Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / ABC wants you
on: April 11, 2007, 04:55:57 PM
ABC's "20/20" Seeking "Armed Citizen" Stories
Friday, April 06, 2007
Gun ban groups often claim that private citizens rarely, if ever, use guns
in self-defense. ABC News' "20/20" is now putting that claim to the test,
asking viewers to submit their own real-life "Armed Citizen" stories.
ABC's website asks:
Have you ever defended yourself from a crime in your home, in your business,
or in public by using a gun? Perhaps you warded off a potential attacker by
simply showing a gun?
If you've personally used a gun in a legitimate act of self-protection
against a criminal attacker, we encourage you to tell your story to ABC News.
To tell your story, go to http://www.abcnews.go.com/2020/story?id=3015150
and complete the web form.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Help our troops/our cause:
on: April 11, 2007, 04:54:53 PM
This chickenhawk warmongering keyboard commando suspects the Rumbo DOD to have been miserly with the troops.
The struggle to entice Army soldiers and Marines to stay in the military, after four years of war in Iraq, has ballooned into a $1 billion campaign, with bonuses soaring nearly sixfold since 2003.
The size and number of bonuses have grown as officials scrambled to meet the steady demand for troops on the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan and reverse sporadic shortfalls in the number of National Guard and Reserve soldiers willing to sign on for multiple tours.
Besides underscoring the extraordinary steps the Pentagon must take to maintain fighting forces, the rise in costs for re-enlistment incentives is putting strains on the defense budget, already strapped by the massive costs of waging war and equipping and caring for a modern military.
The bonuses can range from a few thousand dollars to as much as $150,000 for very senior special forces soldiers who re-enlist for six years. All told, the Army and Marines spent $1.03 billion for re-enlistment payments last year, compared with $174 million in 2003, the year the war in Iraq began.
The Associated Press compiled and analyzed the budget figures from the military services for this story.
"War is expensive," said Col. Mike Jones, who oversees retention issues for the National Guard. "Winning a war, however, is less expensive than losing one."
The soaring budget for re-enlistment bonuses — particularly for the Guard and Reserves, which have seen the most dramatic cost increases — has prompted some observers to question whether the country can still afford its volunteer force.
"I believe the whole issue of the affordability of the volunteer force is something we need to look at," said Arnold Punaro, who heads an independent panel established by Congress to study the National Guard and Reserves.
The higher bonuses come as support for the war continues to wane both in Congress and with the American public. That decline is fueling concerns that more soldiers will leave the military under pressure from families who fear the rising death toll and are weary of the lengthy and repeated overseas deployments. The Iraq war has claimed the lives of at least 3,280 U.S. troops to date.
Incentives for Army Guard and Reserve members combined have skyrocketed from about $27 million in 2003 to more than $335 million in 2006.
The active Army, meanwhile, poured more than $600 million into these payments last year, a six-fold increase from $98 million in 2003. The Army gave two out of every three soldiers who re-enlisted a bonus last year, compared to less than two in 10 who received one during 2003.
Those who don't get bonuses are generally in jobs that are not in high demand or are not in war zones. For example, certain artillery crewmembers who re-enlisted outside Afghanistan or Iraq would receive no bonus, said Army spokesman Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty.
Bonuses for Marines have nearly doubled, from about $50 million in 2003 to nearly $90 million in 2006.
The incentives help the military compete with private employers who often pay much higher salaries, Hilferty said.
"Soldiers with valuable skills and experience are aggressively sought after by industry," Hilferty said. He said while the extra money is important, "people don't re-enlist in a wartime Army for $13,000. ... If soldiers didn't think they were doing the right thing for the right reason, they would get out and get a job back home."
He said soldiers with special skills can get bonuses between $10,000 and $30,000, with a select few eligible for payments up to $50,000. Only very few highly qualified special forces soldiers would get the top bonus of $150,000. Nearly all soldiers deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait get a maximum of $15,000 for re-enlisting, just a bit more than the average.
Bonuses for Marines in certain critical specialties can go as high as $60,000 for a new four-year tour. On average a Marine who re-enlists this year can receive as much as $24,000. About eight in 10 Marines with up to six years of service will get a bonus this year, as will more than half of those with six to 14 years in the Corps.
Punaro, chairman of the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves, calls the soaring costs "a ticking time bomb."
"My instinct tells me ... that the Guard and Reserve will continue to be a real bargain for the taxpayer" because the costs for the active duty military have gone up a lot more, he said.
So far, the extra cash appears to be working. The active Army, the Guard and the Army Reserve are all on track to meet their re-enlistment goals for the fiscal year that will end Sept. 30.
Sgt. 1st Class Richard Doran, who works full-time for the Guard, signed on for another six-year tour late last year, just before he returned home from Iraq. That not only gives him the $15,000 bonus but also makes it tax-free because he was on the battlefront when he re-enlisted.
"It helps a lot of guys out," said Doran. "And I think it does sway some of the decisions to stay in when guys are on the fence trying to decide."
But for some who have been sent to war as many as three times, the money isn't enough.
"We had some that, once we got back, opted to say goodbye and just leave. Some guys said the money did play a part in their decision to stay, others said the $15,000 wasn't worth it."
Jones of the Guard said boosting the maximum re-enlistment bonus from $5,000 to $15,000 caused most of the budget increase. And, he said, more soldiers signed up than anticipated.
"When we're at peace, and when we're not deploying units, the bonuses probably don't need to be what they are today," said Jones. "When the risks are lowered, the reward would be lowered. But one of reasons we struggled in 2005 and 2004 is because we were slow as a nation to increase the rewards at the same time as we increased the risk."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / McCain
on: April 11, 2007, 09:30:30 AM
These columns have had more than one disagreement with John McCain over the years, especially on issues that typically win the Arizona Republican accolades from the rest of the media: campaign-finance reform, global warming, detainee interrogations and tax cuts. Yet now that he is under attack from his erstwhile media "base" for refusing to repudiate the war in Iraq, we think he deserves some covering fire. The word for what he's demonstrating is character.
Presidential campaigns often have their defining media moments, for better or worse: Think of Teddy Kennedy's fumbling replies to Roger Mudd's Chappaquiddick questions in 1979, or George H. W. Bush shaking off the so-called wimp factor in his 1988 interview with Dan Rather. It's too soon to say if Mr. McCain's interview Sunday with Scott Pelley of CBS's "60 Minutes" will be equally defining. But it certainly illuminated the chasm that distinguishes Mr. McCain from the Beltway media that used to adore him.
The most revealing exchange came when Mr. Pelley, in all apparent seriousness, asked the Senator "at what point do you stop doing what you think is right and you start doing what the majority of the American people want?"
Answered Mr. McCain: "I disagree with what the majority of the American people want. I still believe the majority of the American people, when asked, say if you can show them a path to success . . . then they'll support it." Later Mr. Pelley observed that Mr. McCain was betting his entire campaign on the success of the current "surge" strategy in Baghdad. The Senator replied that he'd "rather lose a campaign than lose a war."
It's hard not to respect that. Hard, too, not to notice that statements like those exist at a vast and principled remove from the recent Solonic utterances of other Senators who supported the war when it was popular. Such as "let's cut and run, or cut and walk" (Oregon Republican Gordon Smith, running for re-election next year), and "if we knew then what we know now, there wouldn't have been a vote and I certainly wouldn't have voted that way" (Hillary Rodham Clinton, trying to appease the antiwar left as she seeks the Democratic Presidential nomination).
The difference is not merely of consistency but of conviction. Mr. McCain is making clear he understands that leadership is often by nature unpopular. He has been equally clear about the consequences of U.S. withdrawal from Iraq--"chaos" and "genocide" were among the scenarios he painted for Mr. Pelley.
He has also shown that he understands the moral obligation his vote authorizing the war entailed, which was to see it through to victory, or at least until the conclusion becomes inescapable that victory is impossible. With General David Petraeus only recently installed in Baghdad and his surge strategy not yet fully under way, Mr. McCain realizes that we are nowhere near being able to draw that conclusion.
Not surprisingly, all this has the media in a state of apoplexy, with his former liberal pals shaking their heads in phony regret that his supposed blunder in Baghdad--observing last week that a market is safer than it was only a few months ago--is going to sink his candidacy. Our view is that Mr. McCain's difficulty so far in attracting conservative voters has nothing to do with Iraq, and everything to do with the positions that once made him the media darling. On the contrary, his support for the war and his appreciation of the stakes is one thing that keeps his candidacy alive, at least within the Republican Party.
Later today, Mr. McCain will deliver a speech at the Virginia Military Institute about how the war in Iraq can be won. Along with many Americans, we will listen with interest and respect, not because we always agree with Mr. McCain, but because he has demonstrated that his views on the subject are serious and born of belief, not of polls. That's more than can be said for most of our political and chattering classes, and a reason to admire a politician whose newfound unpopularity coincides with his finest political hour.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ajami: Iraq in the Balance
on: April 11, 2007, 09:25:43 AM
From today's WSJ:
Iraq in the Balance
In Washington, panic. In Baghdad, cautious optimism.
BY FOUAD AJAMI
Wednesday, April 11, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
BAGHDAD--For 35 years the sun did not shine here," said a man on the grounds of the great Shia shrine of al-Kadhimiyyah, on the outskirts of Baghdad. I had come to the shrine at night, in the company of the Shia politician Ahmed Chalabi.
We had driven in an armed convoy, and our presence had drawn a crowd. The place was bathed with light, framed by multiple minarets--a huge rectangular structure, its beauty and dereliction side by side. The tile work was exquisite, there were deep Persian carpets everywhere, the gifts of benefactors, rulers and merchants, drawn from the world of Shi'ism.
It was a cool spring night, and beguilingly tranquil. (There were the echoes of a firefight across the river, from the Sunni neighborhood of al-Adhamiyyah, but it was background noise and oddly easy to ignore.) A keeper of the shrine had been showing us the place, and he was proud of its doors made of teak from Burma--a kind of wood, he said, that resisted rain, wind and sun. It was to that description that the quiet man on the edge of this gathering had offered the thought that the sun had not risen during the long night of Baathist despotism.
A traveler who moves between Baghdad and Washington is struck by the gloomy despair in Washington and the cautious sense of optimism in Baghdad. Baghdad has not been prettified; its streets remain a sore to the eye, its government still hunkered down in the Green Zone, and violence is never far. But the sense of deliverance, and the hopes invested in this new security plan, are palpable. I crisscrossed the city--always with armed protection--making my way to Sunni and Shia politicians and clerics alike. The Sunni and Shia versions of political things--of reality itself--remain at odds. But there can be discerned, through the acrimony, the emergence of a fragile consensus.
Some months back, the Bush administration had called into question both the intentions and capabilities of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. But this modest and earnest man, born in 1950, a child of the Shia mainstream in the Middle Euphrates, has come into his own. He had not been a figure of the American regency in Baghdad. Steeped entirely in the Arabic language and culture, he had a been a stranger to the Americans; fate cast him on the scene when the Americans pushed aside Mr. Maliki's colleague in the Daawa Party, Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari.
There had been rumors that the Americans could strike again in their search for a leader who would give the American presence better cover. There had been steady talk that the old CIA standby, former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, could make his way back to power. Mr. Allawi himself had fed these speculations, but this is fantasy. Mr. Allawi circles Arab capitals and is rarely at home in his country. Mr. Maliki meanwhile has settled into his role.
In retrospect, the defining moment for Mr. Maliki had been those early hours of Dec. 30, when Saddam Hussein was sent to the gallows. He had not flinched, the decision was his, and he assumed it. Beyond the sound and fury of the controversy that greeted the execution, Mr. Maliki had taken the execution as a warrant for a new accommodation with the Sunni political class. A lifelong opponent of the Baath, he had come to the judgment that the back of the apparatus of the old regime had been broken, and that the time had come for an olive branch to those ready to accept the new political rules.
When I called on Mr. Maliki at his residence, a law offering pensions to the former officers of the Iraqi army had been readied and was soon put into effect. That decision had been supported by the head of the de-Baathification commission, Ahmed Chalabi. A proposal for a deeper reversal of the de-Baathification process was in the works, and would be announced days later by Mr. Maliki and President Jalal Talabani. This was in truth Zalmay Khalilzad's doing, his attempt to bury the entire de-Baathification effort as his tenure drew to a close.
This was more than the political traffic in the Shia community could bear. Few were ready to accept the return of old Baathists to government service. The victims of the old terror were appalled at a piece of this legislation, giving them a period of only three months to bring charges against their former tormentors. This had not been Mr. Maliki's choice--for his animus toward the Baath has been the driving force of his political life. It was known that he trusted that the religious hierarchy in Najaf, and the forces within the Shia alliance, would rein in this drive toward rehabilitating the remnants of the old regime.
Power and experience have clearly changed Mr. Maliki as he makes his way between the Shia coalition that sustains him on the one hand, and the American presence on the other. By all accounts, he is increasingly independent of the diehards in his own coalition--another dividend of the high-profile executions of Saddam Hussein and three of the tyrant's principal lieutenants. He is surrounded by old associates drawn from the Daawa Party, but keeps his own counsel.
There is a built-in tension between a prime minister keen to press for his own prerogatives and an American military presence that underpins the security of this new order. Mr. Maliki does not have the access to American military arms he would like; he does not have control over an Iraqi special-forces brigade that the Americans had trained and nurtured. His police forces remain poorly equipped. The levers of power are not fully his, and he knows it. Not a student of American ways--he spent his years of exile mostly in Syria--he is fully aware of the American exhaustion with Iraq as leading American politicians have come his way often.
The nightmare of this government is that of a precipitous American withdrawal. Six months ago, the British quit the southern city of Amarrah, the capital of the Maysan Province. It had been, by Iraqi accounts, a precipitous British decision, and the forces of Moqtada al-Sadr had rushed into the void; they had looted the barracks and overpowered the police. Amarrah haunts the Iraqis in the circle of power--the prospect of Americans leaving this government to fend for itself.
In the long scheme of history, the Shia Arabs had never governed--and Mr. Maliki and the coalition arrayed around him know their isolation in the region. This Iraqi state of which they had become the principal inheritors will have to make its way in a hostile regional landscape. Set aside Turkey's Islamist government, with its avowedly Sunni mindset and its sense of itself as a claimant to an older Ottoman tradition; the Arab order of power is yet to make room for this Iraqi state. Mr. Maliki's first trip beyond Iraq's borders had been to Saudi Arabia. He had meant that visit as a message that Iraq's "Arab identity" will trump all other orientations. It had been a message that the Arab world's Shia stepchildren were ready to come into the fold. But a huge historical contest had erupted in Baghdad, the seat of the Abbasid caliphate had fallen to new Shia inheritors, and the custodians of Arab power were not yet ready for this new history.
For one, the "Sunni street"--the Islamists, the pan-Arabists who hid their anti-Shia animus underneath a secular cover, the intellectual class that had been invested in the ideology of the Baath party--remained unalterably opposed to this new Iraq. The Shia could offer the Arab rulers the promise that their new state would refrain from regional adventures, but it would not be easy for these rulers to come to this accommodation.
A worldly Shia cleric, the legislator Humam Hamoudi who had headed the constitutional drafting committee, told me that he had laid out to interlocutors from the House of Saud the case that this new Iraqi state would be a better neighbor than the Sunni-based state of Saddam Hussein had been. "We would not be given to military adventures beyond our borders, what wealth we have at our disposal would have to go to repairing our homeland, for you we would be easier to fend off for we are Shiites and would be cognizant and respectful of the differences between us," Mr. Hamoudi had said. "You had a fellow Sunni in Baghdad for more than three decades, and look what terrible harvest, what wreckage, he left behind." This sort of appeal is yet to be heard, for this change in Baghdad is a break with a long millennium of Sunni Arab primacy.
The blunt truth of this new phase in the fight for Iraq is that the Sunnis have lost the battle for Baghdad. The great flight from Baghdad to Jordan, to Syria, to other Arab destinations, has been the flight of Baghdad's Sunni middle-class. It is they who had the means of escape, and the savings.
Whole mixed districts in the city--Rasafa, Karkh--have been emptied of their Sunni populations. Even the old Sunni neighborhood of Adhamiyyah is embattled and besieged. What remains for the Sunnis are the western outskirts. This was the tragic logic of the campaign of terror waged by the Baathists and the jihadists against the Shia; this was what played out in the terrible year that followed the attack on the Askariya shrine of Samarra in February 2006. Possessed of an old notion of their own dominion, and of Shia passivity and quiescence, the Sunni Arabs waged a war they were destined to lose.
No one knows with any precision the sectarian composition of today's Baghdad, but there are estimates that the Sunnis may now account for 15% of the city's population. Behind closed doors, Sunni leaders speak of the great calamity that befell their community. They admit to a great disappointment in the Arab states that fed the flames but could never alter the contest on the ground in Iraq. No Arab cavalry had ridden, or was ever going to ride, to the rescue of the Sunnis of Iraq.
A cultured member of the (Sunni) Association of Muslim Scholars in Baghdad, a younger man of deep moderation, likened the dilemma of his community to that of the Palestinian Arabs since 1948. "They waited for deliverance that never came," he said. "Like them, we placed our hopes in Arab leaders who have their own concerns. We fell for those Arab satellite channels, we believed that Arab brigades would turn up in Anbar and Baghdad. We made room for al Qaeda only to have them turn on us in Anbar." There had once been a Sunni maxim in Iraq, "for us ruling and power, for you self-flagellation," that branded the Shia as a people of sorrow and quietism. Now the ground has shifted, and among the Sunnis there is a widespread sentiment of disinheritance and loss.
The Mahdi Army, more precisely the underclass of Sadr City, had won the fight for Baghdad. This Shia underclass had been hurled into the city from its ancestral lands in the Marshes and the Middle Euphrates. In a cruel twist of irony, Baathist terror had driven these people into the slums of Baghdad. The Baathist tyranny had cut down the palm trees in the south, burned the reed beds of the Marshes. Then the campaign of terror that Sunni society sheltered and abetted in the aftermath of the despot's fall gave the Mahdi Army its cause and its power.
"The Mahdi Army protected us and our lands, our homes, and our honor," said a tribal Shia notable in a meeting in Baghdad, acknowledging that it was perhaps time for the boys of Moqtada al-Sadr to step aside in favor of the government forces. He laid bare, as he spoke, the terrible complications of this country; six of his sisters, he said, were married to Sunnis, countless nephews of his were Sunni. Violence had hacked away at this pluralism; no one could be certain when, and if, the place could mend.
In their grief, the Sunni Arabs have fallen back on the most unexpected of hopes; having warred against the Americans, they now see them as redeemers. "This government is an American creation," a powerful Sunni legislator, Saleh al-Mutlak, said. "It is up to the Americans to replace it, change the constitution that was imposed on us, replace this incompetent, sectarian government with a government of national unity, a cabinet of technocrats." Shrewd and alert to the ways of the world (he has a Ph.D. in soil science from a university in the U.K.) Mr. Mutlak gave voice to a wider Sunni conviction that this order in Baghdad is but an American puppet. America and Iran may be at odds in the region, but the Sunni Arabs see an American-Persian conspiracy that had robbed them of their patrimony.
They had made their own bed, the Sunni Arabs, but old habits of dominion die hard, and save but for a few, there is precious little acknowledgment of the wages of the terror that the Shia had been subjected to in the years that followed the American invasion. As matters stand, the Sunni Arabs are in desperate need of leaders who can call off the violence, cut a favorable deal for their community, and distance that community form the temptations and the ruin of the insurgency. It is late in the hour, but there is still eagerness in the Maliki government to conciliate the Sunnis, if only to give the country a chance at normalcy.
The Shia have come into their own, but there still hovers over them their old history of dispossession; there still trails shadows of doubt about their hold on power, about conspiracies hatched against them in neighboring Arab lands.
The Americans have given birth to this new Shia primacy, but there lingers a fear, in the inner circles of the Shia coalition, that the Americans have in mind a Sunni-based army, of the Pakistani and Turkish mold, that would upend the democratic, majoritarian bases of power on which Shia primacy rests. They are keenly aware, these new Shia men of power in Baghdad, that the Pax Americana in the region is based on an alliance of long standing with the Sunni regimes. They are under no illusions about their own access to Washington when compared with that of Cairo, Riyadh, Amman and the smaller principalities of the Persian Gulf. This suspicion is in the nature of things; it is the way of once marginal men who had come into an unexpected triumph.
In truth, it is not only the Arab order of power that remains ill at ease with the rise of the Shia of Iraq. The (Shia) genie that came out of the bottle was not fully to America's liking. Indeed, the U.S. strategy in Iraq had tried to sidestep the history that America itself had given birth to. There had been the disastrous regency of Paul Bremer. It had been followed by the attempt to create a national security state under Ayad Allawi. Then there had come the strategy of the American envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, that aimed to bring the Sunni leadership into the political process and wean them away from the terror and the insurgency.
Mr. Khalilzad had become, in his own sense of himself, something of a High Commissioner in Iraq, and his strategy had ended in failure; the Sunni leaders never broke with the insurgency. Their sobriety of late has been a function of the defeat their cause has suffered on the ground; all the inducements had not worked.
We are now in a new, and fourth, phase of this American presence. We should not try to "cheat" in the region, conceal what we had done, or apologize for it, by floating an Arab-Israeli peace process to the liking of the "Sunni street."
The Arabs have an unerring feel for the ways of strangers who venture into their lands. Deep down, the Sunni Arabs know what the fight for Baghdad is all about--oil wealth and power, the balance between the Sunni edifice of material and moral power and the claims of the Shia stepchildren. To this fight, Iran is a newcomer, an outlier. This is an old Arab account, the fight between the order of merchants and rulers and establishment jurists on the one side, and the righteous (Shia) oppositionists on the other. How apt it is that the struggle that had been fought on the plains of Karbala in southern Iraq so long ago has now returned, full circle, to Iraq.
For our part, we can't give full credence to the Sunni representations of things. We can cushion the Sunni defeat but can't reverse it. Our soldiers have not waged wars in Afghanistan and Iraq against Sunni extremists to fall for the fear of some imagined "Shia crescent" peddled by Sunni rulers and preachers. To that atavistic fight between Sunni and Shia, we ought to remain decent and discerning arbiters. To be sure, in Iraq itself we can't give a blank check to Shia maximalism. On its own, mainstream Shi'ism is eager to rein in its own diehards and self-anointed avengers.
There is a growing Shia unease with the Mahdi Army--and with the venality and incompetence of the Sadrists represented in the cabinet--and an increasing faith that the government and its instruments of order are the surer bet. The crackdown on the Mahdi Army that the new American commander, Gen. David Petraeus, has launched has the backing of the ruling Shia coalition. Iraqi police and army units have taken to the field against elements of the Mahdi army. In recent days, in the southern city of Diwaniyya, American and Iraqi forces have together battled the forces of Moqtada al-Sadr. To the extent that the Shia now see Iraq as their own country, their tolerance for mayhem and chaos has receded. Sadr may damn the American occupiers, but ordinary Shia men and women know that the liberty that came their way had been a gift of the Americans.
The young men of little education--earnest displaced villagers with the ways of the countryside showing through their features and dialect and shiny suits--who guarded me through Baghdad, spoke of old terrors, and of the joy and dignity of this new order. Children and nephews and younger brothers of men lost to the terror of the Baath, they are done with the old servitude. They behold the Americans keeping the peace of their troubled land with undisguised gratitude. It hasn't been always brilliant, this campaign waged in Iraq. But its mistakes can never smother its honor, and no apology for it is due the Arab autocrats who had averted their gaze from Iraq's long night of terror under the Baath.
One can never reconcile the beneficiaries of illegitimate, abnormal power to the end of their dominion. But this current re-alignment in Iraq carries with it a gift for the possible redemption of modern Islam among the Arabs. Hitherto Sunni Islam had taken its hegemony for granted and extremist strands within it have shown a refusal to accept "the other." Conversely, Shia history has been distorted by weakness and exclusion and by a concomitant abdication of responsibility.
A Shia-led state in Baghdad--with a strong Kurdish presence in it and a big niche for the Sunnis--can go a long way toward changing the region's terrible habits and expectations of authority and command. The Sunnis would still be hegemonic in the Arab councils of power beyond Iraq, but their monopoly would yield to the pluralism and complexity of that region.
"Watch your adjectives" is the admonition given American officers by Gen. Petraeus. In Baghdad, Americans and Iraqis alike know that this big endeavor has entered its final, decisive phase. Iraq has surprised and disappointed us before, but as they and we watch our adjectives there can be discerned the shape of a new country, a rough balance of forces commensurate with the demography of the place and with the outcome of a war that its erstwhile Sunni rulers had launched and lost. We made this history and should now make our peace with it.
Mr. Ajami, a 2006 recipient of the Bradley Prize, teaches at Johns Hopkins and is author of "The Foreigner's Gift: The Americans, the Arabs, and the Iraqis in Iraq" (Free Press, 2006).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iran gets feisty with the Russians
on: April 11, 2007, 09:12:49 AM
1137 GMT -- RUSSIA, IRAN -- Iranian military exercises near its Bushehr nuclear power plant April 6 have raised tensions around the project, Interfax reported April 11, citing a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman. Russia has expressed its surprise over the air defense practice and has asked Tehran to inform Russia in advance about plans to hold military exercises in the future.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dog Brothers East Cost Seminar featuring Guro Marc “Crafty Dog” Denny
on: April 11, 2007, 03:09:59 AM
Two reviews of this seminar from the Warrior Talk forum:
My background: approximately 2 years of JKD style training, to include Kali, Silat, Boxing, Muay Thai, and BJJ. I know a little bit of everything, but am certainly not an expert in anything.
My familiarity with Guro Marc Denny's material, prior to attending this seminar, was from his "Die Less Often" DVD, as well as reading things he had posted and watching videos on the Dog Brothers site.
Titan Fitness was an excellent facility for the seminar. They have considerable amounts of floor space, including a lot of mat space, which is helpful for any evolutions that involve going to the ground. They were also very close to lodging and multiple eateries. (These, at least for me, are important considerations!)
Guro Denny, aka "Crafty," started the seminar on time at 10:00am, Saturday morning. We began with a fun warmup, which Crafty referred to as a "prison yard riot." It got everybody moving and having fun at the same time, which is often a difficult thing to do. After that we did some stretches and moved right in to the instructional block of material.
Crafty started us out with some very basic footwork drills, but obviously footwork is the key to fighting, and I appreciate that greatly. All of Crafty's footwork is straight from Kali/Silat paradigms, however he has a different perspective on it. Further, he's used a different naming convention more in keeping with the Dog Brothers mentality. Instead of calling things "triangles," they're called variants of "teeth." Additionally he introduced the "Kali Fence."
We built upon the initial footwork drills, and as the instruction continued, it became apparent that what Crafty was offering was an "entry system." The remainder of the seminar confirmed this hunch. Crafty's specialty, at least during this block of instruction, was getting from the outside range and into real engagement distance. Crafty referred to it as "filling in the vowels in the alphabet." He said that most styles teach you what do to once you've gone hands on, but many of them fall down when it comes to closing the gap.
Crafty is a fan of taking a later lunch, and the first day we didn't break for a meal until 1:00pm. For those of you who eat every few hours, I recommend you bring a protein bar and water or similar. His instruction style and scheduling is a bit more informal than some other seminar instructors, so be prepared for a more "flexible" schedule. Based on what I saw, you may have regular breaks, or not. You will likely end each day closer to 5:30pm than the scheduled 4:00pm. I was fine with this, but some people don't like that sort of schedule. You should simply know about it and come prepared.
During the afternoon of the first day, Crafty went into his "Die Less Often" material. For those of you not familiar with it, it is a system to deal with very agressive knife attacks on the forehand line. What Crafty taught during this phase was exactly what you get in his DVD. He went into the "Dog Catcher," as well as all of the nuances that make or break this technique.
The beginning of the second day was more of the DLO material, and then some of what Crafty calls Kali Tudo, or the implementation of Kali and Silat principles into armed and unarmed fighting.
As the day progressed, we started working with stick fighting paradigms. Once again, Crafty was teaching entries, this time with single and double stick. Prior to this point, everything had been quite simple, and, as near as I could tell, everybody in the seminar had no problems grasping what Crafty was teaching. When the sticks came out, however, things changed quite a bit.
While the stick paradigms that Crafty was teaching were still basic, many of the seminar attendees had very little experience with singel or double stick, and so they were having problems. I'm left to conclude that a seminar is, quite possibly, the worst place to try and pick up single or double stick.
Overall I had a great time at the seminar. Crafty is very engaging, and more than willing to entertain questions about any aspect of his instruction, training, past, philosophies, etc. He continually mentions and gives credit to other instructors from which he has learned, most especially Guro Dan Inosanto.
Throughout his instruction he is actively discussing the problems he's trying to deal with, as well as jokingly referring to some of the techniques that he plays with: "oh, that doesn't work, does it?" He is very reality based, and he talks about the differences between the ring and reality quite a bit.
I enjoyed the seminar and would highly recommend it. One of the things I really appreciate about what Crafty teaches is the fact that you can plug it in to just about any other martial art and make it work. He has spent a considerable amount of time researching and playing with the area that I feel many martial arts don't deal with so well, and I believe with a bit of practice, the things I learned from Guro Crafty will be a part of my standard repetoire from here on out.
Really good overview of the seminar. I'm going to add my two cents or so, from a rather different perspective.
The first time I trained with Crafty is pushing 11 or 12 years ago- his seminar format (and content) has evolved quite a bit over that time. I would guess that I see Crafty something around every two years (though that will likely as east coast appearances are on the rise) so there is definately an evolution in progress. 10+ years ago the emphasis was on the stick and on preparing for and then playing "real contact;" an early model impact based force on force if you will. If I had to sum up "Seminar Crafty" circa 1995 or 6 it would be "here are some variables you must plug into whatever you do if it is going to work under pressure."
Moving forward, today's Crafty is teaching a very coherent series of modules which dovetail nicely (one underlying theme for the weekend was similarity of footwork grids and final positions relative to the opponent regardless of the particular tool being used.
There was also a very real sense of the material being developed beyond simple fight strategies and pressure-testing. Crafty has a very well-developed theory of violence and agression and weaves this through the various blocks of instruction. A very refreshing part of this was the frequent warning that America is a gun culture, and that one is as likely to be dealing with a firearm as any other type of weapon.
The only real negative in Jayman's review was the observation that quite a few folks had some degree of difficulty with the stick material. This certainly was the case, although I think part of the difficulty may have been that, while Crafty is known as a stick teacher, this event was not so much a stick seminar. Perhaps is the sticks had come out early on day one rather than late on day two there might have been less brain fade...on the other hand I really enjoyed the new material.
As anyone who reads his posts knows Crafty is a pretty analytic fellow- his seminars are honestly worth it just for the thoughts and ideas one can pick up. His material is evolving and growing, though he does always make a great effort to give credit to his sources, teachers, and inspirations. This was the first time I had seen him since he really started collaborating with Gabe- I think the exchange of ideas is working well for both men.
The short conclusion- if Crafty isn't on your short list of people to train with you should re-think that list.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Earn Them
on: April 11, 2007, 02:31:19 AM
"Earn them" ... A classroom without any desks..
Back in September of 2005, on the first day of school, Martha Cothren, a
Social Studies school teacher at Robinson High School in Little Rock , did
something not to be forgotten. On the first day of school, with permission
of the school superintendent, the principal and the building supervisor, she
took all of the desks out of the classroom.
The kids came into first period, they walked in, there were no desks. They
obviously looked around and said, "Ms. Cothren, where's our desk?" And she
said, "You can't have a desk until you tell me how you earn them." They
thought, "Well, maybe it's our grades." No," she said. Maybe it's our behavior.And
she told them, "No, it's not even your behavior." And so they came and went
in the first period, still no desks in the classroom. Second period, same
thing. Third period.
By early afternoon television news crews had gathered in Ms. Cothren's class
to find out about this crazy teacher who had taken all the desks out of the
classroom. The last period of the day, Martha Cothren gathered her class.
They were at this time sitting on the floor around the sides of the room.
And she says, "Throughout the day no one has really understood how you EARN
the desks that ordinarily sit in this classroom."
She said,"Now I'm going to tell you." And then Martha Cothren went over to
the door of her classroom and opened it, and as she did 27 U.S. veterans,
wearing their uniforms, walked into that classroom, each one carrying a
school desk. They
placed those desks in rows, and then they stood along the wall. And by the
time they had finished placing those desks, those kids for the first time
....I think perhaps in their lives ....now understood how they earned those desks.
Martha said, "You don't have to earn those desks. These guys did it for you.
They put them out there for you, but it's up to you to sit here responsibly
to learn, to be good students and good citizens, because they paid a very
dear price for you to have that desk .....and don't ever forget that."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran
on: April 10, 2007, 06:00:56 PM
stratfor.com : Iranian Nukes Not For Sale
The Islamic Republic of Iran celebrated its first national "Nuclear Technology Day" on Monday. The celebration began at 9 a.m. local time, when school bells across the country rang in unison, congratulatory text messages from the government were sent out to millions of mobile phone users, U.S. and Israeli flags went up in flames and a massive cake colored to resemble yellowcake was devoured. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad led the festivities at the country's enrichment facility at Natanz, where he boldly announced that Iran "has joined the nuclear club of nations and can produce nuclear fuel on an industrial scale.''
Let us not forget that Ahmadinejad also announced a year ago that Iran had joined the nuclear club by running two cascades of 164 centrifuges. So, what's the news in this latest statement?
Producing nuclear fuel on an industrial scale that would place Iran well on its way to a uranium-based weapons program would involve something on the order of 3,000 defect-free centrifuges enriching to around 90 percent of the fissile isotope of uranium, up from the 3.5 percent that Iran is likely capable of in small amounts today. When asked if Iran had started injecting gas into 3,000 centrifuges being set up at the Natanz facility, National Security Chief Ali Larijani vaguely said, "Yes we have injected gas." The deputy chief of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Mohammad Saidi, offered a bit more clarification when he denied they had reached the 3,000-centrifuge stage and said, "We have so far been dealing with the completion of two cascades of 164 centrifuges as a pilot stage and passing this phase means industrialization of uranium enrichment." Claiming industrialization is still quite a stretch when one factors in the crude quality of Iran's centrifuges and the approximately 3,000 functional centrifuges needed for a rudimentary industrial capacity -- at the very least.
The Iranians tend to promote their nuclear program one step ahead of what they have actually achieved. That is, the nuclear announcement a year ago was likely indicative of what the Iranian scientists had achieved in a test run, and Monday's announcement is the culmination of experiments conducted over the past year that have brought Iran to a stage at which its perfected enrichment is around 3 percent to 5 percent with two cascades of 164 centrifuges -- still well below the needed threshold for a solid weapons program, much less a power program that would take dozens of times more.
Putting the techno-babble aside, it is important to examine the purpose of Iran's nuclear program in the context of the ongoing negotiations between Washington and Tehran over Iraq. Though Ahmadinejad has been talking about a big announcement since early February, it appears that the declaration of Nuclear Technology Day came at a politically convenient time for the Iranians when viewed in the context of the Iraq negotiations.
Iran and the United States are both aggressively moving to try to gain the upper hand in these talks. The Iranians played their most recent hand, the British detainee incident, quite skillfully. In what was seen as a risky maneuver, Iran in one swoop called the U.S. and British bluff that military force is a viable option against Iran, humiliated the British government through the public confessions from the detainees and, finally, demonstrated that it can effectively negotiate and deliver -- just as it could in a potential Iraq deal. Though the British detainee incident helped strengthen Iran's bargaining position, it provided Iran with only a minor advance. The United States did not waste time in making its next move with a new military offensive called Operation Black Eagle against Iran's Shiite militant allies in the town of Ad Diwaniyeh south of Baghdad, Iraq.
This is why Iran relies heavily on the nuclear card in these negotiations. When Iranian dissidents leaked details of Iran's covert nuclear program in 2002, Iran's chances of achieving full nuclear capability without facing a direct threat from Israel or the United States were severely crippled. When Washington made clear that it did not feel the need to negotiate with Iran over the future of Iraq in the spring of 2003 -- when the war was still in its early stages and the United States was still denying a Sunni insurgency existed -- Iran made the strategic decision to ratchet up the nuclear threat and utilize its militant assets throughout the region to bring Washington back to the negotiating table on Iran's terms.
Though this process is still ongoing, the United States and Iran have now reached a level in the Iraq standoff in which both sides realize they need to deal with each other to avoid their worst-case scenarios in Iraq. This mutual dependence also has given Iran the confidence that its nuclear program need not be viewed solely as a bargaining chip by the United States, and instead must become part of any deal Washington wants on Iraq. In other words, Iran is gambling that a final deal over Iraq will not require an Iranian capitulation on its nukes. Even if Iran agrees to inspections of its nuclear facilities or a cap on a certain level of enrichment, the clerical regime is likely calculating that these guarantees can be manipulated down the road for Iran to reactivate its program without much trouble.
This could be why Larijani announced on Sunday that Iran is now ready to "begin real negotiations" over its nuclear program, signaling that the Islamic Republic has reached a technological level that is advanced enough to put it on the path toward a weapons program, but not threatening enough to require pre-emptive military action -- a nice, cushy spot for negotiations.
The United States, on the other hand, is unlikely feeling pressured enough to grant the Iranians their nuclear wish. Already Washington has made an effort to separate the nuclear and Iraq issue in order to deprive Iran of one of its key bargaining tools. Washington also is not about to go against the interests of Israel, Russia and other invested parties in the dispute that do not wish to see the emergence of a nuclear-capable Iran.
Even so, Iran is making one thing very clear in this stage of the Iraq negotiations: Iranian nukes are not for sale.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science
on: April 10, 2007, 05:52:34 PM
Its no secret I think a lot of www.stratfor
. That said, the following piece makes some points with which I disagree-- specifically in its analysis of the possibility of blockading Iran.
IMHO the decision not to embargo was less a military one (and the piece is a discussion of military theory) than a political one-- and again IMHO naval power may well be quite necessary if we are to stop Iran from going nuke.
The Limitations and Necessity of Naval Power
By George Friedman
It has now been four years since the fall of Baghdad concluded the U.S. invasion of Iraq. We have said much about the Iraq war, and for the moment there is little left to say. The question is whether the United States will withdraw forces from Iraq or whether it will be able to craft some sort of political resolution to the war, both within Iraq and in the region. Military victory, in the sense of the unfettered imposition of U.S. will in Iraq, does not appear to us a possibility. Therefore, over the next few months, against the background of the U.S. offensive in Baghdad, the political equation will play out. The action continues. The analysis must pause and await results.
During this pause, we have been thinking about some of the broader questions involved in Iraq -- and about the nature and limits of American military power in particular. We recently considered the purpose of U.S. wars since World War II in our discussion of U.S. warfare as strategic spoiling attack. Now we turn to another dimension of U.S. military power -- the U.S. Navy -- and consider what role, if any, it plays in national security at this point.
Recent events have directed our attention to the role and limits of naval power. During the detention of the 15 British sailors and marines, an idea floated by many people was that the United States should impose a blockade against Iran. The argument was driven partly by a lack of other options: Neither an invasion nor an extended air campaign seemed a viable alternative. Moreover, the United States' experience in erecting blockades is rich with decisive examples: the Cuban missile crisis, barring Germany's ability to trade during World War II or that of the American South during the Civil War. The one unquestionable military asset the United States has is its Navy, which can impose sea-lane control anywhere in the world. Finally, Iran -- which is rich in oil (all of which is exported by sea) but lacks sufficient refinery capacity of its own -- relies on imported gasoline. Therefore, the argument went, imposing a naval blockade would cripple Iran's economy and bring the leadership to the negotiating table.
Washington never seriously considered the option. This was partly because of diplomatic discussions that indicated that the British detainees would be released under any circumstances. And it was partly because of the difficulties involved in blockading Iran at this time:
1. Iran could mount strategic counters to a blockade, either by increasing anti-U.S. operations by its Shiite allies in Iraq or by inciting Shiite communities in the Arabian Peninsula to unrest. The United States didn't have appetite for the risk.
2. Blockades always involve the interdiction of vessels operated by third countries -- countries that might not appreciate being interdicted. The potential repercussions of interdicting merchant vessels belonging to powers that did not accept the blockade was a price the United States would not pay at this time.
A blockade was not selected because it was not needed, because Iran could retaliate in other ways and because a blockade might damage countries other than Iran that the United States didn't want to damage. It was, therefore, not in the cards. Not imposing a blockade made sense.
The Value of Naval Power
This raises a more fundamental question: What is the value of naval power in a world in which naval battles are not fought? To frame the question more clearly, let us begin by noting that the United States has maintained global maritime hegemony since the end of World War II. Except for the failed Soviet attempt to partially challenge the United States, the most important geopolitical fact since World War II was that the world's oceans were effectively under the control of the U.S. Navy. Prior to World War II, there were multiple contenders for maritime power, such as Britain, Japan and most major powers. No one power, not even Britain, had global maritime hegemony. The United States now does. The question is whether this hegemony has any real value at this time -- a question made relevant by the issue of whether to blockade Iran.
The United States controls the blue water. To be a little more precise, the U.S. Navy can assert direct and overwhelming control over any portion of the blue water it wishes, and it can do so in multiple places. It cannot directly control all of the oceans at the same time. However, the total available naval force that can be deployed by non-U.S. powers (friendly and other) is so limited that they lack the ability, even taken together, to assert control anywhere should the United States challenge their presence. This is an unprecedented situation historically.
The current situation is, of course, invaluable to the United States. It means that a seaborne invasion of the United States by any power is completely impractical. Given the geopolitical condition of the United States, the homeland is secure from conventional military attack but vulnerable to terrorist strikes and nuclear attacks. At the same time, the United States is in a position to project forces at will to any part of the globe. Such power projection might not be wise at times, but even failure does not lead to reciprocation. For instance, no matter how badly U.S. forces fare in Iraq, the Iraqis will not invade the United States if the Americans are defeated there.
This is not a trivial fact. Control of the seas means that military or political failure in Eurasia will not result in a direct conventional threat to the United States. Nor does such failure necessarily preclude future U.S. intervention in that region. It also means that no other state can choose to invade the United States. Control of the seas allows the United States to intervene where it wants, survive the consequences of failure and be immune to occupation itself. It was the most important geopolitical consequence of World War II, and one that still defines the world.
The issue for the United States is not whether it should abandon control of the seas -- that would be irrational in the extreme. Rather, the question is whether it has to exert itself at all in order to retain that control. Other powers either have abandoned attempts to challenge the United States, have fallen short of challenging the United States or have confined their efforts to building navies for extremely limited uses, or for uses aligned with the United States. No one has a shipbuilding program under way that could challenge the United States for several generations.
One argument, then, is that the United States should cut its naval forces radically -- since they have, in effect, done their job. Mothballing a good portion of the fleet would free up resources for other military requirements without threatening U.S. ability to control the sea-lanes. Should other powers attempt to build fleets to challenge the United States, the lead time involved in naval construction is such that the United States would have plenty of opportunities for re-commissioning ships or building new generations of vessels to thwart the potential challenge.
The counterargument normally given is that the U.S. Navy provides a critical service in what is called littoral warfare. In other words, while the Navy might not be needed immediately to control sea-lanes, it carries out critical functions in securing access to those lanes and projecting rapid power into countries where the United States might want to intervene. Thus, U.S. aircraft carriers can bring tactical airpower to bear relatively quickly in any intervention. Moreover, the Navy's amphibious capabilities -- particularly those of deploying and supplying the U.S. Marines -- make for a rapid deployment force that, when coupled with Naval airpower, can secure hostile areas of interest for the United States.
That argument is persuasive, but it poses this problem: The Navy provides a powerful option for war initiation by the United States, but it cannot by itself sustain the war. In any sustained conflict, the Army must be brought in to occupy territory -- or, as in Iraq, the Marines must be diverted from the amphibious specialty to serve essentially as Army units. Naval air by itself is a powerful opening move, but greater infusions of airpower are needed for a longer conflict. Naval transport might well be critically important in the opening stages, but commercial transport sustains the operation.
If one accepts this argument, the case for a Navy of the current size and shape is not proven. How many carrier battle groups are needed and, given the threat to the carriers, is an entire battle group needed to protect them?
If we consider the Iraq war in isolation, for example, it is apparent that the Navy served a function in the defeat of Iraq's conventional forces. It is not clear, however, that the Navy has served an important role in the attempt to occupy and pacify Iraq. And, as we have seen in the case of Iran, a blockade is such a complex politico-military matter that the option not to blockade tends to emerge as the obvious choice.
The Risk Not Taken
The argument for slashing the Navy can be tempting. But consider the counterargument. First, and most important, we must consider the crises the United States has not experienced. The presence of the U.S. Navy has shaped the ambitions of primary and secondary powers. The threshold for challenging the Navy has been so high that few have even initiated serious challenges. Those that might be trying to do so, like the Chinese, understand that it requires a substantial diversion of resources. Therefore, the mere existence of U.S. naval power has been effective in averting crises that likely would have occurred otherwise. Reducing the power of the U.S. Navy, or fine-tuning it, would not only open the door to challenges but also eliminate a useful, if not essential, element in U.S. strategy -- the ability to bring relatively rapid force to bear.
There are times when the Navy's use is tactical, and times when it is strategic. At this moment in U.S. history, the role of naval power is highly strategic. The domination of the world's oceans represents the foundation stone of U.S. grand strategy. It allows the United States to take risks while minimizing consequences. It facilitates risk-taking. Above all, it eliminates the threat of sustained conventional attack against the homeland. U.S. grand strategy has worked so well that this risk appears to be a phantom. The dispersal of U.S. forces around the world attests to what naval power can achieve. It is illusory to believe that this situation cannot be reversed, but it is ultimately a generational threat. Just as U.S. maritime hegemony is measured in generations, the threat to that hegemony will emerge over generations. The apparent lack of utility of naval forces in secondary campaigns, like Iraq, masks the fundamentally indispensable role the Navy plays in U.S. national security.
That does not mean that the Navy as currently structured is sacrosanct -- far from it. Peer powers will be able to challenge the U.S. fleet, but not by building their own fleets. Rather, the construction of effective anti-ship missile systems -- which can destroy merchant ships as well as overwhelm U.S. naval anti-missile systems -- represents a low-cost challenge to U.S. naval power. This is particularly true when these anti-ship missiles are tied to space-based, real-time reconnaissance systems. A major power such as China need not be able to mirror the U.S. Navy in order to challenge it.
Whatever happens in Iraq -- or Iran -- the centrality of naval power is unchanging. But the threat to naval power evolves. The fact that there is no threat to U.S. control of the sea-lanes at this moment does not mean one will not emerge. Whether with simple threats like mines or the most sophisticated anti-ship system, the ability to keep the U.S. Navy from an area or to close off strategic chokepoints for shipping remains the major threat to the United States -- which is, first and foremost, a maritime power.
One of the dangers of wars like those in Iraq and Afghanistan is that they soak up resources and intellectual bandwidth. It is said that generals always fight the last war. Another way of stating that is to say they believe the war they are fighting now will go on forever in some form. That belief leads to neglect of capabilities that appear superfluous for the current conflict. That is the true hollowing-out that extended warfare creates. It is an intellectual hollowing-out.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq
on: April 10, 2007, 05:38:05 PM
Ya shoulda read them first
Although not devoid of lucid points, there a plenty of places where these pieces come up short e.g. the complete absence of any consideration of Iran and its nuke program.
Geopolitical Diary: A Snub and a Warning from Iran
Iran denied passage through its airspace to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki while he was en route to Japan, members of al-Maliki's entourage disclosed on Sunday. Al-Maliki's aircraft had to be diverted to Dubai, where he waited at the airport for three hours for refueling and a new flight plan. On the same day, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki warned Iraq that failure to secure the release of five of Iranian consular officials arrested in January in the northern Iraqi town of Arbil would adversely impact relations between the two neighbors.
While the Iranians appear to be directing their ire against Iraq's Shiite-dominated government, the intended recipient of these diplomatic signals is the U.S. government. Tehran knows that Washington, and not Baghdad, is really calling the shots in Iraq and is employing a two-pronged strategy. The United States is pressing ahead on the military front, not just with its surge policy but also with operations in Iraq's Shiite south. On the diplomatic front, Washington wants a second public meeting involving U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Mottaki to take place early next month. In fact, Rice last week openly said that she would want to engage in bilateral talks with her Iranian counterpart.
Given Washington's bi-level strategy, Tehran has to operate in a more or less reciprocal fashion. This would explain the move against al-Maliki, which was designed to send a message to Washington that Tehran is not intimidated by the U.S. success in getting al-Maliki to crack down against Shiite militias. In fact, the Iranians are likely signaling that the United States should not view al-Maliki's decision to assist with the U.S. plan as much of a victory. By forcing the diversion of the prime minister's aircraft, Tehran sends the message that Washington is betting on a weak horse.
The Iranians can afford to use al-Maliki in such a way. Pro-Iranian Iraqi Shia constitute the largest group within the Iraqi government. It is not as if al-Maliki and his faction, Hizb al-Dawah, have the freedom to assume an anti-Iranian posture. Al-Maliki is indeed a weak prime minister and is not really the head of his party -- which in any case does not enjoy the kind of influence within the Iraqi Shiite community as either Iran's main ally, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or the al-Sadrite Bloc. The party's rival faction -- Hizb al-Dawah Tandheem al-Iraq, which controls the national security, trade, and education ministries as opposed to the single Cabinet position held by al-Maliki's faction -- is also much closer to Tehran.
More importantly, the decision to snub al-Maliki allows the Iranians to underscore their own unpredictability and willingness to do the unexpected, in order to throw a monkey-wrench into the American plan for Iraq.
It is therefore not a coincidence that radical Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr -- currently residing in Iran -- issued a call for his Mehdi Army to target U.S. forces instead of fighting Iraqi security forces. He also urged the security forces to disassociate themselves from U.S. troops. The Iranians, having released the British naval personnel they captured in March, now want to see the return of their own five consular officials detained by U.S. forces in January. This is all the more important because Tehran also wants to see next month's meeting with Rice take place -- which becomes difficult to do without securing the release of the five detained officials.
Tehran is reminding the United States that it has the ability to badly mess up the Iraqi chessboard. In saying this, Iran hopes not only to get Washington to release its officials, but also to get the Bush administration to back off from trying to weaken Iran's position in Iraq. The question now is what the American response will be.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread
on: April 10, 2007, 05:17:06 PM
I was on vacation with the family and missed the fight. I must say I was surprised when I heard the results. One comment I saw said something about Serra using an unconventional striking game. Anyone?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants
on: April 10, 2007, 02:23:58 PM
I'll put aside commenting on border/Mexican immigration issues to focus this post on what I feel have been some of the great failings of the Bush-Rumbo leadership:
1) I'll accept that they were clueless about what they would find, but the response time to the insurgency was grossly negligent. As Richard Barnett points out, we need to have a qualified team for coming on the field after we are done killing people and breaking things. Instead we kind of wandered in circles clueslessly for 18-24 months.
2) The failure to control/close the border with Syria, with Iran, with Saudi Arabia: This is a military mission, and one that we could have and should have accomplished. The reason we didn't was too few troops and the reason that we did not adjust to this reality is Rumbo and his theories of small, high tech and fast moving military. He's right as far as he goes, but did not and does not see that boots on the ground are essential for this mission.
3) The boots on the ground thing goes to a terrible failure on the President's part to speak up in 2003 and 2004 to increase the size of the military and the commitment. Even Senator Kerry called for 40,000 more troops for the military in the 2004 campaign. Bush could have done so and asked for even more with zero political cost but he did not. Instead he and Rumbo thrashed our troops hard. Now that the Dhimmicrats have won Congress he fires Rumbo (instead of during the summer when it could have done some good for the elections) and now he seeks to increase the size of the military by 90,000 when it is much, much harder to inspire people to take this courageous step-- especially with a broad lack of confidence in the competence of leadership.
4) In the Geopolitical Matters thread RickN made an extremely cogent post.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Indonesia
on: April 10, 2007, 10:46:09 AM
Second post of the morning:http://opinionjournal.com/columnists/bstephens/?id=110009922
An Indonesian man seeks "to create an Islam that will make people smile."
BY BRET STEPHENS
Tuesday, April 10, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
SENDANG AYU, Indonesia--In the fall of 2005, Abdul Munir Mulkhan returned to his childhood village to exorcise a demon.
Belief in the spirit world persists in this corner of southern Sumatra, as it does throughout most of Indonesia. In this case, however, the demon took human form as an itinerant Islamic preacher named Mun Faasil. He had appeared as if from nowhere the year before and had promptly set about "purifying" the villagers' religious practices. For instance, he objected to sacrificing water buffalo (a local practice) instead of sheep (an Arab one) for the annual feast of Eid ul-Adha. He also disapproved of the villagers' custom of giving couples an envelope of cash on their wedding day, on the grounds that there was no Quranic basis for it.
What happened next is a portrait-in-miniature of the assault being waged against traditional Indonesian Islam by its totalitarian variant. "Mun Faasil's speeches created a crisis of faith," recalls a village elder. "One group started implying that the others were not true believers." Things got worse when the preacher began extolling the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), a radical Islamist party modeled on Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, while attacking the Muhammadiyah, the century-old, 30 million-strong, apolitical Islamic social movement to which most of the villagers belong. Soon PKS cadres started arriving in the village.
It was at this point that some of the villagers called on Mr. Mulkhan, 60, to offer a "clarification" on the true teachings of Islam. They were fortunate in their native son. A leading scholar of Islamic theology and history, Mr. Mulkhan had only recently stepped down as vice secretary of the Muhammadiyah and continues to wield influence as a reformer within the organization. It did not take much to persuade his old neighbors that good Muslims do not use narrow theological pretexts to condemn fellow Muslims as infidels. Mun Faasil and his cadres were told to go.
For Mr. Mulkhan, however, what happened in Sendang Ayu was not the end of the matter but only the beginning. If the PKS could reach a remote rural community of 150 people, he reasoned, where had they not penetrated? The problem was compounded by the PKS's use of clandestine cells to infiltrate the Muhammadiyah's institutions--hospitals, universities, schools, mosques, charities, student associations--and recruit new members. "We had a situation where people in positions of trust were suddenly revealing themselves as PKS," he says. "If we had allowed this to continue they would have consolidated their position with a purge of their opponents."
The rise of the PKS nationally is itself a thing to marvel at. Barely eight years old, it won just 7% of the vote in the 2004 elections and has made itself conspicuous with its support of radical cleric Abu Bakir Bashir. Yet it has already managed to seize key institutions of prestige and patronage throughout Indonesia, including the speakership of the national Parliament, the ministry of agriculture and key municipal posts. As with Hamas in the Palestine Authority, it has burnished a reputation for incorruptibility.
But the Muhammadiyah, with its immense network of social services, is the organization the PKS must first seize if--in the spirit of the Antonio Gramsci's "long march through the institutions"--it is to achieve its longer-term political objectives. As a takeover target, it also helps the PKS that the Muhammadiyah has espoused a relatively strict form of Islam, making its members all the more susceptible to tarbiyeh, the form of Islamic indoctrination practiced by the Muslim Brotherhood and adopted by the PKS.
Ahmed Sujino, a teacher at a Muhammadiyah boarding school in the Sumatran city of Metro, is a case in point. "There is nothing wrong with tarbiyeh," he says, making little effort to disguise his PKS sympathies. Despite the Muhammadiyah's longstanding support for a secular state, Mr. Sujino believes Shariah must become the law of the land and that those who persistently refuse to observe it, including non-Muslims, should be reminded of what's expected of them "in a physical way." He also has invited Salafist preachers from Jakarta to "make themselves at home and teach the students."
It is against this backdrop--compounded by the appointment of two PKS sympathizers to the Muhammadiyah's 13-member Central Board--that Mr. Mulkhan and a handful of allies have decided to fight back. As vice secretary of the Muhammadiyah, he had already revoked its longstanding practice of requiring new members to abandon local Islamic traditions that were at variance with organizational dogma. At his behest, too, the Muhammadiyah had issued an official finding that Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism were theologically legitimate faiths, worthy of the organization's respect. "This wasn't just about my personal beliefs but about the organization's future," he explains. "We needed to stop fighting everyone and start getting along with everyone."
Now Mr. Mulkhan is in the midst of carrying out his most ambitious reform. Later this month, a Mohammadiyah congress is set to approve a decree he helped engineer banning the PKS from its activities. The ostensible motive is to distance the Muhammadiyah from parties of any kind whose "primary goal is the acquisition of political power for themselves."
The larger issue, however, concerns Islam's identity and reputation in Indonesia, both of which, he believes, the PKS and its fellow travelers are bringing into global disrepute. Whether the Muhammadiyah and its millions of members will stand as a bulwark against it will rest in no small part on the outcome of the congress--and on whether people like Mr. Mulkhan will be able to maintain the support and resources they need to keep the organization out of the radicals' grip.
"What is the Muhammadiyah for?" Mr. Mulkhan asks. "My answer is that the Muhammadiyah is not just for the Muhammadiyah and Islam is not just for the Muslims. There are many teachings in Islam that are very beautiful but they are being covered over by this black-and-white way of thinking. For instance, there is a hadith [teaching] that says that smiling at other people is a form of charity. I want to create an Islam that will make people smile."
Mr. Stephens is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board. His column appears in the Journal Tuesdays.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics
on: April 10, 2007, 10:29:53 AM
REVIEW & OUTLOOK
Democrats at War
Prime Minister Pelosi and Secretary of State Lantos undermine U.S. foreign policy--and maybe their own party.
Friday, April 6, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
Democrats took Congress last fall in part by opposing the war in Iraq, but it is becoming clear that they view their election as a mandate for something far more ambitious--to wit, promoting and executing their own foreign policy, albeit without the detail of a Presidential election.
Their intentions were made plain this week with two remarkable acts by their House and Senate leaders. Majority Leader Harry Reid endorsed Senator Russ Feingold's proposal to withdraw from Iraq immediately, cutting off funds entirely within a year. He promised a vote soon, as part of what the Washington Post reported would also be a Democratic offensive to close Guantanamo, reinstate legal rights for terror suspects, and improve relations with Cuba.
Meanwhile, Speaker Nancy Pelosi made her now famous sojourn to Syria, donning a head scarf and advertising that she was conducting shuttle diplomacy between Jerusalem and Damascus. If there was any doubt that her trip was intended as far more than a routine Congressional "fact-finding" trip, House Foreign Affairs Chairman Tom Lantos put it to rest by declaring that, "We have an alternative Democratic foreign policy. I view my job as beginning with restoring overseas credibility and respect for the United States."
Americans should understand how extraordinary this is. There have been previous battles over U.S. foreign policy and fierce domestic criticism. In the 1990s, these columns defended Bill Clinton against "the Republican drift toward isolationism and political opportunism" amid the Kosovo conflict. But rarely in U.S. history have Congressional leaders sought to conduct their own independent diplomacy, with the Speaker acting as a Prime Minister traveling with a Secretary of State in the person of Mr. Lantos.
Yes, Congressional Republicans have visited Syria too. But Ms. Pelosi isn't some minority back-bencher. Without a Democrat in the White House, she and Mr. Reid are the national leaders of their party. Even Newt Gingrich, for all his grand domestic ambitions in 1995, took a muted stand on foreign policy, realizing that in the American system the executive has the bulk of national security power. He also understood he would do the country no favors by sending a mixed message to our enemies--at the time, Slobodan Milosevic.
What was Ms. Pelosi hoping to accomplish, other than embarrassing President Bush? "We were very pleased with reassurances we received from the president that he was ready to resume the peace process," she told reporters after meeting with dictator Bashar Assad. "We expressed our interest in using our good offices in promoting peace between Israel and Syria."
She purported to convey a message from Israel's Ehud Olmert expressing similar interest in "the peace process," except that the Israeli Prime Minister felt obliged to issue a clarification noting that Ms. Pelosi had got the message wrong. Israel hadn't changed its policy, which is that it will negotiate only when Mr. Assad repudiates his support for terrorism and stops trying to dominate Lebanon. As a shuttle diplomat, Ms. Pelosi needs some practice.
Mr. Lantos probably got closer to their real intentions when he told reporters that "this is only the beginning of our constructive dialogue with Syria, and we hope to build on it." The Pelosi cavalcade is intended to show that if only the Bush Administration would engage in "constructive dialogue," the Syrians, Israelis and everyone else could all get along.
This is the same Syrian regime that has facilitated the movement of money and insurgents to kill Americans in Iraq; that has been implicated by a U.N. probe in the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri; and that has snubbed any number of U.S. overtures since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Perhaps if he works hard enough, Mr. Lantos can match the 22 visits to Damascus that Bill Clinton's Secretary of State Warren Christopher made in the 1990s trying to squeeze peace from that same stone.
In fact, Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Lantos both voted for the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003 that ordered Mr. Bush to choose from a menu of six sanctions to impose on Damascus. Mr. Bush chose the weakest two sanctions and dispatched a new Ambassador to Syria in a goodwill gesture in 2004. Only later, in the wake of the Hariri murder and clear intelligence of Syria's role in aiding Iraqi Baathists, did Mr. Bush conclude that Mr. Assad's real goal was to reassert control over Lebanon and bleed Americans in Iraq.
With her trip, Ms. Pelosi has now reassured the Syrian strongman that Mr. Bush lacks the domestic support to impose any further pressure on his country. She has also made it less likely that Mr. Assad will cooperate with the Hariri probe, or assist the Iraqi government in defeating Baathist and al Qaeda terrorists.
Back in Washington, Harry Reid says his response to Mr. Bush's certain veto of his Iraq spending bill will be to escalate. He now supports cutting off funds and beginning an immediate withdrawal, even as General David Petraeus's surge in Baghdad unfolds and shows signs of promise. If Mr. Bush were as politically cynical as Democrats think, he'd let Mr. Reid's policy become law. Then Democrats would share responsibility for whatever mayhem happened next.
So this is Democratic foreign policy: Assure our enemies that they can ignore a President who still has 21 months to serve; and wash their hands of Baghdad and of their own guilt for voting to let Mr. Bush go to war. No doubt Democrats think the President's low job approval, and public unhappiness with the war, gives them a kind of political immunity. But we wonder.
Once we leave Iraq, America's enemies will still reside in the Mideast; and they will be stronger if we leave behind a failed government and bloodbath in Iraq. Mr. Bush's successor will have to contain the damage, and that person could even be a Democrat. But by reverting to their Vietnam message of retreat and by blaming Mr. Bush for all the world's ills, Democrats on Capitol Hill may once again convince voters that they can't be trusted with the White House in a dangerous world.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Asia
on: April 10, 2007, 10:21:26 AM
The Last King of Java
Indonesia's former president offers a model of Muslim tolerance.
BY BRET STEPHENS
Saturday, April 7, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
JAKARTA, Indonesia--Suppose for a moment that the single most influential religious leader in the Muslim world openly says "I am for Israel." Suppose he believes not only in democracy but in the liberalism of America's founding fathers. Suppose that, unlike so many self-described moderate Muslims who say one thing in English and another in their native language, his message never alters. Suppose this, and you might feel as if you've descended into Neocon Neverland.
In fact, you have arrived in Jakarta and are sitting in the small office of an almost totally blind man of 66 named Abdurrahman Wahid. A former president of Indonesia, he is the spiritual leader of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), an Islamic organization of some 40 million members. Indonesians know him universally as Gus Dur, a title of affection and respect for this descendant of Javanese kings. In the U.S. and Europe he is barely spoken of at all--which is both odd and unfortunate, seeing as he is easily the most important ally the West has in the ideological struggle against Islamic radicalism.
Conversation begins with some old memories. In the early 1960s, Mr. Wahid, whose paternal grandfather founded the NU in 1926 and whose father was Indonesia's first minister of religious affairs, won a scholarship to Al-Azhar University in Cairo, which for 1,000 years had been Sunni Islam's premier institution of higher learning. Mr. Wahid hated it.
"These old sheikhs only let me study Islam's traditional surras in the old way, which was rote memorization," he recalls, speaking in the excellent English he learned as a young man listening to the BBC and Voice of America. "Before long I was fed up. So I spent my time reading books from the USIS [United States Information Service], the Egyptian National Library, and at the cinema. I used to watch three, four movies a day."
As Mr. Wahid saw it, the basic problem with Al-Azhar was that the state interfered in its affairs and demanded intellectual conformity--a lesson he carries with him to the present day. In 1966 he left Cairo for Baghdad University, where he encountered much the same thing: "The teaching [suffered from] conventionalism. You were not allowed to go your own way."
Here Mr. Wahid digresses into Islamic history. "In the second century of Islam, the Imam al-Shafi'i began remodeling the religion," he says. "He put into place the mechanism of understanding everything through law [Shariah]. Now people can't talk about that anymore. We cannot attack al-Shafi'i."
The point is crucial to Mr. Wahid's understanding of Islam as being something broader, deeper and better than the tradition-bound view of life imposed by traditional schools of Islamic law (all the more striking because Mr. Wahid is himself a leading theologian of the Shafi'i school). It is equally crucial to Mr. Wahid's politics, not to mention his relaxed approach to social issues.
"The globalization of ethics is always frightening to people, particularly Islamic radicals," he says in reference to a question about the so-called pornoaksi legislation. For the past three years Indonesian politics have been roiled by an Islamist attempt to label anything they deem sexually arousing to be a form of "porno-action." Mr. Wahid sees this as an assault on pancasila, Indonesia's secularist state philosophy from the time of its founding. He also sees it as an assault on common sense. "Young people like to kiss each other," he says, throwing his hands in the air. "Why not? Just because old people don't do it doesn't mean it's wrong."
Mr. Wahid is equally relaxed about some of the controversies that have recently erupted between Muslims and the West. Pope Benedict's Regensburg speech from last September was "a good speech, though as usual he pointed to the wrong times and the wrong cases." As for the furor over the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, he asks "why should we be angry?" And he dismisses Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, the al-Jazeera preacher who helped incite the cartoon riots, as an "angry, conventional" thinker.
What really concerns Mr. Wahid is what he sees as the increasingly degraded state of the Muslim mind. That problem is becoming especially acute at Indonesian universities and in the pesantren--the religious boarding schools that graduate hundreds of thousands of students every year. "We are experiencing the shallowing of religion," he says, bemoaning the fact that the boarding schools persist in teaching "conventional"--that word again--Islam.
But Mr. Wahid's critique is not just of formal Islamic education. He also attacks the West's philosophy of positivism, which, he says, "relies too much on the idea of conquering knowledge and mastering scientific principles alone." This purely empirical and essentially soulless view of things, broadly adopted by Indonesia's secular state universities, gives its students a bleak choice: "Either they follow the process or they are outside the process."
As a result, Western-style education in Indonesia has come to represent not just secularism but the negation of religion, to which too many students have responded by embracing fundamentalism. At the University of Indonesia, for example, an estimated three in four students are members or sympathizers of the "Prosperous Justice Party," or PKS, an ultra-radical Islamic party.
This raises the subject of religion and politics. "For us, an Islamic party is not a thing to follow," he says, adding that "religion and morality is tied to person, not a party." To illustrate the point, he observes that religious parties in the Muslim world have more often been the handmaids of dictatorship than democracy. "Whenever governments tried to enforce their institutions they use 'Islamic' people as potential allies." The Front for the Defense of Islam (FPI), a radical vigilante group that uses violent means to suppress "un-Islamic" behavior, was, he observes, originally a creature of the Indonesian military.
So why did Mr. Wahid, as a religious leader, make the choice to go into politics himself? He demurs at the suggestion of choice. "I am against politics, so to speak. In 1984 I tried hard to convince people that the NU should not be in politics." He was overruled by others in the organization, and eventually he founded the Party of National Awakening, or PKB. Yet the party, he insists, is "based on non-Islamic principles," a fact he illustrates by pointing to a nearby aide who is an Indonesian Protestant. "We have to go for plurality, for tolerance."
He also believes that the "only solution" to the challenge of Islamic radicalization in Indonesia is more democracy. But what about the example of Hamas, which came to power through democratic means, and of other groups like Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood that would probably do the same if given the chance? Mr. Wahid's answer is to distinguish between what he calls "full democratization" and the "hollow imitation of democracy" that he sees taking place in Indonesia as well as among Arabs in Palestine and Iraq.
"The problem is not personalities, it is institutions," he says. "For the past 250 years the Americans have had not just Jefferson's concept of the rights of the individual but also Alexander Hamilton's belief in a strong state." In order to function properly, democracy requires competent government that can effectively uphold the rule of law. It also requires a broadly understood concept of self-rule, which is missing in too much of the developing world: "Here, ordinary citizens expect the government to do everything for them."
He therefore takes a fairly dim view of Iraq's democratic prospects. "Iraqis understood that Saddam had caused them trouble," and were grateful to be rid of him, he says. "But as for the U.S. concept of democracy, they don't understand it at all." The problem, he adds, goes double in the rest of the Arab world, where, he says, the prevailing view is that being a democracy is an expression of weakness, while being a dictatorship is a sign of strength.
What's needed, in other words, is for countries like Indonesia and Iraq to find a way to combine effective government with a powerful respect for the rights of the citizen. But how one goes about doing that is itself a deeper problem, a problem of culture. "How do we follow the West without [becoming] Westerners? How do you do that? I don't know."
In fact, Mr. Wahid has begun to develop an answer through two organizations he chairs, the Wahid Institute, run by his daughter Yenny, and LibForAll, an Indonesia- and U.S.-based nonprofit run by American C. Holland Taylor, which works to discredit Islamism's ideology of hatred. "It's up to LibForAll to introduce both sides to Muslims; to show that common principles are also the principles of Islam," Mr. Wahid says. "Hundreds of thousands of Muslim youth learn in countries where there is technological modernity. We need to [nurture] the emergence of a new kind of people who think in terms of being modern but still relate to the past."
In fact, that perfectly describes Mr. Wahid, who is keenly aware of his own roots in both Islamic and Javanese traditions. Among his ancestors are the last Hindu-Buddhist king of the Javanese Majapahit dynasty, and Sunan Kalijogo, a Sufi mystic who married Islamic and local traditions and, according to lore, defeated Islamic extremism in the 16th century. Can Mr. Wahid, heir to this venerable tradition, accomplish the same feat? "Right now, the fundamentalists think they're winning," he once told a friend. "But they're going to wake up one day and realize we beat them."
Mr. Stephens writes "Global View," The Wall Street Journal's foreign affairs column.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security
on: April 10, 2007, 10:08:53 AM
The Great Al-Qaeda "Patriot"
By Paul Sperry
FrontPageMagazine.com | April 9, 2007
A man identified as "Esam Omesh" spoke just before Cindy Sheehan at last month's antiwar rally that Sheehan headlined in Washington.
Following chants of "Impeach Bush!" from shivering protesters, Omesh took the podium and exhorted "brothers and sisters" to condemn Bush for the deaths of "more than 650,000 Iraqi lives." He demanded the White House "pull our troops out of Iraq now" and "end the war today."
The speaker counted himself among the "great American patriots" who braved the cold to march on Washington and protest the war that day.
While there may have been legitimate voices there, this speaker decidedly was not one of them. Not because he's Muslim, but because he's an Islamist tied to an al-Qaida fund raiser and the spiritual adviser to the 9/11 hijackers.
Turns out it his real name is Esam S. Omeish, and he runs a nonprofit group in Washington called the Muslim American Society, which the FBI believes is the U.S. branch of the dangerous Muslim Brotherhood, a worldwide jihadist movement that operates like the mafia. The secret Islamist society counts Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahri, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and blind sheik Omar Abdel Rahman among its members. Its motto: "The Quran is our constitution, the prophet is our guide; Death for the glory of Allah is our greatest ambition."
His office is right next door to the old office of one of Al-Qaida's top fund raisers in America, Abdurahman Alamoudi, before he was jailed a few years ago. And it's located in the same Alexandria, Va., business park as the former office of Osama bin Laden's nephew, before he hightailed it back to Saudi Arabia after 9/11.
"Omesh" is not the legal spelling of his name. He may spell it that way for the media, but that's not how it's listed in court documents I've examined. The correct spelling is Omeish with an "i." Perhaps he leaves it out to avoid links to his brother, Mohamed S. Omeish.
As I first reported in my book, "Infiltration: How Muslim Spies and Subversives Have Penetrated Washington," Mohamed Omeish headed the U.S. branch of one of bin Laden's favorite Saudi charities, the International Islamic Relief Organization, which was raided after 9/11. Tax records I've obtained show Omeish shared an office with Alamoudi, the convicted al-Qaida-tied terrorist and godfather of the Muslim mafia in America. This is the same "moderate" Muslim leader who federal prosecutors caught on tape complaining bin Laden hadn't killed enough Americans.
It gets worse. Esam S. Omeish also sits on the board of the 9/11-tied mosque in Washington that helped the hijackers get licenses and housing, and whose imam prepared them for martyrdom operations in private closed-door sessions. Omeish personally hired the imam, Anwar Aulaqi, who fled the country on a Saudi jet about a year after 9/11 (the FBI now wants another crack at questioning him).
Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center, which tax records show has received large donations from the Islamic Relief Organization, is a Muslim Brotherhood bastion. Another former imam and current prayer leader, for example, is an admitted Brotherhood member from the Sudan. The mosque's deed was signed by an Alamoudi crony who has admitted participating in the Brotherhood's "Ikhwan" movement in America.
Dar al-Hijrah is a turnstile for terrorists and terror suspects. A prayer leader, Sheikh Mohammed al-Hanooti, was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the first World Trade Center bombing. Other dubious mosque members have included: Alamoudi, Abdullah bin Laden, Osama's nephew; Hamas leader and fugitive Mousa Abu Marzook and his partners Ismail Elbarasse and Abdelhaleem Ashqar, who was convicted of obstruction of justice in February; convicted Virginia Jihad Network leader Randall "Ismail" Royer, a former CAIR official; and Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, an al-Qaida operative recently convicted of plotting to assassinate President Bush.
Leaders of the mosque rallied around Ali, calling the trial a Zionist "witch hunt," even after it became obvious he was guilty.
What's more, the phone number to the mosque was found in the German apartment of Ramzi bin al-Shibh, roommate of 9/11 ringleader Mohamed Atta. Atta's deputy "emir" in the "raid" on America, Nawaf al-Hazmi, worshipped at Dar al-Hijrah, along with the pilot who crashed the plane into the Pentagon.
Back to mosque leader Esam Omeish, the "American patriot." Court records I've obtained show he put his home up for bond collateral in 2004 to help spring from jail a terrorist suspect who was caught allegedly casing the Chesapeake bridge for attack. His dubious pal Ismail Elbarasse is a founding member of Dar al-Hijrah.
Omeish's house is just down the road from the mosque in Falls Church, Va., and just a few blocks in the other direction from the Islamist business park in Alexandria. One of Omeish's neighbors on his cul-de-sac is the former bookkeeper for terror banker Soliman Biheiri. He started an Islamic investment bank that included Hamas leader Marzook and Abdullah bin Laden as major investors. Biheiri, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, was recently convicted of lying about his connections to Marzook in an investigation into his terrorist ties.
It's one big happy Islamist family in Omeish's neck of the woods.
This is who is rallying opposition to the war. Omeish may claim to be an "American patriot," but even Cindy Sheehan should know better. The people she's consorting with would not have shed a tear had her son been beheaded in Iraq.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Martial Art teacher gets 15 years for pledging to teach AQ
on: April 10, 2007, 03:25:34 AM
Apr 4, 9:14 PM EDT
Guilty Plea in New York Terror Case
By LARRY NEUMEISTER
Associated Press Writer
NEW YORK (AP) -- A martial arts expert pleaded guilty Wednesday to pledging to help al-Qaida by teaching his fighting skills, the third of four defendants and the second this week to admit guilt in the case.
The deal means Tarik Shah, who also is a jazz musician, faces 15 years in prison instead of the 30 years he could have faced if convicted at trial.
Shah, 44, pleaded guilty to conspiring from October 2003 through May 2005 to provide martial arts and hand-to-hand combat with weapons training to fighters knowing that al-Qaida was engaged in terrorism.
"I agreed with others to provide material support to al-Qaida in the form of martial arts training, which I knew was wrong," he told U.S. Magistrate Judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein.
A prosecutor asked Shah to say he knew that al-Qaida was a terrorist group, but Shah, after a pause of several minutes to consult with his lawyer, agreed only that he knew that the U.S. had designated al-Qaida a terrorist organization.
Prosecutors alleged Shah met May 20, 2005, with an undercover FBI agent he thought was an al-Qaida recruiter. During the meeting, he pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida and agreed to provide martial arts expertise to al-Qaida fighters, according to court documents.
Prosecutors also said Shah met multiple times with a confidential source and an FBI undercover agent, expressing a desire and intention to help al-Qaida by recruiting others.
Among materials recovered from Shah were names and telephone numbers of other people, including Seifullah Chapman, a member of what the government called a "Virginia jihad network" that prepared to join the Taliban by playing paintball near Fredericksburg, Va., in 2000 and 2001. Chapman was convicted in Virginia in 2004 and sentenced to 65 years in prison.
Shah's sentencing was set for July 10.
On Monday, Shah's co-defendant Mahmud Faruq Brent Al Mutazzim, of Gwynn Oak, Md., a Washington cab driver, pleaded guilty to providing material support to the Lashkar-e-Taiba organization, which the U.S. designated a terrorist organization in 2001.
Another co-defendant, New York bookstore owner Abdulrahman Farhane, pleaded guilty in November and is to be sentenced next week.
Dr. Rafiq Abdus Sabir of Boca Raton, Fla., is the only defendant who has not pleaded guilty. He is to go to trial April 24 on charges of agreeing to treat holy warriors in Saudi Arabia.
Sabir, educated in the Ivy League, has argued through his lawyers that it was unconstitutional to prosecute a doctor for providing medical services.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cold War II
on: April 04, 2007, 11:23:06 AM
Cold War II
What Islamist Iran has in common with the Soviet Union.
BY DAVID HAZONY
Wednesday, April 4, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
A new Cold War is upon us. Though there is no Soviet Union today, the enemies of Western democracy, supported by a conglomerate of Islamic states, terror groups and insurgents, have begun to work together with a unity of purpose reminiscent of the Soviet menace: not only in funding, training and arming those who seek democracy's demise; not only in mounting attacks against Israel, America and their allies around the world; not only in seeking technological advances that will enable them to threaten the life of every Western citizen; but also in advancing a clear vision of a permanent, intractable and ultimately victorious struggle against the West--an idea they convey articulately, consistently and with brutal efficiency.
It is this conceptual strategic clarity that gives the West's enemies a leg up, even if they are far inferior in number, wealth, and weaponry. From Tehran to Tyre, from Chechnya to the Philippines, from southern Iraq to the Afghan mountains to the madrassas of London and Paris and Cairo, these forces are unified in their aim to defeat the West, its way of life, its political forms and its cause of freedom. And every day, because of this clarity, their power and resources grow, as they attract allies outside the Islamic world: In Venezuela, in South Africa, in North Korea.
At the center of all this, of course, is Iran. A once-friendly state has embarked on an unflinching campaign, at considerable cost to its own economy, to attain the status of a global power: through the massive infusion of money, matériel, training and personnel to the anti-Western forces in Lebanon (Hezbollah), the Palestinian Authority (Hamas and Islamic Jihad), and the Sunni and Shi'ite insurgencies of Iraq; through its relentless pursuit of nuclear arms, long-range missiles and a space program; through its outsized armed forces and huge stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons; through its diplomatic initiatives around the world; and through its ideological battle against democracy, Zionism and the memory of the Holocaust. For the forces of Islamic extremism and political jihad, Iran has become the cutting edge of clarity.
The West, on the other hand, enjoys no such clarity. In America, Iraq has become the overriding concern, widely seen as a Vietnam-style "quagmire" claiming thousands of American lives with no clear way either to win or to lose. (As the bells of the 2006 congressional elections continue tolling in American ears, it is hard to hear the muezzins of the Middle East calling upon the faithful to capitalize on Western malaise.) Europeans continue to seek "diplomatic solutions" even as they contend with powerful and well-funded Islamists in their midst and their friends among the media and intellectual elites--forces that stir public opinion not against Iran and Syria, who seek their destruction, but against their natural allies, America and Israel.
Throughout the West we now hear increasingly that a nuclear Iran is something one has to "learn to live with," that Iraq needs an "exit strategy," and that the real key to peace lies not in victory but in brokering agreements between Israel and the Palestinians and "engaging" Syria and Iran. The Israelis, too, suffer from a lack of clarity: By separating the Palestinian question from the struggle with Hezbollah and Iran, and by shifting the debate back to territorial concession and prisoner exchange, Israelis incentivize aggression and terror, ignore the role Hamas plays in the broader conflict, and send conciliatory signals to the Syrians. Like the Americans with Iraq, Israelis have allowed themselves to lose sight of who their enemies are, how determined they are, and what will be required to defeat them.
The greatest dangers to the West and Israel, therefore, lie not in armaments or battle plans, but in our thinking. Like World War II and the Cold War, this conflict cannot be won without first achieving clarity of purpose. Even the most urgently needed actions, such as stopping the Iranian nuclear effort, require leaders who understand the nature of the threat and have sufficient public support to enable them to act decisively. To achieve this, however, requires a major, immediate investment in the realm of ideas--a battle for understanding that must be won before the battle for freedom can be effectively engaged.
Israel, in particular, has a pivotal role to play. As the frontline state in the conflict, and the lightning rod of Islamist aggression, it is to Israel that the world looks to see how it will respond. From its birth, Israel has served as a model to the West: in deepening its democratic character while fighting a series of wars; in fighting terror effectively, from the defeat of the PLO in the early 1970s in Gaza, to the Entebbe raid in 1976, through Operation Defensive Shield in 2002; and striking pre-emptively against enemies who combined genocidal rhetoric with the acquisition of sophisticated weapons, as with Egypt and Syria in 1967, and Iraq in 1981.
Israel can again serve as a model of a state proud of its heritage, a democracy that knows how to fight against its tyrannical foes without sacrificing its own character. But to do this will require that Israel, too, disperse the conceptual fog in which it has been operating, recognize the strategic costs of ambiguous outcomes such as with the Lebanon war last summer, and adopt a clear and coherent vision and plan of action. If the West is to act decisively and with clarity, it may need Israel to show the way.
What would such a struggle look like? We should not fear to call this conflict by its name: It is the Second Cold War, with Iran as the approximate counterpart of the Soviet Union. Like the U.S.S.R., Iran is an enemy that even the mighty United States will probably never meet in full force on the battlefield and instead must fight via its proxies, wherever they are found. Like the Soviet Union, the ayatollahs' regime is based on an ideological revolution that repudiates human liberty and subjects its political opponents to imprisonment and death, a regime which, in order to maintain its popular support, must continue to foment similar revolutions everywhere it can, to show that it is on the winning side of history. And like the Soviet Union in the 1980s, the Iranian regime today has two clear weaknesses, which could ultimately spell its downfall: economic stagnation and ideological disaffection.
With unemployment and inflation both deep in double digits, an increasing structural dependence on oil revenue, a negligible amount of direct foreign investment, and a stock market that has declined over 30% since the election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's heavy investment in other people's wars and its own weapons and terrorist groups must in the end exact a price in terms of support for the regime. Today, moreover, the great majority of Iranians do not identify with the government's Islamist ideology, and among young people the regime is widely derided.
Is it possible to bring about the fall of revolutionary Iran? Despite the obvious differences, there is a great deal the West can learn from the way victory was found in the first Cold War. Led by the United States, Western countries in the 1980s mounted a campaign on a wide range of fronts--military, technological, diplomatic, public relations and covert operations--to convince the Soviet elites that their regime was failing at every turn, and was headed for collapse. By deliberately escalating the arms race and through trade sanctions on the Soviets, America increased the pressure on the Soviet economy. By supporting dissident groups, sending radio transmissions into the Soviet Empire, and making dramatic pronouncements such as Ronald Reagan's famous Berlin Wall speech in 1987, the West emboldened the regime's internal opponents. And by supporting anticommunist forces around the world, from Latin America to Africa to Western Europe to Afghanistan, the West halted the expansion of the communist bloc and even began to roll it back. In all cases the goal was the same: to make it clear to the ranks of Soviet elites, upon whom the regime's legitimacy continued to depend, that they were on the wrong side of history.
When taken in combination with the Soviet Union's failing economy and widespread ideological disaffection among the populace--much as we see in Iran today--it was possible for the West's multifront strategy to bring about the downfall of what was, during the time of Jimmy Carter, believed to be an unstoppable, expanding historical juggernaut for whom the best the West could hope was "containment" and "détente." Its vast nuclear arsenals, its pretensions to global dominance, its coherent world-historical ideology--none of these could protect it against the determined, united efforts of the free world. But it required, above all, a spiritual shift of momentum which began at home: A belief that victory was possible, that the Soviet Union was impermanent, and that concerted effort could change history. It required a new clarity of purpose.
By most measures, Iran is an easier mark than the Soviet Union. It does not yet have nuclear weapons or ICBMs; its Islamist ideology has less of a universal appeal; its tools of thought control are vastly inferior to the gulag and the KGB; and its revolution is not old enough to have obliterated the memory of better days for much of its population. In theory at least, it should be much easier for the West to mount a similar campaign of relentless pressure on the regime--from fomenting dissent online, to destabilizing the regime through insurgent groups inside Iran, to destroying the Iranian nuclear project, to ever-deeper economic sanctions, to fighting and winning the proxy wars that Iran has continued to wage--in order to effect the kind of change of momentum needed to enable the Iranian people to bring their own regime down the way the peoples under communism did in the 1980s and 1990s.
Yet it is precisely because of the ayatollahs' apparent frailty that the West has failed to notice the similarities between this menace and the Soviet one a generation ago. For despite their weakness on paper, the forces of jihad are arrayed in full battle armor, and are prepared to fight to the end. What they lack in technological and industrial sophistication, they more than make up for in charisma, public-relations acumen, determination, ideological coherence and suicidal spirit. Above all, they possess a certainty, a clarity and a will to sacrifice that will greatly increase their chances of victory, and of continued expansion, until they are met with an equally determined enemy.
The fall of the Iranian regime will not end the global jihad. Beyond the messianic Shiite movement, there is still a world of Sunni and Wahhabi revolutionaries, from al Qaeda to Hamas, determined to make war on the West even without Iran's help--just as anti-American communism did not end with the fall of the Soviet Union. Yet there can be no question that today, it is Iran that has earned the greatest admiration, given the global jihad its greatest source of hope and funds, and racked up the most impressive victories, taking on the West and its allies throughout the Middle East--and especially in Iraq, where its proxy insurgencies have frustrated American efforts and even brought about a shift in the internal politics of the United States. Iran is not the only foe, but it is the leader among them. It is only through Iran's defeat that the tide of the Second Cold War will be turned.
Mr. Hazony is editor in chief of Azure, in whose Spring issue this article appears.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants
on: April 04, 2007, 10:39:09 AM
§ 953. Private correspondence with foreign governments.
Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.
This section shall not abridge the right of a citizen to apply himself, or his agent, to any foreign government, or the agents thereof, for redress of any injury which he may have sustained from such government or any of its agents or subjects.
18 U.S.C. § 953 (2004).
1146 GMT -- UNITED STATES, SYRIA -- U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with
Syrian President Bashar al Assad on April 4, despite calls against the visit
by the White House. A member of Pelosi's delegation said the speaker planned
to discuss Syria's suspected support for rebels in Iraq as well as the
country's support for Lebanon-based Hezbollah and the Palestinian movement
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran's Hostages
on: April 04, 2007, 08:43:53 AM
Apr 4, 2007 — WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. has been secretly advising and encouraging a Pakistani militant group that has carried out a series of deadly guerrilla raids inside Iran, ABC News reported on Tuesday, citing U.S. and Pakistani intelligence sources.
The raids have resulted in the deaths or capture of Iranian soldiers and officials, ABC reported.
The group, members of the Baluchi tribe, operates from Pakistan's gas-rich province of Baluchistan, just across the border from Iran, the report said. The only relationship with the group that U.S. intelligence acknowledges is cooperation in tracking al Qaeda figures in that part of Pakistan, ABC reported. The group, called Jundullah, has produced videos showing Iranian soldiers and border guards it says it has captured, ABC said. ABC cited U.S. government sources it did not identify as saying the United States does not provide direct funding for the group but has maintained close ties to its leader, Abd el Malik Regi, since 2005.
A CIA official said the account was not accurate.
Regi claims to have personally executed some of the Iranian captives, the ABC News report said.
"He is essentially commanding a force of several hundred guerrilla fighters that stage attacks across the border into Iran on Iranian military officers, Iranian intelligence officers, kidnapping them, executing them on camera," said Alexis Debat, a senior fellow on counterterrorism at the Nixon Center and an ABC News consultant.
"He used to fight with the Taliban. He's part drug smuggler, part Taliban, part Sunni activist," Debat told ABC.
The group took credit for an attack in February that killed at least 11 members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard riding on a bus in the Iranian city of Zehedan, ABC said. According to the report, Iranian state television last month broadcast what it said were confessions by those responsible for the bus attack. They reportedly admitted to being members of Jundullah and said they had been trained for the mission at a secret location in Pakistan, ABC said.
(Page 2 of 2)
ABC cited Pakistani government sources as saying the secret campaign against Iran was on the agenda when Vice President Dick Cheney met with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in February. Asked about the report, Cheney spokeswoman Megan McGinn responded: "We don't discuss conversations between the vice president and foreign leaders."
Copyright 2007 Reuters News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Native Americans
on: April 04, 2007, 07:34:13 AM
A post from the Warrior Talk forum:
Been reviewing some of my old books on the Apaches as I have been spending a lot of time in Apache country lately. While there are mountains of books written on Geronimo, I'd highly recommend the book "In the Days of Victorio" by Eve Ball. Victorio, and his equally impressive sister Lozen, get little coverage from the historians. The author Eve Ball lived in New Mexico during the 1950's and knew many of the last warriors who fought on the trail with Geronimo and recorded their stories firsthand. Great stories that you can glean volumes from on unconventional tactics and strategy.
Excellent accounts of escape, evasion, survival on the run, and guerilla tactics used by Victorio, who was probably the greatest strategist the Apaches ever had. The book is published by Univ. of Arizona Press which puts out many books on western history. Another good one, and the most comprehensive on the man himself is- "Geronimo" by Angie Debo.
E & E lessons to be gleaned from this reading for the modern bug-out situation:
-Know your terrain well- study maps of your immediate area and know every crossing point, water source, secondary roads, and other geographic advantages for hiding or taking off. The Apaches had topo maps in their heads from a lifetime of living on and traveling the landscape. General Crook, who was the commanding officer in charge of ending the Apache Wars, knew that to catch an Apache you had to use another Apache, such was their knowledge of their surroundings. He enlisted rival Apache trackers from other bands which was the key to Crook's success.
-Be in the best aerobic conditioning you can be in. During the Geronimo campaign, there were many stories of Apaches running 120 miles in 12 hours. Friends of mine at Hopi today who are now in their 70's have told me the same thing about their accomplishments in the "old days." These men can outhike and outrun me still despite my best efforts at keeping in shape-and we are amazed at modern marathons! Endurance is a critical factor to be able to stay ahead of your pursuers, so keep up a high level of aerobic conditioning.
-Victorio always had his warriors sleep with their mocassins on and their bags of food/water strung around their necks so they could flee at the first sound of enemies approaching. Your BOB has to be on you as well as your boots when you rest and not slung on a tree. He also made two camps each night- one was a decoy camp to distract pursuers and the other, nearby but well hidden, was where they holed up for rest in view of the first camp. This saved their hides many times from approaching trackers.
-Learn to live with discomfort when in the wilds and on the move. Something not mentioned in the books but it comes across and is something one experiences on long survival courses. For E & E, you're not going to be sleeping on a comfy bed each night after a steak & lobster dinner and a hot shower. Hunger, fatigue, thirst, discomfort, and did I mention fatigue, are going to be your constant companions on a real evasion as you travel cross-country with a bag of gear and the stress of heightened awareness that is stretched to the limits over a few days or more.
-Next time you go on a walk in the woods, see how little sign of your passage you can leave. Take note of what soils leave the most tracks, what signs of prints you leave when you walk off trail or on leaves, and what spots would make good lay-up positions or hides that are off the beaten path.
We'll be covering this in greater detail in the June Complete Warrior Class in Prescott but in the meantime, check out the book on Victorio- worth it's weight in tactical gold.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Stratfor: Russia's Great Power Strategy
on: April 04, 2007, 07:30:08 AM
More from Stratfor on this-- is Russia's apparent new firm attitude on Iran's nukes the quid pro quo of which Strat speaks?
Geopolitical Diary: The Grab for Ukraine
The last time Ukraine was in play was in 2004, when there was an electoral fight between would-be presidents Viktor Yanukovich and Viktor Yushchenko that featured Russian President Vladimir Putin campaigning directly for the former -- with the entire West backing the latter. By the time the dust settled, Yushchenko had grabbed the presidency, while subsequent elections landed Yanukovich in the prime minister's chair.
Yanukovich has managed to use his more powerful position as head of government to steadily whittle down Yushchenko's institutional power and popularity. Unwilling to be sidelined, Yushchenko on Monday invoked his most powerful constitutional ability, dissolving the Yanukovich-dominated parliament and ordering fresh elections.
But unlike in 2004, when Yushchenko could count on the West to provide him with financial and technical assistance, this time he might be on his own.
For Moscow, Ukraine is the single most valuable territory in the former Soviet empire. It is more than the homeland of the Russian ethnicity or the home of more than 10 million ethnic compatriots; it was one of Soviet Russia's few warmwater ports, the location of its bulk of infrastructure links to the West, a breadbasket integrated into the Russian heartland and 1,000 miles of buffer. With Ukraine in Russia's sphere of influence, a Russian resurgence is possible. Without Ukraine, the idea of Russia as a global power is ridiculous, and its role as even a regional power is no longer guaranteed. Hence, now that Kiev's perennial political instability has provided an opening, the Russians undoubtedly will make what they can of it.
And they will probably get exactly what they want. The Russians have a lot of power in Ukraine -- whether due to plants in the Ukrainian government, infrastructure links or cultural ties -- but it really all comes down to one fact: The United States does not want a fight with the Russians right now.
It is not simply that the Americans are bogged down in Iraq and lack the bandwidth or appetite for a fight. It is that the Russians wield considerable influence in the Middle East -- specifically in Iran and Syria -- and have demonstrated time and again that unless the United States is in tip-top shape, Moscow retains the ability to sabotage most U.S. efforts in the region. The one thing the United States certainly does not need right now is a Russian monkey wrench in its negotiations with Iran over the future of Iraq.
Other sponsors of Ukraine's Orange Revolution are similarly occupied. For example, the United Kingdom and France are both up to their necks in domestic transfers of power and lack the time to attempt to influence Kiev.
That really only leaves two powers with the motive and opportunity to make a meaningful difference: Poland and Germany. For both, prying Ukraine out of the Russian sphere of influence is an unabashed goal that would turn Russia's buffer into their buffer. And, now more than ever, both would love to act. Under the Russophobic Kaczynski twins, Poland is likely to fall over itself in its enthusiasm to deal Russia a defeat, while Germany -- under Chancellor Angela Merkel -- is determined to rediscover its voice on the international stage after 60 years of absence.
But neither will do so, and the reason again goes back to Washington.
The United States is ultimately Poland's only noteworthy security guarantor, so no matter how desperately Warsaw wants to act, it cannot do so in the face of a red light from Washington. And that is exactly the order the Bush administration will give, since it knows that if the Russians perceived Polish interference in Ukraine, Russia would hold the United States responsible.
Germany under Merkel has steadily been pushing the envelope of German actions that will be tolerated -- expected, even -- in Europe, and Berlin cares little about what ultimately happens in Iran and Iraq. But Germany too will stay its hand, simply because no matter how far Berlin has come in the past few months and years, it is not yet prepared to stand up to both Russian and American pressure.
In essence, the Russians have delivered a message to Washington: Control your people, and we will control ours -- and the Ukrainians are our people.
Yushchenko and his camp are on their own. This means their thin reed of hope lies in making Ukraine's institutions -- the constitutional court and civilian control of the security and intelligence services -- work as they are supposed to -- not the way they traditionally do in a former Soviet republic.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Internet and related technology
on: April 03, 2007, 09:14:15 PM
EM-SEC Technologies Announces Successful Test of
EM-SEC Coating Creates an “Electromagnetic Fortress” that Safeguards Businesses and Government Facilities from Wireless Attacks
Hampton, VA – March 14, 2007
This was an exclusive operation to test the effects of utilizing the EM-SEC Coating System as a viable solution to enabling the safe and secure operation of wireless networks within the confines of an architectural enclosure. The EM-SEC Coating System used for these tests is a series of water-based shielding products that restrict the passage of airborne RF (Radio Frequency) signals. The EM-SEC Coating was initially developed to aid the U.S. Government and Military in shielding operation centers in order to safeguard mission critical information against threats to national and homeland security. These tests revealed that EM-SEC Coating can now successfully be utilized by corporate and private companies.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ukraine
on: April 03, 2007, 08:19:17 PM
Ukraine: A Gathering Storm
Ukraine appeared to be heading toward another crossroads April 3 as some 100,000 people from opposing political camps gathered outside the Rada in the wake of President Viktor Yushchenko's April 2 dissolution of parliament and call for early elections. With rumors of imminent troop deployments swirling, attention now turns to the most critical of players in Ukrainian politics: Russia.
Some 100,000 people supporting either Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko or Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich were gathered outside the Ukrainian parliament in Kiev on April 3, as tensions flared again in the country in the wake of the pro-Western Yushchenko's dissolution of parliament and call for new elections a day earlier. Although no violence has been reported, rumors surfaced in Kiev that the military would arrive by evening.
The two sides, evenly divided with about 50,000 supporters each, have set up opposing tent cities outside the parliament, and the pro-Yanukovich supporters are vowing to "protect parliament and the parliamentarians from the Orange forces." In a reversal of the 2004 Orange Revolution, supporters of pro-Russian Yanukovich are calling for Yushchenko to bend to the prime minister and end threats of early elections.
Defense Minister Anatoly Gritsenko seemed to confirm the rumors of an imminent troop arrival when he said April 3 that Ukrainian military forces would carry out Yushchenko's orders to dissolve parliament. Members of the National Unity coalition are expected to protect the road leading to the Supreme Rada in Kiev from Orange Coalition forces to allow parliament members to enter the Rada. The Pora youth movement also announced plans to mobilize members to patrol areas around administrative buildings to prevent attacks.
Yanukovich, meanwhile, has said that he does not accept the dissolution of parliament or the call for early elections, and that parliament will block this move by "interrupting the powers of the Central Electoral Commission," suggesting he will ensure there is no money for new elections. Yanukovich also said he will hold a referendum in parliament to overturn the president's decree. The referendum also could remove the president if passed, though Yanukovich would need 300 votes in parliament to pass it -- and at most he currently has 262 votes.
The issue now goes to the Constitutional Court -- which is split almost evenly between Yanukovich and Yushchenko supporters -- though the court has not yet ruled whether it will even hear the case.
Yanukovich has been steadily whittling away at Yushchenko's power, both institutionally and in the public mind, for months. Yushchenko believed that his choice was simple: either become a figurehead with no real power or risk new elections in hopes of shaking up the system. (His party is doing badly in the polls and performed dismally in the last elections.)
This move put the ball into the hands of Yanukovich, who faced several, more complex choices: He could go to elections and likely trounce Yushchenko again, but this would essentially put him back where he was April 1. He also could take a risk and ignore the order, to see whether that would succeed in getting Yushchenko either to back down or be forced down -- thus putting Yushchenko prematurely into a purely ceremonial role. It appears Yanukovich has taken the latter option.
And not to be left out, opposition leader Yulia Timoshenko -- the country’s most famous oligarch-turned-political-power-broker -- has her own plans. She allied with Yushchenko during the Orange Revolution, then again in government and now once more in opposition to Yanukovich. In fact, she has been urging -- to the point of breathing new life into the tools of protest that made the Orange Revolution possible -- Yushchenko to dissolve parliament. However, now that it has been done and people are starting to pour onto the streets, she has told her masses to stay home and has instead called for a meeting of all the opposition members of parliament to discuss the situation. This raises the possibility that she has struck a deal with Yanukovich to get rid of Yushchenko as a power player once and for all, which would allow her to be the sole voice at the national level for pro-Westernism.
What is certain is that Yushchenko is playing a weak hand and Yanukovich is acting boldly and confidently. If Yanukovich's gambit at marginalizing or even ousting Yushchenko succeeds, then the pro-Western impulse in Ukraine will have been wholly reduced to Timoshenko. Yes, Yushchenko technically holds the constitutional right to dissolve parliament and, yes, the European Union supports him -- and he will meet with their ambassadors shortly to ask for support. And yes, he holds full legal command over the intelligence and military apparatus. But Ukraine's legal institutions are of questionable use, the European Union is not ready for a bruising fight with the Russians, and Ukraine's security apparatus is shot through by the final -- and critical -- player in this equation: Russia.
Ukraine's path is of paramount importance to Moscow. During the election campaign that ultimately led to the 2004 Orange Revolution, Russian President Vladimir Putin personally campaigned for Yanukovich and still informally supports the man who is now prime minister. So it should come as no surprise that immediately after a, shall we say, heated meeting between Yushchenko and Yanukovich the evening of April 3, Yanukovich's next move was to call Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to discuss options.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: What would you have done?
on: April 03, 2007, 12:41:10 AM
"As per the failure to act, never underestimate the power of by-stander apathy, a real phenomenon where diffusion of responsibility allows most people to avoid acting by waiting until someone else acts. It's a proven phenomenon that the more people who are present, the less likely someone is to act."
This is an interesting idea. It sounds logical, but so too the idea that there is courage in numbers. Would you flesh this out some more please?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: April 02, 2007, 12:38:55 AM
Sorry no URL on this one but it comes to me from a highly reliable internet friend from India.
Note the concluding point of this article...
*Paper no. 2189*
*LOOMING JIHADI ANARCHY IN PAKISTAN - INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM
MONITOR--PAPER NO. 212*
by B. Raman
There has been an increasingly disturbing challenge to the authority of
Pakistan's President, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, from jihadis inspired by the
Neo Taliban and Al Qaeda, who are actively supported by a group of retired
officers of the Army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). This group
is led by Gen. Mohammad Aziz, a Kashmiri Sudan from the Pakistan-Occupied
Kashmir (POK), Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul, Lt. Gen. Javed Nasir, Lt. Gen. Mahmood
Ahmed, Maj.Gen. Zahir-ul-Islam Abbasi and Sq. Leader Khalid Khawaja.
2. Mohammad Aziz and Mahmood Ahmed used to be the most trusted Lt.Gen. of
Musharraf when he took over as the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) in
October,1998. It is they who staged the coup against Nawaz Sharif, the then
Prime Minister, on October 12,1999, when he dismissed Musharraf while he was
flying from Colombo to Karachi and ordered Lt. Gen. Ziauddin, the then DG of
the ISI, to take over as the COAS. They prevented Ziauddin from taking over
and overthrew Nawaz even before Musharraf's plane landed in Karachi. After
taking over as the Chief Executive, Musharraf sacked Ziauddin and had him
arrested. He promoted Mahmood Ahmed in his place as the DG of the ISI.
3. The US did not feel comfortable with them because of their perceived
links with the Islamic fundamentalist elements and they had to be shifted by
Musharraf under US pressure in October 2001. Mohammad Aziz, who was then the
Chief of the General Staff (CGS) in the Army Headquarters, was transferred
to Lahore as a Corps Commander. Ahmed was also transferred to a Corps. Both
of them have since retired. They were lying low for a while avoiding
participating in any activities directed against Musharraf. Even now, they
avoid any statements, remarks or actions, which could be misinterpreted as
anti-Musharraf, but they have been increasingly hobnobbing with Hamid Gul.
4. Hamid Gul was the DG of the ISI under Mrs.Benazir Bhutto during the first
few months of her first tenure as the Prime Minister (1988 to 90), but she
removed him from the post following the fiasco of an attack by the Afghan
Mujahideen and Osama bin Laden's followers which he had organised in a bid
to capture Jalalabad from the control of the then Afghan President
Najibullah's army in 1989. The attack was repulsed by the Afgan Army after
inflicting heavy casualties on the invaders.
5. After his retirement, Hamid Gul joined the Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI) of Qazi
Hussain Ahmed and worked for some years for the Pasban, the militant youth
wing of the JEI. He is no longer with the Pasban. He now owns a flourishing
road transport business and has been at the forefront of all anti-Musharraf
and anti-US activities by ex-servicemen. He has also been helping the Neo
Taliban and its Amir, Mulla Mohammad Omar, in running their training camps
in Pakistani territory. He has also rallied the support of many
ex-servicemen for the current agitation by the lawyers and the JEI against
Musharraf over the suspension of Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhury, the Chief
Justice of Pakistan's Supreme Court, on March 9, 2007.
6. Javed Nasir, former Amir of the Tablighi Jamaat (TJ), was the DG of the
ISI during Nawaz Sharif's first tenure as the Prime Minister (1990-93). The
US forced Nawaz to sack him because of its unhappiness over his perceived
non-co-operation in the implementation of a project of the Central
Intelligence Agency (CIA) for the purchase of the unused Stinger missiles
from the Afghan Mujahideen. Since then, he has been virulently anti-US and
has been helping the Neo Taliban and the TJ. He has also been playing an
active role in the mobilisation of TJ cadres to join the lawyer's agitation.
Mohammad Rafique Tarar, former President, who was removed from office by
Musharraf in 2001, has also been in the forefront of this agitation. He was
and continues to be an active member of the TJ.
7. Abbasi used to be the ISI station chief in New Delhi in the late 1980s.
He was expelled by the Government of India. In 1995, the Pakistan Army then
headed by Gen. Adul Waheed Kakar, discovered a plot by Abbasi and some other
officers to have the General and Benazir Bhutto, then Prime Minster for a
second time (1993-96), assassinated and capture power. They were working
secretly with the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI). They were arrested,
court-martialled and jailed. After coming out of jail, Abbasi has been
active in campaigning against the policies of Musharraf. He is since
reported to have joined the Hizbut-Tehrir (HT), which has many followers in
the lower levels of the army.
8. Khawaja was also in the ISI and used to be in touch with the Taliban
after it came into being in 1994 and Osma bin Laden after he shifted to
Afghanistan in 1996. After leaving the ISI, he joined the Jamaat-ul-Furqa
(JUF) of Sheikh Syed Mubarik Ali Shah Jilani, which has many followers in
the Muslim communities of the US and the West Indies. Daniel Pearl had
sought his help for arranging a meeting with Jilani. Pearl wanted to enquire
about any links between the JUF and Richard Reid, the shoe bomber. It was
Khawaja, who had tipped off the kidnappers of Pearl about his Jewish
background and created a suspicion in their mind that Pearl had links with
the CIA and Mossad. He is now in detention on a charge of instigating the
women students of a madrasa of Islamabad (Jamia Hafsa) to start an agitation
against the demolition of some mosques in Islamabad. This agitation has been
going on for the last two months. In addition to other demands, the
agitating women students, who project themselves as future wives and mothers
of suicide bombers, are now demanding his release from jail. They have been
shouting slogans in praise of bin Laden and Mulla Omar.
9. These retired officers and their followers have been actively helping the
Neo Taliban by organising training camps for its recruits and by
facilitating its procurement of arms and ammunition. They have also been
instigating the madrasas not to comply with the orders of Musharraf for
their registration and for the expulsion of foreign students. They have also
been urging the tribals in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA)
and the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) to continue to provide
hospitality to the Neo Taliban and Al Qaeda in their territory and help them
in their operations in the Afghan territory. They have been encouraging the
lawyers to keep up their agitation against Musharraf.
10. The jihadis trained, armed and motivated by them have stepped up their
activities not only in Afghan territory against the NATO forces, but also in
Pakistani territory in reprisal for the co-operation allegedly extended by
Musharraf to the US in its war against Al Qaeda and the Neo Taliban. Recent
examples of the resulting escalation in the jihadi violence in Pakistani
- An unidentified suicide bomber blew himself up at a military
training ground near Kharian, 130 kilometers south-east of Islamabad, on
March 29, 2007, killing one (some reports say three) soldier and wounding
at least six more. Three Lt. Gen of the Pakistan Army were to visit the camp
that day. It is not yet known whether he was planning to kill them and blew
himself up prematurely. As the suicide attacker approached the training
centre, an Army security guard stopped and asked him to show his identity
card. The attacker blew himself up. This is the eighth incident involving a
suicide bomber in Pakistani territory since the beginning of this year.
- On March 27, 2007, unidentified gunmen on motorbikes hurled
grenades and opened fire on an army vehicle in the Bajaur Agency, killing
five persons, including two officials of the ISI, one of them a
middle-level officer of the rank of Assistant Director. This attack came
despite a cease-fire agreement concluded by the Army earlier this week with
the pro-Neo Taliban tribal leaders of the Agency.
- On March 28, there was a confrontation between the Islamabad police
and the agitating women students of the Jamia Hafsa madrasa. The students
took hostage three women from a house near Lal Masjid to which the madrasa
is attached. They accused them of running a brothel. The police retaliated
by capturing four members of the staff of the madrasa. The women retaliated
from their side by setting fire to a police van and taking two police
officers hostage. Ultimately, the two sides released their respective
hostages. The deputy imam of the Lal Masjid, which is headed by Qazi Abdul
Aziz, and the agitating women students have given a 15- day ultimatum to the
police to release Khalid Khawaja and four other activists of their movement
who have been detained. The agitating women students and their male
supporters from other madrasas nearby attacked police vehicles and seized
their communication sets. The pro-Neo Taliban madrasas and mosques in the
Islamabad area have managed to get hold of FM radio equipment from the FATA,
to which many of the women students belong, and started making
anti-Musharraf and anti-US broadcasts to the people of the capital.
- On March 26, 2007, there was a clash between the police of Tank
(previously known as Tonk), a district headquarters town of the NWFP, and
some recruiters of the Neo Taliban who went to a local school to recruit its
students to the Neo Taliban. One police officer and one of the recruiters
were killed. About 200 members of the Neo Taliban raided the town in
retaliation for the death of the recruiter on March 28, looted the local
banks and engaged in exchanges of fire with the local security forces for
six hours in different parts of the town. The Army had to be called out and
a curfew imposed in order to restore law and order.
11. Earlier, on March 6, 2007, the Governor of the NWFP Lt-Gen (retd) Ali
Mohammad Jan Aurakzai, had convened a meeting attended by the Chief
Minister, Mr. Akram Khan Durrani, and senior officials of the province to
discuss the worsening law and order situation in the province due to the
escalation in the activities of the Neo Taliban and its local supporters.
According to the "Dawn" of Karachi (March 29), the local officials gave the
following assessment to the Governor: ""Inaction on the part of the
law-enforcement agencies has led to the Government being on the retreat.
Writ of the government shrinking with every passing day. Vacuum being filled
by non-state actors. Respect for law and state authority gradually
diminishing. Morale of the law-enforcing agencies and people supportive of
the Government on the decline. Talibanisation, lawlessness and terrorism on
12. The following points were reportedly made at the meeting: The number of
bomb explosions in the NWFP increased from 27 in 2005 to 35 in 2006.In the
first two months of this year, there have already been 25 explosions,
killing 23 persons. Talibanisation has particularly affected Tank, Dera
Ismail Khan, Bannu and Lakki Marwat. There has been a resurgence of the
activities of the Tehrik-i-Nifaz-i-Shariat Muhammadi, particularly in the
Swat region where Maulana Fazlullah alias Maulana Radio was making full use
of his illegally set up FM radio station to carry on propaganda against the
Government. While the situation is getting out of control, there appears to
be a total paralysis and inaction on the part of the Federal Government.
13. Sources in the local police force say that a time when there has been
an escalation in the activities of the Neo Taliban and Al Qaeda in the FATA
and the NWFP, they are finding themselves handicapped in dealing with the
situation for want of adequate forces. According to them, Musharraf has
been giving priority to quelling the Baloch nationalist movement in
Balochistan rather than to action against the Neo Taliban and Al Qaeda. As a
result, there are more security forces deployed in Balochistan than in the
FATA and the NWFP. The peace agreements signed by him with the pro-Taliban
elements in South and North Waziristan and Bajaur agencies were mainly
intended to enable the Army to divert forces to Balochistan. This has given
a free field for the Neo Taliban and Al Qaeda in the FATA and the NWFP. They
have not only stepped up their offensive against the NATO forces in
Afghanistan, but also launched an offensive against the Pakistani security
forces themselves in Pakistani territory.
14. The Neo Taliban, assisted by Al Qaeda, has become Musharraf's
Frankenstein's monster. He helped in its post-9/11 resurgence to achieve
Pakistan's Afghan agenda. It is showing signs of slipping out of his
control. As regards the role of the retired officers backing the Neo Taliban
with their own anti-US agenda, it is doubtful whether they would have
instigated some of the incidents mentioned above such as the suicide attack
at a training camp of the army and the killing of two ISI officers.
15.It would seem that the Neo Taliban has assumed a momentum of its own and
is increasingly not amenable to anybody's control----either Musharraf's or
his detrators'. The international community has reasons to be seriously
concerned over the goings-on in Pakistan. It is slowly moving towards a
situation of jihadi anarchy.
*(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Government
of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical
Studies, Chennai. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 300
on: April 01, 2007, 11:22:38 PM
I appreciate the inclination of your sentiments, but disagree with what I understand to be your position-- that this is a fight for oil. Not only is this in my opinion not so, but to say it is so is to fortify the beliefs of the weak horses amongst us and amongst our enemy and Muslims who sit upon the fence.
I submit that we have repeatedly shown that we are willing to buy oil from just about anyone. Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Hamas, Hezbollah et al control zero oil.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe
on: April 01, 2007, 11:17:15 PM
Schools are dropping the Holocaust from history lessons to avoid offending Muslim pupils, a Governmentbacked study has revealed.
It found some teachers are reluctant to cover the atrocity for fear of upsetting students whose beliefs include Holocaust denial.
There is also resistance to tackling the 11th century Crusades - where Christians fought Muslim armies for control of Jerusalem - because lessons often contradict what is taught in local mosques.
The findings have prompted claims that some schools are using history 'as a vehicle for promoting political correctness'.
The study, funded by the Department for Education and Skills, looked into 'emotive and controversial' history teaching in primary and secondary schools.
It found some teachers are dropping courses covering the Holocaust at the earliest opportunity over fears Muslim pupils might express anti-Semitic and anti-Israel reactions in class.
The researchers gave the example of a secondary school in an unnamed northern city, which dropped the Holocaust as a subject for GCSE coursework.
The report said teachers feared confronting 'anti-Semitic sentiment and Holocaust denial among some Muslim pupils'.
It added: "In another department, the Holocaust was taught despite anti-Semitic sentiment among some pupils.
"But the same department deliberately avoided teaching the Crusades at Key Stage 3 (11- to 14-year-olds) because their balanced treatment of the topic would have challenged what was taught in some local mosques."
A third school found itself 'strongly challenged by some Christian parents for their treatment of the Arab-Israeli conflict-and the history of the state of Israel that did not accord with the teachings of their denomination'.
The report concluded: "In particular settings, teachers of history are unwilling to challenge highly contentious or charged versions of history in which pupils are steeped at home, in their community or in a place of worship."
But Chris McGovern, history education adviser to the former Tory government, said: "History is not a vehicle for promoting political correctness. Children must have access to knowledge of these controversial subjects, whether palatable or unpalatable."
The researchers also warned that a lack of subject knowledge among teachers - particularly at primary level - was leading to history being taught in a 'shallow way leading to routine and superficial learning'. Lessons in difficult topics were too often 'bland, simplistic and unproblematic' and bored pupils. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/liv...n_page_id=1770
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / How to Attack
on: March 30, 2007, 10:36:31 AM
From today's WSJ, one AF General's ideas on how we could attack Iran
By THOMAS G. MCINERNEY
March 30, 2007; Page A15
President Reagan once famously quipped that his strategy in confronting the Soviet Union was "We win, they lose." Today, we need a similarly clear strategy to confront Iran, if we are to successfully counter its aim to drive the U.S. from the Middle East and -- as we see with the 15 British sailors the Iranians have taken hostage -- attempts to intimidate Western powers into inaction.
That strategy begins not with the Kabuki dance now underway at the United Nations. Turtle Bay is usually, and seems destined to be again in this case, a diplomatic sideshow meant more to distract us than to disarm a rogue regime.
While we dither the Iranians will acquire nuclear weapons, give support to our enemies in Iraq and undermine our credibility with our European allies. We need to demonstrate now that there are viable military options in dealing with a rogue regime in Tehran and that not all of those options will leave us embroiled in a shooting war with yet another large, sprawling nation in the Middle East.
I believe that our options for dealing with Iran are more numerous and could be more productive than many Washington policy makers have heretofore argued. Let us remember that Iran is a very diverse nation whose population is only 51% Persian. The rest is Azari (24%), Kurdish (10%) and a mix of other ethnic minorities including Turkman, Arab and others. This is a rich environment for unrest and one reason why there were an estimated 4,300 protest demonstrations in 2005 alone. In recent weeks, we may have benefited from another form of protest. Former Iranian deputy defense minister Ali Reza Asgari appears to have used a trip to Turkey to defect with his family. If he is now talking to Western intelligence officials, we'll soon know a lot more about the inner workings of the Iranian regime.
And the Middle East itself is no monolithic bloc of support for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Israel, of course, is a natural ally in gaining intelligence and lining up support against the Iranian regime. But Iran is bent on destabilizing and dominating the Arabian Peninsula from Lebanon through Gaza into Iraq with a stopover in Bahrain. That makes Saudi Arabia as well as Jordan potentially strong -- if not overt -- allies in countering Iranian influence. The situation has gotten so serious that King Abdullah of Jordan called it a Shia crescent sweeping across the Arabian Peninsula and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia summoned Vice President Cheney to Riyadh last fall.
If we demonstrate that we are sufficiently serious in countering Iran, we could form a coalition of the willing with Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, the Gulf States, Turkey, Australia and those European allies with the courage to consider what their future will look like with a nuclear-armed Iran within missile range. No more denial or hoping Iran will negotiate their nuclear weapons development away. The criteria for joining this coalition would be to join in making the following demands of Iran: Stop developing fissile material, submit to unambiguous International Atomic Energy Agency inspections, turn over all al Qaeda operatives within your borders and stop supporting Hezbollah.
The hard part, of course, of forming any meaningful coalition is the consequences of noncompliance. And this case is no different. The obvious punishment for a defiant Iran could be an air strike that aims to destroy its nuclear development facilities and overt support for Iranians working to overthrow their government. This is where the discussion of taking stringent actions against Iran usually breaks down. Few people believe Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern nations would join a coalition that carried out a military strike and there is little reason to believe many European nations would either.
This is where President Reagan in confronting the Soviets is instructive. The Gipper was elected in 1980 at a time when it appeared inevitable that the Soviet Union would dominate world affairs and just as inevitably that the U.S. was unable to do anything about it short of waging a bloody, military campaign that would have few allies in fighting and not every chance of success. In the end, as they say, Reagan won the Cold War without firing a shot.
We have similar options now. One of which is to enact drastic economic sanctions that, oddly, would involve forcing a gasoline crisis in Iran. Tehran is kept afloat on oil revenues, but it has done so at the expense of its oil industry. While it exports large quantities of crude oil, Iran imports 40% of its domestically consumed gasoline, and each gallon at the pump is heavily subsidized. Shutting off or even restricting the supply of gasoline flowing into the country would put the regime in a crunch and drive up public discontent without creating a corresponding humanitarian crisis.
We could also apply minimal military pressure without straining our relations with our allies. To date Iran is responsible for killing more than 200 American soldiers and wounding over 635 through the introduction of what the U.S. military calls Explosively Formed Penetrators. These EFPs are shaped charges specifically designed to pierce the hulls of our armored vehicles and are much deadlier than what al Qaeda and run-of-the-mill insurgents could have come up with on their own in Iraq. Enough is enough. We could develop a tit-for-tat strategy for each EFP that is detonated in Iraq that could target nuclear support facilities or Iranian leadership or other targets calculated to put heat on the regime without endangering civilians. Many of these responses may be written off as mere happenstance or accidents in a dangerous part of the world. But even as Iran becomes the unluckiest country in the world, our allies in the region could hardly blame us for a calculated response.
The U.S. can also assemble a large-scale force capable of an air offensive. This would serve a similar role to Reagan's military buildup, forcing the Soviets into an arms race that they ultimately couldn't maintain. The immediate strike force could be composed of some 75 stealth attack aircraft -- B2s, F117s and the F22s -- and some 250 nonstealth F15s, F16s, B52s, B1s and three carrier battle groups. These carrier battle groups are composed of over 120 F18s and cruise missiles galore. We also have over 750 UAVs for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in Iraq today. There is more than enough to support a campaign aimed at demonstrating to the Iranian regime that with 48 hours we could hit its nuclear development facilities, command and control facilities, integrated air defenses, Air Force and Navy units and the Shahab 3 missiles using over 2,500 aim points.
Back in Washington, Congress also needs to exercise its responsibility and fund missile defenses, bunker busters and other technologies specifically designed to counter the Iranian regime. Tehran has the world scrambling to respond as it sets about assembling a nuclear weapon that may be more advanced than Fat Man and Little Boy, but which is still far less technologically advanced than the weapons systems we trust 20-somethings to operate every day in our military. Forcing Iran to expend its resources to keep pace with our technological advances is central to any strategy of defeating them.
We don't need to drop leaflets from the air spelling it out for the regime in Tehran that, if we were to carry out an air campaign, it would probably unleash a new Iranian revolution. But the leadership in Iran has to first come to understand that we neither fear a Hezbollah uprising over such a strike -- as Hezbollah is already carrying out terrorist attacks, we'd welcome an open fight on our terms -- nor would we need the main-line coalition ground forces we used in Iraq. Instead, we could simply use the Afghan model of precision airpower supporting covert and indigenous forces.
We're the United States of America. We don't threaten any nation. What Iran must come to realize -- and we must now decide for ourselves -- is that we are in this confrontation to win it.
Lt. Gen. McInerny is retired assistant vice chief of staff of the Air Force and Fox News military analyst.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Forbes on Guiliani
on: March 30, 2007, 08:16:59 AM
Rudy's the One
The free-market leader of the GOP field.
BY STEVE FORBES
Friday, March 30, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
Rudy Giuliani is the real fiscal conservative in the 2008 presidential race. That's why I'm endorsing him for president.
Most Americans know that Mr. Giuliani turned around America's largest city. They know he cut crime and welfare in half; they know that he improved the quality of life from Times Square to Coney Island and everywhere in between. And they witnessed his Churchillian leadership following the terrorist attacks on 9/11.
Less well known is the mayor's fiscal record. Nonetheless, conservatives will find it impressive. He built New York's resurgence not just on fundamental police work, but also on a foundation of fiscal discipline. He cut taxes and the size of government and turned an inherited deficit into a multibillion dollar surplus.
Mr. Giuliani entered office in 1994 with a $2.3 billion budget deficit handed to him by his predecessor, Mayor David Dinkins. Liberal conventional wisdom held that the only way to close the gap was to raise taxes while cutting back on basic city services such as sanitation. The new mayor rejected this advice--in fact, he famously threw the report recommending tax hikes in the trash!
Instead, he set out to restore fiscal discipline to the "ungovernable city"--and achieved results that Reagan Republicans can applaud.
In his first budget address Mr. Giuliani explained that he would "cut taxes to attract jobs so our people can work." While lots of politicians make promises about cutting taxes Mr. Giuliani delivered, overcoming the initial resistance of the overwhelmingly Democratic City Council. He ultimately prevailed 23 times, including cuts in sales, personal income, commercial rent and hotel occupancy taxes. He understood that these taxes were not revenue producers, but counterproductive job killers.
When he left office after eight years, New Yorkers had saved over $9 billion, while enjoying their lowest tax burden in decades. The private sector, which had been hemorrhaging hundreds of thousands of jobs in the years before he took office, produced over 423,000 new jobs. Meanwhile the unemployment rate was cut in half. Businesses responded to Mr. Giuliani's reforms by returning to the center of city life.
So when he talks about his belief in supply-side economics, its not just theory, it's a plan he has already succeeded at putting into action. He's seen the results of supply-side economics first hand--higher revenues from lower taxes.
Controlling government spending is another pledge often made by politicians. Conservative voters now know to be skeptical of such claims. But Mr. Giuliani has a record they can have confidence in. His first budget cut spending for the first time in the city since the fiscal crisis of the 1970s--and over the course of his administration he controlled the city's spending while federal government spending grew by over 40% and average state spending ballooned by over 60%. Mr. Giuliani always made fiscal discipline a priority: instructing city commissioners to cut agency budgets even when the deficits had turned to surpluses.
Mr. Giuliani set out to cut the size of city government, insisting that New York should live within its means. New Yorkers saw their quality of life improve with more effective delivery of services while the bureaucratic ranks were being thinned by nearly 20,000--a near 20% decrease in city headcount, excluding police officers and teachers. He increased the number of cops and teachers because he understood that public safety and quality education are what we expect in return for our tax dollars, not partisan job protection or union featherbedding. As mayor, he proved that government can be smaller and smarter--more efficient and more effective.
Rudy Giuliani can unite the Republican Party and restore our traditional claim as the party of fiscal conservatism. He has already proven he can stand up to liberal special interest groups and achieve tax cuts, even with a Democrat-controlled City Council. That's the kind of leadership we need in Washington. That's the kind of leadership that will inspire the next generation of the Reagan Revolution. And that's why America's Mayor should be America's next president.
Mr. Forbes is president and CEO of Forbes Inc. and editor in chief of Forbes magazine.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in France
on: March 30, 2007, 08:06:24 AM
That was an interesting read.
From today's NY Slimes, here's this about France:
By ELAINE SCIOLINO
Published: March 30, 2007
PARIS, March 29 — France’s presidential campaign has been seized by a subject long monopolized by the extreme right: how best to be French.
The conservative candidate, Nicolas Sarkozy, wants to create a ministry of “immigration and national identity” that would require newcomers to embrace the secular values of the republican state.
The Socialist candidate, Ségolène Royal, wants every French citizen to memorize “La Marseillaise” and keep a French flag in the cupboard for public display on Bastille Day.
The far-right candidate, Jean-Marie Le Pen, of the National Front party, chortles that his rivals have stolen — and therefore validated — his message of “France for the French.”
Some political commentators have accused Mr. Sarkozy of harking back to the darkest period in modern French history: the collaborationist Vichy government during the Nazi occupation. Ms. Royal, meanwhile, is being attacked by both her rivals and her own camp for manipulating symbols that historically have been the domain of the far right.
With the first round of the election 24 days away, the battle over French identity has overtaken discussion of more practical issues like reducing unemployment and making France more competitive.
On Tuesday, as if to underscore the tensions over identity, roving bands of young people threw objects at the police, smashed store windows and damaged property for several hours at the Gare du Nord, a major train station in Paris. The trouble started when an illegal immigrant from Congo jumped a turnstile in the subway and tried to punch a transit agent who asked to see his ticket.
The police shut down the subway and commuter train system, arrested 13 suspects and used tear gas before restoring order after midnight.
The shift to debating Frenchness is aimed in part at luring the right-wing vote away from Mr. Le Pen, who shocked France in 2002 when he finished the first round of voting in second place.
It is also an attempt to reassure jittery voters that France will remain an important power at a time when it is losing prominence in a larger European Union and a globalized world and struggling with a disaffected Muslim and ethnic Arab and African population at home.
“Resolving the identity crisis in France is a very serious problem, but both Nicolas Sarkozy and Ségolène Royal have trivialized it in this election,” said Eric Dupin, a political scientist and an author. “Both of them are playing on the fears and the base emotions of the people.”
François Bayrou, the centrist candidate who leads the tiny Union for French Democracy party, denounced the “nationalistic obsession” that had infiltrated the campaign. “Every time in our past that we have wanted to go back to external signs, it has led to periods that are unhappy,” he said.
For the past few years, France has struggled with economic and cultural issues related to its immigrants. One is shared by much of the rest of Europe: how to stop the influx of illegal immigrants who drain a country’s economy and social services. A second is how to force French citizens of immigrant origin to obey laws, including those banning practices like polygamy and the wearing of head scarves by Muslim girls and women in schools and universities.
As interior minister before he stepped down Monday to focus on his campaign, Mr. Sarkozy tightened immigration laws and boasted that he had expelled tens of thousands of illegal immigrants and prevented others from entering. His pledge in 2005 to rid France’s ethnic Arab and Muslim suburbs of “scum” contributed to a three-week orgy of violence there.
Mr. Sarkozy, who has largely avoided the suburbs during his campaign, has criticized immigrants and their offspring who resist the French model of integration, saying it is unacceptable to want to live in France without respecting and loving the country or learning French.
He touched off the current debate in a television appearance on March 8 when he announced a plan to create a “ministry of immigration and national identity” if elected.
Ms. Royal called the plan “disgraceful,” adding, “Foreign workers have never threatened French identity.”
“Indecent,” was the reaction of Azouz Begag, the minister for equal opportunity. “I’m not stupid, and neither are the French,” he said. “It’s a hook to go and look for the lost sheep of the National Front.”
Simone Veil, a beloved former government minister and Holocaust survivor, found herself denouncing Mr. Sarkozy’s idea shortly after she endorsed him for president.
“I didn’t at all like this very ambiguous formula,” she told the magazine Marianne. She said a ministry for immigration and “integration” would be a better idea.
Mr. Sarkozy was unfazed. “I want the promotion of a common culture,” he said in reply to his critics.
Published: March 30, 2007
(Page 2 of 2)
Indeed, an OpinionWay Internet poll for the newspaper Le Figaro, splashed on the paper’s front page this month, indicated that 55 percent of French voters approved. Sixty-five percent agreed that the “immigrants who join us must sign up to the national identity.”
Although the poll was conducted using a representative sample via the Internet, not by using more reliable telephone surveys, it was widely cited as evidence that the French wanted a more restrictive immigration policy and that they wanted Muslims here conform to secular French customs.
But Mr. Sarkozy’s proposal has revived memories of the Vichy era. The idea of a national identity ministry has been compared to the General Commissariat of Jewish Affairs, which was created with ministerial rank under the Vichy administration. “Only Vichy developed administrative structures in their efficient way to defend a certain concept of ‘national identity,’ ” the columnist Philippe Bernard wrote in Le Monde last week. He said that the Commissariat, “even before being a tool in the service of the policy of extermination, responded to the objective of purification of the French nation.”
Some conservative Jewish voters, who were planning to vote for Mr. Sarkozy because of his staunch support of Israel, say they now are considering shifting to Mr. Bayrou.
Despite Ms. Royal’s criticism of Mr. Sarkozy, she followed his lead by wrapping herself tightly in her own mantle of nationalism. She started by encouraging her supporters to sing “La Marseillaise,” the national anthem and the rallying cry of the right, at the end of her rallies.
Last week in southern France, which historically votes for the right and extreme right, she called for a “reconquest of the symbols of the nation” from the right.
She said all French citizens should have the French flag at home, adding, “In other countries, they put the flag in the windows on their national holiday.” And she promised that if elected, she would “ensure that the French know ‘La Marseillaise.’ ”
In the end, both camps acknowledge that they are trying to appeal to voters on the right.
“Ségolène Royal is taking back the terrain too often abandoned by the left for ages to the right and the extreme right,” said a former defense and interior minister, Jean-Pierre Chevènement, who supports her.
Mr. Sarkozy was more explicit. “Since 1983, we have the strongest far right in Europe,” he said this month. “We must not proceed as if it does not exist. I want to talk to those who have moved toward the far right because they are suffering.”
During a campaign trip last week in the Caribbean, where some of the region’s residents can vote in French elections, Mr. Sarkozy boasted that after he proposed his immigration and national identity ministry, his standing in the polls jumped.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Playboy in Indonesia
on: March 29, 2007, 06:42:25 PM
Playboy in Indonesia
By SADANAND DHUME
March 29, 2007; Page A16
JAKARTA, Indonesia -- The latest round of the global culture war between Islamists and the West is being played out in a small courtroom here. Erwin Arnada, the beleaguered editor of Playboy Indonesia, faces a two-year jail term for breaching the country's indecency laws.
Earlier this month, about 100 belligerent Islamists, bearded and skull-capped, packed the courtroom shouting "hang him, hang him!" as prosecutors read out the charges against Mr. Arnada. Adding to the atmosphere of intimidation: the gaunt presence of Abu Bakar Bashir, alleged spiritual head of Jemaah Islamiyah, the group associated with al Qaeda that was behind the 2002 Bali bombings and subsequent attacks on Jakarta's J. W. Marriott hotel and the Australian embassy.
The Playboy affair captures the world's most populous Muslim country's steady slide toward intolerance. But the silence with which it has been greeted in the U.S. -- no press releases from the Committee to Protect Journalists clog my inbox -- also underscores the cringe of bien pensant America toward the export of popular culture, especially to Muslim lands. You'll be hard-pressed to find an NGO head or professional pundit eager to stand up for Playboy, or for that matter for Baywatch or Desperate Housewives. For the most part, such fare is seen as a provocation. Why give the permanently angry Muslim street another excuse to seethe?
In reality, the problem is not Playboy's predilection for the scantily clad, but Islamists' tendency to fly into a rage over a flash of thigh or a bare midriff. (There's no nudity in the Indonesian edition.) American popular culture ought to be celebrated rather than derided. In its crass commercialism and blithe disregard for Islamist sensibilities lie the greatest hopes of bringing Muslim societies to terms with modernity.
Indonesia used to be considered immune to fundamentalism; Muslims practiced an easy-going folk religion inflected with the Hindu-Buddhism that held sway in the archipelago for more than a millennium before Islam took hold in the 1400s. Elites -- Indic by culture and Dutch by outlook -- were determinedly non-sectarian. But the dislocation caused by rapid economic growth, flawed government policies that encouraged religion as an antidote to communism, and the global resurgence of Islam have challenged the very nature of Indonesian society. Suicide bombings, mob violence against Christians and "heretical" Ahmadiyya Muslims, as well as attempts to ban miniskirts and kissing in public, mark a rising tide of intolerance.
Islamists have momentum on their side, but Indonesia's traditional pluralism and kitschy openness have not quite disappeared. Last April it became only the second Muslim majority country, after Turkey, to embrace Hugh Hefner's iconic brand. Though baring less skin than other editions, it immediately became the focal point of Islamist ire. A mob attacked the magazine's Jakarta offices, forcing the editors to move base to the Hindu island of Bali. Headscarved women picketed and harassed the magazine's models. The government buckled under the pressure and took Mr. Ernada to court.
In practical terms, Islamist movements around the world -- from Hamas in the Palestinian territories to the Jamaat-e-Islami in the Indian subcontinent to Indonesia's Justice and Prosperity Party -- follow a two-pronged strategy. They seek to emulate the West's science and technology while walling off their societies from the taint of Western culture. These groups see the path to an Islamist state through the creation of a fundamentalist society. This requires shutting down anything that gets in the way.
American popular culture challenges Islamism like no other force on the planet, certainly more effectively than State Department diplomats, who seem to spend all their time apologizing on al-Jazeera or trotting out banalities about the universality of motherhood. The idea of a woman dressing or undressing as she pleases, or that you may personally disapprove of the Playboy bunny but respect your neighbor's right to fantasize about her, undermines the very core of Islamist totalitarianism.
On a more flippant note, persuading young men to blow themselves up in order to claim 72 dark-eyed virgins in paradise is that much harder when the dark-eyed virgin next door can be found spread across a centerfold. It's no coincidence that 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia, a country where Starbucks isn't allowed to use its mermaid logo lest it cause offense.
If we're lucky, the Indonesian court deciding on Mr. Arnada's fate will see the larger issues at stake -- the choice between an open society and a repressive one -- and vote to acquit. If we're luckier still, Indonesian Playboy will be joined one day by Baywatch Pakistan and Desperate Saudi Housewives.
Mr. Dhume, a Bernard Schwartz fellow at the Asia Society, has completed a book on the rise of radical Islam in Indonesia.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors
on: March 29, 2007, 06:36:45 PM
Then we are succeeding in our mission
More seriously, part of my vision for this forum is to be a place that is part of intelligent and thoughtful people's day-- to be a place that they regularly turn to develop their understanding and thinking about what is going on.
From today's WSJ Online:
The Palestinian Sewer
"Further deadly sewage floods are feared after a wave of stinking waste and mud from a collapsed septic pool inundated a Gaza village, killing five people, including two babies," the Associated Press reports:
The collapse has been blamed on residents stealing sand from an embankment.
It highlighted the desperate need to upgrade Gaza's overloaded, outdated infrastructure--but aid officials say construction of a modern sewage treatment plant has been held up by constant Israeli-Palestinian fighting.
The report gets a bit more specific as to the meaning of "constant Israeli-Palestinian fighting":
Umm Naser is about 300 metres [300 million microns] from the border with Israel, in an area where Palestinians have frequently launched rockets into Israel and Israeli artillery and aircraft have fired back. The situation worsened after Hamas-linked militants captured an Israeli soldier last June in a cross-border raid, and Israel responded by invading northern Gaza.
The Jerusalem Post reported earlier this month that metal provided by Israel had been used in the construction of those terrorist rockets. And why was Israel selling the Palestinians metal? "For the construction of a sewage system in Gaza."
Palestinian babies drown in sewage because of the bloodlust of Palestinian grown-ups. What a fetid political culture.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / French private sector perfidy
on: March 29, 2007, 06:31:53 PM
REVIEW & OUTLOOK
A French oil giant's deals with a rogue regime--this time in Iran.
Thursday, March 29, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
Don't stop us if you've heard this one: French oil giant Total SA is being investigated for illicit dealings with a rogue regime in the Middle East. This time it's Iran, but maybe you recall its experience with another dictator and something called Oil for Food.
A French judge is investigating bribes that Total executives allegedly paid Iranian officials to secure business in the Islamic Republic. Last week, the judge issued preliminary charges of abuse of company funds and corruption of foreign agents against Chief Executive Christophe de Margerie. The company and Mr. de Margerie deny any wrongdoing, but the Total experience is all too typical of the way European firms cut deals with dictators while their own governments provide political cover.
Meanwhile, the same French prosecutor continues to investigate Total for alleged kickbacks paid to Saddam Hussein in return for Iraqi oil. In his report on Oil for Food corruption, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker found that Total, through intermediaries, had purchased some of the 11 million barrels of oil that former Iraqi officials claim was allocated to French Senator Charles Pasqua in thanks for his support of Saddam's Iraq. Total and Mr. Pasqua also deny any wrongdoing.
However the probes play out, Total's business with Tehran is probably a violation of the U.S. 1996 Iran-Libya Sanctions Act. The Clinton Administration thought so as far back as early 1998, when crude oil futures were selling for a quarter of the current price, and Tehran was desperate for cash to finance Hezbollah and, as we later learned, its nuclear program.
"We believe that transactions that substantially enhance Iran's ability to acquire the revenues necessary to acquire missile technology and weapons of mass destruction should not be in any way made easier," Defense Secretary William Cohen argued at the time. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was even more blunt: "As far as the French are concerned, I must say it passes my understanding why there is no realization that pumping money into the system of Iran is not helpful to the rest of us."
But after French carping and trade threats by the European Union, President Clinton waived sanctions on Total, Russia's Gazprom and Malaysia's Petronas for the $2 billion natural-gas deal they had inked with the mullahs in 1997. That waiver set an informal precedent, as both the Clinton and Bush Administrations have stayed silent as companies from Italy, Canada, the Netherlands, Britain, Norway, Sweden, South Korea and Japan have signed energy deals with Iran worth some $11.5 billion, as the nearby table shows.
That patience may be ending now that Iran is kidnapping British sailors, supplying bombs that kill Americans in Iraq, and defying U.N. orders to stop enriching uranium. The Bush Administration is pressing financial sanctions against Iran especially hard, but pressure is building on Capitol Hill for firmer action. Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg is talking about more severe penalties for U.S. firms that do business with states that sponsor terrorism, and stricter sanctions on the U.S. interests of foreign companies could be in the cards as well.
We've always thought sanctions are a blunt instrument, and they can backfire when used on the wrong target. It's also true that U.S. sanctions wouldn't hurt Total in the short term; the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act is limited to penalties for companies' U.S. businesses, and the bulk of Total's activities are in Europe and Latin America. But against a regime such as Iran's--which is now the biggest threat to world security--sanctions are also a form of diplomatic pressure short of the military action that European governments claim to want to avoid at all costs. Total executives and European politicians are fooling themselves if they think U.S. pressure for action against Iran will stop once the Bush Administration leaves power.
There's some debate in France about why prosecutors are suddenly showing so much interest in what is by now a 10-year-old case. Perhaps allies of Jacques Chirac have less political cover as his presidency winds down, or maybe big companies are no longer seen as untouchable on the Continent after a series of corporate scandals. Or it could be that investigative judge Philippe Courroye is anxious to close out his current docket before his scheduled transfer to another court. Whatever the reason, it's good to see someone in Paris take corrupt dealings with dictators seriously.
In Iraq 10 years ago, Total and its political protectors canoodled with Saddam and propped him up until the U.S. decided it had no choice but to act against him. Europe shouldn't make the same mistake in Iran.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Dhimmitude
on: March 29, 2007, 05:51:01 PM
An ordinary American with some fitness centers in Europe responds to the Bernard Lewis piece:
Good to hear from you. I work all over Europe, especially in Spain and Germany and I can tell you first hand that we don't want to do things the way they are over here.
The terrorists run the show and the people and governments are afraid of offending them.
You should see Belgium, for example. The Moors control many districts and make the people follow their laws, not those of the state of whom they are guests.
In France the Moors are constantly battling the police, burning cars and generally disrupting the society. Yesterday 200 Moors battled the police in the metro for 12 hours, before order was restored.
In England the Moors openly preach hate of their hosts and their ways, laws and existence and call for rebellion and a state within a state.
In Spain, the government collaborated with the terrorists to win the election in 2003, and today the government has politicized the judiciary branch so that no actions or convictions happen against the terrorists.
3 days ago, in a public protest, on live tv, a terrorist kicked one of the organizers of the opposition square in the b----, and his bodyguard caught the terrorist and as he was handing him over to the police, the cops let him go. They actually witnessed it all and they let the guy go.
This is all true and I live it everyday. But don't be discouraged to visit. There is much to like.
It's amazing how people who live in the place where more wars have occured in the entire history of the world forget and refuse to learn from the past.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / KC-30 Tanker
on: March 29, 2007, 05:15:00 PM
U.S.: A joint Northrop Grumman/ European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. team announced March 28 -- as expected -- that it will formally submit its KC-30 tanker design to the Pentagon on April 12 for the $40 billion competition to replace the U.S. Air Force's aging KC-130 tanker fleet with 179 new aerial refueling planes. The KC-30 (a militarized version of the Airbus A330) will compete against Boeing's KC-767, which is based on the civilian 767 airframe. The replacement program is a top priority for the U.S. Air Force. As such, the Pentagon is expected to award the contract during this calendar year. Northrop-Grumman maintains that more than 50 percent of the production would take place in the United States, despite the Airbus frame. Boeing, of course, estimates 85 percent domestic production. The A330 is also a larger plane than the 767, and its commercial counterpart runs $160 million per plane -- $30 million more than the commercial 767. Both are two-engine aircraft with seating in the two-aisle 200-300 range.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bellheads vs. Netheads
on: March 29, 2007, 04:00:23 PM
"Netheads" take on "Bellheads." Look out, Mrs. Clinton.
BY DANIEL HENNINGER
Thursday, March 29, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
The thing I like most about the "Hillary 1984" political ad on YouTube isn't the face, shrouded in a ghastly pixel haze, but the voice. Her voice recedes into a weird, unreal echo. Truth to tell, you could insert any of the faces imploring us now to make them president, and achieve the same effect. (If you're still playing catch-up, go into YouTube.com, search "Hillary"--or just click here--and watch in wonder.)
It took some days after it posted on YouTube for the non-Web media to confer legitimacy on the one-minute, 13-second clip, calling it a potential "conflict" between the Hillary and Obama camps. Days later, after claiming ownership of the video, political pro Phil de Vellis wrote on the Huffington Post that he'd done the ad in a Sunday afternoon on his Mac with "some software." He said there's more where that came from. "The game has changed."
He's right. But it began a long time ago. The change came some 40 years back, when the U.S. defense department bought into a suggestion by electrical engineer Paul Baran, the son of a grocery store owner, that it build a data transmission network based on "packet switching." This was the Internet.
As someone who's on the Web too many hours, I have wondered what changing screens hundreds of times each day to access different gobs of "information" has done to the way our brains order the world, which is known as human consciousness. This "change" is having a material effect on just about everything else; why not on who gets elected president next year?
In 1996, an eon ago, Steve G. Steinberg wrote a prescient article in Wired magazine on the battle between what he called Bellheads and Netheads. This was essentially an argument over the network design of the Web between engineers for the established phone companies, the Bellheads, and the anarchic engineers of the Web, Netheads. It was a war between the old world of circuit-switching and the new world of packet-switching, the one we inhabit today.
This may have been an arcane argument among engineers, but the grander philosophical claims then were justified. What was at stake, as Mr. Steinberg accurately predicted, was "very different visions" of how we communicate. The engineers were changing how we think.
For more than a century, we were conditioned by the world of Lily Tomlin's famous telephone switchboard operator, Ernestine. Ernestine's "switch" was a circuit-switch, which means it connects A directly to B. Conversation or faxed data travels in a predetermined channel.
Packet-switching could hardly be more different. Information departs point A but then breaks into pieces, or packets, and bounces around a shared network almost randomly, then somehow arrives together at point B. The packet is a bundle of electrons, but "packet" is an apt metaphor for how the technology has changed us. Rather than sit still to fully absorb a copper-wire's stiff stream of information, we flip through screens, sorting fragments of data into a final thought or solution.
Like it or not (I dislike a lot of it), this is how most of us now live--and think. Viacom is suing YouTube because YouTubers are extracting five-minute clips of the best parts of "The Daily Show." Why waste 30 minutes?
Today, the Bellheads are long-form TV, traditional political ads, 74-minute CDs, two-hour movies--predetermined A-to-B formats. (Newspapers are in fact a collection of "packets," a subject for another time.) The Netheads are YouTube, shared playlists, remixed videos, the idea of personal choice, and randomly arriving political ads such as "Hillary 1984." That Netheads are chop-shopping "The Daily Show" or "The Colbert Report" is ironic, but as the Yoda of old-media Walter Cronkite said, "That's the way it is." Prepackaging versus packets. And so in politics.
One of the conundrums of politics now is why Rudy Giuliani's polling lead for the GOP nomination is not just strong but persistent. Conventional wisdom holds it will fall when "conservative" voters learn his full biography and liberal social views. How could they not have heard? An alternative explanation is that voters are "processing" Mr. Giuliani differently.
Packet-switching is what allows us to flip effortlessly through torrents of data on Web screens, holding in mind a basic search goal. By now, this experience has forced more people than ever to think in terms of hierarchies--how to sort through lots of information and assign values, the way we quickly separate the flood of email into levels of importance. By now, we all have an Intel inside.
This may be why Mr. Giuliani is getting away with his social views in the GOP. We've become so adept at assigning value to good and bad information in searches that we can do it for a "flawed" candidate like Rudy Giuliani. Faced with an array of Rudy "packets"--the anti-terror reputation, three marriages, abortion and all the rest--GOP voters have already sorted the data, put anti-terror at the top of the hierarchy and are comfortable giving the social issues relatively lower values. Still relevant, but mid-range. This is how we do work now, every day. Why should it not affect politics?
If it is true that our political thinking is being bent by constant streams of small, value-laden packets of data that we constantly remix into personal hierarchies, then paradoxically the "new" politics of Web sites such as Moveon.org or the Daily Kos are really Old School.
Like Bellheads who originated deep in the last century, the leftwing sites think politics is still straight and simple: "pull the plug" on Iraq, "enact universal health care." For sites on the right, the one answer is the Fence to stopper Mexico. But political reality is more fluid and contingent than ever before. The Big Solution is wholly alien to the packet-switching political mindset now. Nancy Pelosi thought the Iraq vote was a slam dunk; in fact, her caucus broke into a random array of views on Iraq. That final vote has about as much stability as a Web page.
Some say ads such as "Hillary 1984" are democratizing politics. But that's just hardware--more sellers throwing stuff at us. The bigger change is happening inside the public's mental software. No poll can capture how the voting mind is processing the political inbox today. What's not to like about that?
Mr. Henninger is deputy editor of The Wall Street Journal's editorial page. His column appears Thursdays in the Journal and on OpinionJournal.com.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mil-blogs: Michael Yon and others (support our troops)
on: March 29, 2007, 10:51:09 AM
General Petraeus and his people seem to be making progress here. I can actually see hope in the areas I go. Please click for the latest RUBS dispatch.
General Barry McCaffrey (Ret) has just released a report of his Iraq trip and it is also published on the website. All his trip reports are excellent resources for helping one understand the true situation here in Iraq. The man is blunt, and knows his business.
I greatly appreciate the reader support that comes in. Without it, my own mission of observing and reporting on the events unfolding in Iraq would fail. I cannot adequately express my gratitude, other than by sticking it out here.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: March 29, 2007, 10:50:45 AM
Forbes does have a good grasp of supply side economics/tax policy. This is important for Republicans to escape the class warfare/racebaiting tactics of the Demogogue Party. As mayor, Rudy showed tax-cutting tendencies so Forbes looks like an honest fit.
There's much to like about Rudy, but his history on gun rights is downright bad. This issue IS a very important one for me. Also I see him as a RINO a certain other issues.
Still, he is an easy call over any Dem.
PS: Newt is on Hannity & Wife tonight
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Andy Wang
on: March 29, 2007, 01:44:33 AM
Just got this from R-1 gym buddy and Machado BJJ BB Andy Wang:
Way to go Andy!
Here's an interview I did for the Ultimate Fighter Season 5 and
another reminder that the season will be starting next Thursday
night...thanks for the support and please reply with how you are
doing; I'd like to hear from all of you!
Quick Shots: 20 questions with TUF 5 fighter Andy Wang
By Robert Cheshire on March 28, 2007
Andy Wang is the next fighter who took the time to answer our "Quick
Shots" questions. Andy looks to show that he is the real deal and not
just another fighter thinking they are "The Last Dragon" to enter the
1. Name: Andy Wang
2. Do you have a nickname? "Yellow Peril" It was originally a racist
term used by the West against Asians, particularly Chinese people,
from immigrating. Since then, it has become a symbol for persevering
and not giving up during hard times. I'd like to think I share some of
those same qualities.
3. Place of birth: Kaoshiung, Taiwan. You can thank us for all the
computer chips and cheap toys you guys have bought over the years!
4. Birthday: May 28, 1977, but I always use the Chinese calendar when
a girl asks me my age, which is about 10 years behind. (Laughs)
5. Fight Record: 8-6
6. How long have you competed in MMA? I started competing in MMA when
I was about 9 or 10 years old and a kid came up to me at school and
not only asked me for my lunch money, but proceeded to reach his hands
into my pockets to check for himself. He had both hands in my pockets
and I thought, "How is he going to protect his face?" He didn't.
7 . How did you get started in competing? The first time I saw the UFC
on videotape back in 1995, I felt right away that those guys who
entered the Octagon, win or lose, were modern day warriors. I wanted
to become one.
8. Who do you train with? Bruce Leroy is a legend in my town! He can
bite bullets with his teeth, he'll never bow down to anybody, even if
they are wearing Converse! Rumor has it he can even glow...
9. What is your favorite UFC moment? Back in the early UFC when Fred
Ettish fought Johnny Rhodes. I remember my stomach was turning as Fred
was getting beat, and I was screaming at the TV, "Tap...why don't you
just tap!" It was then that I realized Fred, even in defeat, had more
heart and character than 99.9% of the people in this world.
10 . What is your favorite TUF moment from the previous seasons? So
far my favorite was when Dana White dropped $10,000 cash for a
billiards game between the coaches, Ken Shamrock and Tito Ortiz...I'm
Chinese, which means cash gets me really, really excited. (Laughs)
11. What do you like to do when you are not training/fighting? Like
most Asians, I like to relax by playing ping-pong and solving calculus
equations for fun.
12. What does it mean to you to get a chance to compete in the UFC?
Honestly, it means I get a chance to find my destiny...to compete
against the best fighters in the world and to know exactly where I
stand in this sport, that's an awesome and rare opportunity.
13. What job do you have or had before coming to the UFC? I taught
high school World History and U.S. Government all the way until last
semester and it's a job that was a lot of fun and I met some of the
coolest kids along the way who had such amazing and inspirational
stories. One kid that stands out was a student of mine whose whole
family was a part of a Crip gang based in Long Beach, California. He
had been in and out of jail, had a child and was heading to prison or
the morgue, but he made the decision to go to college for his infant
son, and even though he got zero support or help, he made something of
himself and he had the guts to do the right thing...it was amazing to
14. Did you go to college and if so, where? I am a proud alumni of the
University of Hawaii at Manoa...GO BOWS!
15. Have you held any rank or titles? I am proudly the South Torrance
H.S. 1995 Prom King. I was so emotional when they handed me my
16. Who do you look up to? Without question my mother and father.
Anytime a family emigrates to a new country, they do it for their kids
and my parents endured a lot and gave up everything they had to give
me and my brother a shot at making our dreams come true.
17. What is your favorite technique? Anything that gets the crowd
"ooohing and aahing"!
18. Are you married and/or have kids? I've never been married and do not
have children at this time.
19. What sponsors do you have? Howard Combat Kimonos, who has been
with me from day one, Fokai, MonsterWarrior crosstraining systems and,
of course, Chef Wang's Kitchen in Hermosa Beach...NO MSG, for real!
20. What do you want to say to the fans? It's an honor to step into
the Octagon for all of you and I'm always going to try and represent
my family, friends and fans to the best of my ability. Thank you!
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / USS Jason Dunham
on: March 29, 2007, 01:31:52 AM
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
On the Web:http://www.defenselink.mil/releases/release.aspx?releaseid=10654
Media contact: +1 (703) 697-5131/697-5132
or +1 (703) 428-0711 +1
March 23, 2007
Navy Names New Guided-Missile Destroyer USS Jason Dunham
The Department of Navy announced today that the Navy's newest Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyer will be named the USS Jason Dunham, honoring Cpl. Jason L. Dunham, the first Marine awarded the Medal of Honor for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter, made the announcement in Dunham's hometown of Scio, N.Y. "Jason Dunham, the friendly, kind-hearted, gifted athlete who followed his star in the United States Marine Corps, went on to become one of the most courageous, heroic and admired Marines this great country has ever known," said Winter. "His name will be forever associated with DDG 109. May those who serve in her always be inspired by the heroic deeds of Jason Dunham, and may all of us strive to be worthy of his sacrifice."
Dunham was born in Scio, Nov. 10, 1981, sharing the same birthday as the U.S. Marine Corps. After high school graduation, he enlisted in the Marine Corps in July 2000 and completed recruit training 13 weeks later at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Parris Island, S.C.
Following his first duty assignment with Marine Corps Security Forces, Kings Bay, Ga., Dunham transferred to the infantry and was later assigned to Company K, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, based in Twentynine Palms, Calif. Before deploying to Iraq in spring 2004, Dunham was selected to lead a rifle squad, a position that ultimately placed him on the front line in the war against the Iraqi insurgency.
On April 14, 2004, Dunham's squad was conducting a reconnaissance mission in Karabilah, Iraq, when his battalion commander's convoy was ambushed. When Dunham's squad approached to provide fire support, an Iraqi insurgent leapt out of a vehicle and attacked Dunham.
As Dunham wrestled the insurgent to the ground, he noticed that the enemy fighter had a grenade in his hand. He immediately alerted his fellow Marines, and when the enemy dropped the live grenade, Dunham took off his Kevlar helmet, covered the grenade, and threw himself on top to smother the blast. In an ultimate selfless act of courage, in which he was mortally wounded, he saved the lives of two fellow Marines.
In November 2006 at the dedication of the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Virginia, President George W. Bush announced that the Medal of Honor would be awarded posthumously to Dunham.
During his speech, President Bush said, "As long as we have Marines like Corpoal Dunham, America will never fear for her liberty." President Bush presented Dunham's family with the Medal of Honor during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House on Jan. 11, 2007.
In the spirit of this Marine, the USS Jason Dunham will continue protecting America's liberty by providing a multi-mission maritime platform to lead the Navy into the future.
Utilizing a gas turbine propulsion system, the ship can operate independently or as part of carrier strike groups, surface action groups, amphibious ready groups, and underway replenishment groups. The ship's combat systems center on the Aegis combat system and the SPY-Ld (V) multifunction phased array radar.
With the combination of Aegis, the vertical launching system, an advanced anti-submarine warfare system, advanced anti-aircraft missiles and Tomahawk cruise missiles, the Arleigh Burke-class continues the revolution at sea.
For more information on Arleigh Burke class destroyers, visit http://www.navy.mil/navydata/fact_display.asp?cid=4200&tid=900&ct=4
For more information about the naming of DDG 109, contact the Navy Office of Information at (703) 697-5342.