Thursday, March 31, 2011

Libya: Not a Good Week for the Colonel

This isn't a good week for the Libyan colonel.

His current voice at the United Nations is "a former Nicaraguan foreign minister" who's in America on a tourist visa. That's provided that the Nicaraguan's paperwork gets to the right office in the U. N. - and he gets a visa allowing him to officially represent someone in the United Nations. (The New York Times))

Libya's boss is also missing two high-ranking officials. They're not 'victims of crusader aggression,' or whatever the line is. My guess is that they realize that the jig is up1, and they're getting out while they can.

Libya's former Foreign Minister, Ali Abdussalam Treki, was supposed to be the next representative of the colonel's country at the United Nations. Then he turned up in Cairo, essentially saying 'I quit.'

Foreign minister, Moussa Koussa, is now another former F. M. - and the last I read, he's in the United Kingdom.

Libya: Not Over, Not Simple

I've heard - but haven't followed up on - stories about earnest thinkers who are appalled and aghast at the idea of supplying folks who have had enough of the colonel with weapons. In a way, I see their point. It would be nice if everybody in Libya would just take a deep breath, and decide to sit down and settle their differences over a cup of tea.

It would also be nice if the colonel hadn't had the 'stray dogs' who didn't cooperate in his 1969 revolution 'liquidated.'

Sadly, in my opinion, being 'nice' isn't always good enough.

I've also heard - but again haven't followed up on - accounts of what happens when folks who are trying to get their country out of the colonel's hands don't have the material support they need.

And, of course, there's the specter of Al Qaeda taking over Libya. Or some other like-minded outfit. That could happen. Which, I gather from the news, is why the CIA is going the rounds in Libya, finding out who is trying to do what - and why.

Has America made mistakes before? Yes, of course. Has this country learned? For the most part, in my opinion, yes. We finally gave up on slavery as a bad idea, decided that it was okay for women to vote, and even had an Irishman as president.

My guess is that the current administration doesn't want to be remembered as the folks who gave Libya to Al Qaeda. I didn't vote for President Obama - but I've never assumed that he's stupid, either.

Do I think that the solution to all of Libya's problems is getting rid of the colonel? Hardly.

The country, in my opinion, is a mess - maybe not as badly-off as Somalia, but few places are. The colonel has had decades to mismanage his territory - and it's likely that everybody from the International Red Cross to Al Qaeda and Al Shabaab is eager to get in and do their thing. Folks living in Libya are also - obviously, given the number of enforcers the colonel still has - hardly a homogeneous group.

"Simple" is what we find in some fiction. Libya is quite real.

My hope is that Libyans who want to live with the rest of the world get control of the country - and I'm pretty sure that keeping them lightly armed isn't going to help.

Somewhat-related posts:
News and views:

Excerpts from news and views:
"For a man so cultured in the dark arts of international diplomacy, perhaps it should not have been a surprise that Moussa Koussa engineered his escape in the way that he did....

"...A friend of Koussa's family shed a little more light on the extraordinary escape, and the anxiety that Koussa will now be feeling. 'He has left Tripoli, but his wife and children are still there,' said Noman Benotman, a senior analyst at the Quilliam Foundation in London. 'I fear for his family, and what kind of retaliation there might be against them.'...

"...After leaving university, Koussa was sent to London to head the People's Bureau in St James's Square, London – in effect the country's ambassador in the UK. The role meant he was in charge of security at all Libyan embassies in northern Europe, and he was known to be involved in buying weapons.

"He was also charged by Gaddafi with liquidating what were called – in chilling Libyan officialese – 'stray dogs' who betrayed the 1969 revolution....

" June 1980, he was expelled from the country on the advice of MI5.

"Speaking to the Times outside his office, Koussa called publicly for the murder of two dissidents, and said Libya was thinking of co-operating with the IRA. 'We don't like breaking the law here,' he said. 'But we are fighting these people because they worked against our revolution.'

"The outburst led the British media to characterise him as 'the envoy of death' and he was given 48 hours to go....

"...Though the families of the Lockerbie victims will have welcomed that [immunity from prosecution], Djebbar questioned the wisdom of stating it explicitly. 'There might have been wrongdoing in the past but he has done the right thing on this occasion in terms of Libya's future. People who abandon Gaddafi are doing the right thing. This is not the time to talk about retribution or punishment. What is of paramount importance is to prevent the division of Libya and stop it becoming another Somalia.' "

"The drama over who will next represent Libya at the United Nations deepened Thursday in the wake of two apparent defections.

"Moammar Gadhafi's government earlier this month asked that former Foreign Minister Ali Abdussalam Treki be approved as its envoy.

"Treki, who recently served as the president of the U.N. General Assembly, was to replace Abdurrahman Mohamed Shalgham as ambassador in New York, but he never arrived.

"A relative of Treki and an opposition leader said Thursday that Treki has defected and was in Cairo.

"Cairo-based Libyan opposition activist Hani Soufrakis said he spoke with Treki several times by phone on Thursday, and confirmed that the diplomat had cut ties with Gadhafi's government....

"...With recent questions over Treki's whereabouts, it appeared Libya had shifted to Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, a former president of the U.N. General Assembly and a former Nicaraguan foreign minister, to be its envoy.

"But that came before news that the Libyan foreign minister who supported him defected Wednesday....

"...The United Nations said Thursday it has still not received an official, legal form from Libya requesting Brockmann be its man...."
(CNN World)

"A former Nicaraguan foreign minister who once called President Ronald Reagan 'the butcher of my people' has been appointed to represent Libya at the United Nations after its delegate was denied a visa, the Nicaraguan government said on Wednesday.

"Nicaragua said the former minister, Miguel D'Escoto Brockmann, 78, an outspoken critic of the United States and a Catholic priest, would replace the Libyan diplomat Ali Abdussalam Treki, who had been unable to obtain a visa to enter the United States.

"Libya's ambassador to the United Nations, Abdurrahman Mohamed Shalgam, defected in late February after denouncing Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi during a Security Council meeting during which he pleaded for international help to save Libya from bloodshed.

"The Nicaraguan government of President Daniel Ortega, a leftist who has frequently sparred with the United States and has forged close ties with Colonel Qaddafi, said it sent a letter to the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, on Tuesday to inform him of the appointment. Before he defected, Libya's foreign minister, Moussa Koussa, also notified Mr. Ban. But the United Nations said on Wednesday that it had not received official notice.

"In its letter, the Nicaraguan government said that Mr. D'Escoto would 'support the Libyan brothers in their battle to ensure respect for sovereignty and self-determination - both of which are being violated by the powerful, who once again threaten the independence and peace of the people.'

"But Susan E. Rice, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, said Mr. D'Escoto was not an American citizen - even though he was born in Los Angeles - and was in the country on a tourist visa, which did not permit him to act as the representative of a foreign government. She said he would need to leave the country and apply for a different visa if he were to take up the post....

"...The son of a Nicaraguan ambassador to the United States, Mr. D'Escoto has a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.

".Some United Nations diplomats said he was unlikely to help overcome Libya's status as a pariah. In his previous role at the United Nations, they said, he had shown himself to be viscerally anti-American. Others said he had tamed his anti-Americanism."
(The New York Times)
Characterizing Miguel D'Escoto Brockmann as "an outspoken critic of the United States and a Catholic priest" is, to the best of my knowledge, accurate. As far as it goes. I've discussed this sort of thing before:Back to the excerpts:
"Miguel D'Escoto Brockmann, a former foreign minister of Nicaragua's socialist Sandinista government and one-time president of the United Nations General Assembly, has been named by Muammar Qaddafi's regime as Libya's ambassador to the UN.

"Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa informed Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon of the nomination in a letter dated March 29. The letter says D’Escoto Brockmann was named to the post because Ali Abdussalam Treki, also a former General Assembly president who was chosen to represent the Qaddafi government at the UN, couldn’t get a visa to enter the U.S. [NOT QUITE: He's got a tourist visa, which doesn't cover being a U. N. ambassador, see (The New York Times)]

"D'Escoto Brockmann, a Catholic priest who was General Assembly president in 2008 and 2009, once said former U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush were 'possessed by the demons of manifest destiny.' D'Escoto was Nicaragua's foreign minister for the Sandinista government as it fought U.S.-backed contra rebels during the nation's 1980s civil war.

"He called Reagan a 'butcher of my people' for supporting a rebellion that caused Nicaraguans to suffer 'something much bigger than the Twin Towers,' a reference to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York.

"Nicaragua's government said in a statement that D'Escoto Brockmann received instructions from Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega to 'accept this nomination and represent the people and government of Libya to re-establish peace and defend their legitimate right to resolve their national conflicts without foreign intervention.'...

"...'There's an old story here,' [Washington-based Brookings Institution senior fellow Kevin] Casas-Zamora said. 'An old debt that Ortega is trying to repay.'..."

1 It's 'the jig is up' in the dialect of English I speak. You may have run into the expression as 'the gig is up.' Either way, it means that something (generally underhanded or at least dubious) has been discovered - and it's time to run, or cut a deal with the authorities. (see The Phrase Finder,

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Libya, Syria, Bahrain: Journalists Uncooperative; 'the Masses' Worse

There's quite a bit going on in North Africa and the Middle East these days: sometimes to the point of pushing Japan's issues with earthquake and tsunami cleanup out as the lead news item.

I'm in the same position as Will Rogers: "Well, all I know is what I read in the papers." (Will Rogers, New York Times, Sept 30 1923, via The Quotations Page) Except that today, although newspapers are still around, I mostly read online news services. Times have changed a lot since 1923, when "all I know" was written. For that matter, this isn't the world of the '80s. I'll get back to that. (North Africa, the Middle East: What's Going On?)

The folks in Tunisia either started - or were the first in the series of - revolts against well-established, 'stable,' business-as-usual regimes. For what it's worth, I think they've got legitimate grievances. I've discussed that before, somewhat briefly. (March 18, 2011)

By the way, I'm going to discuss one aspect of what's happening in places where cultural roots go back millennia. That's not because I think it's a simple situation. On the other hand, I have (barely) enough time to write about this one facet.

Libya, My Take

Colonel Muammar Abu Minyar al-Qadhafi is, I think, having something of a public relations problem these days. Journalists, some of them at least, aren't cooperating. Some reporters have been downright dubious about the colonel's official line: and, what's impressive to me, their editors let the stories through.

In the 'good old days,' foreign leaders could, arguably, count on the journalists of the 'right sort' accepting the party line: and repeating it. I think deliberate, conscious, bias was seldom involved. More often, I hope, the incomplete, one-sided stories were a result of folks in a relatively small, insulated, subculture not recognizing their intellectual and emotional blind spots. (October 21, 2008)

Everybody, I think, has little choice but to see the world from their own viewpoint. Various news services have, in my opinion, shown rather distinct perspectives on Libya's events. Which isn't the same as thinking that 'they're making up' what they're reporting. (March 26, 2011)

Before moving on: is the Libyan colonel's name spelled Qadhafi, Qaddafi, or Gaddafi?

The answer is - yes. I've mentioned the difficulties of transliteration from one alphabet to another before. (February 21, 2011)

Yemen, My Take

There isn't quite so much news about the mess in Yemen, but it's quite real to folks living there - and their neighbors.

On paper, Yemen is a nation. It's been a member of the United Nations since 1947, 1967, and 1990: depending on which version of Yemen you count.

I'm not entirely convinced that the piece of real estate we call "Yemen" is actually a nation, in the traditional sense, which gets me into linguistics, semantics, culture, history, and more topics than I want to handle just now.1

Whatever Yemen is, folks living there are not having a good time. What passes for a central government there either has no control of most of the country, and at-best-marginal influence over what goes on in the capital. Or their government is unreliable on several levels. Maybe both. (November 6, 2010, January 13, 2009, October 28, 2007)

It looks like folks in Yemen have finally had enough, and are trying to swap out the boss for someone who won't do as much damage.

Quite a bit of the Yemen-related news I found focused on the "humanitarian crisis" there. Folks living in Yemen do not seem to be living well just now. Which reminds me of the phrase, "international community." And that's yet another topic.2

Syria, My Take

Syria, today, reminds me a little of the 'banana republics' of my youth. That was when at least part of America's government supported 'stable democracies,' whose presidente was sufficiently Machiavellian to hang on to power. Which gets me into Machiavelli, and yet more topics.3

Back to Syria and 'banana republics.' Back in the '60s, my government's insistence that one warlord was a "president" because his thugs got guns from America; and another was a "dictator" because his didn't was - - - distasteful. I'm still not convinced that it was necessary. Convenient, certainly. And that isn't another topic.

At least one cable/online news network seems to realize that Syria's "president" may not be running an entirely free and 'transparent' government. Examples:
  • Tik Root, American citizen, dropped out of sight in Syria
    • He's a college kid
    • Maybe he just needed a break from studies
      • Or, not
  • "...Mysterious men in black shirts carrying sophisticated weapons terrorized residents..."
    • They're 'foreigners'
      • Officially
      • Who get released as soon as someone turns them over to Syrian police
        • Allegedly
My hat's off to reporters - and editors - who report facts, say how they got the facts - and when they can't confirm what they're told. I admire accuracy: and think that the virtue has gotten to be something of a necessity, at least in parts of the West. And, again, I'll get back to that. (North Africa, the Middle East: What's Going On?)

Bahrain, My Take

Bahrain's interior minister said that his king isn't having folks killed because they follow a particular sort of Islam. I'm inclined to believe him. I think Bahrain's king is having folks who don't like his leadership killed - and that it's incidental that they're mostly not Sunni.

That doesn't mean that I think it's a good idea to try installing loyalty by killing folks who don't cheer loudly enough.

As for the Saudi King sending enforcers to Bahrain: I don't think it's right, in an ethical sense. On the other hand, I think it makes sense, in a sad sort of way. The House of Saud may believe that supporting one of the world's few remaining old-school kings is in their family's interest. And they may be right, at least in the short term.

"Odyssey Dawn"

The Pentagon's name for operations in Libya is "Odyssey Dawn." It's an odd name for something that's being presented as a relatively short mission. On the other hand, I wouldn't call it "Pentagon-crafted nonsense." I am willing to believe that:
"...that there's no hidden meaning behind 'Operation Odyssey Dawn.' It's just the product of the Pentagon's semi-random name-generating system...."
(Danger Room, Wired)
I do think that the name is a wonderfully poor choice, from a marketing point of view. Which is one reason why I'm inclined to believe that the choice of "Operation Odyssey Dawn" really did come from a "semi-random name-generating system," with little-to-no human intervention.

That Wired article explains the system, by the way. In my opinion, it's a good read - and somewhat off-topic for this blog.

North Africa, the Middle East: What's Going On?

There's much more going on in the swath of land from Libya to Yemen, involving countries including Egypt and Iran, and about 11,000 years of history. Since I've run out of time - and you may be running out of patience - I'll cut to the chase.

Gutenberg's movable type didn't start the Reformation, or make otherwise-law-abiding British colonists revolt against King George III. But I think the ability to mass-produce written documents - in large volume and at relatively low cost - made both a whole lot more likely. (February 23, 2011)

On the whole, I think Gutenberg's invention was a good idea. Arguably, movable type helped make literacy practical for more people. That led, I think, to:
  • Ideas spreading
    • Fast
    • Efficiently
    • With less distortion
      • Then there's propaganda
        • It's not a perfect world
  • More folks having access to information storage and retrieval that
    • Didn't rely on the memory of individuals
    • Didn't degrade over time
      • In principle
We don't live in a perfect world. But, on the whole, I'd rather live now than in 1450.

My view of how movable type affected the world is part of why I do not, in general, have a problem with folks having access to 'dangerous' technology: like LP gas, guns, or computers. (June 27, 2008)

Internet-capable cell phones with video cameras, blogs, and Twitter didn't, in my opinion, 'make' folks in Tunisia get fed up with their boss earlier this year. (January 24, 2011) But, like the printing press, Information Age technology made it easier - in some cases, possible - for folks to compare notes. And, eventually, decide that they'd had enough.

Finally, about reporters, editors, and a necessary virtue:

I am very glad to see at least some news services say where they got their facts, which facts they could verify, and which are more opinions or assertions than facts. I also think this is a sort of virtue born of necessity.

Information Age technology, and the social structures that are emerging, make it possible for folks to share what they've noticed with others. Many others. Back in the 'good old days,' a person who'd actually witnessed an event - and noticed that what happened didn't match what was in the papers - could share that discrepancy with neighbors. And that's about it.

Eventually, if the discrepancy was glaring enough - and the right traveler was going in the right direction at the right time - a few other folks would learn about the disconnect between news and fact.

That was then, this is now.

I think it's getting very difficult for a few Yankee gentlemen to decide what 'the Masses' in America should see - and even 'reputable' news services are learning that folks notice when 'the news' isn't quite what really happened. And I've been over this before. (January 7, 2009)

Related posts:
News and views:

Excerpts from recent news and views:


"Intelligence on the rebel forces battling Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has shown "flickers" of al Qaeda or Hezbollah presence but there is still no detailed picture of the emerging opposition, NATO's top operations commander said on Tuesday.

" 'We are examining very closely the content, composition, the personalities, who are the leaders of these opposition forces,' Admiral James Stavridis, NATO's supreme allied commander for Europe and also commander of U.S. European Command, said during testimony at the U.S. Senate.

"Gaddafi's troops on Tuesday reversed the westward charge of rebel forces as world powers met in London more than a week after the United States and other nations launched a military campaign aimed at protecting Libyan civilians.

"While Stavridis said the opposition's leadership appeared to be 'responsible men and women' fighting Gaddafi, he said that 'we have seen flickers in the intelligence of potential al Qaeda, Hezbollah. We've seen different things.'

" 'But at this point I don't have detail sufficient to say there is a significant al Qaeda presence or any other terrorist presence,' he said...."

"Three loud explosions could be heard in Tripoli on Tuesday. It was the first time since the uprising began that such blasts were heard during daylight in the Libyan capitol.

"The three blasts came within about 20 minutes. No anti-aircraft fire could be seen at the time.

"To the east, Libyan forces pounded parts of the city of Misrata on Tuesday, with tanks firing mortar shells and troops using heavy artillery in an effort to retake control of the city, a witness told CNN.

"Coalition planes circled overhead but did not strike the tanks, he said.

"As representatives of numerous countries met in London to decide the next steps in their Libya effort, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi showed no sign of letting up his effort to crush the rebellion that seeks an end to his nearly 42 years in power.

"The day after Gadhafi's regime tried to convince journalists that it was in control of Misrata by taking them on a trip to part of the city -- but not allowing them into the city center -- his troops were killing and wounding civilians and evicting thousands of people from their homes, the witness told CNN...."

"President Barack Obama's defense of limited U.S. military engagement in Libya appears not to have won over many congressional critics of his administration's handling of developments in the northern African nation. The U.S. mission in Libya remains a contentious issue on Capitol Hill.

"The top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, John McCain of Arizona, says President Obama made a strong case for U.S. intervention in Libya in his speech to the nation late Monday. But, appearing on CBS' Early Show, McCain took issue with the president's assertion that going beyond a no-fly zone in Libya and forcing leader Moammar Gadhafi from power would be a mistake, drawing comparison's with Iraq.

" 'If Gadhafi remains in power, you will see a stalemate, the same kind of thing we saw with [former Iraqi leader] Saddam Hussein when we established a no-fly zone, sanctions, etc, and it lasted 10 years. Gadhafi in power will continue to commit acts of terror against his own people. And, of course, he is guilty of war crimes,' he said...."


"Yemen's political crisis deepened on Tuesday as President Ali Abdullah Saleh refused to step down in the face of mounting desertions by his supporters and officials said the government had lost control of six of the country's 18 provinces. Saleh told a meeting today that he would not step down as 95% of the Yemenis backed his call for a unified Yemen and instead it should be his opponents, who should leave the country, Al Arabia channel reported.

"The President's refusal comes as the death toll in the massive blast and fire at an ammunition plant in south Yemen shot up to 150 and transition of power talks remained stalled.

" '95 bodies have been identified and many others were burnt beyond recognition,' Mohsin Salem, a local government official in the Abyan province said, adding that the province where the incident had happened has been seized by the al Qaeda cadres.

"Yemeni official said, in recent days government forces has abandoned their force across the country, including areas where northern rebels have challenged the military and southern provinces where al Qaeda's Arabian branch has maintained sanctuaries.

"The collapse of the authority was acknowledged by the President himself, who told a committee from his political party that 'six of the Yemen's 18 provinces had fallen'.

"Saleh said the country was being ripped apart as he hardened his public stance declaring he would make no more concessions.

"The Yemeni strongman, who has been in power for the last 32 years has moved away from a dialogue with opposition mediated by American diplomats and Saudi Arabia...."
(Hindustan Times)

"A senior UN humanitarian official has expressed concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Yemen as anti-government protests gain momentum in the impoverished Arab nation.

" 'I urge those involved to refrain from excessive violence and ensure the safety of the civilian population,' UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos said in a news release issued on Monday.

" 'I am especially concerned about the humanitarian situation in Yemen because, even before the recent protests, the country was facing a humanitarian crisis due to protracted conflict in the north displacing 300,000 people, some of them multiple times, she added.

" 'The recent fighting has again affected hundreds of people that have not recovered from earlier conflict, she further explained...."

"A coalition of global campaign groups on Monday urged the U.N. Human Rights Council to call a special session on what they called a rights crisis in Yemen.

"The coalition, including non-government organisations (NGOs) from sub-Saharan Africa and Egypt, spoke out as Syria, also currently the scene of violent suppression of protesters, set out its case for election to the 47-nation council.

"The NGOs said Yemeni authorities were responsible for 'grave human rights violations, including the right to life' in seeking to quell mass demonstrations against the 32-year rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

"The situation in the country 'is representative of a pattern of wide-scale violations of fundamental rights and freedoms.... which need to be dealt with urgently by the international community,' they declared.

"New York-based Human Rights Watch and London-based Amnesty International were among signatories of the appeal. Last Friday the council ended a four-week sitting with no discussion of Yemen, Bahrain or Syria despite the violence in all three....


"Tik Root, a Middlebury College student missing in Syria since March 18, might be in the hands of Syrian military intelligence's Branch 235, the Palestine Branch, which is known for its mistreatment of political prisoners, a dissident Syrian blogger says.

"That assertion, which the Root family said it has not been verified, came from Nizar Nayouf, editor of the blog Syria Truth. It comes amid growing attention to the student's plight: The New Yorker has blogged about his disappearance, and New York Times columnist and longtime international reporter Nicholas Kristof tweeted this Monday: “Why is Syria imprisoning Tik Root, an American student?”

"The Syrian blog about Root was published Thursday, six days after Root disappeared. It wrongly described him as a Princeton student, but accurately said he moved to Damascus from Alexandria after the “intifada” began in Egypt to continue his studies in Arabic...."
(March 28, 2011)

"Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must make more progress on political reforms and should meet the needs and aspirations of his citizens, U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said on Tuesday.

" 'We believe President Assad is at a crossroads. He has claimed to be a reformer for over a decade but he has made no substantive progress on political reforms and we urge him to ... address the needs and the aspirations of the Syrian people,' State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters.

" 'He has claimed the mantle of reform and he has implemented some economic reforms but on the political side he needs to make more progress frankly -- substantive progress," Toner said...."

"Syria's Cabinet resigned Tuesday to help quell a wave of popular fury that erupted more than a week ago and is now threatening President Bashar Assad's 11-year rule in one of the most authoritarian and closed-off nations in the Middle East.

"Assad, whose family has controlled Syria for four decades, is trying to calm the growing dissent with a string of concessions. He is expected to address the nation in the next 24 hours to lift emergency laws in place since 1963 and moving to annul other harsh restrictions on civil liberties and political freedoms.

"More than 60 people have died since March 18 as security forces cracked down on protesters, Human Rights Watch said.

"State TV said Tuesday Assad accepted the resignation of the 32-member Cabinet headed by Naji al-Otari, who has been in place since September 23. The Cabinet will continue running the country's affairs until the formation of a new government.

"The resignations will not affect Assad, who holds the lion's share of power in the authoritarian regime...."

"Syrian security forces flooded the restive cities of Daraa and Latakia on Monday, patrolling the streets, protecting government buildings and in at least one case clashing with protesters, according to witnesses.

"Both cities have been the scene of violent clashes between protesters and security forces in recent days, with at least 37 deaths since last week, according to the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

"In Daraa on Monday, forces filed into the city's main square before dawn, tearing down the tents and anti-government signs of about 100 protesters who were staying there overnight, according to one eyewitness. The forces fired shots into the air and turned water cannons on the protesters, the witness said, leading to a clash with hundreds of nearby residents who rushed to the square to defend the demonstrators.

"The resulting confrontation lasted about 30 minutes, reportedly without injuries or arrests, according to the witness.

"Another witness said the army was blocking the city on three sides and that security forces, surrounding government buildings and the Al-Omari mosque where some protesters remained, had opened fire. The witness was not aware of any injuries.

"Syria's state-run news agency said the government denied firing on protesters, calling the allegations 'completely false.'....

"...In Latakia, another eyewitness said mysterious men in black shirts carrying sophisticated weapons terrorized residents overnight, firing into the air and banging on the doors of homes.

" 'We do not understand who these men are but government officials say they are members of a 'foreign group,' the witness said. 'We all think they are lying about this because every time one of them is captured and handed over to the police he is released.'...

"...CNN could not independently confirm the accounts because the Syrian government has yet to grant access to the network.

"Syria is the latest in a string of Arabic-speaking nations beset with discontent over economic and human rights issues. Syria's discontent is centered Daraa, a southern city in the impoverished country's agricultural region, where security forces and anti-government protesters have sporadically clashed for nearly two weeks...."
(CNN World)


"Bahrain's interior minister said on Tuesday security forces had not targeted any sect after recent unrest, rejecting opposition complaints the Sunni-led state has subjected majority Shi'ites to abuse.

"Earlier this month, Bahrain's Sunni rulers, the al-Khalifa family, imposed martial law and called in troops from fellow Sunni-ruled Gulf neighbors, including Saudi Arabia, to quell weeks of pro-democracy protests led mostly by Shi'ites.

"The severity of the crackdown, which banned all public gatherings and spread masked security forces across the city to man checkpoints, stunned Bahraini Shi'ites and sparked criticism from the region's non-Arab Shi'ite power Iran...."

"The UK government spent more than £175,000 chartering two aircraft to help just 18 people escape protests in Bahrain, it has emerged.

"The decision to charter the aircraft was taken after days of violent clashes in the Gulf state's capital, Manama.

"A number of people had been killed as Bahrain's Sunni Muslim rulers called in Saudi troops to help keep order...."

"Bahrain's largest Shi'ite opposition group Wefaq has accepted Kuwait as a mediator with Bahrain's government to end a political crisis gripping the tiny kingdom, a member of Wefaq said on Sunday.

"Bahrain imposed martial law and called in troops from neighboring Sunni-ruled states earlier this month to quell weeks of unrest by mostly Shi'ite protesters.

"Jasim Husain, a member of Wefaq, said Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah had offered to mediate between Bahrain's Sunni al-Khalifa ruling family and Shi'ite opposition groups...."

1 Noting that Yemen may not be a nation isn't a criticism, by the way. I'm not convinced that the United States is, strictly speaking, a nation either. Not the way France, Italy, or Japan are, anyway. Then there are city states like Singapore and Vatican City. More topics. ("Member States of the United Nations," United Nations; CIA World Factbook, "Yemen" (last updated March 23, 2011))
2 The way "international community" is sometimes used gives me the impression that there's a bit of confusion about just what the term means.

In my opinion:
  • "The international community" isn't
    • Human Rights Watch
    • Amnesty International
    • The United Nations
  • "The international community" is
    • Leaders of
      • Governments
      • Multinational organizations
    • The rest of the 6,000,000,000-plus folks currently living
I am also of the firm opinion that none of the above are perfect.

Which doesn't mean that I think that the United Nations is some kind of plot.

I don't think the U. N. is even close to being the sort of 'parliament of man - federation of the world' that Tennyson imagined. But today: it's what we have to work with. (A Catholic Citizen in America (March 22, 2011)) I don't have all that sunny an attitude toward the United States Congress, either, and that's almost another topic.
3 Machiavelli, by the way, advocated a "strong central government." (Princeton's WordNet) "Machiavellianism" can be defined as:
  • "the political doctrine of Machiavelli: any means (however unscrupulous) can be used by a ruler in order to create and maintain his autocratic government"
    (Princeton's WordNet, again)
Do I think that 'the end justifies the means?' No. Do I think that we need some sort of government? Do my opinions involve the assumption that an objective reality exists; and that a few things are, simply, wrong? Yes. (A Catholic Citizen in America (March 12, 2011, August 30, 2010))

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Libya, News, and Change

Update (April 4, 2011)
This isn't - as I've written many times - a political blog. I don't think that one person, or party, or country, is always right. I don't say that everybody who dislikes my favorite person, or party, or country, is stupid.

I even think that politicos whose policies I have little praise for can be right now and again.

Which is, in part, why I think America should be involved in hindering Colonel Muammar Abu Minyar al-Qadhafi's efforts to exterminate Libyans who won't say he's a great leader.

Even though it's happening during President Obama's administration.

Why Pick on Libya?

The Libyan colonel isn't the only north African/Middle Eastern leader who tries to maintain loyalty by killing folks who disagree: but he's the one who alienated enough of his neighbors to make the U. N. mandated coalition possible.

I've heard that Qadhafi has been playing his 'victim of the West' card. Never mind that the The Arab League supported the no-fly zone. Or didn't: it depends on who they're talking to, perhaps. (March 21, 2011)

'Victim of the West?' I think this article, from 2008, shows a somewhat more plausible view of America's efforts to accommodate the colonel's style of leadership:
"Libya pays $1.5 billion to settle terrorism claims"
CNN World (October 31, 2008)

"Libya has paid $1.5 billion to the families of terrorism victims, overcoming the final obstacle to full relations with the United States, the State Department said Friday.

"The payment ends Tripoli's legal liability in U.S. terror cases and paves the way for increased U.S. involvement in the oil-rich nation.

"President Bush signed an executive order Friday restoring Libyan immunity from terrorism-related lawsuits and dismissing pending cases over compensation as part of a deal reached this summer.

"David Welch, the top U.S. diplomat for the Middle East, who negotiated the agreement, called Libya's rehabilitation from a terrorist nation to a U.S. ally 'historic.'

"The pact closes the book on a contentious period in U.S.-Libyan relations, which began in the 1980s with a series of attacks involving the two countries, including the bombings of Pan Am flight 103, a German disco and U.S. airstrikes over Libya....

"...Congress unanimously adopted the Libyan Claims Resolution Act, sponsored by Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, D-New Jersey, which cleared the way to end the feud and created the victim compensation fund."
Okay: maybe that deal was some kind of plot by Big Oil. Or Big Cheese. Or something. (Apathetic Lemming of the North (February 22, 2011)) I don't think so: but I'm no conspiracy buff.

After all the effort that went into opening relations with Libya, why go after Qadhaffi now? There's U. N. Security Council Resolution 1973 (2011). (March 21, 2011) That's important, in my opinion.

I also think that it's wrong for a national leader to kill people who won't praise him.

No More 'Business as Usual'

Many folks who live in north Africa and the Middle East seem to have had enough of 'business as usual:' and have been swapping out old-style autocrats. This change of heart ended Tunisia's permanent presidency in January. Egypt's old-school leader was next, and now folks want something better in Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, and - Libya.

I don't think it's right for the Bahrainian boss to have his less-docile subjects killed: but he hasn't ticked off enough of his neighbors. The last I heard, he's even getting Saudi Arabia to help purge Bahrain of folks who disagree. (March 18, 2011)

There won't, I think, be an international coalition acting to protect Bahranian citizens from their boss. Not any time soon.

It is possible, however, to protect Libyans - and give the folks there who give a rip about turning their country around a chance to do so.

Libya: Risky? Of Course

Do I think that, with Qadhaffi gone, Al Qaeda or a similar group could take over? Yes. That's possible.

I also think that with Qadhaffi still in power, Al Qaeda or a similar group could find a safe haven in Libya. He's not, in my opinion, a particularly reliable, responsible, national leader.

Do I think that the folks who oppose Qadhaffi are 100-percent pro-American supporters of constitutional rights, equality under law, and vehicle emission standards?


I do think there's a good chance that the folks who oppose the colonel will not replace him with another autocrat. They might: but I prefer to believe that they want a serious change.

News May be Biased: and Still be True

I've discussed my view of old-school journalism before. Briefly, I think that very few journalists and editors deliberately lie. I do, however, think that they have their own assumptions about what the world is like:
Still, I seriously doubt that many stories are, essentially, fiction. Which ones are published, and which aren't - I've discussed that before.

All this is to introduce an article appearing on CNN today. It's possible that CNN decided to publish this because their editors believe that America's involvement in the efforts to frustrate Qadhaffi needs support. I also think that what's described actually happened: and shows what the colonel and his enforcers have been up to in Libya.
"Libyan woman bursts into hotel to tell her story of rape"
CNN (March 26, 2011)

"Breakfast at a Tripoli hotel housing international journalists took a decidedly grim turn Saturday when a desperate Libyan woman burst into the building frantic to let the world know she had been raped and beaten by Moammar Gadhafi's militia.

"Her face was heavily bruised. So were her legs. She displayed blood on her right inner thigh.

"She said her name was Eman al-Obeidy. She was well-dressed and appeared to be a well-to-do middle-aged woman. She spoke in English and said she was from the rebel stronghold of Benghazi and had been picked up by Gadhafi's men at a checkpoint east of Tripoli.

"She sobbed and said she was held against her will for two days and raped by 15 men. She showed the journalists how she had been tied at her wrists and ankles. She had visible rope burns.

"CNN could not independently verify al-Obeidy's story but her injuries appeared consistent with what she said....

"...International journalists, including CNN's staff, are not allowed to move freely in the Libyan capital and are escorted out of the hotel only on organized outings by government minders. This was the first time a Libyan opposed to Gadhafi attempted to independently approach the journalists here.

"What followed was a disturbing scene of how Gadhafi's government operates.

"Security forces moved to subdue the woman. Even a member of the hotel's kitchen staff drew a knife. 'Traitor!' he shouted at her in contempt. Another staffer tried to put a dark tablecloth over her head.

"One government official, who was there to facilitate access for journalists, pulled a pistol from his belt. Others scuffled with the journalists, manhandling them to the ground in an attempt to wrestle away their equipment. Some journalists were beaten and kicked. CNN's camera was confiscated and deliberately smashed beyond repair.

"Security men said al-Obeidy was 'mentally ill' and was being taken to a 'hospital.' They dragged her unceremoniously to a waiting white car.

"She kicked and screamed. She insisted she was being carted off to prison....

"...Later, a government spokesman said al-Obeidy was 'safe' and 'doing well.' He said her case was a criminal one -- not political -- and that she has been offered legal aid.

"But his assurances did little to assure the journalists who had witnessed Gadhafi's firm and pervasive grip on Libyan society. A woman who dared to speak against him was quickly silenced. Journalists who dared to tell her story paid a price.

"It was one tale that perhaps went a long way in illuminating the need to protect Libya's people...."
Somewhat-related posts:
In the news, now and in 2008:
Background, how I form my views:

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Bus Stop in Jerusalem Bombed: Here We Go Again?

I don't run into hatred of Jews all that often in this country. Even so, there are a few here who seem to assume that things they don't like are 'the fault of the Jews.'

What, if anything, does this have to do with the war on terror?

I think that hatred - of the Jews, Western civilization, dogs1, mice2, and new ideas - is a big motivation for outfits like Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

In my opinion:
  • Islam is more than just
    • The anti-mouse contingent
    • Terrorism
  • Islamic Terrorists are more than just
    • Folks with wacky religious beliefs
    • Oppressed
      • Minorities
      • Majorities
      • Whatever
I'll get back to my take on the guys who want women back behind burqas, looking (one insisted) at the world with one eye.

"One eye?!"Remember: the 'one eye' and 'mouse' nut jobs (my view) are not all there is to Islam. Neither is the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques: although it's easy to get the impression that Islam is a House of Saud franchise. And that's almost another topic.

Do I think Israel, and the current administration there, is perfect, a paragon of all virtues? Hardly. Folks living in Israel are human beings: and perfect is what human beings are most certainly not.

On the other hand, I'm not inclined to add "and it is the fault of the Jews" after each of these excerpts:
"A woman was killed and more than 50 people were wounded when a loud explosion shook a busy street in Jerusalem as the evening rush hour began on Wednesday, authorities said.

"Several of the wounded were critically injured in the first serious bombing in Jerusalem in four years, authorities said.

"Mayor Nir Barkat condemned the 'cowardly terrorist attack' in which 'innocent people were hurt.'..."

"One person has died and more than 20 others are injured after a bomb blast at a crowded bus stop in central Jerusalem, Israeli officials say.

"The bomb had been left in a bag by the side of the road near the central bus station, police said.

"Dozens of ambulances converged on the scene near the entrance to the city, and police sealed off the area...."
(BBC News)

"Palestinian rockets struck two cities deep in Israel Wednesday, wounding a resident and prompting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to threaten lengthy "exchanges of blows" with the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

"Islamic Jihad, a smaller Gaza faction and occasional Hamas ally, claimed responsibility for the attacks on Beersheba and Ashdod.

"They followed Israeli air strikes and shelling in the Gaza Strip Tuesday that killed four Palestinian civilians, including three children playing football, and five militants, medical officials said...."
(Reuters Africa)

"A sharp increase in tensions along the Israel-Gaza border has escalated fears of a repeat of the Israeli war two years ago.

"An Israeli attempt to hit Palestinian militants who had fired rockets at Israel went horribly wrong on Tuesday, with mortar shells killing three youths playing soccer and a 60-year-old grandfather leaving his house.

"Later, in an unrelated attack, the Israeli air force killed four militants in a car. It said they were members of Islamic Jihad on their way to launch rockets at Israel...."
(The Sydney Morning Herald)

"8-year-old boy's transfer into Israel was coordinated with PA; Israel offered medical treatment to civilians injured by IDF mortar strike.

"An eight-year-old boy from Gaza who was seriously injured by an IDF mortar shell was transferred to an Israeli hospital on Wednesday.

"The IDF's Gaza Coordination Liaison Administration said that the boy was transferred into Israel by ambulance after it coordinated with the Palestinians...."
(The Jerusalem Post)

Bias by the Bushel

It's fairly easy to plug in biases about "towelheads," Jews, oppressor classes, or shape-shifting, space-alien lizard men: and blame Them.

Whoever planted that bomb was probably motivated, at least partly, by something that happened in the last few years. Maybe "Zionist aggression." Or regrettable toilet training. I really don't know.

Root causes of what we're all dealing with in the Middle East go back about 11 millennia - and that's almost another topic again.

The point I'm trying to make is that I have trouble thinking the Middle East mess is a simple good guy/bad guy situation. Which isn't the same as thinking it's okay to kill somebody at a bus stop. No matter how big a snit the person is in.

As for most Palestinians, I sympathize with the folks who want to raise their families and keep their jobs or shops. They're in a tough position. There's what I understand is essentially an unresolved property dispute - and they're being 'helped' by neighboring rulers who seem to be determined that Palestinians get plenty of weapons, but not much money.

And that isn't another topic.

Not Killing Your Neighbor: What a Concept!

The idea has caught on, in many parts of the world, that it's not okay to kill your neighbor.

Even if your neighbor isn't related to you, doesn't go to the same church, doesn't wear the same clothes, and doesn't act exactly the same way as you do.

It's taken a long time, but today we've got the European Union - which would have seemed impossible, I think, only a few generations back. The country I live in is in its third century of not killing people because they don't go to the right church. America isn't perfect: and I've discussed that before. (July 3, 2008)

It is possible for folks who aren't exactly alike to live near each other, without trying to kill each other.

'We've Never Done That Before'

Change hurts, change happens. I've said that quite often.

Here in America, quite a few articles in business magazines discuss how to deal with someone in the office who can't - or won't - accept a change in routine. These days, a business that can't deal with changes in the market often fails.

That's this country.

I've gotten the impression that some parts of the world, like the Middle East, folks have been dragged over several millennia of change in a generation or two.

It must be a terrible shock to go from a world of one-eyed burqas to one with several hundred channels of television pouring dog food commercials, Bay Watch reruns, and Disney cartoons over a culture that hadn't changed much since the days of Abram.

No wonder some folks went a bit crazy.

Burqas, 'Those Muslims,' and Ephesians 5:22

I said I'd "get back to my take on the guys who want women back behind burqas." Here goes.

I think - besides religious, economic, and apparently psychiatric, issues - some of what's bothering folks who blow up bus stops and flew planes into skyscrapers is a matter of domestic power.

I've read explanations of the position of women in a 'truly' Islamic society, written by Muslims who live in cultures that don't have a problem with women who can read and write. I believe them.

I also think that there are others - men who are convinced that their village is the only 'truly' Islamic place in the world - who have very different view of women.

For that matter, there are folks who are convinced that they alone are 'real' Christians, and who live by Ephesians 5:22: not Ephesians 5:21-30. I'm a practicing Catholic, I'm not allowed to ignore the 'big picture,' and that's a topic for another blog. (A Catholic Citizen in America (December 14, 2010))

The Odd Case of the Anachronistic Electrician

The place of women in society has changed a great deal during the last half-century: at least here in America. I think much of Western civilization went through a similar change.

It hasn't been easy. And still isn't, for a few folks. Like this one electrician.

Not too many years ago, an electrician came to my household. My wife had noticed an issue with part of the electrical system, and had made arrangements for him to come. Purely routine stuff.

Until the electrician arrived. He wouldn't talk to my wife. Not about the wiring issue. The three of us spent maybe 20 minutes in the kitchen: he'd ask me a question, I'd ask my wife, she'd reply, and I'd repeat what she said.

She and I think it's funny: but I can see how not everybody would.

The anachronistic electrician was harmless. He's a man from another era, who apparently couldn't cope with a woman who knew more about a technical issue than her husband. I was there to act as an interpreter, and the job got done. Case closed.

Someone from a place where folks really believe that a husband has a right - even a duty - to kill his daughter if she 'shames the family?' That person is, I think, anything but harmless.

I think tolerance is a good idea. As a member of a religious minority, I'd be nuts not to urge tolerance. But there's tolerance, and there's the sort of clueless 'let's placate these people' attitude. And I've discussed that before, too. (October 21, 2010)

Related posts:
News and views:

1This awful, horrible, offensive, unclean puppy outraged the sensibilities of Muslims living in Tayside, UK.

2 Puppies aren't the only Western threat to Islam:
As I wrote in 2008, "I'm not making this up."

Not all Muslims are offended by puppies, I'm pretty sure. Or see Mickey Mouse as an agent of Satan. I've given my take on culture, and Islam's image, before:

Monday, March 21, 2011

Libya: Nobody's Happy, but It Could Be Worse

Nobody seems to be happy about Libya: with the possible exception of folks in Benghazi, who are now less likely to be wiped out by the Libyan colonel's enforcers - - -

- - - And those elsewhere in Libya who don't think Libya's boss is a good leader, and said so. Their chances of survival are now a tad better than they were before a United Nations Security Council resolution made it legal to inconvenience Colonel Muammar Abu Minyar al-Qadhafi. (or Qaddafi, or Gaddafi)

Arab League Supports No-Fly Zone: or, not

The Arab League supports the no-fly zone - or it doesn't. Either someone did a terrible job of quoting them, or they're saying one thing to foreigners and something else to the home audience. Or something else is happening.

Congress: 'No Fair!'

Here in America, the party crowd on Capitol Hill is complaining that the president should have talked with them. As it is, they haven't leaked tactical and strategic information that everyone from the Libyan colonel to Al Shabaab and Al Qaeda would love to learn.

Process, Protocol, and All That

I've run into someone who apparently thinks that the American president has declared war on Libya - without consulting Congress. Which is a breach of protocol - or would be, if war had been declared.

As far as I can tell, war hasn't been declared - and that's going to upset another set of folks.

Ideally - Things Would be Ideal

I think that, ideally, the Libyan colonel would have decided to retire - La Côte d'Azur is a lovely spot, I understand, and not all that far from Libya - instead of having people who don't think he's the greatest killed.

Also ideally, since the colonel didn't quit while he was ahead, It'd be nice if there was an effective international organization: one comprised of those wise and prudent folks who lead the nations of the world. This - quite hypothetical - body of sages could then formulate an ideal plan to convince the Libyan colonel of the error of his ways. Through sweet reason and tender sentiments.

That scenario is wrong on so many levels - the point is, we're stuck with the United Nations and a collection of national leaders who are possibly less clueless than the rest.

It'll have to do.

This isn't a War: It's a - - - Something Else

A world without war, without poverty, and without acne would be nice. It's not the world we have.

Sadly, the Libyan colonel, and others like him, exist.

Eventually, in my opinion, people like Qadhafi annoy or offend enough of their fellow-rulers, or do something so atrocious, that their position as crazy neighbors can't be tolerated.

That seems to have happened with the Libyan colonel.

There may, once, have been a time when a declaration of war might be written, a mutually-convenient time and place would be determined for the battle - and war would be on.

If that situation ever existed, it doesn't now.

What's happening to Libya now is the result of Qadhafi's remarkable style of leadership having finally snapped the patience of his neighbors. In my opinion.

In turn, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution: which an international coalition is now trying to enforce.

U. N. Security Council Resolution 1973 (2011)

I'll get back to some of the problems with the United Nations, the coalition, the resolution, and human nature, after this excerpt from the resolution:
"...Protection of civilians

"4. Authorizes Member States that have notified the Secretary-General, acting nationally or through regional organizations or arrangements, and acting in cooperation with the Secretary-General, to take all necessary measures, notwithstanding paragraph 9 of resolution 1970 (2011), to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory, and requests the Member States concerned to inform the Secretary-General immediately of the measures they take pursuant to the authorization conferred by this paragraph which shall be immediately reported to the Security Council;

"5. Recognizes the important role of the League of Arab States in matters relating to the maintenance of international peace and security in the region, and bearing in mind Chapter VIII of the Charter of the United Nations, requests the Member States of the League of Arab States to cooperate with other Member States in the implementation of paragraph 4;

"No Fly Zone

"6. Decides to establish a ban on all flights in the airspace of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya in order to help protect civilians...."
(S/RES/1973 (2011) The situation in Libya)
I can see why news sources aren't discussing this document all that much. It's long - eight pages - and that excerpt is just part of the top half of page three.

Exciting reading, it isn't.

On the other hand, I think it gives a little more insight into just what's going on. I've linked to the resolution, and a UN press release, down in the 'Background' section of this post.

Here's an excerpt from a sort of United Nations press release:
"Libya: Ban welcomes Security Council authorization of measures to protect civilians"
UN News Centre (March 18, 2011)

"Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for 'immediate action' on the Security Council's authorization of the use of 'all necessary measures' to protect civilians in Libya, terming it a 'historic' affirmation of the global community's responsibility to protect people from their own government's violence.

"The Council yesterday passed a resolution permitting the use of all necessary measures, including the imposition of a no-fly zone, to prevent further attacks and the loss of innocent lives in Libya, where the regime of Muammar al-Qadhafi has conducted a military offensive against citizens seeking his removal from power.

"Following the adoption of the resolution, media reports stated that Libyan authorities had declared a ceasefire. Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa was quoted as saying that the truce was intended to 'to protect civilians.'

"The Arab League last weekend requested the Council to impose a no-fly zone after Mr. Qadhafi was reported to have used warplanes, warships, tanks and artillery to seize back cities taken over after weeks of mass protests by peaceful civilians seeking an end to his 41-year rule.

"Mr. Ban said that in adopting Resolution 1973, the Council had placed great importance on the appeal of the League of Arab States for action...."

The Spider-Flag of the United Nations, Yankee Imperialism, and Lizard Men from Outer Space

Decades back, I remember a politico discussing the "spider-flag of the United Nations" and the threat it posed to America. I was impressed - not all that favorably. My teens and the sixties happened at about the same time, and I thought the United Nations was a pretty good idea at the time.

I still do.

I'd better explain that.

We live in a world where the vast majority of people do not live in America: or any other single nation.

International commerce, and today's information technology, makes it increasingly difficult to ignore 'foreigners,' in my opinion.

I think it makes sense to have a forum where representatives of different nations can hurl epithets at each other. Not because I think that name-calling solves problems: but because the same forum can be used by the folks who actually want to communicate, and solve problems.

Quite a bit of what comes out of the U. N. makes about as much sense, again in my opinion, as the notion that shape-shifting, space-alien lizard people really run the world.

On the other hand, the United Nations is the closest thing we've got to "the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world" that Tennyson imagined in "Locksley Hall." But, offhand, it's the only global organization I can think of that's likely to lend an air of legitimacy to military action against the Libyan colonel and his enforcers.

We don't have to like it: it's arguably the best that's available.

Law, Protocol, and National Sovereignty Matter

I think that some criticisms of the president's actions are legitimate. He could have:
  • Taken action a long time
    • Ago
    • From now
  • Waited until
    • Congress
      • Agreed with him
      • Developed a workable alternative
    • Qadhafi
      • Killed more people
      • Decided to be nice
That's not what happened. I think that the matter of Congress being involved in decisions that affect the American armed forces needs to be discussed. And, I think, probably re-evaluated. And that's another topic, somewhat beyond the scope of this blog.

I think that who gives commands to American armed forces matters. I also think that who gives commands to the armed forces of other countries matters. And I'm glad I don't have to sort out how that's going to work.

I think that the national sovereignty of the United States matters. As does the sovereignty of countries from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. I also think that people like the Libyan colonel have an at-best-dubious claim to the 'sovereign rights of nations.'

It would be nice, I think, if the concern that's been shown for folks who don't support Qadhafi could be shown for their counterparts in Bahrain and Yemen - and that's almost another topic.

I think that quite a few folks in Libya have a much better chance now, of surviving long enough to reform their country, than they did before a coalition started inconveniencing the Libyan colonel's forces.

And that - in my opinion - is not a bad thing.

Related posts about:
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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.