incidents behind them. Now, the challenge for the U. S. is to recognize that Chinese attitudes have turned a corner, and to craft new policies in response.
Mr. Chang is the author of "The Coming Collapse of China" (Random House, 2001).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Why we are in the Gulf
on: January 02, 2008, 05:03:57 PM
While we are on the subject of the role of the US Navy , , ,
Why We're in the Gulf
The world would be a much more dangerous place without America as a policeman.
BY WALTER RUSSELL MEAD
Tuesday, January 1, 2008 12:01 a.m. EST
Few subjects matter as much as oil, the Persian Gulf and American foreign policy. But few subjects are less well understood. Even relatively sophisticated observers will attribute American interest in the Persian Gulf to Uncle Sam's insatiable thirst for crude, combined with an effort to gain lucrative contracts for American oil firms. The U.S. on this view is something like a global Count Dracula, roaming the earth in search of fresh bodies, hoping to suck them dry.
True, the security of America's oil supply has been an element in national strategic thinking at least since Franklin Roosevelt met with King Abdul Aziz in the waning days of World War II. And true, the U.S. government has never been indifferent to the concerns of the major oil concerns. But the security of our domestic energy supplies plays a relatively small role in America's Persian Gulf policy, and the purely commercial interests of American companies do not drive American grand strategy.
The U.S. today depends on the Middle East for only a small portion of its energy supplies. Still the world's third largest oil producer and holding large coal reserves, America is significantly less dependent on foreign energy sources than the other great economies. Imports account for 35% of U.S. energy consumption versus 56% for the European Union and 80% for Japan. Nearly half the oil and all the natural gas imported by the U.S. comes from the Western Hemisphere; sub-Saharan Africa supplies most of the balance. Only 17% of U.S. oil imports and less than 0.5% of our natural gas come from the Persian Gulf; 80% of Japan's imports come from the Gulf, and by 2015 70% of China's oil will come from the same source.
While U.S. import needs are projected to grow significantly, U.S. dependence on Persian Gulf energy is not, thanks largely to expected production increases in the Western Hemisphere and sub-Saharan Africa. U.S. energy imports from the Persian Gulf are expected to remain below 20% of total consumption. The oil market, of course, is global, and if something were to happen to the Middle Eastern supplies, prices would rise world-wide, and the U.S. economy would be seriously disrupted. But domestic supply is not the key to American interest in the Gulf.
For the past few centuries, a global economic and political system has been slowly taking shape under first British and then American leadership. As a vital element of that system, the leading global power--with help from allies and other parties--maintains the security of world trade over the seas and air while also ensuring that international economic transactions take place in an orderly way. Thanks to the American umbrella, Germany, Japan, China, Korea and India do not need to maintain the military strength to project forces into the Middle East to defend their access to energy. Nor must each country's navy protect the supertankers carrying oil and liquefied national gas (LNG).
For this system to work, the Americans must prevent any power from dominating the Persian Gulf while retaining the ability to protect the safe passage of ships through its waters. The Soviets had to be kept out during the Cold War, and the security and independence of the oil sheikdoms had to be protected from ambitious Arab leaders like Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser and Iraq's Saddam Hussein. During the Cold War Americans forged alliances with Turkey, Israel and (until 1979) Iran, three non-Arab states that had their own reasons for opposing both the Soviets and any pan-Arab state.
When the fall of the shah of Iran turned a key regional ally into an implacable foe, the U.S. responded by tightening its relations with both Israel and Turkey--while developing a deeper relationship with Egypt, which had given up on Nasser's goal of unifying all the Arabs under its flag.
Today the U.S. is building a coalition against Iran's drive for power in the Gulf. Israel, a country which has its own reasons for opposing Iran, remains an important component in the American strategy, but the U.S. must also manage the political costs of this relationship as it works with the Sunni Arab states. American opposition to Iran's nuclear program not only reflects concerns about Israeli security and the possibility that Iran might supply terrorist groups with nuclear materials. It also reflects the U.S. interest in protecting its ability to project conventional forces into the Gulf.
The end of America's ability to safeguard the Gulf and the trade routes around it would be enormously damaging--and not just to us. Defense budgets would grow dramatically in every major power center, and Middle Eastern politics would be further destabilized, as every country sought political influence in Middle Eastern countries to ensure access to oil in the resulting free for all.
The potential for conflict and chaos is real. A world of insecure and suspicious great powers engaged in military competition over vital interests would not be a safe or happy place. Every ship that China builds to protect the increasing numbers of supertankers needed to bring oil from the Middle East to China in years ahead would also be a threat to Japan's oil security--as well as to the oil security of India and Taiwan. European cooperation would likely be undermined as well, as countries sought to make their best deals with Russia, the Gulf states and other oil rich neighbors like Algeria.
America's Persian Gulf policy is one of the chief ways through which the U.S. is trying to build a peaceful world and where the exercise of American power, while driven ultimately by domestic concerns and by the American national interest, provides vital public goods to the global community. The next American president, regardless of party and regardless of his or her views about the wisdom of George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq, will necessarily make the security of the Persian Gulf states one of America's very highest international priorities.
Mr. Mead is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of the recently published "God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World" (Knopf, 2007).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Guide, part two
on: January 02, 2008, 09:31:30 AM
In a sense, we are the Mahsuds. The Wazirs ached with humiliation at the loss of their dominance. Their grudge against the Mahsuds stemmed far more from Waziri decline than from any specific complaint. Even as the Mahsuds were scapegoated for the Wazirs' diminishment, America and the West have been blamed for world-wide Muslim decline. Addressing Muslim "grievances" won't solve this problem, because the professed grievances didn't start the jihad to begin with.
Mr. Ahmed is clearly embarrassed by the Wazirs' intra-Muslim jihad against the Mahsuds. Foreshadowing his later apologetics, he is at pains to distinguish between "authentic" Islam and Noor Muhammad's seemingly bogus claim of Mahsud infidelity--a claim obviously rooted in narrow tribal rivalry and interest. In his recent work, Mr. Ahmed puts much of what seems warlike or problematic in traditional Muslim society into the "tribal" basket, segregating out a supposedly pure and peaceful Islam. There is some justification for this procedure. Middle Eastern conceptions of honor, marriage practices, female seclusion, revenge and much else can fairly be understood as practices with tribal roots, rather than formal Islamic commandments. Reformist Muslims therefore make a point of separating the tribal dross from authentic Islamic teachings.
Yet there is clearly some sort of "elective affinity" between Islam, in the strict sense, and tribal social life. The two levels interact and interpenetrate, leaving the boundaries undefined. Pushtuns who set out to avenge purely personal offences will dress and scent themselves as if embarking on jihad. So a given theologian's "true" Islam is one thing; "actual existing" Islam on the ground is another. Noor Muhammad's jihad against Muslims he judged to be infidels turns out to be representative of the new religious wave, and reflects a complex and longstanding Muslim synthesis between theology and tribalism. Nor was the mullah's accusation of Mahsud infidelity without resonance. He accurately identified the modernist thread that united his immediate tribal enemies, the developing state of Pakistan, and ultimately the West itself.
If Islamist rebellion and narrow tribal interest are difficult to disentangle, the opportunity to separate them is the key to America's sophisticated new counterinsurgency strategy (actually a rediscovery of classic British and Pakistani strategies for dealing with Muslim tribes). Inveterate Wazir/Mahsud rivalry was the single greatest weakness of the tribes throughout the British era in Waziristan. The British ignored tribal feuding when the stakes were small. Yet if one tribe seemed at risk of gaining a permanent upper hand, the Brits intervened to keep opponents more or less equally at each other's throats. And since nearly every clan troublemaker has rival kin, the P.A. cultivated multiple factions, so as to play one off against the other. Under Pakistan, the tribes have sometimes turned this game against the government, playing a sympathetic official (often a fellow Pashtun) against a rival administrator.
America's new counterinsurgency strategy seeks to appeal to tribal interests, as a way of breaking the link between al Qaeda's global jihad and its erstwhile Sunni allies in Iraq. So far the new strategy has helped to stabilize Anbar and other rebellious tribal regions in Iraq. The danger is that the tribal winds will shift, and our military will likely come under constant pressure to favor one tribal faction or another. If mishandled, this could drive less favored clans back into enemy hands. Tribal politics can be mastered, yet it requires a constant presence. And learning to play the tribal game is very different from establishing a genuine democracy, which would mean transcending the game itself.
Can America or Pakistan adopt this new strategy in Waziristan itself--breaking the link between al Qaeda and the tribal coalition now united against us in jihad? Theoretically this is possible, yet the outlook is far from ideal. Al Qaeda has already murdered many of Waziristan's maliks. (Mullah Noor Muhammad rose to power in the '70s on assassination threats and violence against traditional maliks.) Insofar as economic and educational change has penetrated Pakistan's tribal areas, it seems to have undercut the basis for creating a new generation of government-friendly maliks, and fed into a populist Islamist revolt instead. Nevertheless, there are unconfirmed reports that America and Pakistan are even now exploiting latent tensions between al Qaeda and the Taliban in Waziristan.
In the 1970s, once Noor Muhammad's combination Islamist rebellion/tribal war got out of hand, Pakistan was forced to crush it. The army bulldozed Wana's thriving traditional market, turning the Wazirs' most important trading center into little more than freshly plowed ground. Tipped off, the mullah took to the hills. Employing tactics reminiscent of Britain's original P.A.s, Pakistan seized his followers' property and systematically blew up their homes and encampments. After three months of this, the disheveled mullah and his followers came down from the hills and surrendered. Nowadays, burning a thriving Waziristan marketplace to the ground and blowing up civilian settlements as ways of getting to Osama bin Laden would doubtless elicit global howls of protest. Yet far from the glare of international publicity, Pakistan once freely employed such tactics.
When, a couple of years after the destruction of Wana's market, Mr. Ahmed took over as P.A., the defeated Wazirs were looking to restore their lost honor and prove their loyalty to Pakistan. Trained as an anthropologist and convinced he could use the Pushtun's code of honor to good effect, he decided to give the Wazirs their chance. Breaking with established agency precedents, he placed his own life at risk by taking regular evening strolls around Wana without bodyguards. Mr. Ahmed could easily have been kidnapped and held in exchange for the imprisoned mullah's release, but the Wazirs left him untouched. Mr. Ahmed then visited the Wazirs' holiest shrine, on the far border with Afghanistan--territory where no P.A. had ever set foot. As a guest of the Wazirs, he once again staked his own life and honor on the Pushtunwali of his Wazir hosts. In this way, he both pacified the Wazirs and extended Pakistan's writ in Waziristan further than it had ever gone. He even managed to coax a number of the region's storied "Robin Hoods" into surrender.
Based on these impressive successes, Mr. Ahmed concludes in his book that despite their reputation for violence and double-dealing, tribesmen can be peaceably governed within the terms of their own code of honor, if only they are given the chance. He regards solving tribal problems through military action as a sign of failure. Unfortunately, despite his considerable insight, his optimistic conclusions far outrun the terms of his own account.
Mr. Ahmed was the consummate good cop, in the right place at the right time. His ability to use the Pushtunwali code to evoke the best in the Wazirs clearly depended upon the army's violent actions in Wana two years before. Even the cross-border miscreants talked into surrender were balancing the refuge and respect he promised against the substantial dangers of living under the Soviets, who had entered Afghanistan during Mr. Ahmed's term. The former P.A. acknowledges some of this in passing, yet his unrelievedly sunny conclusions about tribal governance don't begin to acknowledge the depth of his own dependence on Soviet and Pakistani bad cops for success. His account has much to teach us. The honor code can indeed serve to offset and minimize tribal violence, and that effect can be encouraged by wise rule. But taken alone, Mr. Ahmed's analysis and prescriptions are dangerously misleading and incomplete.
The thesis of his next book, "Islam Under Siege," was an extension of the analysis presented in "Resistance and Control in Pakistan." The Muslim world as a whole is suffering from a loss of dignity and honor, Mr. Ahmed argues. As mass-scale urbanization, uneven economic development, migration and demographic expansion undercut traditional social forms, the Muslim response has been to resist these changes and interpret them as outrages against collective honor. His solution was for the West to accept, support and ally with traditional Muslim society, thereby helping the Islamic world to recapture its lost sense of honor.
Mr. Ahmed's latest book, "Journey into Islam," is riven by tensions between the author's public battle against "Islamophobia" and his reluctant acknowledgment that the Islamist ascendancy might be worth fearing after all. "Journey Into Islam" is based on Mr. Ahmed's recent travels across the global Muslim community, and he bills this tour of the Muslim world (with American students in tow) as an "anthropological excursion." Yet constant coverage of his entourage in Middle Eastern media outlets likely gentled his interviewees' responses. Pictures of Mr. Ahmed and his smiling American students posing with friendly Muslims get the central message across. Unless one desperately wants to be persuaded that all is well, however, his reassurances fall flat.
The book's Panglossian facade is broken by a single, searingly powerful moment. Mr. Ahmed's entourage visited Aligarh University in India, expecting to rediscover an academic beacon of Anglo-liberalism that had long and famously spread democratic values throughout India and Pakistan. Aligarh University shaped Mr. Ahmed himself in his youth, allowing him to synthesize his pride in Islam with a genuinely liberal and modern sensibility.
Yet moments after entering the Aligarh University campus, Mr. Ahmed and his American companions were surrounded by furious Muslim students praising bin Laden and raging at President Bush. Students came even closer to descending into mob violence here, at India's erstwhile bastion of Muslim liberalism, than they had during Mr. Ahmed's visit to Deoband, the acknowledged center of South Asian Islamism. This frightening, unexpected encounter at his beloved alma mater was clearly agonizing for Mr. Ahmed, and forced him to acknowledge the collapse of the "Aligarh model" of liberal Islam. "The nation-state and the Aligarh model are not a viable alternative in the Muslim world at present," he concedes sadly.
This is indeed a tragedy. Mr. Ahmed himself embodies another side of the Aligarh model's fate in today's world. Modern and liberal though he may be, he is unwilling to concede the need for fundamental reform within Islam. Instead of facing the evident incompatibility with modernity of core aspects of Muslim religious and social life, he reverts to sanitized accounts, accusations of Islamophobia, and complaints about American foreign policy. Although he bitterly resents the influence of Bernard Lewis on American conservatives, Mr. Ahmed periodically (and reluctantly) mimics Mr. Lewis's claim that Americans are being scapegoated for the Muslim world's own decline. Mr. Lewis's conviction that the use of force must be a key aspect of American foreign policy in the Middle East infuriates Mr. Ahmed. Yet, rightly understood, his own account in "Resistance and Control in Pakistan" confirms Mr. Lewis's insight. Without the destruction of the Wana market and the capture of Noor Muhammad, not to mention the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Mr. Ahmed's gentle, honor-based rule in Waziristan would not have been possible.
In a sense, global Islam is now Waziristan writ large. Mr. Ahmed rightly spots tribal themes of honor and solidarity throughout the Muslim world--even in places where tribal social organization per se has receded. Literally and figuratively, Waziristan now seeks to awaken the tribal jihadist side of the global Muslim soul. This has effectively thrust the leaders of the Western world into the role of British and Pakistani P.A.s (a famously exhausting job, Mr. Ahmed reminds us). With technological advance having placed once-distant threats at our doorstep, the West may soon resemble South Waziristan's perpetually besieged encampment at Wana. Perhaps it already does. Yet Waziristan was ruled indirectly, without ordinary law or policing. Preventing terror plots and the development of weapons of mass destruction requires a more active hand.
Muslim society will have to reform far more profoundly than Akbar Ahmed concedes if the worst is to be avoided. Our best option may be to reintroduce somehow the Aligarh University tradition of liberal learning and merit-based employment (independent of kinship ties) to the Muslim world. With our strategy in Iraq now reinforcing tribalism, the obvious front to try this is Europe, where concerted efforts must be made to assimilate Muslims to Western values. Globalization may then work for us, as cultural changes bounce back to the Middle East.
Even in the best case, we face a long-term struggle. Simmering tensions between modernity and Muslim social life are coming to a head. Yet all our present recent schemes are patchwork. And someday, perhaps at the peak of a post-emergency civil war between the army and the Islamists in Pakistan, the military steamroller may be called upon to settle the Waziristan problem once and for all. Who knows if, even then, it will work.
Mr. Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A guide to the wilds of NW Pak
on: January 02, 2008, 09:30:41 AM
Second post of the day:
Tribes of Terror
A guide to the wilds of northwest Pakistan.
BY STANLEY KURTZ
Wednesday, January 2, 2008 12:01 a.m. EST
Lord Curzon, Britain's viceroy of India and foreign secretary during the initial decades of the 20th century, once declared:
No patchwork scheme--and all our present recent schemes . . . are mere patchwork--will settle the Waziristan problem. Not until the military steam-roller has passed over the country from end to end, will there be peace. But I do not want to be the person to start that machine.
Nowadays, this region of what is today northwest Pakistan is variously called "Al Qaedastan," "Talibanistan" or, more properly, the "Islamic Emirate of Waziristan." Pakistan gave up South Waziristan to the Taliban in spring 2006, after taking heavy casualties in a failed four-year campaign to consolidate control of this fierce tribal region. By the fall, Pakistan had effectively abandoned North Waziristan. The nominal truce--actually closer to a surrender--was signed in a soccer stadium, beneath al Qaeda's black flag.
Having recovered the safe haven once denied them by America's invasion of Afghanistan, al Qaeda and the Taliban have gathered the diaspora of the world-wide Islamist revolution into Waziristan. Slipping to safety from Tora Bora, Osama bin Laden himself almost certainly escaped across its border. Now Muslim punjabis who fight the Indian army in Kashmir, Chechen opponents of Russia, and many more Islamist terror groups congregate, recuperate, train and confer in Waziristan. This past fall's terror plotters in Germany and Denmark allegedly trained in Waziristan, as did those who hoped to hijack trans-Atlantic planes leaving from Britain's Heathrow Airport in 2006. The crimson currents flowing across what Samuel Huntington once famously dubbed "Islam's bloody borders" now seem to emanate from Waziristan.
Slowly but surely, the Islamic Emirate's writ is pushing beyond Waziristan itself, to encompass other sections of Pakistan's mountainous tribal regions--thereby fueling the ongoing insurgency across the border in Afghanistan. With a third of Pakistanis in a recent poll expressing favorable views of al Qaeda, and 49% registering favorable opinions of local jihadi terror groups, the Islamic Emirate of Waziristan may yet conquer Pakistan. Fear of a widening Islamist rebellion in this nuclear-armed state was Gen. Pervez Musharraf's stated reason for the recent imposition of a state of emergency. And in fact Osama bin Laden publicly called for the overthrow of Mr. Musharraf's government this past September. It is for fear of provoking such a disastrous revolt that we have so far dared not loose the American military steamroller in Waziristan. When Lord Curzon hesitated to start up the British military machine, he was revolving in his mind the costs and consequences of the great 1857 Indian "Mutiny" and of an 1894 jihadist revolt in South Waziristan. Surely, Curzon would have appreciated our dilemma today.
Foreign journalists are now banned in Waziristan, and most local reporters have fled in fear for their lives. Because scholars have long neglected this famously inhospitable region, Waziristan remains a dark spot, and America remains proportionately ignorant of the forces we confront in the terror war. Yet an extraordinary if neglected window onto the inner workings of life in Waziristan does exist--a modern book, with deep roots in the area's colonial past.
The British solution in Waziristan was to rule indirectly, through sympathetic tribal maliks (elders), who received preferred treatment and financial support. By treaty and tradition, the laws of what was then British India governed only 100 yards on either side of Waziristan's main roads. Beyond that, the maliks and tribal custom ruled. Yet Britain did post a representative in Waziristan, a "political agent" or "P.A.," whose headquarters was protected by an elite military force, and who enjoyed extraordinary powers to reward cooperative maliks and to punish offenders. The political agent was authorized to arrest and jail the male kin of miscreants on the run (particularly important given the organization of Waziristan's tribes around male descent groups). And in special cases, the political agent could blockade and even destroy entire settlements. After achieving independence in 1947, Pakistan followed this British scheme, indirectly governing its many tribal "agencies" and posting P.A.s who enjoyed the same extraordinary powers as under the British.
Akbar Ahmed, a British-trained social anthropologist, served as Pakistan's P.A. in South Waziristan from 1978 through 1980. Drawing on his academic background and political experience, he has written a fascinating book about his days as "king" (as the tribesmen used to call the political agent). First published in 1983 under the title "Religion and Politics in Muslim Society," the book was reissued in 1991, and revised and released again in 2004, each time under the title "Resistance and Control in Pakistan." Its obscure title and conventional academic introductory chapters explain why it has been neglected. Yet that neglect is a serious mistake. Given Waziristan's newfound status as the haven and headquarters of America's global enemies, Mr. Ahmed's book is an indispensable guide to thinking through the past and anticipating the future of the war on terror. In addition to shedding new and unexpected light on the origins of the Taliban, "Resistance and Control in Pakistan" offers what is, in effect, a philosophy of rule in Muslim tribal societies--a conception of government that has direct relevance to our struggle to stabilize Iraq.
Since completing the book, Mr. Ahmed, a devout Muslim who holds a chair in Islamic studies and is a professor of international relations at American University, has gone on to write several works analyzing the dilemmas of the Islamic world and explaining Muslim perspectives to Westerners. These include "Islam Under Siege" (2003) and his recently published "Journey Into Islam." For a time, he served as the high commissioner of Pakistan to Great Britain, and in a note at the end of "Journey Into Islam," he says that he coined the term "Islamophobia" shortly after taking that post.
Having once been tasked with governing the most notoriously unruly tribes in the Muslim world, Mr. Ahmed never entirely embraces the politically fashionable line. More than his academic colleagues in Middle East studies, he acknowledges the contribution of tribalism's violence and traditionalism to the Middle East's contemporary dilemmas. In fact, the story of the "king" of Waziristan's transformation into the man who coined the term "Islamophobia" reveals some extraordinary tensions and tragedies lurking beneath our polarized political debates.
The first thing that strikes the reader of "Resistance and Control in Pakistan" is the pervasive nature of political violence in South Waziristan. And here, in contrast to his later work, Mr. Ahmed himself is at pains to emphasize the point. A popular novelist of the British Raj called Waziristan tribesmen "physically the hardest people on earth." British officers considered them among the finest fighters in the world. During the 1930s Waziristan's troublesome tribesmen forced the British to station more troops in that agency than in the remainder of the Indian subcontinent. In more settled agricultural areas of Pakistan's tribal Northwest Frontier Province, Mr. Ahmed says, adults, children and soldiers mill about comfortably in the open, while women help their men in the fields. No guns are visible. But arid Waziristan is a collection of silent, fortresslike settlements. Women are invisible, men carry guns, and desolation rules the countryside.
Even in ordinary times, from the British era through the present, the political agent's headquarters at Wana in South Waziristan wears the air of a fortress under perpetual siege. Five British political agents died in Waziristan. Mr. Ahmed reports that during a visit to Wana by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1976, the entourage of Pakistan's prime minister was kept nervously awake most of the night by machine gun and rifle fire from the surrounding hills. In short, the Wana encampment in South Waziristan seems like nothing so much as a century-old version of Baghdad's Green Zone.
Politics in Waziristan is inseparable from violence. A British official once called firing on government officers the local "equivalent for presenting a petition." Sniping, explosions on government property, and kidnappings are common enough to necessitate continuous military protection for political officials. And the forms of routinized political violence extend well beyond direct attacks on government personnel.
Because government allowances are directed to tribal elders who control violent troublemakers in their own ranks, ambitious maliks have reason to insure that such outlaws do in fact emerge. Waziristan's many "Robin Hoods," who make careers out of kidnapping even non-government officials and holding them for ransom, are simultaneously encouraged and controlled by local maliks. This double game allows the clans to profit from their own capacity for causing trouble, while also establishing a violence valve, so to speak, through which they can periodically convey displeasure with the administration. "To create a problem, control it, and terminate it is an acknowledged and highly regarded yardstick of political skill," writes Mr. Ahmed. For the most part, income in Waziristan is derived from "political activity such as raiding settled districts" and "allowances from the administration for good behavior." Unfortunately, a people that petitions by sniper fire seems poorly suited to democratic citizenship.
In his later work, Mr. Ahmed's insight into the subtle choreography of tribal violence dissolves in a haze of cultural apologetics. In "Islam Under Siege," for example, he argues that Americans misunderstand what they see when Afghan tribesmen fire rifles into the sky, or store ammunition and weapons in caves. Although Americans associate these actions with terrorism, Mr. Ahmed calmly explains that firing into the sky is simply a mark of celebration at birth and marriage. Weapons storage, he reassures his readers, is merely "insurance against tribal rivalries." But is there not some connection between the resort to terror tactics, on the one hand, and societies characterized by violent tribal rivalry and demonstrative gunfire, on the other?
The connection arises from the way Middle Eastern tribes are organized. These tribes are giant lineages, traced from male ancestors, which subdivide into tribal segments, which in turn divide into clans, subclans and so on, down to families, in which cousins may be pitted against cousins, or brother against brother. Traditionally existing outside the police powers of the state, Middle Eastern tribes keep order through a complex balance of power between these ever-fusing and -dividing ancestral groups. (Anthropologists call such tribes "segmentary lineages.")
In such tribes, the central institution is the feud. Absent state policing, security depends on the willingness of every adult male in a given family, clan, tribe, etc., to take up arms in its defense. An attack on a lineage-mate must be avenged by the entire group. Likewise, any lineage member is liable to be killed for an offense committed by a relative, just as all lineage members would collectively share in compensation should peace be made (through, say, a tribal council or the mediation of a holy man). Tribal feuding and segmentation allow society to keep a rough (sometimes very rough) peace in the absence of a state. Conversely, societies with strong tribal components tend to have weak states.
A powerful code of honor ties the system together. Among the Pushtun tribes that populate Waziristan and much of Afghanistan, that code is called "Pushtunwali." Avenging lineage honor is only one aspect of Pushtunwali. The code also mandates that hospitality and sanctuary be provided to any stranger requesting them. Thus a means is provided whereby, in the absence of a state, zones of security are established for travelers. Yet the system is based on an ever-shifting balance of terror which turns friends into enemies, and back again into friends, in a heartbeat. And this ethos of honor writes violent revenge and collective guilt deep into the cultural psyche. Although the British political agents who learned to live with Pushtunwali generally lionized it, Winston Churchill condemned it as a "system of ethics, which regards treachery and violence as virtues rather than vices." In any case, the dynamics of the war on terror are easily recognizable as an extension of this tribal system of collective guilt, honor, humiliation and revenge.
The years immediately prior to Mr. Ahmed's term as South Waziristan's P.A. saw the rise and seeming collapse of an Islamist rebellion that, in retrospect, clearly stands as a precursor to the Taliban. Led by a mullah named Noor Muhammad, the movement was crushed by Pakistan's army in 1976. Armed with documentary resources, including access to the personal diary of Noor Muhammad, Mr. Ahmed takes us through the riveting story of this uprising.
On the one hand, the mullah's rebellion was classically Islamist. He established a traditional madrassah (religious school) in South Waziristan, whose students, or talibs (whence the word "Taliban"), were among the rebellion's core supporters. He criticized Pakistan's government for failing to adopt Islamic law, forbade the use of "un-Islamic" innovations, like the radio, and had violators of his various prohibitions beaten. Yet these familiar Islamist features were built upon a tribal foundation. The mullah's ascent was due, in part, to his ability to mediate tribal feuds.
South Waziristan is populated by two major tribes, the Wazirs and the Mahsuds. (A century ago the Mahsuds were part of the Wazirs, but have since split off and gained their own identity.) The Mahsuds traditionally outnumbered the Wazirs and were at least relatively more integrated into modern society. After Pakistan gained independence in 1947, a few Mahsuds moved to "settled areas" and entered school. Many of these made their way into government service, thus connecting the Mahsuds to influential bureaucratic networks. Others started businesses, which brought a modern source of wealth to the tribe.
Noor Muhammad's ability to resolve tribal feuds, at a time when the Wazirs felt intense humiliation in the face of rising Mahsud power and wealth, turned him into a symbol of Wazir honor. Under the mullah's leadership, the Wazirs effectively declared a jihad against both the government of Pakistan and the Mahsuds, demanding a separate tribal agency for themselves. Properly speaking, of course, a jihad can be fought only against non-Muslims. The mullah solved this problem by declaring the Mahsuds to be infidels--a tribe of toadies to an un-Islamic Pakistani regime--who had sold out their Wazir cousins for government allowances and debased modern ways. Of course, this accusation of infidelity is exactly how al Qaeda and the Taliban justify their attacks on fellow Muslims today.
Notice, too, that Noor Muhammad's movement developed in the early '70s, well before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. The rise of the Taliban is often ascribed to "blowback" from CIA support of Pakistani Islamists who fought the Soviets in the 1980s. Mr. Ahmed's account shows that simplistic "blame America" theories cannot hold. Critics of the blowback argument rightly note that America had no other means of fighting the Soviet invasion than to work through the Pakistani government, which for its own reasons needed to deploy Islamist proxies. (Supporting Pushtun nationalist proxies, the only other option, would have played into the hands of those in Afghanistan and India seeking to dismember Pakistan.) The problem is that this entire debate passes over the deeper social sources of the contemporary Islamist ascendancy.
Mr. Ahmed argues that the mullah's insurrection was "generated by Muslim actors as a result of internal tensions in society." And at one level, this proto-Taliban movement was deeply traditional. Mullah-led tribal rebellions have a long history, not only in Waziristan but in Muslim society as a whole. The great 14th-century philosopher-sociologist Ibn Khaldun famously described a cyclical process in which, unified by a righteous mullah, fierce outlying tribes conquer an effete and corrupt state. Over time the new set of ruling tribesmen falls into luxury, disunity and corruption, and is in turn overthrown by another coalition of the righteous. These rebellions generally fuse an Islamic aspect with some narrower tribal interest, and the Wazirs' jihad against an allegedly "infidel" rival tribe certainly fits the bill.
There may be at least something new under that harsh Waziristan sun, however. Modernity's manifold economic opportunities seem to supercharge traditional tribal resentment at substantial disparities of wealth and status. And paradoxically, modern wealth also subverts such shallow internal tribal hierarchies as once existed, with explosive results.
Following the oil boom of the 1970s, Wazirs and Mahsuds alike migrated to the Persian Gulf to work the oil fields and send their remittances back home. Maliks from the most prestigious tribal lineages initially resisted the call of migration. So the oil boom created an opening that "depressed lineages" happily filled. By the time the maliks began to send their sons to the Gulf, intratribal disparities of wealth and influence were disappearing.
So while the Mahsuds had outpaced the Wazirs, the power of maliks was waning among the Wazirs themselves. Now the Wazirs could afford to throw off those pliant elders who had taken and distributed British and later the Pakistan government's pelf; and by supporting a radical mullah, the restive tribe could feed its resentment of both the government and the Mahsuds.
As Mr. Ahmed notes, and in pointed contrast to the "poverty theory" of Islamism, modern education and wealth seem to have sparked this early Islamist rebellion. Instead of spurring further development, economic opportunities have fed the traditionalist reaction. Waziristan's tribesmen understand full well that their rulers mean to transform their way of life, thereby "taming" them through the seductions of education and modern forms of wealth. While some have accepted the trade, the majority consciously reject it. During the colonial period, education was despised as an infidel plot. In the 1970s, conservative tribesmen systematically destroyed electrical poles, which were seen as a threat to Waziristan's isolation and therefore to the survival of traditional Pushtun culture. Economic development might well "tame" these tribesmen, yet poverty is less the cause of their warlike ways than the result of a deliberate decision to preserve their traditional way of life--their Pushtun honor--even at material cost.
The Islamist revolution is a conscious choice--an act of cultural self-defense against the intrusions and seductions of an alien world. Although the social foundations of the traditional Muslim way of life have been shaken, they are far from broken. So long as these social foundations cohere, advancing globalization will provoke more rebellion, not less--whatever America decides to do in Iraq and beyond. The root of the problem is neither domestic poverty nor American foreign policy, but the tension between Muslim social life and globalizing modernity itself.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / What we want in a President
on: January 02, 2008, 09:17:52 AM
What We Want in a President
Ruthlessness is important when it comes to foreign enemies. Charity is essential for domestic opponents.
BY LAWRENCE B. LINDSEY
Wednesday, January 2, 2008 12:01 a.m. EST
In the next six weeks Americans are going to pick the two finalists in the long job search for the most important CEO position on the planet. As someone who has served in three White Houses and been a Federal Reserve governor during a fourth, I have become a firm believer that the character traits someone brings to the job are more important than the issue papers or debate sound bites that get so much attention in the primaries.
Consider two examples. In December, Joe Trippi, a strategist for John Edwards, noted that polls showed a quarter of Barack Obama's own supporters did not think he would be qualified to be president. This says little about Mr. Obama, but it does say a lot about the process. These voters are not choosing someone to lead the country; they are trying to send a message about their own personal frustrations, or perhaps about another candidate.
Or consider the comments of a friend of mine and active fund-raiser about Fred Thompson, who is my choice. My friend agreed that Mr. Thompson was smart and well informed and had good judgment. But he felt that Republicans should definitely not nominate him because he was temperamentally unsuited to the campaign trail. Mr. Thompson probably would rather discuss the nuances of issues than shake hands or write thank-you notes to donors, two skills very important to the running. Polls now suggest my friend may be right. If so, all it means is that the process of selecting a president has little to do with the skills needed for the job.
By its very nature, the presidency involves a lot of on-the-job training. Some of our presidents have had to come up to speed quite quickly.
For example, John F. Kennedy faced the Bay of Pigs fiasco after just a few weeks on the job. No one would argue that he handled it well. Some serious historians have noted the links between that performance and our involvement in Vietnam (having "lost" in Cuba, he was determined not to let it happen again), not to mention the Cuban Missile Crisis just 18 months later. Kennedy is remembered fondly for bringing style, grace and humor to the White House--wedged between the boring Eisenhower and his graceless successors, Johnson and Nixon. But he was still learning on the job at a time when nuclear annihilation was a real possibility. Still more amazingly, with 14 years in Congress, Kennedy had far more national political experience than many now seeking the job.
As president, there is a lot to learn both factually and about the process of governing. Beginning on day one, he or she will have to confront a bureaucracy and a media establishment that has its own agenda, to hire expert advisers and administrators on a whole host of foreign and domestic policy issues, and to structure the whole operation in a way that carries out the will of the people. Our job as voters should be to select someone who will (1) know what he or she doesn't know, (2) get up to speed quickly, and (3) avoid making serious mistakes in the meantime.
A process driven by 30-second commercials prepared by the candidates themselves, and so-called debates that ask candidates to explain in 60 seconds how they would bring about world peace or national prosperity, does not help. Nor does media coverage that focuses on whose commercials are moving polling points and who performed well in the last inane debate.
But we voters can still do a respectable job in the CEO selection process. Obviously ideology and our visceral reactions to the candidates matter, since they are also part of job performance. There are, however, three other questions about a candidate's character that are likely to shed some light on whether that candidate will do well in the on-the-job training school of the Oval Office. These questions have nothing to do with party or ideology.
First, has the candidate faced a crisis or overcome a major setback in his or her life? A president's first crisis will teach two important lessons. The first is that bad things happen, in fact they happen on a regular basis. The second is that the real power of the office to affect, let alone control, events is far less than imagined. If the occupant of the Oval Office has faced this double whammy--encountering a tragedy involving events over which he or she has had little control, yet finding a way to persevere--the new president is far more likely to succeed.
Harry Truman, who made some of the toughest decisions of any president, overcame business failure. Teddy Roosevelt lost his first wife after childbirth. On the other hand, someone who got straight A's, never got turned down for a date, was never fired from a job or defeated in an election, is going to have a very rude awakening. The average voter can research this personal history quite easily.
Second, has the candidate had a variety of life experiences? The presidency is a job for a generalist. You never know what direction a crisis will come from: foreign threats, economic calamity, civil unrest. It might even be a biological pandemic that involves all three at the same time.
A variety of life experiences or careers helps a person to understand that actions which make sense in one framework may have unintended consequences elsewhere. It also increases the chances that a president will think creatively and not get boxed in, and gain control of events rather than be controlled by them.
By contrast, someone who has only been an elected official is likely to interpret problems only in a political context. Again, whether a candidate has had a variety of experiences is something the average voter can easily discern.
Third, can the candidate tell the difference between a foreign enemy and a political opponent? A certain degree of ruthlessness is a necessary attribute for any successful CEO or president. But our liberty, which is ultimately our nation's greatest resource, requires that a president restrain this trait when acting domestically.
We should seek an individual who is ruthless about protecting us against others, but acts with charity toward all and malice toward none at home: a tall order. But this trait comes out on the campaign trail, and in the past job performances of the candidates. We should opt for candidates who are ruthless in debating real public policy issues but steer away from attacking the personal traits of their opponents.
No candidate is going to be perfect, and reasonable people can differ about whether a certain candidate possesses each of these traits. But these are a good filter.
Johnson and Nixon would never have passed the last two tests, and in Nixon's case, the line about not having "Nixon to kick around any more" was a sign he couldn't handle setbacks well. By contrast, Reagan had a variety of life experiences, and mastered the difference between domestic opponents and foreign enemies marvelously. He was also gracious in his defeat in 1976. Franklin Roosevelt's polio undoubtedly helped make him a success as president; and although ruthless, he also knew how to have a bipartisan cabinet and war effort.
Ultimately, when we make up our minds we should think about the qualities the candidate would bring to the Oval Office--and not just whether or not they would make a good candidate.
Mr. Lindsey is author of "What a President Should Know . . .. but Most Learn Too Late," which will be published by Rowman & Littlefield this month.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Tech Sales to China
on: January 02, 2008, 09:00:01 AM
Marx wrote of the last capitalist selling the rope to the executioner who would hang him, or something to that effect.
Eased Rules on Tech Sales to China Questioned
By STEVEN R. WEISMAN
Published: January 2, 2008
WASHINGTON — Six months ago, the Bush administration quietly eased some restrictions on the export of politically delicate technologies to China. The new approach was intended to help American companies increase sales of high-tech equipment to China despite tight curbs on sharing technology that might have military applications.
But today the administration is facing questions from weapons experts about whether some equipment — newly authorized for export to Chinese companies deemed trustworthy by Washington — could instead end up helping China modernize its military. Equally worrisome, the weapons experts say, is the possibility that China could share the technology with Iran or Syria.
The technologies include advanced aircraft engine parts, navigation systems, telecommunications equipment and sophisticated composite materials.
The questions raised about the new policy are in a report to be released this week by the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, an independent research foundation that opposes the spread of arms technologies.
The administration’s new approach is part of an overall drive to require licenses for the export of an expanded list of technologies in aircraft engines, lasers, telecommunications, aircraft materials and other fields of interest to China’s military.
But while imposing license requirements for the transfer of these technologies, the administration is also validating certain Chinese companies that may import these technologies without licenses.
Five such companies were designated in October, but as many as a dozen others are in the pipeline for possible future designation.
Mario Mancuso, under secretary of Commerce for industry and security, said the new system of broadening the list of technologies that require licenses, but exempting some trustworthy companies from the license requirement, results in more effective protections.
“We believe that the system we have set up ensures that we are protecting our national security consistent with our goal of promoting legitimate exports for civilian use,” he said in an interview. “We have adopted a consistent, broad-based approach to hedging against helping China’s military modernization.”
But the Wisconsin Project report, made available to The New York Times, asserts that two nonmilitary Chinese companies designated as trustworthy are in fact high risk because of links to the Chinese government, the People’s Liberation Army and other Chinese entities accused in the past of ties to Syria and Iran.
One of the Chinese companies, the BHA Aero Composites Company, is partly owned by two American companies — 40 percent by the American aircraft manufacturer Boeing and 40 percent by the aerospace materials maker Hexcel. The remaining 20 percent is owned by a Chinese government-owned company, AVIC I, or the China Aviation Industry Corporation I.
“In principle, you could find companies that would be above suspicion, but in this case they haven’t done it,” said Gary Milhollin, director of the Wisconsin Project. “If you just look at the relations these companies have, rather than be above suspicion, they are highly suspicious.”
The Wisconsin Project report also charges that both Boeing and Hexcel have been cited for past lapses in obtaining proper licenses for exports.
Spokesmen for Boeing and Hexcel said in interviews that they are fully confident that BHA has no ties to the Chinese military and that its use of aircraft parts and materials were strictly for commercial and civilian ends.
“Boeing is not involved in any defense activities in China,” said Douglas Kennett, a company spokesman. “All our activities in China are in compliance with U.S. export laws and regulations.”
Both companies also say that the past failure to get proper licenses has led to tighter controls and, in any case, was the result of improper paperwork affecting products that continue to be exported as licensed.
Mr. Milhollin said that research by his staff had uncovered several links with the Chinese military establishment involving both BHA and another of the five companies, the Shanghai Hua Hong NEC Electronics Company.
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AVIC I, the Chinese government entity that owns a minority share of BHA, also produces fighters, nuclear-capable bombers and aviation weapons systems for the People’s Liberation Army, the report says. The State Department has cited another AVIC subsidiary, the China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corporation, for links to arms sales to Iran and Syria.
The report also says that Shanghai Hua Hong NEC Electronics is majority owned “through a corporate chain” by the China Electronics Corporation, which the report says is a government conglomerate that produces military equipment along with consumer electronics. It has a unit, the report says, that procures arms for the military.
Mr. Milhollin said that the new policy granting companies the right to import some technologies without prior licenses was adopted quietly as “a stealth attack on export controls.”
But Mr. Mancuso, the Commerce Department official who oversees the program, noted that the department proposed it publicly in mid-2006 and adopted it a year later after lengthy public comment by interested parties and members of Congress.
In addition, he said, no Chinese company can receive certain technologies — as part of a category known as “validated end-users” — without a vetting of its record by the State, Energy and Defense Departments and by relevant intelligence agencies. The five companies designated in October, he said, were approved without dissent by these units of the government.
In general, the Commerce Department tries to make it easier for American companies to export to markets overseas, and there has been a particular emphasis on selling to China. The United States is expected to show a trade deficit with China of nearly $300 billion in 2007.
At the same time, at least since the 1990s, Democratic and Republican Congressional leaders have called on the Bush administration, and the administration of President Bill Clinton, to exercise more vigilance toward China as it seeks to modernize its aerospace defense network.
“China is a huge market for our commercial technology exports,” said Mr. Mancuso. “Yet there are real security risks we are mindful of. We take that concern very, very seriously.” Only those companies that have “a demonstrable record of using sensitive technologies responsibly” are approved, he said.
Beyond that, he said companies for which licensing rules have been lifted are subject to additional disclosure obligations, including on-site visits by American government personnel.
Groups that advocate greater technology-sharing with China in civilian aeronautics and other areas say the administration has been cautious in its policy, choosing Chinese companies with American partners or owners.
The three other Chinese companies named “validated end-users” in October are Applied Materials China, a subsidiary of Applied Materials, a maker of semiconductors based in California; Chinese facilities operated by the National Semiconductor Corporation, another American company; and the Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation, based in Shanghai.
William A. Reinsch, head of the National Foreign Trade Council, which promotes international trade, said the administration over all had tightened controls on China and called the lifting of license requirements on only five firms “a spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down.”
Mr. Reinsch administered export controls as an official in the Clinton administration.
A House Republican staff member had a similar view. “We were told by Commerce that they were going to make some very safe choices,” he said, speaking anonymously because of the delicacy of the subject.
The Commerce Department says that, out of $55 billion in American exports to China in 2006, only $308 million were items requiring licenses to make sure the Chinese military could not use them. The five companies named as “validated” accounted for $54 million of those goods.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Wolves Rebound in Changing West
on: January 02, 2008, 08:47:33 AM
CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Sheltered for many years by federal species protection law, the gray wolves of the West are about to step out onto the high wire of life in the real world, when their status as endangered animals formally comes to an end early this year.
The so-called delisting is scheduled to begin in late March, almost five years later than federal wildlife managers first proposed, mainly because of human tussles here in Wyoming over the politics of managing the wolves.
Now changes during that time are likely to make the transition even more complicated. As the federal government and the State of Wyoming sparred in court over whether Wyoming’s hard-edged management plan was really a recipe for wolf eradication, as some critics said, the wolf population soared. (The reworked plan was approved by the federal government in November.)
During that period, many parts of the human West were changing, too. Where unsentimental rancher attitudes — that wolves were unwelcome predators, threatening the cattle economy — once prevailed, thousands of newcomers have moved in, buying up homesteads as rural retreats, especially near Yellowstone National Park, where the wolves began their recovery in 1995 and from which they have spread far and wide.
The result is that there are far more wolves to manage today than there once would have been five years ago — which could mean, biologists say, more killing of wolves just to keep the population in check. And that blood-letting might not be quite as popular as it once was.
“If they’d delisted when the numbers were smaller, the states would have been seen as heroes and good managers,” said Ed Bangs, the wolf recovery coordinator at the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. “Now people will say they’re murderers.”
Wolves are intelligent, adaptable, highly mobile in staking out new territory, and capable of rapid reproduction rates if food sources are good and humans with rifles or poison are kept in check by government gridlock — and that is precisely what happened.
From the 41 animals that were released inside Yellowstone from 1995 to 1997, mostly from Canada, the population grew to 650 wolves in 2002 and more than 1,500 today in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. The wolves have spread across an area twice the size of New York State and are growing at a rate of about 24 percent a year, according to federal wolf-counts.
Human head counts have also climbed in the same turf. From 1995 to 2005, a 25-county area, in three states, that centers on Yellowstone grew by 12 percent, to about 691,000 people, according to a report earlier this year by the Center for the Rocky Mountain West at the University of Montana. That compares to a 6 percent growth rate for Wyoming as a whole in that period, 7.5 percent for all of Montana, and 19 percent for Idaho. The wolf population has grown faster in Idaho than any place else in the region, doubling to about 800 in the past four years.
The director of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Terry Cleveland, said changes in economics and attitude were creating a profound wrinkle in the outlook for human-wolf relations. Mr. Cleveland, a 39-year-veteran with the department, said that many newcomers, who are more interested in breath-taking vistas than the price of feed-grain and calves, do not see wolves the way older residents do.
In the public comment period for Wyoming’s wolf plan, sizable majorities of residents in the counties near Yellowstone expressed opposition. Teton County, around Jackson Hole, led the way, with more than 95 percent of negative comment about the plan, according an analysis by the state. Many respondents feared that the plan would lead to more killing of wolves than necessary.
“It used to be, ‘Yeah, we live near wild animals,’ now it’s like, ‘Gosh, we need to manage them, and it’s the job of the state to do that,’ ” said Meg Daly, a writer in Jackson, who submitted a comment opposing the wolf plan and recently spoke to a reporter by telephone. Ms. Daly said she had lived in Wyoming as a child and moved back last year.
Many new land owners around Yellowstone have also barred the hunting of animals like elk on their property, sometimes, in a single pen stroke, closing off thousands of acres that Wyoming hunters had used for decades. Mr. Cleveland said he expected that those same “no trespassing” signs would be up and in force, creating de facto wolf sanctuaries, when wolf hunters or state wildlife managers started coming around this year. But the trend of land enclosure, Mr. Cleveland said, is probably not in the wolf’s long-term interest.
“As large ranches become less economically viable, the alternative is 40-acre subdivisions,” he said, “and that is not compatible with any kind of wildlife.”
Some advocates of wolf protection say that for all the talk of moderation and the nods to a changing ethos, old attitudes will take over once the gray wolf is delisted.
“I think it’s going to be open season,” said Suzanne Stone, a wolf specialist at Defenders of Wildlife, a national conservation group.
Ms. Stone said she thought the changes that led to federal approval of Wyoming’s wolf plan were mostly cosmetic.
Ms. Stone and others are concerned that the plan grants Wyoming something that no other state in the Yellowstone region received: the right to kill wolves at any time by any means across most of the state.
In the northwest corner near Yellowstone and in Idaho and Montana, wolves will be classified as trophy game animals and may be killed only in strictly controlled numbers by licensed hunters. In the 80 percent of Wyoming outside the Yellowstone area, however, wolves will be labeled predators, with no limits and no permits required to kill them.
The state has pledged to maintain at least 15 breeding pairs, or about 150 animals, in a five-county region around the park. The state now has about 362 wolves, according to the most recent estimates in late September.
That formulation sounds just about right to Chip Clouse.
“I support no wolves on private land, and right now we have wolves running rampant,” said Mr. Clouse, a rancher and a former outfitter in Cody, just east of Yellowstone, who has lived in Wyoming for 37 years. “They brought the wolves in for people to see on the public lands, in the park, and what has happened is that they have grown so many packs that they’re now impeding on people who are just trying to live and make a living on their own property.”
Joel DiPaola, a chef at a Jackson ski resort who arrived in Wyoming from Connecticut in the early 1990s, just before the wolves, said he thought much of the huffing and puffing about the animals was emotional and would make little difference.
“As the state was dragging its feet, the wolves were breeding and expanding,” Mr. DiPaola said. “It’s now going to be almost impossible to get rid of them even if they try. Once they seem to get a foothold and have a refuge in the parks, they’re here.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: January 02, 2008, 08:41:49 AM
Cleric’s chilling warning to UK
By OLIVER HARVEY
Chief Feature Writer
in Kahuta, Pakistan
Published: 31 Dec 2007
A FANATICAL Pakistani cleric told The Sun yesterday of his chilling dream to turn the world Muslim – by force if necessary.
Qari Hifzur Rehamn, 60, spoke openly of imposing Islamic law’s stoning and beheading on Britain – as Pakistan was rocked by unrest over the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.
He warned: “We want Islamic law for all Pakistan and then the world.
“We would like to do this by preaching. But if not then we would use force.”
Rehamn, 60, spoke in the Pakistani town of Kahuta as the call to prayer echoed over the dusty streets.
He is Imam of the town’s fundamentalist religious school or madrassa, where classes for kids as young as nine include Jihad or Holy War and barbaric punishments. His teachings are frightening enough. But his mosque lies in the shadow of the secret bunker where Pakistan produces nuclear weapons. And when asked if it would be right to nuke British infidels, he laughed and answered: “Probably.”
Rehamn, in a flowing grey beard and turban, explained Islamic, or Sharia Law as we sat surrounded by some of his 250 students.
He said: “Adulterers who are married should be buried in earth to the waist and stoned to death.
“Homosexuals must be killed – it’s the only way to stop them spreading. It should be by beheading or stoning, which the general public can do.
“Thieves should have their hands cut off. Women should remain indoors and films and pop music should be banned.”
So what does he think of Britain? The dad insisted: “The nonbelievers must be converted to Islam. Morals in your society, with women wearing revealing clothes, have gone wrong.”
Scary ... playground nuke
The spot where enriched uranium is produced for Pakistan’s 80 to 120 nuclear warheads is behind razor wire less than five miles from where we spoke. A dummy missile even sits in a children’s playground in Kahuta.
Only this month, doomed opposition leader Benazir Bhutto raised the spectre of al-Qaeda-linked Islamic militants seizing control of Pakistan’s nuclear warheads – and activity by radicals near Kahuta. Despite the efforts of politicians such as her to champion democracy, the country has long been a hotbed of Islamic extremism and there is no shortage of potential martyrs.
At the Red Mosque in the heart of the capital Islamabad, Maulana Mohavya Irshad, 24, stared coldly at me. He said: “I’m ready to become a suicide bomber and lay down my life for Islam. Democracy is wrong. Earth belongs to God and God’s law must be implemented.
“I hope Britain and the rest of the world will have Sharia Law this century. We will continue to sacrifice our lives to achieve this.”
Meanwhile, the al-Qaeda warlord accused of masterminding the death of Ms Bhutto, 54, has warned his 13,000-strong private army will fight to the death against any troops sent to seize him. Long-bearded Baitullah Mehsud, holed up in the bandit country of South Waziristan on the Afghan border, denied being behind Bhutto’s murder last Thursday in a suicide bomb attack in Rawalpindi.
But his cousin Shehryar Mehsud, 34, told The Sun: “Baitullah and the rest of us will fight to the last man. Our army of thousands of Muslim brothers is ready for Jihad against the infidels and against the infidel government in Pakistan. UK and America are the enemy number one of Islam. We have joined the Taliban troops fighting in Afghanistan and will continue Jihad until we liberate the country.”
The Pakistani government claims a phone-tap caught Mehsud, 34, and a cleric gloating over Bhutto’s death, calling it “spectacular”.
His cousin insisted: “Baitullah Mehsud is not involved in the killing of Western ally Benazir Bhutto. We did not kill her but she was against Islam and Islamic teachings.”
Another of his clan, Mohamad Ali Mehsud, 26, bragged to The Sun about Mehsud striking from his lair in Pakistan against British and US forces in Afghanistan.
Mohamad said: “Baitullah is cunning. He moves positions all the time and uses disguises. Many times he has survived by a whisker. His men cross into Afghanistan, fight infidel soldiers and steal laptops, mobile phones and money. They bribe the soldiers guarding the border to get back into Pakistan.”
But did Mehsud kill Bhutto? Mohamad said: “Baitullah didn’t like Bhutto’s lipstick and Western ways. But he didn’t kill her. He only kills men.” http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage...icle634210.ece
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison on Jefferson
on: January 02, 2008, 08:33:02 AM
"He was certainly one of the most learned men of the age. It may
be said of him as has been said of others that he was a "walking
Library," and what can be said of but few such prodigies, that
the Genius of Philosophy ever walked hand in hand with him."
-- James Madison (on Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Samuel
Harrison Smith, 4 November 1826)
Reference: The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Hunt, ed., vol. 9
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Islamo-fascismo en Latino America
on: January 01, 2008, 10:53:13 PM
Former New York Police Department detective and current polygraphist Ralph Nieves. (Photo by Patrick McCarthy, Photo by Patrick McCarthy)
BY ANTHONY M. DESTEFANO | email@example.com
Digg Del.icio.us Facebook Fark Google Newsvine Reddit Yahoo Print Reprints Post Comment Text size: Ralph Nieves, a wiry ex-NYPD narcotics detective, lived through the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, in Manhattan. That is why what he discovered about a particular part of Paraguay during a recent assignment there has so disturbed him.
Working under a U.S. government contract to carry out polygraph examinations of public officials in the country, Nieves said he discovered evidence of pervasive corruption among some police and military units.
It is a situation other law enforcement officials believe has contributed to parts of Paraguay being a terrorist haven where al-Qaida, Hezbollah and allied groups have been for years.
As a result, Paraguay's borders with Brazil and Argentina -- an area called the "tri-border" -- are being increasingly viewed by investigators, as well as American diplomats, as the vulnerable underbelly of the U.S. Ciudad del Este, Paraguay's second largest city,which is suspected of being a financial hub for terror and organized crime groups.
Some American investigators also believe the area's porous borders make it an ideal springboard for terrorists to make their way to the U.S. circuitously through Mexico and the Caribbean by using a variety of smuggling venues.
"Every major criminal organization in the world has a criminal representation in Ciudad del Este," Nieves, 63, said in a recent interview.
The lawlessness of the region makes it a threat for future terrorist financing and action in New York, Nieves said. He isn't alone in his concerns.
"It is being watched," Rep. Peter King, the ranking Republican on the House's Homeland Security Committee, told Newsday recently when asked about the tri-border zone.
Hezbollah, an umbrella organization for Shia Muslims, which started in Lebanon, is believed to have laundered $10 million annually through the area, King said.
Martin Ficke, former head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in New York and now director of operations for the Jericho-based investigative firm SES Resources Ltd., said the tri-border is a continuing concern for money laundering. Ficke, who worked with the El Dorado money laundering task force, said agents were looking to see how readily terrorists could rely on narcotics networks in Paraguay to move cash to support terror operations. He wouldn't comment further.
Officially, the U.S. Department of State says southern Paraguay has yet to sustain an "operational" presence for al-Qaida, Hezbollah and Hamas. King also doesn't believe al-Qaida is present in the area. But there are documented cases where members and sympathizers of Hamas, a militant Palestinian organization, and Hezbollah have engaged in money laundering, extortion, bombings and other crimes inside Ciudad del Este and surrounding areas. Back in the 1990s, suspects in the bombings of South America's Jewish communities were traced to the area.
Some U.S. officials also believe an al-Qaida ally, a shadowy terrorist group known as Lashkar-e-Taiba, which became active in Kashmir in the 1990s, is now operating in the region. Earlier this year, a Manhattan federal judge sentenced a Baltimore man to 15 years in prison for traveling to Pakistan for terrorism training at one of the group's camps.
A report prepared by the U.S. Embassy in Paraguay in April said the country doesn't have effective ways to deal with money laundering and terrorist financing but does try to cooperate in counterterrorism efforts. Judicial and police corruption were concerns, said the report.
In May, MSNBC ran a brief interview by correspondent Pablo Gato with a young Arab Muslim sympathizer of Hezbollah in Ciudad del Este who threatened to attack the U.S. if Iran was targeted.
"In two minutes, Bush is dead," the man told MSNBC of the threatened consequences of a U.S attack.
While those remarks seem like braggadocio, some U.S. officials have been wary of Hezbollah members infiltrating the United States through Mexico to carry out acts of terror. Washington has been pouring millions into Paraguay to try to strengthen its legal institutions, which is why Nieves, who is a private investigator in the Bronx, was working there.
Nieves took polygraph exams of nearly 80 cops, customs officials and military officers. They were applicants for positions in a special customs task force aimed at improving border controls in Paraguay that was to be funded by American aid dollars.
According to Nieves, one of a few U.S.-based Spanish-language polygraphers active in the business, the officials easily opened up to him. After Nieves assured them that admissions of participating in routine graft -- known locally as "la coima" -- wouldn't get them in trouble, the applicants said they believed criminals were tipped off to investigations by law enforcement officials. In some cases, local prosecutors warned smugglers of raids so they could dispose of contraband, Nieves said.
One customs officer said that some higher-ranked customs officials knew all of the organized crime leaders and provided them with information. Some national police also took part in executions on the border with Brazil near the town of Pedro Juan Caballero, said the official, adding that the killings involved disputes over smuggled goods. The applicants painted a picture of a wild-west atmosphere where legitimate law enforcement was intimidated by criminals and corrupt higher officials.
"They mentioned terrorists, every organized crime group, al-Qaida, the Chinese," recalled Nieves of his debriefings.
One American law enforcement consultant who didn't want to be identified because he does a lot of business in Paraguay said the country's customs service is prone to corruption because of the low wages officials are paid. But even higher pay won't bring speedy reform, he said.
"They don't look at it as corruption. It is part of the culture," he said. "Everybody takes a piece of the government income."
"Most of those people who were coming forward were decent people. Unfortunately, the circumstances are overwhelming for them," Nieves said about the corruption.
Nieves thinks the United States could benefit by developing its own network of paid informants within Paraguay's customs and border police as an early warning system against terrorism.
"Everyone I met were people we could flip," he said.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters
on: January 01, 2008, 10:27:54 PM
Mexico Security Memo: Dec. 27, 2007
Stratfor Today » December 27, 2007 | 2021 GMT
Organized Crime in Baja California
An unknown number of assailants attacked the newly appointed police chief of Playas de Rosarito, Jorge Eduardo Montero Alvarez, on Dec. 18, killing one policeman and injuring at least one other. The attack happened at about 1 p.m. when approximately 10 vehicles pulled up to the building where Montero Alvarez and his bodyguards were getting out of their vehicles and the assailants opened fire with high-caliber weapons. The police repelled the attack, returning fire with AK-47 and R-15 rifles; Montero Alvarez was not hurt. Three vans spotted in the attack were later found abandoned nearby.
The attack followed a Dec. 17 announcement by Mexican President Felipe Calderon that the federal government would aid in a crackdown on organized crime with a deployment by the Mexican military to Playas de Rosarito. The attack was a definite signal of cartel displeasure; similar attacks have occurred elsewhere in connection with major anti-cartel operations. Following the announcement and the attack, an undisclosed number of soldiers arrived Dec. 19 to patrol the city, both tourist areas and high-crime residential areas.
Playas de Rosarito, which adjoins Tijuana in Baja California state, has experienced rising problems with organized crime. Extensive corruption among public officials, including law enforcement officers, has exacerbated this problem. The federal government launched Operation Tijuana in January, sending more than 3,000 troops to battle local drug gangs. The deployment to Playas de Rosarito marks the expansion of the federal mandate to combat organized crime in the Tijuana-San Diego border area.
Border Crossings in Arizona
Arrests of illegal border crossers near Yuma, Arizona, fell more than two-thirds during 2007, in part a result of a variety of new barriers covering a 48-mile stretch of the border. Ranging from simple road barriers to more extensive fencing installations, the Yuma Sector barriers do not form a solid wall along the border, but instead use barricades targeted to meet the needs of the landscape and adjusted as appropriate to the relative accessibility of each area. While the barriers alone have contributed greatly to the drop, other measures like an increased law enforcement presence on the border and threat of jail time for first-time illegal crossings by adults deserve credit, too.
The drop in arrests following the fence-building program in the Yuma Sector represents a significant success, as the sector had experienced a significant growth in arrests in previous years. Although overall arrests by the U.S. Border Patrol along the U.S.-Mexican border fell from 1.4 million to 1.1 million from 1997 to 2006, crossings in the Yuma Sector skyrocketed from 30,000 to 119,000 during the same period. Despite this success, the crossings probably have shifted to other sectors as immigrants seek easier routes, a well-established phenomenon. For instance, although total arrests in the San Diego Sector have fallen by about 142,000 in the last nine years, the reduction has been counterbalanced by crossings elsewhere. Thus, aggregate numbers in the Tucson Sector rose by around 120,000 during the same period.
The Secure Fence Act of 2006 that initiated and supports fencing projects like the one in the Yuma Sector underwent substantial changes Dec. 21, as the omnibus spending bill signed in to law by U.S. President George W. Bush contains language that makes fence building nonmandatory and leaves all barrier construction at the discretion of the Homeland Security secretary. The act originally mandated 700 miles of double fencing split among five different sectors. The mandate was modeled after the San Diego method of a two-fence barrier, which was shown to be 95 percent effective in reducing illegal border crossings along a 14-mile stretch of border dividing San Diego and Tijuana from 1992-2004.
Beheadings Spreading to Capital?
The headless bodies of five people have been found in Mexico City since Dec. 17, at least four of whom were customs agents from Mexico City International Airport. Two of the headless agents were discovered wrapped in plastic and stuffed in the trunk of a car in Tlaneplanta, a northern district of Mexico City, El Nuevo Diario reported Dec. 17. The victims’ heads and two severed fingers were left on the street. A finger was placed in one victims’ mouth, while the other was put in the ear of the second victim. Two other bodies were found in similar configurations. Another body had severed hands.
The precision of the beheadings indicate the men were assassinated by professionals, while the placement of the fingers indicates the men were suspected of informing to the police. Although the motive behind the killings remains unclear, they occurred the day after the seizure of half a ton of cocaine at Mexico City International Airport, leading the authorities to suspect the murders came in retaliation.
Beheadings by organized criminal elements are common in Guerrero, Tamaulipas and Michoacán states, where drug cartel operations are widespread. The gruesome tactic has not been used commonly in Mexico City, however. These incidents could be an ominous sign the tactic may be spreading to the heart of Mexico.
Two decapitated bodies of Mexico City International Airport customs agents were found in Mexico City.
The body of a 18 year-old man with a gunshot wound to the head was found floating in the Lerma River in Guanajuato state.
Two handcuffed bodies were found with evidence of torture in Cancún, Quintana Roo state.
The bullet-riddled bodies of two young men were found in Tijuana, Baja California state. One of the bodies was located inside a vehicle, while the other was found 900 feet away.
A man was killed after being stabbed 25 times in Mexico City. His wife was left alive, but was in critical condition after being stabbed twice by an unknown assailant.
The body of an unidentified man was found in Guerrero state. He had been shot at least 30 times with a variety of weapons that appear to include an AR-15, an AK-47 and at least one handgun.
Assailants traveling in 10 cars attacked Jorge Eduardo Montero Alvarez, the newly appointed police chief of Playas de Rosarito, Baja California state. Although Montero Alvarez was unharmed, one of his bodyguards was killed and at least one civilian was injured.
Suspected assassins shot and killed three off-duty soldiers and wounded another at a shopping mall in Torreón, Coahuila state, late Dec. 18. An air force member also was injured in the shooting.
A group used high-powered rifles to attack two men in Nuevo Leon state, injuring the pair.
Two people sitting in a car with foreign plates in Mocorito, Sinaloa, were executed with a .38-caliber gun.
The corpse of a 24-year-old man was discovered with evidence of blunt trauma and a bullet wound from a 9 mm weapon in Culiacán, Sinaloa.
The dead body of a man was found bound with adhesive tape; AK-47 rounds were found around the body.
The body of a farmer was found floating near a dam in the vicinity of the Tandhe community in Hidalgo state. Three suspects have been arrested in connection with the murder.
The body of a young man who had been stabbed to death was found in Venta de Cruz, Mexico state. The man had been reported missing after he was taken into custody Dec. 9 by individuals who identified themselves as members of the Mexican Federal Agency of Investigations.
The body of a taxi driver who had been shot five times was found in Huasca, Hidalgo state, the fourth killing of a taxi driver in the past two months.
A taxi driver was found dead in Cuautepec de Hinojosa, Hidalgo state, buried under a pile of rocks. He had been reported missing Dec. 17.
The bodies of two men were found shot in the head in an automobile in Mexico state.
The bodies of a man and his son killed by several unknown assailants in Culiacán, Sinaloa state, were found. The attackers reportedly fired at least 20 rounds at the pair.
The body of an unidentified middle-aged man was found by authorities in Tijuana, Baja California state. The victim had been shot in the head and face and was tied with a plastic rope.
The bullet-riddled body of an unidentified young man was found in a parking lot in a commercial district in Tijuana, Baja California state. Although police reported to the scene rapidly, they failed to find the perpetrators.
The body of a teacher who had been shot to death was found on the side of a road near El Zapote bridge in Guerrero state. He had been carrying about $800 in pesos; a note was appended to his corpse.
The body of an unidentified man who had been strangled to death was found in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua state. The state attorney general’s office initially erroneously identified the man as ex-policeman Alberto González Escobar of Ciudad Juárez, who has been reported missing.
The body of an unknown man was found shot in the head, naked and bound at the hands and feet in Guerrero state. Evidence indicates the corpse of the man, who had been dead for quite some time, was transported to the site where it was found.
Gunfire killed three people in two separate incidents in Acapulco, Guerrero state.
A gunfight between members of the Mexican army and presumed members of organized criminal groups in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state, resulted in two injuries.
Four people died of gunshot wounds in separate incidents in Tijuana state in a 72-hour period. No suspects have been detained.
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Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / AQ's struggle for relevance
on: January 01, 2008, 10:07:16 PM
Al Qaeda in 2008: The Struggle for Relevance
December 19, 2007 | 1814 GMT
On Dec. 16, al Qaeda’s As-Sahab media branch released a 97-minute video message from al Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri. In the message, titled “A Review of Events,” al-Zawahiri readdressed a number of his favorite topics at length.
This video appeared just two days after As-Sahab released a 20-minute al-Zawahiri message titled “Annapolis — The Treason.” In that message, al-Zawahiri speaks on audio tape while a still photograph of him is displayed over a montage of photos from the peace conference in Annapolis, Md. As the title implies, al-Zawahiri criticizes the conference.
Although the Dec. 14 release appeared first, it obviously was recorded after the Dec. 16 video. Given the content of the Dec. 14 message, it most likely was recorded shortly after the Nov. 27 Annapolis conference and before the Dec. 11 twin bombings in Algeria. The two latest releases are interrelated, however, given that the still photo of al-Zawahiri used in the Dec. 14 message appears to have been captured from the video released two days later.
After having been subjected to two hours of al-Zawahiri opinions in just two days, we cannot help but wonder whether anyone else is listening to this guy — and, if so, why? This question is particularly appropriate now, as we come to the time of the year when we traditionally prepare our annual forecast on al Qaeda. As we look ahead to 2008, the core al Qaeda leadership clearly is struggling to remain relevant in the ideological realm, a daunting task for an organization that has been rendered geopolitically and strategically impotent on the physical battlefield.
The theme of our 2007 al Qaeda forecast was the continuation of the metamorphosis of al Qaeda from a smaller core group of professional operatives into an operational model that encourages independent “grassroots” jihadists to conduct attacks, or into a model in which al Qaeda provides the operational commanders who organize grassroots cells. We referred to this shift as devolution because it signified a return to al Qaeda’s pre-9/11 model.
We noted that the shift gave al Qaeda “the movement” a broader geographic and operational reach than al Qaeda “the group,” but we also said that this larger, dispersed group of actors lacked the operational depth and expertise of the core group and its well-trained terrorist cadre.
Looking back at the successful, attempted and thwarted attacks in 2007, this prediction was largely on-target. The high-profile attacks and thwarted attacks were plotted by grassroots groups such as the one responsible for the attacks in London and Glasgow, Scotland, or by regional affiliates such as al Qaeda’s franchise in Algeria, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). The core al Qaeda group once again failed to conduct any attacks.
British authorities have indicated that the men responsible for the failed London and Glasgow attempts were linked in some way to al Qaeda in Iraq, though any such links must have been fairly inconsequential. The al Qaeda franchise in Iraq has conducted hundreds of successful bombings and has a considerable amount of experience in tradecraft and bombmaking, while the London and Glasgow attempts showed a decided lack of tradecraft and bombmaking skills.
The al Qaeda nodes in Egypt, the Sinai Peninsula and Indonesia were all quiet this year. The Egyptian node has not carried out a successful attack since announcing its allegiance to al Qaeda in August 2006. Jemaah Islamiyah, al Qaeda’s Indonesian franchise, has not conducted a successful attack since the October 2005 Bali bombing, and the Sinai node, Tawhid wa al-Jihad, did not conduct any attacks in 2007. Its last attack was in April 2006.
The Saudi franchise conducted only one successful operation in 2007, a small-arms attack against a group of French and Belgian nationals picnicking near Medina, which resulted in the deaths of four Frenchmen. This is a far cry from the peak of its operational activities during the summer of 2004. The Yemen node also conducted one attack, as it did in 2006, a July 2 suicide car bombing against a tourist convoy that resulted in the deaths of eight Spaniards. The Moroccan element of AQIM attempted to carry out attacks in March and April, though the group’s inept tactics and inadequate planning resulted in the deaths of more suicide bombers than victims.
These regional nodes largely have been brought under control by a series of successful campaigns against them. Police operations in Saudi Arabia, the Sinai and Indonesia have provided some evidence that the groups have been trying to regroup and refit. Therefore, the campaigns against these regional nodes will need to remain in place for the foreseeable future to ensure that these organizations do not reconstitute themselves and resume operations.
We noted in our 2007 forecast that AQIM had not yet proven itself. However, the series of attacks by AQIM this year demonstrated that the group is resourceful and resilient, even in the face of Algerian government operations and ideological divisions. In fact, AQIM was the most prolific and deadly group in 2007 outside of the active war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan. With al Qaeda in Iraq facing serious problems, AQIM is in many ways carrying the torch for the jihadist movement. With other regional nodes seemingly under control, the U.S. and other governments now can pay more attention to AQIM. Throughout the coming year, the Algerian government likely will receive much more assistance from the United States and its allies in its efforts to dismantle the group. AQIM — the former Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) — has existed since the early 1990s and its dedicated cadre has survived many attempts to eliminate it — though it likely will be pressed hard over the next year.
In a Nov. 3 audio message, al-Zawahiri said the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) had formally joined the al Qaeda network. This came as no real surprise, given that members of the group have long been close to Osama bin Laden, and al Qaeda has a large number of Libyan cadre, including Abu Yahya al-Libi, Anas al-Libi and Abu Faraj al-Libi (who reportedly is being held by U.S. forces at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.) The LIFG-al Qaeda link became apparent in September 2001, when the U.S. government identified the LIFG as a specially designated terrorist entity (along with the GSPC and others.)
Although Libyans have played a large role in al Qaeda and the global jihadist movement, the LIFG itself has been unable to conduct any significant attacks. Historically, Libyan security forces have kept the LIFG in check to the point that most high-profile Libyan jihadists operate outside Libya — unlike the AQIM leadership, which operates within Algeria. It will be important to watch this new node to see whether it can ramp up its capabilities to conduct meaningful operations inside Libya, or even in other countries where the group has a presence — though we doubt it will be able to pose a serious threat to the Libyan regime.
Another relatively new jihadist presence appeared on the radar screen Feb. 13, when the Fatah al-Islam group bombed two buses in the Lebanese Christian enclave of Ain Alaq, killing three people. Following the Lebanese army’s efforts to arrest those group members believed responsible for the bombing, the group holed up in the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon, where it endured a siege by the Lebanese army that began in March and lasted until early September. Shaker al-Abssi, the leader of Fatah al-Islam, is said to have links to former al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Along with al-Zarqawi, al-Abssi was sentenced to death in Jordan for his suspected involvement in the 2002 killing of U.S. diplomat Laurence Foley in Amman. He served a three-year jail sentence in Syria and then moved into Nahr el-Bared to establish Fatah al-Islam, which is believed to be controlled by Syrian intelligence. While Fatah al-Islam lost many of its fighters during the five-month siege, we have received intelligence reports suggesting that the Syrians are helping the group recover. The intelligence also suggests that the more the Syrians cooperate with U.S. objectives in Iraq, the more they will press the use of their jihadist proxies in Lebanon. In pursuing such a course, the Syrians are playing with fire, which may well come to haunt them, as it has the Saudis and Pakistanis.
Events in Iraq likely will have a significant impact on the global jihadist movement in the coming year. Since the death of al-Zarqawi, al Qaeda in Iraq’s operational ability steadily has declined. Furthermore, the organization appears to be losing its support among the Iraqi Sunnis and apparently has had problems getting foreign fighters into the country as of late. This could indicate that there will soon be an exodus of jihadists from the country. These jihadists, who have been winnowed and hardened by their combat against the U.S. military, might find the pastures greener in the countries they enter after leaving Iraq. Like the mujahideen who left Afghanistan following the Soviet withdrawal, they could go on to pose a real threat elsewhere.
Additionally, since 2003 Iraq has been a veritable jihadist magnet, drawing jihadists from all over the world. If there is no possibility of seeking “martyrdom” in Iraq, these men (and a few women) will have to find another place to embrace their doom. The coalition’s list of foreign jihadists killed in Iraq shows that most of the fighters have come to the country from places such as Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Morocco, but jihadists also have come from many other countries, including the United States, United Kingdom and European Union. Jihadists in these places might opt to follow the example of the July 2005 London bombers and martyr themselves in their countries of residence.
Jihadists in Iraq have had the luxury of having an extensive amount of military ordnance at their disposal. This ordnance has made it relatively simple to construct improvised explosive devices, including large truck bombs. This, in turn, has made it possible to engage hard targets — such as U.S. military bases and convoys. Jihadists without access to these types of weapons (and the type of training they received in Iraq) will be more likely to engage soft targets. In fact, the only group we saw with the expertise and ordnance to hit hard targets outside of Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007 was AQIM. As we forecast for 2006 and 2007, we anticipate that the trend toward attacking soft targets will continue in 2008.
Afghanistan and Pakistan
Despite U.S. and NATO forces’ repeated tactical victories on the battlefield, al Qaeda’s Afghan allies, the Taliban, continue to survive — the critical task for any guerrilla force engaged in an insurgent war. Following a pattern that has been repeated many times throughout Afghan history — most recently in the war following the Soviet invasion — the Taliban largely seek to avoid extended battles and instead seek to engage in hit-and-run guerrilla operations. This is because they realize that they cannot stand toe-to-toe with the superior armaments of the foreign invaders. Indeed, when they have tried to stand and fight, they have taken heavy losses. Therefore, they occasionally will occupy a town, such as Musa Qala, but will retreat in the face of overwhelming force and return when that superior force has been deployed elsewhere.
Due to the presence of foreign troops, the Taliban have no hope of taking control of Afghanistan at this juncture. However, unlike the foreign troops, the Taliban fighters and their commanders are not going anywhere. They have a patient philosophy and will bide their time until the tactical or political conditions change in their favor. Meanwhile, they are willing to continue their guerrilla campaign and sustain levels of casualties that would be politically untenable for their U.S. and NATO rivals. The Taliban have a very diffuse structure, and even the loss of senior leaders such as Mullah Dadullah and Mullah Obaidullah Akhund has not proven to be much of a hindrance.
Just over the border from Afghanistan, Pakistan has witnessed the rapid spread of Talibanization. As a result, Islamabad now is fighting a jihadist insurgency of its own in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and the North-West Frontier Province. The spread of this ideology beyond the border areas was perhaps best demonstrated by the July assault by the Pakistani army against militants barricaded inside the Red Mosque in Islamabad. Since the assault against the mosque, Pakistan has been wracked by a wave of suicide bombings.
Pakistan should be carefully watched because it could prove to be a significant flash point in the coming year. As the global headquarters for the al Qaeda leadership, Pakistan has long been a significant stronghold on the ideological battlefield. If the trend toward radicalization continues there, the country also could become the new center of gravity for the jihadist movement on the physical battlefield. Pakistan will become especially important if the trend in Iraq continues to go against the jihadists and they are driven from Iraq.
The Year Ahead
Given the relative ease of getting an operative into the United States, the sheer number of soft targets across the vast country and the simplicity of conducting an attack, we remain surprised that no jihadist attack occurred on U.S. soil in 2007. However, we continue to believe that the United States, as well as Europe, remains vulnerable to tactical-level jihadist strikes — though we do not believe that the jihadists have the capability to launch a strategically significant attack, even if they were to employ chemical, biological or radiological weapons.
Jihadists have shown a historical fixation on using toxins and poisons. As Stratfor repeatedly has pointed out, however, chemical and biological weapons are expensive to produce, difficult to use and largely ineffective in real-world applications. Radiological weapons (dirty bombs) also are far less effective than many people have been led to believe. In fact, history clearly has demonstrated that explosives are far cheaper, easier to use and more effective at killing people than these more exotic weapons. The failure by jihadists in Iraq to use chlorine effectively in their attacks has more recently underscored the problems associated with the use of improvised chemical weapons — the bombs killed far more people than the chlorine they were meant to disperse as a mass casualty weapon.
Al-Zawahiri’s messages over the past year clearly have reflected the pressure that the group is feeling. The repeated messages referencing Iraq and the need for unity among the jihadists there show that al-Zawahiri believes the momentum has shifted in Iraq and things are not going well for al Qaeda there. Tactically, al Qaeda’s Iraqi node still is killing people, but strategically the group’s hopes of establishing a caliphate there under the mantle of the Islamic State of Iraq have all but disappeared. These dashed hopes have caused the group to lash out against former allies, which has worsened al Qaeda’s position.
It also is clear that al Qaeda is feeling the weight of the ideological war against it — waged largely by Muslims. Al-Zawahiri repeatedly has lamented specific fatwas by Saudi clerics declaring that the jihad in Iraq is not obligatory and forbidding young Muslims from going to Iraq. In a message broadcast in July, al-Zawahiri said, “I would like to remind everyone that the most dangerous weapons in the Saudi-American system are not buying of loyalties, spying on behalf of the Americans or providing facilities to them. No, the most dangerous weapons of that system are those who outwardly profess advice, guidance and instruction …” In other words, al Qaeda fears fatwas more than weapons. Weapons can kill people — fatwas can kill the ideology that motivates people.
There are two battlegrounds in the war against jihadism: the physical and the ideological. Because of its operational security considerations, the al Qaeda core has been marginalized in the physical battle. This has caused it to abandon its position at the vanguard of the physical jihad and take up the mantle of leadership in the ideological battle. The core no longer poses a strategic threat to the United States in the physical world, but it is striving hard to remain relevant on the ideological battleground.
In many ways, the ideological battleground is more important than the physical war. It is far easier to kill people than it is to kill ideologies. Therefore, it is important to keep an eye on the ideological battleground to determine how that war is progressing. In the end, that is why it is important to listen to hours of al-Zawahiri statements. They contain clear signs regarding the status of the war against jihadism. The signs as of late indicate that the ideological war is not going so well for the jihadists, but they also point to potential hazards around the bend in places such as Pakistan and Lebanon.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Assessment part two
on: January 01, 2008, 09:46:54 PM
Pakistan obviously plays a role in this, since Afghanistan is to some extent an extension of Pakistan. The United States has an interest in a stable Pakistan, but it can live with a chaotic Pakistan provided its nuclear weapons are safeguarded and the chaos is contained within Pakistan. Given the situation in Afghanistan, this cannot be guaranteed. Therefore, American strategy must be to support Pakistan’s military in stabilizing the country, while paying lip service to democratic reform.
The United States has achieved its two major goals in the Islamic world. First, al Qaeda has been sufficiently disrupted that it has not mounted a successful operation in the United States for six years. Second, any possibility of an integrated Islamic multinational state — always an unlikely scenario — has been made even more unlikely by disruptive and destabilizing American strategies. In the end, the United States did not need to create a stable nation in Iraq, it simply had to use Iraq to disrupt the Islamic world. The United States did not need to win, it needed the Islamic world to lose. When you look at the Islamic world six years after 9/11, it is sufficient to say that it is no closer to unity than it was then, at the cost of a fraction of the American lives that were spent in Vietnam or Korea.
Thus, the United States at the moment is transitioning its foreign policy from an obsessive focus on the Islamic world to a primary focus on Russia. The Russians, in turn, are engaged in two actions. First, they are doing what they can to keep the Americans locked into the Islamic world by encouraging Iran while carefully trying not to provoke the United States excessively. Second, they are trying to form coalitions with other major powers — Europe and China — to block the United States. The Russians are facing an uphill battle because no one wants to alienate a major economic power like the United States. But the longer the Americans remain focused on the Islamic world, the more opportunities there are. Therefore, for Washington, reducing U.S. involvement in the Islamic world will be acceptable so long as it leaves the Muslims divided and in relative balance. The goal is reduction, not exit — and pursuing this goal explains the complexities of U.S. foreign policy at this point, as well as the high level of noise in the public arena, where passions run high.
Behind the noise, however, is this fact: The global situation for the United States has not changed since before 9/11. America remains in control of the world’s oceans. The jihadist strategic threat has not solidified, although the possibility of terrorism cannot be discounted. The emerging Russian challenge is not trivial, but the Russians have a long way to go before they would pose a significant threat to American interests. Another potential threat, China, is contained by its own economic interests, while lesser powers are not of immediate significance. American global pre-eminence remains intact and the jihadist threat has been disrupted for now. This leaves residual threats to the United States, but no strategic threats.
Capitalism requires business cycles and business cycles require recessions. During the culmination of a business cycle, when interest rates are low and excess cash is looking for opportunities to invest, substantial inefficiencies creep into the economy. As these inefficiencies and irrationalities become more pronounced, the cost of money rises, liquidity problems occur and irrationalities are destroyed. This is a painful process, but one without which capitalism could not succeed. When recessions are systematically avoided by political means, as happened in Japan and the rest of East Asia, and as is happening in China now, inefficiencies and irrationalities tend to pyramid. The longer the business cycle is delayed, the more explosive the outcome.
Historically, the business cycle in the United States has tended to average about six years in length. The United States last had a recession in 2000, seven years ago — so, by historical standards, it is time for another recession. But the 2000 recession occurred eight years after the previous one, so the time between recessions might be expanding. Six years or nine years makes little difference. There will be recessions because they discipline the economy and we are entering a period in which a recession is possible. When or how a recession happens matters little, so long as the markets on occasion have discipline forced back upon them.
In the most recent case, the irrationality that entered the system had to do with subprime mortgages. Put differently, money lenders gave loans to people who could not pay them back, and sold those loans to third parties who were so attracted by the long-term return that they failed to consider whether they would ever realize that return. Large pools of money thrown off by a booming economy had to find investment vehicles, and so investors bought the loans. Some of the more optimistic among these investors not only bought the loans but also borrowed against them to buy more loans. This is the oldest story in the book.
The loans were backed by real assets: houses. This is the good news and the bad news. The good news is that, in the long run, the bad loans are mitigated by the sale of these homes. The bad news is that as these houses are sold, housing prices will go down as supply increases. Home prices frequently go down. During the mid-1990s, for example, California home prices dropped sharply. However, there is an odd folk belief that housing prices always rise and that declining prices are unnatural and devastating. They hurt, of course, but California survived the declines in the 1990s and so will the United States today.
In an economy that annually produces in excess of $13 trillion in wealth, neither the subprime crisis nor a decline in housing prices represents a substantial threat. Nevertheless, given the culture of dread that we have discussed, there is a sense that this is simply the beginning of a meltdown in the American economy. It is certainly devastating major financial institutions, although not nearly as badly as the tech crash of 2000 or the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s devastated their sectors. It is having some effect on the financial system, although not nearly as much as one might think, given the level of angst expressed. And it is having a limited effect on the economy.
A liquidity crisis means a shortage of money, in which demand outstrips supply and the cost of money rises. There are, of course, those who are frozen out of the market — the same people to whom money should not have been lent in the first place, plus some businesses on shaky ground. This is simply the financial system rebalancing itself. But neither the equity nor the money markets are behaving as if we are on the verge of a recession any time soon.
Indeed — and here sentiment does matter, at least in the short run — it would appear that a recession is unlikely in the immediate future. Normally, recessions occur when sentiment is irrationally optimistic (recall the New Economy craziness in the late 1990s). What we are seeing now is economic growth, stable interest rates and equity markets, and profound anxiety over the future of the financial system. That is not how an economy looks six months or a year before a depression. Those who believe that major economic disaster is just around the corner have acted on that belief and the markets have already discounted that belief. It would certainly be reasonable for there to be a recession shortly, but we do not see the signs for it.
To the contrary, we see a major stabilizing force, the inflow of money into the American economy from what we might call the dollar bloc. During the period of European imperialism, one of the characteristics was politically enforced currency blocs (sterling, franc, etc.) that tied colonial economies to the mother country. We are now seeing, at least temporarily, a variation on that theme with a dollar bloc, which goes beyond the dollar’s role as a reserve currency.
For a decade, China has been running massive trade surpluses with the United States. Much of that surplus remained as cash reserves because the Chinese economy was unable to absorb it. Partly in order to stabilize currencies and partly to control their own economy, the Chinese have pegged their currency against the dollar, varying the theme a bit lately but staying well within that paradigm. The linking of the Chinese economy to the American led to the linking of the two currencies. It also created a pool of excess money that was most conservatively invested in the United States.
With the run up in the price of oil, another pool of surplus money that cannot be absorbed in native economies has emerged among the oil producers of the Arabian Peninsula. This reserve also is linked to the dollar, since oil prices are dollar-denominated. Given long-term oil contracts and the structure of markets, shifting away from the dollar would be complex and time consuming. It will not happen — particularly because the Arabs, already having lost on the dollar’s decline, might get hit twice if it rises. They are protected by remaining in the dollar bloc.
Those two massive pools of money, tightly linked to the dollar in a number of ways, are stabilizing the American financial system — and American financial institutions — by taking advantage of the weakness to buy assets. Historically (that is, before World War I), the United States was a creditor nation and a net importer of capital. That did not represent weakness. Rather, it represented the global market’s sense that the United States presented major economic opportunities. The structure of the dollar bloc would indicate a partial and probably temporary return to this model.
One must always remember the U.S. GDP — $13.2 trillion — in measuring any number. Both the annual debt and the total national debt must be viewed against this number, as well as the more troubling trade deficit. The $13.2 trillion can absorb damage and imbalances that smaller economies could not handle. We would expect a recession in the next couple of years simply based on the time since the last period of negative growth, but we tend to think that it is not quite here yet. But, even if it were, it would simply be a normal part of the business cycle, of no significant concern.
The operative term for the United States is “huge.” The size of its economy and the control of the world’s oceans are the two pillars of American power, and they are intimately connected. So long as the United States has more than 25 percent of the world’s GDP and dominates the oceans, what the world thinks of it, or what it thinks of itself, is of little consequence. Power is power and those two simple, obvious facts trump all sophisticated theorizing.
Nothing that has happened in the Middle East, or in Vietnam a generation ago or in Korea a generation before that, can change the objective foundations of American power. Indeed, on close examination, what appears to be irrational behavior by the United States makes a great deal of sense in this context. A nation this powerful can take extreme risks, suffer substantial failures, engage in irrational activity and get away with it. But, in fact, regardless of perception, American risks are calculated, the failures are more apparent than real and the irrational activity is more rational than it might appear. Presidents and pundits might not fully understand what they are doing or thinking, but in a nation of more than 300 million people, policy is shaped by impersonal forces more than by leaders or public opinion. Explaining how that works is for another time.
The magnitude of American power can only be seen by stepping back. Then the weaknesses are placed into context and diminish in significance. A net assessment is designed to do that. It is designed to consider the United States “on the whole.” And in considering the United States on the whole, we are struck by two facts: massive power and cultural bipolar disorder. But the essence of geopolitics is that culture follows power; as the United States matures, its cultural bipolarity will subside.
Some will say that this net assessment is an America-centric, chauvinistic evaluation of the United States, making it appear more powerful, more important and more clever than it is. But in our view, this is not an America-centric analysis. Rather, it is the recognition that the world itself is now, and has been since 1992, America-centric. The United States is, in fact, more powerful than it appears, more important to the international system than many appreciate and, if not clever, certainly not as stupid as some would think. It is not as powerful as some fantasize. Iraq has proved that. It is not nearly as weak as some would believe. Iraq has proved that as well.
The United States is a powerful, complex and in many ways tortured society. But it is the only global power — and, as such, it is the nation all others must reckon with.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor Net Assessment
on: January 01, 2008, 09:45:48 PM
Net Assessment: United States
Stratfor Today » December 31, 2007 | 2343 GMT
Brendan Smialowski/Getty ImagesThere are those who say that perception is reality. Geopolitics teaches the exact opposite: There is a fundamental reality to national power, and the passing passions of the public have only a transitory effect on things. In order to see the permanent things, it is important to tune out the noise and focus on the reality. That is always hard, but nowhere more so than in the United States, where the noise is incredibly loud, quite insistent, and profoundly contradictory and changeable. Long dissertations can and should be written on the dynamics of public opinion in the United States. For Stratfor, the root of these contradictions is in the dynamism of the United States. You can look at the United States and be awed by its dynamic power, and terrified by it at the same time.
All nations have complex psyches, but the American is particularly complex, contradictory and divisive. It is torn between two poles: dread and hubris. They alternate and compete and tear at each other. Neither dominates. They are both just there, tied to each other. The dread comes from a feeling of impending doom, the hubris from constantly overcoming it.
Hubris is built into American history. The American republic was founded to be an exemplary regime, one that should be emulated. This sense of exceptionality was buttressed by the doctrine of manifest destiny, the idea that the United States in due course would dominate the continent. Americans pushed inward to discover verdant horizons filled with riches one after another, indelibly impressing upon them that life was supposed to get better and that setbacks were somehow unnatural. It is hard not to be an economic superpower when you effectively have an entire continent to yourself, and it is especially hard not to be a global economic hegemon once you’ve tamed that continent and use it as a base from which to push out. But the greatest driver for American hubris was the extraordinary economic success of the United States, and in particular its extraordinary technological achievements. There is a sense that there is nothing that the United States cannot achieve — and no limits to American power.
But underlying this extraordinary self-confidence is a sense of dread. To understand the dread, we have to understand the 1930s. The 1920s were a time of apparent peace and prosperity: World War I was over, and the United States was secure and prosperous. The market crash of 1929, followed by the Great Depression, imprinted itself on the American psyche. There is a perpetual fear that underneath the apparent prosperity of our time, economic catastrophe lurks. It is a sense that well-being masks a deep economic sickness. Part of the American psyche is braced for disaster.
This dread also has roots in Pearl Harbor, and the belief that it and the war that followed for the United States was the result of complacency and inattentiveness. Some argued that the war was caused by America’s failure to join the League of Nations. Others claimed that the fault lay in the failure to act decisively to stop Hitler and Tojo before they accumulated too much power. In either case, the American psyche is filled with a dread of the world, that the smallest threat might blossom into world war, and that failure to act early and decisively will bring another catastrophe. At the same time, from Washington’s farewell address to failures in Vietnam or Iraq, there has been the fear that American entanglement with the world is not merely dangerous, but it is the path to catastrophe.
This fault line consistently polarizes American politics, dividing it between those who overestimate American power and those who underestimate it. In domestic politics, every boom brings claims that the United States has created a New Economy that has abolished the business cycle. Every shift in the business cycle brings out the faction that believes the collapse of the American economy is just over the horizon. Sometimes, the same people say both things within months of each other.
The purpose of a net assessment is not to measure such perceptions, but to try to benchmark military, economic and political reality, treating the United States as if it were a foreign country. We begin by “being stupid”: that is, by stating the obvious and building from it, rather than beginning with complex theories. In looking at the United States, two obvious facts come to light.
First, the United States controls all of the oceans in the world. No nation in human history has controlled the oceans so absolutely. That means the United States has the potential to control, if it wishes, the flow of goods through the world’s oceans — which is the majority of international trade. Since World War II, the United States has used this power selectively. In general, it has used its extraordinary naval superiority to guarantee free navigation, because international trade has been one of the foundations of American prosperity. But it has occasionally used its power as a tool to shape foreign affairs or to punish antagonistic powers. Control of the oceans also means that the United States can invade other countries, and that — unless Canada or Mexico became much more powerful than they are now — other countries cannot invade the United States.
Second, no economy in the world is as large as the American economy. In 2006, the gross domestic product (GDP) of the United States was about $13.2 trillion. That is 27.5 percent of all goods and services produced in the world for that year, and it is larger than the combined GDPs of the next four countries — Japan, Germany, China and the United Kingdom. In spite of de-industrialization, industrial production in the United States was $2.1 trillion, equal to Japan’s, China’s and Germany’s industrial production combined. You can argue with the numbers, and weight them any number of ways, but the fact is that the United States is economically huge, staggeringly so. Everything from trade deficits to subprime mortgage crises must be weighed against the sheer size of the American economy and the fact that it is and has been expanding.
If you begin by being stupid instead of sophisticated, you are immediately struck by the enormity of American military power, based particularly on its naval power and its economic power, which in turn is based on the size and relative balance of the economy. The United States is the 2,000-pound gorilla of the international system. That means blows that would demolish other nations are absorbed with relative ease by the United States, while at the same time drawing howls of anguish that would lead you to assume the United States is on the eve of destruction. That much military and economic power does not collapse very easily or quickly.
The United States has two simple strategic goals. The first is to protect itself physically from attack to ensure its economy continues to flourish. Attacks against the United States are unpleasant, but invasion by a foreign power is catastrophic. Therefore the second goal is to maintain control of the seas. So long as the oceans are controlled by the U.S. Navy — and barring nuclear attack — the physical protection of the United States is assured. Therefore the United States has two interests. The first is preventing other nations from challenging American naval hegemony. The second is preventing other nations from acquiring nuclear weapons, and intimidating those who already have them.
The best way to prevent a challenge by another fleet is to make certain the fleet is never built. The best way to do that is to prevent the rise of regional hegemons, particularly in Eurasia, that are secure enough to build navies. The American strategy in Eurasia is the same as Britain’s in Europe — maintain the balance of power so that no power or coalition of powers can rise up as a challenger. The United States, rhetoric aside, has no interest in Eurasia except for maintaining the balance of power — or failing that, creating chaos.
The United States intervenes periodically in Eurasia, and elsewhere. Its goals appear to be incoherent and its explanations make little sense, but its purpose is single-minded. The United States does not want to see any major, stable power emerge in Eurasia that could, in the long term, threaten American interests either by building a naval challenge or a nuclear one. As powers emerge, the United States follows a three-stage program. First, provide aid to weaker powers to contain and undermine emerging hegemons. Second, create more formal arrangements with these powers. Finally, if necessary, send relatively small numbers of U.S. troops to Eurasia to block major powers and destabilize regions.
The basic global situation can be described simply. The United States has overwhelming power. It is using that power to try to prevent the emergence of any competing powers. It is therefore constantly engaged in interventions on a political, economic and military level. The rest of the world is seeking to limit and control the United States. No nation can do it alone, and therefore there is a constant attempt to create coalitions to contain the United States. So far, these coalitions have tended to fail, because potential members can be leveraged out of the coalition by American threats or incentives. Nevertheless, between constant American intrusions and constant attempts to contain American power, the world appears to be disorderly and dangerous. It might well be dangerous, but it has far more logic and order than it might appear.
U.S. Foreign Policy
The latest American foreign policy actions began after 9/11. Al Qaeda posed two challenges to the United States. The first was the threat of follow-on attacks, potentially including limited nuclear attacks. The second and more strategic threat was al Qaeda’s overall goal, which was to recreate an Islamic caliphate. Put in an American context, al Qaeda wanted to create a transnational “Islamic” state that, by definition, would in the long run be able to threaten U.S. power. The American response was complex. Its immediate goal was the destruction of al Qaeda. Its longer-term goal was the disruption of the Islamic world. The two missions overlapped but were not identical. The first involved a direct assault against al Qaeda’s command-and-control facilities: the invasion of Afghanistan. The second was an intrusion into the Islamic world designed to disrupt it without interfering with the flow of oil from the region.
U.S. grand strategy has historically operated by splitting enemy coalitions and partnering with the weaker partner. Thus, in World War II, the United States sided with the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany after their alliance collapsed. During the Cold War, the United States sided with Communist China against the Soviet Union after the Sino-Soviet split. Following that basic strategy, the United States first sided with and then manipulated the Sunni-Shiite split. In all these cases the goal was to disrupt and prevent the formation of a coalition that could threaten the United States.
Looked at from 50,000 feet, that was the result of the invasion of Iraq. It set the Sunnis and Shia against each other. Whether this idea was subjectively in the minds of American planners at the time is not really relevant. That it played out the U.S. model in foreign policy is what matters. The invasion of Iraq resulted in chaos. About 3,000 American troops were killed, a small number compared to previous multiyear, multidivisional wars. Not only did the Islamic world fail to coalesce into a single entity, but its basic fault line, Sunnis versus Shia, erupted into a civil war in Iraq. That civil war disrupted the threats of coalition formation and of the emergence of regional hegemons. It did create chaos. That chaos provided a solution to American strategic problems, while U.S. intelligence dealt with the lesser issue of breaking up al Qaeda.
The U.S. interest in the Islamic world at the moment is to reduce military operations and use the existing internal tension among Muslims to achieve American military ends. The reason for reducing military operations is geopolitical, and it hinges on Russia.
The total number of U.S. casualties in Iraq is relatively small, but the level of effort, relative to available resources, has essentially consumed most of America’s ground capabilities. The United States has not substantially increased the size of its army since the invasion of Iraq. There were three reasons for this. First, the United States did not anticipate the level of resistance. Second, rhetoric aside, U.S. strategy was focused on disruption, not nation-building, and a larger force was not needed for that. Third, the global geopolitical situation did not appear to require U.S. forces elsewhere. Therefore, Washington chose not to pay the price for a larger force.
The geopolitical situation has changed. The U.S. absorption in the Islamic world has opened the door for a more assertive Russia, which is engaged in creating a regional sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union. Following the American grand strategy of preventing the emergence of Eurasian regional powers, the United States must now put itself in a position to disrupt and/or contain Russia. With U.S. forces tied down in the Islamic world, there are no reserves for this mission. The United States is therefore engaged in a process of attempting to reduce its presence in the Islamic world, while repositioning to deal with the Russians.
The process of disengagement is enormously complex. Having allied with the Shia (including Iran) to disrupt al Qaeda, the United States now has shifted its stance toward the Sunnis and against the Shia, and particularly Iran. The U.S. interest is to re-create the balance of power that was disrupted with the invasion of Iraq. To do this, the United States must simultaneously create a balance in Iraq and induce Iran not to disrupt it, but without making Iran too powerful. This is delicate surgery and it makes the United States appear inconsistent. The recent contretemps over the National Intelligence Estimate — and the resulting inevitable public uproar — is part of the process of the U.S. rebalancing its policy in the region.
The Iraqi situation is now less threatening than the situation to the east. In Afghanistan, the United States and NATO have about 50,000 troops facing a resurgent Taliban. No military solution is possible given the correlation of forces. Therefore a political solution is needed in which an accommodation is reached with the Taliban, or with parts of the Taliban. There are recent indications, including the expulsion of EU and U.N. diplomats from Afghanistan for negotiating with the Taliban, that his process is under way. For the United States, there is no problem with a Taliban government, or with Taliban participation in a coalition government, so long as al Qaeda is not provided sanctuary for training and planning. The United States is trying to shape the situation in Afghanistan so those parts of the Taliban that participate in government will have a vested interest in opposing al Qaeda.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: January 01, 2008, 08:37:10 PM
Nice one GM
Here's a bit on how she treats the help and some other things:
WHAT A SWEET LADY
"Where is the G-dam f***ing flag? I want the G-dam f***ing flag up every f***ing morning at f***ing sunrise."
--From the book "Inside The White House" by Ronald Kessler, p. 244 - (Hillary to the staff at the Arkansas Governor's mansion on Labor Day, 1991)
"You sold out, you m***er-f***er! You sold out!"
-From the book "Inside" by Joseph Califano, p. 213 - (Hillary yelling at a Democrat lawyer.)
"F*** off! It's enough that I have to see you sh**-kickers every day, I'm not going to talk to you too!!
Just do your G*dam job and keep your mouth shut."
-From the book "American Evita" by Christopher Anderson, p. 90 - (Hillary to her State Trooper body-guards after one of them greeted her with "Good Morning.")
"You f** *ing idiot"
-From the book "Crossfire" p. 84 - (Hillary to a State Trooper who was driving her to an event.)
"If you want to remain on this detail, get your f***ing ass over here and grab those bags!"
--From the book "The First Partner" p. 259 - (Hillary to a Secret Service Agent who was reluctant to carry her luggage because he wanted to keep his hands free in case of an incident.)
"Get f***ed! Get the f*** out of my way!!! Get out of my face!!!"
--From the book "Hillary's Scheme" p. 89 - (Hillary's various comments to her Secret Service detail agents.)
"Stay the f*** back, stay the f*** away from me! Don't come within ten yards of me, or else!
Just f***ing do as I say, Okay!!!?"
-From the book "Unlimited Access", by Clinton FBI Agent in Charge, Gary Aldrige, p. 139 â€“
(Hillary screaming at her Secret Service detail)
"Where's the miserable c**k sucker?"
-From the book "The Truth About Hillary" by Edward Klein, p. 5 -
(Hillary shouting at a Secret Service officer)
"Put this on the ground! I left my sunglasses in the limo. I need those sunglasses.
We need to go back!"
-From the book "Dereliction of Duty" p. 71-72 - (Hillary to Marine One helicopter pilot to turn back while enroute to Air Force One.)
"Son of a bitch."
-From the book "American Evita" by Christopher Anderson, p. 259 -
(Hillary's opinion of President George W. Bush when she found out he secretly visited Iraq just days before her highly publicized trip to Iraq )
"What are you doing inviting these people into my home? These people are our enemies! They are trying to destroy us!"
-From the book "The Survivor" by John Harris, p. 99 - (Hillary screaming to an aide, when she found out that some Republicans had been invited to the Clinton White House)
"Come on Bill, put your d**k up! You can't f*** her here!!"
-From the book "Inside the White House" by Ronald Kessler, p. 243 -
(Hillary to Gov. Clinton when she spots him talking with an attractive female at an Arkansas political rally.)
"You know, I'm going to start thanking the woman who cleans the restroom in the building I work in. I'm going to start thinking of her as a human being"
--- Hillary Clinton -From the book "The Case against Hillary Clinton" by Peggy Noonan, p. 55
"We just can't trust the American people to make those types of c hoices.... Government has to make those choices for people "
-From the book "I've Always Been A Yankee Fan" by Thomas D. Kuiper, p. 20 - (Hillary to Rep. Dennis Hasert in 1993 discussing her expensive, disastrous taxpayer-funded health care plan.)
"I am a fan of the social policies that you find in Europe " ---Hillary in 1996"
-From the book "I've Always Been A Yankee Fan" by Thomas D. Kuiper, p.6
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DVD/Long Distance Training Questions
on: January 01, 2008, 05:35:47 PM
"For a short while I have studied the tapes on my own, but have been
somewhat leery of ingraining bad habits due to not having corrections and
was considering private lessons. I live in Little Rock, Arkansas and there
is little in the way of full time Kali Schools though there is a teacher
that gives private lessons at a fairly good rate. Would it be a good idea
to train on my own in the DBMA material and take private lessons for
correctional purposes? The teacher does not train in any sort of real
contact type training at all but i felt that he could still see mistakes
in technique if i stuck to the curriculum from the DVDs and eventually
tried to find training partners for the second series, etc."
We do our very best to have our DVDs have genuine merit for learning. Depending on the instructor, using him to complement your work with the DVDs could be a fine idea. OTOH if he lacks the fighter's understanding, or an understanding of what we are trying to communicate, you may find his input to be at cross purposes to what you are trying to accomplish. In short, you will have to use your best judgement , , ,
"As far as training the DBMA material, namely the first series of DVDs, is
there a certain way that you recommend training the different volumes? Do
you recommend training only one volume until you become proficient in it
or training the whole series in a sort of schedule/rotation? If you
recommend training thoroughly in one volume before moving to the next, is
there an amount of time that you would suggest one study each volume?"
The answer to these questions will vary according to the person asking them. The person who tends to flit from flower to flower in Life, probably will benefit from focusing and achieving some progress before moving on. In contrast, the person who tends to plod along past the point of diminishing returns will probably benefit from more emphasis on keeping things fresh. These points made, there tends to be a logic underlying the order in which we put things out, but we also understand that people do things for their reasons, not ours
and so seek to construct each DVD to be stand alone as well as part of a progression. My suggestion is to read the description of each DVD and watch the promo clip for it. We do our best to be accurate and candid as to the contents and to whom the DVD is directed. Most of our DVDs are genuinely for the full spectrum of people out there, but some are more at one end of the spectrum or the other. Also appreciate that it is our intention to make DVDs that continue to have value over time. That is, you may train it for a while and then move on to other thing for a time and then COME BACK TO IT. We continuously have people tell us that they see things the second, or third, or fourth time around that they did not appreciate the first time.
"I have also followed the postings on the Dog Brothers Public Forum in
order to get an idea of training empty-hand that is compatible with
DBMA, in one of the threads you mentioned that it was a bad idea to train in
boxing before learning Panantukan. I'm assuming this has to do with
training the body unilaterally and other habits relating to heavily
conditioning the body to use mainly clenched-fist striking? If so,would
that also make it a bad idea to train in Muay Thai before learning the
empty-handed FMA, or does more than enough of the same apply?"
I hope I didn't say that it was a "bad idea to train in boxing before learning Panantukan". What I hope I said was that if one could start with Panantukan, that in my opinion it would be best. My concern in all this is that people who start with boxing often have a hard time expanding to Panantukan later on. That said, as a general rule it is a good idea to make good use of your time wherever you are-- thus if boxing is the only option, then learn boxing.
The same point applies to Muay Thai-- however with MT you have the opportunity to work in Krabi Krabong, the military weaponry forerunner to MT, via our DVDs: specifically KK featuring Ajarn Salty Dog, the joint DVD "Cross-breeding Kali and KK" with me and Guro Lonely, and our blend of Kali and KK called "Los Triques" in the DVD of that name and in the soon to be released (estimate: 2 weeks) "The Dos Triques Formula".
"Your time and input is very much appreciated."
I hope I have answered your questions to your satisfaction, but if I have not, or if you wish to follow up with more, I will be glad to do so again.
The Adventure continues,
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: 4 Elements query to Marc Denny
on: January 01, 2008, 05:13:42 PM
I'm thinking that the various contributions to the thread have fleshed out the point I was trying to make. Yes there are variations between the various approaches (you too Unstoppable
) that reference these things, but my intention in the piece in question was to underline the commonalities (and yes the particular example I used came from Steven Hayes).
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Karambit question
on: January 01, 2008, 05:07:24 PM
Although I can be seen in DLO 1 demonstrating a quick draw with a knock-off of the Emerson Kerambit waved folder, we don't really have any kerambit specific material in our curriculum, though the material for edge out reverse grip slashing is biomechanically relevant.
Concerning our knife curriculum, we have a distinct preference for knowing with whom we work. The material shown in DLO 1 & DLO 2 is counter-knife, and the knife attacks shown are thus commonly used by thugs and untrained people-- in other words, we seek to avoid helping the bad guys develop their game while at the same time helping good people understand what common bad guys attacks are really like.
Does this answer your question?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: January 01, 2008, 02:28:44 PM
Third post of the last 24 hours:
Ron Beats Rudy?
New Hampshire could surprise a lot of people.
BY ANDREW CLINE
Sunday, December 30, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST
MANCHESTER, N.H.--For several hours last Sunday, more than a dozen Ron Paul volunteers stood in snowdrifts in the rain outside the Mall of New Hampshire in Manchester waving at last-minute Christmas shoppers and handing out hundreds of yards signs.
The campaign doesn't know how many people participated because, as with so many Paul rallies, this one was organized entirely by fans not officially associated with the campaign.
"We told them to take Christmas Eve and Christmas off, and next thing we know they're doing a sign wave at the mall," said Jim Forsythe, a self-employed engineer and former Air Force pilot from Strafford, N.H., who independently organizes volunteer efforts for Ron Paul.
That spontaneous grassroots support is why Mr. Paul, an obstetrician from Lake Jackson, Texas, could pull off a stunner on Jan. 8 and place third in New Hampshire's Republican primary. If he does, he would embarrass Rudy Giuliani and steal media limelight from John McCain and Mitt Romney, who are battling for first place.
Many Republican operatives in New Hampshire, even those affiliated with other campaigns, think Mr. Paul is headed for an impressive, double-digit performance. That he has been polling in the high single digits for months is discounted, because the polls may be missing the depth of his support.
Why? For starters, he appears to be drawing new voters. Polls that screen for "likely" voters might screen out many Paul supporters who haven't voted often, or at all, before. Many of Mr. Paul's supporters appear to be first-time voters. They will be able to cast their ballots because New Hampshire allows them to register and vote on the day of an election.
Even Mr. Paul's New Hampshire spokesman, Kate Rick, is an unlikely political activist. She grew up in a political family in Washington, D.C. and says "I swore I would never work in politics." She changed her mind only after finding Mr. Paul, a candidate she says she can finally believe in. "Most people I know in the grass roots are like that," she said. "My closest friends have never voted before, and they're die-hard Paul people now."
There is another reason to discount the polls on Mr. Paul. The one thing that unites his supporters is a desire to be left alone, not only by government, but by irritating marketers and meddling pollsters, too. Mr. Paul's supporters might well be screening their calls and not-so-inadvertently screening out pollsters. Still, some observers of the primary race here downplay this support, noting that a lot of the activists who show up in news stories are not state residents and won't be voting.
It is true that Paul supporters from New York, New Jersey and even California are prominent at campaign rallies. But volunteers and campaign staffers say that, although out-of-state volunteers often are the most flamboyant and can attend daytime rallies while local supporters are at work, they do not outnumber the locals.
"Ninety percent [of his supporters] are from New Hampshire," says Jared Chicoine, Mr. Paul's New Hampshire coordinator. Keith Murphy, a former Democratic campaign worker from Maryland who owns Murphy's Taproom in Manchester, has held several Paul rallies at his restaurant, which has become a regular hangout for the Paul crowd. When the candidate shows up, about 75% of the activists at an event are from out of state, he said, but on other nights it's about 50-50.
Regardless of where they are from, organizing Mr. Paul's supporters is a challenge. "This is entirely grassroots oriented to the point that the official campaign structure seems almost lost, to the point that they don't know what to do with all these people," Mr. Murphy said.
On their own initiative, and at their own expense, Paul volunteers hold rallies, print and distribute brochures and even purchase ads. "I pick up the paper and say, wow, there's an ad and it's not my ad," Mr. Chicoine told me.
The buzz surrounding the Paul campaign is reminiscent of the grassroots campaign Democrat Carol Shea-Porter waged against Republican Rep. Jeb Bradley last year. Polls showed Mrs. Shea-Porter trailing by 19 points in October. With almost no money and no support from the Democratic establishment, she came from behind and beat the congressman 51% to 49%.
Many are wondering if the polls are similarly missing Mr. Paul's momentum. Mrs. Shea-Porter and Mr. Paul have very different ideas about how to use the power of government, but both strongly oppose the war in Iraq. And Mrs. Shea-Porter ran last year as a fiscal conservative, so it's possible Mr. Paul could win over many Republicans who voted for her last year.
Mr. Chicoine and other Paul supporters say that, contrary to conventional wisdom, most of Mr. Paul's backers are Republicans, not independents. But everyone agrees that Mr. Paul draws an unusual mix of libertarians, fiscally conservative Democrats, conservative Republicans, home-schoolers, vegans, gambling aficionados, anti-abortion activists and others who want the government to butt out of some aspect of their lives.
But will they get out to vote on primary day?
"I've never seen a group of people that are this energetic about a candidate," Mr. Murphy said. "It's something else."
That sentiment is shared by Republicans who have observed numerous New Hampshire primaries. The level of enthusiasm for Mr. Paul is remarkable, they say. It transcends the state's Libertarian base (about 4% of the electorate). And by many accounts, Mr. Paul's backers here are more energized and committed than are supporters of Mr. Giuliani, who may enjoy inflated poll numbers because of his celebrity status.
National attention is focused on the horse races between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and between Messrs. McCain and Romney. But the shy obstetrician from Texas could be the surprise story of the New Hampshire primary.
Mr. Cline is editorial page editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: What problem?
on: January 01, 2008, 02:22:38 PM
Keeping Book on Immigration
December 31, 2007; Page A12
The Census Bureau informs us that when the clock strikes midnight, the U.S. population will exceed 303.1 million. That represents a one-year increase of 0.9% and a 22% increase since 1990, when our population stood at a mere 248.7 million souls. A lot of this growth is driven by immigration, a topic that has dominated the news for much of 2007.
Talk radio hosts, cable newscasters and Presidential hopefuls insist that foreign nationals drive crime rates, swell welfare rolls and steal jobs. But the data tell a very different story.
Between 1994 and 2005, the illegal immigrant population in the U.S. is estimated to have doubled to around 12 million. Yet according the Department of Justice, over that same period the violent crime rate in the U.S. declined by 34.2% and the property crime rate fell by 26.4%, reaching their lowest levels since 1973. Crime has fallen in cities with the largest immigrant populations -- such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami -- as well as border cities like San Diego and El Paso, Texas.
A recent paper by the Immigration Policy Center, an advocacy group, notes that "Numerous studies by independent researchers and government commissions over the past 100 years repeatedly and consistently have found that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes or be behind bars than the native born." Today, immigrants on balance are five times less likely to be in prison than someone born here.
It's not because law-abiding foreign professionals from India and China are compensating for criminally inclined low-skill Latinos. Immigrants from countries that comprise the bulk of our illegal alien population -- including Mexicans, Salvadorans and Guatemalans -- have lower incarceration rates than the native-born.
Another popular belief is that immigrants come here to go on the dole. The data show that welfare caseloads have fallen as illegal immigration has risen. As Peter Wehner and Yuval Levin report in the December issue of Commentary magazine, "Since the high-water mark in 1994, the national welfare caseload has declined by 60%. Virtually every state in the union has reduced its caseload by at least a third, and some have achieved reductions of over 90%."
Apparently immigrants don't drive welfare caseloads anymore than they drive the U.S. crime rate. The authors go on to note that, "Not only have the numbers of people on welfare plunged, but, in the wake of the 1996 welfare-reform bill, overall poverty, child poverty, black child poverty and child hunger have all decreased, while employment figures for single mothers have risen."
For all the talk about the "invasion" of million upon million of job-consuming immigrants, the unemployment rate stands at 4.7%, and job growth continues apace. Immigrants aren't stealing jobs but filling them. The economic activity they create as consumers and entrepreneurs contributes to the overall economic growth.
None of this is to argue that illegal immigration doesn't have costs, especially in border communities and states with large public benefits. In the post-9/11 environment, knowing who's in the country is more important than ever. That's an argument for better regulating cross-border labor flows, not ending them.
The best way to reduce pressure on the border is by providing legal ways for people to come and work. With the Bracero guest-worker program of the 1950s, illegal entries from Mexico declined to a trickle. A similar program today could have much the same effect, while serving our homeland security and economic interests. On balance, the evidence shows that immigrants are still an asset to the U.S.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Peggy Noonan in the WSJ
on: January 01, 2008, 12:56:43 PM
As Iowa sizes up the candidates, so do I.
Friday, December 28, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST
By next week politically active Iowans will have met and tallied their votes. Their decision this year will have a huge impact on the 2008 election, and a decisive impact on various candidacies. Some will be done in. Some will be made. Some will land just right or wrong and wake up the next day to read raves or obits. A week after that, New Hampshire. The endless campaign is in fact nearing its climax.
But all eyes are on Iowa. Iowans bear a heck of a lot of responsibility this year, the first time since 1952 when there is no incumbent president or vice president in the race. All of it is wide open.
Iowa can make Obama real. It can make Hillary yesterday. It can make Huckabee a phenom and not a flash, McCain the future and not the past. Moments like this happen in history. They're the reason we get up in the morning. "What happened?" "Who won?"
This is my 2008 slogan: Reasonable Person for President. That is my hope, what I ask Iowa to produce, and I claim here to speak for thousands, millions. We are grown-ups, we know our country needs greatness, but we do not expect it and will settle at the moment for good. We just want a reasonable person. We would like a candidate who does not appear to be obviously insane. We'd like knowledge, judgment, a prudent understanding of the world and of the ways and histories of the men and women in it.
Here are two reasonables: Joe Biden and Chris Dodd. They have been United States senators for a combined 62 years. They've read a raw threat file or two. They have experience, sophistication, the long view. They know how it works. No one will have to explain it to them.
Mitt Romney? Yes. Characterological cheerfulness, personal stability and a good brain would be handy to have around. He hasn't made himself wealthy by seeing the world through a romantic mist. He has a sophisticated understanding of the challenges we face in the global economy. I personally am not made anxious by his flip-flopping on big issues because everyone in politics gets to change his mind once. That is, you can be pro-life and then pro-choice but you can't go back to pro-life again, because if you do you'll look like a flake. The positions Mr. Romney espouses now are the positions he will stick with. He has no choice.
John McCain? Yes. Remember when he was the wild man in 2000? For Republicans on the ground he was a little outré, if Republicans on the ground said "outré," as opposed to the more direct "nut job." George W. Bush, then, was the moderate, more even-toned candidate. Times change. Mr. McCain is an experienced, personally heroic, seasoned, blunt-eyed, irascible American character. He makes me proud. He makes everyone proud.
Barack Obama? Yes, I think so. He has earned the attention of the country with a classy campaign, with a disciplined and dignified staff, and with passionate supporters such as JFK hand Ted Sorensen, who has told me he sees in Obama's mind and temperament the kind of gifts Kennedy displayed during the Cuban missile crisis. Mr. Obama is thoughtful, and it would be a pleasure to have a president who is highly literate and a writer of books.
Is he experienced enough? No. He's not old enough either. Men in their 40s love drama too much. Young politicians on fire over this issue or that tend to see politics as a stage on which they can act out their greatness. And we don't need more theatrics, more comedies or tragedies. But Mr. Obama doesn't seem on fire. He seems like a calm liberal with a certain moderating ambivalence. The great plus of his candidacy: More than anyone else he turns the page. If he rises he is something new in history, good or bad, and a new era begins.
Hillary Clinton? No, not reasonable. I concede her sturdy mind, deep sophistication, and seriousness of intent. I see her as a triangulator like her husband, not a radical but a maneuverer in the direction of a vague, half-forgotten but always remembered, leftism. It is also true that she has a command-and-control mentality, an urgent, insistent and grating sense of destiny, and she appears to believe that any act that benefits Clintons is a virtuous act, because Clintons are good and deserve to be benefited.
But this is not, actually, my central problem with her candidacy. My central problem is that the next American president will very likely face another big bad thing, a terrible day, or days, and in that time it will be crucial--crucial--that our nation be led by a man or woman who can be, at least for the moment and at least in general, trusted. Mrs. Clinton is the most dramatically polarizing, the most instinctively distrusted, political figure of my lifetime. Yes, I include Nixon. Would she be able to speak the nation through the trauma? I do not think so. And if I am right, that simple fact would do as much damage to America as the terrible thing itself.
Duncan Hunter, Fred Thompson, and Bill Richardson are all reasonable--mature, accomplished, nonradical. Mike Huckabee gets enough demerits to fall into my not-reasonable column. John Edwards is not reasonable. All the Democrats would raise taxes as president, but Mr. Edwards's populism is the worst of both worlds, both intemperate and insincere. Also we can't have a president who spent two minutes on YouTube staring in a mirror and poofing his hair. Really, we just can't.
I forgot Rudy Giuliani. That must say something. He is reasonable but not desirable. If he wins somewhere, I'll explain.
Because much of the drama is on the Democratic side, a thought on what might be said when they win or lose. If Mrs. Clinton wins, modesty is in order, with a graceful nod to Mr. Obama. If she loses--well, the Clintons haven't lost an election since 1980. For a quarter century she's known only victory at the polls. Does she know how to lose? However she acts, whatever face she shows, it will be revealing. Humility would be a good strategy. In politics you have to prove you can take a punch. I just took one. (On second thought that's a bad idea. She might morph at the podium into Robert DeNiro in "Raging Bull" and ad-lib the taunt: You didn't knock me down Ray! I'm still standing!)
For Mr. Obama: a lot of America will be looking at him for the first time, and under the most favorable circumstances: as the winner of something. This is an opportunity to assert freshly what his victory means, and will mean, for America. This is a break with the past, a break with the tired old argument, a break with the idea of dynasty, the idea of the machine, the idea that there are forces in motion that cannot be resisted . . . But what is it besides a break from? What is it a step toward, an embrace of?
Good luck, Iowa. The eyes of the nation are upon you.
Ms. Noonan is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal and author of "John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father" (Penguin, 2005), which you can order from the OpinionJournal bookstore. Her column appears Fridays on OpinionJournal.com.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: January 01, 2008, 12:47:57 PM
Third post of the day:
In response to some questions from me, the following is from a friend who is a MD in India. Over the years informed by a far greater level of coverage than is the case here in the US, he has been a serious student of these matters and so I give weight to what he says.
Assuming an honest vote, I dont think Bhutto can win. I doubt, the average Pakistani is going to vote for Mr.10% her husband. My experience from India has been again and again that even the uneducated masses will choose an honest leader and kick out the corrupt. In this election there are three complicating factors. The importance of the sympathy vote, the role of Bilawal and the growing clout of AQ/Taliban.
Sympathy vote: This could be huge, but is mitigated by Mr.10%. Bilawal is only 19 and ineligible for Parliament. Any victory for Bhutto's party will leave Mr.10% as lead dog. This cannot be acceptable to many Pakistanis.
Bilawal: He will be a force to reckon with in the future...but not now. To rule on the asian sub-continent, you need to be a son of the soil...somebody who speaks the language, somebody who was bought up in the country, went to school in the country. Bilawal is an oxford educated elite...he would be an important voice in the future, akin to Sonia Gandhi...king maker but not king.
AQ/Taliban: I think they are the underdogs...soon to be lead dogs. Nawaz Sharif is on relatively good terms with them. From what I read the Taliban already control large areas of the NWFP, call themselves the Islamic Emirates or something to that effect.
For the present I think no party can win an absolute majority, but if Nawaz Sharif plays his cards right (gets the support of Taliban) and the Army he could have a future. I think Mush will have to go, but he may take a last stand.
Army: The Pak army is a professional force, While their leadership is likely not in nexus with the AQ/Taliban types, I read that there is sympathy for the Taliban in the lower ranks of the army. The army however has a vested interest to maintain power, for they have always done so. What many people dont realize is that the army elite are a ruling class, they have great perks and a lot of money is chanelled to them. I once read it is a significant portion of the national income (distinct from the weapons purchases). A purely civilian ruler may decide to cut back on the army's priviledges. So I dont see the army giving all this up. Any leader must have the support of the army.
ISI: The spy agencies are thoroughly infiltrated with AQ/Taliban sympathizers. The ISI is like our CIA...deep infiltration of the CIA could have severe consequences for national security.
Nukes: Time and again one reads that the US has some assets/means to monitor the nukes. Even if this is true, I doubt Pak would be stupid enough to give all control to the US, they likely have some assets hidden outside of US control. I suspect it is these which could get in the hands of the wrong guys. But we are not there yet, for this to happen AQ/Taliban needs to become stronger more influential. This may happen if Nawaz Sharif comes into power. With govt. support, a AQ can achieve a lot. Overall, its not a question of IF but WHEN AQ will be able to get their hands on the stuff.
I dont know enough about nukes to say if they can be destroyed, but certainly Pak's main nuclear reactors are well known. Bombing them would certainly over throw the govt...and like a nuclear reaction, the aftermath of that is unpredicatable.
Future of Pak: Atleast I am not very optimistic on the country, they have been dismembered once (Bangladesh), many areas of NWFP are outside govt control, others like Balochistan seek independence. To rule such a place, requires making unsavoury alliances, as well as selling your soul. This is the reason, one cannot find a honest candidate.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: January 01, 2008, 12:44:25 PM
Here's the WSJ's take:
Losing in the West, the jihadis hit Pakistan, with its nuclear prize.
Friday, December 28, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST
"In Pakistan there are two fault lines. One is dictatorship versus democracy. And one is moderation versus extremism." Thus did Benazir Bhutto describe the politics of her country during an August visit to The Wall Street Journal's offices in New York. She was assassinated yesterday for standing courageously, perhaps fatalistically, on the right side of both lines.
We will learn more in coming days about the circumstances of Bhutto's death, apparently a combined shooting and suicide bombing at a political rally in Rawalpindi in which more than 20 others were also murdered. But there's little question the attack, which had every hallmark of an al Qaeda or Taliban operation, is an event with ramifications for the broader war on terror. With the jihadists losing in Iraq and having a hard time hitting the West, their strategy seems to be to make vulnerable Pakistan their principal target, and its nuclear arsenal their principal prize.
In this effort, murdering Bhutto was an essential step. Hers is the highest profile scalp the jihadists can claim since their assassination of Egypt's Anwar Sadat in 1981. She also uniquely combined broad public support with an anti-Islamist, pro-Western outlook and all the symbolism that came with being the most prominent female leader in the Muslim world. Her death throws into disarray the complex and fragile efforts to re-establish a functional, legitimate government following next month's parliamentary elections, which seemed set to hand her a third term as prime minister.
This is exactly the kind of uncertainty in which jihadists would thrive. No doubt, too, there are some in the Pakistani military who will want to use Bhutto's killing as an excuse to cancel the elections and reconsolidate their own diminished grip on power. In the immediate wake of the assassination, members of Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples Party have accused President Pervez Musharraf of being complicit in it. But whatever Mr. Musharraf's personal views of Bhutto--with whom he had an on-again, off-again political relationship--his own position has only been weakened by her death. It would be weakened beyond repair if he sought to capitalize on it by preventing the democratic process from taking its course.
That goes even if the immediate beneficiary of Bhutto's death is her onetime archrival, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Mr. Sharif, an Islamist politician with close ties to Saudi Arabia and a reputation for incompetence and corruption, said yesterday he would boycott next month's election even as he is seeking to assert himself as the man around whom all opponents of Mr. Musharraf can rally. We have no brief for Mr. Sharif, except to say that his claim to that position would be strengthened if the military indefinitely postpones or usurps the election.
Beyond the elections, Mr. Musharraf needs to move aggressively to confront the jihadists, and not the lawyers and civil-rights activists he has been jailing in recent months. Hundreds of Pakistanis have been murdered in recent months in terrorist acts perpetrated by fellow Muslims, and many of these perpetrators have, in different ways and at different times, been connected to the Pakistani government itself: as beneficiaries of the terrorist war Pakistan has supported over the years in Kashmir, or as beneficiaries of the support Pakistan gave to the Taliban until 9/11, or as beneficiaries of the ill-conceived "truce" Mr. Musharraf signed last year with Taliban- and al Qaeda-connected tribal chiefs in the Waziristan province. Worst of all has been the look-the-other-way approach successive Pakistani governments have taken to the radical, Saudi-funded madrassas throughout the country.
That will require a more radical reshaping of Pakistan's politics than Mr. Musharraf has so far been able, or willing, to undertake. But if Bhutto's assassination has any silver lining, it may be to show that there is no real alternative.
During her meeting with us last summer, Bhutto warned that while the jihadist movement would never have the popular support to win an election in its own right, they had sufficient means at their disposal to "unleash against the population, to rig an election, to kill the army and therefore to make it possible to take over the state." Today those words seem grimly prophetic. And while she was in many ways a flawed figure, her answer to that challenge--a real fight against terrorism that would give jihadists no rest; and a real democracy that would give them no fake grievance--looks to be the only formula by which Pakistan may yet be saved.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People
on: December 31, 2007, 11:34:55 PM
We finish the year on a happy note:
Gun-packing man, 65, fights off 5 thugs
WKMG LOCAL 6 NEWS
ORLANDO, Fla. -- A Central Florida man who collects cash for parking at a church fought off five armed men who had ambushed him and demanded cash. The 65-year-old victim, who did not want to be identified, said he was collecting cash in the Parramore area before an Orlando Magic basketball game when someone put a gun to his head. He noticed that that he was surrounded by four other men as well. The man said he pretended to reach into his jacket for cash but instead pulled out his hidden gun and opened fire. The men fled during the shooting and it was not known if any of them were hit by bullets. The victim said he had a permit for the concealed weapon.
He said he has been a victim of crime before.
"A couple of years ago, eight teens attacked me with a pipe trying to rob me," the man said.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Islam and Democracy
on: December 31, 2007, 09:37:00 PM
Interesting theological exegis , , ,
Is Voting Permitted in Islam Every year in England, we the Muslims are split on the issue of: “whether it is permissible or not to vote for man made laws” I ask this question as to whether it is permissible to vote for other then Allah’s laws, and does this lead to taghoot or shirk?
Are we only allowed to follow the shariah? The main argument is weather or not we are allowed to participate in this voting process?
Question # q-17034644Date Posted:04/03/2004 In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,
The process of voting in non-Muslim democratic countries is not based on religious ideologies neither are elections won and lost on the basis of religion. As such, a candidate that stands up in an election does not promise to implement the laws of Islam or any other religion for that matter.
Normally a candidate promises the public better services and facilities. These services may also be connected to a particular religion, like promising Muslims financial assistance for the construction of Masjids, and so on.
Therefore, to vote a particular candidate or party in non-Muslim countries will be permissible and not considered a sin or Kufr. When one votes for a party, it does not necessarily mean that one agrees completely with their beliefs and ideologies, rather the intention is that the candidate (or party) will be of help to the whole community.
In light of the above, it becomes clear that to vote in itself is not something that is impermissible. However, the following should be kept in mind.
Voting in a way is giving a testimony in favour of the person/party whom one is voting. The way false testimony is a major sin, to vote in favour of a candidate that one knows is not worthy will also be unlawful and a major sin.
Allah Most High says:
“Allah commands you to render back your trusts to those whom they are due.” (Surah al-Nisa, 58)
He also says:
“When you speak, speak justly, even if a near relative is concerned.” (al-An’am, 152)
“And shun the word that is false.” (al-Hajj, 30)
Bearing false testimony has been considered one of the major sins. Imam Dhahabi (may Allah have mercy on him) included bearing false testimony in his famous book al-Kaba’ir, and then related the following Hadith:
“Shall I not inform you of the greatest sins (akbar al-kaba’ir): Associating partners with Allah (shirk), disobedience to parents, bearing false witness and speaking falsehood.” (Sahih al-Bukhari)
When one is giving his vote, he is actually giving testimony on the fact that the candidate (or party) is trustworthy in his beliefs and actions, and better than the other candidates.
In a situation where there is no worthy candidate (as in non-Muslim countries, where at least the ideologies and beliefs of the relevant parties are contrary to the teachings of Islam), then the vote should be given to the one who is the better and more trustworthy than the other candidates.
Therefore, to give a vote on the purely basis of personal connections, family relationship, and the like (when one is aware that the one given the vote is not worthy) will be considered impermissible.
Vote should be given to the candidate that one believes will give people their rights, prevent oppression, and so on.
At times, voting becomes necessary. Sayyiduna Abu Bakr (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said:
“If people see an oppressor and don’t prevent him, then it is very likely that Allah will include all of them in the punishment.” (Sunan Tirmidhi & Sunan Abu Dawud)
Therefore, if you see open oppression and transgression, and despite having the capability of preventing this oppression by giving your vote, you don’t do so, then in the light of this Hadith you will be sinful.
In another Hadith it is stated:
“If a believer is being humiliated in front of a individual, and he despite having the capability of preventing this humiliation, abstains from doing so, Allah will him humiliate him (on the day of resurrection) in the presence of all the creation.” (Jam al-Fawa’id, 2/51)
In conclusion, voting is not something that is impermissible. If it is thought that a particular candidate or party will be of benefit to the general public in their day-to-day affairs, then the vote should be given to him. And by voting a particular party, it will not be considered that one agrees with all their ideologies and beliefs.
And Allah knows best
Muhammad ibn Adam
Leicester , UKhttp://www.daruliftaa.com/question.a...nID=q-17034644
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: December 31, 2007, 07:20:37 PM
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 30, 2007
The Musharraf Problem: Full Text from WSJ
With the permission of the Wall Street Journal, I reproduce below my whole article of yesterday on the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.
I drafted this article in the first few hours after Bhutto's death before any public attribution of responsibility. Since then, as partly reflected in the final version, the Government of Pakistan has claimed it has evidence or the responsibility of Baitullah Mahsud, Amir of the Taliban Movement of Pakistan (Tahrik-i Taliban-i Pakistan), and Mahsud has denied involvement through his spokesman, Mawlawi Umar.
As Juan Cole reports today, signs of a cover-up are increasing. Please note that the hypotheses of a plot by al-Qaida and the Pakistani Taliban on the one hand and of involvement by the Pakistani military and government (including in a cover-up) on the other hand are not mutually exclusive.
The Musharraf Problem
Barnett R. Rubin
Reprinted with permission from the Wall Street Journal, December 29, 2007
The assassination of Benazir Bhutto was probably a strategic attack by al Qaeda and its local allies—the Pakistani Taliban—aimed at achieving Osama bin Laden's and Ayman al-Zawahiri's most pressing political objective: destabilizing the government of Pakistan, the nuclear-armed country where al Qaeda has re-established the safe haven it lost in Afghanistan.
Many in Pakistan nevertheless will blame their own military, which has failed to stop the suicide bombings over the past five years, including that of Bhutto's motorcade in Karachi in October. Pakistani intelligence now claims to have intercepted a phone call from Baitullah Mahsud, leader of the Pakistani Taliban, offering congratulations for the operation. It may be true. But the skepticism with which this announcement was greeted in Pakistan shows that the Bush administration's strategy of trying to shore up the power of President (former general) Pervez Musharraf cannot work. Even if it is innocent of involvement in this assassination, the Pakistan military under Mr. Musharraf has no intention of ceding power to civilians.
Pakistani newspapers have already published what they claim are the planned results of the rigged elections. Nothing short of a genuine transition to democracy that replaces rather than complements military rule has a chance of establishing a government with the capacity to regain control of the country's territory and marginalize the militants.
The murder of Bhutto was not just an attempt to derail Pakistani democracy, or prevent an enlightened Muslim woman from taking power. It was a counterattack, apparently by the Pakistani Taliban and al Qaeda, against a U.S.-backed transition from direct to indirect military rule in Pakistan by brokering a forced marriage of "moderates."
According to last July's National Intelligence Estimate on the al Qaeda threat, bin Laden has re-established his sanctuary in the Pakistani tribal agencies. According to a report by the United Nations mission in Afghanistan, the suicide bombers for Pakistan and Afghanistan are trained in these agencies.
Most global terrorist plots since 9/11 can be traced back to these areas. And Pakistan's military regime, not Iran, has been the main source of rogue nuclear proliferation. It is therefore the U.S. partnership with military rulers in Pakistan that has been and is the problem, not the solution.
Last September, bin Laden released a video declaring jihad on the Pakistani government. When Bhutto returned to Pakistan from exile on Oct. 18—as part of a U.S.-backed strategy to shore up Musharraf's power through elections—her motorcade was bombed as it passed by several military bases in Karachi, killing over 100.
In October and November, groups allied with the Pakistani Taliban captured several districts in Swat, in the Northwest Frontier Province, not in the tribal agencies. When I was in Pakistan in early November, I was told that this offensive was part of a larger effort by the Pakistani Taliban to surround Peshawar, capital of NWFP, and put increasing pressure on nearby Islamabad, the capital. The next key step, I was told on Nov. 5, would be an attack on Charsadda, northeast of Peshawar, on the Muslim feast of 'Id al-Adha.
Sure enough, on Dec. 21 a suicide bomber killed 56 people during 'Id worship in Charsadda. This suicide attack followed by a week the announcement that leaders of various Taliban groups had agreed to establish a common organization—the Taliban Movement of Pakistan—under the command of Baitullah Mahsud, the Taliban commander in the South Waziristan Tribal Agency, where the meeting took place.
But if bin Laden declared jihad against Mr. Musharraf, Pakistan's leader saw greater threats elsewhere. When he declared an emergency on Nov. 3, he was responding mainly to the Supreme Court of Pakistan, which was about to rule that his standing for president while a serving general violated the constitution. Mr. Musharraf continued the longstanding policy of the Pakistani military of putting its own power, justified by the Indian threat, ahead of all other concerns.
Mr. Musharraf dissolved the Supreme Court and arrested thousands of democratic opponents before sending the army to recapture portions of Swat. His priorities—seeing unarmed civilian opponents as the main threat to the country—helps explain why many Pakistanis believe that the military is behind Bhutto's assassination.
These priorities are consistent with the message that Mr. Musharraf has been sending for years. On Sept. 19, 2001, he told the Pakistani public that he would support U.S. efforts in Afghanistan in order to "save Afghanistan and Taliban, ensure that they suffer minimum losses." He presented Pakistan's support for U.S. efforts against the Taliban as reluctant compliance, required to assure the security of Pakistan from India.
Bhutto, however, had started to present a different message: that the people of Pakistan want a government and a state that serves them, not a state that serves the military's pursuit of a failed strategic mission. She spoke of the Pakistani Taliban and their al Qaeda backers as the greatest threat to the country. She and other parties proposed to extend civil authority over the tribal agencies, ending their role as a platform for covert actions.
An interim of emergency rule and the postponement of national elections may now be inevitable. But if the military re-imposes martial law, further guts Pakistan's judiciary and legal system, and blocks democratization, Pakistan's people will resist.
For the first time in the history of Pakistan, respect for the military as an institution has plummeted. The vacuum of authority and legitimacy created by military rule will provide the Taliban and al Qaeda the opportunity they seek.
The Bush administration's nightmare scenario—the convergence of terrorism and nuclear weapons—is happening right now, and in Pakistan, not in Iraq or Iran. Yet as recently as Dec. 11, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen, speaking to the House Armed Services Committee with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, hardly mentioned Pakistan, and characterized Afghanistan as second in priority to Iraq.
It is critical that the Bush administration put Pakistan and Afghanistan where they should have been for the past six years: at the top of this country's security agenda. The most fitting memorial to Bhutto would be to recognize that the battle for a democratic Pakistan is the centerpiece of the global fight against terrorism.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread
on: December 31, 2007, 06:20:49 PM
You need to start hanging out somewhere with a higher IQ about these things
For example, here
Anyone who thinks that fight was fixed is so far into the realm of double digit IQ that he is in sight of single digit IQ
I had not seen many of VS's Pride fights and knew him more by reputationI was surprised by VS's lack of tactics/technique for closing. The footage I saw of his fight prep sparring had him with someone his own height-- CL is about 3" taller than VS and is unusually good at hitting with power while moving, even while moving backwards on angles. I had no sense that VS had thought about this or prepared for it.
OTOH I thought Matt Hughes came in with a sound strategy for closing: shift to right lead to nullify GSP's formidable left inside leg kicks (something which few people can do without getting counter-rushed) and go for the ankle pick or single leg. With this he could have come down in side control and perhaps done very well. In short, an intelligent and valid strategy. The problem though was that GSP's footwork and intelligence in his footwork was simply too awesome-- as was everything else. Truly outstanding performance by GSP, who also impresses as a class act to boot. MH, whom I don't care for from his performance as a coach on TUF, I thought handled his defeat well and graciously.
BTW Original Dog Brother Sled Dog helped train GSP.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fred
on: December 31, 2007, 12:31:51 PM
Fred has a strong pitch clip on his site at http://www.fred08.com:80/Virtual/FDTIowaSpeech.aspx
Here's the WSJ's Political Diary on it:
Thompson's Pitch: Let's Save the Democratic Party from the Democrats!
It wasn't an attack ad, and it didn't feature a "floating cross" in the background. In fact, Fred Thompson's closing appeal to Iowa voters is playing mostly on his Web site and YouTube because his campaign can't afford to buy TV time for the 17-minute message. Call it Thompson's Hail Mary pass.
That doesn't make the pitch any less worth watching. Harking back to Ronald Reagan's 1976 televised speech before the North Carolina primary -- which helped produce the Gipper's upset victory over President Gerald Ford -- Mr. Thompson's message is grounded in the substance and clarity he told supporters he would bring to the race, but which only became clearly visible in recent weeks.
Peter Robinson, a former speechwriter for President Reagan who is now at the Hoover Institution, notes that Mr. Thompson is trying something no other GOP candidate this year has done: appeal to Democrats. His key passage begins: "You know, when I'm asked which of the current group of Democratic candidates I prefer to run against, I always say it really doesn't matter. These days all those candidates, all the Democratic leaders, are one and the same. They're all NEA-MoveOn.org-ACLU-Michael Moore Democrats. They've allowed these radicals to take control of their party and dictate their course.... This election is important to salvage a once-great political party from the grip of extremism and shake it back to its senses. It's time to give not just Republicans but independents, and, yes, good Democrats a chance to call a halt to the leftward lurch of the once-proud party of working people."
Certainly the other GOP candidates might argue with Mr. Thompson's claim that his track record and approach make him the best candidate to win Democratic votes in the general election. Rudy Giuliani would be expected to put blue states such as New Jersey and Connecticut in play, and John McCain has proven support among some independent voters. But Mr. Robinson gives Mr. Thompson credit for trying to change the tone of the last days of the Iowa caucuses to something more substantive: "We have here a serious man, making a serious case -- and doing so in the context of a campaign that has otherwise descended into mere caterwauling."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People
on: December 31, 2007, 09:59:46 AM
Who says God is without a sense of humor?
Richmond police have found the car that was carjacked at gunpoint from State Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata in North Oakland, authorities said today.
The red 2006 Dodge Charger was found near the corner of Wiswall and Colette drives near the Hilltop Mall in Richmond at about 11 p.m. Saturday, nine hours after the carjacking, police said. The car will be processed for evidence.
Told about the recovery of the car, Perata, 62, said today that he was heartened that no one was hurt. "The car is immaterial to me," said the Oakland Democrat, whose home was guarded by the California Highway Patrol and police overnight.
He joked, "At least it was found in my district."
Perata was unharmed after he was accosted by a gunman at 51st Street and Shattuck Avenue in North Oakland at about 1:45 p.m. Saturday.
Perata said he was waiting for the light to change when, out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a man walking up to him. The senator, who has campaigned against assault weapons and crime, said he mistook the man for a panhandler or window washer at first.
But then the man began pulling a mask over his nose and pointed an automatic handgun at him "gangster style" - holding it sideways - before tapping it on his window and bellowing at him, "Get out of the m- car."
Perata said he told the man, "I'm outta here" and jumped out of the car, which police say may have been targeted for its 22-inch rims. The man got inside and took off in the car, which also had Perata's cell phone in it. The carjacker was followed by an accomplice in a gold 2000 Chevrolet Camaro that was stolen in San Leandro on Friday in an incident in which shots were fired, authorities said.
Oakland police Lt. Lawrence Green said police do not believe the assailants had recognized Perata on Saturday. The senator told officers that he believed he saw the men at a Union 76 gas station minutes earlier on Broadway Terrace, so it was possible that they followed him to 51st and Shattuck before carjacking him, Green said.
Perata said he was preparing to get onto the freeway when he was carjacked while he was the third car waiting at the red light. The gunman was no more than 3 feet away, and at one point, Perata said, he feared that if the assailant panicked and fired a round while fumbling to get his mask over his face, "that would have been the end of me."
Perata said today that he no longer carries a concealed-weapons permit and there was no gun in his state car.
Perata said he never had the permit renewed when it expired two years ago because he "just never had the opportunity to re-qualify" at a gun range. Perata obtained the permit out of security concerns stemming from his work regulating firearms.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Knives for good
on: December 31, 2007, 07:29:56 AM
The designer of this knife is a friend, known on the internet by his nomme de plume of "Southnark" -- due to his line of work, he prefers his name remains unknown. SN is one of the top RBSD instructors in the country and I recommend anything he is involved with highly. Amongst his martial arts training SN was a student of Pekiti Tirsia guro Doug Marcaida. PT includes edge-in ice pick as one of its methods. He also has silat and if I am not mistaken, trained for a time at Sifu Francis Fong's academy in Atlanta GA. At http://shivworks.com/
you can order his DVDs explaining and showing the logic of edge-in ice pick grip and how he envisions the application of this method.
For simple purposes here and now, appreciate that edge in generates powerful ripping motions e.g. a blocked caveman strike completes by filetting (sp?) the inside of the forearm.
Also worth noting is that Ray Floro uses edge-in. His gift to me of such a knife after we worked out together is greatly valued.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politically (In)correct
on: December 31, 2007, 07:14:42 AM
British Government Reports: Playing with toy weapons helps the development of boys
Why boys should be allowed to play with toy guns
By LAURA CLARK AND SARAH HARRIS
Playing with toy weapons helps the development of young boys, according to new Government advice to nurseries and playgroups.
Staff have been told they must resist their "natural instinct" to stop boys using pretend weapons such as guns or light sabres in games with other toddlers.
Fantasy play involving weapons and superheroes allows healthy and safe risk-taking and can also make learning more appealing, says the guidance.
It conflicts with years of "political correctness" in nurseries and playgroups which has led to the banning of toy guns, action hero games and children pretending to fire "guns" using their fingers or Lego bricks.
But teachers' leaders insisted last night that guns "symbolise aggression" and said many nurseries and playgroups would ignore the change.
The guidance, called Confident, Capable and Creative: Supporting Boys' Achievements, is issued by the Department for Children, Schools and Families.
It says some members of staff "find the chosen play of boys more difficult to understand and value than that of girls." This is mainly because they tend to choose activities with more action, often based outdoors.
"Images and ideas gleaned from the media are common starting points in boys' play and may involve characters with special powers or weapons.
"Adults can find this particularly challenging and have a natural instinct to stop it.
"This is not necessary as long as practitioners help the boys to understand and respect the rights of other children and to take responsibility for the resources and environment."
The report says: "Creating situations so that boys' interests in these forms of play can be fostered through healthy and safe risk-taking will enhance every aspect of their learning and development."
It cites a North London children's centre which helped boys create a "Spiderman House" and print pictures of the superhero from the internet.
This led to improvements in their communication, ability to develop storylines in their play and skills in drawing, reading and writing.
The guidance is aimed at boosting boys' achievement. They often fall behind girls even before starting school and the trend can continue throughout their academic careers.
Children's Minister Beverley Hughes said: "The guidance simply takes a commonsense approach to the fact that many young children and perhaps particularly many boys, like boisterous, physical activity."
"Although noisy for adults such imaginary games are good for their development as well as good fun."
But Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "The real problem with weapons is that they symbolise aggression.
"The reason teachers often intervene when kids have toy guns is that the boy is usually being very aggressive. We do need to ensure, whether the playing is rumbustious or not, that there is a respect for your peers, however young they are."
Chris Keates, general secretary of the The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) union said: "Many parents take the decision that their children won't have toy weapons."
Research by Penny Holland, academic leader for early childhood at London Metropolitan University, has also concluded that boys should be allowed to play gun games.
She found boys became dispirited and withdrawn when they are told such play-fighting is wrong.http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/liv...n_page_id=1770
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / In prison in Morocco
on: December 31, 2007, 07:05:19 AM
By MICHAEL MOSS and SOUAD MEKHENNET
Published: December 31, 2007
CASABLANCA, Morocco — Ahmed Rafiki sprawled on the makeshift couch in his cell, a fresh red henna dye in his long hair and beard.
Known to other militants as the father of Moroccan jihadists, he was convicted in 2003 of leading young men to fight Americans in Afghanistan. But here in Oukacha Prison, Mr. Rafiki, an Islamist cleric, is serving the final months of his sentence in style.
His kitchen and larder are stocked three times a week by his two wives. His curtained doorway leads to a private garden and bath. He has two radios and a television, a reading stand for his Koran and a wardrobe of crisply ironed Islamic attire.
“In my case,” he said with a smile, “the people treat me well.”
Hardly a scene of harsh interrogation and detention for which Moroccan prisons are known, Mr. Rafiki’s plush prison life is evidence of an awkward balancing act between the crackdown on militants in many countries and the power those militants can hold over the authorities.
Through hunger strikes and protests, Mr. Rafiki and Oukacha’s 65 other militant inmates have won perks — including exclusive use of the conjugal rooms — that make them the envy of the prison’s 7,600 other inmates.
One recent morning, a prisoner advocate handed the warden a long list of inmates not linked to terrorism cases who were demanding equal time with their wives.
“‘Why do they get much more rights than we get here?’” the advocate, Assia El Ouadie, said the other prisoners constantly asked her. “‘Do you want us to become terrorism prisoners, and then we will get those rights?’”
Even as more and more militants are imprisoned around the world — often by governments with records of conducting extreme interrogations — the prisoners are managing to gain a kind of crude leverage over security officials who are struggling to figure out how to handle them.
Draconian, or even strict, treatment of radical inmates can lead to prison unrest and public condemnation, particularly in countries with sizable Muslim populations. At the same time, officials fear that militants given free rein are more likely to turn prisons into prime grounds for radicalization and recruiting.
“More than any time in the modern history of terrorism, the prisons have become a key front in the war on terror,” Dennis Pluchinsky, a former senior intelligence analyst at the State Department, wrote in a report for the United States government earlier this year.
He estimated that there were 5,000 jihadi inmates and detainees worldwide, not counting those held in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that only 15 percent had received life sentences or the death penalty, meaning the rest would eventually be set free.
Here in Morocco, across the Arab world and in European countries like Spain and France, there is a growing realization that catching and convicting militants is hardly the end of the problem. Many are getting sentences of only a few years, and Arab governments continue to release hundreds every year through mass pardons aimed at quelling fundamentalist Islamic movements.
Last April, a meeting in Morocco on radicalization of Islamic prisoners drew representatives of 21 countries. “There is some confusion as to how, in overcrowded and underfinanced prison systems, you deal with these special case prisoners,” said a British official who helped run the meeting, who spoke anonymously, citing normal diplomatic strictures. British officials acknowledge that they erred in the early 1980s when they gave Irish Republican Army prisoners their own cellblock, only to see them carry out fatal hunger strikes that won public support. But the authorities say militant Islamic inmates are even more sophisticated.
Manuals from Al Qaeda instruct prisoners on how to resist interrogations, wage hunger strikes and use prison time to strengthen religious convictions. This month, Australian officials said a group of 40 Muslim inmates, not previously considered extremists, were found using guidance from a manual to organize themselves and stage protests at a prison near Sydney. Officials responded by scattering them among other prisons.
But that is hardly a fail-safe strategy. When members of the Qaeda-inspired group Fatah al Islam, which fought the Lebanese Army for three months this year, were locked up in Roumieh Prison near Beirut, Lebanese authorities found they had been using smuggled cellphones to contact other jailed militants and their families outside.
Page 2 of 3)
Some Middle Eastern and European countries are using moderate imams in prisons in hopes of quelling the extremist fervor. “You have to fight their ideology with Islam and against their wrong interpretation of Islam,” said a top Syrian security official.
The biggest concern is that militants will return to the fight once released, despite having been imprisoned, or perhaps because of it.
That is what Mohammed Mazouz did after he was freed in 2004 from the American detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. He was picked up last fall in Morocco as he was preparing to leave for Iraq to fight American troops. “I can’t forget what they did with me,” he said of his American captors, during an interview in a Moroccan prison. “I can’t forget all my life. I hate it.”
He was released two days later.
Rise of Fundamentalism
Morocco had few Islamic militants in its prisons during the 1990s, when leftists, angered by the country’s poverty and official corruption, posed more of a threat to the monarchy. King Mohammed VI began a series of liberalizations after assuming the throne in 1999. Yet a new challenge was rising, as the Islamic fundamentalism sweeping the Arab world gathered public support in Morocco. While the most popular Muslim leaders professed nonviolence, radicals began planning terrorist attacks.
In May 2003, eight weeks after the United States invaded Iraq, Morocco was hit by its worst terrorist attack ever. A dozen suicide bombers struck a cafe, a hotel and Jewish establishments in Casablanca, killing more than 30 people. The struggle between the militants and the government landed in Morocco’s prisons.
Hundreds of suspects were detained. In prison interviews with The New York Times, five men said they had been tortured during interrogations, subjected to a method of anal rape known as “the bottle treatment.”
In all, more than 1,400 men were convicted of terrorism-related charges and imprisoned. In May 2005, the militants started a 28-day hunger strike, using contraband cellphones to rally compatriots throughout the prison system.
A militant former convict, Abderahim Mohtad, started a prisoner advocacy group and stirred public support for the strikers. “Their strength comes from their belief in God,” he said in his storefront office, where one wall is covered with pictures of militant inmates. “You tortured him, you didn’t get anything from him. You arrested him and you didn’t get anything from him. You judged them, and some of them had been judged with death, and they are still laughing.”
While the Casablanca bombings had dampened public sympathy for terrorist groups, animosity toward the United States ran strong. The jailed militants were seen as motivated by the war in Iraq and by Morocco’s role in America’s campaign against terrorism.
Morocco has participated in a Sahara-wide counterterrorism effort financed by the United States, by helping to gather and share intelligence and by detaining terrorism suspects.
Many inmates protested that they had no role in the bombings, and Moroccan authorities acknowledged in recent interviews that many had been arrested simply for embracing an extreme ideology.
When the strike ended, courts reduced the sentences of some militants, and the king pardoned several hundred more. Those who remained in prison began to get special privileges.
“They started with hunger strikes and problems,” said Abdelati Belghazi, director of Zaki Prison, north of the capital, Rabat. “The media and organizations started to get involved, and because we wanted them to stop, we had to give them some of the things that they have requested. And then they started to feel much stronger because they saw that they received what they wanted. They requested more and more.”
More Space in Cells
At Zaki, one of two prisons where The Times interviewed militant inmates and prison officials, the 309 prisoners held as terrorists have much more space — averaging 3 men in each cell, compared with 22 per cell for the prison’s 3,500 regular inmates, a prison official said.
They also have a system for lodging complaints, a fact that at times irritates Ms. Ouadie, the prisoner advocate appointed by the king to mediate disputes.
Page 3 of 3)
“The guards threw a Koran on the ground,” a militant representative in Zaki, Yassine Aliouine, complained. Since the guards are Muslims, too, Ms. Ouadie said, it is more likely that the book simply fell.
“Yes, but they saw it and didn’t pick it up,” Mr. Aliouine replied.
When Ms. Ouadie raised the issue with the prison director, Mr. Belghazi, he played a videotape of the search where the Koran was said to have been abused, and a startlingly different scene emerged.
The video showed the guards collecting a bucketful of contraband electronics, including cellphones. They found a poster that listed militant groups and their leaders. They discovered a jackknife baked in a loaf of bread, and the warden dumped a dozen more blades on a table that he said the militants had tossed out of their windows.
Despite such periodic seizures, militant inmates in several Moroccan prisons were able to call Times reporters, both before and after the visits.
Oukacha, in Casablanca, is arguably the best address for jailed militants. Even the director, El Maati Boubiza, said he was amazed when he took the job last year. “Their cell doors were open 24 hours,” he said. “Only they could use the conjugal rooms, and they were using them starting at 6 a.m.”
Cellblock 5, where many of the militants live, functions like a small village. The inmates hold boxing matches. Sheep are slaughtered for the holidays. In one of the two kitchens, a cook proudly displayed his cutlery and an array of containers that held fresh deliveries from inmates’ families.
Down the hall, Hassan Kettani, a Islamic theorist renowned in global jihad circles, declined to be interviewed on videotape — until he changed out of his everyday clothes.
A few minutes later, he sauntered down to the lobby, unescorted, and posed in a white robe and golden headdress. “We were in very bad shape when we were captured,” he said of the days before the first hunger strike. “It was hard.”
The militants have also sought to draw public support by writing letters to local newspapers and jihadist Web sites, alternately complaining about their incarceration and presenting it as a duty gladly fulfilled.
“In our religion, we believe in destiny, and I believe that God has written this to me and I have to go through that,” said Mr. Rifiki, the militant cleric, whose group, Salafia Jihadia — or Fight of Ancestors — is considered a terrorist organization that reaches from North Africa to Europe.
Moderating the views of the hardest militants may be an impossibility, but Ms. Ouadie said prison authorities could help stop the cycle of radicalization by separating moderate Islamist prisoners from the more extreme ones. “I would arrange Islamic teachings and also treat them in a humane way,” she said.
Still, the terrorist attacks continue in Morocco and, despite the concessions to militant inmates, so do harsh interrogations by the police and intelligence agents, according to interviews with inmates.
Allegations of Torture
While Moroccan officials declined to comment on the allegations of torture, the accusers include a former investigations officer with the national security service, Abderahim Tarik, who was arrested last year on suspicion of ties to a militant group, which he denies.
Mr. Tarik said that for six days at a police station named Temara, he was beaten with sticks, stripped naked, doused with cold water and shocked with an electric prod on his feet and anus. “They started to tell me we will bring your wife tomorrow and rape her directly in front of you,” he said.
Abdelfattah Raydi exemplifies the cycle of arrests, incarceration and attacks.
Mr. Raydi, arrested in 2003 as a militant sympathizer, said in a letter he wrote in Oukacha to a human rights group, obtained by The Times, that he underwent both physical and psychological torture. “He beat me until I fainted,” he wrote of one of his questioners. Abdelfatif Amarin and two other cellmates of Mr. Raydi’s said that Mr. Raydi told them that he had been given the “bottle treatment.”
“I remember that he had nightmares and cried during his sleep,” said one inmate, asking not to be identified for fear of reprisal by prison officials. “He told me several times, ‘I swear to God, if I would have known that they would do this to me, I would have killed myself before.’”
In prison, Mr. Raydi spent time with a militant leader named Hassan al-Khattab, according to inmates, and they were both released in the king’s mass pardon in 2005. Mr. Raydi married, found work and moved away from the shantytown where he was raised with six brothers in a one-room shack, friends and relatives said.
Then last year, according to the authorities, he joined Mr. Khattab in a disrupted terrorist plot. Mr. Khattab was tried and awaits sentencing. But Mr. Raydi evaded capture, and was being sought by the authorities when he walked into an Internet cafe this March and blew himself up when the owner grew suspicious and called the police.
Chased by the authorities, Mr. Raydi’s brother and four other men wearing suicide vests blew themselves up in the following weeks, and the manhunt has produced dozens of new arrests.
On Nov. 8, 51 suspects, including one woman and two of Mr. Raydi’s brothers, made their first appearance in court. Among them was the son of a man arrested in the 2003 sweeps. “Do they treat you well, Hamid?” his grandmother asked after the hearing, pressing her hand to the glass partition. “How is your health?”
“All is good, grandmother,” he replied. “Are you coming to visit me later?”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison: Republic defined
on: December 31, 2007, 06:25:07 AM
"If we resort for a criterion to the different principles on
which different forms of government are established, we may
define a republic to be, or at least may bestow that name on,
a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly
from the great body of the people, and is administered by persons
holding their offices during pleasure for a limited period,
or during good behavior."
-- James Madison (Federalist No. 39)
Reference: Madison, Federalist No. 39 (241)
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson: Minority Rights
on: December 29, 2007, 10:53:46 AM
Thomas Jefferson, in his first inaugural address in 1801 said, "Though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable;...the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression".
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The creeping dhimmitude
on: December 28, 2007, 05:21:34 PM
Islam vs. Free Speech
by Jed Babbin
Under assault by Muslims and multiculturalists, free speech and freedom of the press are dead in Britain. The same sorts of people who killed them in Britain are killing them in Canada. They and their allies are using the British and Canadian courts and tribunals to bury our First Amendment rights in America.
Muslims -- individually and in pressure groups -- are using British libel laws and Canadian “human rights” laws to limit what is said about Islam, terrorists and the people in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere who are funding groups such as al-Queda. The cases of Rachel Ehrenfeld and Mark Steyn prove the point.
Dr. Ehrenfeld is a scholar and author of the book, “Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed, and How to Stop it.” In that book, Khalid Salim bin Mahfouz -- a Saudi who is former head of the Saudi National Commercial Bank -- and some of his family are described as having funded terrorism directly and indirectly.
Ehrenfeld is American, her book was written and published in America and she has no business or other ties to Britain. Under American law, the Brit courts would have no jurisdiction over her. But about two-dozen copies of her book were sold there through the internet. Bin Mahfouz sued her for libel in the Brit courts where the burden of proof is the opposite of what it is in US courts: the author has to prove that what is written is true, rather than the supposedly defamed person proving it is false.
Think about that for a moment. Under the US Constitution political writing -- free speech -- is almost unlimited. To gain a libel judgment a politician -- or someone suspected of terrorist ties -- would have to prove that the story or book was false. If that person were a public figure such as Mahfouz, in order to get a libel judgment he’d not only have to prove that what was written was false, he’d also have to prove it was published maliciously.
Those American laws and standards of proof protect political speech. The First Amendment is intended to protect political speech that people find objectionable. In the landmark 1969 case of Brandenburg v. Ohio, the Supreme Court overturned an Ohio statute which would have outlawed hate speech by the Ku Klux Klan. That’s why Mahfouz sued in Britain, not here.
Ehrenfeld refused to fight the case, saying the Brit courts have no jurisdiction over her. Mahfouz got a default judgment against her for ₤10,000 (for himself, and in equal amounts for his sons). The judgment also requires that there be no further “defamatory” statements published in England and Wales.
In a letter published in the Spectator on November 21, bin Mahfouz’s lawyers gloated over their victory against Ehrenfeld: “Rather than check her facts, defend her statements in open court, or acknowledge her mistakes, Ehrenfeld hides behind a claim to free speech. Thank goodness, the legal lights remain on in Britain to expose such harmful journalism.”
“Harmful journalism” is what tyrants and despots call free speech, especially political speech that condemns their affronts to freedom. The “legal lights” Mahfouz’s lawyers see is the bonfire they made of the Magna Carta. Thanks to Mahfouz and his ilk, the light of free speech is extinguished in Britain. Consider the fate of the book, “Alms for Jihad.”
In 2006 Cambridge University press published “Alms for Jihad.” It’s a highly detailed and apparently well-researched book that documents Saudi funding of terrorist groups (as well as other funding and the network of Islamic “charities” that contribute to terrorism). “Alms for Jihad” -- like Ehrenfeld’s book -- documents bin Mahfouz’s funding ties to terrorism, including to Usama bin Laden. But “Alms”-- in settlement of a libel suit by bin Mahfouz in the Brit courts -- was withdrawn from stores and libraries and unsold copies destroyed. The Saudi book burners won.
Mahfouz’s case against Ehrenfeld has already done enormous harm in the US. Ehrenfeld told me she’s unable to get book publishers to contract for another book. She said all of the major US publishing houses have turned down a book on the Muslim Brotherhood -- thought to have substantial terrorist ties -- and the Saudis’ involvement in funding it.
If what Ehrenfeld writes about the Brotherhood offends Mahfouz or someone else whose ties to terrorism ought to be exposed, sales could be banned not only in Britain but in the entire European Union and the publisher -- and the author -- made liable for damages. Mahfouz -- using British courts that have no jurisdiction over American authors -- has apparently precluded Ehrenfeld from writing another book. Steyn’s case is another instance of Muslims trying to silence “harmful journalism.”
Mark Steyn’s superb book, “America Alone”, makes two important points: first, that the Muslim baby boom around the world will likely result in Christian nations becoming Muslim by weight of demographics; and second that Islam is a political system, not just a religion:
So it’s not merely that there’s a global jihad lurking within this religion, but that the religion itself is a political project and, in fact, an imperial project in a way that modern Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism are not. Furthermore, this particular religion is historically a somewhat bloodthirsty faith in which whatever’s your bag violence-wise can almost certainly be justified.
Steyn’s stance -- written by him and paralleled by other writers in the Canadian magazine, “Macleans” -- is the subject of a complaint to the Canadian Human Rights Commission brought by three Muslim law students in Canada, with the apparent support of the Canadian Islamic Conference. That group is similar to the CAIR, the Council on American Islamic Relations.
The Canadian Human Rights Commission is a multiculti kangaroo court. The complaint against Macleans will be adjudicated next year, and findings entered against the magazine. (Steyn told me that the CHRC has granted 100% of the petitions brought to it so far.) What then?
Fines and other sanctions will be entered against Macleans along with probable injunctions against further “harmful journalism” that offends Muslims. A case may be brought against Steyn himself later. Which means that he could be subjected to fines or other penalties in Canada for exercising his First Amendment rights in the US. And -- because American publishers look to Canada for about 10% of their sales -- Steyn may, like Ehrenfeld, find publishers unwilling to publish his work.
What has happened to Ehrenfeld and may happen to Steyn is in contravention of their First Amendment rights. No American court would or could do that. No foreign court or commission should be able to. US courts, and each of us who believes in free speech, must stand with both authors. US courts should make it clear that foreign libel judgments or “human rights” decisions that conflict with our First Amendment cannot be enforced.
Each and every presidential candidate should speak -- loudly and clearly -- against this encroachment of foreign law on the First Amendment. Anyone who doesn’t stand forthrightly against these foreign infringements on Americans’ Constitutional rights should receive neither our confidence nor our votes.
What Muslims such as Mahfouz and those complaining against Steyn are doing to destroy free speech overseas has been commenced here by groups such as CAIR. A few weeks ago, CAIR announced its media guide, which is purportedly corrects “misperceptions” about Islam and “…educate(s) the media and disabuse(s) journalists of misinformation.” But the other aspect -- which I and others suspect -- is that it’s not so much a guide as a set of rules against “harmful journalism.” And those who write about terrorism, Saudi Arabia and Islam will be accused of intolerance and racism should they violate them.
We don’t yet know what the CAIR guide says. I requested a copy of it from CAIR by e-mail, as they specified. I have neither received a copy nor received any response. I suspect CAIR wants to hide it from people who would scrutinize it. Having to operate under our Constitution, they will take a more indirect path than Mahfouz and the Canadian law students to preclude what they believe is “harmful journalism.”
Mr. Babbin is the editor of Human Events. He served as a deputy undersecretary of defense in President George H.W. Bush's administration. He is the author of "In the Words of our Enemies"(Regnery,2007) and (with Edward Timperlake) of "Showdown: Why China Wants War with the United States" (Regnery, 2006) and "Inside the Asylum: Why the UN and Old Europe are Worse than You Think" (Regnery, 2004). E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ralph Peters on Bhutto
on: December 28, 2007, 03:51:02 PM
Wow. Ralph Peters did not think much of Bhutto.
THE BHUTTO ASSASSINATION: NOT WHAT SHE SEEMED TO BE
December 28, 2007 -- FOR the next several days, you're going to read and
hear a great deal of pious nonsense in the wake of the assassination of
Pakistan's former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto.
Her country's better off without her. She may serve Pakistan better after
her death than she did in life.
We need have no sympathy with her Islamist assassin and the extremists
behind him to recognize that Bhutto was corrupt, divisive, dishonest and
utterly devoid of genuine concern for her country.
She was a splendid con, persuading otherwise cynical Western politicians and
"hardheaded" journalists that she was not only a brave woman crusading in
the Islamic wilderness, but also a thoroughbred democrat.
In fact, Bhutto was a frivolously wealthy feudal landlord amid bleak
poverty. The scion of a thieving political dynasty, she was always more
concerned with power than with the wellbeing of the average Pakistani. Her
program remained one of old-school patronage, not increased productivity or
Educated in expensive Western schools, she permitted Pakistan's feeble
education system to rot - opening the door to Islamists and their religious
During her years as prime minister, Pakistan went backward, not forward. Her
husband looted shamelessly and ended up fleeing the country, pursued by the
courts. The Islamist threat - which she artfully played both ways - spread
But she always knew how to work Westerners - unlike the hapless Gen. Pervez
Musharraf, who sought the best for his tormented country but never knew how
to package himself.
Military regimes are never appealing to Western sensibilities. Yet, there
are desperate hours when they provide the only, slim hope for a country
nearing collapse. Democracy is certainly preferable - but, unfortunately,
it's not always immediately possible. Like spoiled children, we have to have
it now - and damn the consequences.
In Pakistan, the military has its own forms of graft; nonetheless, it
remains the least corrupt institution in the country and the only force
holding an unnatural state together. In Pakistan back in the '90s, the only
people I met who cared a whit about the common man were military officers.
Americans don't like to hear that. But it's the truth.
Bhutto embodied the flaws in Pakistan's political system, not its potential
salvation. Both she and her principal rival, former Prime Minister Nawaz
Sharif, failed to offer a practical vision for the future - their political
feuds were simply about who would divvy up the spoils.
From its founding, Pakistan has been plagued by cults of personality, by
personal, feudal loyalties that stymied the development of healthy
government institutions (provoking coups by a disgusted military). When she
held the reins of government, Bhutto did nothing to steer in a new
direction - she merely sought to enhance her personal power.
Now she's dead. And she may finally render her country a genuine service (if
cynical party hacks don't try to blame Musharraf for their own benefit).
After the inevitable rioting subsides and the spectacular conspiracy
theories cool a bit, her murder may galvanize Pakistanis against the
Islamist extremists who've never gained great support among voters, but who
nonetheless threaten the state's ability to govern.
As a victim of fanaticism, Bhutto may shine as a rallying symbol with a far
purer light than she cast while alive. The bitter joke is that, while she
was never serious about freedom, women's rights and fighting terrorism, the
terrorists took her rhetoric seriously - and killed her for her words, not
Nothing's going to make Pakistan's political crisis disappear - this crisis
may be permanent, subject only to intermittent amelioration. (Our State
Department's policy toward Islamabad amounts to a pocket full of platitudes,
nostalgia for the 20th century and a liberal version of the white man's
The one slim hope is that this savage murder will - in the long term -
clarify their lot for Pakistan's citizens. The old ways, the old
personalities and old parties have failed them catastrophically. The country
needs new leaders - who don't think an election victory entitles them to
grab what little remains of the national patrimony.
In killing Bhutto, the Islamists over-reached (possibly aided by rogue
elements in Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, one of the murkiest
outfits on this earth). Just as al Qaeda in Iraq overplayed its hand and
alienated that country's Sunni Arabs, this assassination may disillusion
Pakistanis who lent half an ear to Islamist rhetoric.
A creature of insatiable ambition, Bhutto will now become a martyr. In
death, she may pay back some of the enormous debt she owes her country.