Sunday, September 30, 2007

Burma / Myanmar: Small Country, Big Trouble

Burma, or Myanmar, as the junta that runs the place likes to call it, has been in the news recently.

Burma is a mostly Buddhist (89%) country, with 4% each of Christians and Muslims. Aside from the possibility that the Taliban or Al Qaeda might become offended by the country's export of men, women, and children "for sexual exploitation, domestic service, and forced commercial labor," Burma doesn't seem obviously involved in the war on terror.

On the other hand: seventy years ago, who would have thought that a regime in Germany which believed in racial purity and the supremacy of what they called the Aryan race would join forces with Italy and Japan?

A biased view of Burma and its recent history is offered by "National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma" - in Washington D.C. They're hoping that the regime in Burma will eventually fall, allowing restoration of human rights and democracy. As I said, they're biased: if favor of people being allowed to have a say in what their government does.

I became much more aware of the mess Burma is in last week, as part of a "Blog against Abuse" campaign. Burma / Myanmar posts on another blog:

Saturday, September 29, 2007

When Iran's Disappointed, Bad Things Happen

Iran has a nuclear program that it kept quiet for sixteen years. The official line is that Iran needs reactors for peaceful, civilian, power generation. Quite a few people think that the ayatollahs want nuclear weapons.

And, that Supreme Leader Ali Hoseini-Khamenei and company shouldn't get them.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy told the United Nations that it was not acceptable to let Iran acquire nuclear weapons, and that war is a possible consequence if diplomacy doesn't work. That's an oddly strong statement about the current rulers of Iran.

It's doubly amazing, considering what can happen when the current regime in Iran doesn't get what it wants.

Take Argentina, for example. Trade with Iran was a profitable deal for Argentina in the 1970s and 1980s, continuing after the Ayatollahs took over in the late 1970s. Argentina even helped the new regime lay the foundations of its nuclear program.

Then, Argentinian leaders decided that they wanted to stop the nuclear aid. Iran's rulers were understandably miffed.

In 1992, 29 people were killed by a homicide bomber in an truck bomb attacked the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires. In 1994, a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires was bombed: 85 killed. It could be coincidence. But the Argentinian government says that Hezbollah did the actual dirty work: on orders from Tehran.

Argentinian leaders have arrest warrants for nine Iranian officials and Hezbollah leaders, but no one has caught them yet.

So, hats off to President Sarkozy, for risking the Iran's displeasure.

I hope other leaders develop a sense of what's at stake. And are willing to take short-term risks for the sake of long-term survival.

"Terrorist base south of border"
(December 1, 2003)
"Official: Iran Ordered Terrorist Bombing in the Americas"
(September 27, 2007)

Related posts, on Individuals and the War on Terror.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Islam and the 21st Century: Not the Best Fit?

My wife and I had a chat today with someone whose sister's husband lived in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The two of them had been living there for some time: he'd grown up there, so it sounds like a nice arrangement.

He died recently, and quite abruptly. His widow has quite a few decisions to make. She likes it in Riyadh, but things are a little different, now that her husband is dead.

For example, when she tried to visit his grave recently she was chased away. This is perfectly understandable, of course. She was a woman, and not escorted by a male relative. I suppose she should have known better.

Saudi Arabia, of course, is a very up-to-date country, well aware of the social and political changes of the last few centuries. For example, the Kingdom Center in Riyadh has a shopping center, occupying an entire floor of the thousand-foot-tall structure, that is available exclusively to women. It has a separate entrance, and I understand that within this shopping center, women are allowed to not wear a veil.

I'm impressed.

I think this raises an issue that's involved in the war on terror. The Taliban, Al Qaeda, and related groups, seem to have the goal of replacing western civilization with caliphates in which their vision of sharia law rules.

We've got a preview of how this Islamic state would work, from the way they ran Afghanistan a few years ago. Blowing up irreplaceable historic statues was bad enough. Killing quite a few people they didn't approve of indicates this particular brand of Islam isn't quite as tolerant as western civilization.

People in America, at least, would find it awkward to adjust.

People who follow Islam have a lot to think about these days. The religion seems to be inextricably enmeshed in the culture of the Middle East, specifically Saudi Arabia. Someone following that culture's assumptions about the status and treatment of women in an American business, for example, would be in serious legal trouble.

This isn't an attack on Islam. I still hope that it is "a peaceful religion" that can be brought into the 18th century, and perhaps into the Information Age.

My concern is that many people in America, and elsewhere, don't realize what's at stake. The Euro-American culture, although not perfect, gave the world constitutional democracy in the 18th century, rejected slavery in the 19th, and established the right of women to vote and work in the 20th.

I doubt very much that sharia law would permit many of these new ideas.

I sincerely hope that America's leadership, in government, media, and education, understand clearly how much we all have to lose.

Related posts, on Islam, Christianity, Religion, Culture and the War on Terror.

It's Different, When You're in Charge

This blog is not intended to be political, but sometimes politics are inextricably enmeshed in America's efforts to avoid a second 9/11 attack. A presidential campaign debate yesterday at New Hampshire's Dartmouth College was one of those times.

One party has typically insisted on telling Al Qaeda and others in Iraq exactly how long they have to hunker down, before U.S. troops retreat. For those who might want to overthrow the current government, and replace it with something more like late Taliban regime in Afghanistan, knowing how long they have to stay low could be vital information.

Now that there's a real possibility that their party will be in the White House, the party's top three candidates, Obama, Clinton, and Edwards, said that they couldn't promise to have all U.S. troops out by the end of the presidential term in 2013.

It's remarkable: how looming responsibility changes one's perspective.

Kidnapped Israeli Soldier's Wife Asked Wrong Question at UN

The United Nations: A force for peace, sort of.

At least, they can usually control a news conference.

When President Ahmadinejad on Iran was at the UN, earlier this week, the wife of someone who was captured in Iran and then dropped out of sight had an opportunity to ask a question in the august body's headquarters.

She asked the Iranian leader to explain why Iran refused to give any information about her husband: whether he was dead or alive.

Her tone was earnest, but her demeanor was composed.

President Ahmadinejad was literally speechless. With a 'what is this' gesture, he started grinning.

The wife of the missing prisoner was speechless pretty soon after that. Her microphone was cut off, and she was "escorted" out of the UN chamber.

I can understand the United Nation's actions. The Iranian president was clearly at a loss as to how to answer this embarrassing question, and, if I caught the detail correctly, her husband is (or was) an Israeli.

I walked in on a televised reply of this this little incident, and didn't catch details. Something this dramatic usually hits the news somewhere, but so far I found only one probable reference to it.

If reference to "the wife of kidnapped Israel soldier Udi Goldwasser," in an op-ed piece in "Inner City Press," is the embarras President Ahmadinejad suffered.

Apparently the entire question-and-answer session was mishandled: an unusual situation in the UN. For example, earlier that day, the French mission wanted UN officials to keep non-French journalists out of a press conference: except for approved foreigners, of course.

Given how dramatic the situation, if not the woman's demeanor, was, I'm impressed that this seems to be a non-incident that never happened, at least as far as most news outlets are concerned.

Of course, there's a lot going on right now.

You might find other details in the ICP's op-ed piece "Amid US' Nick Burns' Tough Talk on Iran, Ahmadinejad Laughs At UN Press Conference" interesting.

Related posts, on Individuals and the War on Terror.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Not All Muslims are Terrorists

Most terrorists these days are Muslims, but not all Muslims are terrorists. This isn't a very subtle point, but I've run into a few blogs recently that didn't seem to have grasped the idea. I've also run into odd opinions about America's policies, but that's another matter.

If Islam was one big cult of destruction, Indonesia would be very hard to explain. Indonesia is, in terms of numbers of people, the biggest Islamic nation in the world.

As such, Indonesia should be a hotbed of terrorist activity.

Instead, Indonesia, and people visiting the country, are victims of terrorists. Almost five years ago, a tourist spot in Bali blew up and burned, with tourists inside. 202 people died.

to date, it's been the biggest terrorist attack in Indonesia. That's no 9/11, but it was serious enough to be called Australia's 9/11, since over a third of the victims were Australians.

It was the first of four attacks in as many years:
  • 2002 Bali nightclub bombings
  • 2003 bombing at J.W. Marriott hotel
  • 2004 bombing of the Australian Embassy
  • 2005 triple suicide attacks on restaurants
The 2002 attacks killed 202 people. The 2003 and 2004 bombings killed 22 in all, about twenty were killed in 2005.

The total fatalities were less than a tenth of 9/11 death toll: but those were attacks, nonetheless. In an Islamic country: the biggest in the world.

And, although news reports still use words like "alleged," Jemaah Islamiyah (الجماعة الاسل, or Islam Community, I think) is almost certainly involved. Those aren't "Crusaders."

The top Indonesian court rejected appeals that lawyers for three "Islamic militants" who "all admitted in court to planning and carrying out the attacks, which they have said were meant to punish the U.S. and its Western allies for alleged atrocities in Afghanistan. They showed no remorse and taunted relatives of the victims in court."

I can understand their lack of remorse. Ali Ghufron, Amrozi Nurhasyim. and Imam Samudra probably believe that their act of mass murder was the will of Allah, and that they'll be well-rewarded.

But, that doesn't mean that all Muslims have those beliefs. Remember: it's the courts of an Islamic nation that's sentenced them to death by firing squad.

Related posts, on tolerance, bigotry, racism, and hatred

President Ahmadinejad:
Let's Give Him the Credit He Deserves

I try to give credit where credit is due. The president of Iran is a skilled speaker.

Take his recent speech at the United Nations. His country had a nuclear program that it kept secret for 16 years, before it was discovered about four years ago.

Iran's story is that in needs nuclear plants to provide safe, clean power for its people. Iran sells roughly 3/4 of the oil it pumps out of the ground, but maybe they're being green, or preparing for the future, or something like that.

Whatever reason Iran has for maintaining a secret nuclear program, the Iranian position is that it's to make power. For civilian purposes. Strictly civilian.

Claims by other nations, now including France, that Iran may be trying to develop nuclear weapons, could hurt Iran.

Instead, the president of Iran is turning what could be a liability into a considerable asset. Judging from what he said in the United Nations, this is his somewhat new, improved, image:
  • President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran is standing up for the colonized world
  • He's standing up for the right of colonized countries to develop nuclear programs
  • He's standing up to the colonial powers: imperialist America and imperialist Europe
Never mind that America was a European colony, before we rebelled and became a model for constitutional democracies. Well, those American colonies were British, to be technical: but Britain isn't all that far from Europe, but the principle is the same.

To someone who knows history, it's fairly obvious that America got over imperialism sometime in the 19th century. With the exception of the irresponsible way that America participated in carving up Europe's colonies after World War I, the sort of "imperialism" that America has engaged in for the bulk of the 20th century has been a matter of self-defense, cooperation with the United Nations, or honoring treaty obligations. If that's "Imperialism," maybe we'd be better-off with more of it.

Back to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: Let's give the man credit. He knows how to turn an political liability into an asset. And, as I've mentioned before, he's knows how to pace the rhythm and pitch of his delivery.

He's an effective speaker.

Related posts, on Individuals and the War on Terror.

Iran, Nuclear Weapons, and the Sudetenland:
Anybody Remember the Munich Pact?

Iran's only reason for maintaining a secret nuclear program for sixteen years is to generate electricity. That's according to Iran's President Ahmadinejad.

He's the same man who told students at Columbia University that there were no homosexuals in Iran. They didn't buy it, and I'm dubious about his claim that Iran's secret nuclear program is just for power generation.

It's not quite so secret now, of course. The outside world caught wind of what was going on about four years ago. The good news is that Iran is letting International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors take a look at the nuclear energy facilities that Iran officially has. The bad news is that IAEA inspectors aren't allowed to snoop around unless they ask the Iranian government first. Then, if they get permission, they have to wait until Iranian authorities say it's okay.

That situation does not fill me with reassurance.

The new French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, said yesterday that the world had a choice, according to was somewhat surprised to read that a French president considered an Iran with nuclear weapons as something that could really happen.

That's a mildly hopeful sign.

France has made its willingness to help nations set up non-military nuclear facilities. "France is ready to help any country which wants to possess civilian nuclear energy," French president Sarkozy said, according to "Energy Daily."

The way Iranian munitions show up in Iraq, exported with the intent of killing people who are helping Iraq set up a moderately stable government, I doubt that Iran would be satisfied with letting a nuclear stockpile go unused.

I want very much to believe that the situation with the Iranian ayatollahs and enriched uranium can be resolved peacefully.

Resolved without the sort of accommodation that Neville Chamberlain, Edouard Daladier, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini made in 1938. That 'peaceful resolution' lasted about a year: less, from the point of view of the Sudetenland and Czechoslovakia.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Few, the Proud, the Banned: San Francisco Can't Handle Marines

(Attention, those of delicate constitution: Please read the following first!)
  • The United States Marines did not invade New York City recently.
  • The USMC did not try to invade San Francisco.
  • The uniformed Marines in New York were filming a recruiting commercial.
A film crew recorded the U.S. Marine Silent Drill Platoon's performance in New York's Times Square: right through a Monday morning rush hour.

The Marines wanted to film a performance in San Francisco, too, on California Street.

San Francisco Film Commission Executive Director Stefanie Coyote said that was impossible. No can do.

Well, not quite. She'd let a film crew on California, providing there none of those big, rough, Marines in the picture. The can-do Marine film crew took pictures of the empty street. The Marines can be added later.

Not everyone in San Francisco is Marineophobic.

Captain Greg Corrales, commander of the traffic bureau handles film crews in San Francisco, for example. "It's insulting, it's demeaning. This woman is going to insult these young heroes by just arbitrarily saying, 'no, you're not going to film any Marines on California Street," he said.

Captain Corrales may be biased. He's a former Marine. On top of that, his son is on his third tour of duty in Iraq.

The captain says Film Commission Executive Director Stefanie Coyote would only allow the Marine's production crew to film on California Street if there were no Marines in the picture. They wound up filming the empty street and will have to superimpose the Marines later.

"Ms. Coyote's politics blinded her to her duty as the director of the Film Commission and as a responsible citizen," said Captain Corrales.

KGO-TV asked Stefanie Coyote why she won't let the Marines to shoot on California Street. She wouldn't give an answer. She was more talkative ot yesterday's Film Commission meeting. "Traffic control was the issue," she explained.

Oddly, one lane of California Street at a time would have been shut down, for a few minutes each. Captain Corrales said that the Film Commission often approves filming during rush hour.

If it weren't for Captain Corrales, I'd say that the reason New York could handle the Marines, and San Francisco couldn't was that NYC had New York's Finest.

As it is, I'd say that the Captain is right. "Ms. Coyote's politics blinded her to her duty as the director of the Film Commission and as a responsible citizen," he said, according to KGO-TV.

So what?

Does it really matter that an official in San Francisco simply can't abide the presence of Marines? Or, maybe, because, just this once, San Francisco can't handle a traffic interruption?

I think so.

For starters, I believe Captain Corrales. I think that this was a political decision. As another Marine, Eric Snyder, said, "The city of San Francisco made a statement saying, 'we don't like the war' by shutting down the troops. I don't think that was the right thing to do."

KGO-TV talked to other Marines. The station said that they "also make the point that the city allows street demonstrations, anti-war protests and other events which snarl traffic, such as Critical Mass. They still don't understand why the Marines got turned away."

I think those Marines were being polite.

This is not how "free speech" works. At least, it shouldn't be.

San Francisco, by allowing traffic-snarling anti-war protests, but banning Marines who can march through Times Square in rush hour, has made something very clear. In San Francisco, all speech may be equal, but some sorts are more equal than others. (Thanks, Orwell.)

Wouldn't it be nice, if this sort of two-tier freedom of expression were something we found "Only in San Francisco.

Related posts, on censorship, propaganda, and freedom of speech.

Killer Crusaders Bait, Murder, Innocent Iraqis!

Enraged by No WMD, American Killers Bait and Shoot!

Expect headlines like this: maybe not quite as tabloid-like, but with the same essential message.

Yesterday I posted "Of Snipers, Bait, and Really Stupid Ideas," about a reprehensibly stupid and self-destructive program that came to light during the murder trial of three GIs.

Allegedly, there is a mysterious group of snipers, aided by the U.S. military's Asymmetric Warfare Group, that has snipers drop ordinance in public places, and shoots Iraqis who pick it up.

I neither believed nor disbelieved the story at the time, accepting it as possible. Stupid, wrong, but possible.

True or not, this is a wonderful opportunity for propagandists.

In fact, from one point of view, it would be better if there were no such baiting program. That way, when the Army doesn't reveal the program and stop it, that will be "proof" of a cover-up.

Today, Jaguar b. p. posted a comment on the "Of Snipers..." post. It's worth repeating here:

"So it turns out that this war is less about 'religious fanatics who want their beliefs to rule the world," and more about the Crusaders bait-sniping Iraqis over invisible WMD"

I understand the sentiment.
  • Three rogue GIs who allegedly planted evidence on the bodies of Iraqis they had killed are in trouble.
  • A story about a wicked sniper program comes out: probably to bolster a 'but everybody's doing it' defense.
  • The Washington Post publishes a story about the program.
Which proves, apparently, that the U.S. military is composed of Crusaders out to kill innocent Iraqis.

The other shoe is beginning to drop.

It looks like the Washington Post is the paper that broke this story. The Washington Post article, "U.S. Aims To Lure Insurgents With 'Bait'," the Post tells where it got the information. Emphasis in the quotes is mine.

"In documents obtained by The Washington Post from family members of the accused soldiers, Didier said members of the U.S. military's Asymmetric Warfare Group visited his unit in January and later passed along ammunition boxes filled with the 'drop items' to be used 'to disrupt the AIF [Anti-Iraq Forces] attempts at harming Coalition Forces and give us the upper hand in a fight.'"

Didier is the commander of three snipers accused of planting weapons on Iraqis they had killed.

Aside from being immoral, that's illegal.

Paul Boyce, an Army spokesman, said, "The accused are charged with murder and wrongfully placing weapons on the remains of Iraqi nationals. There are no classified programs that authorize the murder of local nationals and the use of 'drop weapons' to make killings appear legally justified."

He also said, that "to prevent the enemy from learning about our tactics, techniques and training procedures, we don't discuss specific methods targeting enemy combatants." Given rules like that, he can't confirm or deny the existence of the alleged bait program.

That's enough of a topic for an article in the Washington Post and other news outlets.

BBC article is titled, "US forces 'lure Iraqis with bait'." The BBC article says "The classified programme is described in statements disclosed by lawyers for three US soldiers accused of planting evidence on Iraqis they had killed.

"It is unclear how widely the tactic may have been used in Iraq or how many people may have died as a result of it."

So, deep below the headlines, we learn that this shadowy legion of baiting snipers is a plot that's documented by "investigative documents" that come from either lawyers defending the accused soldiers, or relatives of the accused soldiers.

These documents seem to show that the soldiers' commander said, "'Baiting is putting an object out there that we know they will use, with the intention of destroying the enemy,' he said a sworn statement. 'Basically, we would put an item out there and watch it. If someone found the item, picked it up and attempted to leave with the item, we would engage the individual as I saw this as a sign they would use the item against U.S. Forces.'"

What struck me about the officer's statement was how conditional it was. In three sentences, he uses "would" twice. In context, I'd say that there's a good chance that he's describing a hypothetical situation. We don't know, of course, since the Washington Post decided not to clarify the point.

I'm sure that this story will receive wide attention. There are a great many people who would love to see the U.S. military's reputation be damaged, and this story is just the tool for the job.

President Ahmadinejad at Columbia University:
The Transcript

Noted:This is the only transcript I found online, of President Ahmadinejad's remarks at Columbia University. (And yes, I looked.)

Related posts, on Individuals and the War on Terror.

Monday, September 24, 2007

"Muslims Against Sharia" Put Money
Where Their Mouth Is

Mr. Lars Vilks, a Swedish cartoonist, published a very rude cartoon recently, depicting the prophet Mohammed in a very disrespectful way.

So, Al Qaeda in Iraq is offering upwards of $100,000 USD to anyone who kills Mr. Vilks.

Al Qaeda members may be mostly Muslims, but not all Muslims are aligned with Al Qaeda. Muslims Against Sharia says they're nowhere near to being on bin Laden's page, and they're putting money where their mouth is. Here's a quote, repeated from my "Swedish Dog Displays Blasphemous Images" post of September 19.

"Muslims Against Sharia praise the courage of Lars Vilks, Ulf Johansson, Thorbjorn Larsson and the staff of Nerikes Allehanda and Dagens Nyheter and condemn threats issued by Abu Omar Al Baghdadi and the Islamic State of Iraq. Muslims Against Sharia will provide a payment of 100,000kr (about $15,000) for the information leading to capture or neutralization of Abu Omar Al Baghdadi.

"Muslimer mot Sharia berömmer Lars Vilks, Ulf Johansson, Torbjörn Larsson och övriga anställda på Nerikes Allehanda och Dagens Nyheter för deras tapperhet och fördömer hotet från Abu Omar Al Baghdadi och Islamistiska Iraq. Muslimer mot Sharia betalar 100 000 SEK (ca 15 000$) för information som leder till gripande eller oskadligörande av Abu Omar Al Baghdadi."

Let's remember: Islam is far from uniform; Muslims are not all alike.

Related posts, on censorship, propaganda, and freedom of speech.

Of Snipers, Bait, and Really Stupid Ideas

Here's the idea:
  • Use detonation cords, plastic explosives and
    ammunition as bait
  • Hide nearby
  • When Iraqis pick up bait, shoot them
With due respect to America's armed forces, this reeks. And is also brain-dead stupid.

I'd like to believe that the Washington Post made up the story about the U.S. military's Asymmetric Warfare Group coming up with a plan that would result in Iraq being cleansed of insurgents, scrap dealers, and curious kids.

Assuming that it's true, and there probably is at least a grain of truth to this crack-brained lunacy, this could be the biggest propaganda coup for Al Qaeda and company since Abu Ghraib. Even Blackwater employees opening fire on what may have been a bunch of civilians doesn't seem to have the potential that this sniper bait story has.

The Washington Post quoted the leader of an elite sniper scout platoon, to describe the Baiting program. "Baiting is putting an object out there that we know they will use, with the intention of destroying the enemy," he said in a sworn statement. "Basically, we would put an item out there and watch it. If someone found the item, picked it up and attempted to leave with the item, we would engage the individual as I saw this as a sign they would use the item against U.S. Forces."

The classified program turned up in documents related to recent murder charges against three U.S. snipers. They allegedly planted evidence on Iraqis they had killed. I sure hope the Washington Post's publication of the program's details means it's no longer classified.

As described, this program is stupid, at least from the point of view of someone who has Iraqi and/or American interests at heart.

First, detonation cords, plastic explosives and ammunition have some monetary and exchange value. The poor shmoo picking up the bait might even be planning to turn it in to American troops, instead of leaving it lying around.

Second, that kind of material can attract the attention of curious kids. And I doubt that every curious kid in Iraq is an insurgent.

I realize that troops in combat are under a great deal of stress, and have understandable desires to 'get even.'

Nevertheless, I am very concerned that U.S. military thinkers may be so focused on killing insurgents that they concocted a program that targets anyone with a disinclination to leave ordinance lying around in a public place.

Concerned? Make that appalled.

I sincerely hope that this make-American-soldiers-look-bad program was limited to a few units, in a few places.

We have enough trouble with crazed Muslims wanting to kill Americans, without giving them reasons for their desire.

Ahmadinejad at Columbia, What Happened?

John Bolton, former UN ambassador, had something to say about President Ahmadinejad's appearance at New York's Columbia University. Bolton said that some people, Ahmadinejad included, have no regard for truth, and those people have no place in academic debate.

I'm inclined to agree, but I spent enough decades in American academia to realize that standards of veracity vary, according to the viewpoint of the speaker or writer.

For my part, I think that the Columbia's giving Ahmadinejad a platform may have done some good.

To my surprise, there were a few serious question asked, and in at least one occasion, his non-answer was not accepted. That, for me, was a very pleasant surprise.

My fear had been that Ahmadinejad would be given a sort of softball treatment, with questions intended more to give him opportunities for giving talking points, than to draw out meaningful answers.

My opinion of Columbia University went up a bit.

Ahmadinejad said that the Holocaust happened, that in happened in Europe, and that it is the (hyped) reason that Israel is (according to him) torturing children and oppressing the Palestinians.

One last thing. I missed a little of Ahmadinejad's remarks. Apparently, he said that Iran's women were the freest in the world. Interesting assertion.

Related posts, on censorship, propaganda, and freedom of speech.
Related posts, on Individuals and the War on Terror.

Ahmadinejad at Columbia University
Part 2
There are No Homosexuals in Iran?!

"In Iran, we don't have homosexuals, like in your country." That's the first mistake I caught in Ahmadinejad's remarks. He actually got howls at that. It's a serious gaffe, in my opinion, considering how well defended his country's executions of homosexuals.

Also, women are respected in Iran.

Thanks to an electrical storm, and what I had to do to deal with its effects on my equipment, I missed a few of the Iranian president's remarks.

America has nuclear weapons, so Iran should have nucelar weapons, seems to be Ahmadinejad's position. Which is why Iran should have a civilian nuclear program which isn't for making nuclear weapons, which Iran wants.

'Iran is a civilized nation, a cultured nation,' is a recurring phrase in Ahmadinejad's speech: with variations, of course.

The man is a good public speaker. Quite good. I'm making the assumption, of course, that the translation is moderately accurate. The translation, and his expressions, gestures, postures, and vocal qualities, are effective.

I don't agree with him, but from a technical perspective: he's good.

Back to 'Iran is a civilized nation, a cultured nation,' Ahmadinejad says he is ready to engage in debate with Bush.

One of the points seems to be that, just as the (Post-Saddam) Iraqi government is now friendlly towards America (an oversimplification), so the people will welcome Americans.

If the translation was accurate, Ahmadinejad did a wonderful bit of trickry there. He started talking about the Iraqi government's attitude toward America, transitioned to Iran, and then asserted that the Iranian people would welcome America.

I wish I had a transcript, or could replay that, so I could be sure. But it sounded like the structure of a certain sort of whopper: where each piece is true, but where the pieces, as presented, are profoundly not true.

Well, Ahmadinejad thanked the throng, and Ahmadinejad's appearance at Columbia University's World Leaders Forum is over.

Related posts, on censorship, propaganda, and freedom of speech.
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Ahmadinejad at Columbia University
Part 1

I don't speak Persian, which I assume was the language being used by the Iranian president. I trust that the translator was being accurate.

I'm trying to make this post 'on the fly,' as this speaker at Columbia's World Leaders Forum addresses the forum.

President Ahmadinejad opened by saying that many of the claims made by Bollinger were incorrect.

He went on to compliment the professors at Columbia, identifying them with religious scholars. "Academics and relgious scholars who are torches" who spread light in the ignorant darkness that surround us. Quoting Moses ('peace be upon him'), Ahmadinejad asserted that the Creator was interested in delivering humanity from ignorance.

The had good words for science, too. According to him, science goes beyond physical and experimental sciences. It seems that he thinks that science illumiates all the nooks and crannies of reality. I think he's relating true science, purity of human spirit, and an enlightened view of the physical and spritual reality.

He said that realities of the world are not limited to the matieral. Also that science and wisdom can be misused, and that selfishness does not allow some to accept reality. And that material desires place humans against realities.

Sounds good, so far.

A little vague, though.

Ah, here we go. The unwise and selfish leaders use wiretapping and invasion of privacy to justify their warmongering against innocent nations.

That's not the best paraphrase, but it's close.

Nuclear and biological weapons are the result of big powers using selfish scientists. Now Ahmadinejad's line is becomming clear.

And, right on schedule, Hiroshima and Nagasaki are mentioned.

Yep. Making WMD weapons of Mass Destruction is misuse of science by big powers. Right on, as the relevant said, back in the day.

As an aside, I wish I could type fast enough to keep up with the translation. Even taken out of its original linguistic setting, Ahmadinejad is doing a very good job. This is, from a technical point of view, excellent rhetoric.

Ahmadinejad stated that his main job was as a university instructor, and sees himself as an academician. Trying to be academic, he said, all he got was a wave of insults. He said this calmly, to be fair.

"For sixty years, children ... are being tortured." That's what Israel has been doing to the Palestinians, Ahmadinejad said. "I am awaiting logical answers...."

And, about the Holocaust, Ahmadinejad said that academics in Europe have been imprisoned for discussing it, and that research on the Holocaust is not being done. And that, if the Holocaust is real, why should the Palestinian people pay for it?

As far as I can tell, Israel is torturing children and oppressing the Palestinians because of the Holocaust.

Well, how can anyone argue with that? And please, don't blame me: I'm just paraphrasing what the Iranian president said.

About Iran's nuclear program, he says that it's peaceful, and it's unfair for

After Ahmadinejad was through, Columbia's audio feed failed, momentary, as boos started leaking through the applause and cheers.

The Q & A was interesting.

Asked about his view on whether or not he wanted to destroy Israel, he spoke eloquently and passionately that the Palestinians deserved self-determination. That was followed by appause.

Bollinger asked for a "yes" or "no" answer to the question.

Ahmadinejad didn't give a "yes" or "no" answer, again, at length.

Will Iran stop funding terrorists?

Ahmadinejad posed a question right back ("Socratic method," I'm told this is). How would you react if someone attacked you? Iran is a victim of terrorism, he says. That's true, as far as it goes.

In that part of the world, it's hard to shake the impression that their politicians use car bombs like American politicians use mud-slinging.

Apparently the unnamed terrorists attacking Iran is being supported by America. That would carry more weight, if the group was named. Quite a few sentences later, Ahmadinejad still hadn't named the group. It was quite obvious that he wanted America to be at fault, though.

I've noticed something about Ahmadinejad's speaking technique. He's got a habit of starting with a slow and measured pace, speeding up and using a higher vocal pitch as he goes along. It's a rhetorical technique used by a German leader a few decades back, and seems to remain effective today.

As to the Holocaust, another question resulted in another go at Ahmadinejad's stand. He says that he's upholding the right of European scholars to research the Holocaust (certain aspects of it, more than others). He might have a point. I haven't kept up with European academia.

Oh, blast. An electrical storm is here. I'll post this, and be back later. I hope.

Before I go: Ahmadinejad says that Americans can't criticize Iran because capital punishment is legal in some cases, in some places.

Related posts, on censorship, propaganda, and freedom of speech.
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Columbia President Introduces
Ahmadinejad at Columbia University

"The state of Israel cannot continue its life."
"Israel should be wiped off the map."

Those statements (translated) remarks of President Ahmadinejad's were quoted by Lee Bollinger, Columbia University President. Bollinger even recognized that Ahmadinejad's country was a supporter of terrorism and terrorist groups.

I'm impressed. This sort of unequivocal expression of plain fact is hardly what I would have expected.

President Bollinger even got applause.

And cheers, as he left tho podium.

Of course, President Ahmadinejad, as the rebutting speaker is being given the superior rhetorical position.

We'll see how this goes.

Related posts, on censorship, propaganda, and freedom of speech.
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Let Ahmadinejad Speak? Of Course!

I sympathize with people who don't want President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran at Columbia University - or the United Nations, but, at the risk of seeming intolerant, America better than that.

Freedom is a difficult, uncomfortable, thing to maintain. There's always a temptation to make some people and ideas more free than others. (Tip of the hat to Orwell and his "more equal than others" phrase.)

I don't agree with the Iranian president, but I think he should not be denied (restricted) platforms for expressing his ideas.

On the other hand, no-one, except for Columbia students and UN personnel, is forced to listen.

My wish would be that nominally unbiased institutions such as Columbia University would extend the same courtesy to non-liberal Americans that they do to the Iranian president.

(This post first appeared, in less coherent form, in a BlogCatalog discussion thread.)

Related posts, on censorship, propaganda, and freedom of speech.
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President Ahmadinejad Arrives Not-So-Quietly
at Columbia University

President Ahmadinejad of Iran is scheduled to address the students of Columbia University in New York in about 15 or 20 minutes. The balloon goes up, I heard on the news, at 1:30 eastern time, USA.

People who would rather not have Columbia play host to the Iranian leader started gathering last night. They intend to make their feelings about having the ayatollahs' agent presence known.

I don't blame them a bit. Some of the demonstrators are expatriate Iranians who fled the Islamic Republic to preserve their freedoms, and quite possibly their lives.

Related posts, on Individuals and the War on Terror.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

President Ahmadinejad Arrives Quietly in New York

The Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reports that "President Ahmadinejad arrives in New York."

The article also says President Ahmadinejad is scheduled to address the United Nations on Tuesday, an talk with the UN secretary general, and leaders of several countries "on the sidelines of the UN meeting."

The Iranian president arrival in New York City was done quite inconspicuously, according to, and with very, very tight security.

Good idea, considering how upset some people are over his arrival.

Between that, and the Iranian president's visit to Columbia University, it should be an interesting couple of days.

More about Ahmadinejad's visit, and Columbia University's notion of academic freedom and free speech, at

Related posts, on Individuals and the War on Terror.

General Petraeus, General Betray Us, and
Enlightened Self-Interest

Propaganda is generally accepted as a part of warfare. The enemy is routinely defamed.

The war on terror offers new angles on this traditional aspect of warfare, since different sides of the conflict are sometimes in the same country.

I'm not sure where The New York Times stands in this conflict.

On the one hand, enlightened self-interest, and proximity to one of the major targets in the jihad against the west, would suggest that The Times would support the side in this conflict that would permit its editors to live.

I'm sure that someone at The Times remembers the alternatively-free conditions imposed on Afghanis, during the Taliban's administration of that country.

Al Qaeda, and other Islamic organizations dedicated to stamping out the last millennium or so of changes in the social, legal, and political order, would probably not be quite as tolerant of the newspaper's editorial and advertising policies: at least, not as they are practiced.

The latest major incident involving The New York Times was the "General Betray Us" advertisement in September's paper.

I'm not so concerned about the price break got. They should have been charged $142,083 for placing the ad on a specific day. Instead, they got the $64,575 'standby' rate, which means the paper picks the day an ad runs. Apparently Rudy Giuliani got the same price break. It looks to me like sloppy bookkeeping, or maybe a courtesy extended to special customers.

What is impressive about the "General Betray Us" ad is that it violated an internal Times policy against accepting advertising that made personal attacks.

As CNN's "Political Ticker" blog put it, "Clark Hoyt, who analyzes the paper's coverage as the 'readers' representative,' wrote, 'I think the ad violated The Times's own written standards, and the paper now says that the advertiser got a price break it was not entitled to.'"

And, more to the point, Hoyt wrote, again quoting the CNN blog, "... the paper's standards on an 'an internal advertising acceptability manual' that he quoted as saying, 'We do not accept opinion advertisements that are attacks of a personal nature.'"

World-class foul-up?

Political shenanigans?


I really don't know.

But I do know that, based on what fanatical Islamic groups have done in the past, if the fanatics win, The Times will change its editorial and advertising policy, or be destroyed.

For their sake, I hope that the people running The Times have been paying attention to what's at stake.

I've got fairly well-defined opinions about the MoveOn ad the paper that printed it, and the general who is trying to keep religious nut cases from killing them. Related posts, on censorship, propaganda, and freedom of speech.

Academia Listens to All Sides, and Brooklyn Bridge is For Sale

I wish that the brightest stars in the academic firmament didn't make it so hard to believe that "academic freedom" is not a joke, or some sort of doublethink.

President Ahmadinejad of Iran is scheduled to address the students at New York's Columbia University and speak at the United Nations next week. One of his goals seems to be to proved the "correct information," which has been lacking up to this point.

Before leaving Iran, Ahmadinejad gave a rousing speech as part of an Iranian parade that included "missile trucks were painted with the slogans 'Down with the U.S.' and 'Down with Israel.'" I assume that those are translations, but the news article didn't say.

Columbia invited Ahmadinejad as part of its World Leaders Forum.

I think that it is important for colleges and universities to give a hearing to diverse views.

Too bad that Jim Gilchrist's invitation to speak at Columbia October 4 was taken away. Gilchrist founded the Minutemen: a group claiming that people coming into this country should obey the law while doing so. He was shouted down at Columbia last year, due to his (extremist?) views.

Despite his being purged from Columbia's free speech card, Gilchrist supports Columbia's hosting President Ahmadinejad. "I'm defending his appearance," Gilchrist said. "I think he should speak. To say no, he cannot speak, is to support exactly the same thing that happened to me."

This sort of academic freedom, and a passionate support for free speech seems to be typical of colleges and universities. For example, the Colorado University student newspaper published a thoughtful, profound, editorial on the current American administration. The editorial, in its entirety, read "Taser this… F--- BUSH," with the expletive spelled out. According to "The Printed profanity draws Collegian complaints," in the Fort Collins Coloradoan.

Yep. Academic freedom. Free speech. Providing, of course, that the ideas conform to a correct view of the world.

Related posts, on censorship, propaganda, and freedom of speech.

Radioactive Kimchi, or Nuclear Bomb Material?

"Israelis seized nuclear material in Syrian raid"

That headline, in the Sunday Times (UK), got my attention. It seems that "informed sources" (I may get around to discussing the origin of that term someday) said that Israeli commandos seized nuclear material from a Syrian military site.

The raid happened before the Israeli air strike against an "agricultural research station." Several North Korean nationals seem to have been killed in that raid. (More at "Nuclear Materials from North Korea, Sand, or Radioactive Kimchi?.")

The Times report says that Israeli officials told Washington about the nuclear materials and the Korean connection before the raid, and that Washington approved of the attack.

The nuclear material was taken from a compound near Dayr az-Zwar in Syria. If my map is right, that's a piece of real estate about fifty miles from the Syria-Iraq border. For me, that's awfully close: but then, I grew up with North Dakota standards of distance.

It's not all that far away for Syria's Scud missiles, either.

This raid on an "agricultural research" center is getting more interesting each week.

Columbia, President Ahmadinejad, and Tolerance

You have to admire Columbia University for maintaining a consistent stand.

In 1969, Columbia U. student protesters said they didn't like having the ROTC on campus. Anti-war professors agreed, and so out went the ROTC.

When the Vietnam war ended in 1975, Columbia remained true to its ideals, and kept the military organization away from its hallowed halls of ivy. Columbia maintains this staunch stand, to this day, defending students from contact with an American military presence.

In Columbia's defense, it must be pointed out that a major reason for the university's abhorrence of the ROTC is the U.S. military's 'don't ask/don't tell' policy regarding homosexuality.

In addition to keeping their ivy league campus ROTC-free, and in a display of openness to diverse ideas, this Monday Columbia will welcome Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The Iranian leader will address Columbian students, as part of the school's World Leaders Forum. There's a Q & A session scheduled. Columbia President Le Bollinger, said that questions on Israel and Holocaust had been approved.

That's quite a concession, considering Ahmadinejad opinions that Israel and the Holocaust shouldn't, and didn't, exist, respectively.

The Columbian president was quoted on WNBC, saying that Ahmandinejad's appearance was part of "Columbia's long-standing tradition of serving as a major forum for robust debate."

I'd find the 'debate' claim a little more convincing, if Columbia U. didn't have such a groovy attitude toward America's ROTC.

I doubt that any of Columbia's students would have the temerity to exhibit insufficient respect to a man of President Ahmadinejad's stature. If such a thing happened, however, I would hope that Colubmia University would show the same restraint and compassion it showed to the students whose "heckling descended into yelling, screaming, kicking and punching, culminating in the rushing of the stage and Gilchrist being shuttled off by security." The students yelling "He has no right to speak!" were reacting to the presence of Jim Gilchrist, founder of the Minuteman Project, an anti-illegal immigration group.

Considering President Ahmandinejad's views, however, regarding
  • His defense of Iran's nuclear program
  • His government's track record for human rights violations, and
  • Iran's imprisonment of journalists and scholars, including one of Columbia's very own alumni, Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh
I expect that Ahmandinejad will receive a much more courteous reception than that Minuteman person.

Disgusting, but it's an ivy league school. We should make allowances.

Sources for this post:
Advocates for Columbia ROTC
" Columbia University: Ahmadinejad Yes, ROTC No," on Yahoo! News

Related posts, on censorship, propaganda, and freedom of speech.
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Friday, September 21, 2007

Preemptive Strike: Am I a Hawk, or a Dove?

Yes, and no.

Actually, I think I may be more of a turkey.

In the Franklinian sense of the word. In a letter, comparing the eagle and turkey as national emblems, he wrote (in part): "the turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America."

I'm hardly a "true original native of America," although my Norwegian and Irish ancestors have been here for a few generations, at least.

Franklin went on, observing that the turkey "... is, besides, (though a little vain and silly, it is true, but not the worse emblem for that), a bird of courage, and would not hesitate to attack a grenadier of the British guards, who should presume to invade his farmyard with a red coat on."

Truthfully, I might hesitate. I am acutely aware how precious and fragile life is. But I do believe that self-defense is a legitimate option, on the personal as well as on the national level.

A comment on an earlier post, "Diplomacy: A Noble Ideal," observed that "... I get the idea that you are just a couple of steps removed from saying 'Pre-emptive Stike'. I might be wrong though."

My response at the time wasn't the best I've ever written. It was about 2 in the morning at the time. The point raised was a good one, so I'm taking another go at it here.

Traditionally, in American culture at least, 'the good guy' waits for 'the bad guy' to strike the first blow. That's a fine attitude to have.

These days, however, quite a few people can die in that first blow.

Let's assume, as a hypothetical situation, that an Islamic group, in an excess of zeal, decides that San Francisco should be wiped from the face of the earth.

This isn't as wild a stretch of the imagination as it may seem. San Francisco prides itself on a progressive and enlightened policy with regards alternative lifestyles.

This doesn't seem to be consistent with views expressed from some of the more extreme Islamic groups. In fact, Iran recently executed a couple of gay men. It's not quite as simple as it seems, of course. One homosexual publication ran a curiously conciliatory article on how Iran is really very tolerant.

At any rate, let's assume that some imam decided that San Francisco had to go.

A nuclear device, detonated in the sky over San Francisco, would very likely kill a sizable percentage of the three-quarters of a million people who live there.

Would it be right to stop such an attack by destroying facilities that make and maintain the weapon? Even if some people who make the weapon and maintain the weapon are killed in the process?

Well, maybe San Franciscans deserve it. After all, they're Americans. Many of them, anyway. And you know what Americans are like

Okay, let's pick another city: Bandar Lampung, in Indonesia. Isn't quite as big as San Francisco, but is home to over a half-million people. There's no particular reason, so far as I know, for wanting to destroy that city. But let's assume that someone with nuclear weapons decided that it wasn't sufficiently Islamic.

Again, would it be be right to stop such an attack, even if people involved in making the attack possible might be killed?

That's a tough one. Let's say there are two options.
  • Maintain high and noble ideals, and let a sizable fraction of a half-million people experience, briefly, the inside of a nuclear fireball. And let others witness the spectacle of a shattered and burning city: up close and personal.
  • Abandon hopes of being a 21st century Ghandi: Trade the lives of terrorists, and people hired by terrorists, for the a city-full of (relatively) innocent people.
I'm glad that I'll most likely never be in a position to make that sort of decision.

Making things more complicated for me, I'm a devout Catholic. The Catholic Church has a 'just war' teaching. A good place to start looking at this teaching is in the Catholic Catechism, 2309: "The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time:
  • The damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain
  • All other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective
  • There must be serious prospects of success
  • The use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.
"These are the traditional elements enumerated in what is called the 'just war' doctrine."

"The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good."

Notice: "Just war" doesn't forbid all warfare. Self-defense is allowed, under carefully-defined conditions.

Back to hawks, doves, turkeys, and a "preemptive strike."

As I said, I'm more of a Franklinian turkey, than a hawk or dove.

I have no more information about what's going on in Syria, Iran, North Korea, or any other country with a regrettable policy regarding terrorism, than any other citizen can have. I don't know enough to say 'strike now.'

But, I very sincerely hope that the leaders of this country understand that they are dealing with people who are not at all nice, not at all reliable, who have demonstrated that they like to kill infidels: and that most Americans are infidels.

Ironically, if our leaders decide to maintain the high road of diplomatic non-violence, letting thousands, or millions, of people get killed in the next major attack, they are unlikely to receive the award they deserve.

Even if they survive, the Nobel Peace Prize may be abolished, for being insufficiently Islamic.

Usama, Osama, Tomayto, Tomahto

If you're really on the ball, you've noticed a few changes in "Another War-on-Terror Blog."

Up until this morning, I referred to the leader of Al Qaeda as "Usama Bin Laden." Yesterday, I read a comment which said out that "Osama" was the correct spelling.

Actually, it seems that أسامة بن محمد بن عوض بن لادن (Osama bin Muhammad bin Awad bin Laden) is the correct spelling of his full name, and that أسامة بن لادن (Osama bin Laden) is a shortened form.

Since many readers might have trouble reading أسامة بن لادن, I decided to use a Latinized form of the name. When I started tracking Sheik bin Laden, I ran into "Usama" more often than "Osama," and so I standardized on that form of the name.

I see now that "Osama bin Laden" is used more often than "Usama bin Laden," by a ratio of 2,870,000 - 536,000. So, "Osama" it is. I spent part of this morning making the changes, and believe that I caught all instances.

This is a good example of how interesting it is, as an American, dealing with people and issues for which many names and terms are written in an alphabet other than those derived from the Latin writing system.

Thanks for the feedback!

Security Concerns and Crimes Against Humanity, From the Silly Side

Google is guilty against crimes against humanity, and has targeted a "Pennsylvania crusader" for attacks by hordes of culturally diverse, net-savvy terrorists.

You can't make stuff like this up.

Dylan Stephen Jayne is suing Google because "Google" is his social security number. All you have to do is scramble the number and then turn it upside down.

Mr. Jayne is suing Google for reasons that may seem perfectly reasonable to him. "A person regardless of race or religion that wishes to cause acts of terrorism would look for social security numbers that are made readily available on the public use databases," his suit reads.

He warns that Google mustn't claim ignorance. "The 'I don't know' defense obviously is a waste of money, time, and puts the lives of Americans and illegal aliens at risk of death or serious undress."

The Register, where I found this, equates the pixilated Pennsylvanian with the Bush administration. I think there's a different lesson to be learned here.

For many people, this is a stressful period. As I said in "Stressed-Out by Iraq? You're Not the Only One,"different people react differently to stress, and the war on terror has stressed quite a few people, one way or another." I'm sure people will come up with many different, and occasionally colorful, ways of dealing with stress.

Ay-rabs at NASDAQ! So What?

Big news: Dubai is buying a piece of NASDAQ.

It's more complicated than that, of course. There's a swap involving OMX, a Nordic group, Borse Dubai, and DIFX, Dubai’s international exchange. If you want to sort it all out, good luck. There's an article at Financial Times,

Predictably, there's a fuss over terrorists hacking into NASDAQ through Dubai, foreign ownership, and all the rest.

I agree with part of the concern. I hope that NASDAQ has security measures in place, guarding against any of their members hacking into their system.

As to the rest, I may be missing something, but I don't see a problem with a wealthy Middle Eastern power having an interest in keeping NASDAQ up and running and profitable.

There's nothing like enlightened self-interest, for keeping the peace.

Related posts, on tolerance, bigotry, racism, and hatred

Star Simpson's Play-Doh:
Poltical Statement, Prank,
or Just Plain Stupid?

A MIT sophmore walked into Logan International Airport's terminal this morning, wearing a black hooded sweatshirt. Outside the sweatshirt, she wore a circuit board, with some wires, and putty attached.

Then she walked up to an information booth, and asked about incoming flights.

Circuit board. Wires. Putty. That would get attention anywhere, but Logan is special. Quite a few of the terrorists in the 9/11 attack took off from there.

Authorities at Logan arrested her.

"She's extremely lucky she followed the instructions or deadly force would have been used," the top police officer at Logan said. "And she's lucky to be in a cell as opposed to the morgue."

The putty turned out to be Play-Doh.

A cable news report gave the punch line to this event. Star Simpson, 19, the Hawaiian MIT sophomore who started the excitement, says that she sees the device as a work of art.

All of which raises two questions:
  1. What was she thinking?!
  2. Does she know about the 9/11 attack, and the war on terror?
Then, there's New York's Columbia University, the ROTC, and a foreign dignitary. But that's for another post.

Most of the information here is from the Berkshire Eagle.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Another Qods Day

Not being a Muslim, I didn't know what Qods Day is.

But, it seems to be important. The Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) posted two articles yesterday, The "Zionist regime's allies" article said that Qod's Day "day falls on October 12 this year."

The two articles are in the English-language section of the IRNA website, so I may be missing something. However, either there's an "Int'l Qods Day" on October 5, 2007, and a "World Qods Day" on October 12, 2007, or Qods Day happens twice.

At any rate, October 12, 2007, is supposed to be very important.

The "Zionist regime's" article quotes Gholam-Hossein Elham, an Iranian government spokesman. "The US loses all opportunities to cooperate with regional and other world states by trying to support a regime (the Zionist regime) which is now at its weakest political and social position," Elham said yesterday (September 19, 2007).

Qods Day seems to be rather important in Iran. Back in 2001, Chairman of Expediency Council Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani made a speech in December, a translation of it,by by BBC Worldwide Monitoring, is posted at Qods Day Speech (Jerusalem Day).

Here's an excerpt from the 2001 Qods Day Speech page: "Chairman of Expediency Council Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani warned the USA not to get the wrong idea from Taleban's swift defeat and try using force to get rid of other governments it dislikes."

In 2007, Gholam-Hossein Elham's teaser on what the infidels can expect on this year's Qods Day seems like more of the same. IRNA said that Elham "warned that Washington's insistence on its wrong policies and arrogant approaches would have no result 'but further political disgrace" for itself.'

"Referring to the approaching World Qods Day, the spokesman stressed, 'Supporters of the Zionist regime will definitely receive the final response for their support on that day.'"

I'm taking the Qods Day preview seriosly, particularly since Iran has said that Israel would be attacked if Iran's "civilian" nuclear facilities are bombed, and the way that Iranian munitions either pop up or drop in on Iraq.

My hope is that the American Congress pays less attention to the Iranian government's preferences, and more to the long-term security of America.

At least I found out what Qods day was. The 'Zionist' article says "Qods Day is held each year on the last Friday of Muslims fasting month of Ramadan after it was nominated by the late Founder of the Islamic Republic, Imam Khomeini, as a day to voice the protest of the Islamic Ummah against the Zionists."

I'd still like to know how Qods Day showed up in an 1860 book.

U.S. Senate Doesn't Cut Money
For Troops in Iraq!

The Senate's majority party wasn't able to stop what I suppose could be called the "anti-peace" party's filibuster of legislation that would have choked off financial support for the U.S. military in Iraq.

Their filibuster-stopping vote failed by 28-70. I really am impressed by the way Senators put up with their actions being reported: and by their own organization!

The majority party's idea, I suppose, was that if American troops weren't in Iraq, Al Qaeda, and all the other crazed jihadists, would start acting nice. Or, at any rate, leave America alone. It's a high and noble hope. Or, it's a case of trying to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Either way, I don't think that abandoning Iraq and hoping for the best is a good idea.

I don't like war, I'd much prefer that everyone sit down, have a nice cup of tea, and calmly discuss whatever issues must be resolved.

But there's been little to no evidence, in the several thousand years of recorded history, that human beings act this way. Not without a great deal of preparation, and sometimes not even then.

So, hats off to those who want "peace for our time," but I'd rather not be so idealistically hopeful.

American Senate Almost Makes
Bold Statement
About General Betrayus

"Another War-on-Terror Blog" isn't intended to be political. However, sometimes efforts to stop religious fanatics from killing people have to wade through politics.

Over a week ago, I posted "General Petraeus, General Betrayus, and Tolerance," about Senators making speeches at one of America's generals, and how a political action groups was making fun of the General.

It's arguable that it's the general's fault. He has a funny-sounding name. If he had a nice, American, name, like Aikin, or Carter, or Johnson, or Wilson, he wouldn't have been called "General Betrayus."

I'm inclined to see such mocking of a major military leader as one of the unpleasant side-effects of having a nation which allows free speech.

At any rate, someone in the Senate had the odd idea that the Senate should put some distance between itself and petulant outbursts like the "Betrayus" remarks.

That made sense to me. It's one thing for an advocacy group to sling mud at someone who is trying to preserve their right to insult him, and their lives, for that matter. It's another thing for one of the august legislative bodies to, by their silence, tacitly approve of such lack of respect.

The ruling party in the Senate didn't want to defend General Betrayus's integrity at first. Sorry, that's General Petraeus. See how a crack like that can squirm into everyday speech? Finally, though, after the Senate ruminated on the idea for a while, and let the legislative process work.

What came out was an amendment on the defense authorization bill.

Here's the Statement of Purpose for S.Amdt. 2934 to S.Amdt. 2011 to H.R. 1585 (National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008): "To express the sense of the Senate that General David H. Petraeus, Commanding General, Multi-National Force-Iraq, deserves the full support of the Senate and strongly condemn personal attacks on the honor and integrity of General Petraeus and all members of the United States Armed Forces."

I really am impressed. They went on record with a strong condemnation of "personal attacks on the honor and integrity of General Petraeus and all members of the United States Armed Forces."

The measure passed 75-25. None of the ruling party's presidential candidates voted for the measure. Some ducked out, others voted against it.

I'll say this for the United States Senate: They let people know who the membership voted. The Senate's website posted U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 110th Congress - 1st Session, where you can read how each Senator voted., the political fund raiser and advocacy group that started the "Betrayus" thing with an ad in the New York Times, wasn't mentioned in the amendment, but it's still a remarkably blunt and clear statement.

Qods Day?

I'd appreciate getting help with my next post on "Another War-on-Terror Blog."

The government of Iran has made some interesting statements recently, involving "Qods Day," a day identified by IRNA as October 5, and October 12, of this year.

"Qods Day" does not appear on the Ramadan calendars that I'm aware of.

And, there don't seem to be many online references to the day, aside from a few blogs of varying reliability.

I did find one reference, "Cyclopedia of Missions: Containing a Comprehensive View of Missionary Operations Throughout the World" (Rev. Harvey Newcomb, Second revised edition, New York, Charles Scribner, 124 Grand Street MDCCCLX / 1860). The book is available in graphic format on Google Book Search. I haven't read the book, yet.

This excerpt involving Qod's Day appears on Google search results which lead to the book's facsimile: "... and on the day when this is done, the second day of the week, called Qod's day, they 'oner a fowl, or some other small thing of that sort, ...'"

Here's my question.

What is Qods Day?

Is it part of the Ramadan season? What is its significance?

I suspect that "Qods Day" is a Latinization of a term in Persian or Arabic.

I'd appreciate an answer from someone who follows Islam, ideally with reference to some authority.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I'm With the Devout Muslims on This One

"Tolerance" is an odd word. I've read that the secular government of Turkey, supported by the secular military, was very tolerant. I thought being "tolerant" included concepts like freedom of expression. Looks like I was wrong.

Turkey got a new constitution in 1980, after a coup by secularist military officers. The secularists decided that it was important to protect university students from head scarves, so they wrote a ban on students wearing that dangerous article of clothing into the constitution.

Twenty seven years later, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a devout Muslim, is re-writing the constitution. Apparently religion and politics are hot issues in Turkey, as well as America.

I don't know Turkish culture well enough to fully understand the horrors represented by head scarves, but I know how deeply repulsed many sophisticated secularists are by religious symbols.

When I was going to college, and to this day, schools have fought to protect students from seeing another student wearing, say, a crucifix. It's gotten to the point, at times, where the phrase "freedom of religion" has seems to mean "freedom from religion."

As a devout Catholic, and a man who understands the importance of faith in society, I don't approve of efforts to purge religious symbols from public view.

I find it ironic that the same people who extol freedom of speech and freedom of expression, when a crucifix is displayed in a bottle of urine, or when yet another celebrity mocks religious beliefs, are aghast at the display of some religious symbols in public.

It will be interesting to see what happens in Turkey. The Turkish military has kicked out four governments since 1960, partly for being insufficiently secular.

Related posts, on Islam, Christianity, Religion, Culture and the War on Terror.
Related posts, on tolerance, bigotry, racism, and hatred

Swedish Dog Displays Blasphemous Images

Lars Vilks, the Swedish cartoonist with a price on his head, showed a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad to a seminar in Stockholm on yesterday.

Why that "Swedish Dog" term in the headline? It's how "Islamic World News أخبار العالم الاسلامي refers to the Swedish cartoonist.

"Nobody has really seen this image and it has just become more and more impossible to show it, so I thought that ordinary people should be given the possibility to see it live," he told the 100 or so people at a seminar.

I wonder what number Mr. Vilks considers "nobody." The cartoon, or one very much like the famous one, is displayed on his website.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq is offering upwards of $100,000 USD to anyone who kills Mr. Vilks. One of the under-reported aspects of this is how Al-Qaeda in Iraq has been corrupted. I'd have thought that more people would be shocked at how western they're acting: offering money, rather than appealing to jihadic zeal.

I hope that Mr. Vilks, and others involved in this cartoon's publication, take care of themselves. Islamic enthusiasts aren't particularly noted taking insults lightly.

Remember Theo van Gogh? A Muslim killed him after Mr. van Gogh made a film, "Submission," that followers of Islam didn't like. Muslims had good reason for disapproving of the film. At best, Muslim women in the film, whose "chadors and gowns are transparent," make the movie insulting.

However, Michael Moore has offended conservatives and some Christians in America, and he's still very much alive.

Back to Mr. Vilks and his appalling diplomatic skills.

An earlier post, "Death to the Cartoonist! Death to Swedish Dog!" discussed the Swedish cartoonist's drawing and how some Muslims reacted. Happily, a group I hadn't heard of, Muslims Against Sharia, posted a comment on that post. I'm taking the liberty of quoting their comment.

"Muslims Against Sharia praise the courage of Lars Vilks, Ulf Johansson, Thorbjorn Larsson and the staff of Nerikes Allehanda and Dagens Nyheter and condemn threats issued by Abu Omar Al Baghdadi and the Islamic State of Iraq. Muslims Against Sharia will provide a payment of 100,000kr (about $15,000) for the information leading to capture or neutralization of Abu Omar Al Baghdadi.

"Muslimer mot Sharia berömmer Lars Vilks, Ulf Johansson, Torbjörn Larsson och övriga anställda på Nerikes Allehanda och Dagens Nyheter för deras tapperhet och fördömer hotet från Abu Omar Al Baghdadi och Islamistiska Iraq. Muslimer mot Sharia betalar 100 000 SEK (ca 15 000$) för information som leder till gripande eller oskadligörande av Abu Omar Al Baghdadi."

It's my opinion that Islam is going through a very interesting time in its history. Muslims have very serious decisions to make. But, that's for another post.

Related posts, on censorship, propaganda, and freedom of speech.

Diplomacy: A Noble Ideal

It would be nice, if a series of letters, and meetings, and conferences, and declarations, and solemn agreements, would convince Al-Qaeda, and all people on jihad against the west, to give up their beliefs. Who knows? Osama bin Laden might even apologize for the 9/11 attack.

There's reason why I seem unconvinced that there is a purely diplomatic solution to the war on terror. I've been watching relations between Israel and every other country in the Arab world, off and on, for almost a half-century.

At first, I had some sympathy for the Palestinians. For some reason, they couldn't move to other nations in the region, and seemed to be forced to live in restricted areas in and around Israel.

Then I noticed a difference between how the two groups acted in warfare.

The Israeli military killed Palestinian civilians: because Palestinian military leaders, sniper positions, and rocket launchers were placed among or behind civilians.

Heroic Palestinians launched attacks on strategic buses and shopping malls, and destroyed tactical restaurants, hotels, a disco and a pizzeria. In one daring attack, two teenage boys were beaten, stoned, dismembered, and tucked away in a cave.

And that's just highlights of victories over the Israeli oppressors, since the Oslo Accords, signed September 13, 1993.

The defenders of Palestine forced the Israeli occupiers (as they've been described) out of the Gaza Strip two years ago. My understanding was that there was an agreement that Palestinians there would stop firing rockets at Israelis.

To their credit, the Palestinians didn't kill Israelis in rocket attacks as often for quite a while. Then, recently, they stepped up the bombardment of Israel. Israel declared the Gaza Strip an "enemy entity."

Predictably, Hamas criticized the Jews. "This Israeli step is a clear indication of military escalation against Gaza," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said.

There's a lesson here.

Many people in the Middle East are upstanding citizens, interested in their families and livelihood, and willing to be sensible.

On the other hand, quite a few people and organizations there have worked long and hard to establish a reputation for bloodshed and destruction, and for treating cease-fires, truces, and peace agreements as opportunities to re-group and re-arm.

With a track record like that, it's hard to put a great deal of confidence in
  • Iran's assurances over their nuclear program
  • Syria's assurance that they don't have a nuclear program
  • The International Atomic Energy Agency's ability to inspect and negotiate the truth out of the mess
Or, for that matter, any of the 'death to Israel, death to the great Satan America' outfits' good will.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Blackwater USA: Not the Ideal Goodwill Ambassadors

It's not clear yet, what actually happened when Blackwater USA killed civilians recently. It sounds like the death toll is going up: a lot more than the 11 originally reported. The New York Times says that 20 civilians were killed.

Unlike many killings blamed on foreign contractors in Iraq, this one was "in downtown Baghdad with dozens of witnesses." Maybe that's just as well. I there's been abuse, this can't be ignored.

Living thousands of miles away, I'm willing to let the Iraqi government's investigation play itself out.

Quite a few Iraqis aren't so patient. Feelings are running so high that The United States has restricted American diplomats and civilian officials to the relative security of the Green Zone in Baghdad.

Muqtada al-Sadr, the "Sadr City" cleric, is demanding that the Iraqi government ban foreign security contractors: all 48,000 of them. With so many Iraqis as enraged as they are, he might get his way.

Al-Sadr said, "This aggression would not have happened had it not been for the presence of the occupiers who brought these companies, most of whose members are criminals and ex-convicts in American and Western prisons," in a statement.

Colorful fellow.

Something al-Sadr has going for him is that many Iraqis see the security contractors as mercenaries. They're about as popular as the Hessian mercenaries were in the English colonies in America, during the Revolutionary War.

Calling this a mess is an understatement.

My hope is that Iraqi authorities can sort this out quickly, get some sort of legal resolution that will satisfy most Iraqis, and get on with the business of putting a government together.

There's more about this at "Bad News from Iraq, with a Small Silver Lining." That silver lining looks really small now.

Not tarnished, though. The Iraqi government, fractured as it is, seems to be acting responsibly.

Nuclear Materials from North Korea, Sand, or Radioactive Kimchi?

As usual, conditions in the Middle East are confusing. The Israeli Air Force bombed a Syrian agricultural research station with nuclear materials from North Korea inside on July 6, 2007. Now Syria says that there was no air strike, that Israeli released bombs over its territory to lighten their load while being chased by Syrian air defenses.

Just to make things more interesting, Imad Moustapha, the Syrian ambassador to the US, seems to have said that Israel would "pay a price" for the un-raid that didn't happen.

Meanwhile, in Vienna, the International Atomic Energy Agency isn't saying anything about a Syrian nuclear program. A diplomat with no name was more talkative. This anonymous diplomat says the IAEA "didn't know anything about any nuclear facility in Syria, and if there is something there we should know." I'm inclined to agree, but not the way that statement was probably meant.

Then there's North Korea. The North Korean government has protested the Israeli raid on an agricultural research center, nuclear facility, or stretch of desert: depending on who you believe.

The big question is: why, in the name of sanity, would North Korea object to one Middle Eastern country dropping bombs on another Middle Eastern country. Particularly when the bombed country claims that nothing was hit, except maybe some sand?

The only major voice asking that question is the former American ambassador to the UN, John Bolton. He told The Jerusalem Post that "simple logic" made it likely that North Korea and Iran were outsourcing nuclear development "to a country that is not under suspicion" - namely Syria. He added a question that higher-ranking people might be asking: "Why would North Korea protest an Israeli strike on Syria?"

It's entirely possible that Syria doesn't have nuclear materials from North Korea. They've got some pretty nifty weapons already.

Back in July, there was the Syrian military had a little accident. News reports said that 15 Syrian officers were killed, somehow. A less incomplete report wasn't available until now.

The Jerusalem Post (JP) says that dozens of Iranian engineers died, too, in that accident. The massive death toll is understandable. They seem to have been trying to put a chemical warhead on a Scud missile, and goofed.

The warhead exploded, spreading nasty ingredients: including sarin nerve gas.

At now least Syria knows that the kind of warhead they're using is effective: if temeramental.

The Iranian connection and other details showed up Monday, in Jane's Defense Weekly, the JP said.

I'd say that, since the Syrian are mounting sarin warheads on Scuds, they may have decided they don't need nuclear weapons. That agricultural research facility that Syria says the Israeli Air Force didn't bomb may be just that: an ag station.

As for the North Korean protest: I'm surprised that no one has realized what happened.

It's obvious, when you think about it: North Korea is upset because North Korean nationals there: expert chefs and agricultural specialists, and a large quantity of radioactive Kimchi.

After all the trouble China is having with lead-coated toys and lethal pharmaceuticals, North Korea is understandably hesitant to admit that the fermented cabbage they were shipping to Syria was radioactive.

An earlier post about the Israeli raid is "Nuclear Stockpile Bombed?."

France Regaining its "High Historical and Cultural Position"

Yesterday, I posted about the peculiar circumstance of a French official saying that war was possible, and not blaming America. The matter at hand was the way that sanctions and negotiations and more sanctions and more negotiations hadn't had much effect on Iran's nuclear program.

Aside from giving Iranian diplomats something to do, and buying time for the allegedly civilian nuclear program.

A couple of Mohammeds voiced their opinions that France wasn't being as cultural and highly historical as it usually was, and that people shouldn't talk about using force.

Sunday, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner explained that he was "drawing attention to the gravity of the crisis." Monday, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon downplayed Kouchner’s comments even more. "France’s role is to lead the way to a peaceful solution."

Ah, mais oui! Naturellement! Il est très sophistiqué! Sûrement cette approche très intelligente réussira!

That's more like the French diplomacy we've come to know and love.

I sincerely hope that the French government succeeds. A peaceful solution would be nice. I also hope that the French government does not emulate the very diplomatic Neville Chamberlain, back in 1938.

Personally, I was impressed with the French Foreign Minister's original remarks. I took them as an indication that one person, at least, in the French government realized that the possibility of ayatollahs with first-strike nuclear capabilities was something to be avoided.

Death to the Cartoonist! Death to Swedish Dog!

First, and very importantly: I'm not suggesting that Lars Vilks be killed. I'm not suggesting that any cartoonist be killed.

But others have a different point of view.

"Video: Al Qaeda Offers Bounty for Swedish Cartoonist" The guest author in this video clip has some very interesting point. WARNING: This video clip is from Fox News. It has not been passed by the editorial board of "The New York Times," and has not been approved by the ACLU. Viewer discretion is advised.

Al Qaeda, Iraq, has raised the price on Lars Vilks' head to $150,000 USD, provided certain conditions are met. Al Qaeda, Iraq, also offers additional $50,000 USD for the life of an editor involved in publishing the cartoon.

I agree that drawing a picture of a dog with Mohammed's face is in very poor taste. In fact, I'd call it tacky.

I can sympathize with the distaste Muslims feel at seeing such a cartoon. It must be like the revulsion I feel, as a devout Catholic, each time an "irreverent" anti-Catholic cartoon shows up. Particularly since "irreverent" is praise in this culture, when discussing 'critically acclaimed' work.

However, I'd never suggest that anti-Catholic cartoonists and editors be killed. In fact, I'm forbidden from that sort of action.

Al Qaeda, Iraq, and and other jihadist organizations, do not seem to have such inhibitions.

What's happening to Lars Vilks shows what we'll enjoy, if these religious fanatics have their way. It's obvious that cartoonists, and anyone else with opinions which deviate from what Islamic fundamentalists believe, will lose their rights to free speech: and, most likely, their heads.

Related posts, on censorship, propaganda, and freedom of speech.

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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.