Thursday, September 23, 2004


Israel pushing for toppling Iran

Get a load of this op-ed from Reuven Pedatzur in Ha'aretz.
A nuclear Iran would not leave Turkey apathetic, and there are concerns that it would take actions to procure nuclear arms. Saudi Arabia and Egypt, which view Iran as a threat to regional stability, might follow suit. Syria is likely to take steps in the same direction, on the assumption that it could get Iranian assistance.

Yet in spite of the negative repercussions such a development would have on the Middle East, Israel would be making a mistake if it decided to eliminate the Iranian nuclear program with military force.

This would have no chance, both because Iran's nuclear facilities are dispersed and most of them are buried deep underground, and because there is no information on many of them.

Israel should leave the job to the United States, in the hope that the Europeans will come to their senses and understand the danger to world peace posed by a nuclear Iran.
Umm... no, thanks. But I appreciate the thought: "Gee, this is too dangerous and costly... let's leave it to the Americans. They're stupid enough to go for it."

Also, Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom remarked at the UN General Assembly meeting yesterday:
"The international community now realizes that Iran does not only pose a threat to the security of Israel but to the security of the whole world... Indeed Iran has replaced Saddam Hussein as the world's No. 1 exporter of terrorism, hate, and instability."
Shalom tried to sell the threat to Europe by saying that Iranian missiles can reach London, Paris, and southern Russia. Maybe he is just hoping that the Europeans will "come to their senses" (which I doubt will happen by saying that Iran is number one now that Saddam is gone, given that Saddam seemed pretty toothless in retrospect).


Allawi or nothing

David Ignatius has an op-ed in the Daily Star that point out just how all the Bush administration's Iraqi eggs are sitting in Iyad Allawi's basket. This should come as no suprise, as previously it seemed that the Bush administration just threw all it's Iraq eggs up in the air and hoped that they would magically land in a basket that the Iraqi people would lovingly provide as a gift of thanks for liberation. Still, the fact that so little has progressed in terms of developing an Iraq strategy is very troubling. Ignatius writes:
Ask Bush administration officials to explain America's strategy in Iraq and they offer what amounts to a two-word answer - "Iyad Allawi," the interim prime minister who is in the United States this week for a round of meetings and media visits.

"It's great to have an Iraqi prime minister taking the lead instead of an American occupation authority," says Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense and one of the architects of the war. The issue now in Iraq, he says, is "Can Allawi win it?" That view is shared by other top administration officials, who use words like "indispensable" when they describe Allawi's role.


Can Allawi win it? That is indeed the question, and U.S. officials can only hope the answer is yes - and accelerate the training of Iraqi forces. If Allawi fails, there doesn't appear to be a Plan B.
Given what we know about Iyad Allawi, I'm not sure that I actually want him, or somebody like him, to "win it" in Iraq. And the fact that there seems to be no contingency plan for a case where he doesn't win is quite troubling.


What's happening in Afghanistan

An article in the Guardian today focuses on the difficulties that Americans are having in their attempts to work with local Afghanis. Part of the problem:
During a medical patrol to help the sick in a remote village last Friday, commanding officer Captain Andrew Brosnan heard gunshots and mortar fire in a nearby valley. Suspecting bandits were attacking a truck convoy, he led an investigating team. As they mounted the slope his soldiers spotted two running figures in the distance. After a verbal warning and a warning shot, Capt Brosnan ordered his team to open fire.

But when the approached the fallen "enemy", they discovered they had shot two children, Abdul Ali, 12, who was hit in the leg, and his brother Abdul Wali, 10, who had been shot in the head. By the time a Black Hawk helicopter landed to evacuate the wounded boys, Wali was dead.


In a briefing after the shooting of the two boys, Col Sellers insisted the rules of engagement had been followed in the "tragic accident". But admitted it was a big setback to building relations with the already-suspicious local community.

On Sunday morning Abdul Nabi, the boys' father, sat nursing his surviving son at Kandahar military hospital.

"How can this be a mistake?" he asked, holding Ali's wounded leg in his hand. "A mistake is shooting one person. Not two. If they are shooting our children how can we be their friends?"
This is the ultimate question, both in Iraq and Afghanistan. How many of your sons, your fathers, sisters, brothers, neighbors, your friends, how many can you watch die from American weapons and still believe that the US is there to help you?

Tuesday, September 21, 2004


Abu Somethingerother

I wasn't going to write on this since OW already blogged it, but it just really just strikes me as perfectly exempletive of exactly what the problem is with the President, the war in Iraq, and uneducated America. So it seems that President Bush has been going around to places like Poplar Bluff, MO, and Battle Creek, MI, as well as others, saying the following about Saddam Hussein:
"He was a sworn enemy of the United States of America, he had ties to terrorist networks," Bush argued. "Do you remember Abu Nidal? He's the guy that killed Leon Klinghoffer. Leon Klinghoffer was murdered because of his religion. Abu Nidal was in Baghdad, as was his organization."
But wait just a minute there. It turns out that Bush, if you can believe it, was mixing up two different Abus. Abu Nidal didn't kill Leon Klinghoffer, it was Abu Abbas. But what the hell, right? It doesn't matter to Bush or the people lapping up his every word. Abu something, that's good enough. Some damn Arab, who can keep them straight? Which makes his rhetorical question (Do you remember Abu Nidal?) even more laughable. Like, yeah, you guys remember him right? Because obviously the answer is no.

Anyhow, like I said, I feel that this really emblemizes a broader problem. I mean, Bush went after the wrong guy. We got Saddam instead of Osama bin Laden. And with the same kind of attitude: "You guys remember Saddam Hussein, right? He attacked us on 9/11." And the fact that Abu Nidal is one of the last pathetic straws that the Bush administration is grasping at to justify this war is pretty sad. I mean, are we all sleeping more soundly now that the fear of Abu Nidal is lifted from all Americans? A quick look at the Abu Nidal Organization (ANO) on Naval Postgraduate School's Terrorism Resources website speaks volumes. The ANO hasn't staged a major attack against a Western target since the 1980s. In the 1990s the only major attacks were against Palestinian targets and a Jordanian diplomat. According to the Navy site, "Financial problems and internal disorganization have reduced the group’s activities and capabilities." So please don't tell me that this somehow indicates that it was worth it to attack Iraq. Simple logic indicates otherwise, seeing as how the Iraq war has put far more lives (including far more American and Iraqi lives) in danger than Abu Nidal ever could have.

In fact, Sir Ivor Robins, British ambassador to Italy, recently came out and stated his belief that President Bush is the "greatest recruiting sergeant for al-Qaeda." Whether you believe that or not, pretending that Abu Nidal was somehow a terrorist threat that warranted a preemtive war is totally ridiculous. My point being that this reflects more than simply on George W. Bush's poor oratorial capabilities. This reflects on the flawed thinking, the shoddy reasoning, the Abu Somethingerother mindset that this bullshit war was built on. It's no suprise that it's coming crumbling down.


Contemplative in Milwaukee

Thanks to Deepak for passing this on to me, as the ludicrous stupidity of the situation seems to match perfectly with the source of the news: AIM news (with CNN). Here it is:
MILWAUKEE (AP) - Midwest Airlines canceled a flight ready to take off for San Francisco after a passenger found Arabic-style handwriting in the company's in-flight magazine and alerted the crew.

The plane, carrying 118 passengers and five crew members, had already pulled away from the gate at Mitchell International Airport Sunday evening. It returned to the gate, the passengers got off, security authorities were notified, all luggage was checked and the aircraft was inspected. Nothing was found.

The passengers were put up in nearby hotels and booked on a Monday morning flight.

The writing was in Farsi, the language used in Iran, said airline spokeswoman Carol Skornicka. She said she didn't know exactly what the writing said but was similar to a prayer, "something of a contemplative nature."
Great, you cancel a flight because somebody wrote something in Farsi in the in-flight magazine. First of all, this should be a lesson to everybody not to read the in-flight magazine. Second of all, when is this going to stop? What if I were to find that somebody had written "NYC" on my barfbag. Does this clear reference to the terrorist attacks of September 11 warrant the evacuation of the plane? I'm sorry, I forgot: common sense is so pre-9/11.


Historical Artifacts "Liberated" from Iraq, Others Destroyed

Although the looting of the Iraqi Museum in Baghdad got some coverage in the early days of the war, the looting of Iraqi historical and archaeological treasures seems to have continued unabated since then. There is an article by Joanne Farchakh Bajjaly in the Daily Star about the looting of ancient Mesopotamian sites in Nasiriya and southern Iraq. Some of the most revealing quotes are from: `Abd al-Amir Hamadani, the archaeologist responsible for the Nasiriya district; Donny Georges, the US-appointed Director of Iraq's museums; and Zainab Bahrani, a Columbia University professor who had been a Senior Advisor for Culture for the coalition forces.

More than 100 Sumerian cities have been destroyed by the looters since the beginning of the war... It's a disaster that all we are keeping watch on but about which we can do little. We are incapable of stopping the looting. We are five archaeologists, some hundred guards and, occasionally, a couple of policemen - and they are a million armed looters, backed by their tribes and the dealers.

We are in danger every time we go on a tour to an archaeological site. A couple of weeks ago, while on site, six vehicles surrounded our cars and we were shot at. After that, we were assured that the next time, we would be killed...

...There were no Italian forces at the Nasiriya Museum when the library was set ablaze. The smugglers are now controlling life in this district and nothing is stopping them from looting.
No one can stop them [the looters]. Although the Coalition forces are well aware of what is going on, no real effort is being made to stop the looting. The Italian Carabinieri (soldiers) are the only force that worked on this issue for a few months. Their efforts were fruitful in some parts of the Nasiriya district because the tribe leaders there are never interested in confronting the military.
They have leveled archaeological grounds in parts of the site to build a landing zone for helicopters... The continuous movements of helicopters have caused the destruction of a wall at the temple of Nabu, and the roof of the Temple of Ninmah. Both date back to the sixth century B.C.
Bajjaly writes:
The U.S. Army program to destroy military left overs from the old regime and the war is harming the ancient site - a Parthian city with a blend of Hellenistic, Roman and Arab styles. Twice a day the army conducts controlled explosions of recovered munitions and mines at the nearby military base. The constant seismic activity is damaging the stone arches in the main temple and the outer wall of the city and this may cause the collapse of parts of this site, listed as a World Heritage monument.

The anarchy that is everywhere in post-Saddam Iraq is destroying the country described in schoolbooks worldwide as the "cradle of civilization."

With over 10,000 archaeological sites still buried, humanity may just be witnessing the destruction of the cradle - the massacre of Mesopotamia.

Monday, September 20, 2004


Transatlantic Drift

There is an interesting column in the Guardian by Ian Black describing the growing divide between Europe and the United States and the role of Iraq in widening that gap. It includes this statistical tidbit:
But even a Kerry victory will not automatically end transatlantic disagreements: a survey commissioned jointly by an American and an Italian thinktank showed recently that a growing majority of Europeans seek a more independent role from the US. Some 58 per cent of Europeans said strong US leadership in the world was undesirable, an increase of nine percentage points from a similar poll last year. Only in Britain and the Netherlands do a majority desire strong American leadership. Eighty per cent of the Europeans surveyed did not believe the invasion of Iraq was worth the loss of life and cost. Some 73 per cent of Europeans believe the war increased the risk of terrorism, as do 49 per cent of Americans.


Equating removal of settlements with removal of Arabs

Tom Segev writes an article in Ha'aretz today in which he thrashes those who would use the transfer of settlers from Gaza to Israel to justify the transfer of Arabs from Israel elsewhere (or even from Israel and the occupied territories to somewhere else).
Only a mean fanatic or a wicked demagogue will not make the distinction between settler-emissaries whose mission the state decides to end and the expulsion of an ordinary civilian population that has been living in a place since time immemorial. The Arabs here, in Israel and in the territories, are not living in their homes by virtue of government decisions; their cities and their villages did not arise conditionally in order to advance a defined state aim that requires reevaluation. They are not Zionist emissaries. Moreover, the Arabs of the territories, unlike the settlers, do not belong to a public that has been granted the possibility of participating in a democratic decision about Israel's policy.
The two situations are simply not comparable (though this has never stopped Israel in the past from making politically convenient false analogies). And Segev is right to describe the rabidly pro-settlement movement in Israel with terms such as "mean fanatic" and "wicked demagogue"; evidence of this can be found in this Ha'aretz article, which reports on the comparison by a far-right activist of the removal of the Gaza settlements to the holocaust.
Far-right activist Nadia Matar sent a letter Sunday to the head of the Disengagement Administration, Yonatan Bassi, in which she said the letter expected to be sent to residents of settlements slated for evacuation is comparable to expulsion documents sent to Jews in Berlin in 1942.

The document sent to Jews during World War Two was written by the Judenrat (Jewish Council), in cooperation with Nazi authorities, and detailed where Jews would be transferred, what they should take and what they should leave behind.

Matar, who is co-chairwoman of the right-wing group Women in Green (Women for Israel's Tomorrow), referred to Bassi as the head of the "Expulsion Administration" and called him the "modern version of the Judenrat - but actually far worse."
Actually far worse? Talk like that turns ones stomach. Mania has replaced any semblance of reason or logic in the Israeli far-right and the pull that this segment has in the Knesset, in the government of Ariel Sharon, in the workings of the Israeli state as a whole is cause for great concern. The broader Israeli public, those who support the disengagement plan and the withdrawal of settlers, must live in constant fear of these fringe maniacs.
Meanwhile, the Arutz Sheva Web site published a letter Sunday from a Gush Katif resident to two of his soldier brothers, urging them to refuse to participate in the evacuation.

"Don't make me raise my hand against you," he wrote. "Once it begins and goes out of control, who knows where it will go... What would I tell Mother if, God forbid, you were hurt?"
Yes, what would you tell Mother? How would you justify the blood of your brothers on your hands? How would you phrase it: "Am I my brother's keeper?"


Aunt Deb's Blog

Finally, the moment the blogosphere has long awaited (knowingly or unknowingly): Aunt Deb has started a blog. Check it out.

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