DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Guro Crafty en el DF, Mexico
on: June 02, 2006, 12:23:38 AM
En ingles digo "Consistency across categories" osea el indole del movimiento debe ser semajante no obstante la categoria.
Muchos dicen eso, pero menos lo viven. En mi caso, porque tengo la experiencia de realmente pegar con palos a otros hombres con palos, osea en condicion de adrenalina, me parece logico y natural usar los mismos movimienots con mano desnudo, con y contra cuchillo etc. Para una persona faltando eso en su experiencia escuchando a un maestro quien tambien faltando en eso experiencia se le resultara' much mas dificil en usar estos movimientos y conceptos cuando la situacion es verdadera-- y en este momento se va a usar movimientos de otro indole completamente o respondera' de manera padaciendo de entrenamiento completamente.
?Esta claro mi espanol aqui?
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Mexico
on: June 01, 2006, 08:44:58 PM
Mexico: Of Soccer and Electoral Strategy
Mexico's presidential race has become a very close contest. The latest polls show the conservative National Action Party's candidate Felipe Calderon tied with the Democratic Revolutionary Party's candidate, left-leaning former Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador; Institutional Revolutionary Party candidate Roberto Madrazo is not far behind. On June 6, the candidates will meet for their second and last televised debate. Whoever wins that will have a good chance of winning the July 2 election.
The final weeks of Mexico's presidential campaign have seen it become a very close race. After several months of leading the competition in virtually every opinion poll, left-wing Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador from the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) lost that position in May to Felipe Calderon from President Vicente Fox's National Action Party (PAN). The latest voter intention surveys indicate that Lopez Obrador and Calderon are tied, with Roberto Madrazo of the formerly long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) not far behind.
As recently as five weeks ago, Lopez Obrador looked like the certain winner. He held a modest but consistent lead in opinion polls, which gave him the initiative to set the campaign and policy agenda. In an attempt to protect his lead, Lopez Obrador decided not to attend the first televised debate, opting to attack Fox instead. After two false starts, Calderon finally found a way to exploit Lopez Obrador's weaknesses and launched an advertising campaign comparing Lopez Obrador to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. The campaign proved to be a success. Meanwhile, Madrazo has been trying to plug the holes that widespread scandals and internal discord have made in the PRI's ship.
The candidates' second and last televised debate, slated for June 6, is the most prominent event before the July 2 election The victor is likely to have a definitive advantage when voters go to the polls. Though the race has become more competitive, no candidate has created much excitement among the voters, and a large portion of the electorate will not even bother to vote. Furthermore, the soccer World Cup -- which will be held in Germany from June 9 through July 9 -- is expected to decrease voter attention even more. The three main candidates' electoral strategy is to try to get into first place before the World Cup begins, and the upcoming debate is likely their biggest chance to win over the undecided voters and consolidate their support bases.
Having lost his position as front-runner, Lopez Obrador also lost the impression of inevitability he was trying to bring to the upcoming debate. He has dismissed every poll that does not give him the advantage, maintaining that his own numbers say otherwise. He said in an ad on national television this week that he is focusing on just one segment of the electorate: those who earn less than $800 a month, to whom he proposed giving cash handouts as soon as he becomes president. The problem is that he would be dispensing those handouts to a great majority of the Mexican population, and he has yet to figure out where the money would come from. Lopez Obrador will continue attacking Fox, Calderon and the PAN's role in the bank bailout after the 1994-1995 financial crisis, which he considered a cover-up to protect rich bankers, even though Fox, Calderon and the PAN were not in power at the time. Also, having lost many of the "independent voters" who once sided with him, Lopez Obrador will appeal directly to voters identified with the PRI and try to win over those in the party's left wing to supplement the support from his own PRD.
Calderon, in turn, has had a tough time generating enthusiasm beyond his party base. Despite being the youngest of the candidates, he represents a brand of social conservatism that has not gone over well with the youngest voters. However, he could persuade many voters leaning toward Lopez Obrador that the PRD candidate poses a grave economic risk. Calderon's message that associates Lopez Obrador with Chavez and highlights his willingness to go on a spending spree once in power has played well in the northern states, where Calderon has consolidated a wide margin. However, he seems to have won over all those who can be convinced by that strategy, and he does not yet have sufficient support to win the election.
Madrazo, who has the highest personal negative ratings from voters, has been unable to run a consistent campaign. His run has been marred by scandals and party infighting -- some of which he is responsible for, and most of which was engineered by his opponents within the PRI. The scandals have put the once-invincible PRI on the verge of falling into third place, a position from which it would be hard to recover. Despite all that, the PRI has shown extraordinary resilience, and Madrazo is hoping that low voter turnout will allow him to take advantage of the party machinery's "get out the vote" strategy. Madrazo is also appealing to the segment of the population targeted by Lopez Obrador, saying he will help but without endangering the country's economic well-being. Madrazo also will relentlessly attack Calderon to undermine his support in the north.
Opinion polls after the debate could give a good indication of which candidate was able to win over the small segment of the electorate that is up for grabs. Economic and public security issues will dominate the debate. The candidates are not likely to pay much attention to the most prominent item on the U.S.-Mexican agenda -- immigration -- during the debate or during the rest of the campaign, unless there are incidents along the border involving the U.S. National Guard that result in the deaths of Mexican nationals. Such an event would directly affect Calderon, who would be identified with Fox's acquiescence to the U.S. National Guard deployment to the border.
This presidential election is the first in which Mexico is allowing absentee voting for Mexicans living abroad. This was a long-standing demand from the Mexican community in the United States, which accounts for an overwhelming majority of Mexicans living outside Mexico. Politicians had stalled on the issue for various reasons, but an eleventh-hour attempt in 2005 finally succeeded in allowing absentee voting. Of an estimated 4 million potential voters outside the country, only about 300,000 registered to vote, and even fewer will actually vote. The reasons for this are varied, but one major reason is that Mexicans living abroad whose status is not legal could be afraid of being identified if they send their votes. The number of registered Mexican voters outside Mexico will increase, and then the Mexican community in the United States will become an active constituency. This is likely to change the dynamics between Mexico City and Washington.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / We the Well-armed People
on: May 31, 2006, 11:27:23 PM
Interview With Jeff Snyder
by Carlo Stagnaro
Very often, anti-gun activists claim guns do kill people, while their opposers assure that guns, on the contrary, do save lives. Actually, real statistics and crude numbers seems to agree with the latter, as ? among other ? John Lott showed in his well known More Guns, Less Crime. Anyway, stats and numbers cannot answer the entire question; rights cannot lie on data books. One should also make a moral argument. Do people have the right to be free? In that case, do they have the right to protect themselves? Finally, do they have the right to use arms for self-defence? If so, it shouldn?t matter whether, according statistics, guns wither kill or save lives. The fact that one should be allowed to defend himself simply excludes that government disarm him.
We have talked of this, and much more, with Jeff Snyder, whose last book, Nation of Cowards (Accurate Press, 2001) is a strong case in defence of the individual right to keep and bear arms.
On September 11, 2001, the worst terrorist act in history was committed without any guns. The terrorists were armed only with knives and box-cutters. Some say that the hijackers found it quite easy to realize their plans; airplane passengers, in fact, can?t carry firearms. Even pilots and cabin stewards are unarmed. What about gun-free airplanes and airports?
The track record of gun-free zones is, how shall we say this, less than impressive: post offices, schools, and now, airplanes. The events of September 11 could not have occurred but for the fact that air travelers are disarmed, and airplanes are a Second Amendment free zone. In no other way could the terrorists have commandeered the planes with box cutters and pocket knives, turned them into flying bombs, and wrought such massive destruction of life, property, and our economy. This is not because the terrorists would have been afraid of being shot and killed by passengers, since they were obviously prepared to die. Instead, they would have known that they would not succeed in carrying out their mission against the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and so there would have been no point in trying that.
So it turns out that depriving people of freedom has its costs. It is hard to conceive of a more graphic illustration.
People imagine that curbing liberty will prevent those with evil intentions from carrying them out, by depriving them of the ability to act in a dangerous or deadly fashion. However, liberty is not just the necessary condition for bad people to act, it is also the necessary condition for good people to act. Unless the act prohibited is mala in se (wrong in itself), like murder, then restricting liberty in hopes of rendering bad people harmless comes at the price of incapacitating good people and rendering them helpless.
This is a Faustian bargain that would not appear desirable to the good unless the good believed that it was not their responsibility to act. It appeals to those who think of themselves as consumers of public safety, who believe, with the State?s encouragement, that government can and will control external reality to deliver a safe world to them. So they choose to trust in government control, which expressly promises to deal with the problem, rather than relying on the unpredictable chance that their fellow citizens have the moral capacity and willingness to do the right thing when circumstances call upon them to do so. They know that they do not intend to act, but expect government officials to save them. How, then, can they believe that other citizens will do so? Fundamentally, then, this concept of the "gun-free zone" reveals a very profound failure or inability to trust in one another. Of course, we are encouraged by the State to trust in it, in lieu of or in preference to trusting in one another.
Do you still believe that America is "a nation of cowards"?
No. Actually I think that Americans are, by and large, encamped in a mental state that precedes cowardice. Cowardice implies that a person knows what he ought to do, but shrinks or flies from it in fear or self-interest. The bulk of Americans, it seems to me, are in one or two states that precede awareness and acceptance of the notion that they should defend themselves: (1) denial that anything will happen to them, or belief that their risk is adequately controlled by insuring that they work and live and travel only in what they perceive to be "safe" neighborhoods, i.e., relatively crime free zones; or (2) belief that it is not really their responsibility to protect themselves or others, but the state?s, and that the state will protect them. I suspect that most Americans do not acknowledge that they have any responsibility to protect themselves from a violent assault, or have not realized or accepted the reality of what that entails, or believe that avoidance of "dangerous areas" is adequate. I might be wrong, because there is a third possibility, namely, that they are fully cognizant of the risks and accept them, but do not wish to become "the kind of person" that carries a gun everywhere, or cannot be bothered with the nuisance of it all. If that position is adopted with full awareness of the implications, it is not cowardice.
Your book is a strong case against utility. You state every individual has the right to keep and bear arms and, more generally, certain rights, no matter whether or not it leads to a more prosperous and peaceful society. Why?
I do not believe that rights are founded on prudential grounds, nor do I believe that individuals are entitled by society or their government to possess or exercise rights only so long as society or the state judges (whether rightly or wrongly) that the rights confer an aggregate net benefit upon society or the state as a whole. I have been concerned in many of my writings to demonstrate this, as well as the corollary proposition, that rights cannot be defended or justified on utilitarian grounds, since to undertake such a defense is to imply that rights require a utilitarian justification, and are therefore contingent on positive aggregate outcomes. By the way, I speak of social utilitarianism, normally expressed as "the greatest good for the greatest number," not of individual utilitarianism, that is, the notion that each individual acts to maximize his individual welfare.
Utilitarianism is a result-driven ethic, that is, it is driven by a desire to secure a specified result, a particular "greatest good," desired by the greatest number. Utilitarianism thus concerns itself with gaming the outcome of the exercise of man?s freedom. By definition, all matters are necessarily subordinate to the acquisition of the "greatest good" for the "greatest number," a particular aggregate net benefit. As a result, particular individuals simply don?t count and, in fact, the philosophy sanctions the use of individuals solely as a means to an end, that is, it sanctions human sacrifice, so long as those to be sacrificed are not so numerous that it eliminates rather than contributes to the overall aggregate benefit.
This is very evident in Handgun Control Inc.?s writings in favor of gun control. They do not deny that some people successfully use guns to defend themselves, and they freely site Department of Justice Statistics that report that this happens about 65,000 times a year. But they argue that this benefit is small in comparison to the number of homicides, suicides and crimes committed with guns each year, and that it would result in a greater benefit to society to eliminate or severely restrict access to handguns. Thus, tacitly, by their own admission, the 65,000 persons a year who would otherwise benefit from having a gun are to be sacrificed in favor of the hundreds of thousands a year who will benefit from elimination of guns.
Because utilitarianism is concerned with securing a desired aggregate outcome, whether the individual is permitted liberty to act depends on whether his fellow citizens are, in the aggregate, using their liberty to achieve the desired good. If not, the individual?s liberty may be curbed or re-directed. Thus, the individual?s freedom depends on how others behave, and is defined and circumscribed with reference to the results that others achieve. In other words, you cannot carry a gun, because too many others are using them to commit crimes. Thus the scope of your freedom depends not on how you act, but on how others act.
By contrast, classically, individual rights are founded on the notion, as expressed by Kant, that each individual is "an end in himself," that all are entitled to be treated as having equal dignity, and that it is therefore wrong to treat others solely as a means to a desired end. A philosophy of individual right is not results-driven, and therefore does not sanction human sacrifice in favor of the highest good desired by the greatest number. An approach that rests on man?s freedom cannot, by definition, be driven by outcome or result: if men are left free, the outcome will be left variable! Of necessity, then, an approach that rests on freedom cannot possibly guaranty a specified, favorable outcome, either individually or in the aggregate. It cannot, therefore, promise safety, security, a reduction in violent crime, etc. Such concerns are blissfully beside the point, for the point is precisely to respect each individual as an end in himself.
However, individual autonomy and dignity are thin reeds to hang anything on these days! It?s just not enough, you understand! And I often think that that would be a pretty good epitaph for the whole wretched 20th Century: "Dignity Was Not Enough." People seem to believe they are more secure on the seemingly "scientific" grounds found in the results uncovered by social scientists. For example, in the gun control debate, you find people who are immensely comforted and bolstered by the findings of John Lott, that concealed carry laws are associated with measurable, significant decreases in violent crimes. They feel that this, truly, establishes legitimacy for their right to carry arms. Who needs ethics when you have numbers? Amazing.
Many people agree with you, that anyone should be able to own and carry a handgun for personal defense. But what about military weapons? Don?t you think it would be dangerous to let people be so strongly armed?
I do not wish to alarm you, but we already freely permit people to have military weapons and, what?s worse, the people we permit to have these weapons are clearly the most dangerous people on the planet. I mean, of course, those in government. Do I take your question, then, to mean, that while we manage to live in the world with this state of affairs, the incremental danger of letting anyone else (who is so inclined) have these weapons would be simply too dangerous and intolerable, so that it is better to protect the monopolies enjoyed by those now in power?
I am sorry to be a little glib, but really I don?t know how to answer your question. It is a sometimes unfortunate fact that we generally take the familiar, the status quo, as the proper baseline for judging all matters and see any change productive of uncertainty as an intolerable threat to our current comfort level. This is illustrated in the gun control debate all the time. People are concerned that, if concealed weapons permit laws are passed that allow any sane, law-abiding adult to carry a handgun for self-defense, these unknown strangers will be a danger to their community. You see, what do we really know about these people, and what training do these people really have? Yet ask them how much they really know about the police who are carrying not only handguns but also who have shotguns and, sometimes, semiautomatic rifles in their cars. What do they really know about the temper, character and personality of these people? What do they really know about their training? Basically, they know nothing about that. They know they wear uniforms that make them look "official" and that they work for a respected organization that is supposed to protect them, and this is enough. It is familiar; it is part of the ordinary fabric of life, so it is part of the baseline or background against which risks are measured, rather than part of the risk assessment itself. If you try to point out to them that they already live, quite comfortably and with scarcely a thought, with the risk they are supposedly worried about, they look at you like you are a madman. It is a failure of imagination. They cannot step off the baseline, cannot see the world apart from the baseline.
Really, would we any better or worse off if the individual right to keep and bear arms clearly encompassed the right to own tanks, fighter jet aircraft, stinger missiles, and suitcase nukes? I have no idea, but I think that the question is unanswerable except as a general indication of our beliefs about the nature of people. However, I will say that, at least here in the United States, historically, at least prior to the 1960s, except for the 1934 tax imposed on machine guns (which had the merit of doubling their cost to help keep them out of the hands of the disgruntled poor), I believe that there were no legal prohibitions against owning most military weapons. I am not aware of any instances during this period in which the absence of these legal prohibitions led to societal horrors. Perhaps almost all who are inclined to use these weapons against their fellow man are attracted to service in government, where it is socially acceptable?
You say that the Second Amendment affirms an individual right, which exists before any organized government, so that it cannot be repealed any more than we could repeal the right to life or any other natural or God-given right. But don?t you think, as some say, that it is an anachronistic legacy of the Revolutionary War?
Okay, you?re baiting me now! First, I hope that I do not say this, but that I simply state what was once believed or elucidate the implications of the now largely forgotten theory of natural rights. I try to demonstrate how far we have fallen away from this understanding and, correspondingly, how illegitimate our government has become judged by reference to its founding principles. I do this mostly for my own edification but also in hopes that others will pick up the thread and re-examine the whole question of the nature of the state and its legitimacy.
I?m not going to take the bait and argue that the right is just as relevant today as it was at the time of the Revolutionary War, nor address the claim that, since small arms are insufficient to defeat a modern army, with its helicopter gun-ships, laser-guided bombs and satellite surveillance, the right is quite anachronistic, at least in terms of protecting against government tyranny, because I?m not really interested in that. You?re still judging the right?s right to exist by whether or not the right works. The question implies a utilitarian standard. If it isn?t productive of desired or useful results in the present age, it has no raison d?e?tre. The question in this case is, rather, why you think you have a right to deprive a peaceable individual of this liberty because it doesn?t produce any discernible benefits for you or others. Is Carlo?s idea of utility the measure of all things, is Carlo the center of the universe which, himself unmoved, moves all he surveys? Or do others have equal autonomy and dignity? For if so, then there is no single measure of a common utility held in common, and, all being equal, no one has a right to impose his will on others. Or to say the same thing a bit differently, a common or shared utility exists, if at all, only to the extent of what people do entirely by voluntary association and cooperation.
Or perhaps your question really inquires into the status of natural rights, namely, whether or not what we call "natural" rights are really simply historical in nature, or creatures of custom, and can therefore come into and go out of existence. If they can be made by custom, why can?t they also be unmade by custom? Or, if they are made by custom, why can?t they be unmade by positive law?
The theory is that such rights are in some sense "God-given," or necessarily presupposed in individual autonomy or dignity and in the tacit requirement of mutual respect among persons of equal inherent dignity. Or some would argue that they are the necessary logical conditions of a government by consent of the people, and are in that sense prior to government. As such, government cannot legitimately change them, without government ceasing to be a "servant" of the people.
Yet the fact remains that what we call individual rights achieve recognition of that status at some particular point or era in history, and reflect the temper of that time. For example, in 1689, the English Bill of Rights took formal recognition of the right of English Protestants to keep arms, after a Catholic King endeavored to disarm them. However, the "right" reflects a long-standing custom of leaving people free ? largely undisturbed ? to own and bear arms for self-defense. So because the right is manifested in human affairs at particular times and places and not universally among all peoples at all times and places, it appears a matter of custom, "arbitrary" in the sense that it does not express the necessity of a physical law. Then here is the leap: therefore we can change it, or refuse to recognize it as a legitimate ethical principal. This debate has been going on since the Greeks. In Ethics, Aristotle distinguishes between what we call positive or man-made laws and natural laws and notes that some say that even so-called "natural" laws are just based in human custom. Aristotle concedes that there is some merit to this view, in the sense that so-called "natural" laws are not "natural" in the sense of physical laws, but cautions that the distinction is a legitimate one and not to presume that because such laws are "customary," that natural laws are subject to ready political manipulation. The implication is that human nature is not infinitely or readily malleable, least of all by fiat.
What about Christians and guns? Some of them say that people should not resist aggressions, because violence is never justified. Some others believe that life is a gift from God, which should be defended by every necessary means. What of this?
Frankly this is not as clear as I would like, although I will certainly not blame God for my confusion! The position that the Christian does not offer violence against violence, or resist, even in self-defense, is rooted both in the commandment, "Thou shalt not kill," and in the Sermon on the Mount, where Christ counsels not to resist evil, to turn the other cheek and to love one?s enemies (Matthew 5: 38 ? 45). On this basis, the use of all force, even to fight for or establish what is right or just, is wrong, and the counsel implicitly condemns all governments, which are founded on coercion. Few have written as forcefully on this issue as Leo Tolstoy. If you are interested in this I recommend The Law of Violence and the Law of Love and The Kingdom of God is Within You. However, there are those who, examining the nuances of the original, untranslated words, argue that Christ?s counsel is against retribution, revenge or punishment, and does not prohibit self-defense in the moment of assault. This seems also to be Aquinas? position, who essentially argues that self-defense is legitimate as long as there is no hatred or retribution in your heart, and the current Pope has also written that self-defense is legitimate in the eyes of God. Frankly, I am not sure where the truth lies, because I find it difficult to accept the notion that loving one?s enemies is consistent with striking them down or killing them, and further, non-resistance is consistent with Christ?s own life as revealed in the Gospels. So I suspect that Tolstoy is correct. But even the alternative view implies a severely limited domain for the exercise of force and, I believe, essentially prohibits the use of force to render justice.
You write, "self-government, not war." What does it mean?
This is from an article I wrote titled, "The Line in the Sand," which addresses the question of when it is appropriate for people to take up arms against their government. Basically it means, don?t wage war trying to reform the government, or to institute a new form of legitimate government; instead, ignore the state, accept and handle your responsibilities without trying to pass them off onto others, and govern yourselves through voluntary arrangements. That warrants some elaboration. First, I think it necessary to recognize and admit that perhaps the most important fact of the American experiment in limited government, with its Bill of Rights and express reservation of rights to the People, is that it did not work. I don?t think any new, supposedly better institutional or structural elements of a reformed government will work either. Fundamentally, it is a problem of the nature of man, and his ready desire to use force to compel others to secure benefits to himself; fundamentally, this is a religious problem. If you create an institution with the sole legitimate power to compel others, nominally only for certain limited purposes, the power will eventually be used for any purpose. It?s like building a car that can go 120 miles per hour, telling the driver he can only ever drive 10 miles per hour and expecting that he won?t exceed the self-imposed speed limit.
Second, its pretty clear from de Jouvenel?s examination of the growth of power of states that government grows by offering to relieve individuals from burdensome social obligations that they have (such as educating their children or taking care of one?s parents in their old age) or intervening on their behalf where they are the weaker party (such as in employer-employee relations), thereby creating fealty to the government in return for empowerment against others or a release from obligations. This process ultimately creates an individual who is free from all social ties, a solitary figure who relates to everyone else only by and through the state. This theory makes sense of the seemingly incongruous expansion of personal, sexual or reproductive rights following the radical curtailment or destruction of individual property and contract rights and all encompassing expansion of the Federal government?s power via a creative interpretation of the commerce clause during the New Deal. Whatever may be your opinion of sexual freedom or marriage, the fact is that the Supreme Court?s "discovery" that the use of contraceptives and abortion are fundamental individual rights, coupled with the growth of no-fault divorce, high taxation that drives women to work, subsidized day-care and increasingly, children?s rights, are gambits by the state to break down what most would consider to be the final and most basic structure of society: the family. It is an indication that the process of freeing the individual from all obligations to others in favor of one, all encompassing obligation to the state, is nearly complete.
In this light, the state is best resisted by ignoring it and refusing it?s offers and assistance and, since the state seeks to isolate, by forging voluntary social relationships with one another to provide for our mutual needs and wants. A good and so far successful example of this is the growth of home-schooling.
If America is a nation of cowards, what about other nations? For example, European countries have no Second Amendment (and no Bill of Rights) to stand for. What do you believe those people should do?
Okay, from de Jouvenel to popular culture. In The Empire Strikes Back, when Luke is about to enter the cave that "is strong with the dark side of the Force," Yoda says to him, "Your weapons, you will not need them." I would like people to understand, "Your rights, you will not need them." Rights do not make you free; only by acting free can you become free. The knowledge of the prior existence of rights is useful, as reminders of what men once were, what they fought for, where they drew a line against compulsion by their King or government; it helps us perceive that men one time conceived themselves as possessing a core dignity and autonomy that they would not permit others to lay hands on ? it helps us to perceive our baseline, which we would otherwise be blind to.
But to fight for the establishment of rights or for recognition of rights by one?s government involves tacit subordination to the state. The struggle to make a government recognize a right works in favor of the state, because it implicitly sets up government as the arbiter of the existence of the right. If one will not act within the scope of freedom delineated by the right unless or until the state concedes it lawful to do so, why of course then there is no right and the state controls your conduct. Thus, the passage of concealed carry permit laws in the United States is an admission that the right to keep and bear arms no longer exists in this country.
But there is more to it than that. The whole notion of individual rights is fundamentally a bankrupt notion, and not because of the problem I spoke of before concerning whether or not the rights were really "God-given" but merely customary and subject to change. The notion of "fundamental rights" is correlative to the notion of legitimate coercion; it implies, and tacitly depends upon acceptance of subjection to a domain of coercive authority. You can be governed, except that government must leave you alone in such and such spheres of activity: free speech, free exercise of religion, bearing arms, etc. The "rights" analysis pictures envelopment in a sphere of coercive authority, with specified, limited pockets of freedom. It?s the baseline problem! Why are just those areas of my behavior "protected" and not others? The fundamental question is not what rights do I have, but why may anyone exercise coercive authority over me in the first place? It is coercion, not freedom, which must be justified. If coercion is not legitimate, there is no need for "rights." Arguing "rights" is arguing from an acknowledged and accepted subordinate ? unfree ? position.
So, your rights, you do not need them! They cannot and will not help you, because no government wishes to recognize them (although it may make a show of doing so as long as it thinks it necessary, until most people can be brought around), and it is fine with the state if you spend your life attempting to compel the state to acknowledge and respect their existence. The question is whether you will act free or how you will use your freedom. But take care that you do not throw yourself away cheaply or needlessly, for such a one as the state; choose well how to create good in the world. Seek and speak the truth about what you know about the nature of the state, ignore the state as best you can, refuse its assistance, accept and fulfill your responsibilities instead of seeking ways to shift your burdens to others, and forge the social relationships you want or need to live as you would like without the state?s tender mercies.
February 8, 2001
Carlo Stagnaro [send him mail] co-edits the libertarian magazine "Enclave" and edited the book "Waco. Una strage di stato americana." Here's his website.
Copyright ? 2002 LewRockwell.com
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Mexico
on: May 29, 2006, 07:50:40 PM
Kaibiles: The New Lethal Force in the Mexican Drug Wars
The investigation into the April beheadings of two Mexican police officers in the Pacific resort city of Acapulco has led to the Kaibiles, Guatemalan special forces deserters who have taken on the role of hired guns for Mexico's Gulf cartel, one of the most powerful drug cartels operating in the country.
Acapulco is fast becoming a battleground for cartels vying for control of drug-trafficking supply routes. The Zetas, the Mexican version of the Kaibiles, already are fighting on the Gulf cartel's side against skinhead gangs hired by the Beltran Leyva brothers, leaders of the rival Sinaloa cartel. With Mexican anti-drug authorities bearing down on the cartel, however, Kaibiles -- as many as 40, according to Mexico's attorney general -- were brought in to assist the Zetas in dealing with that front. With the Kaibiles now in the mix, fighting is likely to increase in the near future.
The Kaibiles, who are particularly brutal fighters trained in unconventional tactics, are infamous for forcing recruits to bite the heads off live chickens during training. In February 1999, the U.N. Commission for Historical Clarification (CEH), a body established after Guatemala's civil war to investigate human rights abuses that occurred during the conflict, harshly criticized the Kaibiles, citing human rights abuses. Kaibil actions during fighting in the 1980s made the group one of the most feared special forces units in Latin America. According to the CEH, for instance, Kaibil units responding to guerrilla attacks near the Guatemalan town of Las Dos Erres in December 1982 entered a village believed to be sympathetic to rebel groups. Although the Kaibiles reportedly found no weapons caches or guerrillas, they proceeded to conduct a two-day purge, killing everyone in the village, including women and children.
As part of a national reconciliation process following Guatemala's civil war, the Guatemalan army has been restructuring and transforming its units, and has since dropped the name "Kaibil" from its special forces units, referring to them only as the Special Forces Brigade. The units have participated in U.N. peacekeeping operations in Africa.
On Sept. 10, 2005, Mexican authorities arrested seven Guatemalan nationals in the southern Chiapas town of Comitan for smuggling weapons into Mexico. Guatemalan authorities later confirmed that at least four of the seven were former Kaibiles who had deserted their special operations unit at different times, the most recent one in 2004. Unlike the Zetas, the majority of whom deserted at the same time, Kaibiles apparently have been deserting in small numbers for several years now.
A former high-ranking Mexican military official, Gen. Ramon Mota Sanchez, said in an October 2005 interview that former Mexican soldiers who deserted to join the Zetas possibly were trained by Kaibiles. Between 1994 and 1999, he said, Kaibiles trained several dozen Mexican special operations soldiers.
After the end of wars in Central America, bands of militants, mercenaries and death squads suddenly found themselves without a war to fight. Like many of these groups, the Kaibiles looked abroad for work as hired guns, some of them entering the Mexican drug scene through contacts with the Zetas. Special forces units in one region often will share training or establish partnerships with neighboring units.
The presence of Kaibiles in Mexico has introduced an additional foreign element into the Mexican drug wars, along with Mara Salvatrucha from El Salvador and Calle 18 gangs from Guatemala. With the well-trained and brutal Kaibiles and Zetas now in the mix, however, Mexico's drug wars are likely to get even uglier. Moreover, it is only a question of time before their level of violence reaches fronts in the drug war on the U.S. border, such as Tijuana and Nuevo Laredo.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Howl of Respect to our Soldiers/Veterans
on: May 29, 2006, 06:41:08 PM
A Howl of Respect to all who serve:
Memorial Day is always a day for quiet reflection-- all the more so in times of war.
I usually have lots of words, but ultimately on days such as this they seem rather empty.
We thank you.
The Adventure continues , , ,
The Troops Have Moved On
By OWEN WEST
Published: May 29, 2006
NEITHER party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease."
So said Abraham Lincoln in his second inaugural address, describing a war that put 11 percent of our citizens in uniform and had by that point killed nearly one of out every seven soldiers. That his words are relevant again now is a troubling indicator of our national endurance.
We are at the outset of a long war, and not just in Iraq. Yet it is being led politically by the short-sighted, from both sides of the aisle. The deterioration of American support for the mission in Iraq is indicative not so much of our military conduct there, where real gains are coming slowly but steadily, but of chaotic leadership.
Somehow Operation Iraqi Freedom, not a large war by America's historical standards, has blossomed into a crisis of expectations that threatens our ability to react to future threats with a fist instead of five fingers. Instead of rallying we are squabbling, even as the slow fuse burns.
One party is overly sanguine, unwilling to acknowledge its errors. The other is overly maudlin, unable to forgive the same. The Bush administration seeks to insulate the public from the reality of war, placing its burden on the few. The press has tried to fill that gap by exposing the raw brutality of the insurgency; but it has often done so without context, leaving a clear implication that we can never win.
In the past, the American public could turn to its sons for martial perspective. Soldiers have historically been perhaps the country's truest reflection, a socio-economic cross-section borne from common ideals. The problem is, this war is not being fought by World War II's citizen-soldiers. Nor is it fought by Vietnam's draftees. Its wages are paid by a small cadre of volunteers that composes about one-tenth of 1 percent of the population ? America's warrior class.
The insular nature of this group ? and a war that has spiraled into politicization ? has left the Americans disconnected and confused. It's as if they have been invited into the owner's box to settle a first-quarter disagreement on the coach's play-calling. Not only are they unprepared to talk play selection, most have never even seen a football game.
This confusion, in turn, affects our warriors, who are frustrated by the country's lack of cohesion and the depiction of their war. Iraq hasn't been easy on the military, either. But the strength of our warriors is their ability to adapt.
First, in battle you move forward from where you are, not where you want to be. No one was more surprised that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction than the soldiers who rolled into Iraq in full chemical protective gear. But it is time for the rest of the country to do what the military was forced to: get over it.
If we can put 2003's debates behind us, there is a swath of common ground on which to focus. Both Republicans and Democrats agree we cannot lose Iraq. The general insurgency in Iraq imperils our national interest and the hardcore insurgents are our mortal enemies. Talking of troop reductions is to lose sight of the goal.
Second, America's conscience is one of its greatest strengths. But self-flagellation, especially in the early stages of a war against an enemy whose worldview is uncompromising, is absolutely hazardous. Three years gone and Iraq's most famous soldiers are Jessica Lynch and Lynndie England, a victim and a criminal, respectively. Abu Ghraib remains the most famous battle of the war.
Soldiers are sick of apologizing for a sliver of malcontents who are not at all representative of the new breed. But they are also sick of being pitied. Our warriors are the hunters, not the hunted, and we should celebrate them as we did in the past, for while our tastes have changed, warfare ? and the need to cultivate national guardians ? has not. As Kipling wrote, "The strength of the pack is the wolf."
Finally, today's debates are not high-spirited so much as mean-spirited. To allow polarizing forces to dominate the argument by insinuating false motives on one side or a lack of patriotism on the other is to obscure long-term security decisions that have to be made now.
We are clashing with an enemy who has been at war with us in one form or another for two decades. Our military response may take decades more. We have crossed several rivers and the nation is hoping that ahead lie streams. But if they are oceans, we should heed Lincoln's call: "With malice toward none, with charity for all ... let us strive on to finish the work we are in."
Owen West, a reserve Marine major who served in Iraq, is the founder of Vets for Freedom.
Next Article in Opinion (7 of
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Geo Political matters
on: May 24, 2006, 03:30:31 PM
Geopolitical Diary: The Pentagon's View of China
The U.S. Defense Department has released its annual report on China. The report is not so much a snapshot of Chinese military capabilities as a snapshot of U.S. perceptions of China's military. As such, it is an important document. If the United States believes the things the Defense Department says that China is doing, it will have to reconfigure its strategic posture to cope. And we do not regard this document as a Washington throwaway: It is a genuine representation of American views on Chinese strategy. The United States views China as threatening American control of sea lanes and as considering a first-use option for nuclear weapons. These strike at the core of American strategic interests.
According to the study, the Chinese remain focused on the Taiwan question. They have stationed almost 800 short-range missiles at garrisons opposite Taiwan. Beijing, however, understands that the main challenge to any Chinese attack on Taiwan remains the U.S. Navy. More important, so long as the U.S. Navy controls the waters near China, the country will remain vulnerable to a naval blockade. This did not matter to Maoist China, whose international trade was relatively unimportant. However, for a China that is deeply engaged in international trade, most of it by sea, U.S. naval capabilities present a serious potential challenge to its interests.
The Chinese, according to this report, are not responding by building a fleet capable of challenging the Americans -- something that would take too long and be too technologically daunting and expensive. Rather, the Chinese are deploying long-range missiles designed to attack U.S. surface vessels and submarines, as far out as Guam. According to the report, China "is engaged in a sustained effort to interdict, at long ranges, aircraft carrier and expeditionary strike groups that might deploy to the western Pacific." China reportedly is developing its own weaponry as well as buying Russian systems. According to Peter W. Rodman, assistant secretary of defense, the Chinese are developing these weapons for "contingencies other than Taiwan."
Rodman also said that while the United States believes China's pledge that it would not be the first to use nuclear weapons, the Defense Department is concerned that as Chinese capabilities evolve and strategic realities shift, Beijing's doctrine might shift as well. The DoD view is that there is a major debate under way in China on the subject right now.
From the American point of view, therefore, China is threatening U.S. naval hegemony as well as threatening to become more dangerous with its nuclear force. Either of these views, if sincerely held, means that the United States must act to counter the threat. Obviously, a China capable of and prepared to engage in a first strike represents a crisis of the first order. However, even if that is saber-rattling, the threat that the Chinese are posing to U.S. control of sea lanes is of enormous geopolitical significance.
The United States has dominated the world's oceans since the end of World War II. This has been the foundation of American national security. The Soviets tried and failed to challenge American naval power. As a result, the United States projects its force outward. Others cannot project force inward upon the United States, except as terrorists or in a nuclear strike. But if the Chinese are able to neutralize the U.S. Navy to a distance of several thousand miles from China's coast, the regional balance obviously would be shifted. If the Chinese can increase that range and combine it with a first-strike capability, the entire balance of military power shifts: Nuclear parity plus an open contest for maritime hegemony would introduce an entirely new era.
What the DoD document has said is that the fundamental long-term threat to American interests and security is not the intermittent threat of terrorist strikes by Islamist militants, but the emerging threat to the global naval and nuclear balance that is posed by China. Put differently, if the Pentagon really believes this report, it is fighting the wrong war in the wrong place. The jihadists are a threat to American lives, but China threatens fundamental, global American interests.
Whether the Pentagon's view of the Chinese threat is accurate or not is not the key point right now. That this is the view of the Chinese threat means everything. If this is the view, then it follows that U.S. military expenditures should not go toward Iraq and Afghanistan, but toward securing U.S. control of the western Pacific sea lanes through increased technologies focused on naval and space power.
Obviously, DoD is not suddenly trying to back out of Iraq and Afghanistan. But Defense officials certainly are saying -- whether they know it or not -- that the time has come to close out the war with the jihadists and shift emphasis to containing Chinese power projection. Interestingly, that was the view that Donald Rumsfeld came into office with, before 9-11 happened. He seems to be saying --and we'd bet he reviewed and approved this document -- that it is time to return to those roots.
Not now, but over the next few years, this view will generate a completely different U.S. military posture.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Mexico
on: May 23, 2006, 10:56:33 AM
Mexican President Vicente Fox will visit three U.S. states May 23-27, where he will address recent developments on the U.S. debate about immigration. Among these developments are U.S. President George W. Bush's May 15 proposal to deploy National Guard forces along the U.S.-Mexico border and his support for a guest-worker program. They also include the rekindled debate on border security and immigration reform in the U.S. Senate, which approved measures on both topics during the past week. The U.S. debates on border security and immigration reform resonate as strongly in Mexico as they do in the United States.
Mexican President Vicente Fox will visit Utah, Washington and California, May 23-27. While the visit was planned some time ago, the agenda and talking points of Fox's trip will focus on the past week's developments in the U.S. immigration-reform and border-security debates. Among these developments are U.S. President George W. Bush's May 15 proposal to deploy National Guard forces along the U.S.-Mexico border and his support for a guest-worker program. They also include the rekindled debate on border security and immigration reform in the U.S. Senate, which approved measures on both topics during the past week. The Senate has also voted to build a fence along sections of the U.S. border, to establish English as the official language for government activities and to allow illegal immigrants possible citizenship under certain conditions.
A Deeply Rooted Issue
Without doubt, human migration tops the bilateral agenda between the United States and Mexico. Emigration from Mexico to the United States has deep historical and economic roots. It also affects a great number of Mexicans, who increasingly have relatives and friends who have immigrated to the United States, both legally and illegally. Thus, any change in the situation of the Mexican immigrants in the United States has major economic, social and political consequences in Mexico.
As we have previously discussed, immigration to the United States from Mexico is different from immigration to the United States from other countries due to history and geography. And while the flow of people coming from Mexico into the United States has existed for many, many years, these numbers exploded in the last 25 years. Thus, between 1.2 million and 1.5 million Mexicans immigrated to the United States during the 1970s, around 2.3 million did so during the 1980s, and around 3.3 million did so during the 1990s.
During World War II, the United States approached the issue by establishing a guest-worker plan known as the Bracero Program, which lasted until 1964. During its existence, the Bracero Program served as the most significant source of Mexican labor in the United States. After the program ended, with a limited number of visas available, many Mexicans crossed the border without official documentation. Several factors in Mexico prompted this exodus.
The Mexican economy experienced a series of crises in 1976, 1981-82, 1986 and 1994-95, which increased Mexico's relative poverty levels and hindered its economic performance. These crises generated the conditions for the continually increasing rate of Mexicans immigrating to the United States. Most other Latin American countries suffered deep economic crises during the 1970s and 1980s and political instability, yet they did not produce the number of immigrants to the United States that Mexico did. Mexico, by contrast, passed through these economic episodes with little political turmoil and largely pacific power transitions, and even so huge numbers of emigrants went north. Geography and -- more importantly -- economics explain the difference.
Mexico's Economic Safety Valves
Emigration toward the north became one of two very important safety valves for the Mexican economy, one successive Mexican governments used to maintain domestic social and political stability. The other safety valve was the notable increase in the informal sector of the Mexican economy. Emigration was traditionally a safety valve for rural areas while the informal economy served urban centers.
Over the years, however, the number and origin of Mexican immigrants to the United States has evolved. During the 1970s and 1980s, most of the Mexican immigrants to the United States came from Mexico's poorest and more rural states -- the same states most closely linked to the Bracero Program. Since the 1990s, however, that has changed. According to the Mexican Population Council, new immigrants to the United States come from all of Mexico's regions, and their gender and economic background diversity is growing.
Estimates of the number of Mexican immigrants to the United States vary, but hover around 10 million to 11 million people, which includes those of both legal and illegal status -- around 10 percent of the number of people living in Mexico. Estimates also hold that the informal economy in Mexico covers another 10 million to 15 million people. Combined, this means almost a quarter of the Mexican population is either not formally employed or is outside of the country. Starting in 1986, successive Mexican administrations engaged in fundamental economic reforms with the entry of Mexico into the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (now the World Trade Organization, or WTO). The nation's economic crises were so deep-seated, however, that even the WTO-inspired reforms have not helped the Mexican economy grow fast enough to provide enough jobs for Mexico's swelling labor force.
Along with previous Mexican governments, the Fox administration has found that using the two aforementioned safety valves has greatly helped maintain social order. Mexico City sees Mexican immigration to the United States as a win-win situation for both countries, since the immigration safety valve means the United States does not have an unstable neighbor to its south.
The Importance of Remittances
As the number of Mexican migrants to the United States has increased, so have their money transfers to their families in Mexico. In 2005, Mexican migrants in the United States remitted around $18 billion back to Mexico -- an extremely important source of cash for Mexico, roughly equal to foreign direct investment in the country. The Mexican government clearly does not want these remittances from the United States to disappear.
The Fox administration has established programs to match every dollar received from Mexicans in the United States with money put into projects to improve infrastructure. All of the contenders in Mexico's July 2 presidential election have proposals on how to better use those resources, from improving those matching funds to establishing a structural fund to transfer money to impoverished regions of Mexico, as is done in the European Union. Thus, massive deportations of Mexicans from the United States would have immense economic and political consequences in Mexico.
The Mexican government also needs to walk a fine line between working closely with the United States and not appearing too subservient to Washington. For historical reasons, Mexico has a love-hate relationship with the United States. In the past couple of decades, this relationship has tilted more toward the love part of the equation. The signing of the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA) in particular shifted the historical equation. In general, Mexicans believe a close relationship with the United States is inevitable, and largely beneficial for both. Even so, they resent any perceived heavy-handed attempts -- or even suggestions -- by the United States to force policy on Mexico. Mexicans expect their government to respond harshly to the United States when needed, as long as those responses are kept on the rhetorical level.
Fox Falls Short
The Fox administration has worked to push for a migration agreement allowing Mexican nationals to cross the border and work freely in the United States on the premise that given geography and economics, the flow north from Mexico cannot be blocked successfully; something similar to what Fox proposed may in fact come to pass. But Fox pushed too hard, and was unable to convince many on the U.S. side that he was fulfilling his part of the job of ensuring border security.
Much of the U.S. resentment against perceptions that Mexico is not adequately securing its side of the border stem from the fact that while the Mexican government allowed its two economic safety valves to develop, it also allowed another development to flourish: drug trafficking and organized crime. This has led to a border security problem of considerable size, one that has accelerated over the past two to three years. Drug cartels operating in the border cities have become more violent, which has in turn fueled the security concerns of people living in the border region. While the Fox administration has tried to fight these cartels, the violence has increased -- thus complicating his efforts to push for immigration reform in the United States.
Whether the new Mexican administration taking office Dec. 1 will be any more effective in fighting the drug cartels than the Fox administration has been remains unknown. Changing public opinion in the United States, however, will require a more effective Mexican response to drug crime on the border.
A Not-So New Direction
Whichever political party wins the July 2 Mexican presidential election, the new government's position on border issues will be very similar to the current position. The Mexican government will always oppose the construction of any fence or wall, since most Mexicans deeply resent such a prospect. It will also oppose any attempt to turn illegal immigrants in the United States into felons because of the ill economic effects this would have in Mexico. And it will not follow any U.S. suggestions that it work to stop Mexicans from crossing into the United States, perhaps pointing out that the U.S. government does not prevent its citizens from leaving the United States as they please. What could change is the level of cooperation between the Mexican and U.S. governments.
Before Vicente Fox's arrival, Mexican governments were not as active in advocating for issues that concerned the Mexican community inside the United States. In contrast, Fox has advocated, for example, for the pardon of U.S. death-row inmates of Mexican origin. Nor did previous Mexican administrations make much noise when Mexican nationals were killed on the U.S. side of the border -- they did protest, but not with Fox's volume. Previous governments also adamantly opposed publicly acknowledging cooperation with U.S. law enforcement agencies in counternarcotics efforts. Many times, the lack of cooperation was not only rhetorical, but real. That changed with Fox; now there is considerably more U.S-Mexican anti-drug cooperation.
Both Roberto Madrazo from the Mexico's former longtime ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party and his left-wing rival, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador from the Democratic Revolutionary Party, will very likely return to the policy of a reduced level of cooperation with U.S. law-enforcement agencies. This reduction will extend past the rhetorical level if the situation on the border deteriorates -- if Mexicans are shot by U.S. authorities, for example. But at the same time, both are also likely to continue Fox's increased activism on issues affecting Mexicans within the United States. The Mexican community in the U.S. is now active politically in Mexican politics, since they can vote on Mexican elections beginning this July. Thus, expatriate Mexicans in the United States are a constituency worth wooing for political candidates in Mexico.
Unlike his rivals, Felipe Calderon from Fox's National Action Party -- the front-runner in the most recent polls -- would very likely maintain and increase cooperation with the United States if elected. Even so, domestic pressures would force him to adopt stances similar to those of his adversaries if killings of Mexican nationals on the border follow from Bush's proposed National Guard deployment.
Changing the Pre-Election Debate
While the Mexican position will not change markedly regardless of which party wins the July presidential election, the proposals under discussion in the United States -- namely the National Guard presence -- could help change the pre-election debate in Mexico, giving the advantage to the candidate best able to capitalize on the issue. Thus, the three main candidates will toughen their rhetoric against U.S. government border security and immigration policies in the final weeks of the campaign, and so will Fox when he visits next week. Some of the Mexican presidential candidates sought to take advantage of the immigration and border issues in the past week. Thus, Calderon criticized Bush's National Guard proposal, and Lopez Obrador criticized Fox for not being tough enough, though he toned down his comments later. By giving voice to the left wing's historical dislike of the United States, Lopez Obrador could be in position to gain the most from the border and immigration debate.
How much impact the issue will have in the run-up to July 2 remains unclear, though it will certainly become an increasingly important part of the agenda in the months before the change of administrations -- and during the entire length of the next administration. For someone like Lopez Obrador, cutting cooperation with Washington and joining the ranks -- at least in the rhetorical sense -- of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Bolivian President Evo Morales could be attractive if the United States adopts a hard line on immigration.
While the overall positions of the Mexican government are not going to change, this does not mean no solution to border and immigration issues exists. In fact, much can be done to increase border safety. And if the Mexican economy begins to grow at an accelerated pace, it can create enough jobs to reduce the migration flow -- though this would take several years.
TUXTLA GUTI?RREZ, Mexico, May 19 ? Felipe Calder?n loves to make allusions to Mexican folk songs. These days, the conservative candidate for president is particularly fond of recalling a song about a nag named Rel?mpago who upsets a glistening champion, Moro, in a race.
Felipe Calder?n, of the National Action Party, speaking to voters last week in Tonal?, Mexico.
"I was not the favorite," he boomed over loudspeakers to a crowd of farmers, fishermen and business owners in the town of Tonal? on a swing in Chiapas on Thursday. "I was not the one who was up in the polls, but do you know what I did, gentlemen? I went to work. I set about telling Mexicans what each candidate really stands for."
After six months in second place, Mr. Calder?n has surged past the front-runner, Andr?s Manuel L?pez Obrador, with a stream of attack advertisements portraying him as a dangerous and violent leftist who will bankrupt the country.
Now, a month before the vote, the race is a contest between Mr. Calder?n, a free-trade advocate backed by business leaders, and Mr. L?pez Obrador, a leftist who draws most of his support from poor people who feel that free-trade policies have failed to help them.
For his part, Mr. L?pez Obrador, 53, who was mayor of Mexico City until last year, dismisses the recent polls as "propaganda" and claims the numbers have been massaged to undercount working-class voters. Under his stewardship, Mexico City's finances remained solid. As for the charge that he is dangerous, he calls it simply ludicrous.
Mr. Calder?n, 43, a former congressman and energy minister, has engineered the turnaround with a nimble, slick campaign, relying heavily on radio and television advertisements, many of them negative, tested in focus groups and tailored to specific constituencies, his aides say. Mexicans vote July 2.
Mr. Calder?n, of President Vicente Fox's National Action Party, has outspent Mr. L?pez Obrador two to one on attack ads that, among other things, link the left-leaning candidate to Hugo Ch?vez, Venezuela's anti-American president. He has also deftly played on the perception that Mr. L?pez Obrador, of the Party of the Democratic Revolution, has an authoritarian streak and a reputation as a rabble-rouser because of raucous protests against election fraud he led over a decade ago. Mr. Calder?n's ads call his rival "a danger to Mexico."
The personal attacks on Mr. L?pez Obrador were among several strategic shifts by Mr. Calder?n's young campaign team in late March. Mr. Calder?n now embraces President Fox, after first keeping him at arm's length, and staunchly defends the government's record on social programs and the economy.
Mr. Calder?n has also dropped his stuffy stump speech about the virtues of open markets and foreign investment, opting for a simpler message: he now vows to create jobs, jobs and more jobs. His ads call him the "president of employment," and his slogan is "My job will be to make sure you have a job."
One thing that unites the candidates is their opposition to President Bush's plan to build a wall along the border and deploy the National Guard. Both say the way to stop illegal immigration is to create more jobs and investment in Mexico.
Mr. Calder?n has also stolen a page from Mr. L?pez Obrador, who promises a raft of government subsidies and handouts. Mr. Calder?n, a fiscal and social conservative, now makes a point of saying he will extend and expand the welfare and health care programs Mr. Fox put in place. The promise to keep government largesse flowing draws the biggest applause at his rallies.
The upshot has been a remarkable political comeback. In January, five major surveys by respected pollsters showed Mr. Calder?n trailing Mr. L?pez Obrador by 6 to 10 percentage points. In April and May, however, all five polls showed the race tightening with a slim lead for Mr. Calder?n.
"We've managed to change the subject of the election," said Juan Camilo Mouri?o, 34, Mr. Calder?n's campaign manager, as he sat behind his desk in a dark blue suit at campaign headquarters, checking sports scores on a new laptop.
Mr. Mouri?o said the inner circle of the campaign had a fierce debate before deciding to bombard Mr. L?pez Obrador with negative advertisements. An attempt to knock him off the ballot for ignoring a court order failed badly last year, only making him more popular. The conventional wisdom was, the more you attack Mr. L?pez Obrador, the stronger he gets by casting himself as the victim of a conspiracy.
But Mr. Calder?n was trailing by 10 percentage points in late February. His free-trade message and "Passion and Values for Mexico" slogan was falling flat. "We had to make adjustments," Mr. Mouri?o said. One of the architects of the new campaign was Antonio Sol?, 34, a Spanish political consultant who was a top consultant to former Prime Minister Jos? Mar?a Aznar.
Mr. Mouri?o said he also had several informal conversations about the campaign with Dick Morris, the American consultant who once worked for former President Bill Clinton, but the Calder?n team decided not to hire him.
Mr. L?pez Obrador's campaign has been slow to respond. Until recently, the candidate had resisted advice to respond to mudslinging with mudslinging of his own. Only this week did his party broadcast a radio spot calling Mr. Calder?n "a liar."
Besides taking his time to go on the offensive, Mr. L?pez Obrador has made other gaffes, his aides concede. In February, he ridiculed Mr. Fox, called him a chattering bird and told him to "shut up" and stay out of the campaign, handing Mr. Calder?n fodder for his claim that Mr. L?pez Obrador is intolerant.
The leftist's decision in April to pass up the first debate, a classic front-runner's tactic, also backfired. Most analysts say it contributed to the notion that he can be arrogant, and contemptuous of other viewpoints. Mr. L?pez Obrador has also refused to let his aides use his modest lifestyle or his close relationship with his sons to soften his image, some inside the campaign say.
As for the polls, Mr. L?pez Obrador says they are the fabrications of media barons in a conspiracy to defeat him. (His aides maintain that their internal polls show he fell behind early this month, but has regained ground and now leads Mr. Calder?n by six percentage points.)
Mr. L?pez Obrador has stubbornly insisted on running a grass-roots campaign that relies more on speeches in town squares, loudspeakers atop cars and word of mouth than on television and radio spots, his campaign aides say. That decision could turn out to be a stroke of genius or his biggest mistake.
"The strategy will stay the same, because that's Andr?s Manuel's way of campaigning," said Ricardo Monreal, a senior aide. "His way of campaigning is, as always before, street by street, town by town, at the level of the people. He believes he will beat the marketing campaign that way."
Mr. Monreal added: "We all know that marketing has carried a lot of current presidents into office around the world. But L?pez Obrador isn't relying on this. He is relying on the strategy of the street."
Still, Mr. L?pez Obrador has made some adjustments, said C?sar Y??ez, his spokesman and a close adviser. For months, the candidate avoided interviews, unless they were with local radio stations. He has always been obsessive about controlling his message.
In the last two weeks, however, he has submitted to three interviews on national television. He even let himself be lampooned on a morning show by a political satirist who wears a clown outfit.
He has also begun to needle Mr. Calder?n. Last week, he said the conservative candidate was a captive of his campaign advisers.
Mr. Calder?n has kept up the invective. In Chiapas on Thursday, he leapt on Mr. L?pez Obrador's comment that President Fox was "a puppet" of the United States because of his restrained criticism of the United States Senate's support for more walls along the border.
President Ch?vez of Venezuela had used the same word to describe Mr. Fox last fall, and Mr. Calder?n did not let the chance pass to tar Mr. L?pez Obrador again with the Ch?vez brush. "He's an intolerant man, a very aggressive man, a hostile man and he has devoted himself to insulting the president," he said of his rival. Mr. L?pez Obrador, however, has kept his distance from Mr. Ch?vez.
The managers of both campaigns say the race is too close to call. The camps agree that the final debate on June 6, the only face-to-face confrontation between Mr. Calder?n and Mr. L?pez Obrador, will be pivotal.
"The debate will be important, and I say the dirty war has a limit in its impact on the election," Senator Ortega said.
"We have to win the debate," Mr. Mouri?o said.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / PAck gathering timed rounds
on: May 22, 2006, 10:59:05 PM
Back in the mists of time when the Original Dog Brothers first strode the earth
the time was 3 minutes. Then for reasons unfathomable to me Top Dog asked for 90 seonds. This turned out to be entirely too short, so I bumped it up to 2 minutes, but I would like a return to 3 minutes.
Say! I'm the "Guiding Force" , , ,
The Adventure continues,
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Mexico
on: May 21, 2006, 07:21:31 AM
BEYOND THE LAW
A 'Black Hole' on a Porous Border
Corrupt police and complicit citizens make Jacume a forbidding redoubt where smugglers of drugs and immigrants operate with a sense of impunity. 'They own the place,' says a Mexican official.
By Robert J. Lopez, Richard Marosi and Rich Connell, Times Staff Writers
May 21, 2006
Perched on a ridge a few hundred yards from the international line, an A-frame house with a wraparound balcony gives smugglers a 180-degree view of U.S. border defenses.
Spotters track the movement of Border Patrol agents with binoculars and use two-way radios to steer drug runners and human traffickers through unguarded areas.
As agents closed in on suspected smugglers last summer, lookouts on the Mexican side bombarded them with rocks and retreated to the A-frame.
"They have the high ground on us," said Sonia Spaulding, the supervising Border Patrol agent during the attack. "They can see our every move."
Jacume is a "black hole," an enclave largely beyond the control of authorities on either side of the border because of its remote location, complicit residents and corrupt Mexican police. Jacume has flourished as a launch pad for smuggling of drugs and people since U.S. authorities stiffened border defenses near San Diego a decade ago. Traffickers simply moved their operations east, into the forbidding valleys and mountain passes surrounding the village. As President Bush prepares to use National Guard troops to help seal the border, Jacume and places like it represent a formidable challenge and illustrate why the U.S., as Bush noted, "has not been in complete control of its borders" ? and may never be.
Mile-for-mile, more drugs are seized in this area than almost anywhere else along the California line. In the last fiscal year, federal agents captured an average of 400 pounds of marijuana and 660 migrants each month. In the first eight months of this fiscal year, drug seizures are nearly triple last year's total.
Jacume residents have become beholden to smugglers whose activities pump cash into the community. Mexican federal agents have been taken hostage here. Police won't enter the town without heavily armed backup, so entrenched are the traffickers and their supporters.
"They own the place," said Armando Vale Saldate, civilian director of the Tecate Police Department, which oversees Jacume.
Little is known publicly about the inner workings of Jacume's smuggling economy. But confidential law enforcement documents, as well as interviews with residents, smugglers and U.S. and Mexican officials, reveal layers of corruption extending from the traffickers to top police officials and the ruthless Arellano-Felix drug cartel.
The A-frame with the strategic vantage point is used by a convicted drug felon who is "the leader of an immigrant trafficking organization," according to a report by the Mexican attorney general's office and other sources.
Complaints filed secretly by officers of the Tecate Police Department and reviewed by The Times say a top commander and other supervisors collected thousands of dollars a week in protection money from smugglers moving drugs and migrants across the frontier.
Smuggling Is a Mainstay
Tucked into an isolated high desert valley 70 miles east of Tijuana, Jacume sits at the end of a rutted dirt road. Swirls of dust and headlights announce approaching vehicles long before they pass an old chicken farm and the rusted shells of abandoned cars en route to the village's small plaza.
Founded 80 years ago as communal farm, the town has a few hundred residents, many of them related to one another. In the small grid of dirt roads and cinder-block homes, there are two restaurants, a few mom-and-pop markets and a small church with whitewashed walls.
Smuggling is an economic mainstay. Residents pocket up to $50 a day ? about 10 times the minimum day's wage in Mexico ? for each northbound migrant they harbor in their homes or farms. Storing drugs can earn them hundreds of dollars more. Merchants cater to the migrants' needs.
"It's good business for everybody around here," said Mario Ramirez, who operates Jacume's main restaurant. "People need to eat and need water."
Government authority has long been tenuous here.
In 1998, residents took two Mexican federal agents hostage for extorting money from smugglers, according to Mexican authorities. The captives were freed after an agreement was reached: The agents would return the money, and the smugglers would not file complaints against them.
A few years later, unarmed Mexican immigration agents who chased a suspected smuggler's car into Jacume were greeted by bat-wielding residents. The agents retreated without making an arrest and now rarely enter the town, said immigration officer Felipe Flores.
The alleged smuggler said to use the A-frame is Israel Martinez, 37, according to confidential law enforcement records and sources.
He came to the attention of U.S. investigators in 1995, when officers stopped two pickup trucks on the U.S. side of the fence across from Jacume and found 450 pounds of marijuana inside, according to San Diego Deputy Dist. Atty. Steve Walter. Martinez and another man were arrested.
Martinez pleaded guilty to transporting marijuana and was sentenced to two years in California state prison. He was later deported.
U.S. authorities, working with Mexican agents, have launched a new investigation of Martinez and his suspected smuggling network.
Martinez's organization employs guides on foot, drivers and lookouts to shepherd drugs and people across the frontier, according to law enforcement records and sources.
Mexican and U.S. sources who have interviewed traffickers in custody, including alleged members of Martinez's group, say his organization is suspected of moving large quantities of marijuana across the border for the Arellano-Felix cartel, a Tijuana-based syndicate that controls drug trafficking across Baja California.
Efforts to reach Martinez for comment were unsuccessful.
A relative claimed to have no knowledge of Martinez's involvement in trafficking and said he went into hiding after 20 armed men stormed his home in Jacume in September.
The men, some with bandannas covering their faces, were looking for money and for Martinez, according to the relative, who asked not to be identified.
Investigators say his organization remains active. Martinez is not the first suspected of exploiting the views afforded by Jacume's hills.
A smuggler named Jaime Ochoa, alias "El Cachetes," or Cheeks, allegedly directed runs from tree platforms on his property.
In one of the few successful raids ever conducted in Jacume, a federal SWAT team from Mexico City posing as telephone repairmen stormed Ochoa's home three years ago. U.S. investigators pressed for action after learning that Ochoa might be operating a smuggling tunnel.
The Mexican agents found binoculars, two-way radios, an Uzi submachine gun, a map of smuggling routes and what appeared to be a partially dug passageway, according to U.S. and Mexican authorities.
Ochoa was caught fleeing in a pickup truck and later found guilty of weapons violations, Mexican authorities said.
The raid's success was unusual for Jacume because residents often tip off smugglers, said a U.S. agent who participated in the operation.
"We usually come back empty-handed," he said.
'I Like Police Raids'
The sun-baked hills and valleys between Tecate and Jacume, where the Arellano-Felix cartel stores and moves marijuana, is territory that has been overseen by Daniel Mora, until recently police commander for the area.
For Mora and other officers, who earn as little as $600 a month, patrolling this terrain involves a stark choice: Take a stand against the traffickers, or join them.
As Mora tells it, he's the kind who takes a stand.
Squat, with a thin mustache, he started as an officer in Tijuana. His left eyebrow and scalp bear scars from a head-on car crash with assault suspects. He has been involved in three shootouts and numerous operations against drug and car-theft rings ? some in the Jacume area.
"I like police raids," the 33-year-old Mora says.
After three years in Tecate, he was promoted to commander. But last year he was suspended, demoted and banned from patrolling Jacume and other trafficking hot spots because of suspicions that he was in league with smugglers.
The Mexican attorney general's office is investigating the allegations.
Among information turned over to investigators are a dozen unsigned complaints e-mailed to the Tecate city internal affairs office. The authors, who identified themselves as police officers, said Mora and five supervisors, including one now overseeing Jacume, were running a protection racket.
One complaint, written in January, said Mora is tied to 10 human smugglers and drug traffickers and receives $5,000 a week in payoffs.
"We are asking with all our heart that these personnel ? stop interfering with public safety," said another complaint, received in February.
Contacted by The Times, the authors of the complaints said in e-mails that they feared for their lives and declined to reveal their names or answer questions.
Smugglers detained by Mexican officials have said they paid Mora a "quota" or had "an arrangement" with him to operate in the Tecate area, according to interview records.
Mora said the allegations are groundless and originate with disgruntled colleagues.
"It's political," Mora said in an interview at a San Diego-area restaurant. He predicted that he would be cleared, adding: "I'm not going to run, because I have absolutely nothing to hide."
Bold and Brazen
Lawlessness spills across the border from Jacume and into the United States month after month. An episode last summer, described in federal court records and interviews, underscores the smugglers' brazenness and sense of impunity.
One night in August, a white Chevrolet Suburban made its way through the village. It stopped at a ranch and an abandoned home, picking up half a dozen migrants who had paid up to $2,000 each to get to the U.S.
They squeezed into the SUV, alongside suitcases stuffed with 700 pounds of marijuana, a load worth more than half a million dollars. The vehicle's front bumper was reinforced with steel, and its tires were filled with silicon to withstand the spike strips used by U.S. border agents.
After snaking through town, the SUV rolled up to the international divide, where a pickup truck waited. Its driver yanked open a section of rusty fence that had been pre-cut by smugglers.
A hand-painted sign on the Jacume side of the border fence bade the migrants farewell: To the north is work and prosperity, but don't forget where you came from.
The SUV driver shot through the gap toward Interstate 8, a couple of miles away.
A short while later, a Border Patrol anti-smuggling team saw the SUV driving slowly and a California Highway Patrol officer pulled the vehicle over. As the officer stepped out of his car, the SUV driver made a daring move. He switched off the lights and raced up an offramp heading west toward San Diego in eastbound lanes.
CHP officers chased the vehicle. Up ahead, more patrol units weaved across lanes with their lights flashing, trying to hold back traffic and prevent a head-on crash.
Spike strips were thrown on the road. But the Suburban sailed over the devices. The migrants inside later told investigators the SUV had hit speeds as high as 90 mph. One remembered praying as sirens blared and lights flashed around them. "Get down and don't move!" the driver yelled in Spanish.
Seconds later, he smashed into a patrol car. The SUV veered to a halt and the driver bolted into heavy brush, escaping toward the border.
Five migrants were rounded up. They identified the driver as 26-year-old Jovanni Mendoza, according to court records.
Border Patrol agents had a thick folder on Mendoza, court records show.
In 2002, he was arrested by Border Patrol agents after a foot chase north of Jacume, suspected of driving a van crammed with 31 illegal immigrants. He was released after the migrants refused to identify the driver.
Last spring, Border Patrol agents fired at a blue Suburban registered to Mendoza as it allegedly tried to run them down at a U.S. checkpoint northwest of Jacume. The SUV took off on the wrong side of Interstate 8. Agents could not identify the driver.
A week after the wrong-way crash, Border Patrol received reports of a Suburban on a suspected smuggling run near the same stretch of Interstate 8. A vehicle matching that description was stopped at a checkpoint.
Mendoza was behind the wheel. He now faces 12 counts of smuggling humans and drugs and has pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court in San Diego. His arrest has done little to slow the pace of cross-border crime in Jacume.
Earlier this month, residents alerted Border Patrol agents when they saw a vehicle using metal ramps to drive over a low section of the fence near Jacume. When the vehicle fled, agents threw spike strips on the road, shredding its tires. The vehicle lost control and flipped. One thousand pounds of marijuana was found inside.
Within days, two more loads of marijuana ? 700 pounds each ? were intercepted coming out of Jacume.
"There's no bottom to their well," said a Border Patrol agent, standing guard one evening near the bullet-riddled fence below the A-frame house. "It just keeps coming."
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Politica-Economia en Latino America
on: May 20, 2006, 12:06:17 PM
Seeking United Latin America, Venezuela's Ch?vez Is a Divider
By JUAN FORERO
Published: May 20, 2006
BOGOT?, Colombia, May 19 ? As Venezuela's president, Hugo Ch?vez, insinuates himself deeper in the politics of his region, something of a backlash is building among his neighbors.
Mr. Ch?vez ? stridently anti-American, leftist and never short on words ? has cast himself as spokesman for a united Latin America free of Washington's influence. He has backed Bolivia's recent gas nationalization, set up his own Socialist trade bloc and jumped into the middle of disputes between his neighbors, even when no one has asked.
Some nations are beginning to take umbrage. The mere association with Mr. Ch?vez has helped reverse the leads of presidential candidates in Mexico and Peru. Officials from Mexico to Nicaragua, Peru and Brazil have expressed rising impatience at what they see as Mr. Ch?vez's meddling and grandstanding, often at their expense.
Diplomatic sparring has broken into the open. Last month, after very public sniping between Mr. Ch?vez and Peru's president, Alejandro Toledo, the country withdrew its ambassador from Caracas, citing "flagrant interference" in its affairs.
"He goes around shooting from the hip and shooting his mouth off, and that has caused tensions," Jorge G. Casta?eda, a former Mexican foreign minister, said by phone from New York, where he is teaching at New York University. "The difference now is that he's picking fights with his friends, not just his adversaries."
Some of Mr. Ch?vez's gestures, like his tendency to tweak the Bush administration, or the aid projects he has bankrolled with Venezuela's oil money, still leave him popular, particularly among the poor.
But increasingly, the very image of the Venezuelan leader has come to stand for a style of caustic nationalism that many in the region fear, as the divisions provoked by the man who professes to want to unify his region have widened.
"He is beginning to overreach, wanting to be involved in everything," said Riordan Roett, director of Latin American studies at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies. "It's a matter of egomania at work here."
Mr. Ch?vez, for instance, has taken the uncompromising stand that governments must choose either his vision of continental unity or free trade with Washington, which Mr. Ch?vez blames for impoverishing the region. "You either have one or the other," he said. "Either we're a united community or we're not."
In late April, he exasperated Colombia, Ecuador and Peru by declaring that Venezuela would drop out of their trade group, the Andean Community of Nations, because the other three members were seeking free trade agreements with the United States. He has instead formed a trade bloc with Cuba and Bolivia's new Socialist government.
While the move was filled with political symbolism, analysts say it offers few real prospects for trade and threatens badly needed integration among Andean countries, which still depend on United States markets.
"Ch?vez's idea of sovereignty seems pretty selective," said Michael Shifter, a senior policy analyst at the Inter-American Dialogue policy group in Washington. "Ch?vez has been saying, in effect, 'You're either with us or against us.' For most Latin Americans that hubristic message doesn't go over very well, whether it comes from Washington or Caracas."
The sparring with Peru's government erupted last month after President Toledo said it made no sense for Mr. Ch?vez to criticize his Andean partners for dealing with Washington when Venezuela sells most of its oil to the United States.
But he saved his strongest words for Mr. Ch?vez's general involvement in Peruvian affairs.
"Mr. Ch?vez, learn to govern democratically," Mr. Toledo said. "Learn to work with us. Our arms are open to integrate Latin America, but not for you to destabilize us with your checkbook."
When Alan Garc?a, a candidate in Peru's June 4 presidential election, also took Mr. Ch?vez to task, the Venezuelan president responded with, among other things, an endorsement of his opponent.
"I hope that Ollanta Humala becomes president of Peru," Mr. Ch?vez declared, backing Mr. Garc?a's nationalist opponent, who has modeled himself on the Venezuelan leader. "Go, comrade! Long live Ollanta Humala! Long live Peru!"
Mr. Ch?vez called Mr. Garc?a, a former president whose tenure was marred by corruption scandals, "shameless, a thief," and warned that if he were elected "by some work of the devil," Venezuela would withdraw its ambassador.
Page 2 of 2)
But it was Peru that made the move first. Venezuela soon followed, and the Ch?vez government responded by calling Mr. Toledo an "office boy" for President Bush. Mr. Garc?a benefited handsomely, taking a long lead in the polls.
Surveys showed Peruvians had little patience for Mr. Ch?vez's interference. Only 17 percent of Peruvians said they had a positive view of the Venezuelan leader, the Lima-based Apoyo polling firm found.
In Nicaragua, Mr. Ch?vez has thrown his support behind Daniel Ortega, the former leader of the communist Sandinista revolution, who is running for president in November elections.
"I shouldn't say I hope you win because they will accuse me of sticking my nose into Nicaraguan internal affairs," Mr. Ch?vez told Mr. Ortega, who was invited on his radio show in late April. "But I hope you win."
Mr. Ch?vez pledged to supply cheap fuel to a group of Sandinista-run towns. The gesture was interpreted by opponents as a naked ploy to influence the vote and criticized as a backhanded way to funnel money to the Ortega campaign.
Nicaragua's government called on Mr. Ch?vez to stay out. "We hope this partisan support comes to an end so that Nicaraguans can freely choose who we want to be the next leader of Nicaragua," Foreign Minister Norman Caldera told Nicaraguan television this month.
The American ambassador to Nicaragua, Paul A. Trivelli, speaking to Nicaraguan media, accused Mr. Ch?vez of "direct intervention," but analysts said it was too soon to say what effect Mr. Ch?vez would have on the vote.
In Mexico, the leftist candidate in the July presidential election, Andr?s Manuel L?pez Obrador, has labored to distance himself from Mr. Ch?vez, to no avail.
When he made a slip of manners recently, calling President Vicente Fox a chattering bird and telling him to shut up, his conservative opponent, Felipe Calder?n, ran a series of attack advertisements intercutting the gaffe with images of Mr. Ch?vez, whose tendency to hurl insults is a trademark. (He has called Mr. Bush a drunkard and Mr. Fox a "puppy dog of the empire.")
In recent weeks, Mr. L?pez Obrador's lead in the polls has evaporated, and he now trails his opponent.
The disputes are not limited to politics, however, but also touch important national interests.
Mr. Ch?vez, for instance, encouraged and quickly supported Bolivia's nationalization of its energy sector this month, a move that infuriated Argentina and Brazil, which depend on Bolivian natural gas.
Though Venezuela was not a party to the dispute, Mr. Ch?vez joined a meeting of leaders from Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia aimed at calming the crisis, and dominated a news conference afterward, upstaging even his Bolivian prot?g?, President Evo Morales.
President Luiz In?cio Lula da Silva of Brazil, steward of South America's largest economy and nominally a left-wing ally of Mr. Ch?vez, was particularly humiliated. Celso Amorim, the foreign minister, was called before senators and quizzed about Brazil's weak response. He said Mr. da Silva had admonished the Venezuelan leader in a private phone call, telling him that the Bolivian move could jeopardize Mr. Ch?vez's dream of a 5,000-mile pipeline to carry Venezuela's gas to Argentina.
Mr. da Silva also rebuked Mr. Ch?vez, he said, for involving himself in a dispute that Brazil is having with Uruguay and Paraguay over their trade bloc, Mercosur, saying Mr. Ch?vez's role was "a stimulant to activities incompatible with the spirit of integration."
The wounds have yet to heal. Jorge Viana, the governor of Acre state in Brazil, and a crucial ally of Mr. da Silva, told Brazilian radio last week that Mr. Ch?vez's meddling was "lamentable." He criticized Mr. Ch?vez's "precipitated decisions to interfere in the internal affairs of Bolivia, Peru and, by extension, those of Brazil." Mr. Ch?vez, he said, "needs to calm down."
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Politica-Economia en Latino America
on: May 19, 2006, 01:16:54 AM
The battle for Latin America's soul
May 18th 2006
From The Economist print edition
A fight between democrats and populists
?LATIN AMERICA doesn't matter...people don't give one damn about
Latin America.? So said Richard Nixon, offering career advice to a
young Donald Rumsfeld. With the bloody exception of the Central
American wars of the 1980s, Nixon was right?until now. Suddenly
Latin America has grabbed the world's attention. There are several
reasons for this. But they come down to the notion that, after two
decades in which country after country in the region seemed to
embrace liberal democracy and market capitalism, something
fundamental is changing.
A spectre has arisen, one of anti-American leftist nationalism.
Ecuador this week became the latest Latin American country to kick
out a foreign energy company?in its case, Occidental. But there are
plenty of other signs that all is not well. The crime mobs created
by foreign demand for cocaine continue to run amok. More than 100
people have died in a fight between one of these mafias and the
state in S?o Paulo, the region's most modern metropolis (see
article). The tide of migrants fleeing lack of opportunity in Latin
America has become a bitter issue north of the border, especially
with the Republican right. That has prompted George Bush to offer
up to 6,000 National Guard troops to patrol the border (see
article). His administration has also announced a (largely
symbolic) ban on arms sales to Venezuela, which is run by the
noisiest of the anti-Yanqui nationalists, Hugo Ch?vez, because, it
is claimed, he is not co-operating in fighting terrorism.
Yet to portray what is happening in the Americas as a battle
between the United States and its Latin neighbours is mistaken.
Latin America does matter?but not quite, or not only, for the
reasons commonly believed. The battle being waged is one within
Latin America over its future. It is between liberal democrats?of
left and right?and authoritarian populists. Latin America's efforts
to make democracy work, and to use it to make searingly unequal
societies fairer and more prosperous, have implications across the
Those efforts suffered a severe blow in 1998-2002, when the region
suffered financial turmoil and economic stagnation. Rightly or
wrongly, voters blamed the slowdown on the free-market reforms
known as the Washington consensus. As happens in democracies, they
started to vote for the opposition?which tended to be on the left.
Yet in Latin America, as this newspaper has often noted, the
differences among the left-wing governments are more important than
Broadly speaking, one camp is made up of moderate social democrats,
of the sort in office in Chile, Uruguay and Brazil. The other camp
is the radical populists, led by Mr Ch?vez, who appears to have
gained a disciple in Evo Morales, Bolivia's new president. The
populists shout louder, and claim that they are helping the poor
through state control of oil and gas. Neither Mr Ch?vez nor Mr
Morales is from the ?white? elites who, in caricature at least,
have long ruled in the region. Both direct volleys of abuse at Mr
Bush. For all these reasons, the populists have captured the
sympathy of ignorant paternalists abroad, such as London's mayor,
Ken Livingstone, who this week welcomed Mr Ch?vez as ?the best news
out of Latin America in many years?.
The facts speak otherwise. Yes, after seven years in power and a
massive oil windfall, Mr Ch?vez has finally created some health and
education programmes for the urban poor. At last, poverty is
falling (though it is still around 40%) in Venezuela?but it would
be extraordinary if it were not, given the oil price. Yes, Mr
Ch?vez has twice been elected and remains popular. But he is
running down his country's wealth. Having dismantled all checks,
balances and independent institutions, his regime rests on his
personal control of the state oil company, the armed forces and
Look around the rest of Latin America, and there is plenty of
better news. In the current spate of elections, the populists are
not carrying all before them. That is partly because the region's
economies are now doing well again (see article), but it is also
because some democrats seem to have learnt a salutary lesson. This
is that governments neglect education, health and anti-poverty
programmes at their peril.
Governments in Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Brazil are starting to
achieve sustained reductions in poverty?and even in inequality?
partly by more effective social policies. The difference will
become even clearer when commodity prices fall and the economic
cycle turns. Chile will then be able to maintain its social
programmes by spending what it has saved from its copper windfall.
By contrast, Venezuela's future may resemble not Cuba, as some of
Mr Ch?vez's opponents fear, but Nigeria?a failed petro-state.
In place of drugs and migrants
It has become commonplace to berate Mr Bush for ?losing? Latin
America. But that is to overstate the influence of the United
States in South America and Mexico (though not in the smaller
countries of the Caribbean basin). Relations between the two halves
of the Americas are not as good as a decade ago, yet the bigger
change is the disarray within Latin America itself, largely
provoked by Mr Ch?vez and his allies (who include Fidel Castro,
Cuba's communist gerontocrat).
That said, the Bush administration could do more to help. Mr Bush's
gesture towards tightening border security is a blow to America's
friends in Mexico. If it is the price for approving the Senate's
version of immigration reform, which includes routes to citizenship
for illegals and expands legal migration, so be it. But it would
help Latin America greatly if the United States coupled its trade
deals with a more generous partnership for development, including
targeted help with infrastructure?and if it accepted that its ?war
on drugs? has failed.
Meanwhile, democrats everywhere?including in Europe and in Latin
America itself?need to make it clear on which side of the battle
they stand. They should not welcome Mr Ch?vez in their midst unless
the presidential election in Venezuela in December is demonstrably
free and fair. Restoring democracy in Latin America cost too much
blood for the achievement to be lightly thrown away.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Interesting Stratfor.com Read
on: May 17, 2006, 12:44:04 AM
Civil Liberties and National Security
By George Friedman
USA Today published a story last week stating that U.S. telephone companies (Qwest excepted) had been handing over to the National Security Agency (NSA) logs of phone calls made by American citizens. This has, as one might expect, generated a fair bit of controversy -- with opinions ranging from "It's not only legal but a great idea" to "This proves that Bush arranged 9/11 so he could create a police state." A fine time is being had by all. Therefore, it would seem appropriate to pause and consider the matter.
Let's begin with an obvious question: How in God's name did USA Today find out about a program that had to have been among the most closely held secrets in the intelligence community -- not only because it would be embarrassing if discovered, but also because the entire program could work only if no one knew it was under way? No criticism of USA Today, but we would assume that the newspaper wasn't running covert operations against the NSA. Therefore, someone gave them the story, and whoever gave them the story had to be cleared to know about it. That means that someone with a high security clearance leaked an NSA secret.
Americans have become so numbed to leaks at this point that no one really has discussed the implications of what we are seeing: The intelligence community is hemorrhaging classified information. It's possible that this leak came from one of the few congressmen or senators or staffers on oversight committees who had been briefed on this material -- but either way, we are seeing an extraordinary breakdown among those with access to classified material.
The reason for this latest disclosure is obviously the nomination of Gen. Michael Hayden to be the head of the CIA. Before his appointment as deputy director of national intelligence, Hayden had been the head of the NSA, where he oversaw the collection and data-mining project involving private phone calls. Hayden's nomination to the CIA has come under heavy criticism from Democrats and Republicans, who argue that he is an inappropriate choice for director. The release of the data-mining story to USA Today obviously was intended as a means of shooting down his nomination -- which it might. But what is important here is not the fate of Hayden, but the fact that the Bush administration clearly has lost all control of the intelligence community -- extended to include congressional oversight processes. That is not a trivial point.
At the heart of the argument is not the current breakdown in Washington, but the more significant question of why the NSA was running such a collection program and whether the program represented a serious threat to liberty. The standard debate is divided into two schools: those who regard the threat to liberty as trivial when compared to the security it provides, and those who regard the security it provides as trivial when compared to the threat to liberty. In this, each side is being dishonest. The real answer, we believe, is that the program does substantially improve security, and that it is a clear threat to liberty. People talk about hard choices all the time; with this program, Americans actually are facing one.
A Problem of Governments
Let's begin with the liberty question. There is no way that a government program designed to track phone calls made by Americans is not a threat to liberty. We are not lawyers, and we are sure a good lawyer could make the argument either way. But whatever the law says, liberty means "my right to do what I want, within the law and due process, without the government having any knowledge of it." This program violates that concept.
The core problem is that it is never clear what the government will do with the data it collects.
Consider two examples, involving two presidential administrations.
In 1970, Congress passed legislation called the Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act that was designed explicitly to break organized crime groups. The special legislation was needed because organized crime groups were skilled at making more conventional prosecutions difficult. The Clinton administration used the RICO Act against anti-abortion activists. From a legal point of view, this was effective, but no one had ever envisioned the law being used this way when it was drafted. The government was taking the law to a place where its framers had never intended it to go.
Following 9/11, Congress passed a range of anti-terrorism laws that included the PATRIOT Act. The purpose of this was to stop al Qaeda, an organization that had killed thousands of people and was thought to be capable of plotting a nuclear attack. Under the same laws, the Bush administration has been monitoring a range of American left-wing groups -- some of which well might have committed acts of violence, but none of which come close to posing the same level of threat as al Qaeda. In some technical sense, using anti-terrorism laws against animal-rights activists might be legitimate, but the framers of the law did not envision this extension.
What we are describing here is neither a Democratic nor a Republican disease. It is a problem of governments. They are not particularly trustworthy in the way they use laws or programs. More precisely, an extraordinary act is passed to give the government the powers to fight an extraordinary enemy -- in these examples, the Mafia or al Qaeda. But governments will tend to extend this authority and apply it to ordinary events. How long, then, before the justification for tracking telephone calls is extended to finding child molesters, deadbeat dads and stolen car rings?
It is not that these things shouldn't be stopped. Rather, the issue is that Americans have decided that such crimes must be stopped within a rigorous system of due process. The United States was founded on the premise that governments can be as dangerous as criminals. The entire premise of the American system is that governments are necessary evils and that their powers must be circumscribed. Americans accept that some criminals will go free, but they still limit the authority of the state to intrude in their lives. There is a belief that if you give government an inch, it will take a mile -- all in the name of the public interest.
Now flip the analysis. Americans can live with child molesters, deadbeat dads and stolen car rings more readily than they can live with the dangers inherent in government power. But can one live with the threat from al Qaeda more readily than that from government power? That is the crucial question that must be answered. Does al Qaeda pose a threat that (a) cannot be managed within the structure of normal due process and (b) is so enormous that it requires an extension of government power? In the long run, is increased government power more or less dangerous than al Qaeda?
Due Process and Security Risks
We don't mean to be ironic when we say this is a tough call. If all that al Qaeda can do was what they achieved on 9/11, we might be tempted to say that society could live more readily with that threat than with the threat of government oppression. But there is no reason to believe that the totality of al Qaeda's capabilities and that of its spin-off groups was encapsulated in the 9/11 attacks. The possibility that al Qaeda might acquire and use weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear devices, cannot be completely dismissed. There is no question but that the organization would use such weapons if they could. The possibility of several American cities being devastated by nuclear attacks is conceivable -- and if there is only one chance in 100 of such an event, that is too much. The fact is that no one knows what the probabilities are.
Some of those who write to Stratfor argue that the Bush administration carried out the 9/11 attacks to justify increasing its power. But if the administration was powerful enough to carry out 9/11 without anyone finding out, then it hardly seems likely that it needed a justification for oppression. It could just oppress. The fact is that al Qaeda (which claims the attacks) carried out the attacks, and that attacks by other groups are possible. They might be nuclear attacks -- and stopping those is a social and moral imperative that might not be possible without a curtailment of liberty.
On both sides of the issue, it seems to us, there has developed a fundamental dishonesty. Civil libertarians demand that due process be respected in all instances, but without admitting openly the catastrophic risks they are willing to incur. Patrick Henry's famous statement, "Give me liberty or give me death," is a fundamental premise of American society. Civil libertarians demand liberty, but they deny that by doing so they are raising the possibility of death. They move past the tough part real fast.
The administration argues that government can be trusted with additional power. But one of the premises of American conservatism is that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Conservatives believe that the state -- and particularly the federal government -- should never be trusted with power. Conservatives believe in "original sin," meaning they believe that any ruler not only is capable of corruption, but likely to be corrupted by power. The entire purpose of the American regime is to protect citizens from a state that is, by definition, untrustworthy. The Bush administration moves past this tough part real fast as well.
It is important to consider what the NSA's phone call monitoring program was intended to do. Al Qaeda's great skill has been using a very small number of men, allowing them to blend into a targeted country, and then suddenly bringing them together for an attack. Al Qaeda's command cell has always been difficult to penetrate; it consists of men who are related or who have known each other for years. They do not recruit new members into the original structure. Penetrating the organization is difficult. Moreover, the command cell may not know details of any particular operation in the field.
Human intelligence, in order to be effective, must be focused. As we say at Stratfor, we need a name, a picture and an address for the person who is likely to know the answer to an intelligence question. For al Qaeda's operations in the United States, we do not have any of this. The purpose of the data-mining program simply would have been to identify possible names and addresses so that a picture could be pieced together and an intelligence operation mounted. The program was designed to identify complex patterns of phone calls and link the information to things already known from other sources, in order to locate possible al Qaeda networks.
In order to avoid violating civil liberties, a warrant for monitoring phone calls would be needed. It is impossible to get a warrant for such a project, however, unless you want to get a warrant for every American. The purpose of a warrant is to investigate a known suspect. In this case, the government had no known suspect. Identifying a suspect is exactly what this was about. The NSA was looking for 10 or 20 needles in a haystack of almost 300 million. The data-mining program would not be a particularly effective program by itself -- it undoubtedly would have thrown out more false positives than anyone could follow up on. But in a conflict in which there are no good tools, this was a tool that had some utility. For all we know, a cell might have been located, or the program might never have been more than a waste of time.
The problem that critics of the program must address is simply this: If data mining of phone calls is objectionable, how would they suggest identifying al Qaeda operatives in the United States? We're open to suggestions. The problem that defenders of the program have is that they expect to be trusted to use the data wisely, and to discipline themselves not to use it in pursuit of embezzlers, pornographers or people who disagree with the president. We'd love to be convinced.
Contrary to what many people say, this is not an unprecedented situation in American history. During the Civil War -- another war that was unique and that was waged on American soil -- the North was torn by dissent. Pro-Confederate sentiment ran deep in the border states that remained within the Union, as well as in other states. The federal government, under Lincoln, suspended many liberties. Lincoln went far beyond Bush -- suspending the writ of habeas corpus, imposing martial law and so on. His legal basis for doing so was limited, but in his judgment, the survival of the United States required it.
Obviously, George W. Bush is no Lincoln. Of course, it must be remembered that during the Civil War, no one realized that Abraham Lincoln was a Lincoln. A lot of people in the North thought he was a Bush. Indeed, had the plans of some of his Cabinet members -- particularly his secretary of war -- gone forward after his assassination, Lincoln's suspension of civil rights would be remembered even less than it is now.
The trade-off between liberty and security must be debated. The question of how you judge when a national emergency has passed must be debated. The current discussion of NSA data mining provides a perfect arena for that discussion. We do not have a clear answer of how the debate should come out. Indeed, our view is that the outcome of the debate is less important than that the discussion be held and that a national consensus emerge. Americans can live with a lot of different outcomes. They cannot live with the current intellectual and political chaos.
Civil libertarians must not be allowed to get away with trivializing the physical danger that they are courting by insisting that the rules of due process be followed. Supporters of the administration must not be allowed to get away with trivializing the threat to liberty that prosecution of the war against al Qaeda entails. No consensus can possibly emerge when both sides of the debate are dishonest with each other and themselves.
This is a case in which the outcome of the debate will determine the course of the war. Leaks of information about secret projects to a newspaper is a symptom of the disease: a complete collapse of any consensus as to what this war is, what it means, what it risks, what it will cost and what price Americans are not willing to pay for it. A covert war cannot be won without disciplined covert operations. That is no longer possible in this environment. A serious consensus on the rules is now a national security requirement.
Send questions or
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Politica-Economia en Latino America
on: May 15, 2006, 07:51:27 PM
Disculpenme por favor que otra vez yo ponga otra cosa en ingles.
Latin America: A Growing Anti-Chavez Backlash
A series of events in recent weeks appears to signal growing disenchantment in Latin America with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Bolivia's May 1 nationalization of its energy sector has only served to fuel this nascent anti-Chavez backlash.
Over the past few weeks, several Latin American leaders have issued statements criticizing Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, while two presidential candidates have openly campaigned against the Chavez model for the region. Although strong words against the Venezuelan president are not unusual in Latin America, the intensity of the anti-Chavez sentiment has grown since Bolivian President Evo Morales nationalized his country's energy sector May 1 -- a move that bears a strong Chavez imprint.
Since assuming power in 1999, Chavez has directed his rhetoric at pushing his Bolivarian dream -- Latin American economic and political integration, and isolation from the United States. Today, however, the region looks far from united, due to increasing differences between the countries on a wide set of issues. Although Chavez is not entirely to blame for this state of affairs, his incessant comments on -- and downright meddling in -- the internal affairs of others appear to be undermining his own efforts to attain that dream.
Victories in recent years of left-leaning parties in Latin America have increased U.S. concerns that a strong anti-American alliance, one hostile to foreign investment, would emerge. Bolivia and Venezuela, for example, have instituted the kinds of policies investors fear most. Not all the "leftist" governments in Latin America are the same, however. In fact, some are closer to European-style social democracies, while others are similar to the old-style populist governments that ruled in the region for decades.
While nationalism is a common thread among most Latin American leaders, little else really unites them -- and the current bickering among the different countries and their blocs only enhances their differences. A good number of these countries, however, seem to have found a common bond: concern about Chavez's influence inside their borders and a desire to contain him. As a result, the region is at a crossroads of sorts. Some new elements on the table could serve to strengthen the nascent anti-Chavez movement, but differences in other areas could make it difficult to sustain a containment bloc.
Although criticism from Venezuela's neighbors of Chavez's attempts to extend influence in the region is not a new phenomenon, the difference this time is that a larger number of countries -- Peru, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Mexico and Brazil -- all have openly criticized Chavez over the past three weeks.
In Peru, where Chavez has openly called for the election of newcomer Ollanta Humala, President Alejandro Toledo Manrique and former president and current candidate Alan Garcia have both responded harshly to Chavez's meddling, especially after he compared them to one another. Garcia has invoked Chavez's name as part of his campaign strategy, saying Chavez is attempting to create satellite states and that he has the luxury of coming out against free trade and foreign investment because his country has plenty of oil. As a result, Garcia has jumped ahead of Humala by more than 12 points in most polls. Three weeks ago, polls had Humala and Garcia tied in a runoff scenario ahead of the June 4 election. The polls also show that more than 60 percent of Peruvians have a negative opinion of Chavez and only 17 percent have a favorable one. Meanwhile, 84 percent of those surveyed consider him an authoritarian leader. Chavez's support, which fueled the rise of Humala, might now be a liability.
In designing his strategy, Garcia might have copied Mexico's Felipe Calderon, the National Action Party's presidential candidate. After months of running behind in the polls, Calderon has begun to take on the Revolutionary Democratic Party's Lopez Obrador, releasing a series of televised ads that pair Chavez and Lopez Obrador -- and highlight their authoritarian tendencies. These ads, as well as other actions by Lopez Obrador -- such as his unwillingness to participate in the first televised debate -- have pushed him into second place for the first time since he declared his candidacy. It appears the Mexican public is growing concerned about the possibility of electing another Chavez or Morales on July 2. Lopez Obrador probably could not follow in the steps of the Bolivian and Venezuelan leaders, even if he wanted to, but Mexican voters are starting to have second thoughts regardless.
Meanwhile, Chavez might be starting to lose his appeal among the citizens of other countries as well. When Latin Americans start looking at the possibility of a return to the tough economic times of the 1970s and the 1980s, they might find populist alternatives not that appealing.
Perhaps Chavez's biggest problem, however, is that his meddling is awakening South American powerhouse Brazil. In the past, Chavez has counted on Brazilian President Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva as his friend and ally on issues such as trade and energy. However, Chavez's visible role in the nationalization of Bolivia's energy sector -- a move that affects Brazil most directly -- is seen as a direct challenge to da Silva. Moreover, Chavez's influence represents a challenge to Brazil's standing in the continent, and its sphere of influence.
Despite da Silva's call for an immediate summit with Argentine President Nestor Kirchner and the leaders of Bolivia and Venezuela following the nationalization decree -- as well as a series of relatively tough statements by Brazil's foreign minister and the president of Brazil's state-owned energy firm -- Brazil's other political parties and its business sector have criticized da Silva for his "weak" response to Chavez. Taking into account the relatively close relationship between the two leaders before these events, however, da Silva appears to be clearly marking his distance -- especially when one of his direct criticisms of Chavez came during the European Union-Latin America summit. While Chavez is accustomed to meddling in the affairs of governments that cannot do much against him, he now runs the risk of facing an angry Brazil.
Chavez, meanwhile, has other irons in the regional fire and could use his influence to further fuel the differences between countries in the Andean Community (Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia and Colombia) and Mercosur (Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay). He has been siding with Argentina in its dispute with Uruguay over construction of paper plants along their shared border, for example. Uruguay, meanwhile, has threatened to abandon Mercosur -- but to associate with Washington, not with Caracas. These games have tested Brazil's patience, which appears to be running out.
Chavez could be facing a decline in his popular support in the region. At the same time, he appears to have angered the largest country in South America. In order to assure his own re-election -- and defend Brazil's economic interests -- da Silva will need to show he cannot be overshadowed by Chavez. For starters, Brazil could stop cooperating with Caracas on a variety of projects, including the South American pipeline.
For the United States, the bickering between Latin American states could not come at a better time. Washington is focused on Iraq, Iran, Russia and China -- not to mention U.S. President George W. Bush's problems on the home front -- and Chavez represents a painful thorn in the side. Should the other Latin American countries take care of that problem, so much the better for the United States.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Mexico
on: May 15, 2006, 10:40:55 AM
?Nadie tiene algo para compartir del perspectivo Mexicano?
MEXICO: A new poll released by El Universal newspaper gives Mexico's Felipe Calderon from the conservative National Action Party the lead ahead of the July 2 presidential elections. Calderon is preferred by 39 percent of respondents, against 35 percent for Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the Democratic Revolution Party and 21 percent for Roberto Madrazo of the Institutional Revolution Party. This is the first time that an El Universal poll has given the lead to Calderon, who is now the front-runner in all the opinion polls released in the past three weeks.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Dog Bros DVD con espanol
on: May 12, 2006, 07:59:07 PM
Guau a todos:
Yo quisiera informarles que hemos comenzado traduciendo al espanol las palabras de Top Dog en nuestro serie "Real Contact Stickfighting" al espanol en forma escrita.
El concepto es que Uds puedan leer lo que este' diciendo mientras viendo el DVD.
?Como les parece?
PD: !Cabe mencionar que los DVD de RCSFg ya esta'!
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Real Contact Stickfighting series on DVD
on: May 12, 2006, 07:54:06 PM
Not only are these now shipping, but we are working on transcriptions for our foreign friends. The idea is this:
Many people speak some English, but not enough to follow with confidence what Top Dog is saying. Our budget does not allow us to do voice overs or subtitles. What we can afford to do and keep the prices down for you, is to have a written transciption of what Top Dog is saying translated into various languages.
At present we hope to have translated transcriptions in Spanish, German, Italian, French, and Portuguese.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Mexico
on: May 12, 2006, 02:26:08 PM
Beheadings in Mexico: The Foreign Element in Mexico's Drug Wars
On May 8, authorities in the town of Aguaje in Mexico's Michoacan state found the beheaded body of Hector Espinoza, a lawyer whose client had been detained by authorities on suspicion of belonging to a drug cartel. The gruesome discovery came nearly three weeks after two police officers were beheaded in the resort city of Acapulco. Although beheadings bring jihadist groups to mind, these more likely were perpetrated by criminals or militants from elsewhere in Latin America.
Espinoza was defending Armando Sanchez Arreguin, an alleged member of an independent drug cartel led by Juan Far?as, also known as "the Grandfather." Arreguin was captured after being wounded in a shootout with the rival Millennium cartel. His lawyer's severed head was hung from an archway that serves as one of the entrances to Aguaje. A homemade "welcome" sign was affixed nearby.
On April 20, the heads of two police officers were left in front of a government building in Acapulco's La Garita neighborhood, mere blocks from the resort town's tourist strip. A red cardboard sign that read, "So you learn some respect," was taped on the wall nearby. The officers' bodies were found miles away, wrapped in plastic sheeting and duct tape. The killings appear to be revenge for the officers' part in a gunfight some months earlier between police and suspected gang members, in which four suspects were killed. One of the officers was subsequently seen in a video aired on Mexican television, which shows him killing a gang member execution-style during the shootout.
Killings of police officers, judges and other officials have become widespread in Mexico, as rival drug cartels battle over turf. The two main combatants are the Gulf cartel, allegedly run from prison by Osiel Cardenas since his arrest in 2003, and the Sinaloa cartel, run by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, who escaped from prison in 2001. The Gulf cartel has used a group of former Mexican airborne troops known as "Los Zetas" in its war against the Sinaloa cartel. These well-organized and heavily armed enforcers have a well-deserved reputation for brutality. In addition to the main cartels, smaller cartels and autonomous gangs participate in drug-related violence.
The main fronts in the war are Nuevo Laredo and Tijuana, both on the U.S. border. In those cities, police officials have been killed, rival gangs have fought each other with heavy weapons, and U.S. citizens have gone missing. In recent months, however, Acapulco has become increasingly violent as the fighting spreads.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gender issues thread
on: May 10, 2006, 01:05:48 AM
Victory! Anti-Father CA Bill Pulled
in Face of Huge Opposition
May 9, 2006
Anti-Father CA Bill Pulled in Face of Huge Opposition
In the face of over 4,000 opposition calls, letters and faxes, California Senator Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles) has decided to withdraw a bill which would have granted custodial parents an almost unlimited right to move children far way from their noncustodial parents. Romero pulled SB 1482 just before today's scheduled hearing on the bill.
SB 1482 would have weakened if not abrogated the California Supreme Court's 2004 LaMusga move-away decision, which affirmed that courts have the power to restrain moves which run counter to children's best interests.
The bill was supported by a wide array of feminist groups and state-funded pro-feminist organizations, including the California National Organization for Women, the California Commission on the Status of Women, the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence, the Coalition for Family Equity, Haven Hills, Inc., Marin Abused Women's Services, Business and Professional Women/USA, the National Council of Jewish Women Los Angeles, the Santa Clara County Domestic Violence Advocacy Consortium, and others.
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Opposition to the bill and unrestricted move-aways was led by the Alliance for Children Concerned About Move-Aways, an advocacy group endorsed by over 50 mental health and family law professionals, and Mike Robinson and the California Alliance for Families and Children. Several organizations of family law and mental health professionals also opposed SB 1482, including the California Judge's Association, the California Psychological Association, and the State Bar of California's Family Law Section.
This is the second time an attempt by misguided feminists to abrogate LaMusga has been defeated. From 1996 to 2004 move-away determinations were based on the Burgess decision, which was interpreted by California courts as conferring unlimited move-away privileges. Under Burgess the bonds between tens of thousands of children and their noncustodial parents were needlessly ruptured.
The California Supreme Court addressed the problem in the LaMusga decision in April, 2004 by making it clear that courts can prevent children from being moved when it is detrimental to their interests. Among the factors deemed important were the relationship between the child and the nonmoving parent.
In the summer of 2004 then Senate President John Burton, one of the most powerful people in California, introduced SB 730, a bill which would have granted custodial parents an almost unlimited right to move children far way from their noncustodial parents.
We organized opposition to SB 730, and thousands of you wrote and called Sacramento to oppose the bill. Our campaign gained widespread media attention and was endorsed by numerous mental health and family law professionals. Burton surprised Sacramento insiders by withdrawing the bill a few weeks later.
When SB 1482 was originally introduced in February, its language was innocuous. The bill's backers then made a sweeping, last minute amendment to the bill in order to slip it through committee on April 25 before opponents had a chance to organize. We quickly organized a deluge of calls and letters in opposition. The hearing on the bill was postponed to May 9 and then the bill was pulled.
As the Alliance for Children Concerned About Move-Aways noted in its position letter:
"SB 1482 will make it more difficult for children of divorce to retain the loving bonds they share with both parents.
"SB 1482 specifically prohibits a parent seeking to prevent his or her children from being moved far away from citing most of the evidence that could provide a basis for restraining the move. Under this bill, nonmoving parents are prevented from citing the move's impact on their children's relationships with them or the effects on the children of losing their schools and friends. This directly abrogates current California case law, which says that the children's relationship with their nonmoving parent must be considered when deciding a relocation case."
"The LaMusga move-away case, decided by the California Supreme Court in 2004, is a good example of the way [under Burgess] custodial parents were permitted to move children far away without justification. In that case the mother sought to move her two boys from the Bay Area to Ohio because, she claimed, she wanted to attend a law school there. Apparently none of the multitude of law schools in the Bay Area sufficed. Later she moved to Arizona because, she explained, her new husband needed work. His job? Selling cars...
"Part of the problem is that current policies provide strong financial incentives for moving. California has a high child support guideline, a high cost of living, and high wages. Thus custodial parents can often live better by moving to states which have a lower cost of living, because they will still collect child support awards based on California wages and support guidelines. This is a terrible injustice to noncustodial parents, who often must stay behind to work to pay child support for children who have been moved out of their lives."
Thanks again to the thousands of you who wrote or called Sacramento in opposition to SB 1482.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gender issues thread
on: May 08, 2006, 05:45:03 PM
Symposium: To Rape an Unveiled Woman
By Jamie Glazov
FrontPageMagazine.com | March 7, 2006
A Muslim rape epidemic in sweeping over Europe -- and over many other nations host to immigrants from the Islamic world. The direct connection between the rapes and Islam is irrefutable, as Muslims are significantly overrepresented among convicted rapists and rape suspects. The Muslim perpetrators themselves boast that their crime is justified since their victims were, among other things, not properly veiled.
What is the psychology here? What is the significance of this epidemic? And how do we face it when our own feminists, with a few exceptions, are deafingly silent about it?
To discuss this issue with us today, we are joined by:
Pierre Rehov, a French filmmaker who has filmed six documentaries on the Palestinian Intifada. His new documentary, Suicide Killers, explores the psychology of suicide bombers. It is based on interviews with the victims of suicide bombers, the families of suicide bombers, would-be bombers themselves, and experts on suicide killer mentality.
Nancy Kobrin, an affiliated professor to the University of Haifa, Arabist, psychoanalyst and author of the upcoming book, The Sheikh's New Clothes: Islamic Suicide Terror and What It's Really All About;
Peter Raddatz, a German scholar of Islamic Studies and the co-author of the renowned ?Encyclopaedia of Islam.? He is the author of many books, including From Allah to Terror? Jihad and the Western Deformation, Allah's Veil and The Turkish Danger. In a few months he will publish World Risk Iran.
Gudrun Eussner, a journalist with a Ph.D at Free University Berlin, specializing in mass communication and political science, and Iranian philology. She has experience working in numerous Muslim countries, including Bosnia, Indonesia, Kuwait, Malaysia, Morocco, Pakistan, Turkey, Usbekistan and others.
FP: Pierre Rehov, Nancy Kobrin, Peter Raddatz and Dr. Gudrun Eussner welcome to Frontpage Symposium.
Peter Raddaz let?s begin with you.
A man sees a woman and she is not veiled. He thinks to himself: ?Oh, I must rape her now.?
No matter how much I try to figure this out, I can?t. What?s the mindset here? If a person is upset that a woman is not veiled, it implies he wants some kind of supposed ?morality.? But if he is thirsting for purity, how does perpetrating a violent sexual atrocity against the ?immoral? one fit into moralizing her and the rest of society ? and himself?
Raddatz: Your questions concerning mindset and morals put us right into the middle of the problem. They are the terms any culture's collective psychology is basing on. In the case of prevailing orthodox Islam we are faced with a deep division between the sexes. With Allah's unlimited ruling license the males are entitled to be the masters of the females. The Koranic order says that the man has to "go to the woman" whenever he likes, to "enjoy her however he likes", and to discipline her in case she develops her own ideas like sexual self-determination.
Over the centuries this basic frame had been filled with a lot of "prophetic" instructions as to what disastrous role the woman could play if the man as Allah's deputy does not carry out this divine license of fertilizing control. Insofar the woman is looked upon from a "higher" biologistic viewpoint regarding her as "seed field" that - under strict male surveillance signaled by "Islamic correct" veiling - guarantees for the continued survival and expansion of Islam.
We are dealing here with premodern, partly archaic thinking that divides its world into two Manichaean halves. Irrespective of the usual statistical remnant of liberal "dissidents", the orthodox ideology bases on an Islamic half that accords to Koran and "prophetic" tradition and a non-Islamic half consisting of unbelievers and disobedient women. The religious war - known as "jihad" - against the latter two groups belongs, therefore, to the most prominent duties of the "believing" Muslim. Its "religious" dimension is boosted enormously by customary family "honor" installing male control from early youth on, often widening into brutal raping, sometimes incestuous punishing patterns. Here a complicated interaction between father, mother, son and daughter comes into play about which, I guess, Dr. Kobrin will give us quite interesting insights.
Thus, the ontological being in Islam is not defined by individual right but clearly as integral part of the community in terms of a whole and "holy" entirety. In this context the primary form of human being is seen in the male that assumes the right and duty to assist Allah in conserving and expanding his "umma", meaning his community.
Its biologistic "thinking" demands the "pure" man as the real human dominating the "impure" woman as a lower form, rather close to some animal-like existence. Therefore, sexuality cannot be sublimated and has to serve - aside from ramifications into homo-, paedo- and sodo-variants - a basic double function: fertilizing and punishing.
This paradigm expresses itself not only in highly standardized family patterns but also in an equally conformistic education system. All contents, in school and university of almost every Islamic country, are ultimately restricted and tied to Islamic purposes, thereby avoiding abstract thinking categories that could relativate and jeopardize the dogma's absolute uniqueness. By the same token, however, and this is the core of "modern" Islam's tragedy, the male controllers are confined to physical methods of "sublimation" whenever problems arise. Aside from the usual bombing "protest" against Western "arrogance" and "unbelieving morals", the current rape wave is the vital expression of an ongoing jihad against women who under Western influence may drift slowly out of the grip of male Muslim hands.
The war character of this behaviour may become clearer from its archaic punishment perspective that has come out of use generally but survived in Islam until present times. During the Algerian independence war the freedom fighters used to publicly sodomize French officers in order to achieve the enemy's maximum degradation. The same applies to the woman as a possible internal enemy containing even a double danger: her alleged disobedience is a bio-political security risk for the Islamic entirety and her independent "devilish" sexuality represents a religious blasphemy, contaminating male purity. Both have to be dealt with accordingly: beating, raping, torturing, stoning, and killing.
While some UN organizations keep on complaining about this, the Western feminists keep silent because they are not interested in the general problem but rather concentrate on clutching to their few elitarian privileges, mainly in business. Doing this they are simple part of a greater Western mainstream that has started to adjust to Muslim immigrant political "sharia" demands based on the growing radical Islamist influence as well as oil price pressure. And mind you: keeping Muslim women obedient through male "honor" might also sustain their "seed field" fertilization rate thereby compensating for the Western "morals" of pornography and weak reproduction. In this respect global elite ideology, anti-Semitic "new age" fascism and Islam are not so far apart.
FP: Thank you Dr. Raddatz. Dr. Eussner?
Eussner: Thank you, Jamie. I agree with Peter: The survival and expansion of Islam worldwide is the main goal of Islam since its invention by Mohammed. In this respect, the history of Islamic conquest is self-explanatory. The other aspect is the lack of appreciation for the individual as such. For both, men and women, it is true, that there are no individual rights, but for women it is even worse.
It may sound harsh, but the distinction between "fertilizing" and "punishing" a woman is evident. On the one hand you have sexuality as a tool serving the expansion of Islam, and on the other hand there is sexuality as a weapon against disobedient and non-Muslim women, both categorized as "unbelievers". Against them jihad is the duty, and what to do with women "conquered" in jihad, this may be read in the Qur'an: they become slaves to be used by the victors.
Why is the raping of unveiled women, either Muslim or non-Muslim, now spreading widely in our countries?
The conduct towards these women is due to the new developments initiated by Salafists like Tariq Ramadan. He has invented and introduced a new definition for the Western countries: they should no longer be seen the traditional way as Dar ul-harb, the space of war, but as Dar el-dawa?, the invitation to Islam, or Dar ash-shah?da, the space of testimony.
While orthodox Sunni Muslims, stuck to the unchanged application of the tradition are not at all in line with this "modern" interpretation, the "scholar" Tariq Ramadan has paved a soft way for Muslims to take possession of countries formerly belonging to the Dar ul-harb. When living in Dar ul-harb there are two alternatives for the Muslims: either conquer the land by force and rule it by Qur'anic law or, if not strong enough, keep quiet and wait, not touching the property of the enemy.
Dar el-dawa? and Dar ash-shah?da are two of the trickiest inventions ever to reach the goal of conquest: at a quick and superficial glance it means resigning from the conversion of the West to Islam, permitting everybody to keep on in his belief, but on closer examination that means what the French call "l'entrisme", unnoticed penetration.
The Muslims are not living any longer in a hostile surrounding; they are almost in Dar ul-Islam. Professor Nezvat Yal?intas, member of the Istanbul parliament, made an interesting statement. During the inauguration of the Murabitun mosque in Granada, Spain, in July 2003, he told the audience that Paris, Rome, Madrid now were components of the Islamic world due to the erection of new mosques.
But as Muslims are still obliged to wage a perpetual war against those infidels who refuse to submit, the jihad is continuing in Dar ash-shah?da, and people not behaving according to the Qur'anic laws have to be punished. The trick of introducing these new definitions has a severe impact on Muslims' consciousness, especially on young Muslim men. People not behaving according to the Qur'anic laws are to be punished even stronger now. The Muslims are not any more restricted by the laws of Dar ul-harb, that has evaporated without notice, merely by changing the definition. The inhabitants of our countries are to obey to Muslim male supremacy and Qur'anic laws. What better a justification for conduct towards women?
The jihad against the infidels is conducted on each and every level, not only as terror and suicide bombing. The jihad against women, who by their behaviour in the public sphere, are "asking for rape", as the Danish mufti Shahid Mehdi, a Qur'an teacher of young Muslims in Copenhagen, put it in 2004, and/or towards their husbands, by their alleged disobedience are challenging the survival and expansion of Islam, of the "Ummah", is a must for the Muslim men.
As far as the Western feminists are concerned, they seem to be hovering in other dimensions, in absolute arrogance, learned from ethnologues like Claude L?vy-Strauss. For them, freedom is that each "culture" may it be as inhuman as can be, is entitled to prosper even on our soil. The next act in this surrealistic piece of stage play is the unlimited understanding that Norwegian Professor Ms. Unni Wikan, shows for Muslims raping Western women: Norwegian women must take their share of responsibility for these rapes, as they are not dressing and behaving according to Muslim understanding. The Norwegian women, in her view, are to realize that they live in a multicultural society and adapt themselves to it, as Mark Steyn reported already in 2002.
FP: Thank you Dr. Eussner. Mr. Rehov, your turn.
Rehov: There are very few observations that I can add to Dr Eussner?s and Dr Raddatz?s surveys on both the cultural and religious seeds of the phenomenon, although there is a personal dimension that I would like to explore.
Of course, in a cultural environment where women are undermined, not to say considered as second rate citizens or even dangerous to the dominant male, the temptation to rape as a result to ? provocation ? is great. Female ?provocation? in the Muslim society is usually a definition for the mildest behavior. Smiling, singing, talking, being alone for one minute in the same room as the rapist, having answered a question in an inappropriate way, wearing clothes which are not strictly in obedience with what is locally considered as the Muslim rules, all of these innocent behaviors are seen as a misconduct authorizing ?revenge.?
In a society where sex is absolutely forbidden, taboo, and where separation between males and females is absolute, where in most cases marriages are not the result of love but of a financial arrangement between two families, the sensual or erotic aspect of any relationship between genders is, de-facto, suspicious, considered evil, and therefore an act of aggression. Sexual ?revenge?, containing violence, can be naturally considered as the automatic answer to the ? provocations ? described above, and this for two reasons.
In Muslim society the male is dominant and almighty since he is made after God, when women have been created as a necessary evil to tempt males. In other words, the female body is the closest thing to the Devil, something which has to be dominated as a proof a faith. We go back to the sacrifice of Eros to Thanatos, as one of the basic sacrifices of all monotheisms, where, since the origins of the Bible, first inspiration to the Koran, women have been the carriers of the original sin.
In such a pattern, a male will not only consider any suspect behavior, including the mildest one, as an evil temptation, but he might look forward to experiencing one, as a religious challenge. Whatever will happen then won?t be the result of his own will, but he believes in having received absolution in advance for an act that, he knows, is against his own religion. During these minutes of deception and absolute power, he is not abusing a woman but fighting the Devil inside.
Of course, primitive chauvinism is the second reason. Again, since males in chauvinist societies are deprived of all natural pleasures resulting from what we consider a normal relationship between men and women, beside sexual ones, the level of frustration is very high and the fear of impotency even higher. A male tempted must react. The automatic result to frustration and fear is usually violence. In this case, sexual violence.
A friend of mine is a retired chief of police, who used to be in charge of the security of a major city in the south of France. He reported to me that his men had to face an average of 10 rapes a week, 80% made by Muslim young men. 30% being what we call, in French, a ? tournante ?, meaning that the victim is being raped by an entire gang, one after the other, often during an entire night. My friend reports that, in many cases, he was able to locate and arrest the rapists, often very young ones, and, as part of the investigation, call the families. He was astonished that, in most cases, the parents not only would back up their rapist children, but also would not even understand why they would be arrested. There is an instant shift in the notion of good and evil as a major component of culture. The only evil those parents would see, genuinely, is the temptation that the male children had to face. Since in most cases the victims were not Muslims, the parents? answer and rejection was even more genuine: how could their boys be guilty of anything, when normally answering to a provocation by occidental women, known for their unacceptable behavior?
Kobrin: Thanks, Jamie. So far I agree with everything the panel has said. There are several layers to this tragedy which will ultimately occur here in the United States, if it hasn?t already. Why? Because other aspects of Islamic practices in extremis, such as marriage under Sharia law but not civil law, polygamy and clan practices of female genital mutilation in the African Muslim immigrant populations persist even though FGM was outlawed in 1994.
I have it from first hand experience interviewing Muslim male immigrants that they hate it here in the United States because if they raise their hand, the women and children call the police. However, in the same breath, these same women will defend their men because it is part of the fused mentality and identification with the aggressor.
I interviewed Muslim women who justified wife beating because it is ?educational.? These women were probably brutalized as little girls and are unable to know NOT to blame the unveiled woman victim. Every Muslim male and female that I have interviewed has experienced being beaten as a child and have witnessed the beating of their mother.
Rape is learned behavior in the home. Peter is absolutely correct in describing the insidious sexual dichotomy of Muslim male supremacy over the lowly denigrated female. Pierre underscored the degree to which a family will defend its own rapist because of alleged ?honor.? Why should it surprise us that they have moved out into the streets and feel entitled to rape?
At the ideological level which Gudrun has so aptly introduced into this discussion, we encounter the classic practice of taqiya, lit. ?guarding one?s self? more commonly thought of dissimulation and its insidious behavior of orchestrating jihad by every possible means in a clandestine manner. Rape is just one more weapon in the jihadi arsenal for Dar el-dawaa and Dar ash-shahada. While the labels may change, Muslim male sexual inadequacies, to put it mildly, remain the same and their rage is inflicted brutally on the other. I do not recall ever reading in the literature on rape as a weapon of war that the underlying issue of child sexual abuse is probably the precursor for such despicable behavior. The sexual norms of the Arab Muslim world are totally different. As a psychoanalyst and trauma expert, if there is physical violence going on in the home, I always wonder about sexual abuse and the perpetrator parents.
These Muslim rapists are essentially babies, as they show us their pathetic need to target the most vulnerable because they are completely emasculated. They cannot control themselves sexually and they are sexually confused as well. Power, aggression, rage and sex yield a near lethal mix arising out of bizarre family dynamics which they experienced growing up.
They are directly attacking not only the venerable Western female but also the rape should be thought of as a kind of ambush on the Western male.
I never really bought the argument that Bouyeri murdered Theo van Gogh because of the film -- Submission. Sure that was part of it but the fact that Van Gogh called the Jihadis ? a fifth column of goat f--kers must have really hit Bouyeri where it hurt and he lost it ? I might add, shortly after his mother died. To be a goat herder is to be on the lowest rung. Male children are routinely treated as if they were goats. The pet goat is also slaughtered and eaten. Again the imagery goes hand in glove with the dissociated, denied behaviors and ideologies. Rape is a forced sexual fusion. The rapists remain erotically fused to their mothers upon whom they completely depend emotionally but hate it.
As for the Western feminists in academe who have completely sold out to political correctness, they too remain clueless as to what their behavior tells us about themselves. They function as another fused family who must go to extreme lengths to defend these male rapists as well. I would assume that at some level these feminists must really be terrified because if they were to take a hard look, they would have to admit to themselves that they might be next.
FP: I think you have hit the nail on the head, but I do not think the radical feminists are afraid of being next. From my study of the Left, they crave to be next and that is why they support these dark forces. They yearn to submit to the dark forces of totalitarianism and even to be devoured by them. It is the same death-wish virus that motivated many Western communists to go to Stalinist Russia to supposedly build communism, when they actually only went to their deaths, giving their lives for an idea that butchered them.
Dr. Raddatz, go ahead.
Raddatz: There seems to be a remarkable consent among ourselves on the subject, contrary however, to the official "Islamic correct" reception on Western elite level. Here we can register a very modest resonance to the rising wave of violence against Muslim women. In Europe, for instance, we have a whole species of literature at hand in which female authors from Islamic countries give us personal experience reports on their respective lives with male violence in their families. The public discussion on this was and still is close to zero and the current rape wave has not given much incentive to it.
In Germany in 1960, in words: sixty so-called scientists from all thinkable and unthinkable departments, foundations, institutes and what have you published an "appeal" in "Die Zeit", a renowned weekly paper. Here they warned against a "general suspicion" the Western societies may spread over all Muslims in case they keep on criticizing "the few" who act violently against their women. By the same token they themselves criticized a German-Turkish female sociologist for her book on her personal youth experience with family violence as well as the inability of the vast majority of Turkish immigrants to integrate into the German society. Here we see another case of the Western decadence game called "victim turning perpetrator" which is constantly gaining aggressive elements among European - male - "intellectuals".
Earlier in this discussion, Nancy Kobrin described the central role the mother-son-relation is playing in this cynical game, how rape is functioning as substitute measure punishing the mother for eternalizing the male dependence on her, irrespective of the usual imitation reflex following the parental violence behaviour. The personal literary reports and the official UN analyses on Islamic family dynamics concur in a somewhat disquieting aspect. They confirm not only the tendency to incest but also an even stronger attitude towards anal sexuality, meaning an unusually high percentage of males preferring anal intercourse to vaginal, especially in the framework of "normal" marital life.
Nancy certainly knows much more about this but the so far irrefutable Freudian theory, the "Anatomy of Human Perversion", offers en explanation which might give us some additional insight. According to this the phallic organization of infantile sexuality if kept from diversification, for instance by Oedipal defectiveness, develops into a general male dominance neglecting the female i.e. vaginal "specialty" altogether. In the adult phase neglect turns into semi-conscious contempt and hate for all female attributes forcing the pervert to physically prefer anus to vagina and verbally compare women with animals and even feces. All this is vastly manifest in the texts of Islamic tradition and daily confirmed in the regrettable practice of actual Islamic life.
If Western "elites" are not able to openly discuss these deficits they indicate their readiness to assume similar attitudes and possibly destruct the grown order. The growing aggression against women as well as the obvious sympathy for homo- and paedo-sexuality put them closer to Islamic preferences and may even signal a meta-social trend that could lead back into pre-modern i.e. totalitarian structures. Insofar we are not only dealing with a mere mode of the Left as Jamie implies, but also with a Neo-fascist thinking frame that wants to install Islam unchanged and incessantly demands "respect" for its adored wholeness.
FP: Dr. Raddatz, could you kindly, in simple terms, explain what you mean when you refer to ?the phallic organization of infantile sexuality? being kept from ?diversification?? What exactly is ?oedipal defectiveness? and why and how does it develop ?into a general male dominance? that neglects the female vagina, etc.? Break this down into simple terms for me and our readers. This is obviously crucial because it is the foundation to the pathology in the culture under examination.
Raddatz: I will at least try to put this matter into somewhat simpler terms, as it is a very complicated problem indeed. It gets even more complicated as the relativistic development of modern Western science often obscures the view into those contexts, especially if they concern other cultures. Take for instance what I refer to as "the phallic organization of infantile sexuality". Basically it means that the Koran and Tradition are the fundamentals of Islamic societies and are centered around the maximization of male potency. Upon certain festivities like circumcision and others all family members fondle and even kiss the "member" of male babies, speak respective magic formulas and donate money notes to activate Allah?s mercy for its future fertilizing power.
The term "infantile" in this respect does not stop at individual male dominance from juvenile age on. It also concerns an infantile society from the anthropological point of view. Western psychology has declared the Freudian theory of "penis envy" as obsolete. The Muslim theory represents the opposite. Since a millennium ago here the sex theologians circle around one and the same project: the optimized spreading and utilization of collective semen by elevation of man, repression of woman, polygamy, rape and marital law. Even Allah bows to the penis power: She, who wants to pray rather than to have sexual intercourse, is a sinneress. And Muhammad bowed to those who wanted to fornicate with prostitutes during pilgrimage, leading to the world famous tradition of "dripping penises in Mecca".
What do these practices tell us? Above all they lead us back into pre-modern if not pre-cultural times. Cave drawings show hunters killing big animals while their erected penises are connected through a power line with vaginas of the group' s women. In other words, without dominating women men cannot rule freely - i.e. neglecting the natural order - over the society. This is a very old, pre-modern truth, obviously still deeply rooted in Islam, thereby preventing this culture from sexual and ethical emancipation. Female existence is felt as being lower than the animal stage, and satisfying female sexuality is, therefore, psychotically feared as "devilish" temptation which leads us right into our second point, the "oedipal defectiveness".
Men who have been raised as omnipotent family monarchs, some sort of alpha males with a penis as irrefutable power instrument, things may get difficult in the adult age. As I pointed out before, and Nancy Kobrin has described so clearly, incest is one of the biggest social problems in Islam, and incest at last is also connected inseparably to the Oedipus complex. It is the meta-historical expression of breaking the world order by elevating the narcissistic omnipotence of man. As this obviously cannot find the basic fulfillment though reuniting with the mother, it "sublimates" its frustration by repressing, punishing and raping women. The male principle culminates in itself, thereby forced to destruct instead of construct, to express itself not in terms of products but in "disducts" - like feces - and to ultimately drift from vagina to anus. There is no "culture" in the world where more married people practice anal intercourse than in Islam. Individually it is again connected to a regression of the adult person into a childhood ego-idea closing the Oedipal circle of hating the female uniqueness one more time.
There can be no doubt that homosexuality is on a strong march forward, and there can be even less doubt that "disducts" like vomit and feces are also gaining popularity as means of expression on theater stages as well as in films and on television. Watch also the many other aesthetic aspects to this phenomenon like the diminishing degree of light in films, the growing majority of black clothing instead of bright colors, the spreading primitivity of "art" and so on. Not to speak of the biological regression into which a whole myriad of reasons against children has converged. Needless to say that the grown order and its society has to be replaced by an "order" that functions on a counter basis as opposite and alien as possible. The late Michel Foucault is the most efficient priest of this project.
What we are watching here is an ultra long-term, meta-historical process, which cannot be influenced on a short-term basis - one of the reasons why it is so difficult to explain and why I must apologize for having been quite academic again. This process simply exceeds the limits of human feasibilities and our lifetimes as well. It is the consequent inexorability of its "progress" that stuns everybody who observes it. All we can do is to be conscious of it and talk and write against it where ever our creator has put us.
Meanwhile we can enjoy people who recognize that the creation does not come from man but contains men and women as unity inside an order which is compatible with their minds. The goal of the non-system, however, is the abolishment of every known system, the break of the human mind, the total change from perpetrator to victim, from the old reality to a "New Age, the ultimate return into chaos where we - allegedly - come from. On its way there this "thinking" regards Islam as the most attractive companion as it has "achieved" the most important prerequisite already - the absence of "old" ethics.
FP: Dr. Eussner, your turn.
Eussner: Let me answer Pierre Rehov first. I agree in what you said about experiencing religious challenge, the proof of faith, Pierre. The religious task of fighting the Devil inside may be achieved in abusing unveiled women. But this is only half of the story, the religious side. The political side is even more important, as political Islam is using religion as a pretext, as a manipulating tool. The message given to the Muslim women in Muslim and in Western countries is: you don't ask for nothing, neither for equal treatment nor for liberty, otherwise you will be punished, i.e. beaten and raped.
A disobedient woman is outlawed. The high percentage of gang raping is due to the cowardliness of the young Muslim men, in France named "les jeunes", the youngsters. As their religion is never appreciating the individuum as such, but only as part of the Ummah, "les jeunes" are not strong enough on their own, so they are acting as representatives of the Ummah, fighting unbelievers, disobedient and unveiled women.
This is consented to by the families. You said it in mentioning your friend, the retired chief of police: the parents of the rapist children don't understand why their children were arrested. This is showing their close attachment to Islamic law, the sharia. In midst of our Western society they are living according to their law, which is not compatible to our values and laws.
Allow me to please comment on the very interesting comments you made, Nancy Kobrin. Your words support what Pierre said for Europe. The Muslim male immigrants hate it in the USA because they are not totally free to live according to the sharia. Women and children are entitled to call the police and sometimes do. But Muslim women are submitted to their law, they defend their men, they identify with the aggressor. They are afraid of the men. Islam rules by force and violence. And the young Muslim men, living somewhere at the end of a hierarchy of Muslim men, starting with Mohammed at the top and themselves at the bottom, they are indeed essentially babies who are not able to control themselves. Targeting the most vulnerable parts of the society is a typical sign of totalitarian regimes.
Political Islam, that is an Islam not only confined to the mosques and the private spiritual life but ruling through the sharia, leads to fear and submission. And we find today, that this fear is spreading into our Western society. Government authorities and offices, media, educational institutions, political parties, intellectuals and feminists are submitting themselves to Islamic claims and laws. The Islamization of our societies is in the making. Step by step we are pulling back. We are not defending our values, but we are submitting to the outrageous claims of dictatorial Islamic governments. What better an example as the handling of the publication of 12 Danish cartoons!
And, Peter, you said it: there is a very modest resonance to the raising wave of violence against Muslim women. Even worse: in Germany we are not only facing opposition by ignorant ministries, government authorities and media against the reality Muslim women are facing, but a whole bunch of social scientists are running down testimonies and reports by the victims.
Turkish female academics testifying about the situation of Muslim women in our society, talking about forced marriages, beating and rape, are torn down by multi-culti loving leftist social scientists. In my research work on the campaign against the French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut I came across a feminist in favour of the head scarf, who is understanding fully the rioting Muslim youngsters, that is the Allah Houakhbar shouting mob of the French suburbs, and to round it off, cooperating closely with the Salafist Web Site Oumma.com and a so-called Third World Solidarity Center, supporting Tali Fahima and thanking Yasser Arafat for his valuable contribution: "Choukran Abu Amar!"
FP: Pierre Rehov?
Rehov: Answering first to Dr Raddatz, I'd like to stay a little bit away from any kind of Freudian approach to the problem. In some ways, I believe that Freudism is a tool to explain many problems and behaviors in an involved civilization, most of those problems being generated by the "taboos" of this civilization.
When talking about "rape" by young Muslims, I think that our usual approaches don't apply anymore. What builds a Muslim young male's ego is very far away from what we consider as part of the subconscious of any young male in a modern Judeo-Christian society. I am not sure, for instance, that a Freudian approach could explain the level of fear towards Witches, or the violence generated by Inquisition during the dark ages of Christianity. Freudian- in my opinion - is not a tool to understand behaviors connected to the irrational. Although, of course, I am not a psychiatrist, not an analyst.
Back to our rapists, I would make it simple by saying that genuine frustration, combined with a high contempt toward women, as a result of a culture in which women are classified way under men, leads to an instinctive - animal type - behavior, not censored nor punished by common cultural values.
Inside the Palestinian territories, I collected a lot of different stories involving raping of an innocent girl who later on was slaughtered by her own father or cousin, because she had lost her virginity.
This example to say that, in Muslim culture, values exist, but the line between good and evil is drawn somewhere else, far away from our understanding. Protecting women against themselves is considered a good action, even if this includes death penalty, as long as family's honor - which is paramount - is saved.
When Dr. Eussner adds to my previous comments that religion is only half of the explanation, and that we mustn't forget the political aims, I could not agree more. Although I'd like to emphasize that in the Muslim world, religion and politics is one single thing. There is no separation between powers in any Muslim society and the ideal Muslim society accepts the Shari'ah (Muslim law, written in the Koran ) as the basis for any civil society, including its rules of punishment.
In addition, I can see in any raping of a non-Muslim woman by a Muslim male as a racist action, and it is high time for us to acknowledge and condemn it. The level of contempt towards non-Muslim women is the reflection of the level of hatred towards the society which creates equality between men and women. We all know that there is a sexual component in any form of racism. I personally see primitive racism as the expression of a fear connected to the unconscious protection of the genes among the males. Raping women belonging to another cultural, religious group or race is an act of male domination not only against the woman herself, but against the entire group in which she belongs.
Therefore, we have to differentiate two types of rapings: the aims are different whether the victim is a Muslim or a non-Muslim. In the second case, hatred is added to contempt.
FP: Nancy Kobrin, last word goes to you.
Kobrin: People are more similar than they are different. However, the devil is in the details.
Everything is always already psychosexual. Rape by definition is psychosexual, obviously. It is one thing to have rape fantasies which is very common (cf. M. Bader. Arousal: The Secret Logic of Sexual Fantasies, Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin?s Press, 2002). It is quite another not to have any boundaries and to inflict rape, which is a forced sexual fusion. This concretely expresses the inability to be separate and independent. It is pure aggression, rage and severe separation anxiety. The Arab Muslim culture by definition promotes an incested family, a ?closed circle?, and their ?Freud? is Abdelwahab Bouhdiba, Sexuality in Islam, Saqi Books, 1998. If you read French, it?s been available since 1975 in the original.
 This brings me to Freud. He is not as western as people would like to think. In fact he held strong identifications with Sephardic culture since his adolescence as expressed by a significant body of correspondence (before e-mail) in Spanish with his childhood Rumanian Jewish friend Edouard Silberstein. Elsewhere I have argued that his romance with Spanish was his ?private Ladino? which served him better than Yiddish which was often stigmatized. The Sephardic culture of Andalusia and its over-idealized Golden Age provided a much-needed psychological refuge for the young Freud facing severe anti-Semitism in Vienna where he was growing up. He needed to cling to a fantasy of convivencia/ coexistence. He was also aware of the Ottoman Empire?s history of breathing down Europe?s neck. It has been western philosophical tradition which co-opted Freud to its various ends while at the same time never able to see this special emotional tie that Freud had. For Muslims Sephardic and Mizrahi cultures and their Jews are most especially threatening because they are so similar up to a point and the fear is one of merging with the Other and losing their fragile sense of self. The jihadis are terrified of them because they raise the question of imitation and inauthenticity. The radical Islamists and to a lesser extent the Ummah harbor such fears of being fraudulent. The identities are intertwined, even geopolitically.
 This brings me to the recent tragic death of 23 yr old Ilan Halima z?l, baited and tortured to death. We have seen this time and again before. This is yet another psychosexual tactic in the arsenal of terrorism along with gang rape and suicide bombing. These strategies to annihilate the Other which is always perceived as female should be read functionally and by this I mean, that imagery is key. The terrorists think visually. I recently read Dr. Temple Grandin?s Thinking in Pictures: My Life with Autism and her other book co-authored with Catherine Johnson, Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior, Scribner, 2005. I do not mean to say that terrorists are simply autistic. It is more complicated than that but their behaviors such as gang rape is terror-driven and similar to the rapist roosters who rape and murder hens when they have been bred incorrectly because this is not normal for roosters. ?There is no species alive in nature where half the males kill reproductive-age females.? (Grandin, Animals in Translation, p.70)
In my work on Islamic suicide terrorism, I have noted that the rage is really against the prenatal Muslim mother, misdirected to the infidels who represent her in the jihadi mind?s eye. Interestingly enough, Grandin also notes that ?humans have neotenized dogs: without realizing it, humans have bred dogs to stay immature for their entire lives.? (P.86) I would substitute the word "bred" for concepts like child-rearing practices, etc. And raise the question as can it be that Arab Muslim boys turned rapists have been "neotenized", that is raised to stay immature for their entire lives?
Finally, the scariest thing of all of this is when bad becomes normal. Quoting Grandin: ?The really bad thing was that the change happened slowly enough [talking about the rapist roosters] that the farmers and probably the breeder colonies, too didn?t realize they?d created a monster. Nobody noticed what was happening. As the roosters got more and more aggressive, the humans unconsciously adjusted their perceptions of how a normal rooster should act. It was a case of the bad becoming normal, . . . [emphasis mine].? (p.72)
Those who defend the rapists and their culture (no matter where they are located on the spectrum of politics) have unconsciously adjusted their perceptions of how Muslim males should act. They have done so because at some unconscious disavowed level they themselves are terrified. I am not advocating ?compassion? for them because they are terrified. That is their problem and I refuse to blame the victim. However, I am advocating understanding the problem at the deepest level possible for ourselves because it is crazy making and we need to stay grounded in what is predicted to be a very long marathon on terrorism. The Israelis say between 300 to 500 years and considering the transgenerational transmission of trauma, to my analytic ear that sounds just about right. Thank you Jamie and your staff at FrontPageMag.com along Dr. Raddatz, Dr. Eussner and Mr. Rehov as it has been for me a thought provoking exchange.
FP: Pierre Rehov, Nancy Kobrin, Peter Raddatz and Dr. Gudrun Eussner, thank you for joining Frontpage Symposium.
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Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Geo Political matters
on: May 08, 2006, 10:56:20 AM
TOTALLY ignores the issue of Iranian nukes and related matters, but full of interesting observations by an Indian diplomat:http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/HE09Ag01.html
May 9, 2006
Cheney puts Moscow to the hardness test
By M K Bhadrakumar
Addressing a gathering of leaders from the Baltic states and eastern and southeastern Europe in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius last week, US Vice President Dick Cheney harshly criticized the Kremlin for rolling back human rights and backsliding on democracy as well as using energy as a weapon to browbeat Russia's neighbors.
"No legitimate interest is served when oil and gas become tools of intimidation or blackmail, either by supply manipulation or attempts to monopolize transportation," Cheney told the
gathering, in remarks intended to be heard in the Kremlin.
He alleged that the Russian government had "unfairly and improperly restricted the rights of her people" and had taken other actions that might adversely affect relations with other countries. "Russia has a choice to make," Cheney warned, "None of us believes that Russia is fated to become an enemy."
Such harsh public denunciation of Russia by a top US government official is unusual. The media speculation, therefore, was swift, characterizing Cheney's Vilnius speech as a modern-day version of Winston Churchill's famous "Iron Curtain" speech 60 years ago. Yet there was something contrived about Cheney's outburst.
Cheney, the ex-boss of Halliburton, the realist par excellence, does not usually lose sleep over lofty ideals of democracy and freedom. All roads, in his straightforward world view, lead inevitably to Mammon.
Moscow seems to have chosen to take Cheney's speech in its stride. When asked how Cheney would compare to Churchill, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was dismissive: "I would rather not compare these politicians or give this sort of ratings." A middle-level Kremlin functionary said Cheney's speech was "completely incomprehensible". 
Moscow apparently chose not to "revive the escalation mechanism", as the influential president of the Politika Fund, Vyacheslav Nikonov, put it. "Once this mechanism is set in motion, it's unclear how it can be stopped, and then the Cold War may start looming somewhere on the horizon," Nikonov said.
Cheney was putting Moscow to a "hardness test". To what extent will Moscow accommodate US business interests in the Russian energy sector? Will Moscow persevere, no matter what it takes, with efforts to be an influential player on the world stage? Will it persist in its present course of broadening and deepening its strategic partnership with Beijing? Will it continue establishing energy cooperation bilaterally with the European capitals as if the trans-Atlantic alliance didn't exist? Finally, what should be the limits of Russia's "Eurasian" options?
Cheney's speech exhibits a high degree of exasperation in Washington that Moscow has somehow outmaneuvered it in recent years. The central issue is certainly energy, a subject close to Cheney's heart. Some major decisions are in the pipeline, as it were. For the Bush administration with its close ties with the US oil industry, this is a truly defining moment.
The single most important issue awaiting a decision by Putin concerns the Shtokman gas fields in the Barents Sea. It will be by far Russia's biggest energy deal for a while. The gas fields hold 3.6 trillion cubic meters of natural gas, which is equivalent to about seven times the entire annual consumption of the European Union member countries and which is estimated to supply Russia's exports to the United States for 50 years.
The first phase of the project itself would cost US$12 billion to $14 billion. The gas from the deposit will be pumped through the North European Gas Pipeline to Europe, but Russia is prepared to supply liquefied gas to the US as well provided agreeable conditions can be negotiated. The Americans are extremely keen to get the gas.
Moscow is to award a minority stake to one or more foreign partners to be picked from a short list that includes Chevron and ConocoPhillips of the United States, Norsk Hydro and Statoil of Norway, and Total of France. The foreign companies are vying with one another to offer competitive terms to Moscow.
The Russian side is seeking reciprocal rights for Gazprom to expand into the foreign markets. The retail market for energy in the US or Europe can be highly lucrative. (According to a study undertaken by Goldman Sachs, the retail price for gas in France is 1.9 times that of the wholesale price. The corresponding ratio is 6.7 times in Denmark. On the average, European end users currently pay more than $500 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas for what costs their distributors about $230.)
The French and Norwegian bidders for Shtokman are inclined to offer reciprocal business for Gazprom. (German companies offered similar reciprocal deals for Russia in the North European Gas Pipeline project.)
Gazprom is seeking a similar reciprocal deal from Chevron. Russia maintains that "security of demand" is to be guaranteed on par with "security of supply" because the cost of energy production and transport is constantly escalating. The "asset swap" that Russia is offering to its energy customers in essence involves giving its European (and US) partners access to its upstream reserves in return for Russian companies participating in European downstream and power generation.
But the United States remains wary of granting any foothold to Russian companies in the US downstream market. (In any case, the US Congress would unlikely favor any such proposal.) Thus the US would rather like the EU to take a unified position - and has raised the supposed risk of "excessive" energy dependence on Russia. The European Commission has lately proposed a single EU-Russia framework agreement under which Gazprom would have to sell its gas at the EU border.
But this is easier said than done. Putin sarcastically referred to the paradigm when he said recently in Tomsk, "We keep hearing the danger of becoming dependent on Russia, and about the need to restrict the access of Russian companies ... When they [foreign companies such as Chevron] come here, it is called 'investment' and 'globalization', but when we plan to go somewhere, what is it? It is called 'expansion of Russian companies'. We need to agree on common rules of the game."
Washington is annoyed that Moscow has not caved in despite high-level US political intervention, and is holding back a decision on the Shtokman gas fields. Meanwhile, the recent agreements between Gazprom and its German partners and likely progress in the Russian moves to acquire energy assets in Italy, the Netherlands, Britain, Hungary and other countries in Europe are further strengthening Russia's negotiating hand.
Equally, Washington apprehends an incremental erosion of its trans-Atlantic leadership if Russia continues to firm up energy cooperation at the bilateral level with the European countries. This would have serious consequences for the United States' global domination. The Vilnius forum itself was a hasty attempt at establishing US leadership over an increasingly disparate, quarrelsome flock.
Not only that: at some point, European countries may actually begin to resent the United States' intrusive attitude on issues concerning their energy security. European opinion itself is far from consensual either. In an interview with Financial Times recently, Wulf Bernotat, the chief executive officer of Eon (Germany's largest gas and electricity company), pointed out, "Russia has a pipeline system geared entirely toward the West. They make their money exclusively from exports; they don't make any in Russia itself. So they need the exports to be profitable to be able to finance the investments needed to maintain such a high level of production ...
"They [Russia] have got the stuff we want and need. I find the Gazprom supply debate completely exaggerated and overblown. It is, to be frank, absolute nonsense."
A second concern of Washington's "energy dialogue" with Moscow involves Russia's growing cooperation with China. The March report of the Task Force of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the influential US think-tank, on the directions of US-Russian relations had an intriguing passage: "The future policy and development of Russia and China will determine whether the group of the leading world powers is divided into two blocs based on differences in political regime ... or even into two military blocs. So far it is still a long way to such a development of events, but there are certain aspects of Russian-Chinese relations that in the event of a rapid expansion of cooperation would bolster these tendencies."
The CFR report was so paranoid about Russia-China cooperation that it urged Washington to "point out to the Russian leadership the advantages of membership in a 'single club' of great powers, as well as the threats that would arise if it were divided".
The heart of the matter is that so long as China remains critically dependent on energy supplies from the Persian Gulf region, it will remain vulnerable to US pressures. Washington calculates that the long supply routes through the Strait of Malacca can be easily throttled, thus bringing China's economy to its heels if it chooses to do so at any given point.
In the overall US geostrategy, therefore, China must be prevented from obtaining oil bypassing the Malacca transit zone. China can break out of this extreme vulnerability to US blackmail only if it succeeds in lining up alternative sources of energy transiting through territories that are beyond the United States' reach.
Three such potential sources exist - Russia, Central Asian countries, and Iran. Washington had assumed that for a variety of reasons, there were insurmountable obstacles to any meaningful advancement of Sino-Russian cooperation. In retrospect, Washington grossly miscalculated by subscribing to its own propaganda about the inherent contradictions in a Sino-Russian rapprochement.
But there is a realization now, bordering on disquiet, in Washington that Russia and China have reached a level of mutual understanding on regional and international issues that may have already begun to work against US global domination.
This is particularly evident in the field of energy. Russia is keen to secure a toehold in the lucrative Chinese market, so much so that that its oil-pipeline company Transneft is considering forthwith supplying 1.3 million tons oil from West Siberia through Kazakhstan (the Atasu-Alanshankou pipeline) to China pending the construction of Russia's own Pacific oil pipeline. (The thesis of US strategic "experts" was all along that Russia and China would compete over energy.) Russia's No 1 oil company Rosneft is getting ready to enter the Chinese retail market.
China is rapidly expanding its energy cooperation in the Central Asian region - another energy source that lies far beyond the long arm of US geopolitical manipulation. Meanwhile, the Financial Times recently reported that Iran is also entering as a protagonist in the game. The FT report warned: "Analysts are concerned that an overall hardening of US policy towards Moscow could drive Russia and Iran, which together hold nearly half the world's gas reserves, into an energy-based alliance. A senior financier told the FT that Iran, which is competing with Gazprom to provide gas to the Caucasus, was considering a switch in policy by selling its gas to Russia through Central Asia because the US was blocking its access to Europe and India."
Now, that's just a step away from Iran linking up with the Chinese market via Central Asia. With the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline in the doldrums because of US pressure, Iran is at liberty to focus on China as its principal Asian market for natural gas.
If the US had not been foolish enough to torpedo the EU-3 (Britain, France and Germany) efforts aimed at striking an agreement on the Iran nuclear issue, that would have led to an improved energy dialogue between Europe and Iran - making Iran a rival to Russia on the European gas market. Today, on the other hand, Russia (and China) is likely to seize the initiative - though Iran's own preference would have been Western Europe. As Iran would see it, an agreement with Western Europe would have obtained for it a broad political and economic rehabilitation in the international community.
There was a time not too long ago when Gazprom wanted to enter Iran's gas fields, but Tehran balked, and began insisting that any Russian-Iranian cooperation should also include transit projects. Iran is an ambitious country. But the situation is radically different today because of shortsighted US policies toward Iran.
The specter that is now haunting the US is the likely admission of Iran as a full member in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Will that happen at the forthcoming SCO meeting on June 15? Possibly. The only counter that US would have is to go ahead and militarily occupy Iran.
The third big "happening" on the Russian energy front that Washington finds disconcerting is the expected $20 billion initial public offering of Rosneft, Russia's state-owned oil company, through the London Stock Exchange. The deal could turn out to be the biggest IPO in history.
The Wall Street Journal reported, "Advisers including Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan took Rosneft president Sergei Bogdanchikov to London in February for a presentation. So many fund managers and analysts turned up that some had to stand through lunch."
The Journal commented: "The offering, which could come as early as July, would be much more than a financial triumph for the Kremlin ... a resounding endorsement of the Kremlin's drive to retake control of the strategic energy sector in a country that is the world's top producer of natural gas and No 2 in oil. At a time of soaring oil prices, President Vladimir Putin sees Russia's energy wealth as a critical source of international influence.
"Less than a decade ago, Russia defaulted on tens of billions of dollars in foreign debt, decimating investors' holdings and leading many never to return. Now, the Russian stock market is one of the world's best performers."
Washington has gone ballistic. American billionaire-financier George Soros (who also funds "color revolutions") warned foreign investors to steer clear of the flotation. Buying the Rosneft stock, Soros warned, would legitimize Putin's "authoritarian regime" - and "cement" the West's growing energy dependence on Russia. The paradox is that Rosneft's IPO is a positive sign that Russia wants to integrate with the West. But the US does not want this sort of "integration" of Russia with the Western world.
Again, Morgan Stanley Investment Bank just reported that the cost of one share of Gazprom is due to touch $140. That means the total exchange capitalization of Gazprom will add up to $330 billion. This comes on the heels of the emergence of Gazprom as one of the three largest companies in the world - even ahead of Microsoft.
Meanwhile, Russia has offered to pay back the entire foreign debt of the old Soviet Union (amounting to $29 billion) to the Paris Club within this year by itself. According to the estimates of the Goldman Sachs Investment Bank, in the next 20 years Russia is sure to emerge as the economically most powerful country in Europe, with a gross national product of $3 trillion.
Clearly, Russia's "globalization" is proving successful on several fronts. Washington must feel vindicated. But it isn't the sort of "globalization" that the administration of US president Bill Clinton had in mind when it encouraged Boris Yeltsin's Russia to "globalize". When Washington said Russian economy must "globalize", it actually meant Russia must surrender its sovereignty over economic policies and allow "asset-stripping".
Why is the US so upset over the Rosneft IPO or Gazprom's success story? First and foremost, that has a crucial bearing on the legislation in the pipeline in Russia regarding foreign investment. Russia's critical need of investments in the oil and gas industry does not need reiteration. The US had expected that the need of foreign investment alone would eventually prompt Russia to transfer mineral resources to foreign partners to exploit - in effect, by abandoning Russia's sovereign rights. But Russia's oil and gas industry is increasingly finding itself in a position to mobilize investment capital on its own terms.
Second comes the issue of extraction. The growth in Russia's oil and gas extraction has slowed down considerably recently. For meeting the requirements of the growing domestic market as well as for fulfilling the export commitments to Europe (and Asia-Pacific), Russia simply has to concentrate on boosting extraction. This means active incorporation of deposits in East Siberia and the Far East - requiring huge inputs of capital.
A third aspect regards technology. Russia clearly needs Western partners in carrying out extraction involving high technology in difficult conditions. A fourth aspect concerns transport links. The old pipeline system of the Soviet era needs to be replaced, and new lines laid both toward Europe and toward the Pacific.
All these factors affecting the future growth and development of Russia's energy industry are interconnected, and a holistic approach toward them becomes possible only if the industry generates sufficient levels of surplus capital for making investments.
Thus, from the US perspective, its calculations of gaining control over Russia's energy reserves are proving to be a pipe dream. Washington puts the "blame" for this squarely on Putin. The slide began with Putin's crackdown on Yukos and the "oligarchs" - at a moment when US oil majors were hardly inches away from capturing the heights in Russia's energy industry.
Cheney's diatribe in Vilnius last week bears testimony to the degree of frustration in Washington that it has been badly outmaneuvered. Putin depended on Russia's intellectual reserves rather than resort to grandstanding, while steering Russia's transition to an influential and energetic state. The transition was hardly noticeable.
Yet Moscow continues to prevent manifestations of "anti-Americanism" in its policies. Washington, for its part, must somehow keep an extended (and increasingly unwieldy) Euro-Atlantic alliance afloat (under its leadership, of course) despite Moscow's point-blank refusal to lend itself to an enemy image.
1. The following is an official translation of comments by Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergei Lavrov to the Russian electronic media regarding US Vice President Richard Cheney's remarks in Vilnius.
I think that a person who holds such a high government post [Cheney] should have the full amount of objective information, but everything indicates he was let down by his assistants or advisers. Thus, for example, we read that opponents of reform in Russia "are seeking to reverse the gains of the last decade". I think there is no need to explain to the Russian people in detail what kind of gains those were, when the country had actually found itself on the brink of disintegration. What the Russian leadership is doing now is to ensure that Russia is preserved as a unified, integral, strong state in the interests of its citizens.
Or take the statement that no legitimate interest is served when oil and gas become tools of intimidation or blackmail. We have heard such remarks from the lips of politicians lower in rank, but the US vice president surely has to have the information that over the last 40 years our country, either the USSR or the Russian Federation, has never breached any contract for the supply of oil and gas abroad. It is obvious that this information somehow failed to be conveyed to the vice president likewise.
As to the charges that Russia's government has taken actions that "undermine the territorial integrity of a neighbor", what is there to say? In the early 1990s it was at the cost of Russian peacekeepers' lives that the bloodshed was halted both in Georgia and in Moldova, thus saving the territorial integrity of these states. Not to remember that is, I would say, sacrilegious.
Where I can agree with Mr Cheney is that he would like to see the world as a community of sovereign democracies. Russia wants to be and is becoming a sovereign, strong and stable democracy and expects that as such it will perceived in the world arena as an equal partner without whose involvement not one global problem can be solved today.
I think that such remarks will not undermine the efforts which we together with the US, together with Europe and together with other leading countries have been making in order to build a just world without conflicts where all countries will be able to develop in the conditions of stability and democracy; for democracy is needed not only within a state, but also on the international scene. Let us not forget about this.
M K Bhadrakumar served as a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service for more than 29 years, with postings as ambassador to Uzbekistan (1995-98) and to Turkey (1998-2001).
(Copyright 2006 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Zacarias Moussaoui is guilty!
on: May 08, 2006, 12:33:22 AM
MOUSSAOUI: WRONG COURT, WRONG DEBATE..
By Walid Phares
Should we be surprised by the watershed debate following Zacarias Moussaoui'
s trial ending? Not really. The jury rendering of its recommendation is not
unusual throughout the American legal war with Terrorism: For the five years
court struggle to try al Qaida members and other terrorists in the US legal
structure hasn't been working. After the classroom, America's court room is
too alien to the conflict. In short Moussaoui's case is not the only one to
display a systemic crisis, all other cases did and will continue to do. My
take on it, as an analyst of past and future terror wars, can be simplified:
The terrorists are processed in the wrong courts and our debate on this
legal process is the wrong debate.
Let me be clear from the beginning: The issue I am raising is not about the
death sentence or life in prison sentencing. That part should have been the
last stage in the debate: The one that seals the sentencing logic, not the
discussion that makes the debate. The Moussaoui trial is not about the
principle of common criminal sentencing per se; it is about criminalizing
Terrorism and its root ideologies. Here are few points that make my
Read More ?
1. Zacarias Moussaoui's personal life is not a main factor in determining
this particular mass crime, but one of the factors that could lower the
punishment, if incriminated. If he had a bad childhood or other negative
factors that affected his clarity of thinking, it should be considered as
elements of clemency in the case of extreme sentencing, but not the
foundations of the case evaluation. For 9/11 and the war it was part of, was
not a personal vendetta by M. Moussaoui against the US Government, but an al
Qaida genocidal war against the American people. This and other similar
cases aren't a private affair between individuals -with some bad luck- and
US policies with consequences on national security. By his own admitting, M
Moussaoui is a member, call him Jihadist or not, of a Terrorist
organization. He shouldn't be tried in a US Court system designed to process
common crimes instead of war crimes.
2. The victims of September 11, 2001 weren't selected by al Qaida, or even
by the perpetrators -including Moussaoui- personally. The men, women and
children massacred throughout that day of infamy are the targets of a Terror
war on America not vandalism on two towers in New York and a large building
in Washington. Terrorism could have targeted other high rises and objectives
in different cities. The matter is not an individual vendetta between
Moussaoui and the 3,000 persons Mohammed Atta and his Jihadists have killed.
America was targeted as a nation for the purpose of genocide. As a massacred
collectivity, the victims of 9/11 belong to the nation not to their
relatives. As individuals the victims are profoundly mourned by all
Americans and above all by their survivors. So who tried al Qaida on behalf
of the nation?
3. Moussaoui is part of machinery larger than himself. In the 9/11 planning
process, he is not a sole mechanism acting individually. He was executing
orders by al Qaida and had the intention of carrying them out. He is a
nucleus that fell behind, in a wider cell that moved forward. His relation
to the massacre is not pragmatic but mechanical. Hence the judicial process
of finding out if he caused or not, the process of specific deaths of 9/11
is not the issue: For he has openly admitted, and it was proven, that he was
part of the machinery put in place to perpetrate the massacre. That he
slipped, failed or missed his opportunity is only one fact within a greater
reality: his commitment to achieve the mass-killing and his participation in
a chain of event that led to it, even if he didn't walk through the last
part of the horror.
4. More seriously is the current system ability to process the Terror cases:
Per my own experience and open documents available, most of the players in a
current court room setting are often unable to absorb the density of the
confrontation. The Jury, made of ordinary citizens, generally do not
comprehend the ideology of the Jihadists, hence can't make a strategically
educated decision, not on the sentencing process but on the essence of the
war crime at hand. US Judges are highly capable of controlling the procedure
in their court rooms but haven't been enabled by the system to try a war
with Jihadi terror, if not specialized in Salafism, Khumeinism and other
movements' strategies, thinking process or even tactics. Prosecutors as well
are thrown into battles of ideas beyond their basic training. In the
Moussaoui case, the jury asked for a dictionary, refused by the judge. The
question deserves an answer.
5. As for the defense lawyers, and I was one in the past, in the absence of
specialized courts, they would twist history and geopolitics to achieve a
legitimate goal: win their case. But instead of focusing on proving the
innocence of their clients and distancing him/her from the enemy, they tend
to defend the ideology of their client, putting themselves in the wrong side
of the war their nation is victim of.
These above five facts and many more to develop in the future constitute the
basis of US failure in the courts processing of Jihadism-related Terror
cases. What is needed for future successes is the following:
a. That Congress identifies the ideologies of the Terrorists. In the heels
of many congressional hearings which already produced significant bipartisan
consensus, as well as in several speeches by the President since last
September, the country not so far from identifying the missing link. Simply
speaking: educate the jury, the judges, the prosecutors and the defense
attorneys, as to who is the enemy and what is its ideology. The rest should
flow as American justice at its best, impartial and fair.
b. As in France and Spain, train "Counter-Terrorism Judges." From Paris to
Madrid, these bright specialized men and women have all the tools they need
to decide on procedures deemed appropriate to prosecute and ultimately try
the Terrorists at war with democracies. A similar training could provide the
Justice Department with "Counter Terrorism Prosecutors." In a sum, all
players in the court room must at some point be acquainted with what they
will have to reflect on, in Terrorism cases.
The debate on the Moussaoui case won't stop nationwide and beyond in view of
the progressive realization by most Americans and many citizens of other
democracies that this case will be a benchmark in the history of the
judicial front with Terror. Therefore, it is important to avoid Byzantine
debates and reserve the energies to the center of the crisis not its
peripheries. Consider for example how the "martyrdom" affair plays in the
Salafist chat rooms: "These Kuffars (infidels) are easy to dupe," said a
cadre in the al-Ansar Paltalk room few months ago. "All you have to do is to
play their akhlaq(ethics) or lead them to believe that we are busat'a
That's what Zacarias was able to achieve, alone against the whole American
political culture: First, he dramatized his personal life to the extreme,
leading some to believe that his past was the root cause for his violent
choices. While in fact the ideology that recruited him was responsible for
the Jihad he chose to practice. Second, he dramatized his stance to the
limits by threatening to throw himself into the death row and force the jury
to retreat into psychological guilt. Indeed, one al Qaida man, initial
member of the 9/11 Ghazwa (terror-raid) single handedly outmaneuvered the
jury, the court and potentially the public. By transforming the judicial
challenge into a debate about "death penalty" and all the American
psychological consequences that follows, Zacharias Moussaoui deflected the
attention from the real mammoth in the courtroom: The ideology of Salafi
Jihadism. Instead of trying the "criminal ideology" he acted on behalf,
America fell into the trap of struggling with itself as a merciful or
Moussaoui feels he won all the way, even if he got life in prison. He played
the martyrdom card till his audience nauseated. He then played his personal
life card till he obtained the mitigating factor. He played it tight, close,
and smartly. His colleagues brought down towers five years ago, but
Moussaoui administered another type of strikes against his foes: Defeating
them through their own system.
What the court room in Virginia missed in its trial of the decade was the
factory that produced Moussaoui's mind. A life sentence is not necessarily a
bad choice in democracies, or the wrong message to send when needed, if the
nation the jury came from is enabled to cast a death sentence on the
ideologies of hatred.
Dr Walid Phares is a Senior Fellow with the Foundation for the Defense of
Democracies in Washington and a Professor of Comparative Politics. He is the
author of Future Jihad. Dr Phares practiced as a defense lawyer in the 1980s
and served as a Jihadism Expert in Terrorism cases in the US and Europe
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Geo Political matters
on: May 05, 2006, 05:14:45 PM
More on this:www.stratfor.com
China, Russia, U.S.: Washington's Strategic Insults
U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney spoke at a conference in Vilnius, Lithuania, on May 4, delivering a critical message toward Russia that raised Cold War imagery and urged Moscow and its allies to pursue democracy. The speech followed hard on the heels of "accidental" insults Washington dealt to Chinese President Hu Jintao on his recent White House visit. The incidents' timing suggests Washington is signaling its two largest competitors that though it may be preoccupied with domestic challenges and foreign entanglements, they had best not imagine they have free rein globally in the last years of the Bush administration.
U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney spoke at the Common Vision For a Common Neighborhood conference of Baltic and Black Sea states in Vilnius, Lithuania, on May 4, delivering a very clear and critical message toward Russia, raising Cold War imagery and individuals and urging Moscow and its allies to pursue the path toward democracy.
Though the official Kremlin reaction has been muted, Russian media, political analysts and politicians have been much more forthcoming in their response, denouncing Cheney's remarks. Russian online daily Kommersant said Cheney effectively asserted that "Russia faces the choice of 'returning to democracy' or 'becoming an enemy.'" An analyst cited by Interfax said the speech "eliminates the vestiges of strategic partnership between Russia and the United States." Others decried the tough U.S. stance, seen as a reversal of the relationship forged between Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
While Moscow has tried to play down the speech, Cheney's remarks have clearly raised hackles. The U.S. vice president's speech, coming from a podium in Lithuania, a former Soviet republic turned EU and NATO member, simply poured salt on the wounds created by the sharp words.
Cheney's comments follow close on the heels of the White House's "accidental" humiliation of Chinese President Hu Jintao in Washington, D.C., which included both referring to mainland China by Taiwan's moniker, the Republic of China, and allowing a three-minute harangue from a Falun Gong activist on the White House grounds during Hu's welcome address. It seems that Washington has now opened up both barrels and is taking shots at Russia and China. Apparently, Washington is providing a reminder that though the Bush administration might be facing domestic political troubles, and though U.S. forces are still in Iraq, the United States is not too distracted to pay attention to global affairs.
As we noted in our annual forecast, 2006 will be defined by the confrontation between the United States and Russia and China. Russia is growing more assertive in its near abroad, seeking to reverse geopolitical losses incurred during the early stages of the U.S.-jihadist war with Washington's moves into Central Asia and the U.S.-inspired (if not instigated) "color revolutions" around the Russian periphery. China is seeking to balance internal economic instabilities and social unrest by positioning itself elsewhere in the world, seeking levers to use to keep Washington off balance, or at least keep the United States from taking advantage of internal Chinese weaknesses.
Both Russia and China have seen themselves as having a stronger position with the declining poll numbers for Bush, the internal political wrangling in the United States during the 2006 midterm election year and the continued U.S. military commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Iran issue has simply added one more distraction, as North Korea was before, leaving Beijing and Moscow more room to push their own international agendas without much U.S. resistance.
For its part, Washington has refrained from significant pushes against Russia and China, instead needling where the opportunity presented itself and offering places for cooperation -- in essence seeking to shape, rather than contain, the two Eurasian powers. But Washington has recently viewed Russian and Chinese actions as going perhaps a few steps too far.
Because Russia is a major energy supplier, it feels a certain amount of invincibility. Russia has reasserted its presence in the near abroad, seeking to protect its flanks. In Ukraine, turning off the natural gas this January was only one of the steps designed to bring the country back into the fold. After March 26 parliamentary elections, the pro-Russian Party of Regions won the most votes, proving that affinity for its neighbor is still strong.
Russia has made inroads into Central Asia as well -- Uzbekistan's recent expulsion of U.S. air bases and deals with Russian state-owned monopoly Gazprom are just some examples. Even the Kyrgyz government, installed after the "Tulip Revolution," has been careful to be on good terms with Moscow.
Russia's near-complete domination of Belarus, however, has paid off in the re-election of President Aleksandr Lukashenko. Minsk will continue to faithfully follow Moscow, despite Gazprom's proposed rate hikes.
Anti-Russian sentiment remains strong in the first color revolution state, Georgia. Russian efforts to sabotage its territorial integrity by supporting secessionist enclaves have not yet produced results, and agricultural embargoes have only caused Tbilisi to strengthen its anti-Russian rhetoric.
For its part, China has been on a global quest for new energy resources, as well as other raw materials. Beijing has made strong inroads into Africa, is working with Latin America, and is increasing its ties throughout the Middle East. In Southeast Asia, China has largely overcome the earlier perception that it was too big a player, and cooperation with Southeast Asian states is emerging.
China's economic heft is growing rapidly, and while there are internal contradictions within the middle kingdom, China's absorption of raw materials and primary commodities, its ability to influence global commodity prices, and its widening trade imbalance with the United States continue to create rifts in its relationship with the United States. Beijing's conflicts with U.S.-ally Japan, and China's tightening ties with South Korea coming while it fails to bring North Korea back to the bargaining table, are threatening to begin reshaping the Northeast Asian security balance -- at least on the regional level.
Washington's twin rhetorical hits at Russia and China are a reminder to these two regional powers that the United States may seem distracted, but it is certainly well-aware of what is going on globally, and not afraid to pick a fight with either China or Russia -- apparently even simultaneously. This is essentially intended to get Moscow and Beijing to rethink their current strategic planning, to make sure China and Russia do not think they have a free run until the end of the Bush term in two years.
Both the diplomatic slap in Hu's face and Cheney's shot at Moscow have been brushed aside by Washington as insignificant; the Chinese affront being called a mistake and Cheney's speech simply a reaffirmation of the spread of democracy. Washington is withholding the more meaty levers, such as reinvesting money and planners in the color revolutions or stepping back and letting Congress slap a few tariffs on Chinese goods -- but the option of using stronger levers is obviously there.
Beijing and China have accepted these affronts fairly quietly, but internally they are contemplating whether Washington is serious or bluffing. Both can be expected to take steps -- both positive and negative -- to test this. And the first clash could come at the upcoming meeting of the G-8.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WW3
on: May 05, 2006, 04:52:29 PM
By Charles Krauthammer
Friday, May 5, 2006
When something happens for the first time in 1,871 years, it is worth
noting. In A.D. 70, and again in 135, the Roman Empire brutally put down
Jewish revolts in Judea, destroying Jerusalem, killing hundreds of thousands
of Jews and sending hundreds of thousands more into slavery and exile. For
nearly two millennia, the Jews wandered the world. And now, in 2006, for the
first time since then, there are once again more Jews living in Israel --
the successor state to Judea -- than in any other place on Earth.
Israel's Jewish population has just passed 5.6 million. America's Jewish
population was about 5.5 million in 1990, dropped to about 5.2 million 10
years later and is in a precipitous decline that, because of low fertility
rates and high levels of assimilation, will cut that number in half by
When 6 million European Jews were killed in the Holocaust, only two main
centers of Jewish life remained: America and Israel. That binary star system
remains today, but a tipping point has just been reached. With every year,
as the Jewish population continues to rise in Israel and decline in America
(and in the rest of the Diaspora), Israel increasingly becomes, as it was at
the time of Jesus, the center of the Jewish world.
An epic restoration, and one of the most improbable. To take just one of the
remarkable achievements of the return: Hebrew is the only "dead" language in
recorded history to have been brought back to daily use as the living
language of a nation. But there is a price and a danger to this
transformation. It radically alters the prospects for Jewish survival.
For 2,000 years, Jews found protection in dispersion -- protection not for
individual communities, which were routinely persecuted and massacred, but
protection for the Jewish people as a whole. Decimated here, they could
survive there. They could be persecuted in Spain and find refuge in
Constantinople. They could be massacred in the Rhineland during the Crusades
or in the Ukraine during the Khmelnytsky Insurrection of 1648-49 and yet
survive in the rest of Europe.
Hitler put an end to that illusion. He demonstrated that modern
anti-Semitism married to modern technology -- railroads, disciplined
bureaucracies, gas chambers that kill with industrial efficiency -- could
take a scattered people and "concentrate" them for annihilation.
The establishment of Israel was a Jewish declaration to a world that had
allowed the Holocaust to happen -- after Hitler had made his intentions
perfectly clear -- that the Jews would henceforth resort to self-protection
and self-reliance. And so they have, building a Jewish army, the first in
2,000 years, that prevailed in three great wars of survival (1948-49, 1967
But in a cruel historical irony, doing so required concentration -- putting
all the eggs back in one basket, a tiny territory hard by the Mediterranean,
eight miles wide at its waist. A tempting target for those who would finish
His successors now reside in Tehran. The world has paid ample attention to
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's declaration that Israel must be destroyed.
Less attention has been paid to Iranian leaders' pronouncements on exactly
how Israel would be "eliminated by one storm," as Ahmadinejad has promised.
Former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the presumed moderate of this
gang, has explained that "the use of a nuclear bomb in Israel will leave
nothing on the ground, whereas it will only damage the world of Islam." The
logic is impeccable, the intention clear: A nuclear attack would effectively
destroy tiny Israel, while any retaliation launched by a dying Israel would
have no major effect on an Islamic civilization of a billion people
stretching from Mauritania to Indonesia.
As it races to acquire nuclear weapons, Iran makes clear that if there is
any trouble, the Jews will be the first to suffer. "We have announced that
wherever [in Iran] America does make any mischief, the first place we target
will be Israel," said Gen. Mohammad Ebrahim Dehghani, a top Revolutionary
Guards commander. Hitler was only slightly more direct when he announced
seven months before invading Poland that, if there was another war, "the
result will be . . . the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe."
Last week Bernard Lewis, America's dean of Islamic studies, who just turned
90 and remembers the 20th century well, confessed that for the first time he
feels it is 1938 again. He did not need to add that in 1938, in the face of
the gathering storm -- a fanatical, aggressive, openly declared enemy of the
West, and most determinedly of the Jews -- the world did nothing.
When Iran's mullahs acquire their coveted nukes in the next few years, the
number of Jews in Israel will just be reaching 6 million. Never firstname.lastname@example.org
? 2006 The Washington Post Company
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Geo Political matters
on: May 05, 2006, 07:42:49 AM
The Enemy at the Gates
// Dick Cheney practically gives a new Fulton Speech
At the ?Common Vision for a Common Neighborhood? conference in Vilnius yesterday, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney gave a programmatic speech on relations between the West and Russia. He criticized the Kremlin's domestic policy ad accused Moscow of ?blackmail,? ?intimidation,? ?undermining the territorial integrity of its neighbors? and ?interference in democratic processes.? As the G8 summit in St. Petersburg approaches, Russia is being given the choice between ?returning to democracy? and ?becoming an enemy.?
Until yesterday, the White House preferred to criticize Kremlin policies only through press secretaries. U.S. President George W. Bush and politicians close to him spoke of Russia as a reliable partner in the fight against international terrorism, even while admitting to certain disagreements. Cheney's Vilnius speech has broken that tradition and was the most pointed declaration by an American leader since the end of the Cold War.
The theme of the Cold War ran throughout Cheney's speech. That phrase, first spoken exactly 60 years ago by Winston Churchill at Fulton, was used by Cheney three times. He named the heroes of the Cold War who, in his opinion, made the greatest contributions to democracy: Andrey Sakharov, Lech Walesa, Vaclav Havel, Pope John Paul II, Natan Sharansky and Ronald Reagan. He mixed interspersed that list with the names of the ?heroes of our time?: Mikhail Saakashvili, Viktor Yushchenko and Alexander Milinkevich, the Belarusian opposition leader who is now jailed in Minsk. Cheney's words practically point to a renewal of the Cold War, only now the ?front line? has changed. ?The spread of democracy is irreversible. It is to the benefit of al and poses a threat to no one. The system that has provided hope on the shores of the Baltic Sea can bring hope to the shores of the Black Sea and even farther,? Cheney said. ?That which is applicable to Vilnius is applicable to Tbilisi and to Kiev, and it is applicable to Minsk and Moscow as well.?
Mentioning Moscow and Minsk in this context, Cheney identified them as powers opposing democratic states. He then criticized Russian and Belarusian authorities. He spoke shortly but mercilessly about Belarus, saying the Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has earned the title of ?last dictator of Europe.? ?There is no place in Europe for that kind of regime. The people of Belarus deserve better,? the U.S. vice president said before turning his attention to Russia.
Cheney briefly listed the charges accumulated against Russia. First, the victories of recent decades are being scaled back as the authorities limit civil rights and the rights of the media, nongovernmental organizations and political parties. Cheney continued that Russia's policies are detrimental not only within the country but beyond it as well. ?No one can justify actions that undermine the territorial integrity of a neighbor, or interfere with democratic movements. No legitimate interest is served when oil and gas become tools of intimidation or blackmail, either by supply manipulation or attempts to monopolize transportation,? Cheney said.
Cheney's speech culminated in the assertion that Russia faces the choice of ?returning to democracy? or ?becoming an enemy.? ?There is no question that a return to democratic reform in Russia will generate further success for its people and greater respect among fellow nations,? Cheney said. ?None of us believes that Russia is fated to become an enemy.? But it can be concluded from that statement that the likelihood of that happening is high.
The Baltic and Black Sea region leaders assembled at the conference applauded the U.S. vice president. The leaders of Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, the Baltic countries, Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia were present in Vilnius. Cheney's address to then practically identifies their countries as the ?defensive wall? that separates the democratic West from potential hostile Russia. Cheney's speech was full of praise for the ?new democracies.? He thanked the ?brave leaders? of the color revolutions for proposing the summit and noted the success of the Baltic states ?one the provinces of an empire, ancient nations whose sovereignty was stolen? that were able to throw off imperial dictatorship and the command economy. He gave a rather lengthy description of democratic value, hinting that democracy is now being threatened, although without stating directly where that threat was coming from. ?I don't think I have to mention what the alternative is [to democracy]. You have all seen it and lived through it.? He went one to list centralized control, intimidation of political opponents, merciless corruption, ever-present violence, national decline, economic stagnation ?that no rational person could want.?
Cheney ended his speech by mentioning the July G8 summit in St. Petersburg. The leading developed countries will make it clear to Russia there that it has nothing to fear and can only win if there will be a ?strong democratic state? within its borders. In other words, an answer is expected from Russia at the G8 summit about which of the two relationships with the West it has chosen. That is bad news for the Kremlin, which has grandiose political and propagandistic plans of its own for the summit.
by Mikhail Zygar
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Want to make a knife for the US Army?
on: May 04, 2006, 04:56:06 PM
Regarding the PAO and their offer of coverage on the project, I got some specifics from them. They're willing to do a series of pieces, not just one. They'd like to put together an article on how this design came about, and profile the knifemaker who's building it. This would be a great way for a new knifemaker to break into the mainstream, or for an established maker to gain a foothold on the military market. I've been assured that whomever the maker is that we end up going with, they'll come out smelling like a rose. The PAO person doing the reporting is a Combatives Instructor that attends the stick and knife fighting course I teach, so she's really willing to play this up. She'll do an interview with the maker and profile that person as an "appetizer" of sorts. Then, she's talking about doing a follow-up piece on the process of making and testing this blade. This piece will be a longer segment, with interviews with the maker and the testers (us, ideally), along with results from what I hope will be the toughest, most demanding, and most scenario-specific knife tests ever run. The photos of the tests will run with the article. In the finale, she'll close it all up with a segment on how people can order the blade. She says that she intends to interview several soldiers who were a part of the suggestion/design process and see what they think of the finished product. She doesn't know if she can swing it yet, but she's mentioned approaching her chain of command for the money to purchase some of the first blades to "gift" to the soldiers she interviews (who are returning to Iraq in October). That way, they can see their ideas for better equipment come to life and then carry thier own improvements into battle on their next tour. Of course, this opens the door to a "returning from battle" piece highlighting the real-world performance of the blade in war. That means that this publicity run will last over a year and a half, and it will mark the first time in history that a knife has been covered from the "Suggestion box" through the making and testing phase, and then all the way through its baptism of fire by the same folks who had the original idea to begin with. Stands to not only be a terriffic story, but also one hell of a money maker for the knife maker we decide to go with. A full year and a half ad-campaign, orders and endorsements from the military (without the hassle of trying to go through the mil-contract red tape, no less), and an open door to the tactical knife world on the civilian side of things with all the credentials to back up the fact that this is the most comprehensively researched and tested design of this generation.
All in all, not a bad package. As for the testing, the complete list of tests I had in mind are:
1. Emergency Extraction from a HMMWV using the scabbard wrench we design, from the normal riding position. The soldier will literally remove the door of the up-armored HMMWV using our knife.
2. Penetration tests using meat covered by a Level 3 body armor panel and a trauma plate
3. Tip strength tests on animal bone (skulls, hips, and scapulae) as well as wood. One of these will include hammering the knife into a tree and using it as a stepladder for a soldier in full battle rattle (total weight, 300+ pounds).
4. I want to chip a hole in a cinder block with the tip to simulate opening up a wall for a firing position.
5. We're going to cut our way out of an airframe and a HMMWV. Failing that, I have a junkyard willing to get us a mobile home. I intend to bisect this mobile home using the knife we've designed. Cutting a house in half is markedly more impressive than, say, an ammo can. What's more, I think we can do it.
6. I'm going to dig two fighting positions to standard, and then test the sharpness of the blade by making 1000 cuts through parachute cord without sharpening in between the two events.
7. I will punch some holes in several different helmets (steel and other materials) containing coconuts to show real-world penetration against an "armored head."
8. We'll pry open a locked door using the flat of the blade against the jamb. Regular door, constructed to the current building code here in CO. Think in terms of a hasty entry by a team that's thrown together and has no crowbars or other entry tools and is under fire from outside.
9. Ideally, I'd also like to see if we can hack through something like a bike-lock cable using the back edge. Failing that, I suppose we could substitute a couple hundred reps through the steel pallet straps used to pack large items. They're thin, but after a hundred reps, we'd have a good idea of durability.
10. Finally, I'm going to clear a 100 meter circle of woods (saplings, mostly) to simulate clearing a landing zone for a Blackhawk helicopter. This will be done against the clock, and it will be just me and one other person. For the record, our time will be an important indicator of how easy the tool makes the job, and how well it holds an edge.
With these ten tests under our belts, I think it's reasonable to say we've tested the knife and the design using some of the more extreme (but reality based) scenarios ever used. It certainly shows what our knife will do under battle conditions a lot better than, say, chopping up ropes or hacking 2X4's. What's more, in many cases, we'll have research on what it does to tissue (as opposed to wood). If it gets through the body armor but not the meat behind it - back to the drawing board. If it punches a hole in the helmet but not the coconut, back to the drawing board. In other words, the soldiers who might have to depend on this thing with their lives will be able to see exactly and precisely what it is capable of, and it should give them all the confidence in the world. All that, plus print coverage by the Army? Chances are, it will catch the attention of several important people.
Anyway, I hope this information helps. Please let me know if you have someone you'd feel comfortable recommending for the project.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Venezuela Pol?tica
on: May 04, 2006, 10:32:12 AM
Venezuela Buys Oil to Meet Contracts
Dr. Joe Duarte 5/2/2006
A Sudden Plunge In Production?
Is Venezuela's oil production rapidly waning? One source reports that the world's fifth largest oil producer is showing signs of a rapid decrease in production, one of the key tenets of the peak oil theory.
Venezuela is buying oil from Russia in order to avoid defaulting on deliveries to clients. The situation raises serious questions about the country's oil production and the future of PDVSA as a major oil producer, and increases the risk to the U.S. oil supply should the country's oil production suddenly plummet.
According to the Financial Times: "Venezuela, the world's fifth-largest oil exporter, has struck a $2bn deal to buy about 100,000 barrels a day of crude oil from Russia until the end of the year. Venezuela has been forced to turn to an outside source to avoid defaulting on contracts with "clients" and "third parties" as it faces a shortfall in production, according to a person familiar with the deal. Venezuela could incur penalties if it fails to meet its supply contracts."
The news has so far been very much inside baseball, as it has not made the mainstream, due to competition from more sensational stories such as the illegal alien marches, and the media's obsession with oil company profits.
But, as these things go, we may be on the verge of a major developing story.
Are There More Irregularities Hidden Inside PDVSA?
PDVSA is a center of financial and political intrigue, as it is the hub of Mr. Chavez' political ambitions. The Venezuelan government uses the proceeds from oil sales to finance Chavez' Bolivarian revolution, in essence the spread of the hybrid Socialism espoused by Chavez and Fidel Castro.
Yet, despite the secrecy, over the last few years numerous questions have been raised, not just about PDVSA's actual oil reserves and production capacity, but also about PDVSA's finances.
In 2005, we wrote about "Venezuela's oil receipts," and the significant questions being raised, including a "shortfall in PDVSA cash deposits to Venezuela's central bank" of "perhaps by as much as $2 billion."
The trail of that story grew cold, but the questions did not. In fact, little has changed. In 2005, we reported that the alleged shortfall was "not totally verifiable, since PDVSA has not filed papers with the SEC in at least two years."
Indeed, no one really knows what PDVSA's books really hold. As we reported recently, Venezuela is no longer going to report PDVSA's finances to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
The Times article confirms several points we made in May 2005 in our Marketwatch.com article, titled "Running on empty."
In the article we noted: ["Stratfor.com estimates that since Chavez became president, starting in 1998, "PDVSA has lost about 1.5 million bpd of its net crude oil production." The main reasons have been the replacement of capable engineers and workers who disagreed with Chavez's revolutionary views, with inexperienced, and in many cases incapable replacements, and the lack of attention to infrastructure maintenance and improvement. The result of the bad management and neglect, has been the steady erosion and near incapacitation of a major oil-producing region of Venezuela, the Western portion of the country, where as many as 10,000 wells have been estimated to have been rendered mostly useless. Venezuela is nominally the world's fifth largest oil producer."]
One year later, the Times reports: "The move suggests a growing gap between Venezuela's declining domestic output and its expanding contractual obligations to international customers."
According to the Times quoting "Under President Hugo Ch?vez, PDVSA's oil output has declined by about 60 per cent, a trend analysts say has accelerated in the past year because of poor technical management."
In our article Marketwatch article we suggested that Venezuela had a "potential inability to meet delivery of its oil contracts." Now, the Financial Times notes that "Mr Ch?vez's push to extend his influence throughout Latin America and the Caribbean with promises of cheap oil for friends and allies may be overstretching PDVSA's finances."
In that article we asked: "If Chavez' own oil production is only 50% of what it is supposed to be, where is all the money going to come from to pay for all his revolutionary adventures?"
Two possibilities came to mind:
1. "First, is a massive asset liquidation, including U.S. bonds, and U.S. dollars."
2. "Second, is the specter of a Yukos-like nationalization of foreign oil company assets in Venezuela. Such a debacle would have huge ramifications across the oil industry, and could further increase the market's volatility, as it would put a big chill on global oil production and investment everywhere and increase the worry factor for international companies and the financial markets."
Interestingly, our predictions have already come partially true, since Venezuela has recently tightened the screws on foreign oil companies, renegotiating royalty contracts and raising taxes, prompting Exxon Mobil to essentially give up on its Venezuelan stakes, while others have reluctantly gone along.
The Venezuela oil purchase report is indeed landmark in our opinion, since it offers multiple possible lines of thought, not the least of which is the possibility that it is a sign of the peak oil phenomenon.
To be sure, Venezuela's government is increasingly adroit in the financial markets, as Mr. Chavez has reportedly shown interest in using PDVSA and his government in ways similar to hedge funds, by timing markets and moving assets rapidly from one arena to the other.
Thus, this could be a shrewd business move aimed at cutting transportation costs to some of PDVSA's clients.
That seems to be the party line. According to the Financial Times: "PDVSA would not confirm that it was buying oil from Russia but said a statement would be issued on Friday (April 28). The company said it would be "logical" that the Ruhr refinery was sourcing some of its oil from Russia because it would be cheaper than transporting it from Venezuela."
Yet, the other side of the coin, which must be given a fair airing, is that Venezuela's oil production is rapidly dwindling, or that at least Chavez' gifts to Cuba and other left leaning South American countries, in the form of hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil, are starting to take their toll.
If indeed some 10,000 wells are off line, and Venezuela's technical expertise is near rock bottom, then the latter is more likely.
Somewhere in the midst of those two extremes is the truth. Unfortunately for the oil markets, and perhaps the global economy, we are not likely to find that truth until it is upon us, or more likely, until it has been in progress for months to years.
One thing is certain, though. If PDVSA, and Venezuela are running out of oil, the news will eventually leak out, and the situation will gather steam, with significant consequences to follow.
Dr. Joe Duarte's Market IQ appears daily at Joe Duarte. Dr. Duarte is author of the book "Futures And Options For Dummies," which is available at the Rigzone Book Store.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Mexico
on: May 04, 2006, 06:42:05 AM
?Alguien quiere comentar sobre el nuevo proyecto/ley sobre posesion de varias drogas?
MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Mexican President Vicente Fox refused to sign a drug decriminalization bill Wednesday, hours after U.S. officials warned the plan could encourage "drug tourism."
Fox sent the measure back to Congress for changes, but his office did not mention the U.S. criticism.
Fox will ask "Congress to make the needed corrections to make it absolutely clear in our country, the possession of drugs and their consumption are, and will continue to be, a criminal offense," according to a statement from the president's office.
On Tuesday, Fox's spokesman had called the bill "an advance" and pledged the president would sign it. But the measure, passed Friday by Congress, drew a storm of criticism because it eliminates criminal penalties possession of small amounts of heroin, methamphetamines and PCP, as well as marijuana and cocaine.
Earlier in the day, the U.S. government expressed a rare public objection to an internal Mexican political development, saying anyone caught with illegal drugs in Mexico should be prosecuted or given mandatory drug treatment.
"U.S. officials ... urged Mexican representatives to review the legislation urgently, to avoid the perception that drug use would be tolerated in Mexico, and to prevent drug tourism," U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Judith Bryan said.
There are concerns the measure could increase drug use by border visitors and U.S. students who flock to Mexico on vacation.
Bryan said the U.S. government wants Mexico "to ensure that all persons found in possession of any quantity of illegal drugs be prosecuted or be sent into mandatory drug treatment programs."
Jerry Saunders, mayor of San Diego - just a short drive from the border town of Tijuana, Mexico - applauded Fox's decision, saying he was "appalled" by the bill because it could increase drug availability north of the border.
"We have been a partner with Mexico in fighting against illegal drugs, and this will only help in the long-term in that relationship," he said.
The legislature has adjourned for the summer, and when it comes back, it will have an entirely new lower house and one-third new Senate members following the July 2 elections, which will also make the outgoing Fox a lame duck.
However, Sen. Jorge Zermeno, of Fox's conservative National Action Party - a supporter of the bill - said he thought Congress would be open to changing the legislation to delete a clause that extends to all "consumers" the exemption from prosecution that was originally meant to cover only recognized drug addicts.
"The word 'consumer' can be eliminated so that the only exemption clause would be for drug addicts," Zermeno told The Associated Press. "There's still time to get this through."
The bill contained many points that experts said were positive: it empowered state and local police - not just federal officers - to go after drug dealers, stiffened some penalties and closed loopholes that dealers had long used to escape prosecution.
But the broad decriminalization clause was what soured many - both in Mexico and abroad - to the proposal.
Mexico's top police official, Eduardo Medina Mora, acknowledged on Tuesday that the U.S. anti-drug agency has expressed concern about the law. Some senators and community leaders in Mexico also objected to the bill. But even if it had passed, he noted that Mexican cities have the power to impose fines and overnight jail detentions for those caught with drugs in public.
Current Mexican law allows judges latitude to drop charges if suspects can prove they are addicts and the quantity they were caught with is small enough to be considered "for personal use," or if they are first-time offenders.
The new bill would have made the decriminalization automatic, allowed "consumers" as well as addicts to have drugs, and delineated specific allowable quantities, which do not appear in the current law.
Under the law, consumers could have legally possessed up to 25 milligrams of heroin, a half a gram of cocaine and about one-fifth of an ounce of marijuana.
Cambiando el tema, he aqui lo siguiente:
May 4, 1:21 AM EDT
Mexican Protesters, Police Clash; 1 Dead
By EDUARDO VERDUGO
Associated Press Writer
SAN SALVADOR ATENCO, Mexico (AP) -- One person was killed as machete-wielding protesters near Mexico's capital clashed with police Wednesday, blocking highways, throwing molotov cocktails and briefly seizing six officers.
A 14-year-old boy from San Salvador Atenco was killed, though circumstances surrounding his death were unclear, said Humberto Benitez, secretary general of the state of Mexico.
Benitez said, as did a spokesman for the Federal Preventative Police, that a federal police agent was also beaten to death. Hours later, however, Mexico state Gov. Enrique Pena Nieto called television stations to say the officer remained hospitalized in serious condition.
Television images from helicopters overhead showed residents repeatedly punching and kicking the semiconscious officer even after he had been put inside an ambulance.
The residents, who have a history of fights with authorities, attacked police after several of their companions were arrested in the nearby town of Texcoco, according to media reports.
Hundreds of police fired tear gas into the crowds and arrested 31 people. A tense calm settled over the town after dark, though residents continued to block nearby highways.
Shortly before midnight, community leaders released six state and federal police officers they had taken hostage hours earlier. Officials said it was a gesture of good will since all of the officers were injured in the clashes.
At least three dozen police officers were injured, according to media reports. An Associated Press photographer suffered minor bruises after being clubbed during the melee.
Elsewhere in Mexico, gunmen opened fire on a group of officers eating lunch in a restaurant in the troubled border town of Nuevo Laredo, injuring five officers and a bystander.
Three officers were in serious but stable condition after the attack while two others suffered minor injuries, said Rene Ruiz, an investigating agent.
No arrests were made and investigators said they didn't know why the officers were attacked or how many assailants were involved.
Nuevo Laredo, a city of 330,000 across from Laredo, Texas, has been caught in a turf war between rival drug gangs fighting for billion-dollar smuggling routes into the United States. Since Jan. 1, about 100 people, including eight police officers, have been slain in the city, compared to 23 during the same period last year.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WW3
on: May 04, 2006, 06:18:21 AM
Iraq: If Not Now, When?
By George Friedman
If there is an endgame to the American presence in Iraq, it is now. The Iraqis have reached a general compromise on the composition of a new government. The agreement was blessed by the joint visit to Baghdad of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. There also have been statements -- though later retracted -- by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani that U.S. and Iranian officials have held meetings in Dokan, a city in the northern Kurdish region. Talabani also has said that he and American officials had met with the leaders of seven separate Sunni guerrilla groups and that he expected to meet with others who had taken up arms against the occupation.
The formation of the government was preceded and succeeded by a complex series of negotiations in which there are at least five sides, each of which (including the United States at this point) is factionalized. There are the three main Iraqi players -- Shia, Kurds and Sunnis -- plus the United States and Iran. That makes for a complex negotiation and one that can readily fail. The endgame could turn into the beginning of an entirely new round of warfare and chaos. But this much can be said: If no agreement can be reached now, it is hard to imagine how an agreement will be reached in the future. If not now, when? The times will not be more propitious than they are now.
Each party has an interest in a settlement. Each side could lose as much as it might gain in the future. The three internal factions -- Shia, Sunnis and Kurds -- are all getting substantially less than they wanted, but each could possibly lose even more if the fighting continues. The external powers, the United States and Iran, face similar circumstances. Certainly, everyone wants to explore what a settlement would look like, hence the flurry of very quiet and highly deniable meetings and discussions. It may work or it may fall apart, but it would seem to be the time to examine each side's bargaining position and what they are likely to settle for.
The Americans came in with the goal of occupying Iraq, reshaping its society to suit them and using Iraq as a base from which to project power and influence throughout the region. However, the war did not go as they hoped or expected. The United States defeated the Iraqi army but found itself facing a Sunni insurgency and complex Shiite political maneuvers. The goal of reshaping Iraqi society is gone; the possibility of influencing the future structure and policy of any emerging Iraqi government remains. Iraq has not served as a platform from which to project power. Rather, it has served as a magnet that attracted outside forces. However, the possibility of some agreement that would allow the United States to base forces in Iraq is not out of the question.
At this point, however, the primary American goal is to hand off responsibility for providing security in Iraq. The U.S. military has not been able to provide security under any circumstances. It clearly cannot suppress the Sunni insurgency -- but in its current posture, the United States continues to carry the burden of counterinsurgency operations without any real expectation of success. Leaving aside the fact that the United States continues to absorb casualties, there are now more than 100,000 troops in Iraq -- a number that is obviously insufficient for the mission, but which drains U.S. logistical and manpower resources to a degree that dealing with unexpected crises elsewhere in the world would be difficult.
Since this position is untenable, the United States must make a move.
One option would be to surge additional force into Iraq. The current political configuration in the United States does not make that an option for the Bush administration, even if this was wished, and even if a surge of troops would suppress the Sunni insurrection. Therefore, the United States has two pressing goals. First, it must abandon the mission of counterinsurgency, transferring it in some way to Iraqi forces. Second, it needs to withdraw its forces from Iraq. Ideally, the United States would not withdraw all forces but would leave behind enough to serve as a rapid-reaction force in the region. This force would be based outside of populated areas. However, the basing issue is secondary to the withdrawal issue.
In addition, and of great strategic importance to the United States, the government of Iraq must not become a client of Iran. Given the size of the Shiite population in Iraq, guaranteeing this outcome will not be easy, but it is clearly the focus of U.S. negotiations at this time. If Iraq were to become a client of the Shiite regime in Tehran, then the entire balance of power in the region would tilt in favor of Iran, putting the Arabian Peninsula at risk. That is something that the United States (not to mention others, like Saudi Arabia) would find intolerable. Faced with a choice of continued inconclusive warfare and an Iran-dominated Iraq, the United States would likely choose warfare. That is how high the stakes would be. Therefore, the key negotiating strategy for the United States is to find a way to withdraw its forces from Iraq -- possibly leaving a residual force behind -- after creating a government in Baghdad that would be able to balance or buffer Iran.
In other words, at this point, American policy in Iraq is to restore the status quo prior to 2003, with a different regime in Baghdad and the possibility of an ongoing, noninvolved American military presence in the country.
In Iran's ideal scenario, Iraq would become a satellite state. This would involve the installation of a Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad so beholden to Iran that Iraq essentially would be an extension of Iran. If that were to happen, Iran would have achieved the geopolitical goal of major-power status: It would be the unchallenged native power in the Persian Gulf. Given the existence of indigenous Shiite populations throughout the Arabian Peninsula, Iran not only would be in a position to influence events in other countries, but would have the opportunity to use direct force against them.
The prize would be Saudi Arabia. If Iraq fell under Iranian control, the road to the oil fields of Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states would be wide open. Other than the United States, there would be no power in a position to block the Iranians.
For Iran, this would be more than a matter of oil. If Iraq belonged to Iran and no outside power intervened, Shiite power could be amplified in the region. Sunnis, of course, vastly outnumber Shia within the Muslim world -- a structural impediment that, realistically, constrains Iran's ability to project itself as the leader of the Islamic world. Nonetheless, Iran has a need to burnish its credentials in this area and to be viewed as a regional hegemon. Control of Gulf oil would make Iran a regional power, but a rebalancing of Sunni and Shiite influence within the region would be heady stuff indeed.
In order for Iran to achieve this goal, the United States would have to withdraw from Iraq without having created a force that could block Iranian ambitions. Having the United States invade Iraq was in the Iranian interest because it got rid of Saddam Hussein. Having the Americans bog down in an endless war was in the Iranian interest because it offered the best chance of achieving Tehran's ultimate ambition. Iran has, therefore, been torn between two realities: On the one hand, in order to achieve its ambition, Iran needed a strong Sunni insurgency in Iraq -- but on the other, if a strong Sunni insurgency existed, Tehran's desire for the complete domination of Iraq could be thwarted.
Iran wound up with its own worst-case scenario. First, the Sunni insurgency swelled, creating a force that could not easily be controlled by the Shia. Second, the United States showed more endurance than the Iranians had hoped. In due course, the Iranian threat actually created a bizarre circumstance in which the United States and the Sunnis were simultaneously fighting and working together to block Iranian aspirations -- the Sunnis by demanding participation in the Iraqi government, and the United States by supporting their demands. Out of this came a third undesirable outcome: The Iraqi Shia, seeing themselves trapped between Iranian geopolitical ambitions and the threat of civil war without American protection, moved away from dependency on Iran and toward a much more complex position.
Unless the Sunnis were suddenly to collapse and the Americans were simply to withdraw, Iran no longer can expect to create a protectorate in Iraq. Its current goal must be much more modest: It must have an Iraq that is no threat to Iran. To this end, the Iranians need several things:
1. Guarantees as to the size and armament of the future Iraqi armed forces; they can be sufficient for internal security and defense but must not have offensive capability.
2. A degree of control over the makeup of the Iraqi government -- in particular, the right to block any appointment that is too close to the former Baathist elite and would have too much control over the defense or intelligence establishments.
3. Strict limits on Kurdish autonomy in order to guarantee that Kurdish separatism does not spill over into Iran. In this, the Iranians have an ally in Turkey.
4. A tight timeline for the withdrawal of all U.S. forces.
In the back of their minds, the Iranians will accept these conditions as a major improvement over the status quo of 2003, but they will always see this as a springboard for their deeper ambitions. They will take a deal that keeps Iraq weak and gets the Americans out.
As we have noted previously, the Shia are fragmented and have a complex bargaining position as a result. However, two irreducible elements are present. First, the Shia do not want the Sunnis to return to a dominant political position in Iraq. This is essential and non-negotiable. Second, they want to be in a position to control Iraq's oil economy and the various industries that support it. In other words, the Shia want to control Iraq's government.
Until the first battle of Al Fallujah, it appeared that Washington would give them that prize -- but when the Americans entered into negotiations with the Sunni insurgents, it became clear that the United States was not going to simply play that role. The Shia then counted on Sunni intransigence -- which evaporated in December 2005, when the Sunnis participated in elections. The vigor of the Sunni rising eliminated the likelihood that it could be suppressed, except at a price to the Shia that they were unwilling to pay. The Shia, therefore, had to face either perpetual and uncertain civil war or accept the idea of Sunni participation in the government.
They had already abandoned the idea of complete control of Iraq's oil when they entered into an alliance with the Kurds. It was not clear who would control the northern oil regions, but it was not going to be the Shia. With the entry of the Sunnis into the government, the Shia accepted the idea that they would lead but not control the Iraqi government. Therefore, their position on oil became a regional rather than national position. For the Shia, the key now is to guarantee that a substantial portion of southern oil wealth remains under Shiite control and is not simply controlled by the government.
The Iraqi Shia remain heavily influenced by Iran, but they understand that playing Iran's game could decimate them. They will settle for control of the key ministries in Baghdad and a large piece of the southern oil economy. When the Americans leave, and in what sequence, is of far less interest to them than the control of the economy.
The Sunnis have gone from being the dominant power in Iraq to being a minority ethnic group, and the only one of the three with no oil clearly in their territory. At the same time, their insurgency has achieved what it was designed to do: The Sunnis have not become an irrelevant force in Iraq. The ability to sustain an insurrection against the Americans as well as to strike against the Shia established that it would be better to include them in a political settlement than to exclude them. Their skillful use of the jihadist threat particularly drove home the fact that they could not simply be ignored. By portraying the jihadists as an uncontrollable outside force, the Sunnis set themselves up as the only force that could control the jihadists. That was their key bargaining chip, and they used it well.
The interests of the Sunnis are relatively simple. First, they want to participate in the Iraqi government. Second, they want a share of Iraq's oil income and a degree of control over the northern oil fields. Third -- and this will complicate attempts to convince insurgents to give up weapons -- they want American forces to remain in-country in order to guarantee that the Shia don't attack them, that Iran does not intervene and that the Iraqi government does not fall under Iranian control. The Sunnis may dream of regaining the power and privilege they enjoyed in Baathist Iraq, but in practical terms, they have shed a huge amount of blood simply in order not to be dismissed while Iraq's future is shaped.
The Kurds want, ideally, an independent nation. That means going to war with Iran, Turkey and Syria -- therefore, they will not get an independent nation. They can gain a degree of autonomy in Iraq, but the degree will depend less on the Sunnis and Shia, who have other issues to worry about, than it will on Tehran, Ankara and Damascus, none of whom want the Kurds to have too much autonomy. The Americans have been the guarantors of autonomy for the Kurds in Iraq since 1991. However, the Americans also want to get out of the business of guaranteeing things in Iraq. The Turks and Iranians both have leverage with the Americans. Therefore, the United States, as part of its exit strategy, might well become the force to contain the Kurds.
The second issue for the Kurds is oil. They are the dominant population in the north, where some of Iraq's significant oil fields are located, and they want to consolidate their hold. Some Shia are amenable to this, but the Sunnis want a share in Kurdish oil. The Sunnis ultimately will not participate in an arrangement in which the Shia and Kurds draw oil wealth directly but in which the Sunnis have access to it only after it is disbursed through the central government. Had the Sunnis not fought so tenaciously, they perhaps could have been ignored. Ignoring them now is dangerous. Therefore, the issue for the Kurds is precisely how much they will have to give the Sunnis directly. This is a matter of money and, in the end, money matters are negotiable.
The Kurds know they will not get a Kurdish state that incorporates Iranian and Turkish Kurds at this time. They also believe that if they gain a degree of autonomy and oil wealth, they will be in a position to take advantage of other opportunities later. If not, there is still the oil wealth.
There is a basic understanding of what is possible currently in Iraq. Everyone has their plans for the future, but right now, the idea of a coalition government is a given. But two issues remain outstanding.
The first is the status of U.S. forces in Iraq. The United States will not permit its forces to remain as targets for guerrillas, although the Sunnis and Shia might find this useful. Therefore, there will be a withdrawal, with a substantial drawdown this year. However, the Sunnis and Kurds both want an American force to remain, and the Americans want that, too. The Iranians and Iraqi Shia want the Americans out earlier. So the timing is one issue to negotiate.
The other issue is oil -- how the revenues and resources are divided up among the three ethnic communities. As we have said, that is about money and, when it gets down to that, compromise is possible. However, the Sunnis and Kurds are afraid of Shiite strength, which means they want the Americans to remain in place. The Shia can charge for that in terms of oil revenues. Treaties have been based on less.
The problem with the endgame in Iraq is not so much the divergence of interests among the players -- they tend to converge now more than to diverge. The problem is that there are so many parties to the negotiations and that these parties are themselves divided, the Americans not least among them. In other words, there are too many players to create a stable basis for negotiations. On the one side, reality pulls them together; on the other side, the sheer mechanics of the negotiation are mind-boggling.
We think that something will be worked out, simply because the logic of each player requires a settlement. It will result in a diminishment of violence, not its elimination. That is the best that can be hoped for. But we also believe that the train is leaving the station. If an agreement cannot be reached now that allows for a phased and managed withdrawal of U.S. forces, then the only remaining options for the United States will be to continue to fight a counterinsurgency indefinitely, with insufficient force, or a unilateral withdrawal.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WW3
on: May 03, 2006, 11:39:52 PM
May 3, 2006
A funny thing happened on the way to the Iranian bomb: The more alarming the mullahs' behavior, the more nonchalant the rest of the world seems to be about it. But one development may give even the most adamant pooh-poohers pause.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last month announced that Iran had enriched uranium to reactor-grade levels in a 164-centrifuge cascade, a major technical achievement that puts Iran within hopping distance of an actual bomb. Mr. Ahmadinejad followed this up by announcing that Iran was working on an advanced centrifuge of Pakistani design, the possession of which Iran had previously denied to inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Next, Iran rebuffed IAEA requests to inspect the new centrifuges, a violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to which Iran is a signatory. Iran then threatened to withdraw from the NPT altogether if the United Nations imposed sanctions for its violations thereof. Iran ignored Friday's deadline from the U.N. Security Council to stop enriching uranium. Instead Tehran simply repeated a long-standing offer to allow additional inspections if the Security Council drops the issue.
Israeli intelligence also reports last week that Iran has purchased an upgraded version of the Soviet SS-6 ballistic missile from North Korea, which is capable of carrying a nuclear payload and has a range of about 1,600 miles, putting parts of Europe well within range.
And the international community's response? Russia and China, both veto-wielding members of the Security Council, are adamantly opposed to U.N. sanctions on Iran. Their view is mainly shared by Richard Lugar, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Committee, who thinks President Bush "ought to cool this one" by negotiating directly with Tehran.
In Europe, British Foreign Minister Jack Straw has reportedly told Cabinet colleagues that it would be "illegal" for Britain to participate in any prospective military action against Iran. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier agrees: "We will not stop Iran with war," he recently told the news weekly Der Spiegel.
Which brings us to Iran's latest. Last week, the Associated Press reported that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's Supreme Leader, offered to share the nuclear genie with Sudan. "The Islamic Republic of Iran is prepared to transfer the experience, knowledge and technology of its scientists," Mr. Khamenei told visiting Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. Mr. Bashir, whose government abets the massacre of Darfuris, says Sudan could use a nuclear reactor to generate electricity. Uh huh.
How so many apparently thoughtful people can face the idea of an Iranian bomb with relative equanimity remains a mystery to us. Whether they are as "cool" with the idea of fissile material in Mr. Bashir's hands is another matter. Whatever the case, they should consider that acquiescing to a bomb for Iran may also mean agreeing to one for many more of the world's worst actors.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Politica-Economia en Latino America
on: May 03, 2006, 11:15:35 PM
Mientras esperamos comentarios de nuestros amigos latinos, permitame ofrecer un pequeno resume de la teoria que se me ensenaba cuando, hace muchos anos (30!) cuando yo estudiaba en la universidad.
El analisis de derecha-izquierda no explica mucho. El mundo tiene mas que dos dimensiones. Hay mercado libre, hay socialismo, y hay fascismo. Se trata de este tercero cuando el titulo al capital (the means of production) queda en manos privados, pero esta' dirigida por el gobierno-- como se ve en mucho de latinoamerica. El individuo no se ve como tal, sino como miembro de un grupo (campesino, obrero, empresario, indio, iglesia, etc). Modelos perfectos serian Italia de Musolini, Espana de Franco, Agentina de Peron, etc. Parece que Chavez de Venezuela va por este rumbo-- no obtante las palabras de izquierda que diga.
Disculpa por favor las limitaciones de mi castellano. Ya se hace tarde y voy a dormir.
Les despido de Uds con lo siguiente del WSJ de hoy. No usa mi terminologia, pero si' ofrece un punto de vista.
Latin Energy Fad
May 3, 2006; Page A14
Latin culture is all the rage these days, from Botero sculptures and Shakira's "Hips Don't Lie," to burritos and margaritas. So maybe we shouldn't be surprised that Bolivia is getting in on another Latin craze: the abrogation of contracts.
We refer to President Evo Morales's pronouncement on May 1 -- not a coincidental date -- to tear up Bolivia's agreements with foreign investors in the natural gas industry and take, in his words, "absolute control" of Bolivia's natural resources. Kicking out foreign investors by executive decree sounds a lot like the same authoritarian nationalist populismo that has earned Bolivia the only prominence it has ever enjoyed: South America's poorest nation.
The Morales move shocked markets but not for its originality. The newly inaugurated president is following the lead of Venezuelan President Hugo Ch?vez, who is a knock-off of Argentine strongman Juan Peron. Peron is long since dead but his spirit lives on in his party, which has been the 21st century's trend setter in the assault on property rights. In 2001 and 2002, Argentina's Peronistas reneged on their commitments not only with foreigners but with their own people, declaring a debt moratorium, tearing up utility contracts, confiscating dollar bank accounts and devaluing the peso.
Se?or Ch?vez followed suit after a fashion. He canceled contracts with foreign oil companies last month, demanding that the government oil company be given majority ownership and operational charge of oil fields. New terms offered to investors are also far less profitable. Some have agreed to stick it out, but Exxon Mobil sold its operations and when France's Total and Italy's ENI SpA refused to give in, Mr. Ch?vez responded by seizing their operations.
Like all fads, this one has its surface appeal. Argentina cleared its balance sheets by sticking it to its creditors and tearing up contracts. Its economy is still growing four years after its theft of private-sector assets, and it may even believe it's gotten something for nothing.
Yet the real predictor of a country's economic future lies in its investment rate. Economists estimate that to achieve steady long-term growth of 3.5% to 4%, Argentina needs an investment-to-GDP rate of at least 23%. To reach 5%, a more reasonable target for a quasi-developed country, it needs 25% investment to GDP. Yet last year's investment rate was a measly 19.8% and today's rate is only 22%. In other words, there are lots of places to put capital these days and few are rushing into Buenos Aires.
It may be that Mr. Morales has been emboldened by the petro wealth of Venezuela. But that country, too, is having trouble sustaining investment in energy production. Thanks to rampant corruption and the government's use of energy profits for buying support for socialism at home and around the region, Venezuela's oil fields are suffering from under-investment. Given an annual depletion rate of 25%, the only thing not clear is how long it will take to run the sector completely dry.
Bolivia to date has had only about $3.5 billion in foreign investment in natural gas, not nearly enough to exploit its vast reserves in the future. Even if Brazil's Petrobras and Spain's Repsol YPF decide to stay and accept the operating terms laid down by President Morales -- including a tax of 82% on natural gas extracted from country's two biggest fields -- new investment is unlikely to be nearly so brave.
Which means Bolivia would become either less productive or highly dependent on state-owned foreign companies from Venezuela or perhaps Russia. Neither option bodes well for the country's sovereignty, much less its prosperity.
URL for this article:http://online.wsj.com/article/SB114661950510242198.html
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Want to make a knife for the US Army?
on: May 03, 2006, 08:30:21 AM
Here's the basics on the knife project. I just spoke with the combatives group, and it looks like at least five of them would jump all over the chance to own one of these right now for anything close to $300 or less. My guess is there'd be a whole lot more than that, but out of a class of forty people, I got five to say yes on the spot. Considering we work with roughly 500 troops a month in Combatives, and roughly another 500 in all the other areas, my guess is this would be a pretty strong seller. Especially if I strap a couple of them on the legs of some our instructors...
At any rate, the basic introduction to the project and my proposal to the makers follows. Let me know where you post it so I can follow along. And thanks as always for the assist. (By the way - if it works out, I'll buy you serial number 0001!)
My name is Michael Brewer. I am currently serving as a US Army Reserve soldier, and in my civilian life, I am a combat tactics instructor for all branches of service. Specifically, my job is to train Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen deploying to the Middle East in support of the Global War on Terror. My areas of specialty are weapons and small unit tactics, including all manner of US small arms, squad-based urban warfare, convoy live fire training, combatives (US Army Hand to Hand Fighting), and just about anything else that relates to the fighting end of being a US servicemember. Over the past year, I've conducted hundreds of AAR's with troops both deploying and returning from theater. I've probed to find any information I could find both as an instructor and as a soldier that might improve our troops' odds of winning each and every fight. Obviously, a lot of this information is not appropriate to share publicly, but a lot of it can only be addressed by civilians who support our troops. I'm writing this introduction about just such a topic.
Much has been made over the past several decades about edged weapons, both as fighting implements and as tools for soldiers in the field. As most soldiers have told me time and again, the staggering majority of the designs currently available have missed big. Knives tend to be "one-trick ponies" in the words of a recently retired Master Sergeant. "They either cut or they stab, but never both. If they're cutting knives, my Joes will bust the tips off 'em nine times out of ten. If they're stabbing knives, they don't do us any good as cutting tools because a double edged dagger is no good at all for utility purposes. Even the ones that find some kind of balance are too thin to deal with any kind of hard work, let alone the kind of rigors common to our guys in the field. Folding knives snap right at the pivot, and the bayonets we're issued are so soft you can't even put a good edge on them, let alone keep it there."
My father is an accomplished knifemaker who has crafted some amazing pieces for me over the years. He's built several damascus blades that have withstood abuses unlike anything a knife is meant for. One of them literally cut a mobile home in half over the course of a work day. Regrettably, he is in semi-retirement due to a shoulder injury and a lack of a forge. That's why I am putting this information out to the public. Working with these soldiers, I have compiled their suggestions into a design that most feel would not only suit their needs today, but would account for most of the foreseeable needs of the future. I would like to find a knifemaker that is willing to build a prototype knife according to these suggestions. This would be a custom knife, and would not be a government contract by any means. However, it is a knife designed by and for servicemen and women, and would very likely be popular across the full spectrum. What's more, because the knifemaker who accepts would be going to some degree of personal expense and effort on a project not of their own design - based on faith and the suggrestions of others, as it were - I would be willing to give the design rights to the knifemaker in exchange for a pair of prototypes. I'd want to conduct some of the most severe tests ever conducted on a knife, document them, and present them to the chain of command that I work for in both civilian and military sectors. I'd forward all requests to the knifemaker for orders and modifications. In other words, you make the knife according to specs and provide me with a pair of prototypes, and I'll test it, evaluate it, write up a report, and pass it along to the market group that suggested it in the first place - and I'll hand you the rights to the design itself free and clear.
What do you get out of it? At best, an inside track on what could be one of the more popular military knives today, and someone else handles a good chunk of your marketing for free. At worst, you get a few orders from the soldiers that "created" the design and you recover your investment, and you still have the rights to the design free and clear. What do I get out of it? I get what I believe will be one of the most practical and functional fighting and utility knives available, and I get to give my soldiers the opportunity to carry into battle with them a tool that I would unhesitatingly bet my own life on. I think it's definitely a good proposition all around.
If anyone is interested in undertaking the project, please feel free to contact me directly at email@example.com
, or call 719.494.6501. Thank you all for your consideration, and I look forward to speaking with you soon.
and this on US Army stationary:
AFZC-PAO 2 May 2006
MEMORANDUM FOR RECORD
SUBJECT: Soldier Knife Project
1. SPC Courtney E. Pace, PAO, 2BCT, 2ID
2. The PAO just received the research package you compiled regarding the ?Soldier Knife? design. Our office would be extremely interested in giving the project some publicity, especially since this is a civilian project based on military feedback.
3. The unit got back from Iraq in August of 2005, and several members of the unit have said that your knife design would definitely solve many of the issues they encountered with their currently issued gear.
4. The PAO would be interested in covering the project, including interviews with you and whatever knife maker agrees to take on the design and building of the knife.
5. We will also cover the ?torture testing? you and others will put the knife through using military related scenarios. This aspect will appeal to readers as it proves the usefulness and detailed thinking that went into the design.
COURTNEY E. PACE
2BCT, 2ID PAO
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Howl of Respect to our Soldiers/Veterans
on: May 02, 2006, 04:21:43 PM
COMMON NAME, UNCOMMON VALOR
Written by Ralph Bennett
Since his days growing up in Tampa, Fla. the lanky kid with the slightly mischievous smile had wanted to be a soldier. By this bright morning, April 4, 2003, Sgt 1st Class Paul Ray Smith had more than fullfilled his dream. He had served 15 of his 33 years in the U.S. Army, including three tours of duty in harms way- in the Persian Gulf, Bosnia and Kosovo.
Now all his training, all his experience, all the instincts that had made him a model soldier, were about to be put to the test. With 16 men from his 1st Platoon, B Company, 11th Engineer Battalion, Sgt. Smith was under attack by about 100 troops of the Iraqi Republican Guard.
"We're in a world of hurt" he was heard to say.
That world was a dusty triangular, walled compound about half the size of a football field, near the Saddam Hussein Airport, 11 miles from Baghdad. Sgt. Smith's engineers or "sappers" had broken through the southren wall of the compound with a military bulldozer and begun turning the area into a temporary "pen" for Iraqi prisoners as U.S. forces pressed their attack on the airport.
While they were working, guards spotted a large Iraqi force approaching their position. The guards called for Sgt. Smith to take a look and as he arrived all hell broke loose. They came under heavy fire from machine gunners and RPG's.
The lightly armed work detail needed fire support. Sgt. Smith called for a Bradley fighting vehicle. The Bradley was on site in short order and attacked the enemy force with it's 25mm Bushmaster cannon. Sgt. Smith and his men took up positions around the Bradley as he called for a nearby M-133 personnel carrier for additional fire power from it's .50 caliber machinegun.
As the two vehicles engaged the Iraqis both were hit by motor rounds and RPG's. Sgt Smith lost his fire power to hold back the enemy troops.
Sgt. Smith could have withdrawn but he was the only thing standing between the enemy and a aid station with combat casualties and medical teams a short distance away.
Under fire Sgt Smith and his men extracted three wounded from the APC. Then Sgt Smith positioned the APC where he could cover most of the compound then he manned the machinegun while one of his men fed the belted ammo. His other men made an assault on a guard tower while Sgt Smith layed down fire on the main forces coming at them now from three different positions. His men reached the tower and took it over but Sgt Smith was shot by one of the Iraqis there in the tower just as the other Iraqi troops started turning back because of the accurate fire of Sgt. Smith. 50 dead Iraqi soldiers lay in the area of the compound. Sgt. Smith's vest had 13 bullet holes in it but he had continued to fire while being hit. The shot from the tower hit him in the neck killing him.
When the Army told his mother her son had died in battle she said "Our name is so common, maybe it's a mistake"
On April 4th, 2005, exactly two years after his selfless action, his wife and their children stood in the White House and was presented with Sgt. Smith's Medal of Honor.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Politica-Economia en Latino America
on: May 02, 2006, 10:35:57 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Bolivia and Leftward Movement in Latin America
Bolivian President Evo Morales followed through on a campaign promise on Monday by nationalizing the country's oil and natural gas industries. The move, which Morales discussed frequently during his first 100 days in power, should not have come as a surprise, but the way in which it was done caught many off-guard. Rather than sending a bill to the legislature, Morales enacted the law by decree, announced it on the national May Day holiday -- to the surprise of Bolivia's own media -- and immediately sent the armed forces to secure oil facilities, seeking to prevent any disruptions in operations. In other words, everything was done in the style of the old Latin American populist governments, with a flair that portends a penchant for theatricality and unwillingness to compromise.
Monday's development raises two questions. First, given Bolivia's poverty
and dependence on other countries as shipping routes for its gas exports,
will the nationalization policy be sustainable over the long run? And
second, is this part of a leftist trend that Venezuelan President Hugo
Chavez has been encouraging in the region, or will Bolivia's lurch to the
left with the hydrocarbons policy be an isolated case?
Whatever the answer to the first question, Bolivia is hardly an isolated
case. Venezuela has set certain precedents by incrementally changing the
playing rules for foreign companies: Taxes have been increased, and
foreign-owned firms have been forced to enter into joint ventures with the
state-owned oil company. Ecuador is now moving down the same path. Quito recently approved a law that allows the government to renegotiate contracts with oil companies, giving the government more than half of the revenues from oil sold above a certain price level. And in Peru, presidential candidate Ollanta Humala has promised to nationalize gas reserves and production if he wins the runoff election. There is indeed a pattern here.
Another pattern appears to have developed on trade issues as well. During the Summit of the Americas (hosted by Argentina in November 2005), a bloc of countries -- vocally led by Venezuela, with backing from Argentina, Brazil and Bolivia -- expressed strong opposition to calls to move forward with the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). Instead, Bolivia, Venezuela and Cuba during the past weekend signed the Peoples' Trade Agreement -- note the absence of the word "free" -- as a way to promote unity in the Americas and as their response to the FTAA.
That said, not all the countries in Latin America are treading the same
course. In fact, there may be more differences than similarities in the
policies emerging from the region. Although most of the recently elected
governments have been labeled "leftist" and supposedly have common agendas, Latin America is beginning to show signs of deep divisions rather than growing unity. Only the most radical governments have nationalized their energy industries or attempted to change the rules of engagement for foreign-owned companies. Countries like Brazil, Uruguay and Chile -- all of which have elected leaders belonging to old leftist movements -- have not pursued nationalization policies, and in fact the investment environment in these countries has remained at least level (or improved, in comparison to the more radical countries in the region.)
On trade, the countries that favored the FTAA did not sit back and wait for
Chavez or Argentine President Nestor Kirchner to take the lead or declare it a good idea -- they moved ahead to negotiate bilateral agreements with the United States themselves. Colombia and Peru already have signed their respective agreements, although they still await ratification. Ecuador also has engaged in negotiations with the United States, although the approval of Quito's version of the hydrocarbons law has stalled talks. As a result of all of this, Chavez decided last week to pull Venezuela out of the Andean Community of Nations -- a group that includes Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia -- saying (with Bolivia's agreement) that it is incompatible to seek trade agreements with the United States and fellow Latin American states at the same time. Colombia and Peru, defying Chavez's strange economic logic, have decided to move ahead with their U.S. trade deals.
Deeper south, integration has suffered as well. Uruguay and Paraguay have questioned Mercosur's current structure, claiming that Brazil and Argentina run rough-shod over the small members of the trade bloc. Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez has labeled the organization -- which comprises Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay -- "useless" and called for reform. At the same time, Vazquez has been looking to launch free-trade talks -- or at lest an investment agreement -- with the United States, and he is scheduled to meet this week with U.S. President George W. Bush.
All in all, Venezuela's Chavez appears to have been sowing division among his neighbors rather than uniting Latin America behind the project he envisions for Venezuela. He has engaged in bitter verbal spats with
President Vicente Fox of Mexico, with President Alejandro Toledo Manrique of Peru and with Peruvian presidential contender Alan Garcia. It is true that Peru, Mexico and Nicaragua still might elect leaders who would be closer to Chavez ideologically than to the United States or other moderate Latin American leaders. But despite that, it is not entirely clear that all of them would follow the same policy path. It is considerably more likely that divisions will persist among Latin American states. Economic realities place clear constraints on the policies that the governments of the region can follow.
Thus, with economic and geographic realities in mind, we return to Bolivia
and our first question: Are the nationalization policies sought by Morales
Though Bolivia has South America's second-largest reserves of natural gas, its hydrocarbons industry remains quite underdeveloped. The country currently exports most of its gas to and through Brazil (whose state-owned Petrobras is one of the main foreign companies in Bolivia's hydrocarbons industry). By expropriating the hydrocarbons -- or, to be even more to the point, by reducing the status of foreign companies to mere operators of oil and gas fields -- Bolivia will obstruct flows of new investment and strain its relationship with Brazil. Considering that Morales came into office strongly opposed to a plan that would build a gas export line through Chile, he basically would have only one other route to get the gas to market if Brazil was alienated: through Paraguay, Argentina and Uruguay. But such a pipeline would take years to construct. And though Chavez has pledged support to his friend in Bolivia, it is not clear whether he can do much to help out, especially since the two countries do not share a border.
Morales has made good on one of his chief campaign promises, but doing so might hurt the indigenous population he wants to lift out of poverty more than it helps. The gas deposits are now theirs, but without assistance, the Bolivians will find it difficult to develop or export the gas. The alternative, in the less-than-diplomatic words of Mexico's President Fox: They might have to eat it instead
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Politica-Economia en Latino America
on: May 01, 2006, 07:54:44 PM
Bolivian President Evo Morales signed a decree May 1 by which Bolivia nationalizes its oil and gas resources. Nationalization was one of Morales' main campaign promises. While Morales had apparently flip-flopped on his policies to allow the unrestricted growing of coca, he was facing increasing pressure to act soon on some of his campaign promises. Now he is starting to deliver.
On May 1, Bolivian President Evo Morales signed decree 28701, which nationalizes Bolivia's oil and gas resources. This was one of Morales' main campaign promises and sets Bolivia on a course similar to that of countries like Venezuela.
Even before winning the presidency, Morales said he intended to nationalize Bolivia's oil and gas resources. In that sense, this announcement is not a surprise, especially after reports emerging in the first days of April said a law to nationalize the resources was ready to be proposed. If anything, Morales just caught the local media by surprise, having announced it on a holiday. Using the figure of a decree instead of a change in the law, which can come later, also gives Morales an element of surprise to protect the announcement from potential legal challenges. At the same time of the announcement, Bolivian troops took control of several oil fields. The deployment of troops is intended both as a symbolic way to signal that Morales means business and to prevent any attempt to shut down production. Even if the nationalization was not unexpected, the way in which Morales' government has acted shows some heavy-handedness and not much willingness to compromise.
The decree's first details establish that the firms operating in the country will need to hand their production to the state-owned Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales Bolivianos (YPFB), which will take over selling the private firms' production as well as its own. The decree further says that private companies have 180 days to sign the new contracts in order to keep operations in Bolivia. Morales had said from the time he was campaigning that he would not confiscate companies' actual facilities and investments.
The main foreign energy companies operating in Bolivia are the Spanish company Repsol YPF, the Brazilian company Petroleo Brasileiro and the French company Total. Morales' decree establishes that those companies that had produced more than 100 million cubic meters in 2005 would only benefit from 18 percent of the production, with the rest of it going directly to the Bolivian government. Companies like Repsol YPF, which had registered the largest amount of reserves, will be affected most by the nationalization. If those details turn out to be true, then it will not leave those companies with many incentives to keep operating in the country.
Morales was facing increased domestic pressure to act quickly to fulfill some of his campaign promises, after having initially flip-flopped on the promise to allow unrestricted coca growing. This seems to be a way for Morales to reconcile himself with the other Bolivian political actors, and it will likely be well received by Bolivia's new partners on the just-signed Peoples' Trade Agreement: Cuba and Venezuela.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Political Rants
on: April 29, 2006, 08:38:16 PM
SPIES & LIES
By RALPH PETERS
April 28, 2006 -- IF a street-corner thug knowingly receives stolen goods for profit, he goes to jail. If a well-educated, privileged journalist profits from receiving classified information - stolen from our government - he or she gets a prize.
Is something wrong here?
Media outlets, including the generally responsible Washington Post, have had fits over a few retired generals' unclassified criticism of the Secretary of Defense, while simultaneously insisting on their own right to receive and publish our nation's wartime secrets - and to shield the identities of unethical bureaucrats who betray our nation's trust.
Since the Vietnam era, reporters have convinced themselves that they are the real heroes in any story. The archways above our journalism faculties soon may sport the maxim: "The Press can do no wrong."
But the press can do wrong. And it does it with gusto. Let me tell you what the illegal receipt and exploitation of our nation's secrets used to be called: Espionage. Spying. Yet today's "real" spies cause less harm to our national security than self-righteous journalists do.
A NATION at war must keep secrets. The media can't plead that classified documents just fell into their hands, obligating them to publish our secrets out of a noble respect for truth. That's bull, and every journalist knows it. Could a punk down on the block claim that, since he was offered a gun, he was obligated to aim it and pull the trigger?
Many in the media not only want to re-write election results and change national policies - they've been re-writing history, too. On the entertainment-and-propaganda side, George Clooney produced a gorgeous, seductive and whoppingly dishonest film about journalism last year, "Good Night, and Good Luck."
Deftly re-arranging the fall of Sen. Joseph McCarthy - by slighting the fact that only the Department of the Army had the guts to stand up to Tailgunner Joe at the height of his powers (a civilian lawyer for the Army asked the famous question, "Senator, have you no shame?") - the film leads the viewer to believe that a lone journalist, Edward R. Murrow, broke the senator's evil spell.
Of course, crediting the Army with the courage to defend the Constitution would have played havoc with the left-wing view of civil-military relations. But the greater omission had to do with Murrow's background. He made his bones with courageous radio coverage of the London Blitz. And he didn't feel compelled to tell the Nazi side of the story and help us feel Hitler's pain.
Edward R. Murrow kept secrets. Lots of them. He wanted the Allies to win. He even respected those in uniform. So he - and other journalists - remained silent about the landing exercise that went tragically awry at Slapton Sands, and about many another bad-for-morale event that might've made a hot headline. He kept D-Day-related secrets, too.
Do even our most self-adoring journalists really think that Edward R. Murrow would have published secret documents about prisons for senior Nazis during wartime?
NONE of us wants our media to engage in propaganda. We'd just like them to refrain from harming our country for selfish ends.
Which brings us to the Pulitzer-Prize-winning (and still not confirmed) story that claimed to reveal secret prisons holding a few high-ranking terrorists in Eastern Europe: If such facilities existed, what harm did they do to our country or the world? On the other hand, proclaiming their existence played into the hands of terrorists and America-haters.
That Pulitzer Prize wasn't really for journalism. It was a political statement. No one's going to get a journalism award for reporting on the War on Terror's successes or progress in Iraq. Only left-wing children get a prize.
AFTER laboring in the intelligence vineyards for over two decades, I can assure you of a few things: First, there are no super-top-secret, black-helicopter, kidnap-American-Idol-judges conspiracies hidden since 1776. Second, there are legitimate secrets that must be protected - usually because revealing them would tip our collection methods or operational techniques to our country's mortal enemies (as the secret-prisons story did).
I can assure you of a third thing, too: If an intelligence professional saw a genuine threat to the Constitution or to the rights of his or her fellow citizens, he or she would step forward - and be justified in doing so.
But pique over your presidential candidate's defeat or mere disagreement with a policy does not justify anyone - intelligence professional or political appointee - in passing classified information to a party not authorized to receive it.
This applies to White House staffers, too, no matter how senior. The law should take its course, in every case, from the briefing room to the newsroom. The Washington culture of leaks is a bipartisan disgrace - and a real-and-present danger to our security.
WE face savage enemies who obey no laws, honor no international conventions, treaties or compacts, and who believe they do the will of a vengeful god. Under the circumstances, we need to be able to keep an occasional secret.
So I would ask three questions of those journalists chasing prizes by printing our wartime secrets:
* Can you honestly claim to have done our nation any good?
* Did you weigh the harm your act might cause, including the loss of American lives?
* Is the honorable patriotism of Edward R. Murrow truly dead in American journalism?
If you draw a government (or contractor) paycheck and willfully compromise classified material, you should go to jail. If you are a journalist in receipt of classified information and you publish it to the benefit of our enemies, you should go to jail (you may, however, still accept your journalism prize, as long as the trophy has no sharp edges). And consider yourself fortunate: The penalty for treason used to be death.
When a journalist is given classified information, his or her first call shouldn't be to an editor. It should be to the FBI.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Mexico
on: April 23, 2006, 01:27:34 PM
In a City of Killings, Silence Is Golden
Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, is a battleground in a drug cartel turf war. But talking about the crimes can be deadly, especially for journalists.
By H?ctor Tobar, Times Staff Writer
April 23, 2006
NUEVO LAREDO, Mexico ? Here, it's better not to know.
Information can be poison in this border city. Hard-boiled police reporters would rather you didn't tell them the names of certain criminals. When there's a shootout downtown, even the most ambitious radio reporter will not necessarily rush to the scene.
So it went the day last month that four undercover federal police officers were ambushed and killed in thick lunch-hour traffic on the city's busiest street. The offices of several newspapers and radio stations were just blocks away ? but the news broke 700 miles to the south, on the Mexico City wire services.
"I don't mention groups, I don't mention names?. I don't want to know anything," said a newspaper editor here and member of the Assn. of Journalists of Nuevo Laredo. His paper will publish only the barest facts of the crime wave sweeping the city.
"It's not fear, it's being prudent," he explained. Three journalists have been killed here in the last year. "We're not going to try to be the hero of the movie."
The war between the so-called Gulf and Sinaloa drug cartels has been blamed by Mexican federal officials for more than 230 killings in the city in the last 16 months. The journalists who ordinarily would report on such violence have been silenced by cartel operatives who kidnap reporters and repeatedly phone in threats to newsrooms.
Violence and intimidation have created a culture of silence in this city of 500,000 people. Municipal officials rarely comment publicly on the killings. Law enforcement authorities seem powerless. And people here are hard-pressed to remember the last time anyone was arrested or prosecuted for such sensational crimes as the killing of more than a dozen police officers.
"When a crime is committed there should be an investigation, an accused, a punishment," says Carlos Galvan, the owner of two newspapers here. "As long as those things don't happen, speculation eats up [the reputation of] the victim."
Indeed, rumor and mythology are filling the information vacuum in Nuevo Laredo.
Ask why so many people have died here, and there's a good chance you'll be told that the dead have only themselves to blame. The vox populi has it that no "good" or "innocent" person is ever killed in Nuevo Laredo.
"They must have been involved in something," a taxi driver said just a block from the site where the four police officers were killed.
The refrain is reminiscent of dictatorships in other Latin American nations, such as Argentina, where for years people were taken away by soldiers and police officers and "disappeared" without explanation.
Told that the dead were police officers, the taxi driver responded, "The police are all corrupt."
Another popular saying here draws on the Mexican myth that killers are fated to forever drag around the remains of their victims: "Only the person who carries the sack of bones knows why they were killed," people say.
Newspaper and radio reporters here say they would like to tell the full story of the killings. The names of certain drug kingpins circulate among journalists and in other border towns, but have never been printed. Facts might help dispel the myths, they say, as well as the aura of omnipotence that surrounds the cartels. But facts can get reporters killed.
"Some fortunate people who have not been touched directly by the violence can give themselves the luxury of thinking that honest people are not affected," said one journalist who, like many other people interviewed for this article, spoke on condition of not being named. "That's not true."
The cartels are a shadowy but ubiquitous presence. Longtime residents fear their wealth, their armaments and their apparent infiltration of institutions, such as the police force.
"Here, everyone knows who is a narco and who works for them," said one Nuevo Laredo resident, a university student.
"The important thing is not to get mixed up with them and keep a normal life. I even know some narco juniors," the student said, using a term for the young assassins from well-off families recruited to the cartels. "They're very obvious. They show up with the armored pick-up trucks, with guards and all that."
More than 60 people have been killed in the city this year.
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The pictures of the dead run in the local newspapers alongside screaming headlines such as "A Rain of Bullets!" Some papers routinely run stark pictures of open-eyed corpses torn up by high-caliber bullets. But rarely will a local newspaper, or a local official, explain why a person was killed or who the killer might be.
Are all the dead drug dealers, or connected with them, as many say?
When a police officer is killed, is it in retaliation for a police raid, or because the officer was mixed up with criminals?
When a journalist is killed or attacked, is it because he or she "offended the sensibilities" (a common Nuevo Laredo euphemism) of one of the drug bands by revealing something about its operations? Or was it because the journalist was working for a cartel and was killed by its rival?
Last year, Tamaulipas Gov. Eugenio Hernandez Flores told residents: "The people of Tamaulipas who behave themselves have nothing to fear" because those being victimized in the wave of violence "are in some way involved with organized crime."
Even people who were close to the victims wonder whether they can ever know why their friends and relatives were killed.
A Nuevo Laredo resident who described himself as a childhood friend of Alejandro Dominguez, a police chief assassinated last year, wonders out loud what his friend might have done to get himself killed.
"You have to go to the root of things. Why did it happen?" says the man, a Nuevo Laredo entrepreneur who asked not to be named. "What did he have in his past? What was his way of living before?"
Dominguez had worked in the attorney general's office.
"He was in law enforcement," the friend said. "And when you're in that job, whether you like it or not, you have to get involved with bad people."
The assassination of Dominguez shook Nuevo Laredo and garnered international headlines. He had been head of the Nuevo Laredo police force for just a few hours when he was gunned down.
"It hits you hard. You know that person, you are with that person, you listen to his dreams and aspirations," the friend said. Still, like many residents here, he was concerned that the killing had been blown out of proportion. He seemed to be angry with his old friend for getting assassinated in such a scandalous way.
"If he hadn't been killed in an hour, it wouldn't have had such an impact on Nuevo Laredo," he said.
Key facts about the drug war are unknown to the general public. For example, it's never been reported here that criminal gangs have threatened local radio stations and newspaper reporters to keep them from reporting on shootings.
Nor has it been reported locally that the narcos have kidnapped journalists. And one Nuevo Laredo reporter told the Mexico City magazine Proceso in February that none who have been kidnapped ? and sometimes tortured ? by the drug bands will file an official complaint.
"Because if there's anyone here who knows that the federal, the state and especially the municipal authorities cannot be trusted, it's precisely us," the journalist said.
The mayor of Nuevo Laredo rejected requests for an interview for this article, as did police officials.
To escape the pervasive sense of danger, many residents, including some journalists, seek out facts that suggest that violence is something that happens to others.
At radio station 95.7 FM, news director Marco Antonio Espinoza disagrees with those who say his colleague Ramiro Tellez was killed because he was a journalist.
"The problem did not occur because of journalism," Espinoza said. Tellez really wasn't a journalist, Espinoza said. "He'd come in here in the morning and do the weather report. Then he would leave."
Tellez, who was killed March 10, worked as director of the city's emergency and police communications system. Sources speculated that Tellez may have been killed because the city had recently installed a communications system that made it difficult for criminals to monitor police radio transmissions.
"We stay away from police stories," Espinoza said. "It was the other job that caused his problem."
The newspaper El Ma?ana decided to "self-censor" its coverage after editor Roberto Mora Garcia was slain outside his home in 2004. Nevertheless, on Feb. 6, the newspaper's offices were attacked and a reporter seriously wounded by men wielding assault rifles and hand grenades.
Sources in Nuevo Laredo's journalism community offered several theories about the reason. Maybe it was because of the Proceso article that had come out a day earlier. Maybe it was because El Ma?ana had recently participated in a journalism symposium with out-of-towners. Or maybe it was because of a certain story that mentioned the sighting of a cartel hit man.
"Who was responsible?" El Ma?ana asked in an editorial after the February attack. "We don't know. It could have been anybody. They are ghosts.
"Many times we in the media are attacked in order to blame a rival group, so that a crackdown by the authorities on that rival group will follow.
"It's the new method of doing terrorism."
Carlos Mart?nez of The Times' Mexico City Bureau contributed to this report.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Geo Political matters
on: April 23, 2006, 12:53:55 PM
By Jamie Glazov
FrontPageMagazine.com | September 7, 2005
Frontpage Interview?s guest today is Ralph Peters, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who served in infantry and intelligence units before becoming a Foreign Area Officer and a global strategic scout for the Pentagon. He has published three books on strategy and military affairs, as well as hundreds of columns for the New York Post, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, and other publications. He is the author of the new book New Glory: Expanding America's Global Supremacy.
FP: Ralph Peters, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Peters: I'm honored by the chance to reach your audience. Thanks.
FP: What inspired you to write New Glory?
Peters: New Glory is a book that literally took me a lifetime to write--in the sense that it contains decades of first-hand experience and observation in more than sixty countries. While I've written essays and columns over the years, I just sensed that the time was right to put it all together, to lay out as forthrightly and honestly as I could where I think the world is going--to offer a fresh vision of the world as it is and as it's going to be...no matter who might be offended by my views.
And, frankly, I was fed up with the countless "experts" all over the media who had never been anywhere or done anything, but who had an opinion on everything. You can't understand this complex world without going out to see it firsthand. The book's conclusions about where we've been and where we need to go strategically will surprise many readers, but they're based upon direct experience, not faculty-lounge chitchat. This book had been cooking inside me for a long time--and I'm glad I waited to write it. I needed all those years of getting dirty overseas to mature my thinking--and to escape Washington group-think.
FP: Tell us why the battle for Fallujah epitomized how we must fight -- and win -- the terror war.
Peters: Well, the First Battle of Fallujah, in the spring of 2004, was an example of how to get it as wrong as you possibly can. We bragged that we were going to "clean up Dodge." And the Marines went in, tough and capable as ever. Then, just when the Marines were on the cusp of victory, they were called off, thanks to a brilliant, insidious and unscrupulous disinformation campaign waged by al-Jazeera. I was in Iraq at the time, and the lies about American "atrocities" were stunning. But the lies worked and the Bush administration, to my shock and dismay, backed down.
Let's be honest: The terrorists won First Fallujah. And for six months thereafter Fallujah was the world capital of terror--a terrorist city-state. It was evident to all of us who had served that we'd have to go back into Fallujah, but the administration--which I support--made the further error of waiting until after the presidential election to avoid casualties or embarrassments during the campaign. Well, fortunately, in the Second Battle of Fallujah the Army and Marines realized they had to do it fast, before the media won again and the politicians caved in again. The military had been burned once and they were determined not to get burned again. And they did a stunning job--Second Fallujah was a model of how to take down a medium-size city. Great credit to the troops, mixed reviews for the politicos.
The bottom line is this: If you have to fight, fight to win, don't postpone what's necessary, and be prepared for the media's anti-American onslaught. Today, the media--with some noteworthy exceptions--are stooges of Islamist terrorists who, if they actually won, would butcher the journalists defending them.
We should never go to war lightly, but if we must fight, we have to give it everything we've got and damn the global criticism. There's a straightforward maxim that applies: In warfare, if you're unwilling to pay the butcher's bill up front, you will pay it with compound interest in the end.
FP: You note that terror of female sexuality underlies Islamic terror. You also make the point that a culture that hates and fears woman is incompatible with modernity and democracy. Can you illuminate these phenomena for us please?
Peters: No brainer on this one. Any society that refuses to exploit the talents and potential contributions of half of its population can't remotely hope to compete with the USA or the West in general. Worse, the virtual enslavement of women is as much a symptom of other ailments as it is a problem in and of itself. Where women are tormented by bitter old men in religious robes, there's never a meritocracy for males, either. And such societies are consistently racially and religiously bigoted. Take Pakistan: While the USA is operating at a phenomenal level of human efficiency in the 21st century, say 85%, Pakistan would likely measure in at 12 to 15%. They just keep falling comparatively farther and farther behind, they hate it, and, of course, they blame us. We're dealing with the abject and utter failure of the entire civilization of Middle Eastern Islam--not competitive in a single sphere (not even terror, since these days we're terrorizing the terrorists). It's historically unprecedented--and unspeakably dangerous.
As far as the inhuman, inhumane--and stupid--treatment of women in the Middle East, yep, Islam is scared of the girls. I wish Freud were alive--he'd really get a look at a civilization's discontents. If you're not terrified of female sexuality, you don't lock women up, insist on covering them up from scalp to toenail and stone them to death for their "sins." Every single Muslim culture in the greater Middle East is sexually infantile--to use the Freudian term. For all their macho posturing, the men are terrified of their feared inadequacy. It's like one big junior high school dance, with the boys on one side of the gym and the girls on the other--except the boys have Kalashnikovs.
Now, I realize this isn't the sort of thing most people consider as a strategic factor, but I am thoroughly convinced that the one foolproof test for whether or not a society has any hope of making it in the 21st century is its treatment of women. Where women are partners, societies take off--as ours has done for this reason and others. Where women are property, there's simply no hope of a competitive performance.
In the collective culture of the Middle East, we're dealing with a deeply neurotic, if not outright psychotic civilization. I wish I could be more positive. But the average Middle Eastern male just has snakes in his head. And, by the way, the place isn't much fun, either. A mega-mall or two does not make a civilization.
FP: You make the observation that ?Islam produced a strain of violent homoeroticism that reaches into al-Qaeda and beyond.? Please expand on this reality a bit for us.
Peters: Another issue "sober" Washington wouldn't consider as a strategic concern, but this ties in with the fear of and disdain for women. If you read the notes and papers they left behind, it's evident that the hijackers of 9/11 were a boy's club with strong homoerotic tendencies. Read Mohammed Atta's lunatic note describing how women must be kept away from his funeral to avoid polluting his grave. Does that sound like a guy with a happy dating history? Of course, sex between men and boys is a long tradition from North Africa through Afghanistan (fear of women always leads to an excessive fixation on female virginity--so she won't know her husband's inadequate--as well as homoerotic undercurrents).
They don't talk about it, of course--it's supposed to be anathema--but very few Middle Eastern mothers would trust their good-looking young sons around many adult males. This has deep roots, right back to the celebrations of the Emperor Babur's fixation on a pretty boy in the Baburnama. And the related dread of the female as literal femme fatale, as vixen, as betrayer, appears in much of the major literature--especially the "Thousand and One Arabian Nights," which, in its unabridged, unexpurgated version, is one long chronicle of supposed female wantonness and insatiability (the men are always innocent victims of Eve).
Pretty hard for the president to work this into a State of the Union message, but I'm convinced that sexual dysfunction is at the core of the Middle East's sickness--and it's certainly sick. Nothing about our civilization so threatens the males of the Middle East as the North American career woman making her own money and her own decisions. We don't think of it this way, but from one perspective the best symbols of the War on Terror would be the Islamic veil versus the two-piece woman's business suit.
There is no abyss more unbridgeable between our civilizations than that created by our respect for women and the Islamic disdain for the female. There are many aspects of our magnificent civilization that threaten traditional, backward societies, but nothing worries them so much as the independence of the Western woman--not that they approve of freedom of any kind.
FP: You write that the developments in Iran pose a great danger to the Islamists and great hope for the West. Tell us what the possibilities are. Perhaps a domino theory? (i.e, if the Iranians overthrow their religious despots, the rest of the Islamic world might do the same?)
Peters: No matter what the outcome in Iraq, the Middle East isn't going to change overnight. This is a very long process. But if you want an irrefutable indicator of how important Iraq's future is, just consider how many resources our enemies are willing to spend to stop the emergence of an even partially functional rule-of-law democracy in Iraq. The terrorists are throwing in everything they've got. Surely, that should tell us something.
Despite all the yelling and jumping up and down in the "Arab Street" (where someone needs to pick up the litter, by the way), the truth is that Arabs, especially, are afraid they can't do it, that they can't build a modern, let alone a postmodern, market democracy. The Arabs desperately need a win--they've been losing on every front for so long. If Iraq is even a deeply flawed success, it will be success enough to spark change across the region. But we must not expect overnight results. This is all very hard. We're not just trying to change a country--we're asking a civilization to change, to revive itself.
Iraq matters immensely. But no matter the outcome, it will be a long time before we see the rewards. It's an agonizingly slow process--which is tough for our society, which expects quick results.
And if Iraq should fail, despite our best efforts, it won't really be an American (or Anglo-American) failure. The consequences will be severe, but we'll work it off at the strategic gym. A failed Iraq will be another tragic Arab failure.
This is our best shot, but it's their last chance.
FP: You observe that Islamist terror sprouts from the failure of Arab and Islamic civilization, that they are humiliated, envious and seek to destroy the reminder of everything we have done right. Please illustrate this picture for us.
Peters: Back to our disdain for new strategic factors: Certainly economic statistics and demographics, hydrology and terms of trade all matter. But the number one deadly and galvanizing strategic impulse in the world today is jealousy. And it's jealousy of the West in general, but specifically of the United States. Jealousy is a natural, deep human emotion, which afflicts us all in our personal lives--to some degree. But when it afflicts an entire civilization, it's tragic. The failed civilization of the Middle East--where not one of the treasured local values is functional in the globalized world--is morbidly jealous of us. They've succumbed to a culture of--and addiction to--blame. Instead of facing up to the need to change and rolling up their sleeves, they want the world to conform to their terms. Ain't going to happen, Mustapha.
I've been out there. And while anti-Americanism is really much exaggerated, where it does exist among the terrorists and their supporters, jealousy is a prime motivating factor. You've heard it before, but it's all too true: They do hate us for our success.
The populations of the Middle East blew it. They've failed. Thirteen hundred years of effort came down to an entire civilization that can't design and build an automobile. And thanks to the wonders of the media age, it's daily rubbed in their faces how badly they've failed.
Oil wealth? A tragedy for the Arabs, since it gave the wealth to the most backward. The Middle East still does not have a single world-class university outside of Israel. Not one. The oil money has been thrown away--it's been a drug, not a tool.
The terrorists don't want progress. They want revenge. At the risk of punning on the title of the book, they don't want new glory--they want their old (largely imagined) glory back. They want to turn back the clock to an imagined world. The terrorists are the deadly siblings of Westerners who believe in Atlantis.
FP: It is clear you are not very fond of France and Germany. How come?
Peters: Actually, I love France and Germany. They're two of my favorite museums. And what's not to like about two grotesquely hypocritical societies who are, between them, responsible for the worst savagery in and beyond Europe over the past several centuries?
Anybody who really wants to see how I take "Old Europe" apart will just have to read the book. Too much to say to get it down here. But the next time the continent that perfected genocide and ethnic cleansing plays the moral superiority card, let's remind them that no German soldier ever liberated anybody--and the most notable achievement of the French military in the past century and a half has been the slaughter of unarmed black Africans.
And just watch their brutal treatment of their Islamic residents. Old Europe--France and Germany--is just the Middle East-lite.
FP: Explain why you believe there are great benefits to America reaching out to India.
Peters: Human capital. Trade. Healthy competition. Strategic position. Common interests. Brilliant, hard-working people. Great food. That enough?
FP: Are there grounds to have hope about Africa?
Peters: Yes. There are plentiful reasons to be hopeful about parts--parts--of Africa. But much of the continent is every bit as disastrous as the popular image has it. My complaint is that we treat that vast, various continent as one big, failed commune. Well, Congo or Sierra Leone certainly aren't inspiring...but in the course of several, recent, lengthy trips to Africa, I was just astonished at the vigor, vision and strategic potential of South Africa. South Africa is well on the way to becoming the first true sub-Saharan great power--and it's another natural ally for us. Oh, the old revolutionary, slogan-spouting generation and their prot?g?s have to die off--and they will. But, in the long-term, I expect great things from South Africa, that they'll control (economically and culturally) southern Africa at least as far north as the Rovuma River. The one qualifier is this: Their next presidential election will be the turning point, either way. If they elect a demagogue, South Africa could still turn into another failing African state. But if they elect a technocrat, get out of the way, because the South Africans are coming.
I explain much of this far better in the book than I can here. Suffice to say that, for all the continent's horrid misery, there are islands of genuine hope. And, of course, there's plenty of wreckage...and AIDS, civil wars, corruption (the greatest bane of all for the developing world). I'm not a Pollyanna. But over the years I've gotten pretty good at spotting both potential crises and potential successes--and South Africa, for all its problems, is a land of stunning opportunities with neo-imperial potential.
FP: Overall, as a former military man, tell us what the United States has to stop doing, and has to start doing, to win this terror war.
Peters: Knock off the bluster and fight like we mean it. To a disheartening degree, the War on Terror has been a war of (ineptly chosen) words. Look, this is a death struggle, a strategic knife fight to the bone. I wish our civilian leaders would stop beating their chests and saying that we're going to get this terrorists or that one--because when we fail to make good on our promises, the terrorists wins by default. More deeds, fewer words.
Above all, we need to think clearly, to cast off the last century's campus-born excuses for the Islamic world of the Middle East. We need to be honest about the threat, in all its dimensions. "Public diplomacy" isn't going to convert the terrorists who were recruited and developed while we looked away from the problem for thirty years. In the end, only deeds convince. And not just military deeds, of course, although those remain indispensable.
Most Americans still do not realize the intensity or the dimensions of the struggle with Islamist terror. Despite 9-11, they just don't have a sense that we're at war. And I'm afraid I have to fault the Bush administration on that count: Good Lord, we're at war with the most implacable enemies we've ever faced (men who regard death as a promotion), and what was our president's priority this year? The reform of Social Security. While I continue to support the administration's overall intent and efforts in Iraq and around the world, I believe the president has failed us badly by not driving home to the people that we're at war.
The Bush administration has done great and necessary things--but all too often they've done those things badly. And only the valor and blood of our troops has redeemed the situation, time after time, from Fallujah to the struggles of the future.
FP: Ralph Peters thank you for joining us today.
Peters: My pleasure, and my thanks. And allow me to say a special thanks to all your readers in uniform, those troops defending the values of our civilization and human decency in distant, discouraging places. Freedom truly isn't free.
"In the first place we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the man's becoming in very fact an American, and nothing but an American...
...There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn't an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag, and this excludes the red flag, which symbolizes all wars against liberty and civilization, just as much as it excludes any foreign flag of a nation to which we are hostile...We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language...and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people."
Posts: 1786 | Location: USA | Registered: August 29, 2005
G M Posted April 23, 2006 06:28 AM
The Counterrevolution in Military Affairs
Fashionable thinking about defense ignores the great threats of our time.
by Ralph Peters
02/06/2006, Volume 011, Issue 20
REVOLUTIONS NOTORIOUSLY IMPRISON THEIR MOST committed supporters. Intellectually, influential elements within our military are locked inside the cells of the Revolution in Military Affairs--the doctrinal cult of the past decade that preaches that technological leaps will transcend millennia-old realities of warfare. Our current conflicts have freed the Pentagon from at least some of the nonsensical theories of techno-war, but too many of our military and civilian leaders remain captivated by the notion that machines can replace human beings on the battlefield. Chained to their 20th-century successes, they cannot face the new reality: Wars of flesh, faith, and cities. Meanwhile, our enemies, immediate and potential, appear to grasp the contours of future war far better than we do.
From Iraq's Sunni Triangle to China's military high command, the counterrevolution in military affairs is well underway. We are seduced by what we can do; our enemies focus on what they must do. We have fallen so deeply in love with the means we have devised for waging conceptual wars that we are blind to their marginal relevance in actual wars. Terrorists, for one lethal example, do not fear "network-centric warfare" because they have already mastered it for a tiny fraction of one cent on the dollar, achieving greater relative effects with the Internet, cell phones, and cheap airline tickets than all of our military technologies have delivered. Our prime weapon in our struggles with terrorists, insurgents, and warriors of every patchwork sort remains the soldier or Marine; yet, confronted with reality's bloody evidence, we simply pretend that other, future, hypothetical wars will justify the systems we adore--purchased at the expense of the assets we need.
Stubbornly, we continue to fantasize that a wondrous enemy will appear who will fight us on our own terms, as a masked knight might have materialized at a stately tournament in a novel by Sir Walter Scott. Yet, not even China--the threat beloved of major defense contractors and their advocates--would play by our rules if folly ignited war. Against terrorists, we have found technology alone incompetent to master men of soaring will--our own flesh and blood provide the only effective counter. At the other extreme, a war with China, which our war gamers blithely assume would be brief, would reveal the quantitative incompetence of our forces. An assault on a continent-spanning power would swiftly drain our stocks of precision weapons, ready pilots, and aircraft. Quality, no matter how great, is not a reliable substitute for a robust force in being and deep reserves that can be mobilized rapidly.
There is, in short, not a single enemy in existence or on the horizon willing to play the victim to the military we continue to build. Faced with men of iron belief wielding bombs built in sheds and basements, our revolution in military affairs appears more an indulgence than an investment. In the end, our enemies will not outfight us. We'll muster the will to do what must be done--after paying a needlessly high price in the lives of our troops and damage to our domestic infrastructure. We will not be beaten, but we may be shamed and embarrassed on a needlessly long road to victory.
Not a single item in our trillion-dollar arsenal can compare with the genius of the suicide bomber--the breakthrough weapon of our time. Our intelligence systems cannot locate him, our arsenal cannot deter him, and, all too often, our soldiers cannot stop him before it is too late. A man of invincible conviction--call it delusion, if you will--armed with explosives stolen or purchased for a handful of soiled bills can have a strategic impact that staggers governments. Abetted by the global media, the suicide bomber is the wonder weapon of the age.
The suicide bomber's willingness to discard civilization's cherished rules for warfare gives him enormous strength. In the Cain-and-Abel conflicts of the 21st century, ruthlessness trumps technology. We refuse to comprehend the suicide bomber's soul--even though today's wars are contests of souls, and belief is our enemy's ultimate order of battle. We write off the suicide bomber as a criminal, a wanton butcher, a terrorist. Yet, within his spiritual universe, he's more heroic than the American soldier who throws himself atop a grenade to spare his comrades: He isn't merely protecting other men, but defending his god. The suicide bomber can justify any level of carnage because he's doing his god's will. We agonize over a prisoner's slapped face, while our enemies are lauded as heroes for killing innocent masses (even of fellow believers). We continue to narrow our view of warfare's acceptable parameters even as our enemies amplify the concept of total war.
Islamist terrorists, to cite the immediate example, would do anything to win. Our enemies act on ecstatic revelations from their god. We act on the advice of lawyers. It is astonishing that we have managed to hold the line as well as we have.
The ultimate precision weapon, the suicide bomber simultaneously redefines the scope of "legitimate" targets. Delighted to kill our troops, this implacable enemy who regards death as a promotion is equally ready to slaughter men, women, and children of unknown identity who have done him no harm. His force of will towers over our own. He cannot win wars on the traditional battlefields we cherish, but his commitment and actions transcend such tidy limits. In the moment of his deed, the suicide bomber is truly larger than life. The world's a stage, and every suicide bomber is, at least briefly, a star.
We will develop the means to defeat the majority of, if not all, improvised explosive devices. But the suicide bomber--the living, thinking assassin determined to die--may prove impossible to stop. Even if we discover a means to identify him at a distance from our troops, he has only to turn to easier targets. Virtually anything the suicide bomber attacks brings value to his cause--destruction of any variety is a victory. The paradox is that his act of self-destruction is also an undeniable assertion that "I am," as he becomes the voice from below that the mighty cannot ignore. We are trained to think in terms of cause and effect--but the suicide bomber merges the two. The gesture and the result are inseparable from and integral to his message. Self-destruction and murder join to become the ultimate act of self-assertion.
And his deed is heralded, while even our most virtuous acts are condemned around the world. Even in the days before mass media, assassins terrorized civilizations. Today, their deeds are amplified by a toxic, breathtakingly irresponsible communications culture that spans the globe. Photogenic violence is no longer a local affair--if a terrorist gives the media picturesque devastation, he reaches the entire planet. We cannot measure the psychological magnification, although we grasp it vaguely. And the media's liturgical repetition of the suicide bomber's act creates an atmosphere of sacrament. On a primal level, the suicide bomber impresses even his enemies with his conviction. We hasten to dismiss his deed as a perversion, yet it resounds as a vivid act of faith. Within his own cultural context, people may hate what the suicide bomber does, yet revere his sacrifice (and, too often, they do not hate what he does).
We may refuse to accept it, but suicide bombing operates powerfully on practical, emotional, and spiritual levels--and it generates dirt-cheap propaganda. To the Muslim world, the suicide bomber's act is a proof of faith that ensnares the mind with a suspicion of his righteousness. He is a nearly irresistible champion of the powerless, the Middle East's longed-for superhero, the next best thing to the Mahdi or the Twelfth Imam.
We praise Nathan Hale's willingness to die for his cause. Now imagine thousands of men anxious to die for theirs. The suicide bomber may be savage, brutal, callous, heartless, naive, psychotic, and, to us, despicable, but within his milieu he is also heroic.
The hallmark of our age is the failure of belief systems and a subsequent flight back to primitive fundamentalism--and the phenomenon isn't limited to the Middle East. Faith revived is running roughshod over science and civilization. Secular societies appear increasingly fragmented, if not fragile. The angry gods are back. And they will not be defeated with cruise missiles or computer codes.
A paradox of our time is that the overwhelmingly secular global media--a collection of natural-born religion-haters--have become the crucial accomplices of the suicide bomber fueled by rabid faith. Mass murderers are lionized as freedom fighters, while our own troops are attacked by the press they protect for the least waywardness or error. One begins to wonder if the bomber's suicidal impulse isn't matched by a deep death wish affecting the West's cultural froth. (What if Darwin was right conceptually, but failed to grasp that homo sapiens' most powerful evolutionary strategy is faith?) Both the suicide bomber and the "world intellectual" with his reflexive hatred of America exist in emotional realms that our rational models of analysis cannot explain. The modern age's methods for interpreting humanity are played out.
We live in a new age of superstition and bloodthirsty gods, of collective madness. Its icons are the suicide bomber, the veil, and the video camera.
One of the most consistently disheartening experiences an adult can have today is to listen to the endless attempts by our intellectuals and intelligence professionals to explain religious terrorism in clinical terms, assigning rational motives to men who have moved irrevocably beyond reason. We suffer under layers of intellectual asymmetries that hinder us from an intuitive recognition of our enemies. Our rear-guard rationalists range from those convinced that every security problem has a technological solution, if only it can be found, to those who insist that members of al Qaeda and its affiliates are motivated by finite, comprehensible, and logical ambitions that, if satisfied, would make our problems disappear.
Living in unprecedented safety within our borders and lacking firsthand knowledge of the decay beyond, honorable men and women have convinced themselves that Osama bin Laden's professed goals of driving the United States from the Middle East and removing corrupt regional governments are what global terror is all about. They gloss over his ambition of reestablishing the caliphate and his calls for the destruction of Israel as rhetorical effects--when they address them at all. Yet, Islamist fanatics are more deeply committed to their maximalist goals than to their lesser ones--and their unspoken ambitions soar beyond logic's realm. Religious terrorists are committed to an apocalypse they sense within striking distance. Their longing for union with god is inseparable from their impulse toward annihilation. They seek their god in carnage, and will go on slaughtering until he appears to pat them on the back.
A dangerous asymmetry exists in the type of minds working the problem of Islamist terrorism in our government and society. On average, the "experts" to whom we are conditioned to listen have a secular mentality (even if they go to church or synagogue from habit). And it is a very rare secular mind that can comprehend religious passion--it's like asking a blind man to describe the colors of fire. One suspects that our own fiercest believers are best equipped to penetrate the mentality--the souls--of our Islamist enemies, although those believers may not be as articulate as the secular intellectuals who anxiously dismiss all possibilities that lie outside their theoretical constructs.
Those who feel no vital faith cannot comprehend faith's power. A man or woman who has never been intoxicated by belief will default to mirror-imaging when asked to describe terror's roots. He who has never experienced a soul-shaking glimpse of the divine inevitably explains religion-driven suicide bombers in terms of a lack of economic opportunity or social humiliation. But the enemies we face are burning with belief, on fire with their vision of an immanent, angry god. Our intelligentsia is less equipped to understand such men than our satellites are to find them.
All of our technologies and comforting theories are confounded by the strength of the soul ablaze with faith. Our struggle with Islamist terror (other religious terrors may haunt our descendants) has almost nothing to do with our actions in the Middle East. It's about a failing civilization's embrace of a furious god.
We are not (yet) at war with Islam, but the extreme believers within Islam are convinced that they are soldiers in a religious war against us. Despite their rhetoric, they are the crusaders. Even our conceptions of the struggle are asymmetrical. Despite the horrors we have witnessed, we have yet to take religious terrorists seriously on their own self-evident terms. We invaded a succession of their tormented countries, but haven't come close to penetrating their souls. The hermetic universe of the Islamist terrorist is immune to our reality (if not to our bullets), but our intellectuals appear equally incapable of accepting the religious extremist's reality.
We have no tools of persuasion effective against a millenarian belief. What logic can we wield against the soul fortified by faith and barricaded beyond argument? Even if we understood every nuance of our enemy's culture, the suicide bomber's intense faith and the terror chieftain's visions have burned through native cultural restraints. We are told, rather smugly, that the Koran forbids suicide. But our enemies are not concerned with how we read their faith. Religions are living things, and ultra-extremists are improvising a new and savage cult within Islam--even as they proclaim their return to a purified faith.
Security-wise, we have placed our faith in things, in bright (and expensive) material objects. But the counterrevolution in military affairs is based on the brilliant intuition that our military can be sidestepped often enough to challenge its potency. Certainly, we inflict casualties on our enemies--and gain real advantages from doing so--but we not only face an enemy who, as observed above, views death as a promotion, but also one who believes he has won even when he loses. If the suicide bomber completes his mission, he has won. But even if he is killed or dies short of his target, he has conquered a place in paradise. Which well-intentioned information operation of ours can compete with the conviction that a martyr's death leads to eternal joy?
Again, our intelligentsia falls woefully short. The most secularized element of our society--educated to avoid faith (or, at the very least, to shun enthusiastic, vigorous, proud, and public faith)--our professional thinkers have lost any sense of a literal paradise beyond the grave. But our enemies enjoy a faith as vivid as did our ancestors, for whom devils lurked in the undergrowth and paradise was an idealized representation of that which mortals knew. We are taught that we should never underestimate our enemies--yet, we underestimate the power of his faith, his most potent weapon.
Nor should we assume that Islamist extremists will remain the only god-haunted terrorists attacking established orders. This century may prove to be one of multi-sided struggles over the interpretation of god's will, between believers and unbelievers, between the varieties of the faithful, between monotheists and polytheists, between master faiths and secessionist movements, between the hollow worshippers of science and those swollen with the ecstasy of belief.
Naturally, we view the cardinal struggle as between the West and extremists within the Islamic world; yet, the bloodiest religious warfare of the coming decades may be between Sunni and Shia Muslims, or between African Muslims and the new, sub-Saharan Church Militant. Hindu extremists gnaw inward from the epidermis of Indian society, while even Buddhist monks have engaged in organized violence in favor of their ostensibly peaceable faith. In a bewildering world where every traditional society is under assault from the forces of global change, only religion seems to provide a reliable refuge. And each god seems increasingly a jealous god.
Faith is the great strategic factor that unbelieving faculties and bureaucracies ignore. It may be the crucial issue of this century. And we cannot even speak about it honestly. Give me a warrior drunk with faith, and I will show you a weapon beyond the dreams of any laboratory. Our guided bombs may kill individual terrorists, but the terrorist knows that our weapons can't kill his god.
Even in preparing for "big wars," we refuse to take the enemy into account. Increasingly, our military is designed for breathtaking sprints, yet a war with China--were one forced upon us by events--would be a miserable, long march. For all the rhetoric expended and the innumerable wargames played, the best metaphor for a serious struggle with Beijing--perhaps of Homeric length--comes from that inexhaustible little book, Joseph Conrad's novella Heart of Darkness, with its pathetic image of a Western gunboat lobbing shells uselessly into a continent.
Given the comprehensive commitment and devastation required to defeat strategically and structurally weaker enemies such as Japan and Germany, how dare we pretend that we could drive China to sue for peace by fighting a well-mannered war with a small military whose shallow stocks of ammunition would be drained swiftly and could not be replaced in meaningful quantities? Would we try Shock and Awe, Part II, over Beijing, hoping to convince China's leaders to surrender at the sight of our special effects? Or would our quantitative incompetence soon force us onto the defensive?
We must be realistic about the military requirements of a war with China, but we also need to grasp that, for such an enemy, the military sphere would be only one field of warfare--and not the decisive one. What would it take to create an atmosphere of defeat in a sprawling nation of over one billion people? A ruthless economic blockade, on the seas, in the air, and on land, would be an essential component of any serious war plan, but the Chinese capability for sheer endurance might surprise us. Could we win against China without inflicting extensive devastation on Chinese cities? Would even that be enough? Without mirror-imaging again, can we identify any incentive China's leaders would have to surrender?
The Chinese version of the counterrevolution in military affairs puts less stress on a head-to-head military confrontation (although that matters, of course) and more on defeating the nation behind our military. Despite the importance Beijing attaches to a strong military, China won't fall into the trap that snared the Soviets--the attempt to compete with our military expenditures. Why fight battles you'll lose, when you can wage war directly against the American population by attacking its digital and physical infrastructure, its confidence and morale? In a war of mutual suffering, which population would be better equipped, practically and psychologically, to endure massive power outages, food-chain disruptions, the obliteration of databases, and even epidemic disease?
Plenty of Americans are tougher than we're credited with being, but what about the now-decisive intelligentsia? What about those conditioned to levels of comfort unimaginable to the generation that fought World War II (or even Vietnam)? Would 21st-century suburban Americans accept rationing without protests? Whenever I encounter Chinese abroad I am astonished by their chauvinism. Their confidence is reminiscent of Americans' a half century ago. Should we pretend that Chinese opinion-makers, such as they are, would feel inclined to attack their government as our journalists attack Washington? A war with China would be a massive contest of wills, and China might need to break the will of only a tiny fraction of our population. It only takes a few hundred men and women in Washington to decide that a war is lost.
As for our military technologies, how, exactly, would an F/A-22 destroy the Chinese will to endure and prevail? How would it counteract a hostile media? If we should worry about any strategic differences with China, they are the greater simplicity and robustness of China's less developed (hence, less fragile) infrastructure, and a greater will to win in Beijing. No matter how well our military might perform, sufficient pain inflicted on the American people could lead a weak national leadership to a capitulation thinly disguised as a compromise. Addicted to trade with China, many in America's business community would push for a rapid end to any conflict, no matter the cost to our nation as a whole. (When Chinese fighters forced down a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft on Hainan Island several years ago, American-business lobbyists rushed to Capitol Hill to plead for patience with China--they had no interest in our aircrew or our national good.)
The Chinese know they cannot defeat our military. So they intend to circumvent it, as surely as Islamist terrorists seek to do, if in more complex ways. For example, China's navy cannot guarantee its merchant vessels access to sea lanes in the Indian Ocean--routes that carry the oil on which modern China runs. So Beijing is working to build a web of formal and informal client relationships in the region that would deny the U.S. Navy port facilities, challenge the United States in global and regional forums, and secure alternate routes and sources of supply. China's next great strategic initiative is going to be an attempt to woo India, the region's key power, away from a closer relationship with the United States. Beijing may fail, but its strategists are thinking in terms of the out-years, while our horizon barely reaches from one Quadrennial Defense Review to the next.
Even in Latin America, China labors to develop capabilities to frustrate American purposes, weaken hemispheric ties, and divert our strategic resources during a Sino-American crisis. We dream of knock-out blows, while Beijing prepares the death of a thousand cuts. The Chinese are the ultimate heirs of B.H. Liddell Hart and his indirect approach: They would have difficulty conquering Taiwan militarily, but believe they could push us into an asymmetrical defeat through economic, diplomatic, and media campaigns in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and Latin America--while crippling the lifestyle of America's citizens.
It's become another clich? to observe how much of our manufacturing capability has moved to China while we tolerate, at our own business community's behest, Beijing's cynical undervaluation of its currency. If you don't think this matters, try to go a single week without buying or using a product made in China. A conflict with Beijing might be lost on the empty shelves of Wal-Mart. Indeed, Beijing's most effective international allies are American corporations. In the Second World War we famously converted our consumer industries into producers of wartime materiel. Will a future president find himself trapped by our defense industry's inability to produce consumer goods in wartime?
A war with China would be a total war, waged in spheres where our military is legally forbidden to engage, from data banks to shopping malls. How many readers of this magazine have participated in a wargame that addressed crippling consumer shortages as a conflict with China dragged on for years? Instead, we obsess about the fate of a pair of aircraft carriers. For that matter, how about a scenario that realistically portrayed the global media as siding overwhelmingly with China? The metastasizing power of the media is a true strategic revolution of our time--one to which our narrow revolution in military affairs has no reply.
Oh, by the way: Could we win a war with China without killing hundreds of millions of Chinese?
Many of us have struggled to grasp the unreasonable, even fanatical anti-Americanism in the global media--including the hostility in many news outlets and entertainment forums here at home. How can educated men and women, whether they speak Arabic, Spanish, French, or English, condemn America's every move, while glossing over the abuses of dictators and the savagery of terrorists? Why is America blamed even when American involvement is minimal or even nonexistent? How has the most beneficial great power in history been transformed by the international media into a villain of relentless malevolence?
There's a straightforward answer: In their secular way, the world's media elites are as unable to accept the reality confronting them as are Islamist fundamentalists. They hate the world in which they are forced to live, and America has shaped that world.
It isn't that the American-wrought world is so very bad for the global intelligentsia: The freedom they exploit to condemn the United States has been won, preserved, and expanded by American sacrifices and America's example. The problem is that they wanted a different world, the utopia promised by socialist and Marxist theorists, an impossible heaven on earth that captured their imagination as surely as visions of paradise enrapture suicide bombers.
The global media may skew secular, but that doesn't protect them against alternative forms of faith. Europeans, for example, have discarded a belief in God as beneath their sophistication--yet they still need a Satan to explain their own failures, just as their ancestors required devils to explain why the milk soured or the herd sickened. Today, America has replaced the horned, cloven-footed Lucifer of Europe's past; behind their smug assumption of superiority, contemporary Europeans are as superstitious and irrational as any of their ancestors: They simply believe in other demons.
One of the most perverse aspects of anti-Americanism in the global media and among the international intelligentsia is that it's presented as a progressive, liberal movement, when it's bitterly reactionary, a spiteful, elitist revolt against the empowerment of the common man and woman (the core ethos of the United States). Despite their outward differences, intellectuals are the logical allies of Islamist extremists--who are equally opposed to social progress and mass freedom. Of course, the terrorists have the comfort of religious faith, while the global intelligentsia, faced with the death of Marxism and the triumph of capitalism, has only its rage.
Human beings are hard-wired for faith. Deprived of a god, they seek an alternative creed. For a time, nationalism, socialism, Marxism, and a number of other-isms appeared to have a chance of working--as long as secular intellectuals rejected the evidence of Stalin's crimes or Mao's savagery (much as they overlook the brutalities of Islamist terrorists today). The intellectuals who staff the global media experienced the American-made destruction of their secular belief systems, slowly during the Cold War, then jarringly from 1989 to 1991. The experience has been as disorienting and infuriating to them as if we had proved to Muslim fanatics that their god does not exist.
America's triumph shames the Middle East and Europe alike, and has long dented the pride of Latin America. But the brotherhood of Islamist terrorists and the tribe of global intellectuals who dominate the media are the two groups who feel the most fury toward America. The terrorists dream of a paradise beyond the grave; intellectuals fantasized about utopias on earth. Neither can stomach the practical success of the American way of life, with its insistence on individual performance and its resistance to unearned privilege. For the Islamists, America's power threatens the promises of their faith. For world-intellectuals, America is the murderer of their most precious fantasies.
Is it any wonder that these two superficially different groups have drifted into collusion?
The suicide bomber may be the weapon of genius of our time, but the crucial new strategic factor is the rise of a global information culture that pretends to reflect reality, but in fact creates it. Iraq is only the most flagrant example of the disconnect between empirical reality and the redesigned, politically inflected alternative reality delivered by the media. This phenomenon matters far more than the profiteers of the revolution in military affairs can accept--the global information sphere is now a decisive battleground. Image and idea are as powerful as the finest military technologies.
We have reached the point (as evidenced by the first battle of Falluja) where the global media can overturn the verdict of the battlefield. We will not be defeated by suicide bombers in Iraq, but a chance remains that the international media may defeat us. Engaged with enemies to our front, we try to ignore the enemies at our back--enemies at whom we cannot return fire. Indeed, if anything must be profoundly reevaluated, it's our handling of the media in wartime. We have no obligation to open our accounts to proven enemies, yet we allow ourselves to be paralyzed by platitudes.
This doesn't mean that all of the media are evil or dishonest. It means we need to have the common sense and courage to discriminate between media outlets that attempt to report fairly (and don't compromise wartime secrets) and those whose track records demonstrate their hostility to our national purposes or their outright support for terrorists.
We got it right in World War II, but today we cannot count on patriotism among journalists, let alone their acceptance of censorship boards. Our own reporters pretend to be "citizens of the world" with "higher loyalties," and many view patriotism as decidedly down-market. Obsessed with defending their privileges, they refuse to accept that they also have responsibilities as citizens. But after journalistic irresponsibility kills a sufficient number of Americans, reality will force us to question the media's claim that "the public has a right to know" every secret our government holds in wartime.
The media may constitute the decisive element in the global counterrevolution in military affairs, and the video camera--that insatiable accomplice of the terrorist--the cheap negation of our military technology. (And beware the growing capability of digital technology to create American "atrocities" from scratch.) We are proud of our ability to put steel precisely on target anywhere in the world, but guided bombs don't work against faith or an unchallenged flood of lies. We have fallen in love with wind-up dolls and forgotten the preeminence of the soul.
We need to break the mental chains that bind us to a technology-?ber-alles dream of warfare--a fantasy as absurd and dated as the Marxist dreams of Europe's intellectuals. Certainly, military technologies have their place and can provide our troops with useful tools. But technologies are not paramount. In warfare, flesh and blood are still the supreme currency. And strength of will remains the ultimate weapon. Welcome to the counterrevolution.
Ralph Peters, a retired Army officer, is the author of 21 books, including New Glory: Expanding America's Global Supremacy and the forthcoming Never Quit the Fight.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WW3
on: April 21, 2006, 06:51:57 PM
The New Republic Online
A CHILD OF THE REVOLUTION TAKES OVER.
by Matthias K?ntzel
Post date: 04.14.06
Issue date: 04.24.06
During the Iran-Iraq War, the Ayatollah Khomeini imported 500,000 small
plastic keys from Taiwan. The trinkets were meant to be inspirational. After Iraq invaded in September 1980, it had quickly become clear that Iran's forces were no match for Saddam Hussein's professional, well-armed military. To compensate for their disadvantage, Khomeini sent Iranian children, some as young as twelve years old, to the front lines. There, they marched in formation across minefields toward the enemy, clearing a path with their bodies. Before every mission, one of the Taiwanese keys would be hung around each child's neck. It was supposed to open the gates to paradise for them.
At one point, however, the earthly gore became a matter of concern. "In the
past," wrote the semi-official Iranian daily Ettelaat as the war raged on,
"we had child-volunteers: 14-, 15-, and 16-year-olds. They went into the
minefields. Their eyes saw nothing. Their ears heard nothing. And then, a
few moments later, one saw clouds of dust. When the dust had settled again,
there was nothing more to be seen of them. Somewhere, widely scattered in
the landscape, there lay scraps of burnt flesh and pieces of bone." Such
scenes would henceforth be avoided, Ettelaat assured its readers. "Before
entering the minefields, the children [now] wrap themselves in blankets and
they roll on the ground, so that their body parts stay together after the
explosion of the mines and one can carry them to the graves."
These children who rolled to their deaths were part of the Basiji, a mass
movement created by Khomeini in 1979 and militarized after the war started
in order to supplement his beleaguered army.The Basij Mostazafan--or
"mobilization of the oppressed"--was essentially a volunteer militia, most
of whose members were not yet 18. They went enthusiastically, and by the
thousands, to their own destruction. "The young men cleared the mines with
their own bodies," one veteran of the Iran-Iraq War recalled in 2002 to the
German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine. "It was sometimes like a race. Even
without the commander's orders, everyone wanted to be first."
The sacrifice of the Basiji was ghastly. And yet, today, it is a source not
of national shame, but of growing pride. Since the end of hostilities
against Iraq in 1988, the Basiji have grown both in numbers and influence.
They have been deployed, above all, as a vice squad to enforce religious law
in Iran, and their elite "special units" have been used as shock troops
against anti-government forces. In both 1999 and 2003, for instance, the
Basiji were used to suppress student unrest. And, last year, they formed the
potent core of the political base that propelled Mahmoud Ahmadinejad--a man
who reportedly served as a Basij instructor during the Iran-Iraq War--to the
Ahmadinejad revels in his alliance with the Basiji. He regularly appears in
public wearing a black-and-white Basij scarf, and, in his speeches, he
routinely praises "Basij culture" and "Basij power," with which he says
"Iran today makes its presence felt on the international and diplomatic
stage." Ahmadinejad's ascendance on the shoulders of the Basiji means that
the Iranian Revolution, launched almost three decades ago, has entered a new
and disturbing phase. A younger generation of Iranians, whose worldviews
were forged in the atrocities of the Iran-Iraq War, have come to power,
wielding a more fervently ideological approach to politics than their
predecessors. The children of the Revolution are now its leaders.
In 1980, the Ayatollah Khomeini called the Iraqi invasion of Iran a "divine
blessing," because the war provided him the perfect opportunity to Islamize
both Iranian society and the institutions of the Iranian state. As Saddam's
troops pushed into Iran, Khomeini's fanatically devoted Revolutionary Guard
moved rapidly to mobilize and prepare their air and sea forces. At the same
time, the regime hastened to develop the Basiji as a popular militia.
Whereas the Revolutionary Guard consisted of professionally trained adult
soldiers, the Basiji was essentially composed of boys between twelve and 17
and men over 45. Photo by Reuters/NewscomThey received only a few weeks of
training--less in weapons and tactics than in theology. Most Basiji came
from the countryside and were often illiterate. When their training was
done, each Basiji received a blood-red headband that designated him a
volunteer for martyrdom. According to Sepehr Zabih's The Iranian Military in
Revolution and War, such volunteers made up nearly one-third of the Iranian
army--and the majority of its infantry.
The chief combat tactic employed by the Basiji was the human wave attack,
whereby barely armed children and teenagers would move continuously toward
the enemy in perfectly straight rows. It did not matter whether they fell to
enemy fire or detonated the mines with their bodies: The important thing was
that the Basiji continue to move forward over the torn and mutilated remains
of their fallen comrades, going to their deaths in wave after wave. Once a
path to the Iraqi forces had been opened up, Iranian commanders would send
in their more valuable and skilled Revolutionary Guard troops.
This approach produced some undeniable successes. "They come toward our
positions in huge hordes with their fists swinging," one Iraqi officer
complained in the summer of 1982. "You can shoot down the first wave and
then the second. But at some point the corpses are piling up in front of
you, and all you want to do is scream and throw away your weapon. Those are
human beings, after all!" By the spring of 1983, some 450,000 Basiji had
been sent to the front. After three months, those who survived deployment
were sent back to their schools or workplaces.
But three months was a long time on the front lines. In 1982, during the
retaking of the city of Khorramshahr, 10,000 Iranians died. Following
"Operation Kheiber," in February 1984, the corpses of some 20,000 fallen
Iranians were left on the battlefield. The "Karbala Four" offensive in 1986
cost the lives of more than 10,000 Iranians. All told, some 100,000 men and
boys are said to have been killed during Basiji operations. Why did the
Basiji volunteer for such duty?
Most of them were recruited by members of the Revolutionary Guards, which
commanded the Basiji. These "special educators" would visit schools and
handpick their martyrs from the paramilitary exercises in which all Iranian
youth were required to participate. Propaganda films--like the 1986 TV film
A Contribution to the War--praised this alliance between students and the
regime and undermined those parents who tried to save their children's
lives. (At the time, Iranian law allowed children to serve even if their
families objected.) Some parents, however, were lured by incentives. In a
campaign called "Sacrifice a Child for the Imam," every family that lost a
child on the battlefield was offered interest-free credit and other generous
benefits. Moreover, enrollment in the Basiji gave the poorest of the poor a
chance for social advancement.
Still others were coerced into "volunteering." In 1982, the German weekly
Der Spiegel documented the story of a twelve-year-old boy named Hossein, who
enlisted with the Basiji despite having polio:
One day, some unknown imams turned up in the village. They called the
whole population to the plaza in front of the police station, and they
announced that they came with good news from Imam Khomeini: The Islamic Army
of Iran had been chosen to liberate the holy city Al Quds--Jerusalem--from
the infidels. ... The local mullah had decided that every family with
children would have to furnish one soldier of God. Because Hossein was the
most easily expendable for his family, and because, in light of his illness,
he could in any case not expect much happiness in this life, he was chosen
by his father to represent the family in the struggle against the infidel
Of the 20 children that went into battle with Hossein, only he and two
But, if such methods explained some of why they volunteered, it did not
explain the fervor with which they rushed to their destruction. That can
only be elucidated by the Iranian Revolution's peculiar brand of Islam.
At the beginning of the war, Iran's ruling mullahs did not send human beings
into the minefields, but rather animals: donkeys, horses, and dogs. But the
tactic proved useless: Photo by Gamma Presse/Newscom"After a few donkeys had
been blown up, the rest ran off in terror," Mostafa Arki reports in his book
Eight Years of War in the Middle East. The donkeys reacted normally--fear of
death is natural. The Basiji, on the other hand, marched fearlessly and
without complaint to their deaths. The curious slogans that they chanted
while entering the battlefields are of note: "Against the Yazid of our
time!"; "Hussein's caravan is moving on!"; "A new Karbala awaits us!"
Yazid, Hussein, Karbala--these are all references to the founding myth of
Shia Islam. In the late seventh century, Islam was split between those loyal
to the Caliph Yazid--the predecessors of Sunni Islam--and the founders of
Shia Islam, who thought that the Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet
Muhammad, should govern the Muslims. In 680, Hussein led an uprising against
the "illegitimate" caliph, but he was betrayed. On the plain of Karbala, on
the tenth day of the month of Muharram, Yazid's forces attacked Hussein and
his entourage and killed them. Hussein's corpse bore the marks of 33 lance
punctures and 34 blows of the sword.
His head was cut off and his body was trampled by horses. Ever since, the
martyrdom of Hussein has formed the core of Shia theology, and the Ashura
Festival that commemorates his death is Shiism's holiest day. On that day,
men beat themselves with their fists or flagellate themselves with iron
chains to approximate Hussein's sufferings. At times throughout the
centuries, the ritual has grown obscenely violent. In his study Crowds and
Power, Elias Canetti recounts a firsthand report of the Ashura Festival as
it occurred in mid-nineteenth-century Tehran:
500,000 people, in the grip of delirium, cover their heads with ashes
and beat their foreheads against the ground. They want to subject themselves
voluntarily to torments: to commit suicide en masse, to mutilate themselves
with refinement. ... Hundreds of men in white shirts come by, their faces
ecstatically raised toward the sky. Of these, several will be dead this
evening, many will be maimed and mutilated, and the white shirts, dyed red,
will be burial shrouds. ... There is no more beautiful destiny than to die
on the Festival of Ashura. The gates of the eight Paradises are wide open
for the holy and everyone tries to get through them.
Bloody excesses of this sort are prohibited in contemporary Iran, but,
during the Iran-Iraq War, Khomeini appropriated the essence of the ritual as
a symbolic act and politicized it. He took the inward-directed fervor and
channeled it toward the external enemy. He transformed the passive
lamentation into active protest. He made the Battle of Karbala the prototype
of any fight against tyranny. Indeed, this technique had been used during
political demonstrations in 1978, when many Iranian protestors wore funeral
shrouds in order to tie the battle of 680 to the contemporary struggle
against the shah. In the war against Iraq, the allusions to Karbala were
given still greater significance: On the one hand, the scoundrel Yazid, now
in the form of Saddam Hussein; on the other, the Prophet's grandson,
Hussein, for whose suffering the time of Shia revenge had finally come.
The power of this story was further reinforced by a theological twist that
Khomeini gave it. According to Khomeini, life is worthless and death is the
beginning of genuine existence. "The natural world," he explained in October
1980, "is the lowest element, the scum of creation. "What is decisive is the
beyond: The "divine world, that is eternal." This latter world is accessible
to martyrs. Their death is no death, but merely the transition from this
world to the world beyond, where they will live on eternally and in
splendor. Whether the warrior wins the battle or loses it and dies a
Martyr--in both cases, his victory is assured: either a mundane or a
This attitude had a fatal implication for the Basiji: Whether they survived
or not was irrelevant. Not even the tactical utility of their sacrifice
mattered. Military victories are secondary, Khomeini explained in September
1980.The Basiji must "understand that he is a 'soldier of God' for whom it
is not so much the outcome of the conflict as the mere participation in it
that provides fulfillment and gratification." Could Khomeini's antipathy for
life have had as much effect in the war against Iraq without the Karbala
myth? Probably not.With the word "Karbala" on their lips, the Basiji went
elatedly into battle.
For those whose courage still waned in the face of death, the regime put on
a show. A mysterious horseman on a magnificent steed would suddenly appear
on the front lines. His face--covered in phosphorous--would shine. His
costume was that of a medieval prince. A child soldier, Reza Behrouzi, whose
story was documented in 1985 by French writer Freidoune Sehabjam, reported
that the soldiers reacted with a mixture of panic and rapture.
Everyone wanted to run toward the horseman. But he drove them away.
"Don't come to me!" he shouted, "Charge into battle against the infidels!
... Revenge the death of our Imam Hussein and strike down the progeny of
Yazid!" As the figure disappears, the soldiers cry: "Oh, Imam Zaman, where
are you?" They throw themselves on their knees, and pray and wail. When the
figure appears again, they get to their feet as a single man. Those whose
forces are not yet exhausted charge the enemy lines.
The mysterious apparition who was able to trigger such emotions is the
"hidden imam," a mythical figure who influences the thought and action of
Ahmadinejad to this day. The Shia call all the male descendants of the
Prophet Muhammad "imams" and ascribe to them a quasidivine status. Hussein,
who was killed at Karbala by Yazid, was the third Imam. His son and grandson
were the fourth and fifth. At the end of this line, there is the "Twelfth
Imam," who is named Muhammad. Some call him the Mahdi (the "divinely guided
one"), though others say imam Zaman (from sahib-e zaman: "the ruler of
time"). He was born in 869, the only son of the eleventh Imam. In 874, he
disappeared without a trace, thereby bringing Muhammad's lineage to a close.
In Shia mythology, however, the Twelfth Imam survived. The Shia believe that
he merely withdrew from public view when he was five and that he will sooner
or later emerge from his "occultation" in order to liberate the world from
Writing in the early '80s, V. S. Naipaul showed how deeply rooted the belief
in the coming of the Shia messiah is among the Iranian population. In Among
the Believers: An Islamic Journey, he described seeing posters in
post-Revolutionary Tehran bearing motifs similar to those of Maoist China:
crowds, for instance, with rifles and machine guns raised in the air as if
in greeting. The posters always bore the same phrase: twelfth imam, we are
waiting for you. Naipaul writes that he could grasp intellectually the
veneration for Khomeini. "But the idea of the revolution as something more,
as an offering to the Twelfth Imam, the man who had vanished ... and
remained 'in occultation,' was harder to seize." According to Shia
tradition, legitimate Islamic rule can only be established following the
reappearance of the Twelfth Imam. Until that time, the Shia have only to
wait, to keep their peace with illegitimate rule, and to remember the
Prophet's grandson, Hussein, in sorrow. Khomeini, however, had no intention
of waiting. He vested the myth with an entirely new sense: The Twelfth Imam
will only emerge when the believers have vanquished evil. To speed up the
Mahdi's return, Muslims had to shake off their torpor and fight.
This activism had more in common with the revolutionary ideas of Egypt's
Muslim Brotherhood than with Shia traditions. Khomeini had been familiar
with the texts of the Muslim Brothers since the 1930s, and he agreed with
the Brothers' conception of what had to be considered "evil": namely, all
the achievements of modernity that replaced divine providence with
individual self-determination, blind faith with doubt, and the stern
morality of sharia with sensual pleasures. According to legend, Yazid was
the embodiment of everything that was forbidden: He drank wine, enjoyed
music and song, and played with dogs and monkeys. And was not Saddam just
the same? In the war against Iraq, "evil" was clearly defined, and
vanquishing evil was the precondition for hastening the return of the
beloved Twelfth Imam. When he let himself be seen for a few minutes riding
his white steed, the readiness to die a martyr's death increased
It was this culture that nurtured Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's worldview. Born
outside Tehran in 1956, the son of blacksmith, he trained as a civil
engineer, and, during the Iran-Iraq War, he joined the Revolutionary Guards.
His biography remains strangely elliptical. Did he play a role in the 1979
takeover of the U.S. Embassy, as some charge? What exactly did he do during
the war? These are questions for which we have no definite answers. His
presidential website says simply that he was "on active service as a Basij
volunteer up to the end of the holy defense [the war against Iraq] and
served as a combat engineer in different spheres of duty."
We do know that, after the war's end, he served as the governor of Ardebil
Province and as an organizer of Ansar-e Hezbollah, a radical gang of violent
Islamic vigilantes. After becoming mayor of Tehran in April 2003,
Ahmadinejad used his position to build up a strong network of radical
Islamic fundamentalists known as Abadgaran-e Iran-e Islami, or Developers of
an Islamic Iran. It was in that role that he won his reputation--and
popularity--as a hardliner devoted to rolling back the liberal reforms of
then-President Muhammad Khatami. Ahmadinejad positioned himself as the
leader of a "second revolution" to eradicate corruption and Western
influences from Iranian society. And the Basiji, whose numbers had grown
dramatically since the end of the Iran-Iraq War, embraced him. Recruited
from the more conservative and impoverished parts of the population, the
Basiji fall under the direction of--and swear absolute loyalty to--the
Supreme Leader Ali Khameini, Khomeini's successor. During Ahmadinejad's run
for the presidency in 2005, the millions of Basiji--in every Iranian town,
neighborhood, and mosque--became his unofficial campaign workers.
Since Ahmadinejad became president, the influence of the Basiji has grown.
In November, the new Iranian president opened the annual "Basiji Week,"
which commemorates the martyrs of the Iran-Iraq War. According to a report
in Kayan, a publication loyal to Khameini, some nine million Basiji--12
percent of the Iranian population--turned out to demonstrate in favor of
Ahmadinejad's anti-liberal platform. The article claimed that the
demonstrators "form[ed] a human chain some 8,700 kilometers long. ... In
Tehran alone, some 1,250,000 people turned out." Barely noticed by the
Western media, this mobilization attests to Ahmadinejad's determination to
impose his "second revolution" and to extinguish the few sparks of freedom
At the end of July 2005, the Basij movement announced plans to increase its
membership from ten million to 15 million by 2010. The elite special units
are supposed to comprise some 150,000 people by then. Accordingly, the
Basiji have received new powers in their function as an unofficial division
of the police. What this means in practice became clear in February 2006,
when the Basiji attacked the leader of the bus-drivers' union, Massoud
Osanlou. They held Osanlou prisoner in his apartment, and they cut off the
tip of his tongue in order to convince him to keep quiet. No Basiji needs to
fear prosecution for such terrorists tactics before a court of law.
As Basij ideology and influence enjoy a renaissance under Ahmadinejad, the
movement's belief in the virtues of violent self-sacrifice remains intact.
There is no "truth commission" in Iran to investigate the state-planned
collective suicide that took place from 1980 to 1988. Instead, every Iranian
is taught the virtues of martyrdom from childhood. Obviously, many of them
reject the Basij teachings. Still, everyone knows the name of Hossein
Fahmideh, who, as a 13-year-old boy during the war, blew himself up in front
of an Iraqi tank. His image follows Iranians throughout their day: whether
on postage stamps or the currency. If you hold up a 500 Rial bill to the
light, it is his face you will see in the watermark. The self-destruction of
Fahmideh is depicted as a model of profound faith by the Iranian press. It
has been the subject of both an animated film and an episode of the TV
series "Children of Paradise." As a symbol of their readiness to die for the
Revolution, Basij groups wear white funeral shrouds over their uniforms
during public appearances.
During this year's Ashura Festival, school classes were taken on excursions
to a "Martyrs' Cemetery." "They wear headbands painted with the name
Hussein," The New York Times reported, "and march beneath banners that read:
'Remembering the Martyrs today is as important as becoming a Martyr' and
'The Nation for whom Martyrdom means happiness, will always be Victorious.'
" Since 2004, the mobilization of Iranians for suicide brigades has
intensified, with recruits being trained for foreign missions. Thus, a
special military unit has been created bearing the name "Commando of
Voluntary Martyrs. "According to its own statistics, this force has so far
recruited some 52,000 Iranians to the suicidal cause. It aims to form a
"martyrdom unit" in every Iranian province.
The Basiji's cult of self-destruction would be chilling in any country. In
the context of the Iranian nuclear program, however, its obsession with
martyrdom amounts to a lit fuse. Nowadays, Basiji are sent not into the
desert, but rather into the laboratory. Basij students are encouraged to
enroll in technical and scientific disciplines. According to a spokesperson
for the Revolutionary Guard, the aim is to use the "technical factor" in
order to augment "national security."
What exactly does that mean? Consider that, in December 2001, former Iranian
President Hashemi Rafsanjani explained that "the use of even one nuclear
bomb inside Israel will destroy everything." On the other hand, if Israel
responded with its own nuclear weapons, it "will only harm the Islamic
world. It is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality." Rafsanjani
thus spelled out a macabre cost-benefit analysis. It might not be possible
to destroy Israel without suffering retaliation. But, for Islam, the level
of damage Israel could inflict is bearable--only 100,000 or so additional
martyrs for Islam.
And Rafsanjani is a member of the moderate, pragmatic wing of the Iranian
Revolution; he believes that any conflict ought to have a "worthwhile"
outcome. Ahmadinejad, by contrast, is predisposed toward apocalyptic
thinking. In one of his first TV interviews after being elected president,
he enthused: "Is there an art that is more beautiful, more divine, more
eternal than the art of the martyr's death?" In September 2005, he concluded
his first speech before the United Nations by imploring God to bring about
the return of the Twelfth Imam. He finances a research institute in Tehran
whose sole purpose is to study, and, if possible, accelerate the coming of
the imam. And, at a theology conference in November 2005, he stressed, "The
most important task of our Revolution is to prepare the way for the return
of the Twelfth Imam."
A politics pursued in alliance with a supernatural force is necessarily
unpredictable.Why should an Iranian president engage in pragmatic politics
when his assumption is that, in three or four years, the savior will appear?
If the messiah is coming, why compromise? That is why, up to now,
Ahmadinejad has pursued confrontational policies with evident pleasure.
The history of the Basiji shows that we must expect monstrosities from the
current Iranian regime. Already, what began in the early '80s with the
clearing of minefields by human detonators has spread throughout the Middle East, as suicide bombing has become the terrorist tactic of choice. The motivational shows in the desert--with hired actors in the role of the
hidden imam--have evolved into a showdown between a zealous Iranian
president and the Western world. And the Basiji who once upon a time
wandered the desert armed only with a walking stick is today working as a
chemist in a uranium enrichment facility.
Matthias K?ntzel is a political scientist in Hamburg, Germany, and author of Djihad und Judenhass (or Jihad and Jew-Hatred).
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Mexico
on: April 14, 2006, 04:40:54 PM
Mexican Military Incursions into U.S. Territory
The current debate in the United States over illegal immigration focuses on the flood of average Mexican and Central Americans who are crossing into the United States to find jobs. An under-reported problem along the U.S.-Mexican border, however, involves incursions by Mexican military personnel into U.S. territory. In some cases, shots have been fired and U.S. citizens threatened. It appears that no government agency on either side of the border has a handle on the motives for these incursions.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, suspected Mexican military units have crossed into the United States 216 times since 1996: 75 times in California, 63 in Arizona and 78 in Texas. U.S. patrols that do encounter Mexican military personnel (or anyone in uniform), however, are under strict orders not to fire, so as to avoid inciting a gunbattle -- and a possible international border incident. Lacking sufficient manpower and resources to patrol the entire border, groups such as the Border Sheriff's Association and Texas Border Sheriffs Coalition have frequently appealed to lawmakers for help.
Some of these incursions could be accidental -- the result of Mexican authorities chasing drug runners or human smugglers into U.S. territory. During a pursuit, the Mexicans could easily lose track of where they are going and wander too far north. In some parts of the border, the demarcation line between countries is extremely hard to distinguish, even for seasoned professionals. And during dry seasons in the Texas region of the border, the Rio Grande can become nothing more than a trickle, making it appear little more than a ditch. It is unlikely that all Mexican military patrols along the border operate with global positioning systems (GPS), so the occasional navigational mistake should not be surprising. In fact, stand-offs have occurred between Mexican military troops and U.S. Border Patrol agents, each one believing the other encroached on their side of the border.
Not all of these crossing could be innocent, however. Mexican military troops could be running drugs over the border themselves or providing logistics and protection for cartels. The Sheriff's Office in Hudspeth County, Texas, reported Jan. 23 that men dressed as members of the Mexican military provided cover for drug runners near the Rio Grande. And, on March 2, Hudspeth County Sheriff's deputies apprehended a Mexican customs officer with detailed maps of the area and a GPS tracking system in his vehicle. The officer was believed to have been performing reconnaissance for drug smuggling routes. This latest case only highlights the relative ease in which Mexican officials can cross into the United States.
It should be noted, however, that in smuggling operations, corrupt Mexican officials and soldiers more than likely have contacts on the U.S. side of the border, possibly in law enforcement agencies.
Paramilitary units along the Mexican border could also be partly responsible. Groups such as the Zetas, highly trained ex-military personnel who have formed a muscle-for-hire organization, have a working relationship with the cartels. These hired guns control large expanses of the Mexican border with enough firepower and training to challenge the Mexican military as well as U.S. Border Patrols. Dressed in combat fatigues, carrying military weapons and driving military-style vehicles, Zetas would be indistinguishable from active-duty soldiers. It also is possible that the Zetas have recruited moonlighting active-duty soldiers along with their equipment and vehicles, further adding to the confusion.
U.S. law enforcement along the border face the constant threat of confronting armed smugglers and drug traffickers. In some cases, they also must deal with U.S. citizens who have formed private vigilante groups, such as the Minutemen. The incursions by Mexican military personnel only add to the chaos.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Homeland Security
on: April 13, 2006, 04:49:54 AM
Framing the 'Sleeper Cell' Argument
April 11, 2006 23 00 GMT
By Fred Burton
The very phrase conjures up an image of evil plotters burrowing deep into the fabric of a society, hiding under deep cover until they are called upon to strike at an unsuspecting host. Because it is a "sexy" phrase that arouses deep emotions and commands attention, it is frequently used in the public sphere. In fact, it has so much currency that Showtime even created a dramatic series called "Sleeper Cell" -- and you knew people would watch it on the strength of its name alone. Psychologically, it is the word "sleeper" that arouses the greatest angst in the post-9/11 context -- the world by now has grown familiar with the concept of "terrorist cell," and that phrase no longer carries the emotional impact that the word "sleeper" does.
As a result, the term not only is used frequently, but also often is used incorrectly -- not only by reporters and academics, but even at times by senior officials with agencies like the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, in testimony before the U.S. Congress and in other public statements. The issue is not one of mere semantics; the overuse of the phrase "sleeper cell" tends to blur important distinctions and contribute to general confusion about the nature of the jihadist threat the United States is fighting. Precise language is needed both for clear-eyed analysis and more effective defense and counterterrorism efforts.
Defining a 'Sleeper'
In simple terms, a sleeper is an operative that is infiltrated into the society, or even into the government, of a targeted country -- there to remain dormant ("sleep") until being activated, perhaps by a prearranged signal or a certain chain of events.
The concept of a sleeper operative dates back to the Cold War. In that context, a sleeper would be an officer working with a foreign intelligence service -- which would exercise maximum care in infiltrating him into the target country, to avoid detection by counterintelligence and security forces. The operative could be tasked with carrying out acts of sabotage if war should break out between the country that deployed him and the target country, but barring that, his job was to do nothing but blend into society, until the time came to act. A sleeper differs from what the Soviets (and now the Russians) would refer to as an "illegal", or what the CIA calls a "NOC" (an officer under "non-official cover"), in that a sleeper is not to take immediate operational activity, but rather must remain dormant until activated.
There are great dangers in submerging a sleeper operative for long periods in a target society, so intelligence agencies are very particular about what kinds of people are selected for such assignments. Such operatives must be mentally prepared for the stress they will endure in infiltrating the country, as well as capable of enduring the monotony of being in place for years without engaging in operational acts and without betraying their true identity or purpose. Only highly disciplined people qualify for such assignments.
Moreover, extensive training in operational tradecraft is needed; any contact between the operative and deploying government is extremely risky for the mission, so a highly sophisticated command-and-control system is needed for communication. This requirement would be multiplied in the case of a sleeper cell, given the need to avoid rousing suspicions or linking members of a cell together.
In short, an operation involving a sleeper must be -- by definition -- a long-term, strategic project that may take years or even decades to reach fruition. Great vision, sophisticated planning and deep reservoirs of patience are required of the government or group that prepares and deploys such agents, which are assets to be held in reserve until a time of great need.
In the Cold War context, sleeper operatives were a fallback or redundant intelligence network that could be activated in a crisis situation -- for example, if both the primary intelligence network (consisting of diplomats) and the secondary network (NOCs or illegal intelligence officers) were rolled up, leaving the deploying government blind. Sleeper officers would be the safety net to ensure that the sponsoring agency could still gather intelligence about what was happening in the targeted country.
Al Qaeda and Covert Operatives
Given this definition, we are not aware of any jihadist organization -- including al Qaeda -- that has ever created and run a true sleeper operation or cell. Perhaps the most significant reason for this is that an organization with limited resources would find it difficult to afford an operative who sits in place and does nothing.
As the 9/11 attacks and other operations have made clear, al Qaeda and other jihadist groups certainly have used clandestine operatives in the past. However, it is important to note that simply because an operative is hidden does not mean he is a sleeper.
Consider the 9/11 operatives as an example. The men were divided into two groups -- the pilots and those who might be termed the "muscle hijackers," who wielded box cutters while the al Qaeda pilots took control in the cockpit. Some in the media have equated the pilots with sleeper operatives because they began to arrive in the United States in early 2000, long before their planned attack, but this would be a misnomer. After arriving, these men quickly engaged in operational activities, such as attending English classes and enrolling in flight schools. The 9/11 pilots clearly were sent to the United States with a mission, which they began pursuing shortly after arriving. The same holds true for the muscle hijackers, who began arriving in the country by July 2001. Rather than trying to embed themselves in American society, they remained more or less aloof; they kept to themselves, lifted weights and waited for the green light from an operational commander -- in this case, Mohammed Atta -- to execute their mission.
One of the key aspects to consider in any discussion of al Qaeda -- and one that often is overlooked -- is that al Qaeda is a nonstate entity. That means not only that it is a network set up to carry out attacks, but also that it must sustain itself; it has nodes dedicated to fundraising, recruitment, and logistics and training activities. Examples of such nodes can be clearly seen in a historical review of al Qaeda's activities, and at times these can confuse the sleeper cell discourse.
In the mid-1990s, al Qaeda established a node in East Africa -- with headquarters in Nairobi -- that opened a charity called Help Africa People, as well as a gem-trading business, a fishing business and a branch of Osama bin Laden's Taba Investment Company. Alongside these non-terrorist activities, the Nairobi cell was busy with operational planning -- having surveilled the U.S. embassy in Nairobi as early as 1993. The group's planning activities (and its connection to al Qaeda) attracted so much attention that in August 1997, Kenyan and U.S. authorities visited the home of cell leader Wadih El-Hage, seized his computer and other evidence, and strongly suggested that he leave the country. Thus, even though the East Africa cell was present and active for several years before the 1998 attacks at the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, it could not correctly be categorized as a sleeper cell, given its open relationship with al Qaeda and recruiting and fundraising operations.
Grassroots Groups and Sleepers
Since 1979, thousands of Muslim men have fought jihad in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya and, most recently, Iraq. These men, along with others who have never been to jihad, have left their home countries or place of residence to attend training camps in places like Sudan, Pakistan and Afghanistan -- where they also were ideologically indoctrinated. During the jihad in Afghanistan and Bosnia, many of these men were recruited by Muslim "charities" associated with the Maktab al-Khidmat, or MAK -- known in English as the Afghan Services Bureau -- and many even had their travel expenses paid in whole or in part by these charities. These men eventually returned to their home countries but retained their paramilitary skills, their radical mindsets and their relationships with the men with whom they had fought and trained.
Al Qaeda and other jihadist groups have used such networks to their advantage. When Abdel Basit (perhaps more widely known as Ramzi Yousef) arrived in the United States in September 1992, he was able to use contacts at Brooklyn's Alkifah Refugee Center -- which was one of the U.S. branches of the MAK -- to quickly cobble together a team that helped him plan and execute the first World Trade Center bombing. In that case, Basit was not a sleeper because he came to the United States with a mission in mind and quickly got to work on it. Nor would the others arrested in connection with that case fit the definition of sleeper operatives; though they were living in the United States and were, to some degree, embedded in society, they were not deployed for that purpose by al Qaeda but rather came to the country of their own accord. Mahmoud Abouhalima, Mohammed Salameh and their colleagues were what might be termed "grassroots" operatives who were organized by an operational commander (Basit), who was dispatched to the United States from "the base" in Afghanistan.
The grassroots pattern has been used by al Qaeda far more often than the 9/11 model, in which all the operatives were sent into the United States from overseas.
As al Qaeda's evolution from an organization to a movement continues, the odds of another centrally planned, funded and executed attack like 9/11 will grow ever more remote. Instead, it is the combination of operational planners and grassroots cells that will continue to pose the most significant and most persistent threat. This is the model that was evident in the Madrid and London attacks. Grassroots cells lack the strategic reach and punch demonstrated by the 9/11 cell, but they will continue to pose a tactical threat in their areas of operation for the foreseeable future.
Again, it is critical to distinguish between grassroots militants or supporters of jihadist causes and sleeper operatives. If al Qaeda or any other transnational organization were to demonstrate the strategic reach and capabilities necessary for deploying true sleepers, there would be far-reaching implications for the war against terrorism -- ranging from U.S. counterintelligence policy all the way down to how immigration laws are written and enforced.
The Weight of the Evidence
Now, having said all of those things, it is quite interesting that Osama bin Laden, in the videotape issued in January 2006, implied that al Qaeda operatives are today present within the continental United States, and there have been media reports that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is in U.S. custody, discussed the existence of sleeper cells in the country. At the very least, it is logical to assume that the issue would have been near the top of the list of questions posed by interrogators during his debriefing.
Al Qaeda leaders of such high rank do command a certain amount of credibility, particularly when it comes to threatening and then carrying out specific attacks, and it would be foolish to dismiss their claims out of hand. But it also is important to note that they have strong incentives to spread disinformation, so as to confuse counterterrorism efforts in the United States and elsewhere. Moreover, it is difficult to know how al Qaeda itself defines concepts such as a "sleeper" -- and it is entirely possible that their definition differs from that used by state intelligence organizations.
Thus, while there is strong evidence that al Qaeda has contacts within the United States, the only answer to the question of whether it has sleeper agents in place is that we cannot know for sure. However, we tend to discount the possibility for several reasons.
For one thing, as previously discussed, the deployment of sleeper operatives is a strategic capability that takes a great deal of planning, coordination and training. And since 9/11, al Qaeda's strategic capabilities have been seriously degraded; the U.S.-led counteroffensive has denied the organization places to train, plan and operate, and has inflicted serious damage to its financial and communications networks. As a result, the operational tradecraft of al Qaeda field operatives has degraded to a level below that prior to the 9/11 attacks.
It follows, then, that even if al Qaeda possesses the strategic vision and patience necessary to embed sleeper operatives in the United States, the organization no longer would be capable of training the personnel or coordinating such an operation today. If there is a bona fide threat of al Qaeda sleepers in the United States, it would mean they were present in the country prior to 9/11.
Now, while the leadership of al Qaeda certainly has an attention span and takes a view of history longer than that of many Americans, there is evidence that it also has a relatively short planning cycle. History has shown that key planners and operatives frequently were engaged with more than one operation at a time. In other words, it is not sufficient to use successful al Qaeda attacks to extrapolate a planning cycle; this model does not take into account failed or foiled attempts, such as the shoe bomber plot and other planned spectaculars, that also were being implemented during the same time frame. When one also factors in the large number of senior al Qaeda planners who have been captured or killed since 9/11, it is clear that the organization is under enormous pressure.
The question, then, is this: How much longer could al Qaeda wait before activating any sleeper cells it might have? Logic would argue that any sleeper operatives still out in the cold either must be getting exceedingly nervous at this point or they do not exist. If they do exist, the ability to remain hidden so long after 9/11 implies that they possess a degree of professionalism on par with that of the KGB -- and far exceeding anything exhibited by al Qaeda operatives to date.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Zacarias Moussaoui is guilty!
on: April 13, 2006, 04:37:45 AM
Whom did he kill? He was an accessory to murder-- that's why he is facing the death penalty.
At Trial, Flight 93 Myth Finally Becomes Reality
By Jerry Markon and Timothy Dwyer
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, April 13, 2006; A01
It began with a muted series of thumps from a sharp knife or maybe clenched fists. The sounds were muffled but unmistakable, one body blow after another, ending with a squishy thud.
"No, no, no, no, no. No," came the high-pitched voice of a crew member or flight attendant being subdued. " . . . Please, please don't hurt me," the person said later. " . . . I don't want to die." The desperate plea, captured by the cockpit voice recorder of United Airlines Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001, was played to a transfixed jury yesterday at the death penalty trial of Zacarias Moussaoui.
A foreign-accented voice, increasingly agitated, screamed: "Down. Down. Down!" as the whacking sound continued. Then there was silence. "That's it. Go back," a hijacker said calmly. "Everything is fine. I finished."
And with that, Flight 93 from Newark banked left toward Washington. But the terrorists would not strike their target that day because they were beaten -- as the voice recorder made clear -- by the passengers, who fought back. The 32-minute tape recounts an epic struggle as passengers surged forward to retake the plane using whatever low-tech weapons they could find.
"Let's get them!" one passenger yelled as dishes crashed to the floor. "In the cockpit. If we don't we'll die," screamed another amid more thumping and crashing and breaking of glass.
Yesterday, the myth of Flight 93 became real. The 33 passengers and seven crew members have been lionized in book and film for their struggle to retake the doomed jet, one of four planes hijacked during the deadliest terrorist strike in U.S. history. Until now, the recording that documented their courage had been played only for federal investigators and a limited number of relatives of those aboard.
But in court, Americans were taken inside a hijacking drama that saw in a space of time shorter than the average Washington commute terrorists seize a cockpit by brutal force, repulse an initial attack by passengers and then crash a jetliner in a Pennsylvania field as their captives, throwing plates or anything else at their disposal, thwarted their plans.
Much of the tape is unintelligible. There was loud static, and the voices, some speaking English and others Arabic, were often inaudible. It cannot be determined whether the passengers entered the cockpit, although it is certain they came close and forced the hijackers to abandon their attack on Washington.
The recording made clear that a group of men and women, who knew the World Trade Center had been attacked, recognized that this was no conventional hijacking -- these terrorists were crashing planes into buildings -- and resolved to take control of their fate.
"There is absolutely no doubt that through their heroic actions still more carnage and catastrophe was prevented," said Richard Ben-Veniste, a member of the independent commission that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks. The commission concluded that the passengers of Flight 93 stopped an attack that was aimed at Washington, most likely the Capitol or White House.
The hijackers, as shown on a computer simulation played on monitors throughout the courtroom, jerked the plane violently to the left and right during the struggle. They tried to cut off the oxygen as passengers banged on the cockpit door. In the end, as the passengers were either in the cockpit or moments from entering it, the hijackers turned the plane upside down -- and crashed it.
"Allah is the greatest!" one screamed nine times as the plane went down. The recording then went dead. The courtroom was silent.
The trial seemed an afterthought yesterday amid the drama of the recording. Prosecutors rested their case for the execution of Moussaoui, the only person convicted in the United States in connection with the attacks on the trade center and the Pentagon. The defense will now begin its case, and Moussaoui is expected to take the stand again as early as today.
In the trial's first phase, Moussaoui testified that he had planned to hijack a fifth plane and crash it into the White House on Sept. 11 with a crew that included shoe bomber Richard Reid. The jury found Moussaoui eligible for the death penalty and will decide whether he should be executed or spend his life in prison. Reid could testify before the jury gets the case.
D. Hamilton Peterson of Bethesda, president of Families of Flight 93, said the public airing of the recording should put to rest any lingering questions about what happened aboard the Boeing 757. "The paramount issue was, Did the passengers and crew thwart the plane from its intended target? And that question has clearly been answered," said Peterson, whose father, Donald A. Peterson, and stepmother, Jean H. Peterson, died on the plane. "Whether or not they were actually into the cockpit or tearing the door off the hinges at the time it was scuttled is something history will have to answer."
Prosecutors played the voice recorder tape as part of their effort to show the jury the extensive damage caused by Sept. 11 and the suffering and loss of the victims. More than 35 survivors and family members testified in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, including Lorne Lyles, whose wife, CeeCee, was a flight attendant on Flight 93. He brought several jurors to the brink of tears with his testimony yesterday about his wife's two calls from the plane.
The first time the phone rang, Lyles, a Fort Myers, Fla., police officer who had worked the overnight shift, rolled over and went back to sleep. He did speak to his wife briefly when she called again. But only a week later did he hear the message she had left on his voice mail.
"Hi, baby," CeeCee Lyles said in the call, a tape of which was played in court yesterday. "Baby, you have to listen to me very carefully. I'm on a plane that's been hijacked. . . . I'm trying to be calm."
Saying she knew that planes had crashed into the World Trade Center, Lyles tried to keep her composure, but her voice broke as she ended the call. "I hope to be able to see your face again, baby," she said. "I love you, baby."
Lyles said he has been in and out of counseling for the past five years. "I'm just now being able to appreciate a full night's sleep," he testified. "They say closure, but there's never any closure. It takes a piece of you."
Moussaoui looked bored, as he did when the cockpit voice recorder was played. Jurors leaned forward in their seats.
A large screen showed the path of Flight 93 and instrument readings of speed and altitude as Ziad Jarrah, believed to be the hijacking team's pilot, started the recording by announcing: "Ladies and gentlemen: Here the captain, please sit down keep remaining sitting. We have a bomb on board. So sit."
It was nearly 9:32 a.m., four minutes after investigators say the four hijackers started their attack. The plane had taken off from Newark Liberty International Airport, bound for San Francisco, at 8:42 a.m.
The sounds of a struggle in the cockpit were immediately heard, but it was unclear whether the pleading voice was male or female. The Sept. 11 commission concluded that a flight attendant, most likely a woman, struggled with hijackers in the cockpit and was killed or otherwise silenced. Hijackers on the four planes were armed with small knives and box cutters.
When the plane turned around and started heading south through Pennsylvania, there were several minutes of silence. At 9:43 a.m., it started descending rapidly, leveled off, then descended again. The first sign of a struggle came at 9:57 a.m., when a hijacker said: "Is there something? A fight?"
Passengers, who had made cellphone calls and learned of the earlier trade center attack, then rushed the cockpit. "They want to get in there. Hold, hold from the inside," a hijacker said.
"Shall we finish it off?" one hijacker asked.
"No, not yet," responded another. "When they all come, we finish it off."
Within seconds, there was bedlam -- the sounds of a violent, almost animalistic struggle. People yelled and objects crashed, which Sept. 11 commissioners say was probably the passengers hurling objects at the cockpit door or ramming it with a beverage cart.
"Down, down. Pull it down, pull it down," a hijacker said just before his colleague praised Allah and crashed the plane.
In the background, a single voice could be heard screaming "No!"
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Evolutionary Biology and Psychology
on: April 13, 2006, 03:32:40 AM
Elizabeth Gould Photography by Reynard Li
Elizabeth Gould overturned one of the central tenets of neuroscience. Now she?s building on her discovery to show that poverty and stress may not just be symptoms of society, but bound to our anatomy.
Professor Elizabeth Gould has a picture of a marmoset on her computer screen. Marmosets are a new world monkey, and Gould has a large colony living just down the hall. Although her primate population is barely three years old, Gould is clearly smitten, showing off these photographs like a proud parent. Marmosets are the ideal experimental animal: a primate brain trapped inside the body of a rat. They recognize themselves in the mirror, form elaborate dominance hierarchies and raise their young cooperatively. If you can look past their rodent-like stature and punkish pompadour, marmosets can seem disconcertingly human.
In her laboratory at Princeton University?s Department of Psychology, Gould is determined to create a marmoset environment that takes full advantage of their innate intelligence. She doesn?t believe in metal cages. ?We are housing our marmosets in large, enriched enclosures,? she says, ?and with a variety of objects to support foraging. These are social animals, and it?s important to let them be social. Basically, we want to bring our experimental conditions closer to the wild.?
But Gould is not a primatologist. She doesn?t give her marmosets adorable names, or spend time cuddling with their young. In fact, these marmosets don?t even know she exists: Gould prefers to observe them remotely, on a little video screen. Staring at the televised frenzy of this little marmoset world, it is poignant to know how their lives will end. Their brains will be cut into thousands of transparent slices. Their dissected neurons will be stained neon green and the density of their dendritic connections will be quantified under a powerful microscope. They will live on as data.
The naturalistic habitat that Gould has created for these marmosets is essential to her studies, which involve understanding how the environment affects the brain. Eight years after Gould defied the entrenched dogma of her science and proved that the primate brain is always creating new neurons, she has gone on to demonstrate an even more startling fact: The structure of our brain, from the details of our dendrites to the density of our hippocampus, is incredibly influenced by our surroundings. Put a primate under stressful conditions, and its brain begins to starve. It stops creating new cells. The cells it already has retreat inwards. The mind is disfigured.
The social implications of this research are staggering. If boring environments, stressful noises, and the primate?s particular slot in the dominance hierarchy all shape the architecture of the brain?and Gould?s team has shown that they do?then the playing field isn?t level. Poverty and stress aren?t just an idea: they are an anatomy. Some brains never even have a chance.
Viewed through the magnified eyes of a confocal microscope, a newborn neuron looks fragile, almost lonely. Everything around it is connected to everything else, but the new cell is all alone, just a seed of soma and a thin stalk of axon desperately trying to plug itself into the network. If it doesn?t, it will die. Staring at this tenuous neuron, it is hard to believe that so much depends upon its presence.
Dr. Gould insists on being called Liz. She wears faded jeans to work and ties back her long dark hair in a loose braid. She smiles easily, and intersperses discussions of marmoset families with stories about her own children. Gould doesn?t talk about her research in listless sentences full of acronyms. Instead, she takes you through the experimental process, confessing all the difficulties and ambiguities along the way.
Gould?s casual air conceals a necessary tenaciousness: It is not easy to shift a paradigm. Four days after giving birth to her third child, Gould was back at work, lecturing to a room full of undergraduates. She has always worked long hours, and expects nothing less of her employees. (Saturdays in the Gould lab are indistinguishable from Mondays.) And even though her research has set off a frenzy of activity?neurogenesis is now one of the hottest topics in neuroscience?Gould has managed to remain at the cutting edge of the field she helped to
For such a high-profile scientist, Gould?s lab at Princeton is surprisingly small. Lavishly outfitted (she has her own $400,000 confocal microscope and large marmoset colony) the lab consists of just two post-docs and two grad students. They are a close knit group, and work on overlapping problems. ?When I first began at Princeton,? Gould says, ?I had tunnel vision. I was just so determined to answer my critics and prove that adult neurogenesis was real. But now I?m finally able to think about neurogenesis in a broader context. We are free to figure out what all these new cells actually do.?
To understand how neurogenesis?the process of creating new brain cells? works, Gould?s lab studies the effect of two separate variables: stress and enriched environments. Chronic stress, predictably enough, decreases neurogenesis. As Christian Mirescu, one of Gould?s post-docs, put it, ?When a brain is worried, it?s just thinking about survival. It isn?t interested in investing in new cells for the future.?
On the other hand, enriched animal environments?enclosures that simulate the complexity of a natural habitat?lead to dramatic increases in both neurogenesis and the density of neuronal dendrites, the branches that connect one neuron to another. Complex surroundings create a complex brain.
Gould?s field is a new one. Only a decade ago, the idea that the primate brain is constantly creating new neurons, and that these new neurons are not only functional but responsive to changes in the environment, was unimaginable. Indeed, the fact that neurogenesis did not exist was one of modern neuroscience's founding principles. This theory, first articulated by Santiago Ram?n y Cajal at the start of the 20th century, held that brain cells?unlike every other cell in our body?don?t divide. They don?t die, and they are never reborn. We emerge from the womb with the only brain we will ever have.
The most convincing modern defender of this theory was Pasko Rakic, the chairman of Yale University?s neurobiology department and among the most respected neuroscientists of his generation. In the early 1980s, Rakic realized that neurogenesis had never been properly tested in primates. He set out to investigate. Rakic studied 12 rhesus monkeys, injecting them with radioactively-labeled thymidine which allowed him to trace the development of neurons in the brain. Rakic then killed the monkeys at various stages after the injection of the thymidine, and searched for any signs of new neurons. There were none.
?All neurons of the rhesus monkey brain are generated during pre-natal and early post-natal life,? Rakic wrote in his 1985 paper, ?Limits of Neurogenesis in Primates.? ?Not a single? new neuron ?was observed in the brain of any adult animal.? While Rakic admitted that his proof was limited, he persuasively defended the dogma. He even went so far as to construct a plausible evolutionary theory as to why neurons can?t divide: Rakic imagined that at some point in our distant past, primates had traded the ability to give birth to new neurons for the ability to retain plasticity in our old neurons. According to Rakic, the ?social and cognitive? behavior of primates required the absence of neurogenesis. His paper, with its thorough demonstration of what everyone already believed, seemed like the final word on the matter. No one bothered to verify his findings.
The genius of the scientific method, however, is that it accepts no permanent solution. Skepticism is its solvent, for every theory is imperfect. Scientific facts are meaningful precisely because they are ephemeral, because a new observation, a more honest observation, can always alter them. This is what happened to Rakic?s theory of the fixed brain. It was, to use Karl Popper?s verb, falsified.
The subject of stress has been the single continuous thread running through Gould?s research career. From the brain?s perspective, stress is primarily signaled by an increase in the bloodstream of a class of steroid called glucocorticoids, which put the body on a heightened state of alert. But glucocorticoids can have one nasty side-effect: They are toxic for the brain. When stress becomes chronic, neurons stop investing in themselves. Neurogenesis ceases. Dendrites disappear. The hippocampus, a part of the brain essential for learning and memory, begins withering away.
Gould?s insight was that understanding how stress damages the brain could illuminate the general mechanisms?especially neurogenesis?by which the brain is affected by its environ-mental conditions. For the last several years, she and her post-doc, Mirescu, have been depriving newborn rats of their mother for either 15 minutes or three hours a day. For an infant rat, there is nothing more stressful. Earlier studies had shown that even after these rats become adults, the effects of their developmental deprivation linger: They never learn how to deal with stress. ?Normal rats can turn off their glucocorticoid system relatively quickly,? Mirescu says. ?They can recover from the stress response. But these deprived rats can?t do that. It?s as if they are missing the ?off? switch.?
Gould and Mirescu?s disruption led to a dramatic decrease in neurogenesis in their rats? adult brains. The temporary trauma of childhood lingered on as a permanent reduction in the number of new cells in the hippocampus. The rat might have forgotten its pain, but its brain never did. ?This is a potentially very important topic,? Gould says. ?When you look at all these different stress disorders, such as PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder], what you realize is that some people are more vulnerable. They are at increased risk. This might be one of the reasons why.?
Subsequent experiments have teased out a host of other ways stress can damage the developing brain. For example, if a pregnant rhesus monkey is forced to endure stressful conditions?like being startled by a blaring horn for 10 minutes a day?her children are born with reduced neurogenesis, even if they never actually experience stress once born. This pre-natal trauma, just like trauma endured in infancy, has life-long implications. The offspring of monkeys stressed during pregnancy have smaller hippocampi, suffer from elevated levels of glucocorticoids and display all the classical symptoms of anxiety. Being low in a dominance hierarchy also suppresses neurogenesis. So does living in a bare environment. As a general rule of thumb, a rough life?especially a rough start to life?strongly correlates with lower levels of fresh cells.
Gould?s research inevitably conjures up comparisons to societal problems. And while Gould, like all rigorous bench scientists, prefers to focus on the strictly scientific aspects of her data?she is wary of having it twisted for political purposes?she is also acutely aware of the potential implications of her research.
?Poverty is stress,? she says, with more than a little passion in her voice. ?One thing that always strikes me is that when you ask Americans why the poor are poor, they always say it?s because they don?t work hard enough, or don?t want to do better. They act like poverty is a character issue.?
Gould?s work implies that the symptoms of poverty are not simply states of mind; they actually warp the mind. Because neurons are designed to reflect their circumstances, not to rise above them, the monotonous stress of living in a slum literally limits the brain.
In 1989, Gould was a young post-doc working in the lab of Bruce McEwen at Rockefeller University, investigating the effect of stress hormones on rat brains. Chronic stress is devastating to neurons, and Gould?s research focused on the death of cells in the hippocampus. (Rakic?s declaration that there was no such thing as neurogenesis was still entrenched dogma.) While the idea was exciting?stress research was a booming field?the manual labor was brutal. She had to kill her rats at various time points, pluck the tiny brain out of its cranial encasing, cut through the rubbery cortex, slice the hippocampus thinner than a piece of paper, and painstakingly count the dying neurons under a microscope. But while Gould was documenting the brain?s degeneration, she happened upon something inexplicable: evidence that the brain also healed itself. ?At first, I assumed I must be counting [the neurons] incorrectly,? Gould said. ?There were just too many cells.?
Confused by this anomaly, Gould assumed she was making some simple experimental mistake. She went to the library, hoping to figure out what she was doing wrong. But then, looking through a dusty, 27-year-old science journal buried in the Rockefeller stacks?this was before the Internet?Gould found the explanation she needed, though not the one she was looking for.
Beginning in 1962, a researcher at MIT named Joseph Altman published several papers claiming that adult rats, cats, and guinea pigs all formed new neurons. Although Altman used the same technique that Rakic would later use in monkey brains?the injection of radioactive thymidine?his results were at first ridiculed, then ignored, and soon forgotten.
As a result, the field of neurogenesis vanished before it began. It would be another decade before Michael Kaplan, at the University of New Mexico, would use an electron microscope to image neurons giving birth. Kaplan discovered new neurons everywhere in the mammalian brain, including the cortex. Yet even with this visual evidence, science remained stubbornly devoted to its doctrine. Kaplan remembers Rakic telling him that ?Those [cells] may look like neurons in New Mexico, but they don?t in New Haven.? Faced with this debilitating criticism, Kaplan, like Altman before him, abandoned the field of neurogenesis.
The Connecticut Mental Health Center is a drab brick building a mile from the Yale campus. After passing through a metal detector and walking by a few armed guards, a visitor enters a working mental institution. The cramped halls are an uneasy mixture of scientists, social workers and confined patients. The lights are bright and sterile.
Ronald Duman, a professor of Psychiatry and Pharmacology at Yale, has a lab on the third floor, opposite a ward for the mentally ill. His lab is isolated from the rest of the building by a set of locked doors. There is the usual clutter of solutions (most of them just salt buffers), the haphazard stacks of science papers and the soothing hum of refrigerators set well below zero. It is here, in these rooms with a view of New Haven, that Duman is trying to completely change the science of depression and antidepressants.
For the last 40 years, medical science has operated on the understanding that depression is caused by a lack of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in just about everything the mind does, thinks or feels. The theory is appealingly simple: sadness is simply a shortage of chemical happiness. The typical antidepressant?like Prozac or Zoloft?works by increasing the brain?s access to serotonin. If depression is a hunger for neurotransmitter, then these little pills fill us up.
Unfortunately, the serotonergic hypothesis is mostly wrong. After all, within hours of swallowing an antidepressant, the brain is flushed with excess serotonin. Yet nothing happens; the patient is no less depressed. Weeks pass drearily by. Finally, after a month or two of this agony, the torpor begins to lift.
But why the delay? If depression is simply a lack of serotonin, shouldn?t the effect of antidepressants be immediate? The paradox of the Prozac lag has been the guiding question of Dr. Ronald Duman?s career. Duman likes to talk with his feet propped up on his desk. He speaks with the quiet confidence of someone whose ideas once seemed far-fetched but are finally being confirmed.
?Even as a graduate student,? Duman says, ?I was fascinated by how antidepressants work. I always thought that if I can just figure out their mechanism of action?and identify why there is this time-delay in their effect?then I will have had a productive career.?
When Duman began studying the molecular basis of antidepressants back in the early 90s, the first thing he realized was that the serotonin hypothesis made no sense. A competing theory, which was supposed to explain the Prozaz lag, was that antidepressants increase the number of serotonin receptors. However, that theory was also disproved. ?It quickly became clear that serotonin wasn?t the whole story,? Duman says. ?Our working hypothesis at the time just wasn?t right.?
But if missing serotonin isn?t the underlying cause of depression, then how do antidepressants work? As millions will attest, Prozac does do something. Duman?s insight, which he began to test gradually, was that a range of antidepressants trigger a molecular pathway that has little, if anything, to do with serotonin. Instead, this chemical cascade leads to an increase in the production of a class of proteins known as trophic factors. Trophic factors make neurons grow. What water and sun do for trees, trophic factors do for brain cells. Depression was like an extended drought: It deprived neurons of the sustenance they need.
Duman?s discovery of a link between trophic factors and antidepressant treatments still left the essential question unanswered: What was causing depressed brains to stop producing trophins? Why was the brain hurting itself? It was at this point that Duman?s research intersected the work of Robert Sapolsky and Bruce McEwen (Gould?s advisor at Rockefeller), who were both studying the effects of stress on the mammalian brain. In an influential set of studies, Sapolsky and McEwen had shown that prolonged bouts of stress were devastating to neurons, especially in the hippocampus. In one particularly poignant experiment, male vervet monkeys bullied by their more dominant peers suffered serious and structural brain damage. Furthermore, this neural wound seemed to be caused by a decrease in the same trophic factors that Duman had been studying. From the perspective of the brain, stress and depression produced eerily similar symptoms. They shared a destructive anatomy.
Just as Duman was beginning to see the biochemical connections between trophins, stress, and depression, Gould was starting to document neurogenesis in the hippocampus of the primate brain. Reading Altman?s and Kaplan?s papers, Gould had realized that her neuron-counting wasn?t erroneous: She was just witnessing an ignored fact. The anomaly had been suppressed. But the final piece of the puzzle came when Gould heard about the work of Fernando Nottebohm, who was, coincidentally, also at Rockefeller. Nottebohm, in a series of beautiful studies on birds, had showed that neurogenesis was essential to birdsong. To sing their complex melodies, male birds needed new brain cells. In fact, up to 1% of the neurons in the bird?s song center were created anew, every day.
Despite the elegance of Nottebohm?s data, his science was marginalized. Bird brains were seen as irrelevant to the mammalian brain. Avian neurogenesis was explained away as an exotic adaptation, a reflection of the fact that flight required a light cerebrum. In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, the philosopher Thomas Kuhn wrote about how pre-paradigm-shift science excludes its contradictions: ?Until the scientist has learned to see nature in a different way, the new fact is not quite a scientific fact at all.? Evidence of neurogenesis was excluded from the world of ?normal science.?
But Gould, motivated by the strangeness of her own observations, connected the dots. She realized that Altman, Kaplan and Nottebohm all had strong evidence for mammalian neurogenesis. Faced with this mass of ignored data, Gould began pursuing cell birth in the adult brain of rats.
She would spend the next eight years quantifying endless numbers of radioactive rat hippocampi. But the tedious manual labor paid off. Gould?s data would shift the paradigm. More than thirty years had passed since Altman first traced the ascent of new neurons in the adult brain, but neurogenesis had finally become a real science.
After her wearisome post-doc, during which her data was continually criticized, Gould was offered a job at Princeton. The very next year, in a series of landmark papers, Gould began documenting neurogenesis in primates, thus confronting Rakic?s data directly. She demonstrated that adult marmosets created new neurons in their brains, especially in the olfactory cortex and the hippocampus. The mind, far from being stagnant, is actually in a constant state of cellular upheaval. By 1999, even Rakic had admitted that neurogenesis is real. He published a paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that reported seeing new neurons in the hippocampus of macaques, an old world primate. The textbooks were rewritten. The brain, Elizabeth Gould had now firmly established, is always giving birth. The self is continually reinventing itself.
Gould?s finding has led, via work Duman has done that builds on it, to a rash of R&D to stimulate neurogenesis in the brain. Duman had an epiphany reading Gould?s papers. He realized that stress and depression didn?t simply kill cells, they might also prevent new cells from being born. ?I was reading these papers by
McEwen and Gould,? Duman says, ?and they were showing this relationship between stress and the adrenal hormones and neurogenesis. It just sort of all gradually came together.? Perhaps the time lag of antidepressants was simply the time it took for new cells to be created.
He immediately set to work to test this hypothesis. In December 2000, Duman?s lab published a paper in the Journal of Neuroscience demonstrating that antidepressants increased neurogenesis in the adult rat brain. In fact, the two most effective treatments they looked at?electroconvulsive therapy and fluoxetine, the chemical name for Prozac?increased neurogenesis in the hippocampus by 75% and 50%, respectively. Subsequent studies did this by increasing the exact same molecules, especially trophic factors, that are suppressed by stress.
Duman was surprised by his own data. Fluoxetine, after all, had been invented by accident. (It was originally studied as an antihistamine.) ?The idea that Prozac triggers all these different trophic factors that ultimately lead to increased neurogenesis is just totally serendipitous,? Duman says. ?Pure luck.?
But demonstrating a connection between antidepressants and increased neurogenesis was the easy part. It is much more difficult to prove that increased neurogenesis causes the relief provided by antidepressants, and is not just another of the drugs many side-effects. To answer this question, Duman partnered with the lab of Ren? Hen at Columbia.
The research team, led by post-doc Luca Santarelli, effectively erased neurogenesis with low doses of radiation. All other cellular processes remained intact. If the relief from depression was due to changes in serotonin, then halting neurogenesis with radiation should have had no effect.
But it did. Hen and Duman?s data was unambiguous. If there is no increase in neurogenesis, then antidepressants don?t work in rodents. They stay ?depressed.?
Duman and Hen?s work was greeted, as expected, by a howl of criticism. Mice aren?t people. The experiment was flawed. The radiation wasn?t specific enough. Robert Sapolsky, whose work on stress paved the way for much of Duman?s own research, is one of the most incisive skeptics. He argues that neurogenesis researchers have no plausible model for how decreased neurogenesis might cause the symptoms of depression. Why would having a handful fewer new cells in the hippocampus have such an effect? ?The more expertise someone has about the hippocampus,? Sapolsky wrote in a review in Biological Psychiatry, ?the less plausible they find this novel role.?
Duman himself is reluctant to discuss the clinical implications of his data. He imagines that neurogenesis in humans is just a single part of the antidepressant effect. ?It?s a long way from looking at mice in cages to talking about depression in humans. All of these connections are very exciting, but we still don?t understand what?s actually going on inside the brain. We don?t know what the function of all these new cells is, and we have no idea how they might relate, if they do, to the mechanism of action of antidepressants in humans.?
Nevertheless, Duman?s research is completely changing the way neuroscience imagines depression. Several major drug companies and a host of startups are now frantically trying to invent the next generation of antidepressants (a $12-billion-a-year business). Many expect these future drugs to selectively target the neurogenesis pathway. If these pills are successful, they will be definitive proof that antidepressants work by increasing neurogenesis. Depression is not simply the antagonist of happiness. Instead, despair might be caused by the loss of the brain?s essential plasticity. A person?s inability to change herself is what drags her down.
Scientists who pursue neurogenesis are audacious by definition?they have staked their career on a lark?and Dr. Jonas Fris?n is no exception. He is probably the only person in Stockholm who wears a cowboy hat. ?Super-exciting? is his favorite superlative. (He speaks English fluently, with a singsong Scandinavian accent.) Occasionally, Fris?n gives his science papers titles lifted from Bob Dylan songs, as in his 2003 paper ?Blood on the tracks: a simple twist of fate?? He thanks Dylan in the acknowledgments for ?inspiration.?
Fris?n has never known a brain that wasn?t filled with new cells. He became a neuroscientist after med school, just as neurogenesis was becoming a genuine fact. Although he is now a full professor in stem-cell research at the Karolinska Institute, the university in charge of administering the Nobel Prize for Medicine, Fris?n began his career as a doctor. When he started medical school, he assumed he would become a brain surgeon, or perhaps a psychiatrist. That, after all, was how you healed the brain back then: either with a scalpel or with words. The few drugs that worked on the mind?like antidepressants?performed their job mysteriously.
Fris?n has helped to change that. He has pursued the neurogenesis hypothesis into the realm of clinical medicine, and his rise has been astonishingly swift. In 1998, only three years after becoming a doctor, Fris?n was a tenured professor, in charge of a 15-person lab. He has a long list of influential papers to his name, published in frequently-cited journals like Cell and Nature.
Fris?n first leapt to the attention of the neuroscience community in 1999, when his lab announced that they had identified stem cells in the brain. Stem cells are the source of neurogenesis: It is their mitotic divisions that create new neurons.
Subsequent experiments in Fris?n?s lab have explored exactly how these neural stem cells are regulated. His ambition is to decipher the complicated and convoluted cascade of proteins that connect the feeling of stress to a decrease in neurogenesis. Only then, Fris?n says, ?will we be able to create drugs that selectively target neurogenesis. And that is what everybody wants to do. Just think of all the things you can heal.?
To achieve this, Fris?n has founded a biotech firm, NeuroNova, dedicated to pursuing drugs which stimulate neurogenesis. When it launched, neurogenesis remained a controversial concept; founding an entire company on its therapeutic promise seemed like an imprudent gamble. In Fris?n?s case, the gamble is paying off.
The first disease NeuroNova targeted for treatment was Parkinson?s Disease. Parkinson?s is caused by the death of dopamine-producing neurons, and doctors have repeatedly tried to compensate for this selective cell death by surgically transplanting embryonic brain tissue into patients? brains, often with disappointing results. Fris?n realized that the Parkinson?s brain was capable, at least in theory, of healing itself. Driven by this radical hypothesis, NeuroNova began screening thousands of potential compounds for their effect on neurogenesis. Perhaps increased neurogenesis might compensate for the rapid death of dopamine neurons.
The results so far have exceeded everyone?s expectations. In November 2005, NeuroNova announced that one of their leading drug candidates?clandestinely called sNN0031?restored normal bodily movement in rodent models of Parkinson?s. Rats that were barely able to walk had their symptoms erased after only five weeks of treatment. Furthermore, initial results suggest that the drug worked by rapidly increasing neurogenesis, thus restoring normal dopamine signaling in the rat brain. ?The results really are spectacular,? Fris?n says.
The next step is to begin testing in primate models of Parkinson?s, beginnig early this year. If the drug doesn?t produce toxic side effects?and that?s unlikely, since it is already approved as a human treatment for an unrelated condition?human clinical trials are expected to begin shortly thereafter.
Neurogenesis is an optimistic idea. Though Gould?s lab has thoroughly demonstrated the long-term consequences of deprivation and stress, the brain, like skin, can heal itself, as Gould is now beginning to document, finding hopeful antidotes to neurogenesis-inhibiting injuries. ?My hunch is that a lot of these abnormalities [caused by stress] can be fixed in adulthood,? she says. ?I think that there?s a lot of evidence for the resiliency of the brain.?
On a cellular level, the scars of stress can literally be healed by learning new things. Genia Kozorovitskiy, an effusive graduate student who began working with Gould as a Princeton undergrad, has studied the effects of various environments on their colony of marmosets. As predicted, putting marmosets in a plain cage?the kind typically used in science labs?led to plain-looking brains. The primates suffered from reduced neurogenesis and their neurons had fewer interconnections.
However, if these same marmosets were transferred to an enriched enclosure?complete with branches, hidden food, and a rotation of toys?their adult brains began to recover rapidly. In under four weeks, the brains of the deprived marmosets underwent radical renovations at the cellular level. Their neurons demonstrated significant increases in the density of their connections and amount of proteins in their synapses.
The realization that typical laboratory conditions are debilitating for animals has been one of the accidental discoveries of the neurogenesis field. Nottebohm, for example, only witnessed neurogenesis in birds because he studied them in their actual habitat. Had he kept his finches and canaries in metal cages, depriving them of their natural social context, he would never have observed such an abundance of new cells. The birds would have been too stressed to sing. As Nottebohm has said, ?Take nature away and all your insight is in a biological vacuum.?
Gould has also become concerned about the details of experimental design. She now stresses the importance, for both rodents and primates, of living in a naturalistic setting. An artificial cage creates artificial data.
(Precisely how artificial prior data from studies on brains of animals kept in un-naturalistic settings remains to be determined. Gould said that studying neurogenesis had led her to ?reflect much more on the question of experimental design. This really should be a concern for all neuroscientists.?)
The mind is like a muscle: it swells with exercise. Gould?s and Kozorovitskiy?s work reminds us not only how easy it is to hurt a brain, but how little it takes for that brain to heal. Give a primate just a few extra playthings, and its neurons are capable of escaping the downward cycle of stress.
When Gould first presented at the Society of Neuroscience?s annual meeting, there was no such thing as the field whose birth she was there to announce; she was filed away in the ?spinal cord rejuvenation? section. Today, she is almost frightened that her field has grown so big: ?I do get worried sometimes that neurogenesis has gotten overblown. The science of it still isn?t clear. But at the same time I understand why there is so much enthusiasm for the idea. It?s a new way of looking at a lot of old problems.?
Neurogenesis is a field that doubts itself. Because it has been scorned from the start, its proponents talk most emphatically about what they don?t know, about all the essential questions that remain unanswered. Their modesty is accurate: The purpose of all of our new cells remains obscure. No one knows how experiments done in rodents will relate to humans, or whether neurogenesis is just a small part of our mind?s essential plasticity.
Nevertheless, it is startling how much has been accomplished since Liz Gould, confused by her counting, went to the library in search of an answer. In 1989, no one would have dared to imagine that the environment we live in can profoundly influence the actual structure of our brain, or that childhood stress might have permanent neurological effects. No scientist could have guessed that Prozac modulates cellular division, or that a Swedish start-up would one day get a rodent brain to repair itself. If neurogenesis has taught us anything, it is that these extraordinary new facts aren?t simply answers to an old set of questions. The paradigm has shifted: what Gould and others are working on now is a whole new list of mysteries. And like the newborn neurons in our brain, these scientists are only beginning.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WW3
on: April 13, 2006, 01:17:34 AM
Facing Down Iran
Our lives depend on it.
Most Westerners read the map of the world like a Broadway marquee: north is top of the bill?America, Britain, Europe, Russia?and the rest dribbles away into a mass of supporting players punctuated by occasional Star Guests: India, China, Australia. Everyone else gets rounded up into groups: ?Africa,? ?Asia,? ?Latin America.?
But if you?re one of the down-page crowd, the center of the world is wherever you happen to be. Take Iran: it doesn?t fit into any of the groups. Indeed, it?s a buffer zone between most of the important ones: to the west, it borders the Arab world; to the northwest, it borders NATO (and, if Turkey ever passes its endless audition, the European Union); to the north, the former Soviet Union and the Russian Federation?s turbulent Caucasus; to the northeast, the Stans?the newly independent states of central Asia; to the east, the old British India, now bifurcated into a Muslim-Hindu nuclear standoff. And its southern shore sits on the central artery that feeds the global economy.
If you divide the world into geographical regions, then, Iran?s neither here nor there. But if you divide it ideologically, the mullahs are ideally positioned at the center of the various provinces of Islam?the Arabs, the Turks, the Stans, and the south Asians. Who better to unite the Muslim world under one inspiring, courageous leadership? If there?s going to be an Islamic superpower, Tehran would seem to be the obvious candidate.
That moment of ascendancy is now upon us. Or as the Daily Telegraph in London reported: ?Iran?s hardline spiritual leaders have issued an unprecedented new fatwa, or holy order, sanctioning the use of atomic weapons against its enemies.? Hmm. I?m not a professional mullah, so I can?t speak to the theological soundness of the argument, but it seems a religious school in the Holy City of Qom has ruled that ?the use of nuclear weapons may not constitute a problem, according to sharia.? Well, there?s a surprise. How do you solve a problem? Like, sharia! It?s the one-stop shop for justifying all your geopolitical objectives.
The bad cop/worse cop routine the mullahs and their hothead President Ahmadinejad are playing in this period of alleged negotiation over Iran?s nuclear program is the best indication of how all negotiations with Iran will go once they?re ready to fly. This is the nuclear version of the NRA bumper sticker: ?Guns Don?t Kill People. People Kill People.? Nukes don?t nuke nations. Nations nuke nations. When the Argentine junta seized British sovereign territory in the Falklands, the generals knew that the United Kingdom was a nuclear power, but they also knew that under no conceivable scenario would Her Majesty?s Government drop the big one on Buenos Aires. The Argie generals were able to assume decency on the part of the enemy, which is a useful thing to be able to do.
But in any contretemps with Iran the other party would be foolish to make a similar assumption. That will mean the contretemps will generally be resolved in Iran?s favor. In fact, if one were a Machiavellian mullah, the first thing one would do after acquiring nukes would be to hire some obvious loon like President Ahmaddamatree to front the program. He?s the equivalent of the yobbo in the English pub who says, ?Oy, mate, you lookin? at my bird?? You haven?t given her a glance, or him; you?re at the other end of the bar head down in the Daily Mirror, trying not to catch his eye. You don?t know whether he?s longing to nut you in the face or whether he just gets a kick out of terrifying you into thinking he wants to. But, either way, you just want to get out of the room in one piece. Kooks with nukes is one-way deterrence squared.
If Belgium becomes a nuclear power, the Dutch have no reason to believe it would be a factor in, say, negotiations over a joint highway project. But Iran?s nukes will be a factor in everything. If you think, for example, the European Union and others have been fairly craven over those Danish cartoons, imagine what they?d be like if a nuclear Tehran had demanded a formal apology, a suitable punishment for the newspaper, and blasphemy laws specifically outlawing representations of the Prophet. Iran with nukes will be a suicide bomber with a radioactive waist.
If we?d understood Iran back in 1979, we?d understand better the challenges we face today. Come to that, we might not even be facing them. But, with hindsight, what strikes you about the birth of the Islamic Republic is the near total lack of interest by analysts in that adjective: Islamic. Iran was only the second Islamist state, after Saudi Arabia?and, in selecting as their own qualifying adjective the family name, the House of Saud at least indicated a conventional sense of priorities, as the legions of Saudi princes whoring and gambling in the fleshpots of the West have demonstrated exhaustively. Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue?though, as the Royal Family has belatedly discovered vis-?-vis the Islamists, they?re somewhat overdrawn on that front. The difference in Iran is simple: with the mullahs, there are no London escort agencies on retainer to supply blondes only. When they say ?Islamic Republic,? they mean it. And refusing to take their words at face value has bedeviled Western strategists for three decades.
Twenty-seven years ago, because Islam didn?t fit into the old cold war template, analysts mostly discounted it. We looked at the map like that Broadway marquee: West and East, the old double act. As with most of the down-page turf, Iran?s significance lay in which half of the act she?d sign on with. To the Left, the shah was a high-profile example of an unsavory U.S. client propped up on traditional he-may-be-a-sonofabitch-but-he?s-our-sonofabitch grounds: in those heady days SAVAK, his secret police, were a household name among Western progressives, and insofar as they took the stern-faced man in the turban seriously, they assured themselves he was a kind of novelty front for the urbane Paris ?migr? socialists who accompanied him back to Tehran. To the realpolitik Right, the issue was Soviet containment: the shah may be our sonofabitch, but he?d outlived his usefulness, and a weak Iran could prove too tempting an invitation to Moscow to fulfill the oldest of czarist dreams?a warm-water port, not to mention control of the Straits of Hormuz. Very few of us considered the strategic implications of an Islamist victory on its own terms?the notion that Iran was checking the neither-of-the-above box and that that box would prove a far greater threat to the Freeish World than Communism.
But that was always Iran?s plan. In 1989, with the Warsaw Pact disintegrating before his eyes, poor beleaguered Mikhail Gorbachev received a helpful bit of advice from the cocky young upstart on the block: ?I strongly urge that in breaking down the walls of Marxist fantasies you do not fall into the prison of the West and the Great Satan,? Ayatollah Khomeini wrote to Moscow. ?I openly announce that the Islamic Republic of Iran, as the greatest and most powerful base of the Islamic world, can easily help fill up the ideological vacuum of your system.?
Today many people in the West don?t take that any more seriously than Gorbachev did. But it?s pretty much come to pass. As Communism retreated, radical Islam seeped into Africa and south Asia and the Balkans. Crazy guys holed up in Philippine jungles and the tri-border region of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay who?d have been ?Marxist fantasists? a generation or two back are now Islamists: it?s the ideology du jour. At the point of expiry of the Soviet Union in 1991, the peoples of the central Asian republics were for the most part unaware that Iran had even had an ?Islamic revolution?; 15 years on, following the proselytizing of thousands of mullahs dispatched to the region by a specially created Iranian government agency, the Stans? traditionally moderate and in many cases alcoholically lubricated form of Islam is yielding in all but the most remote areas to a fiercer form imported from the south. As the Pentagon has begun to notice, in Iraq Tehran has been quietly duplicating the strategy that delivered southern Lebanon into its control 20 years ago. The degeneration of Baby Assad?s supposedly ?secular? Baathist tyranny into full-blown client status and the replacement of Arafat?s depraved ?secular? kleptocrat terrorists by Hamas?s even more depraved Islamist terrorists can also be seen as symptoms of Iranification.
So as a geopolitical analyst the ayatollah is not to be disdained. Our failure to understand Iran in the seventies foreshadowed our failure to understand the broader struggle today. As clashes of civilizations go, this one?s between two extremes: on the one hand, a world that has everything it needs to wage decisive war?wealth, armies, industry, technology; on the other, a world that has nothing but pure ideology and plenty of believers. (Its sole resource, oil, would stay in the ground were it not for foreign technology, foreign manpower, and a Western fetishization of domestic environmental aesthetics.)
For this to be a mortal struggle, as the cold war was, the question is: Are they a credible enemy to us?
For a projection of the likely outcome, the question is: Are we a credible enemy to them?
Four years into the ?war on terror,? the Bush administration has begun promoting a new formulation: ?the long war.? Not a reassuring name. In a short war, put your money on tanks and bombs?our strengths. In a long war, the better bet is will and manpower?their strengths, and our great weakness. Even a loser can win when he?s up against a defeatist. A big chunk of Western civilization, consciously or otherwise, has given the impression that it?s dying to surrender to somebody, anybody. Reasonably enough, Islam figures: Hey, why not us? If you add to the advantages of will and manpower a nuclear capability, the odds shift dramatically.
What, after all, is the issue underpinning every little goofy incident in the news, from those Danish cartoons of Mohammed to recommendations for polygamy by official commissions in Canada to the banning of the English flag in English prisons because it?s an insensitive ?crusader? emblem to the introduction of gender-segregated swimming sessions in municipal pools in Puget Sound? In a word, sovereignty. There is no god but Allah, and thus there is no jurisdiction but Allah?s. Ayatollah Khomeini saw himself not as the leader of a geographical polity but as a leader of a communal one: Islam. Once those urbane socialist ?migr?s were either dead or on the plane back to Paris, Iran?s nominally ?temporal? government took the same view, too: its role is not merely to run national highway departments and education ministries but to advance the cause of Islam worldwide.
If you dust off the 1933 Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, Article One reads: ?The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: (a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.? Iran fails to meet qualification (d), and has never accepted it. The signature act of the new regime was not the usual post-coup bloodletting and summary execution of the shah?s mid-ranking officials but the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran by ?students? acting with Khomeini?s blessing. Diplomatic missions are recognized as the sovereign territory of that state, and the violation thereof is an act of war. No one in Washington has to fret that Fidel Castro will bomb the U.S. Interests Section in Havana. Even in the event of an actual war, the diplomatic staff of both countries would be allowed to depart.
Yet Iran seized protected persons on U.S. soil and held them prisoner for over a year?ostensibly because Washington was planning to restore the shah. But the shah died and the hostages remained. And, when the deal was eventually done and the hostages were released, the sovereign territory of the United States remained in the hands of the gangster regime. Granted that during the Carter administration the Soviets were gobbling up real estate from Afghanistan to Grenada, it?s significant that in this wretched era the only loss of actual U.S. territory was to the Islamists.
Yet Iran paid no price. They got away with it. For the purposes of comparison, in 1980, when the U.S. hostages in Tehran were in their sixth month of captivity, Iranians opposed to the mullahs seized the Islamic Republic?s embassy in London. After six days of negotiation, Her Majesty?s Government sent SAS commandos into the building and restored it to the control of the regime. In refusing to do the same with the ?students? occupying the U.S. embassy, the Islamic Republic was explicitly declaring that it was not as other states.
We expect multilateral human-rights Democrats to be unsatisfactory on assertive nationalism, but if they won?t even stand up for international law, what?s the point? Jimmy Carter should have demanded the same service as Tehran got from the British?the swift resolution of the situation by the host government?and, if none was forthcoming, Washington should have reversed the affront to international order quickly, decisively, and in a sufficiently punitive manner. At hinge moments of history, there are never good and bad options, only bad and much much worse. Our options today are significantly worse because we didn?t take the bad one back then.
With the fatwa against Salman Rushdie, a British subject, Tehran extended its contempt for sovereignty to claiming jurisdiction over the nationals of foreign states, passing sentence on them, and conscripting citizens of other countries to carry it out. Iran?s supreme leader instructed Muslims around the world to serve as executioners of the Islamic Republic?and they did, killing not Rushdie himself but his Japanese translator, and stabbing the Italian translator, and shooting the Italian publisher, and killing three dozen persons with no connection to the book when a mob burned down a hotel because of the presence of the novelist?s Turkish translator.
Iran?s de facto head of state offered a multimillion-dollar bounty for a whack job on an obscure English novelist. And, as with the embassy siege, he got away with it.
In the latest variation on Marx?s dictum, history repeats itself: first, the unreadable London literary novel; then, the Danish funny pages. But in the 17 years between the Rushdie fatwa and the cartoon jihad, what was supposedly a freakish one-off collision between Islam and the modern world has become routine. We now think it perfectly normal for Muslims to demand the tenets of their religion be applied to society at large: the government of Sweden, for example, has been zealously closing down websites that republish those Danish cartoons. As Khomeini?s successor, Ayatollah Khamenei, has said, ?It is in our revolution?s interest, and an essential principle, that when we speak of Islamic objectives, we address all the Muslims of the world.? Or as a female Muslim demonstrator in Toronto put it: ?We won?t stop the protests until the world obeys Islamic law.?
If that?s a little too ferocious, Kofi Annan framed it rather more soothingly: ?The offensive caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad were first published in a European country which has recently acquired a significant Muslim population, and is not yet sure how to adjust to it.?
If you?ve also ?recently acquired? a significant Muslim population and you?re not sure how to ?adjust? to it, well, here?s the difference: back when my Belgian grandparents emigrated to Canada, the idea was that the immigrants assimilated to the host country. As Kofi and Co. see it, today the host country has to assimilate to the immigrants: if Islamic law forbids representations of the Prophet, then so must Danish law, and French law, and American law. Iran was the progenitor of this rapacious extraterritoriality, and, if we had understood it more clearly a generation ago, we might be in less danger of seeing large tracts of the developed world being subsumed by it today.
Yet instead the West somehow came to believe that, in a region of authoritarian monarchs and kleptocrat dictators, Iran was a comparative beacon of liberty. The British foreign secretary goes to Tehran and hangs with the mullahs and, even though he?s not a practicing Muslim (yet), ostentatiously does that ?peace be upon him? thing whenever he mentions the Prophet Mohammed. And where does the kissy-face with the A-list imams get him? Ayatollah Khamenei renewed the fatwa on Rushdie only last year. True, President Bush identified Iran as a member of the axis of evil, but a year later the country was being hailed as a ?democracy? by then-deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage and a nation that has seen a ?democratic flowering,? as State Department spokesman Richard Boucher put it.
And let?s not forget Bill Clinton?s extraordinary remarks at Davos last year: ?Iran today is, in a sense, the only country where progressive ideas enjoy a vast constituency. It is there that the ideas that I subscribe to are defended by a majority.? That?s true in the very narrow sense that there?s a certain similarity between his legal strategy and sharia when it comes to adultery and setting up the gals as the fall guys. But it seems Clinton apparently had a more general commonality in mind: ?In every single election, the guys I identify with got two-thirds to 70 percent of the vote. There is no other country in the world I can say that about, certainly not my own.? America?s first black President is beginning to sound like America?s first Islamist ex-president.
Those remarks are as nutty as Gerald Ford?s denial of Soviet influence in Eastern Europe. Iran has an impressive three-decade record of talking the talk and walking the walk?either directly or through client groups like Hezbollah. In 1994, the Argentine Israel Mutual Association was bombed in Buenos Aires. Nearly 100 people died and 250 were injured?the worst massacre of Jewish civilians since the Holocaust. An Argentine court eventually issued warrants for two Iranian diplomats plus Ali Fallahian, former intelligence minister, and Ali Akbar Parvaresh, former education minister and deputy speaker of the Majlis.
Why blow up a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires? Because it?s there. Unlike the Iranian infiltration into Bosnia and Croatia, which helped radicalize not just the local populations but Muslim supporters from Britain and Western Europe, the random slaughter in the Argentine has no strategic value except as a demonstration of muscle and reach.
Anyone who spends half an hour looking at Iranian foreign policy over the last 27 years sees five things:
contempt for the most basic international conventions;
effective promotion of radical Pan-Islamism;
a willingness to go the extra mile for Jew-killing (unlike, say, Osama);
an all-but-total synchronization between rhetoric and action.
Yet the Europeans remain in denial. Iran was supposedly the Middle Eastern state they could work with. And the chancellors and foreign ministers jetted in to court the mullahs so assiduously that they?re reluctant to give up on the strategy just because a relatively peripheral figure like the, er, head of state is sounding off about Armageddon.
Instead, Western analysts tend to go all Kremlinological. There are, after all, many factions within Iran?s ruling class. What the country?s quick-on-the-nuke president says may not be the final word on the regime?s position. Likewise, what the school of nuclear theologians in Qom says. Likewise, what former president Khatami says. Likewise, what Iran?s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, says.
But, given that they?re all in favor of the country having nukes, the point seems somewhat moot. The question then arises, what do they want them for?
By way of illustration, consider the country?s last presidential election. The final round offered a choice between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, an alumnus of the U.S. Embassy siege a quarter-century ago, and Hashemi Rafsanjani, head of the Expediency Council, which sounds like an EU foreign policy agency but is, in fact, the body that arbitrates between Iran?s political and religious leaderships. Ahmadinejad is a notorious shoot-from-the-lip apocalyptic hothead who believes in the return of the Twelfth (hidden) Imam and quite possibly that he personally is his designated deputy, and he?s also claimed that when he addressed the United Nations General Assembly last year a mystical halo appeared and bathed him in its aura. Ayatollah Rafsanjani, on the other hand, is one of those famous ?moderates.?
What?s the difference between a hothead and a moderate? Well, the extremist Ahmadinejad has called for Israel to be ?wiped off the map,? while the moderate Rafsanjani has declared that Israel is ?the most hideous occurrence in history,? which the Muslim world ?will vomit out from its midst? in one blast, because ?a single atomic bomb has the power to completely destroy Israel, while an Israeli counter-strike can only cause partial damage to the Islamic world.? Evidently wiping Israel off the map seems to be one of those rare points of bipartisan consensus in Tehran, the Iranian equivalent of a prescription drug plan for seniors: we?re just arguing over the details.
So the question is: Will they do it?
And the minute you have to ask, you know the answer. If, say, Norway or Ireland acquired nuclear weapons, we might regret the ?proliferation,? but we wouldn?t have to contemplate mushroom clouds over neighboring states. In that sense, the civilized world has already lost: to enter into negotiations with a jurisdiction headed by a Holocaust-denying millenarian nut job is, in itself, an act of profound weakness?the first concession, regardless of what weaselly settlement might eventually emerge.
Conversely, a key reason to stop Iran is to demonstrate that we can still muster the will to do so. Instead, the striking characteristic of the long diplomatic dance that brought us to this moment is how September 10th it?s all been. The free world?s delegated negotiators (the European Union) and transnational institutions (the IAEA) have continually given the impression that they?d be content just to boot it down the road to next year or the year after or find some arrangement?this decade?s Oil-for-Food or North Korean deal?that would get them off the hook. If you talk to EU foreign ministers, they?ve already psychologically accepted a nuclear Iran. Indeed, the chief characteristic of the West?s reaction to Iran?s nuclearization has been an enervated fatalism.
Back when nuclear weapons were an elite club of five relatively sane world powers, your average Western progressive was convinced the planet was about to go ka-boom any minute. The mushroom cloud was one of the most familiar images in the culture, a recurring feature of novels and album covers and movie posters. There were bestselling dystopian picture books for children, in which the handful of survivors spent their last days walking in a nuclear winter wonderland. Now a state openly committed to the annihilation of a neighboring nation has nukes, and we shrug: Can?t be helped. Just the way things are. One hears sophisticated arguments that perhaps the best thing is to let everyone get ?em, and then no one will use them. And if Iran?s head of state happens to threaten to wipe Israel off the map, we should understand that this is a rhetorical stylistic device that?s part of the Persian oral narrative tradition, and it would be a grossly Eurocentric misinterpretation to take it literally.
The fatalists have a point. We may well be headed for a world in which anybody with a few thousand bucks and the right unlisted Asian phone numbers in his Rolodex can get a nuke. But, even so, there are compelling reasons for preventing Iran in particular from going nuclear. Back in his student days at the U.S. embassy, young Mr. Ahmadinejad seized American sovereign territory, and the Americans did nothing. And I would wager that?s still how he looks at the world. And, like Rafsanjani, he would regard, say, Muslim deaths in an obliterated Jerusalem as worthy collateral damage in promoting the greater good of a Jew-free Middle East. The Palestinians and their ?right of return? have never been more than a weapon of convenience with which to chastise the West. To assume Tehran would never nuke Israel because a shift in wind direction would contaminate Ramallah is to be as ignorant of history as most Palestinians are: from Yasser Arafat?s uncle, the pro-Nazi Grand Mufti of Jerusalem during the British Mandate, to the insurgents in Iraq today, Islamists have never been shy about slaughtering Muslims in pursuit of their strategic goals.
But it doesn?t have to come to that. Go back to that Argentine bombing. It was, in fact, the second major Iranian-sponsored attack in Buenos Aires. The year before, 1993, a Hezbollah suicide bomber killed 29 people and injured hundreds more in an attack on the Israeli Embassy. In the case of the community center bombing, the killer had flown from Lebanon a few days earlier and entered Latin America through the porous tri-border region of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. Suppose Iran had had a ?dirty nuke? shipped to Hezbollah, or even the full-blown thing: Would it have been any less easy to get it into the country? And, if a significant chunk of downtown Buenos Aires were rendered uninhabitable, what would the Argentine government do? Iran can project itself to South America effortlessly, but Argentina can?t project itself to the Middle East at all. It can?t nuke Tehran, and it can?t attack Iran in conventional ways.
So any retaliation would be down to others. Would Washington act? It depends how clear the fingerprints were. If the links back to the mullahs were just a teensy-weensy bit tenuous and murky, how eager would the U.S. be to reciprocate? Bush and Rumsfeld might?but an administration of a more Clinto-Powellite bent? How much pressure would there be for investigations under UN auspices? Perhaps Hans Blix could come out of retirement, and we could have a six-month dance through Security-Council coalition-building, with the secretary of state making a last-minute flight to Khartoum to try to persuade Sudan to switch its vote.
Perhaps it?s unduly pessimistic to write the civilized world automatically into what Osama bin Laden called the ?weak horse? role (Islam being the ?strong horse?). But, if you were an Iranian ?moderate? and you?d watched the West?s reaction to the embassy seizure and the Rushdie murders and Hezbollah terrorism, wouldn?t you be thinking along those lines? I don?t suppose Buenos Aires Jews expect to have their institutions nuked any more than 12 years ago they expected to be blown up in their own city by Iranian-backed suicide bombers. Nukes have gone freelance, and there?s nothing much we can do about that, and sooner or later we?ll see the consequences?in Vancouver or Rotterdam, Glasgow or Atlanta. But, that being so, we owe it to ourselves to take the minimal precautionary step of ending the one regime whose political establishment is explicitly pledged to the nuclear annihilation of neighboring states.
Once again, we face a choice between bad and worse options. There can be no ?surgical? strike in any meaningful sense: Iran?s clients on the ground will retaliate in Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, and Europe. Nor should we put much stock in the country?s allegedly ?pro-American? youth. This shouldn?t be a touchy-feely nation-building exercise: rehabilitation may be a bonus, but the primary objective should be punishment?and incarceration. It?s up to the Iranian people how nutty a government they want to live with, but extraterritorial nuttiness has to be shown not to pay. That means swift, massive, devastating force that decapitates the regime?but no occupation.
The cost of de-nuking Iran will be high now but significantly higher with every year it?s postponed. The lesson of the Danish cartoons is the clearest reminder that what is at stake here is the credibility of our civilization. Whether or not we end the nuclearization of the Islamic Republic will be an act that defines our time.
A quarter-century ago, there was a minor British pop hit called ?Ayatollah, Don?t Khomeini Closer.? If you?re a U.S. diplomat or a British novelist, a Croat Christian or an Argentine Jew, he?s already come way too close. How much closer do you want him to get?