Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Committee to Protect Journalists Unveils the Impunity Index

There's a new list of nations that let journalists get killed. The idea is to embarrass leaders whose countries are on the list, so that they'll follow up when someone kills a reporter in their territory.

To get on the list, a country would have to have an outstanding number of cases where a journalist was murdered, and no murderer found or brought to justice. And, maintained this level of inaction for the last nine years.

And the winners are:
  1. Iraq
  2. Sierra Leone
  3. Somalia
  4. Colombia
  5. Sri Lanka
  6. Philippines
  7. Afghanistan
  8. Nepal
  9. Russia
  10. Mexico
  11. Bangladesh
  12. Pakistan
  13. India
The top three, marked in red, are preoccupied with armed conflicts: which tend to make any sort of law enforcement awkward. The others, though, seem to have earned a place on the Impunity Index through sheer merit.

Although I think that reporters can be a royal pain in the neck, they also serve an important function. In theory, at least, reporters find and report facts that people in free societies need.

And no group should fall outside the law's protection.

About the Committee to Protect Journalists' hope that national leaders can be embarrassed by having their shortcomings published: I think it's worth a try.
  • The Source: Committee to Protect Journalists
    • "Getting Away With Murder"
      Committee to Protect Journalists (April 30, 2008)
      "DPJ's Impunity Index ranks countries where killers of journalists go free"
      The lead paragraph told me that we're looking at something a bit off the norm for this sort of report.
      "Democracies from Colombia to India and Russia to the Philippines are among the worst countries in the world at prosecuting journalists' killers according to the Impunity Index, a list of countries compiled by the Committee to Protect Journalists where governments have consistently failed to solve journalists' murders."
      The page includes the methodology used, a statistical table, and a video.
    • "Statistics: Journalists Killed"
      "Since 1992, the Committee to Protect Journalists has compiled detailed accounts of every journalist killed on duty worldwide."
      This page links to detailed reports and resources.
  • The News:
    • "New index names 13 countries where killers of journalists get away with murder"
      International Herald Tribune (May 1, 2008)
      "UNITED NATIONS: Thirteen countries are the worst offenders in letting killers of journalists get away with murder — from war-torn Iraq and Somalia to peaceful democracies including Mexico, Russia and India, the Committee to Protect Journalists said.
      "The committee said governments in the 13 countries have consistently failed to solve murders where journalists were targeted from 1998 through 2007.
      "There are at least 199 unsolved murders in these countries during that 10-year period — 79 in Iraq, 24 in the Philippines, at least 20 in Colombia, 14 in Russia, 9 in Sierra Leone, 8 in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan, 7 in Afghanistan and Mexico, and 5 in Somalia, Nepal and India.
      " 'This is a naming and shaming exercise,' Prof. Sheila Coronel of the Columbia University Journalism School, said at a news conference Wednesday at U.N. headquarters launching the new Impunity Index."
    • "Iraq tops 13 countries where journalists' killers are not prosecuted - CPJ"
      KUNA (Kuwait News Agency) (April 30, 2008)
      "UNITED NATIONS, April 30 (KUNA) -- Iraq tops the "Impunity Index" of 13 "democracies" where governments consistently failed to prosecute journalists' killers, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) which released the Index for the first time in connection with World Press Freedom Day to be marked May 3rd.
      The 13 countries where governments are unable or unwilling to prosecute the killers are: Iraq, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Colombia, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Afghanistan, Nepal, Russia, Mexico, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India.
      The committee acknowledged that the first three countries have been mired in conflict, but the rest, it noted, are "peacetime democracies," such as Mexico, where elected governments have failed to protect journalists.

      " 'Every time a journalist is murdered and the killer is allowed to walk free it sends a terrible signal to the press and to others who would harm journalists,' Joel Simon, CPJ Executive Director, told a press conference on Wednesday."
    • "CPJ Names 13 Countries Where Journalists' Killers Go Free"
      VOA ( Voice of America) (April 30, 2008)
      "The Committee to Protect Journalists says governments in South Asia are among the worst in the world at prosecuting the killers of journalists. In a new Impunity Index that covers unsolved murders over the past nine years, six of the 13 countries that have consistently failed to solve these cases are in South Asia. From U.N. headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.
      "CPJ's new Impunity Index cites 13 countries as having the worst records for letting killers of journalists get away with murder.
      " 'There are many problems confronting journalists around the world - censorship, incarceration - but there is no greater threat to the free circulation of ideas and information than murder,' said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. 'Especially murder without consequence. And that is what this Impunity Index measures.' "

Holocaust Remembrance Day: May 1, 2008

Six torches are burning in Israel: one for each of the 1,000,000 Jews killed by the national socialist party in Germany during WWII.

Never Forget Lessons From the Past

"Prime Minister Ehud Olmert lashed out at Holocaust deniers during a ceremony to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day at Yad Vashem on Wednesday saying, 'The voices of those who deny the Holocaust are also being heard. To them, the haters, the deniers, and all the conspirators of evil and to all of those who allow them to function within their realms, we say today: This shall never happen again.' "

" 'Sixty-three years have passed since the Satanic factories of death of the Nazis and their collaborators seized to operate, yet with the passing of time, the dimensions of the Holocaust still remain beyond comprehension, unfathomably shocking, unacceptably chilling,' Olmert told the service at Yad Vashem.

" 'Who would have believed that 63 years later, hatred of Jews and Israelis would rear its ugly head in so many different places around the globe, provocatively and venomously, inciting hatred?" he asked."

" 'If the countries of the world had dealt with the Nazi threat in a timely, sober way, they could have prevented [Nazi leader] Hitler from degrading them and murdering tens of thousands of people," Peres said. He added that had Hitler acquired nuclear capabilities, the world would have been destroyed then.

" 'It is possible that we were too late in erecting the state. And we paid a heavy price,' he said, adding: 'It's forbidden to be late in history.' " [emphasis mine]
The Holocaust Remembrance Day observances came with criticism of American policy.
"Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi on Wednesday echoed Peres' sentiment regarding the importance of stopping global military threats.

"During an address former Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp on the second day of an official visit to Poland, Ashkenazi spoke of the U.S. decision not to bomb the camp during World War II despite knowing of the horrors taking place there.

" 'And today, they don't know what is happening in Iran?' the IDF chief posed."

The War on Terror is not World War II. Osama bin Laden is not Adolph Hitler. The Ayatollahs of Iran are not the leaders of the Empire of Greater Imperial Japan. 1
But I think that parallels can be drawn.

Pro-"Aryan" Germany allied with a very non-"Aryan" Japan
Pro-"Islam" Iran seems to be making arrangements with non-Islamic Russia
Germany systematically exterminated 'inferior' people - including Jews
"Death to the Jews! Death to the great Satan America!" has been popularized by Islamic enthusiasts in Iran and elsewhere.

One-to-one match? Certainly not. I think the parallels are worth considering, though. I also think it would be well to think about what is at stake, if Americans and others decide to wait and see what the likes of Al Qaeda and the Taliban do next. Or, hope that these dedicated terrorists will become good and tolerant neighbors. (It's late in the day, April 30, 2008, as I'm writing this.)
1 Yes, I know. That's English. Sort of. As far as I can tell, that's Dai Nippon Teikoku, phonetically, in Romanji. Or, in English, Great Imperial Japan, or officially the Empire of Greater Japan or maybe Greater Japanese Empire. But, more people know the outfit as Imperial Japan or the Japanese Empire. I could post the name in too character systems used in Japan, but you might not have the right font to handle them.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

American Academic Institutions: Impartial, Neutral, Nonpartisan, Dispassionate

Some, maybe.

Academics say that they're unbiased, and that America's colleges and universities are bastions of academic freedom and tolerance for diverse views. I like to take people at their word, but it isn't always easy. Cases in point:
  1. "Hurricane Expert: School Silencing Me Over Global-Warming Views"
    FOXNews (April 29, 2008)
  2. "Diversity - It Runs Both Ways"
    the happy conservative (April 26, 2008)
Before going on, a sort of disclaimer,or explanation. I'm a college graduate, and a recovering English teacher. By temperament, I'm a scholar and an artist. I enjoyed my college years, but I would have enjoyed them more - and left with more respect for the institutions - if some ideas hadn't been treated more equally than others.

In short, I remember what it was like to be a non-liberal on American campuses, off an on from the late sixties to the mid eighties. For me, academic freedom, American style, is of personal interest.

Now, about those two cases:
  1. Dr. William Gray is that hurricane expert you heard and read about during each hurricane season. Don't expect to hear him any more.
    I'd wondered why other "experts" were being cited, until I read that the University of Colorado had cut his funding, because he didn't accept the global warming doctrine. There's more detail in "Storm subsides between William Gray, CSU." Colorado State University, of course, says that the fuss is greatly exaggerated, and doesn't have anything to do with Dr. Gray's heretical beliefs. Maybe so. University media departments aren't always as well-funded or as well staffed they'd like to be.
    My own opinion is that the silencing of Dr. Gray shows why so few scientists are willing to voice opposition to the doctrine of Global Warming: or why academic professionals in general are so unlikely to voice dissenting opinions.
  2. Ben is has experienced academic freedom, too. The student paper won't print his articles, and I can see why. Here's how he describes himself:
    "I'm the lone conservative at an elite college. No, I'm not here because I'm an elite. I'm here because Washington U. also has a quota of small midwestern farm boys to fill. Thanks very much, that'll be fifty grand.
    "I'm an ROTC Cadet, soon to be the Army’s newest 2LT, God help them. With any luck (for the Army) I'll soon be the Army’s newest law student as well, a situation I would describe as Pareto optimal.
    "I'm here to expose the intolerant, absurd, politically correct, and morally vacuous college campus where I study."
    No wonder the college paper won't print his stuff. You can't have diversity and freedom of expression, if you let just anybody say whatever they want.
All of which brings up an excellent question:

In the Name of Sanity and Common Sense, What Does This Have to do With the War on Terror?!

Directly, not much. Indirectly, a very great deal.

American institutions of higher education are, along with the news media and the entertainment industry, information gatekeepers in traditional American culture. In my view, Americans during much of the twentieth centurey learned current events from the news, how people should feel about events from entertainment media, and what people should think from institutions of higher education.

That system is breaking down, happily, with the dawning of the Information Age.

We now live in a world where someone like Ben, or me, can get published - and read - even if our views are not the same as editorial boards or academic committees.

There are problems with this new world, of course. But I would rather trust the marketplace of ideas to sort out what's true and what's not, than an editor or a professor who may not believe that anything can be "true." (What's wrong with this statement: 'There is no absolute truth.' Hint: that is a statement of an absolute truth.)

The War on Terror is, to a great extent, a conflict between people who are willing to kill to impose their own views on others, and people who are unwilling to accept the views of a particular group of Islamic extremists - and don't want to die.

Americans will be deciding who will represent them in Congress, and who the next president will be, later this year.

I think and believe that American voters would be well-advised to remember that what they read and hear in the news, and the pronouncements of learned academics, may not be the unbiased, impartial, utterances they're supposed to be.

I also think and believe that American academics and journalists would be well-advised to consider who is willing to die, defending their right to say what they want, and who would cheerfully kill them for insults, real or imagined, directed toward Islam.

Previous posts, on academic freedom and related ideas: Related posts, on censorship, propaganda, and freedom of speech.
After word April 30, 2008:

Looks like American academia hasn't changed since my last immersion. Here's a sample of what's being taught, reported by a student who doesn't buy what wild and wacky Washington U is teaching:

"Donald Rumsfeld, the Pentagon, and the Bush Administration manipulated the telling of facts about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the progress of the war in Iraq by using retired military personnel, many of whom were on the boards of military contractors, as puppets to spout their carefully scripted rhetoric in the name of objective journalism."

Don't be too swift to blame the professor. He gets his facts from The New York Times: "Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand" (April 20, 2008).

You just can't make that sort of thing up. More, at "conspiracy central" (the happy conservative (April 30, 2008)).

American Television Networks and the News: Impartial, Neutral, Nonpartisan, Dispassionate

How many people really believe that?

Let's take a look at one of yesterday's headlines:
"RNC demands networks yank McCain ad"
The Associated Press (April 28, 2008)

"MIAMI (AP) — The Republican National Committee demanded Monday that television networks stop running a television ad by the Democratic Party that falsely suggests John McCain wants a 100-year war in Iraq.

"The ad says President Bush has talked about staying in Iraq for 50 years, then plays a clip of McCain saying, 'Maybe 100. That'd be fine with me.' "

Wait a minute! That's a tiff over an advertisement, not news.

True. However, that ad isn't all that different from news coverage of McCain's 'well-known' willingness to fight a 100 year war in Iraq:
  • "Behind the Scenes: Watch for political fallout from pope's visit"
    CNN April 16, (2008.)
    "Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, appeals to many Catholics because he's pro-life and has a moderate stance on immigration. Yet his willingness to remain in Iraq for '100 years' is at odds with the church's opposition to the war."
  • "McCain, Iraq, And 100 Years"
    CBS News (April 29, 2008)
    "...And in 2008, McCain reversed course yet again, deciding that we should be prepared to leave troops in Iraq, even if it means 100 years or more."
    msnbc (April 8, 2008)
    "From NBC's Mark Murray
    "Once again, the McCain campaign and the Republican National Committee are making it crystal clear that they will pounce on any kind of "100-year" iteration by Obama that they think distorts what the Arizona senator originally said. The latest example comes after Obama's appearance on TODAY this morning." 1
  • "McCain's '100 Year' Remark Hands Ammo to War Critics"
    ABC News (March 31, 2008)
    "... Back and forth it went until the man started to ask another question. 'President Bush has talked about our staying in Iraq for 50 years --'
    "Handing Ammo to War Critics
    "McCain interrupted with words that have haunted him ever since.
    "He said either "Maybe a 100," or "Make it 100.'
    "McCain continued: 'We've been in South Korea, we've been in Japan for 60 years. We've been in South Korea for 50 years or so. That'd be fine with me as long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed. Then it's fine with me. I would hope it would be fine with you if we maintain a presence in a very volatile part of the world where Al Qaeda is training, recruiting, equipping and motivating people every single day.' "
    (Kudos to ABC, for including the context of McCain's remark.)
There's a range of opinion here, and I'm not going to make a claim like Hillary Clinton's "vast right-wing conspiracy" assertions (yes, she really said that, several times).

'Everyone Knows' Isn't Always True

However, I do think I see a preference for believing what 'everyone knows,' rather than going to the trouble of finding and reporting facts.

As the ABC News item indicates (almost), McCain's "100 year war" was a recognition that America will probably continue to be involved in international affairs for another century. He didn't point out, as I have, that America is still 'occupying' Germany, over a half-century after the end of WWII. Does that mean that America should have pulled out, after the D-Day disaster? 2

But, by virtue of hearing it over and over on the news, my guess is that quite a few Americans, politically active or not, really believe that McCain wants a 100-year war.

Previous posts on this general topic:
1 I can't make out whether this post is on either side. I get the impression that Mark Murray views the parties involved much as Mercutio viewed the Capulets and Montagues: after receiving a pointed response to his peacemaking efforts.

2 By some contemporary standards, D-Day was a disaster. An estimated 4,500 American and Allied soldiers were killed. Worse, there was an 'inexcusable' lack of record-keeping (or was it a cover-up?!) which makes an exact count impossible. To say nothing of the environmental impact!

I don't see it that way, but my attitudes aren't the same as many of the self-described best and brightest in today's America.

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

Monday, April 28, 2008

Sierra Madre Fire: It Could Be Worse

It isn't the usual start of the California fire season yet, and already we've got the Sierra Madre fire, in the San Gabriel Mountains. So far, it's burned the better part of a square mile of brush near this north Los Angeles suburb.

As of this afternoon, about 1,000 people have been evacuated from 400 structures. The good news is that so far only one small building got burned.

The bad news is that the Sierra Madre fire is gaining on the firefighters. And, even if no more buildings are damaged, it's going to be expensive to put out.

So There's another Los Angeles Area Brush Fire: So What?

This is "Another War-on-Terror Blog," not a "Brush Fire Blog."

The Sierra Madre fire caught my attention for several reasons. It's
  • Big
  • Manmade ("Authorities said the blaze was manmade but they did not know exactly what caused it.")
  • Directly affecting a Los Angeles suburb
  • Out of season
California's fire season is generally from around June to October or November. Although the start of the season varies, the Sierra Madre fire is over a month early, compared to most years.

"Manmade" doesn't mean arson. Arson caused about 7% of the fires handled by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection from 2000 to 2005.

The Sierra Madre Fire as a Terrorist Plot?

I seriously doubt it. The area hadn't had a major fire for about three decades, and was due for a serious burn.

Why Californians don't clear brush, or have controlled burns, so that this sort of thing doesn't happen every year is beyond me: and beyond the scope of this blog.

If this had been a terrorist act, I'd have expected some sort of damage done to fire departments in the area, too: or a blaze started in so many places that it would be more uncontrollable than the Sierra Madre fire is.

The Malibu to San Diego string of fires in October last year looked more suspicious - but don't seem to have been more than a freak coincidence. ("Fires in California: a Reality Check" (October 22, 2007).)

"We Burned Los Angeles" - Now That'd be Bragging Rights

I think, though, that fire as a weapon of terror is still a possibility. Japan tried to set the western forests of America on fire in 1944. Someone could try again, albeit on a smaller scale.

As a weapon of terror, I believe that a wildfire spreading into an urban area would be very effective
  • Starting wildfires seems to be very easy in the undeveloped lands next to Californian cities and towns
  • Large fires guarantee a national audience - potentially international
  • A firestorm in, say, Los Angeles would be not only spectacular, but would do a great deal of economic damage
Then there's the possibility that an oil tanker could be set afire: but that's a topic for another post.

American Interests' 1st Anniversary: You're Invited

A year ago today, Ottavio launched American Interests, a blog with a remarkable premise: That America is good for the world.

In Ottavio's words, "With any luck, American Interests … is helping to address what I deem as a prevailing rationality void in relation to America's role in our world."

Today, celebrating his blog's first anniversary, he wrote: "Welcome to the party, invite your friends, and hope you enjoy the virtual cake - at least it’s not fattening!" ("Happy First Anniversary American Interests" (April 28, 2008).)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

News From Iraq: More Artifacts Back, Nouri al-Maliki and Tariq al-Hashemi Talk

The headlines about Iraq are the usual:
  • "Official: Female suicide bomber kills 3 at checkpoint in Iraq"
    CNN (April 27, 2008)
    "The bombing came as fighting in the capital's Sadr City neighborhood killed at least eight people and wounded 44 others, an official said...."
  • "Suicide bombers, explosions rock Iraq"
    CNN (April 26, 2008)
    "Three suicide bombers and a car bomb in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Saturday capped off a day of nationwide violence that left at least 15 people dead and 94 wounded, police and Iraqi officials said."
The headlines about Chicago are pretty bad, too:
  • "Chicago Killings Raise Parents' Fears"
    ABC News (April 26, 2008)
    "Police SWAT teams are saturating the city's South Side, the area where most of the 331 shootings in the city this year have occurred. The teams are out in street patrols, backed up by helicopter surveillance.
    "It's their response to last weekend's shooting spree, which alone counted for an estimated 36 of those shootings, seven of them deadly."
  • "Deadly Shootings Continue To Plague Chicago"
    KDKA (April 23, 2008)
    "Five more people have been fatally shot in Chicago, less than a week after one of deadliest weeks in the city's history."
What struck me was that the level of violence in Iraq is somewhat comparable to the level of violence in Chicago. Yet, despite Chicago's long history of strife and intractable factional rivalries, I haven't heard anyone suggest an American pullout from Chicago.

And, news from Iraq isn't all bad.

More Stolen Antiquities Returned

Remember, back when we were being told that around 170,000 irreplaceable historical artifacts had been stolen from Iraq's National Museum? Then, it turned out that the number missing was about a tenth that. And almost a thousand were recovered within eight months. ("Hundreds of looted items returned to Iraqi museum (CNN (November 11, 2003)).)

Another 701 Iraqi artifacts are back where they belong. "Syrian authorities, who seized the looted treasures smuggled across the border, turned them over to the Iraqis, who carefully packed them in 17 boxes and flew them back to Baghdad on Saturday, said Muna Hassan, head of an Iraqi committee working to restore the artifacts." "Hundreds of Looted Artifacts Returned to Iraq Museum" (FoxNEWS (April 27, 2008))

Iraqi Leaders Talk Unity

And, of course, the obligatory body count.

"Iraq's prime minister met Sunday with the Sunni Arab vice president to discuss reintegrating Sunni political parties into the Shiite-dominated government as militants fired a salvo of rockets or motars [!] at the heavily guarded Green Zone...."

"Meanwhile, the meeting between Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Tariq al-Hashemi came a day after the Sunni leader said the return of his boycotting political bloc to the Cabinet was a priority.

"The two men discussed 'the future of the political process and the rebuilding of a national and unified government,' according to a statement from the presidency office.

"On Saturday, al-Hashemi said the government needs to reconcile quickly to 'save Iraq.' " ("Iraqi Leaders Discuss Unity Government; 5 Die in Baghdad Violence" (FoxNEWS (April 27, 2008))).

Looking at the Whole Story

Iraq is a mess, but less of a mess than it was a year or so ago.

Things are looking hopeful enough, for an American company to buy land for the Baghdad Zoo and Entertainment Experience amusement park in Baghdad. ("Baghdad set for own 'Disneyland' " (The Australian (April 25, 2008)).)

American corporations generally want to make a profit - and it will take a while for C3 to get their investment back from that Baghdad park. Whoever's running C3, the company that built Disneyland, apparently thinks that Baghdad and Iraq will be around, and stable, for quite a while.

I'm inclined to agree with them.

Another Conservative Blog Added to Conlist

Labels are odd things. Take "conservative blog," for example. That phrase may bring to mind a blog with:
  • Posts that repeat talking points from some party - Republican, Constitution, or something similar
  • Nostalgia for the 1950s
  • Dislike and/or distrust of
    • Foreigners
    • Immigrants
    • Imports (except for luxury cars and fine wines)
  • graphic design involving
    • Red and white stripes
    • Patches of blue
    • American flags and bunting
    • Eagles
  • More emotion than reason

This Blog? Conservative?!

I must have absorbed some of those assumptions, because I was surprised when people called "Another War-on-Terror Blog" was a conservative blog. And, when it was added to "The Best Conservative Blogs on the Internet - Period!," "Conlist."

That was last month ("A Little Self-Promotion: Another War-on-Terror Blog Added to "Best Conservative Blogs"" (March 19, 2008)).

American Interests: Conservative Blog?

Last Friday, the same thing happened to another blog: "Conservative Blog" (American Interests (April 24, 2008)). The blog's author wrote, "American Interests remains a Pro American site not one strictly espousing conservative values ... " in a reply to a comment. Interestingly, "American Interests" is the creation of an Australian.

The header of "American Interests" defines the blog's nature and purpose: "Politically neutral blog intended to disseminate knowledge of, highlight threats to, explore opportunities for and, above all else, serve as a platform of advocacy for the continuance and preservation of global American dominance."

I check in at "American Interests" at least once a week, usually more. I'm not entirely convinced that it's a conservative blog. But then, I'm not convinced that at this one is, either.

Pilot's Laptop Missing: Yes, It's a Big Deal

I just ran into this story, going over last week's news: "Pilot's Missing Laptop Causes Airport Security Scare" (ABC 7 News (April 24, 2008)).

"A pilot's laptop, filled with top secret security information was reported missing at Dulles Airport and the ripple effects were felt across the country." Quite a ripple, too: 17 airports changed their access codes - fast.

Those codes would have given someone - anyone - access from the gate to the plane, and the pavement below the plane. These days, that could be a very bad thing.

The odds are that the laptop had been stored in an overhead compartment, one that passengers had access to, and then stolen.

There's the usual talk of 'cracking down' and penalizing people who lose data like this, but I'm not sure that's the right approach.

This time, the pilot reported, promptly, that the laptop had gone missing.

Would anyone be more likely to make a report like that, knowing that it would cost them money, and maybe their career?

I think it would be better to include common sense and situational awareness in pilot training.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai Assassination Attempt Fails:
So What?

Or, to be more polite, "what does it mean?"

What happened is pretty obvious, and has been well-covered:
  • "Germany's Merkel calls Karzai to express dismay, pledge ongoing support for Afghanistan"
    International Herald Tribune (Europe) (April 27, 2008)
  • "Canadian ambassador: Afghan president unharmed during deadly attack" (April 27, 2008)
  • "Karzai escapes deadly Taliban attack"
    CNN (April 27, 2008)
    "The attack occurred at a Mujahedeen Victory Day ceremony, observing the 16th anniversary of Afghanistan mujahedeen fighters' overthrow of President Mohammad Najibullah's Soviet-backed regime."
  • "Pranab condemns attack on Karzai"
    The Hindu (April 27, 2008)
    "Kolkata (PTI): External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Sunday condemned the attack on Afghan President Hamid Karzai and called upon the international community to show zero tolerance towards terrorism.
    " 'I strongly condemn the dastardly attack on Hamid Karzai. We have been saying that there should be zero tolerance to terrorism,' he told newsmen after a function by the central Kolkata district Congress here."
  • "Pakistan strongly condemns Kabul attack"
    Xinhua, China - China View (April 27, 2008)
    "ISLAMABAD, April 27 (Xinhua) -- Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani strongly condemned the attack on the ceremony commemorating the 16th anniversary of the Afghan nation.
    "In a statement issued here Sunday, Gilani said that Pakistanis were greatly relieved that no harm had come to Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
    " 'We express our deep sorrow over the reported death of one person and injuries to eleven as a result of this dastardly attack,' he said."
The Afghani official presidential website didn't have anything to say about. Mr. Karzai's near-miss, but that may change. Besides, I suspect that he's a little occupied right now.

Why Blame the Taliban?

The Hindu reported that "suspected Taliban militants" launched the attack, and that the Taliban has claimed responsibility. Offhand, I'd say that the Taliban probably had a hand in this.

Particularly since Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujaheed gave details of the attack:
  • Six militants were deployed to target the president
  • Weaponry included guns, rockets and suicide vests
  • Three Talibani killed in the attack.
Non-Taliban sources failed to report any suicide bombiings. ("Afghan President Hamid Karzai Safe After Assassination Attempt" FOXNews (April 27, 2008)).

Taliban "Not Posing Any Threat" - 2007

This attack is a bit ironic, since last year Mr Karzai said that the Taliban was no threat. (Al Jazeera English "Taliban 'No Threat' Says Karzai - Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan's president, has said the Taliban is 'not posing any threat; to his government ...." (More at "Taliban 'no threat' says Karzai" (Al Jazeera (August 06, 2007).)

And, Mr. Karzai seems to have been dealing with the Taliban in a very diplomatic manner: "Karzai wants US to stop arresting Taliban suspects: report (AFP (April 26, 2008)). "Afghan President Hamid Karzai urged US forces Saturday to stop arresting suspected Taliban and their sympathizers, arguing that these arrests and past mistreatment were discouraging Taliban from laying down their arms." "...'For the success of the world in Afghanistan, it would be better to recognize this inherent character in Afghanistan and work with it and support it,' .... 'Eventually, if the world is to succeed in Afghanistan, it will be by building the Afghan state, not by keeping it weak.' "

Taliban Assassins Fail: So What?

'Well-Duh' obvious points:
  • Afghanistan isn't the safest place to live
  • Hamid Karzai's dream of Afghanistan as a regional trade center will have to wait until Afghanistan can have a victory celebration without incoming fire
  • The Taliban isn't nice
Another point that's discussed often is that the Afghan central government has at best an iffy hold on its eastern territory. Too true: people living there seem to prefer the good old days, before nation-states interfered with local warlords. At least, the warlords feel that way.

Generally, I agree with Hamid Karzai's assertion that the "inherent character" of each country should be taken into consideration. I do not believe that there is one "correct" form of government. The constitutional monarchy of Jordan, for example, seems to be working fairly well. It's not perfect, of course, and it helps that King Abdallah II1 has a great deal on the ball.

However, in the case of Afghanistan, I think that "I Did It My Way" isn't working. Eastern Afghanistan still seems to be a refuge for those who prefer the late Iron Age.

One very important effect of yesterday's assassination attempt is to make it seem as if the Taliban is still strong in Afghanistan. I don't know that this is the case. It's true that the Taliban is active, and it's possible that, as Mr. Karzai complained, that Taliban and Al Qaeda strongholds in Pakistan are part of the problem.

The ability to talk six people into shooting up an open-air celebration, however, does not strike me as a demonstration of great power and wide support. I'm inclined to think that the Taliban continues to be a problem for Afghanistan not so much because the Taliban is great, but because Mr. Karzai is not willing - or, perhaps, able - to accept outside help, and impose peace on the Taliban.

Previous posts about Afghanistan and Mr. Karzai:
1His Majesty King Abdallah II is intelligent, articulate, and gives every indication of having a firm grasp of what's real and what isn't. His policies and decisions benefit Jordan more than they do America: which is as it should be. But, I think that, in the long run, America benefits when other countries follow the principles of enlightened self-interest.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Place Names in Conventional English Form, or 'Correctly?'

I learn quite a bit from comments on these posts. Today, someone took the time to make a comment on "Today's Main Event: Protesters vs. the Olympic Torch in San Francisco" (April 9, 2008), bringing up an interesting point.

Here's the comment, by that prolific author, Anonymous:

"Don't pretend that you know a lot about history. Tibet is still a An English TRANSLATION name as same as Xizang. Now that you don't like China, you can call Xiazang any name you want.

"Suggest you goto a library to read a little more about Tibet then comment on this 'Independence', though suggesting going to library is often a mother's duty.
"April 26, 2008 7:54 PM"

My response, in part, was "... I write for an English-speaking audience. And so, when I refer to the the country on the coast of Europe that depends on dikes for keeping much of its territory dry, I write 'the Netherlands.'

"I do so, not out of ignorance, but because this blog is in English. I'm aware that the local name of the country is Nederland (or, more formally, Koninkrijk der Nederlanden) - but many readers might not be."

"The same goes for Tibet."

This Raises a Good Question

What do you think?

There was a time, when I gave names in Arabic form, as well as Latinized forms. I'll still do that, from time to time, but only if there's a good reason. However, it took time to do the necessary research: and I wasn't at all sure that you wanted that sort of information.

I could spend more time with each post, researching the various "correct" forms of each country, before posting. I'd rather not: "Tibet," for example, is known as Pö or Bö, in Lhasa dialect: or maybe Bod. Determining which was the "correct" form - and whose "correct" form should be used - is possible, but would be time-consuming.

Besides, I don't have a font available to me that would handle the Lhasa language, and suspect that you may not, either.

I'd appreciate feedback: I may not change my habits, but knowing what you would prefer will help me make a decision as to how I handle names of places - and people.

Thank you in advance.

Westward Venture Incident: No News, and That's News

An American warship (well, it was as much an American warship as the Global Patriot was) fires on fast boats from the Iranian coast guard. Except Iran says, 'is not!'

Compared to news coverage after the Global Patriot incident, there's dead silence about what happened with the Westward Venture near Iran, in the Persian Gulf.

That's just a comparison, of course: There actually is some news coverage. For example: There really isn't that much new to report, in terms of facts. What impresses me is the lack of anti-American "news," based on innuendo and speculation. I suspect that the lack of a sympathetic victim, and a disappointing response to last month's publicity campaign, may be factors in today's resonating silence.

I wrote about the Westward Venture incident yesterday: "Westward Venture: American Ship Fires on (Iranian?) Fast Boats" (April 25, 2008).

Unilateral Attack Sparks International Condemnation! Syria Had No Reactor! Pay No Attention to the North Koreans!

International diplomacy, particularly what's going on with Syria, Israel, and the non-reactor that the Jews didn't blow up, would be hilarious, if people's lives didn't depend on what happens.

Oh, yes: "unilateral" popped up again. I'll get back to that.

Syrian seems to have chosen the story that Israelis bombed an "unused military facility."

Briefly, here's what seems to be going on:
  • September 6, 2007: Israeli warplanes bomb a nuclear reactor that was within weeks of becoming operational
  • September, 2007: Israel says nothing; Syria says Israeli warplanes bombed
    • Empty sand
    • An agricultural facility
    • An unused military facility of some sort
  • April, 2008: American intelligence reports to Congressional committees; some details come out, including a photo of a North Korean nuclear scientist talking to his Syrian counterpart
  • April 26, 2008: same old, same old:
    • Syria decides on their "unused military facility" story
    • Israel blamed for taking unilateral action
    • IAEA is upset that they didn't know about the reactor
      • Not at Syria, which should have informed the IAEA
      • At America - and Israel
I will admit that I'm inclined to sympathize more with Israeli and American leadership, than Syria's. It probably has something to do with Syria's policy of giving support, political and material, to Hezbollah and Palestinian terrorist groups. And, that Damascus serves as a leadership center1 for:
  • Hamas
  • Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)
  • The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PLFP)
  • The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC)
I know: "America is just as bad." That claim is generally backed by a reminder that America supported groups and individuals which eventually were involved in the Taliban's rule of Afghanistan, or other instances of imperfect precognition. Never mind that the former Soviet Union was having its own "Vietnam" in Afghanistan, making life a trifle awkward for Afghanis in the process.

As for Israel, I think that critics have a point. This nation, surrounded by people and governments that made the slogan, "death to the Jews! Death to the great Satan America!" famous, might have noted that Syria was building a reactor - almost certainly for military purposes - and then:
  1. Asked to have the matter brought up in the next U.N. Security Council meeting (I believe that might be the appropriate body)
  2. Prepared speeches
  3. Addressed the U.N. Security Council, when an opening in the agenda became available
  4. Prepared responses to objections raised, and counter-claims from Syria
  5. Go To Step 3
Or, the Israeli government could have decided to save themselves - and a great many other nations - from a nuclear threat: just as they did with Saddam Hussein's nuclear program in 1981. Their action was "unilateral." In a world where international organizations seem more interested in protracted cycles of rhetoric, than in confronting issues with goal-oriented diplomacy or, failing that, military action: I think that Israel was acting with intelligent self-interest.

As for the International Atomic Energy Agency, I think that the IAEA might be well advised to criticize Syria, which was obligated to report nuclear work like the "unused military facility" it was building. I'll admit to a bias.

I've been disturbed by a certain lack of fit between reality and the world that the IAEA lives in. For example, the glowing report the IAEA gave to the Chernobyl situation recently.

And, when it comes to matters involving Islamic enthusiasts and their stated goals of wiping out Israel and western culture, I have a niggling doubt that the IAEA Director-General, Mohamed El-Baradei, will be completely objective.

I know: it's unreasonable. But, I submit, no more unreasonable than a similar doubt as to the commitment of a (hypothetical) director of a Jewish civic rights oversight agency in 1938, whose name was something like Heinrich von Schwinghammer.

My concerns over the IAEA's seeming hesitancy to engage nations which are real threats may be no more than my view, as an outsider, of the delicate negotiations and sensitivity that must exist in such cases.

Syria's non-reactor, and related matters, in the news: A short history of Syria, which I believe puts some of the Syrian government's policies in a more complete light: Posts from "Another War-on-Terror Blog,on the Israeli raid and its aftermath:
1("Country Reports on Terrorism 2005" Chapter 6 -- State Sponsors of Terror Overview

Friday, April 25, 2008

No Wonder Some People Hate Technology:
Grad Student Twitters Out of Egyptian Jail

In the good old days, annoying foreigners were easy to deal with. Even Americans. All you had to do was pop them in a jail. When someone came looking for them, months or years later, you could either magnanimously release them, or say that there wasn't any record of their having been held.

Simple, and neat.

It's no wonder that some people, and regimes, don't seem to approve of Information Age technology.

Take James Karl Buck, for instance ("Student 'Twitters' his way out of Egyptian jail" CNN (April 25, 3008)).

This University of California-Berkeley graduate student was in Mahalla, Egypt, covering an anti-government protest. Apparently he did something to displease the authorities, since he and his translator, Mohammed Maree, were arrested.

While being taken to the police stations, Buck got out a one-word message on his cell phone: "arrested," sent to the micro-blogging site Twitter.

As CNN put it, "Within seconds, colleagues in the United States and his blogger-friends in Egypt -- the same ones who had taught him the tool only a week earlier -- were alerted that he was being held."

After a bit of back-and-forth, Mr. Buck was released.

There are two mysteries:
  1. Why didn't the Egyptian police confiscate Mr. Buck's cell phone?
  2. What happened to Mohammed Maree?
Mohammed's family hasn't heard from him since his arrest. James tried to cover his friend and translator: "Mohammed was sitting next to me," he said. "But he didn't have the network to call. I tried to use my network to shield him until they tore us apart."

Egyptian authorities aren't saying anything about Mohammed Maree. His family thinks he is still in jail. In my opinion, that's a best-case scenario.

Westward Venture: American Ship Fires on (Iranian?) Fast Boats

Here we go again. This time in the Persian Gulf.

An American ship, the Westward Venture, was about 50 miles off the coast of Iran yesterday (April 24, 2008). Two "fast boats" come screaming over the horizon, headed for the American ship.

(FAST BOAT 2888 - 'No, mate, this is a fast boat.' Video presented for reference - this is not one of the fast boats that played chicken with Western Venture.)

Fast boats: Very cool, unless they're aimed at the bridge of your nose, near a country that made "death to the Jews! death to the great Satan America!" a global catch-phrase.

To Communicate, You First Must Get the Other Party's Attention

The Westward Venture blew its whistle.

The fast boats didn't turn back.

The Westward Venture fired flares.

The fast boats didn't turn back.

The Westward Venture's Navy security team fired M16 rifles and .50-caliber machine guns toward the boats. The fast boats were within a hundred yards of the ship at that point.

The fast boats turned back.

That Navy security team was on the Westward Venture because the ship's contracted to haul military supplies to Kuwait.

"Bridge-to-bridge communication was established after the shots were fired, with someone claiming to be the Iranian Coast Guard contacting the Westward Venture.

"The Iranian Revolutionary Guard is suspected of being involved in this incident, officials told FOX." ("Navy-Contracted Vessel Fires Warning Shots on Fast Boats" FoxNEWS (April 25, 2008))

Iran Says Did Not!

"In Tehran, an Iranian navy source denied that any confrontation had occurred with a U.S. ship in the Gulf. But the source, quoted by a journalist for Iran's state-owned Arabic Al-Alam TV channel, said any shooting that may have occurred could have targeted a non-Iranian vessel.

"U.S. defense officials said they suspected the boats were Iranian. "We don't have complete confirmation of that but we suspect it," one official said." ("Ship hired by US military fires warning shots in Gulf" Reuters (April 25, 2008))

Western Venture in the News

So far, this incident hasn't made much of a splash in the news: Not entirely unexpected. News services weren't able to report that Americans carelessly killed a cigarette salesman this time. News of this incident is supposed to have raised the price of oil, though. To be fair, America isn't specifically accused of raising the price of oil, and that factoid is relevant to the story.

This run-in with boats that just happened to be near Iran and just happened to identify themselves as Iranian Coast Guard vessels reminded me of the Global Patriot incident, last month. The circumstances aren't exactly the same, but they're similar.

That Global Patriot matter was interesting in quite a few ways:
About the selection of news articles: I'm not slighting CNN. Aside from that blog, all they have on 'Western Venture' is "Columbus: Intrepid explorer or accidental navigator?" CNN (August 4, 2004): an article only remotely connected to the Persian Gulf incident yesterday.

Gimme Peace, or I'll Punch Your Kid

It's nowhere near November, and people are already losing it. As passions rise, those who believe strongly in one cause or another blindly lash out. Or at least, that's how it seems.

Out-of-Control Conservative!

" Following pattern in the media, CNN's King uncritically repeated McCain campaign's false attacks on Democrats"
Media Matters for America1 (Apr 3, 2008)


"Summary: On The Situation Room, John King uncritically reported that "[i]n a statement, a McCain spokesman took a shot at the other party, saying, 'Americans can't afford the Democrats' liberal agenda to raise taxes, nationalize health care, cut off trade, and crush the economy under big government.' " Following what has become a pattern in the media, King failed to note the significant falsehoods and misleading claims in McCain's statement and simply read it without challenge."

You see? Someone in the McCain campaign "took a shot at the other party," a description of a violent act if I ever heard one.

Peace Lover Tested Beyond The Limits of Human Endurance

Conservatives aren't the only ones getting testy, though. One peace-lover was driven over the brink at a literary event recently.

New York Post (April 23, 2008)


"A man heckling First Lady Laura Bush and daughter Jenna outside the 92nd Street Y was arrested after he punched a wheelchair-bound girl whose parents has told him to shut up, authorities said yesterday. German Talis, 22, was shouting obscenities at the Bushes, who were leaving the building Tuesday, when he crossed paths with Wendy and John Lovetro and their daughter Maureen, 18, who has cerebral palsy.

"They had been in the audience to hear the Bushes talk about their children's book, Read All About It.

" 'He began yelling about Iraq and Iran at Jenna Bush. She was waving at the crowd. I told the guy, "What are you doing? Shut up. This is about a child and books," ' said John Lovetro. 'He was unperturbed. I said, "Get out of here! You're being a moron!" ' "

That's when Mr. Tallis "allegedly" started punching Maureen (who "allegedly" has cerebral palsy). It can't have been too bad: Mr. Tallis only "allegedly" hit the girl's shoulder blades. Then thigh. The New York Sun didn't report which one.

Perhaps Maureen's father was "bullying" Mr. Tallis.

More seriously, I've been impressed with how violent peace-lovers can be. I've posted about this before: I combed the news media for an equivalent violent attack by a non-peace-lover. The closest I found was the McCain spokesman who "took a shot at the other party".

I'm relieved that the young lady who had gone to hear the Jenna and Mrs. Bush speak about "Read All About It" was "not seriously injured." On the other hand, I can't help but think that her day would have been more pleasant if she hadn't been "allegedly" assaulted by a crazed peace-lover.

I supposed that it's hard, being gripped by a violent passion for peace while believing that your world is threatened by something like the "vast right-wing conspiracy." 2

That isn't an excuse for attacking a cripple, though.
1 "Media Matters for America is a Web-based, not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media."

That's how they describe themselves, anyway.

2 "Vast Right Wing Conspiracy" is a phrase that seems to have taken on a life of its own. I might not believe that a respected national leader would have made such a daft remark, except for two things.
  1. I heard and saw her say it, in a video taken while she was meeting with a number of her supporters
Hillary Clinton's used the term, "vast right-wing conspiracy," in two other rather well-documented interviews. One was with Barbara Walters on ABC, June 8, 2003. The other was in 1998 -

From "Urban Legends Reference Pages: Hillary Clinton Quotes" ( Quotes from an interview between Matt Lauer and Hillary Clinton, on NBC's "The Today Show," January 27, 1998.

Lauer: "I'm sure you like [Democratic political strategist James Carville], especially at this time. He has said that [the Monica Lewinsky scandal] is war between the president and Kenneth Starr. You have said, I understand, to some close friends, that this is the last great battle, and that one side or the other is going down here."

Clinton: "Well, I don't know if I've been that dramatic. That would sound like a good line from a movie. But I do believe that this is a battle. I mean, look at the very people who are involved in this, they have popped up in other settings. This is the great story here, for anybody willing to find it and write about it and explain it, is this vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president. A few journalists have kind of caught on to it and explained it, but it has not yet been fully revealed to the American public. ..." [emphasis mine]

Also See "Hillary Clinton: 'This Is A Battle' "
all politics CNN (January 27, 1998)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Syrian Ambassador: Reactor? That's No Reactor

Western news media, at least, have taken to calling Syria's whatsit that Israel bombed last year a "reactor." I think they're right.

Once more, I have to point out that "Another War-on-Terror Blog" isn't political. But, politicians make decisions that affect war and peace. For that reason, politics has to be discussed. Particularly in an election year.

Although my favorite of the Syrian stories about what Israeli warplanes bombed on September 6, 2007, is that it was an agricultural facility, I must admit that evidence favored it being a nuclear reactor, nearly identical to one in North Korea.

I miss the radioactive kimchi scenario, though ("Radioactive Kimchi, or Nuclear Bomb Material?" (September 23, 2007).

Syria Says: Is Not!

The Syrian ambassador to the United Kingdom was much more eloquent than that, of course. Sami al-Khiyami Said that Syria and North Korea were being very nice: "This has nothing to do with North Korea and Syria. They [the Americans] just want to exert more pressure on North Korea. This is why they are coming up with this story," he told Reuters.

Member of Congress Says It's a Plot!

New York's own Representative Gary Ackerman, who had his own hearing about U.S. policy toward Syria, says that the White House didn't give everybody the same amount of information. He called that "bizarre behavior." "This is the selective control of information that led us to war in Iraq," Ackerman said.

He could be right, but I thought that some of what the CIA told a Congressional committee today was very, very secret: Not the sort of thing you want everyone to know.

Ackerman's not alone, though Michigan's Representative Pete Hoekstra, a leading member of the House Intelligence Committee, said: " 'I think many people believe that we were used today by the administration because — not because they felt they had to inform Congress because it was their legal obligation to do that, but because they had other agendas in mind,' he said.

With due respect to the representative from Michigan, that sounds an awful lot like 'it's some kinda plot.'

And, other members of Congress talked, too: Maine's Senator Susan Collins brought up a sensible point, that revealing this much information could compromise American intelligence sources.

As to that, it will help if members of Congress keep their collective yap shut.

Which, thankfully, they are: so far.

But tomorrow's another day.

Israeli Raid on Syrian Reactor in Today's News

  • "US video to link North Korea to Syrian nuclear reactor: reports"
    AFP (April 24, 2008)
    "WASHINGTON (AFP) — The US government on Thursday will show lawmakers a video linking North Korea to a Syrian nuclear reactor the Israelis bombed in September, leading US newspapers said Thursday.
    "The New York Times and The Washington Post, citing unnamed senior officials said the video showed North Koreans inside the secret Syrian facility code-named Al Kibar."
  • "Syria 'had covert nuclear scheme' "
    BBC (April 24, 2008)
    "The United States has accused North Korea of helping Syria build a nuclear reactor that 'was not intended for peaceful purposes'.
    "The site, said to be like one in North Korea, was bombed by Israel in 2007."
  • "Syria denies building nuclear reactor with N.Korea"
    International Herald Tribune (April 24, 2008)
    "LONDON: Syria on Thursday dismissed U.S. accusations that North Korea was helping it build a nuclear reactor that could produce plutonium.
    "Syria's ambassador to Britain, Sami al-Khiyami, told Reuters that the accusation, which President George W. Bush's administration was expected to lay out to lawmakers on Thursday, was to put pressure on North Korea in talks about Pyongyang's nuclear programme.
    " 'This has nothing to do with North Korea and Syria. They just want to exert more pressure on North Korea. This is why they are coming up with this story,' Khiyami said."
  • "Official: Syrian Nuclear Reactor Was Weeks From Functioning"
    FOXNews (April 24, 2008)
    "WASHINGTON — A Syrian nuclear reactor built with help from North Korea was weeks away from functioning, a top U.S. official said Thursday after lawmakers were briefed on the site destroyed last year by Israeli jets.
    "The official, who wanted anonymity, told The Associated Press that the facility was mostly completed but still needed significant testing before it could be declared operational."

Liberty City Seven Minus One: Third Trial

One of the Liberty City Seven were acquitted in the first trial. The other six weren't convicted, since there was a mistrial. That isn't the same as an acquittal.

The person who was acquitted isn't being tried again. The six who weren't acquitted are. That's because, so far, members of two juries couldn't decide to convict them.

Since one of them is free, it isn't the Liberty City Seven any more. I like "Liberty City Seven Minus One," But a Miami station is referring to them more efficiently as the "Liberty City 6: " 'Liberty City 6' To Be Tried For Third Time" ( (April 23, 2008)).

I've posted about these men before. You may find that I give more background than some of the news you read. (I think editors sometimes assume that readers are as intensely involved in the news as they are.)

Federal prosecutors asked for a third trial, because they say that these six men were working toward blowing up
  • Chicago's Sears Tower
  • Miami's FBI office
  • Other federal buildings
The six men had a good reason, it turns out, for wanting to demolish those buildings, killing quite a few people in the process. " 'In referring to America, Mr. Batiste said on tape he wanted to kill all the American devils,' assistant U.S. attorney Richard Gregorie said. 'In light of this, we plan to proceed with another trial.' "

In light of that, the Liberty City 6 defense might be well-advised to make this a freedom of expression case. Or maybe freedom of religion. The seven are Muslim, sort of. Enough for a 'profiling' accusation to be tossed around.

Now, someone's declared another reason for why the Feds are down on the Liberty City 6. The article reveals:

"The families of the defendants left the federal courthouse in downtown Miami without commenting, except for Pierre Augustine, whose two sons are among the accused.

" 'I don't know why they have to put them in jail,' Augustine told reporters. 'The reason why is because they're black, no matter what. (They have already gone through) two trials. Now they have to go to the third one. That makes no sense.' "

My guess is that, given the mix of evidence and assumptions, there's going to be another mistrial. But, I could be wrong.

And, I hope I am wrong. There are quite a few people who fervently want "to kill all the American devils" - and I think it is high time that American courts and juries start looking more at what defendants did, and less on who their ancestors were.

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

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Darfur: Overview of the Current Mess, and Some Background

  • Bad news:
    People are still dying in Darfur. And, the situation isn't getting any better
  • Good news:
    More people are becoming aware of Darfur.
At first glance, Darfur doesn't seem to have much to do with the War on Terror. Despite this Sudanese borderland's position outside the Middle East, I think that the humanitarian disaster in Darfur is very much part of the 21st century's first major conflict.

Sudan is run by Islamic Arabs, but isn't an Arab country:
  • Black 52%
  • Arab 39%
  • Beja 6%
  • Foreigners 2%
  • Other 1% 1
It is an "Islamic" country, but not the way Saudi Arabia, for example, is:
  • Sunni Muslim 70% (in north)
  • Christian 5% (mostly in south and Khartoum)
  • Indigenous beliefs 25% 1
The presence of Islam and Arabs isn't what makes Sudan a part of the War on Terror. It's what Islamic Arabs are doing to the blacks. And, the way that Sudan recently protected Islam from a blasphemous teddy bear.

Since Darfur is still relatively unfamiliar, I thought it might be helpful to pull together a little of what's happening, and what led up to the current situation.

Darfur in the News This Week

"U.N.: 100,000 more dead in Darfur than reported"
CNN (April 22, 2008)
  • "... 300,000 are believed to have died in the tribal conflict in the past two years, said John Holmes, who also is the United Nations emergency relief coordinator.
    "Holmes said that sexual violence has increased and that food allotments for civilians affected by the civil war will be halved in a few days."
  • " 'Darfur today is still characterized by insecurity, lawlessness and impunity,' he said. 'A particularly worrying feature is evidence of high levels of sexual violence and exploitation in the northern corridor of west Darfur over the past two months.'
    "This is shown by the increased number of women and girls seeking treatment after sexual brutality, Holmes said."
  • "Six aid workers have been killed this year, and 42 humanitarian posts have been attacked.
    "The supply line also is hurt by soaring food prices: The price of staples such as millet has doubled since April 2007, Holmes said.
    "While expressing gratitude to the Sudanese government for improved cooperation under various agreements, Holmes said there still is no physical access to internally displaced persons and some other groups.
    "He said he was 'saddened and angry' that after five years, there has been no lasting solution to the suffering."
"U.N. Says Darfur Conflict Getting Worse With Perhaps 300,000 Dead"
FOXNews (April 22, 2008)

  • "The conflict began in early 2003 when ethnic African rebels took up arms against Sudan's Arab-dominated central government, accusing it of discrimination. Many of the worst atrocities in the war have been blamed on the janjaweed militia of Arab nomads allied with the government."
  • "Darfur's main rebel chief said Tuesday he told Security Council representatives last month that no peace talks can be held until security is restored.
    " 'Wrong negotiations will only complicate the matter and prolong the suffering of the people of Darfur,' Abdulwahid Elnur, head of the Sudan Liberation Movement, told The Associated Press during an interview in Paris, where he lives in exile.
    "When former U.N. humanitarian chief Jan Egeland brought the Darfur conflict to the Security Council's attention in April 2004, he said approximately 750,000 people were in danger.
    "Today, Holmes told the council, 'of Darfur's estimated 6 million people, some 4.27 million have now been seriously affected by the conflict.' "
  • "The U.N. World Food Program announced last week that it will have to halve the amount of food provided to Darfur's needy next month because humanitarian convoys are being attacked. The cut "could not come at a worse time ... as the rainy season approaches," Holmes said.
    "Egeland, the former U.N. humanitarian chief, estimated in 2006 that 200,000 people had lost their lives because of the conflict, from violence, disease and malnutrition. He said this was based on an independent mortality survey released in March 2005 by the U.N. World Health Organization.
    " 'That figure must be much higher now, perhaps half as much again,' Holmes said Tuesday.
    "Sudanese Ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamed countered that 'in our own calculations, the total number does not exceed 10,000.'
    "He said his government counts only people killed in fighting, saying there are no dead from malnutrition and starvation 'because in Darfur there is no epidemics, no starvations.' "
Sudan's Ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamed's remarkable statement reminded me of Iran's President Ahmadinejad's remarks about homosexuals in Iran in 2007. The Iranian president's claim was so outrageous that even Columbia University students laughed.

Maybe, Sunni or Shi'a, Islamic regimes that don't approve of the post-Magna Carta world have a common way of dealing with facts they don't like: pretend the facts aren't there.

Darfur: What's Happened in the Last Half-Century

I found a somewhat more complete background at another website:

"Military regimes favoring Islamic-oriented governments have dominated national politics since independence from the UK in 1956. Sudan was embroiled in two prolonged civil wars during most of the remainder of the 20th century. These conflicts were rooted in northern economic, political, and social domination of largely non-Muslim, non-Arab southern Sudanese."
  • First civil war ended, 1972
  • Civil war broke out again, 1983
    • More than 4,000,000 people displaced
    • Rebels say 2,000,000 people died
  • Peace talks with several signed accords, 2002-2004
  • Final North/South Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), signed in January 2005
    • Granted southern rebels autonomy for six years
    • Referendum for independence is to be held after those six years
  • A different conflict broke out in the western region of Darfur, 2003
    • Almost 2,000,000 people displaced in this conflict
    • An estimated 200,000 to 400,000 people died as a result of this second conflict
  • Command of Darfur peacekeeping operation transferred from the African Union to the UN, December 31, 2007
  • Peacekeeping troops struggling to stabilize the situation, early 2008
  • The Darfur/Sudan mess is becomming increasingly regional
    • Eastern Chad is becomming unstable
    • Sudan has entered the Central African Republic
    • Refugees, mostly from Ethiopia and Chad, entered Sudan
"Armed conflict, poor transport infrastructure, and lack of government support have chronically obstructed the provision of humanitarian assistance to affected populations."1

1 Unless otherwise noted, quotes and data are from "The World Factbook, Sudan," CIA

Return of the Radioactive Kimchi!! North Korean Nuclear Reactor in Syria Back in the News

September 6, 2007: Israeli jets bombed empty sand, an agricultural station, or a warehouse in Syria, according to various Syrian reports. The Israeli government was very, very quiet about what happened.

The Syrian government was probably responsible for the cleanup crew that went out and removed debris from the attack, so now it does seem to be just empty sand.

That was then, this is now.

It looks like Congressional intelligence committees will get confidential briefings tomorrow, about information regarding the Syrian nuclear reactor. Or empty sand. Or warehouse. Or agricultural station.

If members of Congress maintain their tradition for keeping secrets, particularly in an election year, I'd say that the first leak will come less than two hours after the first briefing ends. It will be interesting to see what various members of Congress say that they heard.

The Syrian claim that the Jews blew up an agricultural facility isn't as crazy as it sounds. I outlined a non-impossible scenario in an earlier post:

"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."

On a more serious note, here's a sampling of recent news coverage, announcing the upcoming briefings:
  • "Hands Across the Border - Syria and North Korea"
    Washington Post, White House Watch, by Dan Froomkin, Columnist
    "Jay Solomon writes in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required): 'North Korea was helping Syria build a plutonium-producing nuclear reactor before Israel bombed the site last September, the Bush administration is set to tell Congress.
    " 'The new information could increase the position of hard-liners in Congress and the administration who have argued against a deal being negotiated to dismantle North Korea's nuclear-weapons program. The hard-liners say Pyongyang hasn't provided enough assurances it will dismantle its atomic arsenal in return for economic and diplomatic incentives....' "
  • "Administration to Brief Congress on North Korea's Efforts to Help Syria Build Nuclear Facility" (April 23, 2008)
    "Congressional intelligence committees will be told Thursday that North Korea was helping Syria build a plutonium-producing nuclear reactor before Israeli warplanes bombed the site last September.
    "North Korea has long been suspected of helping Syria advance its secret nuclear program, but both countries deny it. Pyongyang says it has never spread its nuclear expertise beyond its borders."
  • "N Korea 'helped Syria with nukes' "
    The Australian (April 24, 2008) (I know: I think the International Date Line is involved.)
    "Korea was helping Syria build a plutonium-producing nuclear reactor before Israel bombed the site last September, the Bush administration is to tell the US Congress.
    "The new information could increase the position of hardliners in Congress and the administration who have argued against a deal being negotiated to dismantle North Korea's nuclear-weapons program."
Posts from "Another War-on-Terror Blog," September and October of 2007, on the Israeli raid and its aftermath:

News Never Revealed Inside the US! Reality Check, Please

That exceedingly prolific writer, Anonymous, left this comment on "Jimmy Carter, Condoleezza Rice, and Paying Attention" (April 22, 2008):

"Anonymous said...

what is your opinion on,

news never revealed inside the US one wonders why?
Here's that URL, as a link:

My opinion is that this is a pretty good piece of Reuters reporting.

And, I love those cultured British accents.

As to "news never revealed inside the US one wonders why?" - that presupposes that the news was never revealed inside the US.

Here's a reality check, from a few minutes with Google:
  • "Hamas offers truce in return for 1967 borders"
    msnbc (April. 21, 2008)
    "Khaled Mashaal told The Associated Press that he made the offer to former U.S. President Jimmy Carter in talks on Saturday. "We have offered a truce if Israel withdraws to the 1967 borders, a truce of 10 years as a proof of recognition," Mashaal said.
    "In his comments Monday, Mashaal used the Arabic word "hudna," meaning truce, which is more concrete than "tahdiya" — a period of calm — which Hamas often uses to describe a simple cease-fire."
  • "Hamas Leader Vows Not to Recognize Israel After Carter Trumpets Terror Group's Willingness to Be Good 'Neighbor'"
    FOXNews (April 21, 2008)
    "Just hours after former President Jimmy Carter trumpeted Hamas' agreement to let Israel "live as a neighbor," the same terrorist leader he met with face-to-face vowed not to recognize the Jewish state.
    "But Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal did offer Israel a 10-year truce if it withdraws from all lands it seized in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war."
  • "Carter says Hamas willing to be Israel's neighbor"
    NPR (April 21, 2008)
    "Hamas, which advocates Israel's destruction, instead recycled previous offers, including a 10-year truce if Israel takes the unlikely step of withdrawing from the West Bank and Jerusalem first.
    "Hamas has repeatedly confounded observers with its conflicting messages. Actions on the ground — seven rockets were fired on Israel from Hamas-ruled Gaza Monday, including one that wounded a 4-year-old boy — contradicted the Islamic militant group's positive words about coexistence and a truce."
I don't fault Anonymous with not being aware of the relatively heavy coverage of Former President Carter's meetings with Hamas leaders and others in the Middle East. Besides, Anonymous may be technically accurate. I have not seen the Reuters video used by American news media, nor have I seen an exact copy of the Reuters text. American news services often use Associated Press news copy.

'Everyone knows' that American news media show only one side of the Middle East issues: so why spend a few minutes on one of the world's biggest search engines to confirm that?

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

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Jimmy Carter, Condoleezza Rice, and Paying Attention

There's a specialty T-shirt with a message that I really liked: haven't seen it in years. The front looked something like this: Today's news reminded me of that shirt:

"Rice criticizes Carter over talks with Hamas" (April 22, 2008)

Excerpts: "In an interview with NPR, Carter said the State Department did not warn him off the trip. A State Department spokesman in Washington took issue with that on Monday, and Rice was more blunt in her account Tuesday."

"Attending a regional meeting on Iraq's security and future Tuesday, Rice contradicted Carter's assertions that he never got a clear signal from the State Department. Rice told reporters that the United States thought the visit could confuse the message that the country will not deal with Hamas.

" 'I just don't want there to be any confusion,' Rice said. 'The United States is not going to deal with Hamas and we had certainly told President Carter that we did not think meeting with Hamas was going to help' further a political settlement between Israel and the Palestinians."

In terms of diplomacy, the trip wasn't a complete wash: "Carter says top Hamas leaders told him during seven hours of talks in Damascus over the weekend that they are willing to live next to Israel, but a top Hamas official said the group would never outright recognize the Jewish state."

Maybe we should be more understanding of Former President Jimmy Carter's position, in light of his statement on NPR.

Mr Carter really wanted to go on that trip, and meet with Hamas leaders. And, he's a man.

Most women will recognize that there are men who, once they decide that they want something, either can't or won't listen to any verbal communication.

That's why they carry Tasers and cans of Mace, and learn martial arts.
A previous post, which touched on what the State Department and Congress did, trying to get Mr. Carter's attention: "Former President Carter, Hamas, Khalid Meshaal: Definitely Not Routine" (April 17, 2008).

Related posts, on Individuals and the War on Terror.

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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.