Saturday, February 28, 2009

If You Liked Hanoi Jane, You'll Love AMPAS in Iran: Maybe

Actually, the idea of some high-level creative types from America going to Iran "on a non-government mission, for a weekend of cultural and creative exchange meetings..." isn't all that daft.

AMPAS in Iran: Cultural Exchange, "Hanoi Jane II," or Something Else

On the other hand, I couldn't help remembering when the "Barbarella" starlet took her well-rounded talents to Hanoi: to "expose the lies and help end the war" - a very 'relevant' position, at the time.

My recollection is that her visit was hailed in the 'better' circles as a cry for peace - and proof that McCarthy-era blacklists hadn't entirely destroyed the heart of Hollywood.

Others started calling her 'Hanoi Jane,' and to this day aren't all that pleased with that particular performance.

That was then, this is now.

Maybe the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has more collective wisdom than a sixties starlet did.

AMPAS in Iran: No Political Agenda

According to AMPAS, anyway. They're being rather careful to point that out.

As International News put it, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts (AMPAS) visit to Iran is a " 'completely private initiative for educational and creative exchange and with no political agenda,' AMPAS director of communications Leslie Unger told AFP. She confirmed Iranian media reports saying the delegation included AMPAS president Sid Ganis, former president Frank Pierson, actress Annette Bening and producer William Horberg."

That "no political agenda" part sounds promising. And, AMPAS seems to be an movie industry/creative outfit: Maybe they really are just interested in comparing notes with Iranian movie-makers.

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences: Political Activists, or Show Biz Types?

I discovered that the four AMPAS people mentioned in the article have somewhat controversial backgrounds: But, probably not politically controversial. Going off-topic for a moment: I'm dubious about the wisdom of trying to force Jeannie out of the bottle; I'm not surprised that the great B.S. was difficult to work with; I enjoyed "Mars Attacks;" and have never seen Poodle Springs, but shudder at that title being used for a Marlow movie.

I could be wrong, but it looks like the AMPAS delegation to Iran is a bunch of long-time American movie industry professionals, who want to see what movies and movie makers are like in Iran. If they remember that Iran isn't India, and that Bollywood probably won't happen in Iran until the Ayatollahs are out, I think they'll be okay.

I'm keeping a good thought about this visit.

AMPAS in Iran: What Good Could Possibly Come of This?

Provided that the AMPAS people remember who allows them enormous leeway in what sort of movies they can make, and who probably wouldn't, the American movie-makers could learn from what their counterparts in Iran have been doing lately, and the Iranian artists and producers could do the same. I see it as a potentially win-win situation, in terms of boosting creative output on both sides.

There's a possibility that Iranian movie people will understand a little more about their American counterparts - and vice versa - which can't, I think, hurt. Knowing the people behind movies, or any other information, can make communication easier.

And, as the years, decades, centuries, and millennia go on, people living in Iran and in North America will, I think be better off if they can communicate effectively.

Cultural Exchange?! Isn't Iran the Enemy?!

Yes, and no.
Death to the Jews! Death to the Great Satan America! - Friends of America, These Aren't
The Ayatollahs may or may not be willing to live in a world that knows about the Magna Carta, and those eighteenth century revolutions. President Ahmadinejad's version of reality may be wack, even by the Ayatollah's standards, and Iran efforts to develop a very peaceful nuclear program and advanced ICBMs seems to have even the EU concerned.

That's Iran's government. Which some Iranians don't seem to be entirely happy with.

Academy of Motion Picture Arts is, I hope, interested in meeting with Iranian movie-makers. Some of whom may be somewhat neutral about the Ayatollah's vision for Iran.

It's a bit difficult not to think of the "death to Israel! Death to the great Satan America!" outfit that runs Iran as a non-enemy of America.

But, they're just the people who are running Iran's government. Iran and the Iranian people were around for a long, long time before the Ayatollahs: and, for that matter, before the Shah. I think they'll be around long after the Shah, the Ayatollahs, and whatever comes next, pass from the scene and are as deep in the past as Darius1 is now.

So, politics and goofy ideology aside, I don't really see Iran and the Iranian people as 'the enemy.'

Related posts: In the news: Background:
1 I know: It's "Dārayavauš," not "Darius." But, as I've pointed out before: this blog is in English, so its readers generally understand that language. Not so many people understand Ancient Persian, though: so I'm using the form of Dārayavauš that English-speaking people got from the Graeco-Roman world.

Turkey, the Ottoman Empire, Dead Armenians, and Learning from Mistakes

I went to school in America, so I know about the
  • Broken treaties with Indian nations
  • Dark days of legalized slavery
  • Overthrow of Kamehameha's kingdom
  • Atrocities during the War Between the States
  • Reconstruction's carpetbaggers
  • Relocation camps of WWII
  • Micromanaged mess we call the Vietnam War
In the last case, I was around while My Lai (and Watergate) became cultural icons.

That's one reason I'm so glad to be an American. Not what America did wrong: that, as an American citizen, my country made very sure that I knew what America had done wrong.

A Few Armenians Drop Dead, and They Act Like it's Some Big Deal

Around the start of the 20th century, a whole lot of Armenians stopped breathing, rather abruptly in some cases, in and around eastern Turkey. Scholars who study genocides give the Ottoman Empire credit for committing the first big genocide of the 20th century. More followed, making the Ottoman Empire a sort of international trend-setter.

Then, the Ottoman Empire collapsed. Turkey was a mess for a while, until Mustafa Kemal led the country into the current era of comparative peace and stability.

This is important:
  • Survivors of the Armenian genocide, who witnessed what the Ottoman Empire did, say that what happened was a genocide
  • Scholars who study genocides agree with them
  • The Ottoman Empire collapsed generations ago
  • Turkey was a mess, until Mustafa Kemal helped create the current government of Turkey
    • Which is not the Ottoman Empire
Given Turkey's history, I can understand - although not approve of - Turkey's blocking YouTube recently. Somebody thought that some video clips on YouTube insulted Mustafa Kemal.

So, Turkey blocked YouTube.

Think of it this way: If you're an American, and a YouTube video insulted (in your opinion) Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, or Harvey Milk, wouldn't you feel an impulse to block YouTube?

Maybe not. America doesn't operate that way, as a rule.

In Turkey, and elsewhere, it's different.

What started this post was a news item about a lawsuit:

"A father is suing the Turkish Education Ministry for forcing his 11-year-old daughter to watch a “racist” and “disturbing” film countering claims that Ottoman Turks committed genocide against Armenians in 1915 with graphic allegations of Armenian atrocities against Turks." (TimesOnline)

That's right, folks: "Armenian atrocities against Turks."

Like the Old South, where dark-skinned people did terrible things to melanin-deficient immigrants.

I'm Not Anti-Turkey, But: Let's Get Real

I think that the post-Ottoman Empire government of Turkey, which isn't the Ottoman Empire at all, is not the worst national government in the world. By far. In fact, given the culture and history of the area, they're doing quite well. Sure, a few Christians get killed here and there (some were involved with printing Bibles, you see), and the odd journalist gets knocked off.

But I'm willing to assume that those incidents are part of what happens when a country is dragged across several centuries, into the the post-eighteenth-century world.

The refusal of Turkey's current government - which is not the Ottoman Empire - to recognize what the Ottoman Empire did to Armenians: that's something else.

But, I'm used to living in America. When we do something stupid, we admit it.

Then, we make learning about what we did wrong part of the curriculum for our educational systems: So we won't do it again.

Related posts: In the news:

Friday, February 27, 2009

North Korea Set to Launch - Communications Satellite?

It's the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, or DPRK, of course: Or, for running-dog warmonger capitalistic aggressor oppressors, North Korea. I tend to call Kim Jong Il's end of the Korean Peninsula "North Korea," but recognize that others prefer different names.

The DPRK, North Korea, or whatever, says it's planning to test-launch a very peaceful communications satellite launch vehicle. Some other countries, including Japan and America, are dubious about just what the DPRK is testing.

Peace Committee: Reduce Puppet Warmongers' Stronghold to Debris

The DPRK's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said about the upcoming launch, and the Republic of Korea's ideas about sanctions against the DPRK.

According to the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, South Korea is "trumpeting about 'sanctions'", but foreigners will know "what will soar in the air in the days ahead." (AP)

That last, I believe.

The Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea wasn't finished: " 'If the puppet warmongers infringe upon our inviolable dignity even a bit ... we will not only punish the provokers but reduce their stronghold to debris,' which certainly shows how peaceful the Committee is. (AP)

Why Worry About a Communications Satellite?

I'm not all that concerned about other countries developing advanced transportation systems. India's Chandrayaan 1 mission, for example, is the sort of competition that I think keeps everybody from getting lazy. (There's more than politics to the Asian moon race - communications satellites are big business, and India is one of the countries that wants a piece of the action.)

What's different about North Korea's efforts is partly a matter of what we're calling "transparency" these days. A "transparent" administration allows outsiders to see what's going on inside. That can include:
  • Allowing reporters to talk to officials
  • Making documents available
  • Letting inspectors inspect
Kim Jong Il's DPRK is about as transparent as lead.

Then, there's the matter of attitude.

If the Democratic People's Republic of Korea wants nothing but peace, love, and understanding: They hide it well. Wonderfully choreographed dance numbers, on a scale that directors in Hollywood's golden age might have envied, photograph well. And, make for colorful and entertaining celebrations of the DPRK's achievements.

Equally well-choreographed displays of People's Army soldiers - and their equipment - are what concern me.

I don't have anything against professional dancers, or soldiers: and I think that choreographers and generals both contribute to society as a whole. In different ways, of course.

In both cases, it's not what they do so much as why the do what they do.

Japan, America, and Threats: This Isn't 1942

Japan's Defense Minister, Yasukazu Hamada, said that his country is considering whether or not to shoot down North Korea's "communications satellite," if it goes over Japanese territory. Considering the flight path of a North Korean launch in 1998, they may have an opportunity to act. (The Australian, Al Jazeera)

Meanwhile, over in America, the Navy's head of U.S. Pacific Commands, Admiral Timothy Keating, said that the American military is ready to deal with the launch.

"If a missile leaves the launch pad we'll be prepared to respond upon direction of the president," he said. And: "Should it look like it's not a satellite launch -- that it's something other than a satellite launch -- we'll be ready to respond." (ABC News)

Depending on your point of view, those statements show that Japan is a puppet warmonger, too - or that the Japanese and American military are, reasonably, ready to defend their countries from possible nuclear attack.
This isn't 1917, or 1941 - A Digression
I'm pretty sure that some, on American college campuses and elsewhere, will speak passionately in defense of one of the world's few remaining worker's paradises. I got over socialism in 1968, around the time Russia invaded and purged Czechoslovakia, but for some the fascination with 1917's revolution seems deathless.

Change is hard to accept.

In 1941, many of America's self-defined best and brightest still believed a Pulitzer Prize winner's glowing accounts of Stalin's efforts to industrialize Russia.

Five-Year Plans weren't quite so in vogue in 1975, when the Fall of Saigon was hailed as a triumph of the peace movement: by some of my fellow-students, anyway. At that time, some Americans still hadn't gotten over Pearl Harbor. Some haven't, to this day.

In Japan, some have tried to replace the less palatable aspects of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere with a nicer history. They haven't been entirely successful. Japan, along with America and some other countries, has embraced the Information Age, with its occasionally-embarrassing lack of respect for national boundaries.

Actually, in terms of consumer electronics, Japan has made quite a bit of the Information Age. But I'm digressing from this digression.

Today, I get the impression that a few people are still living in 1975, basking in the glories of righteous indignation over Watergate and My Lai, and looking back with nostalgia to a time when the worker's paradise was truly appreciated.

Living in the past isn't a good idea.

About two and a half millennia back, Heraclitus said: "Nothing endures but change." I'd say that he still has a point.

Change happens.

North Korean Leaders May Believe What They Say

North Korea doesn't seem to have gotten over failing to conquer the rest of the Korean Peninsula, after WWII. And, there's a chance that some of the DPRK's leaders actually believe their propaganda about America.

The Committee for the Peaceful Reunification's statement on reducing the puppet warmongers' stronghold to debris shows, I think, just how peace-loving the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is.

I don't mind the thought of a country like India having nuclear weapons and advanced missile systems so much. That country has its problems, like everyone, but it's a relatively stable democracy, and seems to have realized that there's more to gain through trade, than conquest.

The DPKR, on the other hand, is an ideologically-driven, tightly controlled, self-isolated country with a very top-down leadership. The DPRK may be trying to get into the communications satellite business, but they could also be getting ready to spread peace to Japan, Hawaii, Alaska, and China. Minnesota is out of range of North Korea's missiles - for now - but that's not all that comforting a thought.

Related posts: In the news: Background:

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Army Emergency Relief Scandal: Stockpiling, Hoarding, and 'Never Mind?'

I haven't found updates from The Associated Press on the 'news' that Army Emergency Relief is - prepare for a shock - connected with the Army. And, even more shocking, gives GIs zero-interest loans.

Not even revelations that soldiers have to qualify for these loans seems to have been enough to rekindle The Associated Press's journalistic zeal.

The story isn't dead, though: local and regional news outlets are still running with it. They're a bit divided on just what it all means, though. Take a look at headlines in "In the News," below.

Using a Buck-Eighty for Every Dollar Given - All Charities Should 'Hoard' Like This

I think one reason that The Associated Press isn't following up on this story is that some inconvenient facts got published.
  • 'Stockpiled' funds were
    • Loans to soldiers
    • Investments whose interest gave AER a 1/1.8 donation/program ratio
A comment on this blog revealed that AER did require that GIs qualify for the loans, and the Army expecting soldiers to pay their debts was revealed in the news.

In my world, having to qualify for a loan, and then pay it back, is a pretty basic expectation. So is investing money, and using the interest. If The Associated Press can be believed, not everybody sees things that way.

Related posts: In the news:

Canadian Mosque's "Specialized De-Radicalization Intervention Program" - Sounds Good

In today's news: Saudi Arabia's 'jihad rehab' has competition - and this program may do something besides serve the House of Saud.

"Canadian Mosque Sets Up 'Detox' Program for Would-Be Terrorists"
FOXNews (February 26, 2009)

"TORONTO — A Canadian mosque is taking a page from the Alcoholics Anonymous guidebook and applying it to its fight against terrorism...."

The mosque's director, Mohammed Shaikh, says that his "Specialized De-Radicalization Intervention Program" is the first of its kind.

The idea is to take the idea behind the Alcoholic Anonymous 12 step program, and gear it for young people who got in the "wrong crowd." (The Internet is great - but it's also a place where people can meet some very - ah - interesting individuals. When that happens to an adolescent/early adult, whose brain and mind are still sorting themselves out, bad things can happen.)

Getting off-topic there.

Complete Rejection of Religious Extremism and Suicide Bombings

One more quote. Talking about Al Qaeda's version of Islam, a counselor with the program, Ahmed Amiruddin, said:

" 'Their interpretation of the Islamic faith is inconsistent with the last 1,400 years of Islamic schools of thought,' Amiruddin says, 'We clarify the differences and bring people back toward the traditional interpretation of the Islamic faith, which completely rejects suicide bombings and extremism in all of its forms.' "

This is another case where I seem to have more in common with traditional Muslims, than with people in the dominant North American cultures. I'm a Catholic, and get frustrated by the odd, to be polite, notions of what Catholicism is. More of that in A Catholic Citizen in America (blatant, shameless plug).

What struck me about Toronto's Masjid el Noor Mosque was the "completely rejects suicide bombings and extremism in all it's forms" statement. It sounds like this group has twigged to the notion that killing people you don't agree with went out of style a long, long time ago.

However, it's close to what the Fiqh Council of North America published in a fatwa some years ago. Saying that "
'Islam strictly condemns religious extremism and the use of violence against innocent lives. There is no justification in Islam for extremism or terrorism....
' " sounds very reasonable.

Not Even Terrorists Support "Terrorism," it Seems

Just how reasonable the Fiqh Council's fatwa is, depends on what's meant by "extremism," "innocent lives," and "terrorism." Last year, following some of the standard-issue propaganda (or news, depending on your point of view) from the east end of the Mediterranean, I wrote:

"...I think I understand now. Palestinians blow up strategic schools and students, attack tactical markets, and the Jews are to blame for it. That makes outfits like Hamas 'national liberation movements.' When the Jewish military takes down rocket launchers hidden inside someone's home, that's terrorism.

"Goofy, but pretty straightforward: and quite simple to understand, once you learn to look at the world that way."
(May 16, 2008)

So much depends on how terms are defined.

As for the Fiqh Council: I still haven't made up my mind about whether they're being extremely cautious and academically scrupulous, consciously giving an 'out' for Muslims who want to kill people they don't approve of, or something else. I really don't know.

Masjid el Noor Mosque's Program - Probably Better than Jihad Rehab

I haven't read many glowing reports about Saudi Arabia's 'jihad rehab' program lately. A possible explanation may be that too many people read the fine print, and found out just what the House of Saud was teaching the terrorists.

As nearly as I can tell, the message was: Attacking the House of Saud, or embarrassing the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, is contrary to Islam. That's dandy for people living in Saudi Arabia, who don't offend the religious police, but not so good for the rest of us.

"Specialized De-Radicalization Intervention Program" - Let's Keep a Good Thought

The Toronto mosque's program isn't intended to deal with deeply-committed radical Muslims. The target group is younger people, who probably have as firm an idea of what Islam is, as many of their non-Muslim counterparts do of Christianity, Buddhism, or whatever.

I said no more quotes, and I meant it, but I suggest you read what Daveed Gartenstein-Ross has to say in the article, about the jihad rehab programs in Saudi Arabia and Yemen: He says a reason for their high recidivism rates is the high incentives for 'renouncing' terrorism.

Back to Toronto: At this point, I'm willing to wait and see. I've corresponded with enough Muslims to think that quite a number of people who follow Islam are calm, sensible, people who don't think bin Laden is right.

I hope, with some reason, that the Masjid el Noor Mosque's program has the goals they say it does: and has a chance of achieving those goals.

Related posts (so much depends on what the terms mean): In the news:

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Army Emergency Fund: More Revelations

News of Army Emergency Relief (AER) being linked with the United States Army, and giving out zero-interest loans, is still bouncing around local and regional news outlets.

The Associated Press didn't come up with another article today, about this shocking breach of the public trust.
Zero-Interest Loans: Shocking Breach of Public Trust?!
You see, according to The Associated Press, since money for those loans stays on the Army Emergency Relief books unless a GI defaults on a loan, the AER is "stockpiling" the money.

We're also supposed to be shocked and distressed that AER - and the Army - actually expects the loans to be repaid. The next thing we know, The Associated Press will discover that there's a military code of conduct, and that soldiers are expected to follow orders.

The Army, on Army Emergency Relief

Considering the internal contradictions that plagued the AP stories, I'm a bit more willing to believe what the Army says about an Army relief fund that's run - big surprise - by the Army.

Particularly since the American armed forces have a track record of studying their operations - and publishing what they found, good and bad.

Yesterday's article revealed that "each year, AER provides more aid to Soldiers than what was collected through donations -- the remainder of the money comes from the dividends paid on investments made by AER...." That means that for every dollar that's given to AER, AER spends about $1.84 on programs. If that's "stockpiling," I think other charities might try doing the same.

And Now for Something Completely Different

There are quite a few opinions about why the American newspaper industry seems to be on the skids. Sound familiar? I've posted about this before.

I think that transparently biased, or possibly incompetent, reporting of the sort The Associated Press indulged in recently, isn't helping traditional American news services - except possibly in very limited markets.

These days, many or most Americans with an interest in national and world affairs have many sources of information. And, are nobody's fools.

This isn't the sixties and seventies any more, with three coastal networks (four, counting PBS), and a handful of major newspapers and magazines controlling what most Americans read. It's the information age, and some guy in central Minnesota can read what Reuters, Al Jazeera, Xinhua, or any of thousands of bloggers, have to say about an issue or an event.

I think it's high time that The Associated Press and other traditional, old-school news agencies, realize that, put less effort into a futile quest for the glory days of My Lai and Watergate, and more into professional, accurate, reporting.

Who knows? It might save the American newspaper industry.

Related posts: In the news:

Change in Homeland Security: Don't Worry, Be Happy

Michael Chertoff isn't running Homeland Security any more. I'm sure that some Americans will find this a great relief. The Associated Press points out that he "used law enforcement and military jargon — 'intelligence,' 'analysis,' 'mission' — to describe the agency's objectives."

Such harsh, confrontational language. Mr. Chertoff talked as if there was a war on: which, unhappily, there is.

Now, Americans have Janet Napolitano as Homeland Security Secretary. The good news is that she realizes that her department is supposed to help Americans:

"The department's mission is straightforward, she says in her prepared testimony: 'To protect the American people from threats both foreign and domestic, both natural and manmade — to do all that we can to prevent threats from materializing, respond to them if they do and recover with resiliency.' "

It was a bit of a relief to see the phrase "and manmade" in her remarks.

The lead paragraphs of The Associated Press's article on Obama's new-and-improved Homeland Security suggested that America's government was going to try a policy of outreach and reconciliation with Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and other (misunderstood advocacy groups?).

Four More Years: Being Nice Sounds - Nice

America hasn't been successfully attacked since September 11, 2001. Since 9/11, America's government has been acting as if there was a war on. Which, considering what happened on the south side of Manhattan, there arguably is.

Not all Americans have been happy about that. War is not nice: people get hurt and killed; and it distracts the masses from what they feel are more important matters.

Me, I think it would be nice if Al Qaeda didn't want to kill Americans.

But, as I pointed out in another post:

"Al Qaeda has a rather well-defined goal: 'to establish a pan-Islamic Caliphate throughout the world by working with allied Islamic extremist groups to overthrow regimes it deems 'non-Islamic' and expelling Westerners and non-Muslims from Muslim countries.' (

"...In February of 1998, Al Qaeda said that 'it was the duty of all Muslims to kill US citizens—civilian or military—and their allies everywhere.' ("

No matter how much American leaders avoid saying "war" and "terrorism," Al Qaeda is very unlikely to change its mind about its basic goals. I doubt that the Taliban will become more inclusive and tolerant, either.

Sometimes Being Nice Isn't Enough

I sincerely hope that Napolitano's seemingly-conciliatory tone is mostly for domestic consumption, that the current administration is willing to be unpleasant, if necessary, to stop another attack - and that terrorists don't assume that America has let its guard down.

I insist on being hopeful. And, no matter what happens, the next four years are going to be interesting.

Change, in the news:
  • "No terror talk: Homeland Security head's new tone"
    The Associated Press (February 24, 2009)
    • "WASHINGTON (AP) — Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano avoids mention of terrorism or 9/11 in remarks prepared for her first congressional testimony since taking office, signaling a sharp change in tone from her predecessors.
    • "Napolitano is the first homeland security secretary to drop the term 'terror' and 'vulnerability' from remarks prepared for delivery to the House Homeland Security Committee, according to a copy obtained by The Associated Press...."
  • "Homeland chief orders gulf coast recovery review"
    The Associated Press (February 24, 2009)
    • "WASHINGTON (AP) — In one of her first moves as Homeland Security secretary, Janet Napolitano has ordered a fresh review of hurricane recovery efforts in the gulf coast 3 1/2 years after two killer hurricanes swept ashore.
    • "In testimony prepared for a congressional hearing Wednesday, Napolitano said the Federal Emergency Management Agency will assign a new team of senior staff members to look at ways to improve hurricane recovery operations that have been under way since hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. The Associated Press obtained an advance copy of her testimony...."

'Towelhead,' 'Retard,' and Talking Sense in a Global Society

Getting (slightly) caught up on correspondence and comments this morning, I found this remarkable observation:
"People are to [!] worried about the damn economy then our own security. I don't get how health care or taxes are more pressing then Iraq, Afgainistan, [!] Pakistan, Iran or any of those damn towelheads. But they don't appreciate everything the US military has given them. One of these days they will"
Being half-Mick, with relatives who are German, Filipino, Sioux, and Scandinavian, I probably can't understand how distressing it is to live in a world filled with non-WASPs.

White Anglo Saxon Protestants Don't Have a Monopoly on Goofiness

Then, there were the comments from someone who probably isn't WASP, including:
"...Your immediate surrounding must consist of people who are full of s***, but have you seen anyone at MASH making an unsubstantiated claim? I'm sorry I called your daughter a retard, but it doesn't give you the reason to start acting like one...."
My daughter, by the way, is "another ignorant Westerner" in this person's eyes: because she agreed with the person's views, but didn't express her agreement the right way.

Primate-House Manners and Public Discussion Don't Mix Well

Most people who comment on this blog's posts are sensible and level-headed. And are comfortable with the idea that not everyone in the world is exactly like the people in their social circle.

Others, not so much.

I'm grateful for this level of civility. It's not all that common online.

Public discourse on matters of intercultural relations and national security occasionally remind me of lively afternoons in the primate house, where it's prudent to be aware of arguments flying between cages.1 Among human beings, online, the projectiles are words, of course. But the principle seems to be the same.

As dramatic and expressive as flying fewmets are, however, I don't think that they help in the promotion of the flinger's views.

"Towelheads" - No Wonder 'Patriots' have a Tattered Reputation

Louisiana's Representative, John Cooksey, did no favors for Louisiana, Republicans, or ophthalmologist, when he said " 'If I see someone come in and he's got a diaper on his head and a fan belt around that diaper on his head, that guy needs to be pulled over and checked,' " after the 9/11 attack. (The New York Times op ed (June 27, 2006))

The more recent "towelheads" comment reminded me that people from the more 'sophisticated' subcultures in America may have reason to hold 'conservatives' and 'patriots' in contempt.

Someone whose world is limited to places like Berkeley, Amherst, Manhattan, San Francisco, and the connecting airspace, may never be in direct contact with outsiders. Understandably, it's the noisy minority that gets attention: and leaves the impression that people with a high regard for America also make ludicrous statements about diapers and non-western headgear.

I'm one of those people who, on the whole, think that America's a pretty good place.

Perfect, no. But, on the whole, over the decades, I think the world's better off for having an alternative to Stalin's Soviet Union, the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, and other more-or-less well-meaning efforts to impose order on the masses.

These days, it's outfits like Al Qaeda that have a vision for the world that doesn't include the sort of elbow-room that I think is necessary in a healthy society.

But I realize that, if people in the Middle East have the freedom to practice Islam - or another faith, or no faith at all - instead of toeing the Taliban line, they'll still be more likely to wear turbans, than baseball caps or fedoras.

It's one thing, when Islamic fanatics kill a man because he wore trousers. Outfits like Al Qaeda are expected to enforce a rigid set of rules: including a dress code.

But when a Red, White, and Blue Patriot - who presumably has a passion for Freedom, Democracy, and other American Ideals - talks about "towelheads" - - - That's just weird. Unless "freedom" means "everybody doing things my way."

An American Patriot Who's Okay With Turbans, NASCAR, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum

I looked up "patriot." It means "one who loves and defends his or her country" (Princeton Wordnet). Love of country isn't at the very top of my priority list, and I'm well aware of America's imperfections: but yes, I love America.

As for defending the country, this blog may serve as a reality check now and again - which is a sort of defense.

So, I suppose I could be called an American patriot.

It's not much of a choice, actually. As a practicing Catholic, I'm required to be a good citizen.

So, as an American patriot, do I expect everybody to wear baseball caps and watch NASCAR?


I think it's great that we're allowed to, and that quite a few of us do, wear 'duckbill caps' and watch car races. But I also think it's great that some Americans would rather spend time going to a museum, go rock climbing, or collect trash along a highway.

America didn't get to where it is by insisting on lockstep conformity.
  • I didn't like being told what I had to think and say back in college, in the heyday of political correctness.
  • I don't like seeing Congressmen comparing turbans to diapers
  • I don't think baseball caps are superior to turbans
Actually, that last point isn't quite true. I don't think there's any moral or cultural superiority connected to either. But, there are practical considerations that make one a better choice while playing baseball, and the other superior if you're planning to spend hours under a desert sun.

Want People to Take You Seriously? Drop the Attitude

Whatever a person's view on "Afgainistan," the Taliban, and whether the CIA or Al Qaeda represent a greater threat to American citizens, I think it's a good idea to remember a few things:
  • People aren't all alike: We don't all
    • Dress alike
    • Look alike
    • Prefer the same foods
Deal with it.

Since anything online that's written in English may be read by people in over a hundred countries, I think it's a good idea to leave terms like "towelhead" or "ignorant westerner" at home.2

Flinging angry epithets may get affirmation from those with similar views. But the blogosphere is a big place, where you're read by people from all over the world.

"Enlightened self interest" has been used to describe quite a few approaches to dealing with the real world. Tocqueville wrote about "self-interest rightly understood:" "...Each American knows when to sacrifice some of his private interests to save the rest...."

Giving up a distaste for turbans is, I think, a small sacrifice. That's assuming that the goal is to convince someone that American interference with the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and others in the 'Stans will, in the long run, benefit people living there.

Related posts: Related posts, on tolerance, bigotry, racism, and hatred.
1 I know: many zoos now have transparent barriers, not steel bars. But you get the idea.
2 I think it would be a good idea to consider doing some mental and spiritual housecleaning, too. But that's beyond the scope of this blog.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Army Emergency Relief Guilty! Vet Advocates Angry! You Know What the American Military is Like!

"Veterans advocates are venting anger and frustration toward the biggest charity within the U.S. military after revelations...."

"...Soldiers are squeezed for contributions...."

""...It just makes me sick to my stomach," said Amy Fairweather, director of the Iraq Veteran Project in San Francisco...."

And more of the same.

The Associated Press is into the second day of a shocking expose of how Army Emergency Relief (secretly related to the Army!!) has stockpiled lots of money by loaning it to GIs - interest-free.

Then, like the heartless minions of the military-industrial complex that they are, expecting the loans to be paid back.

Army Emergency Fund Loans: Shocking Revelations!!

I'll give The Associated Press due credit. They haven't, yet, descended into tabloid-style headlines for this little project.

On the other hand, I get the distinct feeling that AP is hoping that this will do what Haditha, Western Venture, Abu Ghraib, and Global Patriot reporting have failed to do: bring back the glory days of the Watergate era, when Americans imagined Robert Redford when they heard "investigative reporter," and cries of My Lai were heard throughout the land.

There may be a real issue here: but my guess is that The Associated Press should look around, see that this isn't the seventies any more, and deal with reality.

More-or-less related posts: In the news: Related posts, on tolerance, bigotry, racism, and hatred.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Army Emergency Relief Stockpiling Money Meant for GIs: Officers Involved in Coercive Tactics!

I'll give The Associated Press credit. The news service didn't use headlines like these:

American military ripping off soldiers!

Army secretly controls private non-profit, extorts millions from Americans!

Read All About It!!


But the "Army charity hoards millions" story's tone seems to go in that direction:

"FORT BLISS, Texas -- As soldiers stream home from Iraq and Afghanistan, the biggest charity inside the U.S. military has been stockpiling tens of millions of dollars meant to help put returning fighters back on their feet, an Associated Press investigation shows...." (AP, via FOXNews)

As anybody who's watched "All the President's Men" knows, handsome investigative reporters like Robert Redford are ever-vigilant heroes, ready at a moment's notice to uncover dastardly deeds done by dark-jowled miscreants in high places.

In the movies.

This is real life.

This hard-hitting "Army charity hoards millions" account by The Associated Press may be the harbinger of a Watergate-style scandal, but I've got my doubts.

"Stockpiling"?! Sit Down, Take a Deep Breath, and THINK

Better yet, read the entire article. Past the first couple of paragraphs.

I'm not one of those people who think that the American military, and anyone in uniform, can do no wrong. America's armed forces are staffed almost entirely by human beings. My own experience is that human beings are not perfect.

It's possible that there is a real scandal here, somewhere. The Associated Press claims that the Army Emergency Relief (AER) is holding a 12-year supply of money. Actually, the AP says that the American Institute of Philanthropy says there's a dozen year's supply of bucks: so the news service is covered, if this goes to court.

The AP also says, "Most charity watchdogs view 1-to-3 years of reserves as prudent, with more than that considered hoarding."

Sounds dreadful: until well into the article, where we find out that at least some of the money that the AER has been "stockpiling" is 'stockpiled' in loans to soldiers. Interest-free.

Loans to GIs? No Interest? What's Wrong With That?

Army Emergency Relief has the odd idea that money that's been loaned, should be paid back. If America's major financial institutions operated that way - - -. But that's another topic entirely.

The Associated Press seems rather shocked at what happens when soldiers don't fulfill their financial obligations:

"Superior officers come calling when AER loans aren't repaid on time. Soldiers can be fined or demoted for missing loan payments. They must clear their loans before transferring or leaving the service." (AP, via FOXNews)

The next thing you know, those superior officers will be expecting soldiers to follow legal orders!
The Associated Press Reveals Army Emergency Fund Practices
Apparently, The Associated Press believes that charities should give money away, not make loans. And that there's something suspicious about "AER projects a facade of independence but really operates under close Army control." I'll get back to that.

Here's part of the shocking truth, as related by The Associated Press:

"...Instead of giving money away, though, the Army charity lent out 91 percent of its emergency aid during the period 2003-2007. For accounting purposes, the loans, dispensed interest-free, are counted as expenses only when they are not paid back...."

"...AER executives defend their operation, insisting they need to keep sizable reserves to be ready for future catastrophes...."

AER's "Facade of Independence"?!

Maybe I'm naive, but when a charity is called "Army Emergency Relief," and a great deal of the documentation I find on it is on URLs with the .mil domain suffix, I think that it may have something to do with the Army - and may actually be linked to the American armed forces.

Maybe that's why I'm some guy in central Minnesota, and not an investigative reporter for The Associated Press.

I noticed that (subtle?) detail, while checking out what the AER claimed that it was doing.

One of the documents I found was "SUMMARY OF MAJOR CHANGES TO CHAPTER 19 DOD 7000.14-R, VOLUME 7B MILITARY PAY POLICY AND PROCEDURES FOR RETIRED PAY" (pdf). The document has the sort of drably descriptive title that characterizes a bureaucracy's literature. What's inside doesn't make very exciting reading, either.

But, it reveals just what Army Emergency Relief was up to, in June, 2001. Like:
    • Paragraph 1903 AUTHORIZED ALLOTMENTS....
      • 190302. Discretionary Allotments....
        • E. Repayment of loans to the Army Emergency Relief....
Again, the terrible truth: Army Emergency Relief loaned money, and expected it to be paid back.

Army Emergency Relief: You Know What Those People Are Like

The matter of Army Emergency Relief, loan repayment, and proper procedure, may be a real problem. Or, it could be what happens when reporters and editors who feel - deeply, sincerely, in their hearts - that the military is bad, find out that a charity with ties to the American military expects its loans to be repaid.

At this point, I don't know. My guess is that, if there is a real problem, we'll be hearing about it over and over for months. If today's report of hoarding and deception is based more on wishful thinking than fact, There won't be a whisper of the issue after the coming week, except in some rather specialized and ideologically committed publications, websites, and blogs.

I think it's likely that this "stockpiling" story is a non-starter, when it comes to winning the next-Watergate sweepstakes. Reactions I've found to this 'scandal' are not quite on the same page with The Associated Press: In the news:
Update (February 23, 2009)
The Associated Press is still at it:

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Australia's Victoria Fires: Al Qaeda, a World Caliphate, and a Pathetic Loner

People in Australia are going about the important business of mourning the dead. So far, the body count is 209. More human remains were discovered over the weekend, which may raise the death toll.

Australia's Bushfires and the War on Terror

I probably won't be writing very much about the tragedies in Victoria. It's not that I don't care, or that the horrific loss of life was unimportant.

But, this is Another War-on-Terror Blog. Its focus is the conflict between people and organizations like Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda; and those who either won't cooperate, or actively oppose Al Qaeda's goals.

Al Qaeda has a rather well-defined goal: "to establish a pan-Islamic Caliphate throughout the world by working with allied Islamic extremist groups to overthrow regimes it deems 'non-Islamic' and expelling Westerners and non-Muslims from Muslim countries." (

Even Americans who think that it's none of our business to get involved with problems elsewhere - except for things like the Kyoto Protocol - might consider Al Qaeda a threat. In February of 1998, Al Qaeda said that "it was the duty of all Muslims to kill US citizens—civilian or military—and their allies everywhere." (

Intolerant as this may seem, I don't want Al Qaeda to succeed. I'm rather fond of breathing, and can't be 'sufficiently Islamic' for the likes of bin Laden.

What's Al Qaeda Got to do With the Australian Fires?

Apparently, not much.

There was an Islamic website that called for a "forest Jihad," and some real terrorists were sentenced shortly before the Victoria fires broke out: but the fires seem at least partly the work of two arsonists.

One of them is Brendan Sokaluk, I haven't found the name of the second suspect.

Brendan Sokaluk seems to be a loner who likes to set fires, whose hero is Mother Earth. (

On his (now defunct) MySpace profile, he described himself as a happy young man who wants to who wants to get married. To a woman: a young, good-looking one, apparently. He also seems to have a thing for child pornography. (

By any reasonable standards, this doesn't sound like a jihadist, a lion of Islam out to slay the unbeliever.

The matter of who set the fires, how and (maybe) why, will have to be investigated: and there is almost certainly going to be a trial. I hope so: the alternative at this point would seem to be a lynch mob getting to him first. Mr. Sokaluk is quite possibly the least-popular person in Australia.

So, until and unless there's a fairly solid bit of evidence that links the Victoria fires to the War on Terror, this will probably be the last Victoria fires post.

I will keep an eye on news from Australia, though: and elsewhere.

Related posts: In the news:

Taliban Brings Peace, Islamic Law, to Pakistan's Swat Valley

That's one way to look at it.

In the short run, it's good news for people still living the Swat Valley, in Malakand, a lovely area in northwest Pakistan that used to be a tourist destination.

There's a permanent cease-fire there, Pakistan's national government says.

There's a 10-day unilateral cease-fire there, Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah says. According to him, the Taliban is thinking over their options. We'll probably know what they decide Wednesday, when the 'permanent' cease-fire ends.

Maybe before. One effective way to announce the end of a cease-fire is to start shooting.

Islamic Justice, Taliban Style, and the Swat Valley

In the long run, people who have already fled the Swat Valley are probably the 'lucky ones.' The Associated Press did a pretty good job of describing what's been happening in Swat:

"...In Swat, the Taliban have beheaded opponents, burned scores of girls schools and terrorized the police force to gain control of much of the valley despite a lengthy military offensive.

"In a deal with a hardline cleric linked to the Taliban, the government agreed to legal changes establishing an Islamic justice system in exchange for peace. The cleric has been in talks with Taliban fighters, who declared last Sunday that they would observe a 10-day cease-fire in a goodwill gesture...." (AP)

Given what happened in Afghanistan, I doubt that 'Islamic Justice,' Taliban style, is going to get much nicer, once they've got uncontested control the Swat Valley.

Pakistan Achieving Peace with the Taliban: Sounds Familiar

Malakand's commissioner, Syed Mohammad Javed, reported on talks with the Taliban: " 'They have made a commitment that they will observe a permanent ceasefire and we'll do the same,' " and he'd like all the people who fled the Swat region to come back. That last part I believe. Of the roughly 1,500,000 people who lived there, about 500,000 got out while the getting was good.

He also said that the government would open all boys and girls schools, up to grade four. Not to worry: the government will provide security.

Javed may be sincere, but if my family was there, I'd be very, very, concerned for their safety.

Since reading an article in Parameters last year, I've been rather cautious about invoking the 'Munich parallel.' Pakistan's arrangement with the Taliban reminds me so much of Chamberlain's success in negotiating the Munich Pact, however, that I'll risk making a comparison.

Pakistan's national government may not be able to prevent the Taliban from seizing control of the Swat Valley and surrounding area. This 'peace for our time' may be the best way of saving lives, in the short run: as well as a way of saving face.

But, I suspect and fear that the Pakistani government has at best delayed conflict. I doubt very much that the Taliban will be content with control of only part of Pakistan.

By the way: if this cease-fire sounds a bit familiar, it should. Pakistan and the Taliban had a cease-fire last year. It may have given the Taliban time to re-group.

But Wait, There's More!

Xinhua, an official Chinese news service, has what I think is supposed to be cheerful, positive, news about the situation in Pakistan: "Javed, Commissioner Malakand Division, of which Swat is the major city, said that the government would take more steps to restore peace in the region.

" 'You will listen more good news in the days to come,' Javed said."

I'm sure that I will "listen more good news in the days to come" - but I'm not sure that I'll see it as being quite so "good."

More or less related posts: In the news:

Obama Backs Bush Policy, Guantanamo up to Geneva Convention Standards: It's Different, When You're in Charge

This is a dark day for people who see Code Pink as a group of centrist moderates, and agree with professor Churchill's views on American guilt.

Guantanamo Prison Humane, Pentagon Recommends More Prayer and Group Recreation

Human rights groups aren't happy with the report President Obama ordered last month, about the appalling, degrading, awful, disgusting, terrible, brutal - - - you get the idea - - - conditions that an oppressive regime forces Islamic activists to endure at Guantanamo.

The Pentagon came up with the wrong answers.

The report apparently found that conditions at Guantanamo were humane, according to Geneva Convention standards. America's military did have some recommendations, though. Particularly troublesome prisoners should get more time for prayer, and for group recreation.

As the Los Angeles Times put it, "Rights groups criticize the findings." (LAT)

Bagram Airfield Detainees: Obama Confirms Bush Policy

President Barack Obama's administration made an important decision: Detainees at Bagram Airfield, in Afghanistan, don't have the same rights as American citizens.

They can't use American courts to challenge their detention.

That policy was set during the Bush administration: part of President Bush's efforts to wage a successful war on terror.

This didn't go down very well in some quarters.

" 'The hope we all had in President Obama to lead us on a different path has not turned out as we'd hoped,' said Tina Monshipour Foster, a human rights attorney representing a detainee at the Bagram Airfield. 'We all expected better.' " (AP)

My reaction is "I had feared worse."

But, I had hoped that Barack Obama, once he was at sitting at the desk where the buck stops, would behave responsibly.

America is at war, and although it's important to live up to this country's high standards: It's also prudent to remember who's trying to bring down the country: rights groups, human rights attorneys and all.

Things tend to look different, when you're the one in charge.

More or less related posts: In the news:

Friday, February 20, 2009

Honor Killing, Muzzammil Hassan and Aasiya, Protecting Feelings, and Common Sense

Honor killing is out of the news - for today. Muzzammil Hassan, founder of Bridges TV and prominent member of Orchard Park's Muslim community, is still in jail. It seems that beheading your wife is illegal in America.

If you read traditional news outlets, like The New York Times, you've learned that a Pakistani-American's decapitation of his wife is not an honor killing. Never mind that she shamed him by filing for divorce. And kicking him out of 'his' house.

Honor Killing, Image, and Common Sense: A Review

I wrote about honor killing in North America, and how traditional news media handle it, yesterday, in "Muzzammil Hassan's Beheaded Wife No Honor Killing - Move Along" (February 19, 2009).

Since this post continues an idea from "No Honor Killing," here's a review of yesterday's post:
  • Not All Muslims Kill Their Women
    • The vast majority of Middle Eastern families in America don't kill embarrassing wives and sisters
    • Some do
    • The 'Muslim community' and 'Islamic leaders' seem to get defensive as soon as this little cultural quirk is brought up
    • Traditional news media seems to accommodate hypersensitive Muslims
      • This may not be a good idea
  • Editor's Quandary: How to Handle a Prominent Muslim, Founder of Islamic Network; and a Beheaded Wife
    • After the story became international news, The New York Times wrote about
      • "outrage from Muslim leaders after suggestions that it had been some kind of 'honor killing' based on religious or cultural beliefs"
  • No Honor Killing Here: Move Along
    • The New York Times' slant on the story seems to have set the tone for most coverage of Aasiya Zubair Hassan's beheading
  • After the Times: Polite Reticence and (Sort of) Bold Challenge
    • CNN didn't use the phrase "honor killing" at all, in its low-key online coverage of the killing in Orchard Park, New York
    • An op-ed in the United Kingdom's Guardian made a remarkably bold claim, and call to action
      • But insisted that Muzzammil Hassan's beheading of Aasiya wasn't an honor killing
  • There is No Honor Killing: Just Domestic Violence
    • Wajahat Ali's "A wake-up call for the community" boldly suggests that Muslim community leaders should start treating domestic violence as a problem, and stop shielding wife-beaters
      • That's an over-simplification, of course
    • Wajahat Ali also says that we mustn't think about "honor killing:" it's "domestic violence"
  • Defying the Times: Journalists Unchained
    • The Buffalo News defies The New York Times' leadership, by acknowledging that
      • "...Advocates for women — some of them Muslims — have called for the community to acknowledge religious and cultural traditions that stigmatize divorce and heighten the danger of violence in divorce cases...."
  • 'Vilifying the Islamic Faith or Muslims?' No - Trying to Save Lives - Yes
    • A few people with roots in the Middle East seem to regard domestic violence as a culturally-acceptable way of dealing with having a snit
    • I'm pretty sure that many Muslims don't think that flogging or killing their women is a good idea
    • I think Islamic/Muslim/Middle Eastern religious and community leaders could do wonders for the image of Islam and Muslims if they'd make:
      • Fewer claims that honor killings aren't happening
      • A greater effort to spread the word that embarrassing relatives can't be killed in the new country

Domestic Violence and Honor Killing: Not Quite the Same

It's true that domestic violence isn't exclusively in one group.

Even America's cultural leaders, like Rihanna and Chris Brown, are involved. I know: it's all "allegedly" at this point. Their alleged dust-up in the alleged city of Los Angeles is, if what's leaking out is any indication, domestic violence.

It would be unreasonable to claim that Barbadians, Virginians, or American entertainment stars, are particularly prone to domestic violence.

So, why bring up "honor killing" when a prominent member of an upstate New York Muslim community whacks off his wife's head?

Why not just call it "domestic violence," like what apparently happened to Rihanna?
Domestic Violence, Culturally-Sanctioned Domestic Violence: Not the Same Thing
To the best of my knowledge, neither Barbadians, Virginians, nor the American entertainment industry, encourages family rulers to kill relatives who embarrass them, or condones honor killing.

On the other hand, it's hard not to notice the motive behind the murders of: It's also hard to miss the way that 'Muslim leaders' in America rather consistently deny that honor killing exists. And, insist that the phrase shouldn't be used.

The New York Times and its acolytes accommodate this view, by and large, denouncing the use of the phrase "honor killing" and insisting that "domestic violence" is the correctly tolerant, open-minded term. I don't think this is a good idea.

Given the way that Muslim community leaders are said to be 'outraged' at the mention of honor killing, while some Muslim women say it should stop, it's easy to get the impression that, by and large:
  • Muslim men are satisfied with the status quo
  • Muslim women aren't, entirely

Honor Killing: Embarrassing, but Ignoring the Problem Won't Solve It

As I wrote a few days ago, A couple of educated Americans came to an unstartling conclusion: Aasiya Hassan's beheading looks like an honor killing. One of them's Dr. Phyllis Chesler, professor of psychology at the Richmond College of the City University of New York. The other is M. Zuhdi Jasser, founder and chairman of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (he's from Wisconsin).

As reported in a news outlet that doesn't take its cues from The New York Times, the gruesome beheading and display of body parts, and other details, make Aasiya's murder look like an honor killing.

I don't blame the leaders of Orchard Park's Muslim community for being embarrassed. Another dead Muslima doesn't make them look good.

Denying that there's a serious problem probably isn't the best idea, though. Americans, by and large, don't approve of killing women - even if they embarrass their menfolk, or get fed up and leave.

And, although in a sense "honor killing" is an extreme form of domestic violence, it also seems to be a practice that's promoted or at least condoned in some parts of the world. Strident insistence that the phrase "honor killing" not be used, along with what appears to be failures to educate newcomers about what's allowed in the new country, does not make Muslims in America and Islam look good - and doesn't keep Muslim women alive.

Orchard Park Police: Investigating a Crime, Not Protecting Feelings

I don't envy Orchard Park's police. They've got a homicide to investigate, that involves a group of people who can make their lives - and careers - quite unpleasant.

My hat's off to Orchard Park's Police Chief, Andrew Benz. From the sounds of it, he isn't letting misguided multiculturalism get in the way of a police investigation.

"Asked if the murder is being probed as an honor killing, Benz replied, 'We've been told that there's no place for that kind of action in their faith, but I wouldn't say that there's anything that's being completely ruled out at this point.' " (FOXNews)

You Mean, Educated, Intelligent, People Think Honor Killing Exists?

I'll grant that "Islamophobia" - an irrational, unfounded fear of Islam - is real. And, it isn't limited to "confused and uneducated Americans. On the other hand, I don't think that research that may embarrass some Muslims is necessarily "Islamophobic."

Not even if it relates to a beheaded woman in upstate New York.

Psychologists, and even some Muslims have said that Aasiya's murder looks like an honor killing.
Aasiya's Decapitation and Honor Killing: A Psychologist's View
" 'The fierce and gruesome nature of this murder signals it's an honor killing,' said Dr. Phyllis Chesler, an author and professor of psychology at the Richmond College of the City University of New York. 'What she did [file for divorce] was worthy of capital punishment in his [Muzzammil Hassan's] eyes.'..."

"...Chesler, who wrote 'Are Honor Killings Simply Domestic Violence?' for Middle East Quarterly, said some Muslim men consider divorce a dishonor on their family.

" 'This is not permitted in their culture,' said Chesler, whose study analyzed more than 50 reports of honor killings in North America and Europe. 'This is, from a cultural point of view, an honor killing.'

"Chesler said honor killings typically are Muslim-on-Muslim crimes and largely involve teenage daughters, young women and, to a lesser extent, wives." (FOXNews)
Aasiya's Decapitation and Honor Killing: A Muslim's View
The non-Muslim psychologist's conclusion is backed up M. Zuhdi Jasser. He's the founder and chairman of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy. He said: " 'She expressed through the legal system that she was being abused, and at the moment she asked for divorce, she's not only murdered — she's decapitated.'..."

"...Jasser said he was concerned that Aasiya Hassan suffered such a barbaric death after she and her husband were seen as a couple focused on bettering the 'Islamic image' in the United States.

" 'The most dangerous aspect of this case is to simply say it's domestic violence,' ...." Jasser said. (FOXNews)
Aasiya's Decapitation and Honor Killing: Let's Not Talk About it
Not everybody sees eye-to-eye with Chesler and Jasser.

"...Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, a producer and host for Bridges TV who worked alongside the Hassans, said 'now is not the time' to debate the cultural and religious context of the murder that appears to be an honor killing inspired by Aasiya Hassan's desire to divorce her husband.

" 'There will be time for that later,'.... 'I will only say to those who leap to the conclusion that this kind of thing is intrinsic to Islam, ask yourselves if you think that drunkenness is intrinsic to Irish Catholics, or cheating in business is to Jews?' " (FOXNews)

Hats off to Hirschfield: invoking Irish Catholics and Jews is a good rhetoric.

On the other hand, although Chesler said " 'Islamist advocacy groups continue to obfuscate the problem, and government and police officials accept their inaccurate versions of reality, women will continue to be killed for honor in the West....' " "Islamist advocacy groups" and "Islam" aren't, I hope, the same thing.

And it's a little hard for me to believe that M. Zuhdi Jasser thinks that honor killing "is intrinsic to Islam" - even if he is from Wisconsin.

I think it's about time for 'Muslim community leaders' to start worrying less about their bruised sensibilities, and more about Muslimas' lives - and how their denials make Islam look.

Islam, Muslims, and Honor Killing: Deciding What to Defend

Muslim women are being killed by Muslim men: because the men are in a snit about something. Back in the old country, the men were expected to act that way.

American law and custom says this isn't right. Quite a few Muslims who don't live in America agree: including Pakistan's Islamic Party, which said that honor killing is not right according to Islam.

Honor killing probably has more to do with a Middle Eastern culture that was ancient when Abraham had children, than what The Prophet taught a few thousand years later. On the other hand, a comment on an earlier post claimed that "orthodox Islam" "doesn't condone 'honor killing', but it does decriminalize the act of parents killing their children" - and has citations to back up the claim. On the other hand, the comment is from that prolific writer, Anonymous.

Generalizing is Dumb - So is Denial

I don't think it's right - or sensible - to assume that, because a few cultures where almost everyone is a Muslim practice honor killing, all Muslims accept honor killing. Much less that Islam itself says 'if your wife makes you feel bad, kill her.'

On the other hand, between a rising body count, and demands that "honor killing" not be mentioned, "honor killing" does seem to be an embarrassment that some Muslims desperately want people to ignore. That doesn't, in my opinion, make the 'Muslim community' look good. And, keeping honor killing a little community secret probably won't help save lives.

The way I see it, when it comes to "honor killing" and the Muslim community's apparently sensitive feelings, this would be a good time for 'open minded' people to take a deep breath, and think very carefully about exactly what they are defending.

Related posts: News and views: Views and background: Related posts, on tolerance, bigotry, racism, and hatred.

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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.