Friday, June 10, 2005


From "Bring 'em on" to "Bring 'em in"

An article in the Guardian reports that officially sanctioned talks between the U.S. government and affiliates of the Iraqi insurgency (or parts of it) have taken place. Let me just say that I certainly don't oppose contacts between the U.S. government and insurgents. I think the U.S. should be talking to as many people as possible -- it's generally refered to as diplomacy. In general I think that talking is the way to reduce the number of deaths. On the other hand, it is sobering to think of the future of Iraq being hammered out between these two factions -- the occupying military of the world's largest superpower and the violent resistance it has produced.


Non-violence and Collective Punishment

There is an interesting article by Meron Rapaport in today's Ha'aretz about the emerging non-violent protest movement that has become focused on the wall that is being built by Israel through the West Bank. I think it is an overwhelmingly fair portrayal of the protests and the actions taken by Palestinians and Israelis to try to build a non-violent protest movement and the actions taken by the IDF to try and cut this off at the knees and perpetuate the mythology that Palestinians are somehow incapable of non-violence -- that they are bloodthirsty and irrepressible in their lust for violence. There are some interesting and illustrative quotes from IDF Lieutenant Colonel Tzachi Segev, commander of the 25th Battalion of the Armored Corps who have been responsible for dispersing the demonstrations near the town of Bilin.
From Segev's point of view, activity against a village that demonstrates against the fence does not end with the dispersal of the demonstrators and the stone throwers. "If no terrorist activity and no interference with the fence works come out of the village, we do not interfere with it," Segev says. "If they interfere with the fence, we harass it in its daily routine."

What form does that harassment take?

"Maybe harassment is not a good word. The stronger the activity against the fence, the stronger our operations will be. We reserve the right to enter the village at any hour ... Sometimes there is no escaping collective punishment, even if it has a negative impact. Collective punishment is closure, prohibiting people from entering a certain village, blocking the Bilin-Safa road [referring to the neighboring village] as a lever of pressure if the village does not behave properly."

But there were also cases in which the organizers of the demonstrations fought against the stone-throwers and removed them from the scene. What message are you sending the Palestinians who prevented stone-throwing at soldiers? That they are stupid?

"It is true that were such cases, and the question of collective punishment is a difficult issue. But the punishment is not something abstract. It is meant to say: Guys, we have means that can hurt you." ("Closure is not collective punishment, it is an operational activity," Colonel Yoni Gedj, the brigade commander, will say afterward, correcting him.)
Of course, because collective punishment is specifically prohibited in the 4th Geneva Convention (see articles 33 and 53). So for PR purposes there is an official denial -- but the truth of the matter seems pretty obvious.

Thursday, June 09, 2005


I almost forgot

If anybody is interested in listening to my radio show with my good friend David, tune in tonight (and every Thursday this summer) between 10:00 pm and 12:00 midnight (Eastern Standard Time) on WMUC (the fantastic radio station of the University of Maryland, College Park). We'll be playing a mix of punk rock, indie rock, reggae, soul, hardcore, hip hop, jazz, etc. (though mostly rock music) with a bit of banter in between. If it sounds interesting, do tune in. You can probably get a good idea of what I'm into by checking out the "listening to:" section over on the right hand side of this site, or by checking out my profile on blogger (but of course, the radio show is a collaboration with David, so even if you hate everything I listen to you may well like half the show).

Update (next morning): If you want to check out the playlist from last night's show, you can view it here. You can also download the two hours of the show by going here and downloading the mp3 files titled "Terrapin_Sexxxpress_2200.mp3" and "Terrapin_Sexxxpress_2300.mp3". OK, that's enough self-promotion for now (until next week's show).


I don't often do this kind of thing on this blog, but...

If you'd like to encourage some open discussion about the lead-up to the Iraq war, in specific reference to the "Downing Street memo," and hopefully bring about some kind of accountability for this mess we're in (hey, we all have dreams right?) then I think it might be useful to head over to MoveOn PAC and sign on to their letter calling for this. If they actually reach their goal of 500,000 signatures, I think that would be pretty powerful. Or maybe not, but it's worth a shot and about 20 seconds of your time. In any case, I'm quite busy at work this week, so this is the most you're going to get out of me in terms of a post. Sorry.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005


Rummy blames al-Jazeera for what's wrong in Iraq (again)

I guess Rummy thought that Amnesty International and Newsweek Magazine weren't quite easy enough to scapegoat, so he's fallen back on an old scapegoat, al-Jazeera. Here's coverage of his remarks from . . . . al-Jazeera:
Speaking at a security conference in Singapore on Saturday, Rumsfeld said that "if anyone lived in the Middle East and watched a network like the Aljazeera day after day after day, even if he was an American, he would start waking up and asking what's wrong".

"But America is not wrong. It's the people who are going on television chopping off people's heads, that is wrong," he said.

"And television networks that carry it and promote it and jump on the spark every time there is a terrorist act are promoting the acts," he added.
Ahh yes, blame the media. It's not the Pentagon's fault that people are pissed off and rioting in Afghanistan -- it's Newsweek's fault! And if you don't agree then you must want the Taliban back in power, don't you? DON'T YOU?!?! If you report on kidnappings then you must want those kidnappings to happen, don't you? DON'T YOU??!!? Of course, Rumsfeld couldn't even throw his blame about in a factually accurate manner. Indeed, Al-Jazeera responded thusly:
Aljazeera's media spokesman, Jihad Ballout, said that Rumsfeld was mistaken. "Aljazeera has never ever shown a beheading of any hostage," Ballout said.

"While we work hard to give a comprehensive and balanced account of everything that goes on in Iraq - people clearly have a right to know what is happening on the ground - we have never broadcast images of a hostage being beheaded," Ballout said.

He pointed out that beheading videos were readily available on the internet and had made it on to other television networks. "And because of Aljazeera's reputation, people mistakenly attribute the pictures to us."
Well, I guess that doesn't matter, because they keep talking in that terrorist language, and look, that guy's name is Jihad, so they mus' be supportin' terrur! All the evidence we need. It couldn't possibly be that the U.S. government has somehow destabilized the situation in Iraq and mishandled the resulting chaos. Oh no, never that. Oh, and by the way, al-Jazeera doesn't even operate in Iraq, seeing as how the Americans (by which I mean the democratically-minded and elected leaders of Iraq) have bombed them and banned them. But, yknow, it's still their fault.

Monday, June 06, 2005


U.S. Airforce Academy and Religion

From Ha'aretz:
An organization called Americans United for Separation of Church and State has documented what is happening inside the [Air Force] academy's walls. A 14-page report issued by the group [available here in pdf format] enumerates numerous incidents, all of which share a common denominator - promotion of religion by the academy and its highest-ranking officers. In one case, the coach of the academy's football team hung a large sign in the locker room reading, "I am a Christian first and last - I am a member of Team Jesus Christ." In another case, a chaplain at the base gave a lecture to a group of cadets. At the lecture's conclusion, he dispatched them to their friends who had not attended and instructed them to proselyte them (including lobbying Christians to "rediscover" Jesus). He also said they had to tell their friends that if they did not do so, they would "burn in the fires of Hell."

More examples: Soldiers who did not agree to take part in prayer services after dinner were marched outside the dining hall, with other cadets issuing orders to them; numerous mandatory events opened with the recitation of Protestant prayers; the back cover of the base newspaper's Christmas edition featured a large advertisement signed by 300 people, including many of the academy's highest-ranking officers, stating: "We believe that Jesus Christ is the only real hope for the world" and "There is salvation in no one else."

Aside from the systematic promotion of Christianity, and its evangelical denomination in particular, on the grounds of the Air Force Academy, the group also reported cases of discrimination against non-Christian pilot cadets. For instance, when Christian cadets wished to leave campus on Sunday and attend church or religious classes, the request was granted without difficulty and without the cadets losing vacation days; when under similar circumstances Jews asked to leave the base, they were not permitted, or had the days deducted from their vacation time. Moreover, Jews on the base reported that the strain of training activity on Saturdays was so intense that they often had no opportunity to attend services.

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