Friday, September 10, 2004

 

Dr. Hanan Ashrawi

Sorry I haven't had much substantive blogging recently, I've been pretty swamped at work (this is a busy time I guess). Anyhow, I went this morning to a talk on the Hill featuring Dr. Hanan Ashrawi. She is just great. She was on the Diane Rehm show yesterday, and here is the link to the Real Audio of the program (also David Siegal of the Israeli Embassy if you can stand it). I am listening to it right now so I don't have too much to say about it so far. Give it a listen yourself.

UPDATE: 4:08 pm

Ok, David Siegal just said, in reference to Iran's nuclear program, "A nuclear bomb in the Middle East is unacceptable." Yes, well, except for the HUNDREDS of nuclear weapons that Israel has.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

 

Juan Cole!

I encourage everybody to read Juan Cole's post of earlier today, entitled Dual Loyalties. Fucking beautiful!


ps. I must just mention that I disagree with Juan Cole's assertion that the US did not annex Mexican land around the Rio Grande. Maybe the US didn't annex land recently, but it certainly annexed more than it's fair share.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

 

Jim Hoagland op-ed

Jim Hoagland has a well-reasoned and thoughtful op-ed in the Washington Post today (Putin's Misdirected Rage) about Vladimir Putin and the Chechnya situation. In fact, I find the Washington Post to be consistently reasonable on the Chechnya issue. There is an article in the Guardian and reposted on CommonDreams that exposes the Washington neocons' connections with certain Chechen causes. I only fear that this will further alienate Chechnya who has no true allies on the right (the neocons just want to undermine Russia, which they can do now from Central Asia rather than Chechnya) and who the left may use as a way of attacking the neocons/Bush administration on the issue of terrorism in this political season. And remember, while neocon support for the Iraqi National Congress and Ahmed Chalabi is worthy of derision, that doesn't mean that Saddam Hussein was a good guy or that the Iraqi people weren't suffering. I'm sick of all this politicking. People are going to die and so many people just want to score a few points against the Bush administration.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

 

Putin and the Press

Two stories of note regarding press involvement in the North Ossetia school tragedy. The first one, which has received much more press coverage than the other, is Raf Shakirov's resignation from his position of editor of the Russian daily newspaper Izvestia. Shakirov's resignation was a result of Izvestia's decision to publish large photos of the victims of the Beslan school tragedy and to challenge the Russian government's account of the numbers of people involved.
Izvestia published some of the most thorough and probing accounts of the crisis and was among the first Russian media outlets to cast doubt on the government’s statement that about 350 hostages were being held in the school.

Analysts have speculated that in the aftermath of the tragedy, the state would strengthen control over society and the media. Shakirov’s exit appeared to be one of the first steps.

[...]

Masha Lipman, an analyst with the Carnegie Endowment’s Moscow Center, said, however, it was still unclear whether Shakirov’s exit was a move "by a fearful owner or it is the new state policy."
Whichever it was, I'm sure Putin isn't shedding any tears over Shakirov's departure. The second story, from the Guardian, is about Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who has written several books about the Chechen-Russian conflict, who was poisoned on her flight to Beslan last week.
And in an extraordinary development, the editor of her paper has revealed that Politkovskaya was going to the school not only as a journalist but to see if she could use her network of contacts with the Chechens to secure the release of nearly 1,200 hostages.
So this is how Russia fights its war on terrorism? By poisoning journalists who wish to resolve the stand off with as little bloodshed as possible? The Guardian article also reveals more information as to why Shakirov was canned.
Izvestiya this week continued to criticise the government's handling of the crisis and yesterday printed a point-by-point rebuttal of the official version of events.

In a front-page article headlined, "What may have happened to those who are missing", the newspaper tried to address the issue of how 200 people appear to have vanished following the siege; claimed the crack troops supposed to be handling the siege were rehearsing storming tactics in another school when the carnage began; and said the explosions were triggered not, as officials claimed, by an explosion detonated by militants but by shots fired by a vigilante who had gone to the school to try to prevent government troops from storming it.
The details of the Beslan story have gone seriously underreported in the US media (which focuses instead on the pain and suffering of the victims and hesitates to criticize the Russian government's handling of the situation). Of course, such criticism would go against the storyline of Putin, man of bravery and leadership under the international scourge of Islamic terrorism, of which we, too, as Americans, know only too much. Sometimes poisoning journalists is just a necessary step to protect freedom, dontcha know.

 

The US-Israel-Russia Troika

In the wake of the horror in Beslan, the Russian, Israeli, and US governments have turned yet another tragedy into a propagandistic call for uniting against terrorism. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was in Israel visiting with Ariel Sharon yesterday.
Even in last week's interview, however, Lavrov said that Russia is interested in closer cooperation with Israel on terrorism. "Our countries are both in the crosshair of terrorism," he said. "To fight this universal evil in a vigorous way is one of the areas where we can and should unite our efforts. During the forthcoming visit, we'll sign a memorandum on the deepening of cooperation between our foreign ministries, which provides the framework for the functioning of an anti-terrorism working group."

[...]

In a telephone call to Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday, Sharon offered condolences for the attack, and called for expanded intelligence coordination between the two countries. He said that "cooperation is essential in the fight against the dangerous phenomenon of terror, which does not distinguish [among victims] and harms women and children," according to a statement issued by his office.
Interestingly, Lavrov commented:
"[The] fight against terrorism has nothing in common with [the] fight against Islam," he added. "To present this fight as a kind of a religious conflict or a clash of civilizations would only play into the hands of terrorists who in reality have neither national nor religious identity."
While an Israeli official stated: "They understand now that what they have is not a local terror problem but part of the global Islamic terror threat." Whoah whoah whoah, slow down there buddy. So which is it? Yoel Marcus writes, in a Ha'aretz op-ed trashing Europe for failing to understand the international war on terrorism, that:
The world has known all kinds of terror since World War II: anarchists like Danny the Red and Carlos; the Irish, the Basques and the Palestinians, spurred on by nationalism. But those who have inflated terror to its current proportions - murdering indiscriminately, shooting helpless children, choosing random targets - are the Muslims, and to what aim no one has entirely figured out.
Marcus then goes on to paraphrase Bernard Lewis in a manner even more racist than Lewis himself openly suggests. Marcus then lauds Bush for not 'beating around the bush' by declaring an Axis of Evil (last time I checked, North Korea was hardly a Muslim nation or an Islamic regime) and then goes on to criticize Saudi Arabia (with whom Bush has been pretty close if I remember correctly). Marcus concludes:
Israel is both a victim and a member of the Bush brigade, a tiny link in a family of nations determined to defend itself against the scourge of terror. In the eyes of this family, there is no such thing as justified and unjustified terror. Terror is terror. The entire Western world is a potential target.
First of all, isn't that cute. Little ole Israel, a tiny link in a family of nations. So here we have the budding alliance, the trio of heroes (the US, Israel, and Russia) willing to stand up to those bullies in the Axis of Evil (Iraq, Iran, and North Korea).

Let me say that it seems hard to build an argument that Islamic terror randomly strikes at the Western world with this set-up. Sure, there are those that want to destroy the "Western world" in the name of Islam. But there seems to be a connection between the grievences of the Chechens against Russia and Chechen attacks inside Russia. There seems to be a connection between the grievences of the Palestinians against Israel and Palestinian attacks inside Israel. To propose terror as some sort of vague, non-political, borderless threat is to ignore all evidence to the contrary. Furthermore, it seems that the 'Western world' doesn't have it nearly as bad as all that. I'm sure most Iraqis would trade their 'liberation' for the 'insecurity' of Western Europe these days.

Appropriately, Yoel Marcus's op-ed is titled "On Terror and Hypocrisy" - two things that truly unite the US, Russia, and Israel.

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