Sunday, November 13, 2011

Arab League: Syria Suspended - My Take

Syria is in the news. What's different this time is what a televised set of Syrians is protesting:
"Regime backers rally after Arab League suspends Syria"
CNN (November 13, 2011)

"State media showed throngs of demonstrators rallying in support of Syria's president Sunday, a day after the Arab League's decision to suspend the country's membership...."
What's missing from the CNN article is any mention of the usual denunciation of Israel, accusations of America being to blame for the current embarrassment, or riots over a cartoon.

I find this change of pace refreshing, and guardedly hopeful.

I also think that Arab national leaders who kept up with events of the last few decades may be realizing that times are changing. Have changed.

From an old-school point of view, Syria's boss hasn't been doing anything all that unusual. For folks who noticed changes that started somewhere in the 18th century, not so much. Al-Assad's habit of killing subjects he doesn't like is a little extreme these days.

Back to that article:
"...The Arab League's decision Saturday dealt a stinging blow to Syria, and could open the door for broader international sanctions against the al-Assad regime.

"Why did Arab League move on Syria?

"Eighteen of the Arab League's 22 members voted to punish Syria in an emergency session at its headquarters.

"Only two member nations -- Lebanon and Yemen -- voted against the measure. Iraq abstained and Syria was barred from voting....

"...The punitive measures come after al-Assad's failure to abide by an Arab League proposal earlier this month to halt all violence, release detainees, withdraw armed elements from populated areas and allow unfettered access to the nation by journalists and Arab League monitors.

"But none of that has happened, according to daily reports streaming out of Syria...."
There's more:
  • Syrians who aren't thrilled with Assad as boss man say that some of the eager demonstrators were forced to act loyal
  • Assad's enforcers have killed about 3,500 people so far
    • That we know of
  • CNN acknowledges that they can't support Assad's claims
    • He won't let their reporters ask questions
That's pretty much business-as-usual in that part of the world. A news service saying that they can't confirm some boss man's story is a fairly new wrinkle: one that seems to have emerged around the time that folks started getting news from more than The New York Times and its tributaries, and broadcast networks.

But, as I said: The Arab League suspending Syria's membership is an unusual act. I hope it's more than just a publicity stunt.

Related posts:
In the news:

Friday, November 11, 2011

Freedom, Even For 'Those People Over There'

I've posted about Veterans Day; AKA Armistice, National, Poppy, and Rembrance Day; before. Links to some of those posts are under "Veterans Day posts," below.

This post isn't about Veterans Day, or the folks who served in the military. It's more about why there's been a fairly steady stream of folks willing to sacrifice for this country's welfare.

That other post is about two related threats to freedom of speech: which I think warrants doing links and excerpts here.

"My Take on the News: 'There Oughtta be a Law?' "
A Catholic Citizen in America (November 11, 2011)

"The threat of Islamic laws forbidding blasphemy, and hostility toward religion, have been in the news. I think both are really bad ideas...."

"...I've noticed that many folks act as if it's their duty, or right, to force others to act 'correctly.' I remember the trailing edge of McCarthyism, endured American academia when political correctness was in flower, and didn't particularly like what either philosophical fad did to personal freedoms...."
As the blog's name, "A Catholic Citizen in America," suggests, I'm a practicing Catholic. One reason I like living in America is that folks here are free to worship as they see fit, or not worship at all. That's a big plus for someone who's part of a religious minority.

Back to that other blog's post:

" 'Everybody Knows What Those People are Like' "

"On the whole, I'm glad that I've never been part of a self-identified group of self-righteous do-gooders who had the power to make others act the 'right' way. Not being part of 'the establishment' can be an advantage.1"

"If that doesn't sound like what 'one of those religious people' should say: I'm not surprised. I'll get back to that...."
(A Catholic Citizen in America)
After that bit, I discuss bias, and offer a Bias Made Easy checkoff list of qualities often ascribed to 'those people over there.'

Freedom of Religion, Not Freedom from Religion

Editorial views of The New York Times notwithstanding, people with religious beliefs are not necessarily ignorant weirdos.1 Which brings me back to religious freedom and that other blog:
"...I'm a practicing Catholic, so I have to support freedom of religion. It's in the rules (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2104-2109)"

"Freedom: For Everyone

"That freedom is not 'freedom to worship my way.' Even if I could, I wouldn't be allowed force someone to 'act Catholic'..."

"...Today's threat to freedom isn't just 'those terrorists over there.' I think Americans should be at least as concerned about folks in today's establishment who seem determined to protect us from religion.

"'For our own good,' of course...."
(A Catholic Citizen in America)
I am grateful to the generations of American veterans who fought and died so that we could remain a free nation. I sincerely hope that America's upper crust don't accomplish what enemies abroad have failed to do: end this country's long tradition of freedom.

Veterans Day posts:

1 The New York Times ran an editorial recently, that compared people who admit having religious beliefs to those who believe in flying saucers. I am not making this up:I can't know why the NYT editor made the assumptions he did, but I suspect that he may be like the expert who only reads his own books. Old-school American journalism's upper echelons are, I think, an increasingly isolated and insular little subculture. Which may explain why they they act the way they do:Finally, despite what Americans often see in the news, these colorful folks aren't typical Christians. In my view, they're not even representative of American Protestants:

(Reuters photo, via, used w/o permission)

(Oakland Blog, via SFGate, used w/o permission)

I've made the point, in another blog, that not all Christians are dolts:

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Benazir Bhutto Assassination Trial: With Real, Live, Defendants

Pakistan's prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated on December 27, 2007, in Karachi. Karachi street lighting just happened to fail when the attack happened. The city's phone service just happened to be not working at the same time.

That's a lot of "just happeneds."

If the assassination had been in lower Manhattan, with a curiously coincidental power failure and communications systems failure, I might be more suspicious than I am. But Karachi isn't New York City, Pakistan isn't America, and not everybody has reliable power and telecommunications services.

I've been over this before:On the other hand, Pakistan's alleged national government has a long and dubious history of 'just happening' to foul up efforts to protect them from terrorists. Then there's the Mumbai connection - and that may not be another topic.

Bhutto's assassination, and Pakistan's national 'government,' are in the news again. Seven people have been charged with having a hand in Bhutto's assassination. Two of them are Pakistani police officers.

They may be guilty of having helped kill Benazir Bhutto. Or not. I really don't know.

I think it's interesting, and guardedly hopeful, that some of Pakistan's bosses are going to the trouble of having a trial. Particularly when it would be so easy for the 'guilty parties' to 'sign a full confession,' and then conveniently 'commit suicide.'

Maybe I'm being too cynical about this. On the other hand, Pakistan's so-called national leaders have not been acting in a way that encourages trust.

Excerpts from the news:
"The anti-terrorism court of Rawalpindi Saturday framed charges against seven accused including two police officers in the assassination case of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

"The seven accused including two police officers pleaded 'not guilty' when the judge informed them about the charges of murder. The judge, however, went ahead with framing the charges and asked the prosecution to produce witnesses in the court from November 19 onward. During the in-camera trial held at Adyala Jail, ATC No 1 Judge Shahid Rafique framed charges against seven accused including former City Police Officer (CCPO) Syed Saud Aziz, SP Rawal Town Khurram Shehzad, Sher Zaman, Aitzaz Shah, Rafaqat Gul, Hussnain Gul and Abdul Rahseed.

"The ATC judge charged the two police officers with breach of security as they removed the security box of Benazir Bhutto, ordered the hosing down of crime scene and thus destroyed the proofs. Also they did not order post mortem of any innocent citizen killed in the blast. It has also been charged that they were involved in the Benazir Bhutto assassination plan.

"While the five others were accused of 'criminal conspiracy' for bringing the suicide bomber from the tribal belt in the northwest and keeping him in a house in Rawalpindi. The charges framed against them by the court include terrorism, murder, attempted murder and becoming part of the murder conspiracy.

"According to the investigation team probing the case, accused Hussnain Gul was the handler, who brought the suicide bomber from Waziristan and kept him in his house in Rawalpindi.

"Rafaqat Hussain and Abdul Rasheed were alleged that they knew about the conspiracy and concealed the same. Aitzaz Shah, the juvenile accused and suicide bomber, and his handler Sher Zaman were also accused of the same charges....

"...Former president General (retd) Pervez Musharraf, currently living in self-imposed exile in Britain and Dubai, is also wanted in the Benazir Bhutto assassination case. The prosecutor said Benazir was killed in a bomb-and-gun attack because president Musharraf had not provided enough security to her....

"...Agencies add: The ATC court did not indict Musharraf in the case.
Prosecutor Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali said the court would deal with Musharraf's issue later.
(The Nation)
"Seven men, including two senior police officers, were indicted Saturday for conspiracy to commit murder in the killing of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, a defense attorney told CNN....

"...Malik Muhammad Rafique, a senior defense attorney for the officers, Saud Aziz and Khurram Shahzad, said there was "no evidence connecting the two men to criminal conspiracy to assassinate Bhutto.""
Related posts:In the news:

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.