Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Strange Cure for Contempt

From today’s Daily News:

Teacher charged with inciting hatred over teddy

DAILY NEWS STAFF
Wednesday, November 28th 2007, 11:32 AM

A British teacher under arrest in Sudan was formally charged Wednesday with inciting hatred for allowing her 7-year-old students to name a teddy bear Muhammad.

If convicted, Gillian Gibbons, 54, could be sentenced to 40 lashes, a fine or six months behind bars. The case goes to court on Thursday.

State media reported Gibbons, from Liverpool, England, also faced charges of insulting religion and showing contempt of religious beliefs.


Only yesterday, according to a Guardian Unlimited story, ("Sudan plays down teddy blasphemy case")the Sudanese foreign ministry in Great Britain was trying to downplay the whole thing. On Monday night, “a spokesman for the Sudanese embassy in London said he believed the teacher would be cleared and the "minute" issue resolved amicably very quickly”:

Dr Khalid al-Mubarak told BBC Radio 4's PM programme the police had no choice but to follow procedure after a complaint from a parent.

"The police are bound to investigate just as is the case in any country in which there is rule of law. Our relationship with Britain is so good that we wouldn't like such a minute event to be overblown."


He added: "I am pretty certain that this minute incident will be clarified very quickly and this teacher who has been helping us with the teaching of children will be safe and will be cleared."


Asked about the potential punishments of six months in jail or 40 lashes, he said: "I hope people will not give their imagination free rein to think about such things."


Dr al-Mubarak has good reason not to want Britons, or other Westerners, to imagine a 54-year-old schoolteacher getting 40 lashes over nothing--nothing.

I hope people will give free rein and think about this unfortunate woman getting flogged by a Sudanese thug --I hope we all think about it very hard.

Sudanese authorities admit that no parent complained about this, and it wasn't even the teacher, but one of Ms. Gibbons’s students, a seven-year-old boy, who quite innocently gave the teddy bear the name, which happened to be the boy's own. Even some Muslim authorities asked about it were puzzled about why she was being charged, given there obviously was no malicious intent.

No one was harmed. No one, that is, except Allah, who happens to be the touchiest deity of all the world’s religions. And I thought I was hypersensitive.

Sudanese officials are behaving as if their hands are tied, shrugging and explaining how Sudanese law is based on Sharia, which is only another way of saying that punishment must not fit the crime so much as it must placate a splenetic and irrational god. When this is what is meant by "the rule of law," don't expect much in the way of prosecutorial discretion.

Dr al-Mubarak did say yesterday that police have to follow the rule of law and investigate, but that he thought the teacher was going to be cleared because the incident was “minute.” But I'll bet he already knew better, which is why he wanted to warn us in advance not to think about the awful image of a middle-aged schoolteacher being flogged by an Islamic thug. There's nothing we can do! When Allah’s feelings get hurt, somebody’s blood has to flow.

And so there's no surprise as today we learn that not only is Ms. Gibbons not being cleared of the "minute incident," but prosecutors managed to come up with at least three charges leading to harsh penalties: inciting hatred, insulting religion and showing contempt of religious beliefs.

Let's hope the British government can put together a stern enough package of behind-the-scene diplomatic threats to convince the Sudanese to let this poor woman go.

But if not, I have to wonder, if and when this punishment is actually carried out, how likely it will be to have the effect of causing large numbers of nonMuslims looking on in horror to hate Islam, insult Islam, and feel contempt for Islam?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

An Awful Story

Speaking of the Blessed Mother, it turns out there is a lesser-known Catholic feast day on November 21 in honor of the Presentation of Mary in the Temple by her parents when she was three years old. The story is apocryphal, but we do know that Mary grew up devoutly, and was to be specially blessed by God to be the Mother of the Messiah. Many of us are also familiar with the Biblical story of the Presentation of the Christ Child in the Temple when he was eight days old. It was fitting that, in both cases, the Jewish custom of children being offered back to the Lord would lead God in turn to use those children to return a life-giving blessing to the whole race.

So it was a minor coincidence that, on November 21st, I ran across this story about the slaughter in Pakistan aimed at killing former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. It struck me as possibly instructive to those who believe that all religions are essentially the same.

Bomb That Killed 170 in Pakistan Was Strapped to a 1-Year-Old Child

November 21, 2007

For those who still believe there are some lines even a militant jihadist won’t cross.

The homicide terror bomb used in an assassination attempt on former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto last month may have been strapped to a 1-year-old child who was being carried by his jihadist father, The Australian newspaper reported Thursday.

The bomb, which killed 170 people and injured hundreds more, detonated during a crowded procession for Bhutto as she returned from exile.

Investigators from Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party said the homicide bomber tried repeatedly to carry the baby to Bhutto’s vehicle as it proceeded through the streets of Karachi.

“At the point where the bombs exploded, Benazir Bhutto herself saw the man with the child and asked him to come closer so that she could hug or kiss the infant,” investigators were reported as saying.

“But someone came in between and a guard felt that the man with the child was not behaving normally. So the child was not allowed to come aboard Benazir’s vehicle.”

According to The Australian, Bhutto said she recalls the face of the man who was carrying the infant and has asked to see recordings of the incident in hopes of identifying the man.

Measures of Progress in Baghdad

This Thanksgiving Day feel-good story has everything.

“Americans are our protectors and saviors,” said the killer of Al Qaeda’s “White Lion” in Baghdad.

It gets better.

“You can move freely in Amariyah at any time of the day or night,” Abul Abed said. “You can even see women without head scarves, wearing tight jeans!”

From last Thursday's Chicago Tribune:

New boss turns the tables on Al Qaeda
Ex-Sunni insurgent becomes U.S. ally

By Liz Sly, Tribune foreign correspondent; Nadeem Majeed contributed to this report

November 22, 2007

BAGHDAD

The once-dreaded Al Qaeda in Iraq stronghold of Amariyah has a new boss, and he's not shy about telling the story of the shootout that turned him into a local legend and helped change the tenor of the Iraq war.

Earlier this year, Abul Abed, a disgruntled Sunni insurgent leader, began secret talks with the Americans about ending Al Qaeda's reign of terror in this run-down, formerly middle-class Baghdad neighborhood, renowned as one of the city's most dangerous. He had been gathering intelligence on the group for months.


One day in late May, he said, he decided it was time to act.

He hailed the car carrying the feared leader of Al Qaeda in the neighborhood, a man known as the White Lion, on one of Amariyah's main streets. “We want you to stop destroying our neighborhood,” he told the man.


“Do you know who you are talking to?” said the White Lion, getting out of his car. “I am Al Qaeda. I will destroy even your own houses!”


He pulled out his pistol and shot at Abul Abed. The gun jammed. He reloaded and fired again. Again, the gun jammed.

By this time, Abul Abed said, he had pulled his own gun. He fired once, killing the White Lion.
“I walked over to him, stepped on his hand and took his gun,” Abul Abed, which is a nom de guerre, said at his new, pink-painted headquarters in a renovated school in Amariyah, as an American Army captain seated in the corner nodded his head in affirmation of the account. “And then the fight started.”


It was the beginning of the end for Al Qaeda in Amariyah. The next day, a firefight erupted. Al Qaeda fighters closed in on Abul Abed. Most of the 150 men who had joined him fled. Holed up in a mosque with fewer than a dozen supporters, Abul Abed thought the end was near.


“The blue carpet was soaked red with blood,” he recalled. Then the imam of the mosque called in American help.

A friendship was born.

Now Abul Abed, a swaggering former major in the Iraqi army and reputedly a top leader in the influential Islamic Army insurgent group, reigns supreme in Amariyah -- with considerable help from the U.S. military.

Still wearing the White Lion's pistol tucked into his belt, he commands his own 600-member paramilitary force, called the Knights of Mesopotamia. He receives $460,000 a month from the U.S. military to pay, arm and equip them. They wear crisp olive green uniforms with smart red and yellow badges bearing the Knights' horse-head logo. They are well-armed, and some have flak jackets.


But they don't really need them. Since the Knights drove Al Qaeda out of Amariyah after a two-month battle, the neighborhood has become largely safe.


“You can move freely in Amariyah at any time of the day or night,” Abul Abed said. "You can even see women without head scarves, wearing tight jeans!"


An 'Awakening' in Iraq

Men like Abul Abed have helped change the face of the war. Following in the footsteps of the late Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha, the tribal leader who led the Sunni revolt that drove Al Qaeda from the base of its operations in Iraq’s Anbar province, more than 70,000 people, most of them Sunnis, in 148 groups have joined in the so-called Awakening, or Sahwa, movement, according to the U.S. military, turning against Al Qaeda and turning to the Americans for help.


Since Abul Abed's fight in Amariyah, some of the most feared Baghdad neighborhoods, including Abu Ghraib, Fadhil, Ghazaliyah, Dora and Adhamiyah, have followed suit, forming their own brigades of Knights, welcoming the U.S. military and receiving U.S. money.


Abul Abed is coy about his insurgent connections. He gave his real name as Saad Erebi Ghaffouri al-Obaidi, though he is known across Baghdad as Abul Abed. U.S. officials, Amariyah residents and Sunni leaders say he was a prominent commander in the Islamic Army. He described himself as a former Iraqi army major who "went into business" after the regime fell. He won't say what business.

But he acknowledged that many of his men once fought Americans and now work closely with them.


“They recognize that they made a big mistake,” he said. “They realize that they were on the wrong path and that they wasted many chances with what they did.”


The implications of creating this network of trained, armed paramilitaries loyal not to the government but to an assortment of local strongmen have yet to be played out. U.S. officials said they are relieved that the revolution within the Sunni community has helped to sharply reduce the number of attacks. According to the military, attacks in Iraq fell 55 percent between March and October.

The U.S. wants to absorb the Sunnis who have joined the Awakening movement into the Iraqi security forces, but so far the Shiite-led government has hesitated, concerned that they will one day turn against the government. If the government continues to frustrate the Sunnis, U.S. officials are concerned their new allies could go back to the insurgency.

“That's the big intangible that makes me nervous,” said Col. Martin Stanton, who oversees the reconciliation and engagement effort. If there is no progress on getting the paramilitaries regular jobs with the security forces and delivering services to Sunni areas, Sunni frustrations will continue to mount, he said.

“The question is, what's the break point? ... How long before people start getting sick of it and start checking out?” he said.

‘Americans are our protectors’

Abul Abed said the Sunni revolution has gone too far for that.


“Americans are our protectors and saviors,” he said.

The real enemy of Iraq, he says, now is Iran. He pulled out his mobile phone to show pictures he has saved of the bodies of his four brothers, who were kidnapped and murdered in 2005 by what he suspects was a Shiite death squad with ties to Iran. One of them had a nail driven into his head. Another was missing a hand.

“Even animals wouldn't do that,” he said, his face darkening. “Iran is so deeply infiltrated in Iraq, the problem here still cannot be solved. Iran wants to demolish us. If the Americans leave, then you can count Iraq as a second Tehran.”

'Hezbollah is Iran's army in Lebanon, not a resistance'

The following article appeared Monday on the Lebanese website, Ya Libnan:

Hezbollah is Iran's army in Lebanon, not a resistance

Monday, 26 November, 2007 @ 5:31 AM

By: Elias Youssef BejjaniBeirut - Hezbollah's General Secretary Sayed Hassan Nasrallah delivered a fiery and tantamount speech on Sunday November 11/07 in which he vows to maintain his party's Military Might, challenged the whole free world, the UN resolutions, the majority of the Lebanese people, and evilly refused to disarm.

His speech was seen by many observers as an open and bold declaration of war, and a mean Iranian-Syrian instigation for a coup in Lebanon.

He said verbatim: "No one in the world can disarm Hezbollah, The resistance in Lebanon has determination, will, manpower and sufficient weapons to face Israel in a new conflict, No to the implementation of the UN Resolution 1559.(Security Council Resolution 1559) Hezbollah's recent maneuvers convey a message that the resistance is ready to make a historic victory that would change the face of the region. Any Lebanese president elected by a simple majority will not be recognized by the opposition, which would consider him to be an impostor,"

Clear, public, strong and deterrent stances in regards to Nasrallah's recent threats are urgently required from all Lebanese parties, communities and institutions, the United Nations and its Security Council, Europe, Free world countries, and the Arab League, because Hezbollah, this Iranian “Wilayat Al Fakih, Republican Guards” party, is apparently determined to topple the Lebanese democratic regime and erect in its place a replicate of the oppressive and religious Iranian Republic.

It is no longer acceptable, by any measure of law and self-respect, for any Lebanese from any social, religious, or ethnic background to surrender or remain passive towards these national and moral debaucheries. We, the Lebanese both in Lebanon and the Diaspora, must rebel against this hostage conditioning imposed upon us by terrorist and fundamentalist groups.

It is no longer acceptable that the Lebanese tolerate any further coexistence with conditions of fear, obedience, self-delusion, falsification of facts, and false witnessing.

It is no longer acceptable that the Lebanese play the role of the falling prey hiding behind outdated and obsequious political stances.

We should not remain silent watching the madness of pervert politicians whose only goal is to serve their own self-interest, bank accounts, and lust for power that inhabits their sick minds, all at the expense of the nation, its survival, and the Lebanese people's livelihood and dignity.

The highest of these sacrileges is the Hezbollah condition, its confused terminology, its fabricated accomplishments, its destructive role, its Irano-Syrian expansionist conspiracies, and its aggressions of all forms. This party, invented by Iran and nurtured by Syria since 1982 has been tasked with murder, assassinations, terror, the subjugation of the Lebanese Shiites, and the sabotage of the Lebanese regime and its dismantlement. This is neither a party, nor a resistance; rather, it is a formal de facto Iranian Army stationed in Lebanon, directly backed in weapons and funds by the Iranian regime. Hezbollah's ties to the Iranian regime transcend Lebanon's boundaries, and the group returns the favor to Tehran by training Shiite insurgents in Iraq to attack US interests there and worldwide.

No one among the Lebanese ignores that the financier, the ideologue, and the decision maker behind Hezbollah's marching orders is simply the Iranian regime. All Hezbollah’s local leaders are appointed and demoted by Iran. Their absolute loyalty is to Iran and to the religious edicts originating from its Mullahs. These Iranian agents have not one grain of loyalty whatsoever to Lebanon, its institutions, its constitution, and its society.Hezbollah’s ethics and the doctrine of its masters in Damascus and Teheran consider Lebanon their war playground, no more no less. And the declared duty of this“ Jihadist” -“ Godly” party is to transform Lebanon by all means into a satellite state to Iran’s “Wilayat Al Fakih” state, a replicate of its fundamentalist mullah regime imposed through terror on the Iranian people.

The Syrian occupier (1976-2005) nurtured the Iranian Hezbollah during its 30 years of occupation of Lebanon. It provided it with all necessary logistical support to dominate its zones of influence within Lebanon in all aspects: militarily, culturally, and religiously. The Assad regime allowed Hezbollah to erect its own closed security quarters in Beirut, the South, and the Bekaa. As to the Iranian mullah regime, it committed to the financing, armament, and training of Hezbollah as well as the control of its administration, direction, and decision making.There has never been a consensus on Hezbollah’s “resistance” role, because it was never a resistance against Israel as it has marketed itself. Neither was Israel’s withdrawal back in 2000 due to Hezbollah’s “resistance”.

It was rather based on a public decision adopted by the Israeli state since 1985 due to local Israeli domestic considerations and to constant pressures from the Clinton Administration. Indeed, Hezbollah's actions played in favor of the Israeli occupation of the south lasting as long as it did, by delaying for 15 years an otherwise inevitable withdrawal. The reason: The presence of the Israeli army in Lebanon was convenient to the Syrian and Iranian regimes. This is why, following that withdrawal in 2000, Hezbollah - again instructed by Damascus and Tehran - concocted the Shebaa Farms charade to justify its continued "resistance" and its raison d'etre to continue raping Lebanese sovereignty and inflicting harm to Lebanon as a nation and as a people.The so-called “consensus” on Hezbollah’s “resistance” during the Syrian occupation was a coerced position obtained through force and terror, and had nothing to do with the deliberate will and thinking of the Lebanese people. The “Shebaa Farms” themselves were occupied and annexed by Syria from Lebanon in the 1950s - after the murder of 3 Lebanese gendarmes posted there - until they were captured by Israel in 1967 during the six-day war. Shebaa falls under UN resolutions 242 (Security Council Resolution 242) and 338, (Security Council Resolution 338) and are considered by the international community as Syrian land. Hezbollah, Syria and Iran have marketed this lie to justify their continued occupation of Lebanon and to continue fomenting tensions along the Lebanese-Israeli borders.

It must be noted that the 1989 Taef Accord (Taef Accord) never mentioned any role of a “resistance”. It banned all armed organizations and weapons outside the legitimacy of the Lebanese State, and explicitly called for all militia weapons to be surrendered to the State as well as for the disbanding of all militias within 6 months of the implementation date of the Accord . It also upheld The 1949 Lebanese-Israeli Armistice AgreementIt is to be noted as well that the 2004 UN Resolution 1559 is an international embodiment of the "Taef Accord".

It repeats clearly and without any ambiguity all of the provisions of Taef as to the disbanding of militias, the collection of illegal Palestinian and Lebanese weapons, and the support for the establishment of the Lebanese State's authority over all its territory using its own armed forces.So to all the Lebanese sovereignist politicians and all honest Lebanese we say: Enough self-delusion, end the humiliation and the submission, announce loud and clear, candidly and without fear, to all the media, that Hezbollah was never a “resistance”, and that under all international and legal norms, Hezbollah is a formal Iranian Army stationed in Lebanon.

Therefore, all allegations as to its so-called "resistance" role and its “sacred” weapons, are simply a crime against the truth and a brazen aggression against the people of Lebanon, against our existence, history, and dignity. As to those who suggest the merger of Hezbollah with the Lebanese army, they need to understand that such move would allow Hezbollah to dominate the army of the Cedars Nation and to consequently transform the Lebanese state into a total Hezbollah state. So be vigilant against this mortal ploy.

Any Lebanese presidential candidate who avoids dealing with these truths with courage and candor will be a toy in the hands of Hezbollah, a hostage in the hands of its masters in Damascus and Teheran, and an obedient tool in the hands of Hassan Nasrallah who would complete his domination of the Lebanese State.

In summary, the entire Lebanese problem today can be defined in two visions. The first is one of a free, sovereign, and independent Lebanese State with its thriving civil society, coexistence model, freedoms, democracy, and peace under international law and UN resolutions. The second is one of an Iranian-Syrian Hezbollah mini-state which, through threats and force, is expanding like an octopus to swallow the whole of Lebanon, impose its ideology and stone-age fundamentalism and totalitarianism, will annihilate everything Lebanese in identity and history. It will kill all that Lebanon has stood for centuries by making it a hostage to antiquated Islamic and Arab Nationalist ideologies.The choice between these two visions is one to be made by the Lebanese who in their vast majority opted for the Lebanese State when 1.5 million of them demonstrated on March 14, 2005 during the peaceful and civilized “Cedars Revolution”.

However, the Lebanese cannot on their own deter Hezbollah’s evil state-within-the-state which is an advanced base for the Axis of Evil (Syria-Iran). Lebanon therefore needs urgent military assistance from the international community in case of a final assault by Hezbollah, Syria and Iran in their attempt to sabotage the Lebanese presidential elections on November 21.All free nations, Arab, European, and American, must realize that Lebanon must not fall under the domination of the two Axis of Evil states through their Hezbollah army in Lebanon. This is a very dangerous matter that will threaten stability and the future of sustainable peace, not only in the Middle East, but around the world. It happened before in Lebanon: In 1975, then in 1983. Both times, Lebanon was abandoned and the Free World fled before the march of barbarity, only to see its instruments - bombs, planes, and suicide bombers - follow it into every one of its cities. It should not happen again. Let those who have ears listen.

Sources: analyst-network.com

What's the Matter with 'Youths' These Days?

What is it about French “youths” that gives them the impulse to riot and attack policemen?

Maybe it’s all the rich sauces.

Today the New York Times reports 80 French police officers were injured in clashes last night with “youths,” (“77 Police Officers Injured in Paris Riots”), some “youths” using “hunting shotguns as well as more conventional guns, fire bombs and rocks.”

The only clue the Times provides as to who these youths are is to say the clashes are happening “in a working- and lower-class suburb north of Paris.”

A couple days ago Jihad Watch noticed the situation brewing.

"Youths" rioting again in Paris suburbs

"A brother of one of the dead teenagers, Omar Sehhouli, said the rioting 'was not violence but an expression of rage.'" Right.

Omar Sehhouli. Typical French Catholic youth, I suppose. Note the non-specifics about the perpetrators, and the frequent recourse to passive voice.

"Riots break out in Paris suburbs," from the BBC (thanks to all who sent this in):

Youths have damaged police stations, shops and cars in two Paris suburbs, following the deaths of two teenagers whose motorbike hit a police car.

Police said 21 officers were injured in the rioting in the northern suburbs of Villiers-le-Bel and Arnouville.

The Villiers-le-Bel police station was set ablaze and another in Arnouville was pillaged, police say. At least seven people were arrested.

The violence - reminiscent of riots in 2005 - lasted for more than six hours.

In 2005, the deaths of two youths in nearby Clichy-sous-Bois led to France's worst civil unrest in more than 40 years.

Clashes broke out on Sunday night after two teenagers - aged 15 and 16 - were killed when the motorcycle they were driving collided with a police car.

Police sources said the two were riding a stolen mini-motorcycle, and that neither was wearing a helmet.

The police car was on a routine patrol and the teenagers were not being chased by police at the time of the accident, police said. The collision wrecked the front of the car and smashed the windscreen.

Burning cars

Witnesses have accused the police of leaving the scene and of preventing local people from trying to help the youngsters as they lay in the road. The brother of one of the victims has called for the officers involved to be convicted.

After the accident, dozens of youths went on a rampage, setting the police station in Villiers-le-Bel on fire, ransacking the Arnouville police station and torching two petrol stations.
Riot police were sent to the area, but youths blocked their way with burning cars.


French media report that the rioters also damaged the Arnouville-Villiers-le-Bel railway station and nearby shops.

The mayor of Villers-le-Bel, Didier Vaillant, appealed for calm and said he would ensure there was "an impartial investigation, for full light to be shed" on the accident.

A brother of one of the dead teenagers, Omar Sehhouli, said the rioting "was not violence but an expression of rage".

Our Paris geography isn’t quite good enough to recognize if the clashes are taking place in one of the “The 751 No-Go Zones of France.”

Monday, November 26, 2007

Fighting Terror Is Not the Same as Fighting Crime

Here's an excerpt from an interesting piece in last Friday’s Detroit News:

Dearborn man accused of providing support to Hezbollah

Paul Egan / The Detroit News

DETROIT -- A Dearborn man who has spent three years behind bars awaiting trial is expected to plead guilty in federal court Dec. 6 to providing support to the terrorist group Hezbollah.

Fawzi Mustapha Assi, 47, was stopped in 1998 while attempting to depart from Detroit Metropolitan Airport with global positioning equipment, night vision goggles and a thermal-imaging camera.

The former Ford Motor Co. engineer was released on an electronic tether soon after his arrest and fled to Lebanon. He returned to the United States and surrendered in 2004.
Assi was the first person indicted under a 1996 anti-terrorism law that made it illegal to knowingly provide money or materials to terrorists. The U.S. State Department designated Hezbollah a terrorist group in 1997.


Those who follow the Detroit-Dearborn are already aware that in most instances of criminal charges or investigations of people suspected of assisting terrorism, the favored beneficiary is almost always Hezbollah.

Hezbollah is very popular amongst the Lebanese Shia population of Dearborn. We have seen Hezbollah's supporters demonstrating openly, and vocally, in support of the Army of Allah. During one demonstration last summer thousands of Dearborn residents loudly declared Hezbollah Big Cheese Sheikh HassanNasrallah to be “Our leader!”

We've also seen a heap of examples of criminal activity intended to benefit Hezbollah, from fraudulent FBI and CIA agents, to marriage fraud, bribes paid to ICE officials, a local resident running around Hemlock Park with an AK-47, tax evasion, flight from prosecution, money laundering, mortgage fraud, and cigarette smuggling.

There are people who believe that the “so-called” war on terror is either completely non-existent, or, at best, exaggerated.

It can’t be a war, they say, because the people attacking us are not nation-states, the way Japan and Germany were in 1941.

Therefore, every act of terrorism can only be investigated and prosecuted as an individual criminal act, without regard to all the connected dots that lead to highly organized, and extremely dangerous terrorist organizations and paramilitary groups, nor to the states behind them, e.g., Afghanistan, Syria, Iran.

This rule about only going to war against nation-states seems awfully arbitrary to me.

In human history, the rise of the nation-state is fairly recent, while warfare goes all the way back. If you’ve got an army, weapons, and a will to make war on someone, then it seems right to me that that someone has a right to make war in self-defense. Whether your defending your tribe, your extended family, your kingdom, your city-state, your right to self-defense should be the same.


By the same token, those who support armies that are sworn to make war on us aren’t merely criminals. They are themselves national enemies, because they have made common cause with our country's enemies. They aren't committing their crimes to get rich, but to assist a foreign army to destroy its foes--whether the foe is our ally, Israel, or us.

Which is why money laundering for Hezbollah, or cheating on your taxes to give the proceeds to Hezbollah, or smuggling cigarettes to earn money for Hezbollah, while they are still only criminal acts, are very similar to treason, or acts of war.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

'Don't Go Out There, Will!'

From a “random comments” roundup in today’s Detroit Free Press:

Democrat Bill Richardson, saying the nation’s image abroad needs a makeover: “We have to find ways again where American diplomacy is not considered cowboy diplomacy, but is considered diplomacy where we’re not the policemen of the world, but the conscience of the world.”

So what should we call this made over, non-cowboy, conscience-of-the-world diplomacy?

Let's just call it what it is: Quaker-wife diplomacy.

And we know how that always turns out.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Springsteen on Rolling Stone's 40th: 'A Low Point in American History'

Unlike the Rolling Stone interview with Bono, which we discussed below, where Bono showed some capacity both for reason and individualism, the interview with Bruce Springsteen followed the Rolling Stone line--shall I say slavishly--with the result that my plummeting opinion of the man can plummet--geologically speaking--no farther.

The interviewer's very first lob to Bruce, “On the whole, are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future?” got this response:

I’m optimistic as far as people go and pessimistic as far as the government goes, for pretty clear reasons. In 2006, the American people said, “Throw these bums out!” They would have voted Bush out at that moment if they could have. There was a clear message about the war in Iraq, and yet we sit here today with no front-running presidential candidate on either side who’s going to take us out of there.

Of course, we may just get out of Iraq the best way, victoriously, leaving behind a stable, secure, non-terror supporting, friendly Iraq, But who the hell wants to write a song about that?

Aside from this, Springsteen has nothing concrete to say about the challenge this nation--the heartland of which he is credited with speaking for-- has faced since 9/11. For him, the key issues are “race and poverty,” which he thinks were lost to the national discourse, “not unintentionally through the use of other issues.” (The war against Islamic jihadism, presumably.)

Springsteen really seems stuck on the poverty issue this time. He seems to think LBJ's plan was a good one. Or John Edwards's. Well, at least Edwards's anti-poverty plan worked for him. Maybe Springsteen's concerns for the impoversihed are why he's always photographed with the same old Telecaster with the worn-off finish, and of course, the Levis and T-shirt--that means he's poor, too, I guess.

You see, Bruce explains, the big movement of the powers that be in this country "is towards a plutocracy” [??], a movement which in turn is pushing the critical conversation about race and poverty out of the national discussion. But, he says, that conversation can’t be stopped all together:

I’ll tell you when it wasn’t stopped--when a guy that doesn’t care that much about it had to say something about it. [He’s talking about Bush, of course]. When people turned on the television during Hurricane Katrina and said “Where did all those poor people come from?”

You wanna give us a break, here, Bruce? I may not have known just how poor New Orleans was, but I always knew there were lots of poor people in every big city, because I grew up in one, and I still live right next to one. Does that mean I’m not a plutocrat?

Or maybe Springsteen was only expressing his own surprise at all these poor folks in New Orleans, because none of those impoverished black folks on TV getting pulled off their roofs looked familiar from the last time he’d played the Superdome for $100 a cheap seat.

Springsteen credits Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” with having an “enormous impact” on him, empowering him “to feel that in my small way, I had something to say, I could do something.” That something that he and the E Street Band can do, as we have note elsewhere, is to “sing.” To sing, and in 2004, to help raise money for that other working-class hero, and terror to plutocrats everywhere, John Heinz Kerry.

But for sheer historical myopia, nothing beats the response Sprinsgteen gave when he was aked how he thinks this time will be judged in 40 more years:

Many parts of it will be remembered with the same degree of shame as the Japanese internment camps are remembered --illegal wiretapping, rendition, the abuse of prisoners, cutting back our civil rights, no habeas corpus. I don’t think most people thought they’d ever see the country move far enough to the right to see those things happen here. And I don’t believe those are things that strengthen us. The moral authority to stand up and say, “We are the Americans,” is invaluable. It’s been deeply damaged, and it’s going to take quite a while to repair that damage, if we can.

This will be remembered as a low point in American history--as simple as that. People are going to go, “Was everybody sleeping?” But people get frightened, they get crazy. You wonder where political hysteria can take you--I think we’ve tasted some of that.

All I want to do is be one of the guys that says, “When that stuff was going down, I threw my hat in the ring and tried to stand on what I felt was the right side of history.” What can a poor boy do, except play in a rock & roll band?

Well,. Bruce, I'm not sleeping, but this kind of shit does make me crazy.

At least all this national darkness has given Bruce an excuse to update some of his old songs. I've even heard there's a new version of “Born to Run” the band's been playing around with in the studio:

Antiwar’s Way Too Much Fun

In the day I’m tryin’ to rhyme “
habeas corpus” while I do my Nautilus routine
At night I preach ‘bout the last man to die and defective voting machines
Straight from the mean streets in John Kerry’s mind
"Rendition!" "Katrina!"
They’re clich├ęs but I can’t change a line
Baby this stuff rips the soul from your rap
Sounds real dumb out loud, like rehashed Maureen Dowd
But those cheers make me feel I’m still young

So for chumps like us,
baby, antiwar’s way too much fun

Trendy set I’m in says they can’t be my friend
If I ain’t hawking the old sixties vision
It’s that iron hand in that velvet glove
That’s strangling all my good intentions
I tell myself, you gotta bust this trap
Gotta drop all this pap, can’t ya go back to just playin’ rock?
Singin’ platitudes makes my soul tired
But frankly I’m just a scared and lonely shaman
Who’s got a jones for the way that it feels
I gotta hear crowds go wild
So what if I don’t mean it for real?

At my shows each night mobs of middle-aged drones swoon when I say “times are dark”

I guess they live their lives in rearview mirrors
Because reality’s just too hard
The amusing thing's how we're getting paid to sing

Then get to brag we’re doing dissident work
I’d rather kid myself, baby, ‘neath these lights each night
Than admit I’m a political jerk!

Now the gossip shows glow with celebrity heroes all strugglin’ to stay alive
Every one of us knows that the Left’s in its throes

But there’s worse things than shuckin’ jive
The truth is we all hocked our brains away gladly
For a promise of more of that badly needed fame
Someday buddy I can’t say when

I’m gonna find my lost soul
The one that made all my old songs roll
even admit there’ve been victories won
But till then chumps like us
Think antiwar’s way too much fun

Cui Bono?

Dennis Prager recently called attention to the recent 40th-Anniversary edition of Rolling Stone for the way it “reveals almost all one needs to know about the current state of the cultural left.”To Understand the Left, Read this Issue of Rolling Stone.”

The issue includes interviews with, among other leading lights, Al Gore, Dave Matthews, Jon Stewart, Paul Krugman, Bono, and Bruce Springsteen.

I limited my reading to two, Bono and Sprinsgteen, and about ten words of Al Gore.

Bono’s interview was recently quoted somewhere for his advice that the US follow Clinton’s example in sitting down with the IRA in Northern Ireland, and sit down with Al Qaeda. Bono says the Clinton administration ran the IRA idea past him at the time, but he disapproved of the it, not wanting to “dignify” the IRA, because they'd “put bombs in supermarkets, and many people have lost their lives.”

But now, says Bono:

I was wrong. Clinton did exactly the right thing in talking to the Provisional IRA and other extremist elements. Now they have to do the same, in my opinion, with Hamas, and they have to do the same with Al Qaeda. You have to involve them in dialogue.

He doesn’t exactly explain how dialoguing with religiously intransigent enemies is done. I’ve never approved of the IRA, but neither Sinn Fein’s original declaration if independence, nor its present electoral manifesto, ever called for the destruction of even their bitterest enemy--Great Britain.

In sharp contrast, both Hamas an Al Qaeda have been utterly consistent in their refusal to moderate their most immoderate fundamental demands--all of which require somebody else dying in large numbers. According to the Hamas Charter of 1988, Israel and the Jews must die:

The Arab states surrounding Israel are required to open their borders to the Jihad fighters, the sons of the Arab and Islamic peoples, to enable them to play their role and to join their efforts to those of their brothers among the Muslim Brothers in Palestine. The other Arab and Islamic states are required, at the very least, to facilitate the movement of the Jihad fighters from and to them. We cannot fail to remind every Muslim that when the Jews occupied Holy Jerusalem in 1967 and stood at the doorstep of the Blessed Aqsa Mosque, they shouted with joy: “Muhammad is dead, he left daughters behind.” Israel, by virtue of its being Jewish and of having a Jewish population, defies Islam and the Muslims. “Let the eyes of the cowards not fall asleep.”

According to the 2002 Al Qaeda manifesto entitled “Why We Fight America,” many Americans are supposed to die:

What happened to America [on 9/11] is something natural, an expected event for a country that uses terror, arrogant policy, and suppression against the nations and the peoples . . . America is the head of heresy in our modern world, and it leads an infidel democratic regime that is based upon separation of religion and state and on ruling the people by . . . laws that contradict the way of Allah. . . . [Therefore], we have the right to kill 4 million Americans - 2 million of them children - and to exile twice as many and wound and cripple hundreds of thousands. Furthermore, it is our right to fight them with chemical and biological weapons . . .

Bono is too sanguine about the efficacy of “compromise” in wartime.

But I give him credit at least for not speaking to Rolling Stone's readers from the lollipop fantasyland wherein most of his fellow celebrity sages dwell.

For instance, while he said he didn’t agree with Paul Wolfowitz that the Bush administration effort to plant democracy in Iraq would work, (I took it from pragmatic reasons), he also told Rolling Stone:

I want to be very, very clear, however; I understand and agree with the analysis of the problem. There is an imminent threat. It manifested itself on 9/11. It’s real and grave. It is as serious a threat as Stalinism and National Socialism were. Let’s not pretend it isn’t.

Bono at least sounds like he’s capable of reason. In other words, his estimate of the threat we face tracks nicely with Dick Cheney's, whose opinion I'd trust in a battle any day of the week.

But alas, the rest of Bono's colleagues in enetertainment-land are extremely committed to pretending that Islamic terrorism is not “real and grave,” and certainly not “as serious a threat as Stalinism and National Socialism were.”

(And where’s this stupid mick come up with this notion Stalinism was a threat?)

Bono also refused interviewer Anthony DeCurtis’s invitation to blame Bush's initiative in Iraq for all current global problems: “There was a plan there, you know. I think the president genuinely felt that if we could prove a model of democracy and broad prosperity in the Middle East, it might defuse the situation.”

A comment that drew forth the following:

[MEMO from Jan Wenner to Bono:

Next time we interview you, READ THE GODDAMN TALKING POINTS FIRST!]

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

HAIL MARY MOTHER OF HIJAB?

Christianity’s most beloved saint was symbolically crucified in the name of Islamic Awareness at the UM-D campus. Ms. Najah Bazzi, an Islamic activist, gave a lecture to students about the world of Mary from the time she was born to what people know about her today. Ms. Bazzy’s contrived lecture excluded the terms Virgin birth and Mother of God, but dubiously credited Mary as being the Mother of Hijab. According to Ms. Bazzy, Muslim women cover their hair and body wearing the hijab to represent the importance of Mary and to remember to try to live like she did.

Islam is not a religion that is concerned with a female’s innate desire for anything. Women in Islam hold less value than than donkeys and dogs. They are the fruit of their owner’s vine and Muslim men like to pick fruit early in the season in order to squeeze from it as much life as possible. You see, although it is an embarrassing fact that Ms. Bazzy would have had a difficult time explaining, Muhammad was 52 years old when he married and had intercourse with a nine year old Aisha.

Ms. Bazzy is an RN who is certainly aware of the physical, emotional, and psychological damage a nine year forced into having sexual relations would suffer. It is shameful and a lie for her to claim the virtues of the the Blessed Mother as being Islamic. Islam forces Motherhood on young girls as a result of the precedent Muhammad established when he married a nine year old 1400 years ago.

In Islam starting after the first menses, young girls are “valued greatly for their virginity, exploited by lustful old men, who purchase the girl with a dowry, and use them for sexual gratification and child-bearing. They are left to live as second class people, in a culture based upon Muhammad's life. This is the Islam that Muslims in the West don't want to tell you about, or do not know about themselves at all, living in countries with better standards than their religion teaches.”

I would suggest to Ms. Bazzy that the primal innate motivation behind what compels Muslim women to cover, is not modesty. If this innate desire exists, it is likely motivated by a desire not to be forced into marriage and raped by grandpa.

The command for women to cover comes directly from the Quran as told by Mohammad and has nothing to do with the sainted Mary, whom many scholars believe to be responsible for western civilization’s value of women and it resultant progression.

"Prophet! Tell your wives and daughters and all Muslim women to draw cloaks and veils all over their bodies (screening themselves completely except for one or two eyes to see the way). That will be better." Qur'an 33:59


The Great Blackout of 2007

“The steady falloff in Iraq coverage isn’t happenstance. It’s a barometer of the scope of the tragedy. For reporters, the already apocalyptic security situation in Baghdad keeps getting worse, simply making the war more difficult to cover than ever.”

Thus the New York Times’s Frank Rich in July 2006, in an op-ed column with the handy recyclable title of “The Peculiar Disappearance of the War in Iraq.”

Though I avoid the overused term, “irony,” I do really find Rich’s complaint about a “steady falloff in Iraq coverage” ironic, because we’re in the middle of a much more substantial falloff in coverage right now. Who knows but that it may be studied years hence as the Great Blackout of 2007, ranking in enormity, perhaps even surpassing, the phantom “blacklisting” of Hollywood Reds during the McCarthy era.

Rich’s thesis in July 2006 was that the Iraq war was getting less and less news coverage because the American people were tired of watching it, suggesting, illogically, that news coverage decisions instantly track audience demand, nor even reflect it.

The truth is, and it's remained the case especially when it comes to trumpeting bad news from Iraq, that the news media shows their public exactly what they want them to see, for exactly the reasons they want them to see it, regardless of audience demand. No one ever asked for a year of coverage of Abu Ghraib. No one will ever learn about Medal of Honor winners nor stories of battlefield heroism from the nightly news.

And contrary to what Rich was griping about last summer, the falloff on coverage isn’t a “barometer of the scope of the tragedy” of the Iraq war, (nor was it last year--Rich’s Bush-hatred has made him a lunatic; compare his analysis of Iraq just this September). The present falloff is a barometer of the media’s embarrassment and chagrin at the strategic turnaround, and approaching triumph in Iraq, the good outcome the media had gambled everything on being utterly impossible.

As the Left never tires of saying about the Bush administration, the media has no Plan B if the quagmire/endless war/failed strategy version of events turned out to be, well--so WRONG.

The press’s response to this unexpected turn of events, (though it may slowly be giving way now), has been to emphasize the most negative stories they can find, and carefully avoid reporting the blaring good news of progress.

A case in point. Where we live in southeastern Michigan, the formerly great daily, The Detroit News, has done everything it could since early November to avoid reporting the dramatic improvement in Iraq, and especially in Baghdad.

On November 7, The Detroit News ran a prominent story headlined, “U.S. troop deaths set record in Iraq/Six fatalities push the total for 2007 to 853, making this the bloodiest year of the war.”

By the date it ran this story, The Detroit News already knew that there was a trend in Iraq of steadily decreasing fatalities, because it was reported in this very same article, far below the lead:

“The No. 2 U.S. commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, said last week that there had been a sharp decline in the number of explosively formed projectiles found in Iraq over the past three months. At the time, he and Gates said it was too early to tell whether the trend would hold.

“The noticeable drop in U.S. and Iraqi deaths in recent months follows a 30,000-strong U.S. force buildup, along with a six-month cease-fire order by radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, among other factors. There were 39 deaths in October, compared with 65 in September and 84 in August.”


Even this story outlined an unmistakeable downward tredn in violence and fatalities. But the News instead chose to lead with the “grim milestone” angle, even though, in this context, it was meaningless--in fact, misleading. They liked these numbers so much they ran them again the next Saturday, with no explanatory context whatever:

Quick Read

Numbers in the news

853: Number of U.S. troops killed so far this year in Iraq, making 2007 the deadliest year of the war for American forces since combat began in March 2003. A total of 3,858 troops have died in Iraq and Afghanistan since the wars began.

On November 8, the day after the prominent "grim milestone" article, The Detroit News did actually report the profoundly historic announcement that U.S. forces had all but driven the last vestiges of al Qaeda from Baghdad. By "reporting" it, I mean they buried it in a 65-word News Brief paragraph, which I quote in its entirety:

Baghdad free of al-Qaida, U.S. says

BAGHDAD -- American forces have routed al-Qaida of Mesopotamia, the Iraqi militant network, from every neighborhood of Baghdad, allowing American troops involved in the "surge" to depart as planned, Maj. Gen. Joseph F. Fil Jr., commander of U.S. forces in Baghdad, said Wednesday. "Murder victims are down 80 percent from where they were at the peak," and attacks involving improvised bombs are down 70 percent, he said.

That's it. And to immunize their readers against even this small germ of good news, they ran a prominent 585-word piece, with a photo, a smooshy soft-news thing proclaiming, as the “Toll of War”: “Advocates fear surge of homeless veterans”). You can decide for yourself if the article makes the case that the Iraq War is a shortcut to homelessness for returning veterans.

Since then, as the news from Iraq has only gotten better, (or the information, anyway, as the news media won’t cover it), The Detroit News’s own stubborn emphasis in its Iraq coverage is revealed in these headlines of related Iraq-articles:

More on this topic

Pakistan rebuffs U.S.
Blast kills Iraqi children, U.S. soldiers
Senate blocks measures to fund Iraq, Afghanistan wars
Roadside blasts decline
Peace group to award anti-war activist Sheehan at Cobo
Report: 14 of 17 Blackwater shootings unjustified
Dems: U.S. wars cost family of 4 $20,900
Guards kill Iraqi taxi driver
Iraq soldier's wife turns her worries into comedy
Peace returns to Baghdad district
Mich. native Woodruff, Springsteen honor military wounded
Easing unrest renews Iraq's taste for booze
U.S. troop deaths set record in Iraq
Bombs kill five U.S. soldiers in Iraq
Ranks of people displaced in Iraq swell, relief group says

Another clearly negative story not in this list included, on November 17, “Stressed GIs desert posts.”

So, out of 16 stories, 13 emphasize bad news from Iraq, and even the favorable ones have misleading headlines. For instance, “Roadside blasts decline: Military says explosive devices down by more than half from March high, but still considered significant.” Of course any roadside bombs are significant. But not as significant, at this point, as the dramatic decline. News people are supposed to be able to recognize the real story out of jumbles of facts.

In fairness, I note that last Tuesday, the News did run a prominent AP story, U.S. begins troop reductions”, fairly huge news, I’d say, considering that troop reductions are the only thing the Left has left to scream about.

But then again today’s big Iraq story, “U.S. agrees to further talks with Iran about security in Iraq,” is another red herring, an insubstantial piece reporting talks about talks, none of which is relevant to coalition progress in Iraq right now. Rather, it only reflect the nostalgia of the editors for the days when the Left still thought they could browbeat the administration into seeking peace terms on Iranian terms.

And look over today’s Iraq-related headlines from the News:

More on this topic

Stressed GIs desert posts
Dems tie Iraq funds, withdrawals
U.S. begins troop reductions
Levin says wars will tax future generations
State Dept. may phase out use of Blackwater
Blackwater scrutinized
Firms in Iraq face court jurisdiction
Congress grills Blackwater CEO
Dems push tax to pay for Iraq war
Report: Blackwater out of control
Levin keeps pushing Iraq policy changes
Iraq shootings scrutinized
War funds fight looms
Al-Maliki: Shooting tests Iraq autonomy
Iraq: U.S. company 'guilty' in shootings

One favorable story out of 15.

If I were a casual reader of the News, I guess I'd conclude that today, November 21st, all that's going on in Iraq is that soldiers are deserting their posts by the thousands, Blackwater is still running daily shoot-em-up tours through Iraqi villages, a brave Congress is valiantly trying to curb overspending on the war, and Carl Levin is still relevant. Oh, and I might notice that maybe a few troops are coming home.

The Detroit News has plainly decided that, if they can’t find bad war news, they'll report on Blackwater, the war tax on “future generations,” and alleged war crimes.

No question these profesional journalists are working very hard at all this. But are they doing their jobs?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Does This Count?

Women walk through Baghdad's Zawra Park. (NYT)

I wonder if it’s official enough when the newspaper of record reports that we're prevailing in Iraq.

In today’s New York Times, we’re given a picture of returning normalcy, freedom of movement, and defiant hope by returning Iraqi exiles, and Baghdad residents enjoying the return of peaceful neighborhoods. (“Baghdad Starts to Exhale as Security Improves”).

This is all thanks to the surge, by the way, as even the Times reporters eventually acknowledged, with conditions, in paragraph seven.

Iraqis are clearly surprised and relieved to see commerce and movement finally increase, five months after an extra 30,000 American troops arrived in the country. But the depth and sustainability of the changes remain open to question.

Open to question, that is, by the New York Times.

Nor is it only Iraqis who are clearly surprised. I’ll bet they are less surprised than the New York Times staff, and the rest of anti-war media who made a solemn pact not to report any progress.

Not two weeks ago on November 7th the Times editorial board (which monitors the nation’s pulse from Times Square, NY, NY), had this message to Congress from “the Heartland”:

Iraq War: The Heartland Speaks

By
The Editorial Board

How does middle America feel about the Iraq War? Yesterday’s election gave a good indication, in the results of two referendums in Montana.

In Helena, voters
backed a referendum by a 5,032 to 3,108 margin — “urging the Congress of the United States to authorize and fund an immediate and orderly withdrawal of the United States military from Iraq.” That’s nearly 62 percent of the vote.

A referendum asking Congress to “fund our military forces totally and without conditions in the global war on terror” went down to defeat.

In Missoula,
a referendum asking Congress “to authorize and fund an immediate and orderly withdrawal of the United States military from Iraq in a manner that is fully protective of U.S. soldiers” won with nearly 65 percent of the vote.

The question now is what Congress intends to do about it.

We’re all for the Big Sky state. But is Montana, which has a population lower than 1 million, (all patriots, I'm sure), really the heartland?

And as for what Congress intends to do about it, and did do about it, they launched yet one more Iraq funding bill with withdrawal strings attached in complete detachment from reality of what's happening in Iraq.

Since taking the majority, they have forced 40 votes on bills limiting President Bush’s war policy. Only one of those has passed both chambers, even though both are run by Democrats.

That one was vetoed by Bush.

I don’t think you rack up a 40-0 record when you know the heartland is behind you.

In any event, today’s Times article proceeds, by fits and starts, to report on what are clearly significant signs of returning normalcy in Baghdad:

“Today she is home again, cooking by a sunlit window, sleeping beneath her favorite wedding picture. And yet, she and her family are remarkably alone. The half-dozen other apartments in her building echo with emptiness and, on most days, Iraqi soldiers are the only neighbors she sees.”

Reporters Damien Cave and Alissa J. Rubin use a lot of this kind of cautious language. Moreover, I think they do some imputing onto their interviewees of their own real difficulties believing that they could have gotten it so wrong--the liberation of Iraq, the battle against Al Qaeda in Iraq and the Shia insurgents, the surge. This kind of thing wasn't supposed to be possible, ever, ever again:

Mrs. Aasan, 45, a Shiite librarian with an easy laugh, is living at the far end of Baghdad’s tentative recovery. She is one of many Iraqis who in recent weeks have begun to test where they can go and what they can do when fear no longer controls their every move.

The security improvements in most neighborhoods are real. Days now pass without a car bomb, after a high of 44 in the city in February. The number of bodies appearing on Baghdad’s streets has plummeted to about 5 a day, from as many as 35 eight months ago, and suicide bombings across Iraq fell to 16 in October, half the number of last summer and down sharply from a recent peak of 59 in March, the American military says.

As a result, for the first time in nearly two years, people are moving with freedom around much of this city. In more than 50 interviews across Baghdad, it became clear that while there were still no-go zones, more Iraqis now drive between Sunni and Shiite areas for work, shopping or school, a few even after dark. In the most stable neighborhoods of Baghdad, some secular women are also dressing as they wish. Wedding bands are playing in public again, and at a handful of once shuttered liquor stores customers now line up outside in a collective rebuke to religious vigilantes from the Shiite Mahdi Army.

The Times reporters tell us, “Iraqis sound uncertain about the future, but defiantly optimistic.” And who exactly are the pessimists they're defying?

“Many Baghdad residents seem to be willing themselves to normalcy, ignoring risks and suppressing fears to reclaim their lives. Pushing past boundaries of sect and neighborhood, they said they were often pleasantly surprised and kept going; in other instances, traumatic memories or a dark look from a stranger were enough to tug them back behind closed doors.”

And yet, from what we read here, the traumatic memories are only that--memories--and the perceived “dark looks” aren’t real--strangers aren’t bothering them now. The story nowhere mentions where any returning Iraqi, or any Baghdad resident daring to cross into the other sect’s territory, or venturing out after dark, finds out that the thing he fears happening actually does happen.

These Baghdad residents aren’t “willing themselves to normalcy”; they're re-discovering that the conditions of normalcy--or many of them--have returned, and are willing themselves to take their neighborhoods and lives back. Willing it even in spite of these buzzkill reporters who undoubtedly keep suggesting to them that this progress--that the media has long since declared could not possibly happen--is happening, has happened. That in spit of many signs to the contrary, this may not be “only a temporary respite from violence,” something the reporter cannot possibly know.

Time and again the reporters run across residents who refuse to be the terrified victims Times readers have been promised. Instead,

“They can joke because they no longer fear that the violence will engulf them.

“In longer interviews across Baghdad, the pattern was repeated. Iraqis acknowledged how far their country still needed to go before a return to normalcy, but they also expressed amazement at even the most embryonic signs of recovery.”

What pattern was repeated? The pattern of "longer" interviews with unsinkably cheerful Iraqis. The only thing a reporter wants is a good quote, then he's done. Prolonging an interview means he hasn't got what he wants yet. These interviews that had to be prolonged so realistic (and much smarter) journalists could wear these poor Iraqis down with suggestions that all this apparent progress may seem good now, but has its “limits,” lor lacks “depth and sustainability,” or is only “tentative.”

No matter.

Cave and Rubin may as well be Tom Cruise telling his sob story to that little kid in "Jerry Maguire": it's hard to be serious when the other party can't stop laughing from sheer joy. (And see how the reporters do report the Iraqi reactions with something like pity mixed with awe.) In spite of lenghty interviews, the interviewees continue to express amazement with how well things are going. Amazement even at these “most embryonic signs of recovery.”

But hey. I have to remind myself these are Times reporters, after all. They're hard-wired not to see anything amazing in the "embryonic." Nor have they any concept of the tell-tale signs of victory, even when they're reporting it for themselves.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Mass in Baghdad

I have complained on this blog that almost every instance of Muslim-Christian ecumenism and/or “bridge-building” invariably seems to entail the Christians going chapel-veil in hand to Islamic turf. We see images of young Catholics, (or not so young, e.g., Speaker of the U.S. House, Nancy Pelosi), wearing hijabs, and learning the history of Islam, but never see Muslims in Christian settings.

In the interests of fairness, and genuinely pleased for the chance to do so, I am linking to a notable exception. Michael Yon has posted an account of Muslims and Christians working together to prepare St. John’s Catholic Church in Baghdad for a special visit by the auxiliary bishop. By all means read the account on Yon’s site. It is yet one more example of the turnaround of the situation in Iraq since this summer.

This photo is from Yon’s site, with the caption he wrote to go with it.



Today, Muslims mostly filled the front pews of St John’s. Muslims who want their Christian friends and neighbors to come home. The Christians who might see these photos likely will recognize their friends here. The Muslims in this neighborhood worry that other people will take the homes of their Christian neighbors, and that the Christians will never come back. And so they came to St John’s today in force, and they showed their faces, and they said, “Come back to Iraq. Come home.” They wanted the cameras to catch it. They wanted to spread the word: Come home. Muslims keep telling me to get it on the news. “Tell the Christians to come home to their country Iraq.”

The Sincerest Form of Hatred

A man who lives, not by what he loves but what he hates, is a sick man.
--Archibald Macleish


A word of advice to those of you psych and social work majors (probably not that many read this blog ), or you parents who have college kids who’ve picked psychology as a major (about 70% of you). If you want in on the ground floor, set up your suicide hot-line center now.

Business is going to be booming after January 2009.

Because after January 2009 the Focus of All Global Evil, and his Vice-Focus, will be departing the White House, and hence will no longer bear responsibility for everything bad that happens in the known universe, from hurricanes to unwanted babies to the Islamic war against the west.

And that sudden absence is going to leave a lot of people with no one to put all their hate on.

Hatred's not that easy to redirect, especially when it’s hatred as pure and all-encompassing as the hatred of Bush-haters for George W. Bush. Hatred this deep is usually directed only at God, or ex-spouses. (Hatred of God, in fact, explains a big portion of hatred for Bush, as seen by the example below). Compare some of these folks with al Qaeda, and bin Laden comes across as the more reasonable. So when Bush is no longer there as a target for all that hatred, his bitterest enemies will have nowhere to put all that hate, and no comparable passion for which to live.

Which means they're going to start killing themselves. In large numbers.

Think I’m exaggerating? Read this:

Bush Death Watch: Countdown!

It's official: Less than one year until history slaps Dubya to the curb. Can you feel the tingle?

By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Friday, November 16, 2007


It's just that kind of feeling, that sense of hesitant, embryonic optimism, the sense that says, oh my God, we as a culture and a smash-mouthed, war-hammered society really are fast approaching something possibly, potentially, heart-achingly new and different and — because it cannot get any worse — just a little bit better.

Here is my suggestion: Mark your calendars, set your watch, program a celebratory ringtone well in advance, because the countdown has officially begun.


It is now less than one calendar year until the next presidential election. It is less than one year until the country finally takes a deep breath and flexes its atrophied muscles and opens its bloody, Cheney-punched mouth and lets it be known to the world, to the universe, to its own numb and dejected soul just exactly how unwell it has felt, how much pain has raked its heart, lo, these past seven (eight, by then) years, by ushering in an entirely new political era, as we all exhale a massive sigh of long overdue relief that — praise Jesus, Allah, Buddha and the devil all at once — the long national nightmare of George W. Bush is finally over.


It is now safe to imagine. It is now becoming increasingly easy to actually dare to think that, in less than one year's time, Dubya will begin packing his bags, jamming into his Spongebob duffel his map of the world coloring book, English-to-English translation dictionaries, mangled pocket edition of the U.S. Constitution, Bibleman action figure set and a "Mission Accomplished!" sweatshirt, and heading off to face his destiny as one of the bleakest, most morally repellent chapters in all of American history.

You think maybe it's too soon? Too early to let the tingle of positivism and hope take hold? Far from it. After all, the signs of decay and utter GOP desperation keep pouring in. For example, it has now been officially recorded in history what everyone already knows: Bush is nearly exactly as unpopular as Richard Nixon was at his lowest point, and no president in history has had as long a streak at the bottom of the job-approval rankings as Dubya. Heckuva job, Bushie!

What's more, the glorious collapse of the evangelical Christian right marches on apace, as Pat Robertson, now a dejected, lonely widower after the death of secret boy-toy husband Jerry Falwell, has officially endorsed pro-choice, pro-gay, thrice-married, massively unbalanced moral pit bull Rudy Giuliani for president, which is a bit like a militant vegan endorsing Hot Dog on a Stick for the title of Lord of the Food Court. Desperate times indeed.

But wait, it gets better. While it's easy to focus on Shrub and Cheney and to gleefully, achingly imagine their dreary march out of office on that happy day, it is also vital and heartwarming to note that this time next year will also mark the demise of an entire army of toxic leaders, federal department heads, gay-bashing appointees and misogynist directors of every stripe and scandal and spittle, a simply huge array of right-wing Bushies who are still entrenched in all manner of powerful federal bureaus and organizations and policy-making bodies.


It's true. Despite how a huge hunk of hideous GOP policymakers lost their seats during the last congressional election, plenty more appointees are still around to poison the well. From Kevin Martin, the lackey who oversees the FCC, to noxious Idahoan and rabid anti-environmentalist Dick Kempthorne of the Department of the Interior, to anti-choice Republican Mormon knucklehead charity scammer and Department of Health and Human Services overseer Mike Leavitt, and on and on — in a year, all on their way out.

Oh, and one more deserves special attention. Because one year from now will also be the glorious political end of one Dr. David W. Hager, the rabid evangelical Christian gynecologist (I know, so wrong) who currently advises the FDA on women's health issues and who was largely responsible for delaying the approval of Plan B, opposed RU-486, is in fact against all contraception, stem-cell research, premarital sex, and (quite naturally) women's choice, and whose own ex-wife claims he anally raped her, over and over again, in her sleep.


Intelligent women nationwide still shudder that this man is allowed anywhere near a living vagina, much less permitted to touch and probe and offer advice. But there is one noteworthy aspect to Hager; he is the perfect incarnation of the Christian right's view of women as subordinate, lesser-intelligent sluts who cannot control their own bodies and therefore need men, God, and the government to do it for them. Hager is a deep shame to the male gender, and his return to the private practice of ruining the sex lives of unfortunate women in Kentucky cannot come soon enough.

But why write this column now, so far in advance of Bush's limp-tailed departure? Simple enough: Because it will take a full year to get ready.


It will take every month and every week and every single day from the moment you read this until November 2008 to compile, to gather, to list all the names and all the horrors and all the deeply entrenched policies that are still clawing at the face of America as a result of Bush's reign, to fully get your mind around just how deep is the disease and how widely it has spread, so we may begin to excise the policies one by one like the malignant tumors they so very much are.
What, too strong? Not even close. Go read up on Hager, and get back to me.


Ah, but perhaps you are one of the jaded ones, the non-believers, that certain type of political bitterball who says, oh please, what does it matter, they're all criminals and cretins and powermongers anyway, no matter which party or president they work for? Get rid of BushCo and a new slew of cronies and cretins take their place, and who can tell the difference?
To which I say, well, yes. But also, no. Sure, the system is corrupt and lopsided and full of backstabbing and backslapping and backroom deal-making. So what? Has been since the first cavemen voted to see who gets to run the mammoth hunt.


Truth is, it's just far too easy to let the ennui wash over and not give a damn, to lump all politics into a phlegmball of nasty negativity and be done with it, thus entirely disregarding the efficacious issues, the things that truly effect change and affect lives and improve or degrade the health of the planet. Outrage fatigue is simply unacceptable. Intellectual apathy is the refuge of the lazy and the spiritually malnourished. Do not let it happen to you.

Now is the time. The coming year will slide by rather quickly and the feeling of urgent change and upheaval will only build and it doesn't really matter if it's Hillary or Obama or Edwards leading the shift, because no matter who gets the nod, they will require — from me, from you, from anyone who professes to care — a roiling tidal wave of progressive momentum behind them to help them cleanse and haul away the overwhelming mountain of moral fecal matter Bush has left behind.

Mark your calendar. Set your ringtone. Take a deep breath, feel the wave build, and then dive the hell in. Right now, it's the only option that really matters.

And this guy's writing from San Francisco! So much for "You're gonna meet some gentle people there."

As is shown by this, and literally thousands of other, examples in columns and blog postings, Bush Derangement Syndrome is quite real. It was legitimately defined by psychiatrist Charles Krauthammer in 2003: ("Bush Derangement Syndrome: the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency -- nay -- the very existence of George W. Bush.").

And, just like every other mental illness, psychiatry talks a big expensive game, but has no cure. In many ways, BDS is the worst of all the uncured mental maladies, because it borrows the worst from all of them: the anger of depression, the delusions of shizophrenia, the manic aimless activism of bipolar disease.

So, to all you young psychs and social workers, when those cell-phone calls start pouring into the Help Center in 2009 from a guy like Morford, don't kid yourselves that you can counsel him back to mental health. Be satisfied if you can just coax him down from that railing on the Golden Gate Bridge, or stop him from throwing himself headlong into the path of a Gay Pride float.

But if you can't stop him, don't blame yourself. Remember his world will have ended on January 20, 2009. And for a lot of people, that's going to be just too much to take.

'Good news leaks past the embargo on good news…'

By now the media blackout on good news from Iraq, or from any other quarter in which the Bush administration is working, is beginning to give way. Better writers than me have been able to condense what is actually quite a large story into a manageable size. On Friday The Anchoress summed up good news from Iraq, the media’s reluctance to report on it, and the effect on news watchers hammered nightly with doom-and-gloom stories meant to shield positive developments:

Good news leaks past the embargo on good news…

‘Bout a year and a half ago [1] I wrote:

Nothing good [2] will show up in the news until Bushitler is out of office and the Dems are back in. Nothing. Good news has been disallowed. If you want to [3] find good news, you will have to [4] look for it yourself.

Bad news, though, is so welcome [5] it even gets made up.

Last week, [6] Muslims and Christians raised a cross together to help re-open a church in Baghdad.

This week, [7] Muslims and Christians gathered together for Holy Mass in a Baghdad church. Yes, in Baghdad. And the mainstream press has - not surprisingly - missed the story. Michael Yon, the independent journalist who [8] covers the war in Iraq without filters, writes:

Today, Muslims mostly filled the front pews of St John’s. Muslims who want their Christian friends and neighbors to come home. The Christians who might see these photos likely will recognize their friends here. The Muslims in this neighborhood worry that other people will take the homes of their Christian neighbors, and that the Christians will never come back. And so they came to St John’s today in force, and they showed their faces, and they said, “Come back to Iraq. Come home.” They wanted the cameras to catch it. They wanted to spread the word: Come home. Muslims keep telling me to get it on the news. “Tell the Christians to come home to their country Iraq.”

and - of interest, perhaps, to those who don’t care about the [9] free practice of religion in that very religion-minded culture:

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen any fighting. I can’t remember my last shootout: it’s been months. The nightmare is ending. Al Qaeda is being crushed. The Sunni tribes are awakening all across Iraq and foreswearing violence for negotiation. Many of the Shia are ready to stop the fighting that undermines their ability to forge and manage a new government. This is a complex and still delicate denouement, and the war may not be over yet. But the Muslims are saying it’s time to come home. And the Christians are saying it’s time to come home. They are weary, and there is much work to be done.


It’s not victory - not yet - but every day it seems we get [10] a little closer to [11] victory. These might be called little [12] hopeful signs - [13] little victories. People are starting to realize that [14] the surge is working, but they’re figuring it out [15] almost by accident. If the press cannot [16] recognize and report on [17] these little victories, how will they recognize, or be able to credibly report on the big ones? And why shouldn’t they want to? Why should the press not want to cover [18] good news from Iraq?

Unfortunately, it is still true that until a new president is installed in the WH, preferably one with a D after the name, [19] only the downsides are newsworthy, and that holds true in every subject. Every subject. My elderly family members are convinced that everything, everywhere, is [20] going to hell, and they are fretful and terrified. They think everyone is out of work, the [21] economy is in a recession, the war in Iraq is lost and there are [22] no real terrorist threats - that’s just made-up stuff. They’re sure America is dying. They are sure the world is headed for famine. They are depressed and do not want to send out Christmas cards, because how can you do that when [23] so much is bad in the world?

If you ask them to look around and wonder how people are buying tiny houses in Queens for a million dollars - while everyone is working, their neighbors are expanding their homes, new businesses are being constructed - if you point out that the the stores and restaurants are crowded - if you ask them how it is that [24] France and [25] Germany have elected America-friendly leaders who are [26] making it a point to work with [27] the unanimously hated President Bush…it does not compute; everything is bad. “All I know,” they say, “is what I hear, and it sounds like the world is going to come to an end soon, because how can it keep going? There is going to be a depression and nuclear war! The oceans are going to cover the whole coast! Everything is going to be lost! Little children are being allowed to get sick and die! Here! In America!” And of course, “everything about Iraq is bad. [28] There is nothing good.”

All they know, you see, is what they hear.

Now, I grant you, it is the nature of the news business to feature the sensational stuff; “if it bleeds it leads” is a real philosophy. If a thousand NYC taxicabs get through a day without an accident, that’s not news; if one jumps the curb and kills 8 bystanders - yes, it’s news. But if a hundred bystanders are killed a month - for several months - and then that stopped happening, it seems like [29]
that would be newsworthy, particularly if the good citizens of NYC had been fretting and worrying about such events.

Likewise, when the press has done its job to keep Americans informed on the deaths, setbacks and problems endured by her sons and daughters in the military, should they not also keep Americans informed of the [30] successes of those same sons and daughters? Seems to me, that’s not asking very much. Seems sensible, in fact, particularly when you think of the press as a vanguard of the public trust.

I must ask, if the President of the United States had had a D after his name when he deposed Saddam Hussein and liberated a few million people and tried to establish a Democracy in the midsts of tyranny and tribal skirmishes - and if it looked like he was, after a very difficult time and some serious missteps - succeeding, do you really think you wouldn’t be hearing about it?

Come on - the last president who had a “D” after his name saw the 5.6% unemployment rates trumpeted as “essentially full employment” with no “ifs, ands or buts” about it. Every day [31]
was a rainbow day when the last “D” President was in office, and most of the news was good news. If the stock market went up - you heard about it. If it went down, that was just a correction and some profit-taking; no big whoop. And even if American [32] interests and vessels were being blown up here, or overseas, there [33] was no terrorism. The only real terrorist was the homegrown one, and I think he was the only one put to death for it, too, if I recall. When the American president had a D after his name, the troops that were deployed were never in harm’s way, and they [34] were all going to be “home by Christmas.”

If the American President had a D after his name, do you think you would have to [35] be your own news service in order to get some relief from the unendingly bleak-everything-everywhere-is-bad-and-the-world-will-continue-to-spin-into darkness and all-nations-will-[36] continue to-hate the USA until-W-is-out-of-office and -our-guy-presumably-Hillary is-in-the- White House?

It’s going to take getting another D into the White House for good news [37] to be allowed out to play in the [38] American psyche, again. It may well take getting another D into the White House for our troops to be able to [39] rely upon their funding, for their heroism to be [40] noted and applauded with appropriate fanfare.

Voters are going to have to decide whether it’s worth it to put [41] Hillary Clinton and her husband back into the White House just to be able to hear a little good news and to feel the multi-layered, seven-year gloom, lift. I suspect that for many Americans who just want to hear that “everything is okay again today” - people like some of my elderly family members, and some of the younger ones, too - if that’s what it takes to be allowed to smile again, or to be allowed to feel good about America, once more - they’ll go for it.

Will anyone notice that we’ve [42] completely lost a [43] free and [44] independent press in the bargain? Perhaps [45] concerns for the [46] health and welfare of our [47] vital free press should [48] trump ideologies.

Some news you may not have read or heard elsewhere:

[49] British Military in Iraq reports dramatic drop in violence
Times of London: [50] Serious success in Iraq is not being recognized as it should be
[51] Treasury’s Income Mobility Report Blows Away ‘Mediocre Bush Economy’ and Other Myths
[52] Our Alliances are NOT in Disarray
[53] Tony Blair: Iraq War was Right Thing to Do
[54] Did CBS News Cook the Books on Vet Suicide Numbers?
[55] Weather Channel Founder: Global Warming Greatest Scam in History
[56] Ozone Hole is Shrinking