Friday, September 28, 2007

UK letter bomber "a confused young man" angry at Government security measures

A British letter bomber, responsible for injuring eight people, was "a confused young man" angry over the development of the British surveillance state.

Cooper had for years harboured a seething resentment over what he perceived as the growing threat to Britain's civil liberties.

The increase in surveillance cameras, anti-terrorist measures and "overbearing" Government control were a constant source of frustration. He had campaigned peacefully against identity cards and the treatment of anti-nuclear protesters, but it was getting him nowhere.

The catalyst for his change in tactics came in 2003 following the decision to hold on record the DNA of his father, Clive, despite his being cleared of an allegation of assault.

Cooper, a confused young man who had difficulty forming social relationships, suddenly had a cause to channel his anger.

The hate rhetoric of the Left, the seething over its impotence in changing security and defense policy, is more than the expression of inchoate rage. It's the seedbed for this type of domestic terrorism. Watch for the "Kos Kidz," the readers of The Daily Kos blogsite, to start falling into this practice in the not-distant future.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Pogroms in Gaza

Palestinian Christians in Gaza are experiencing pogroms carried out by their Muslim Palestinian neighbors. An 80-year-old woman was a recent victim:

Tarazi said a masked man dressed in black clothes had knocked on her door late at night and demanded all her money.

"He was carrying a club and a sharp tool," she said. "As soon as I opened the door, he pushed me inside and shouted: 'Where is the money, you infidel?' I shouted back: 'I'm not an infidel - I'm a proud Palestinian Arab.'"

Tarazi said the assailant had beaten her on her hands with the club, demanding that she hand over all her money and jewelry.

"I was so terrified that I gave him two golden bracelets, a cellphone and a few hundred shekels," she said. "But the man said this was not enough and hit me hard on the head with a tool he was carrying until I started bleeding." He then locked her in her bedroom and started searching the house for money and valuable items, she added.

This wasn't an isolated incident of petty crime. Churches and Christian schools have been attacked and desecrated:

The assault on the elderly Christian woman is the latest in a series of attacks against Christians over the past few months. Since the Hamas takeover, a Christian school and a church have been targeted by Muslims.

Father Manuel Musalam, leader of the small Latin community in the Gaza Strip, said masked gunmen torched and looted the Rosary Sisters School and the Latin Church.

"The masked gunmen used rocket-propelled grenades to storm the main entrances of the school and church," he said. "Then they destroyed almost everything inside, including the cross, the holy book, computers and other equipment."

Musalam expressed outrage over the burning of copies of the Bible, adding that the gunmen destroyed all the crosses inside the church and school.

"Those who did these awful things have no respect for Christian-Muslim relations," he said.

So much for Islam's respect for other Peoples of the Book....

Monday, September 24, 2007

Buddhist monks leading Burma protests

Crowds estimated at 50,000 to 100,000, led by Buddhist monks, are marching through Burma to demand an end to repression and a return to the path to democracy.

Some monks' representatives had called for the entire country to join them in their campaign to overthrow the government, which began eight days ago.

Monday saw marches in at least 25 towns and cities, including Mandalay, Sittwe and Pakokku.

Turnout estimates in Rangoon, Burma's biggest city, range from 50,000 to 100,000.

In doing so, they're putting their lives on the line.

Burma's ruling military junta has warned it is ready to "take action" against Buddhist monks leading mounting protests, state media have reported. Brig Gen Thura Myint Maung, minister for religion, warned them not to break Buddhist "rules and regulations" as Rangoon saw the largest march yet.

He blamed the protests on "destructive elements" opposed to peace in Burma.

The military government has so far showed restraint against the protests.

Monks are highly revered in Burma and correspondents say any move by the junta to crush their demonstrations would spark an outcry.

But there are fears of a repeat of 1988, correspondents say, when the last democracy uprising was crushed by the military and some 3,000 people were killed.

The regime in Burma has shown itself to be highly resilient and resistant to outside influence. One hopes that this uprising will finally shame the junta into reform.

The mace of social justice in Saudi Arabia

Brave women: Saudi woman sprays religious police agents with tearing irritant.

Two Saudi women called agents of the feared religious police terrorists and one sprayed the men with a tearing irritant after the agents stopped them because they did not conform to the kingdom's strict dress code, the religious police said Monday in a statement.

One of the women filmed the incident, which took place in the Eastern Province on Thursday, the statement quoted Muhammad bin Marshoud al-Marshoud, head of the Eastern Province branch of the Commission for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice as saying.

The commission employs the police unit that enforces the kingdom's strict Islamic lifestyle. The police patrol public places to ensure women are covered and not wearing make up, the sexes don't mingle, shops close five times a day for Muslim prayers and men go to the mosque and worship.

Wonder what their life expectancy has been adjusted down to.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

When is an act of war an act of war?

So the US military catches a member of the Iranian military -- the "elite" Revolutionary Guards Quds Force -- in Iraq, in the process of smuggling sophisticated explosively-formed projectiles into the country to murder Americans and Iraqis.

An Iranian officer accused of smuggling powerful roadside bombs into Iraq for the elite Quds force was arrested Thursday, the military said.

The suspect - a member of the Quds Force, an elite unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guards - was detained in the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah, the military said.

He was allegedly involved in transporting roadside bombs, including armor-piercing explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, into Iraq, according to a statement. It said intelligence reports also indicated he was involved in the infiltration and training of foreign fighters in Iraq.

At what point do we call this activity what it is -- an act of war?

Same question for the Lebanese, who saw another anti-Syrian lawmaker assassinated by car bomb.

Beirut - The Assassination of Phalange Party MP Antoine Ghanem on Wednesday was widely condemned by the various factions and blamed by the March 14 majority alliance on Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime.

MP Saad Hariri, leader of the parliament majority , blamed the killing on the "cowardly" Assad regime which "retaliated by killing Lebanese after Israeli jet fighters raided Syria."

"I haven't in my life known a more cowardly regime than that of Bashar Assad," a sad-looking Hariri told reporters.

He said the "enemies of Lebanon killed Antoine Ghanem (picture) today because they want to prevent the presidential elections … they want to kill Lebanon."

"We will not permit the criminals to kill Lebanon.. The presidential elections will be held … the presidency belongs to the Lebanese people," Hariri vowed.

He said the international tribunal that would try suspects in the 2005 slaying of his father former PM Rafik Hariri and related crimes, "would also try the cowardly killers and those who are blocking the presidential elections."

Democratic Gathering leader Walid Jumblatt also charged the Assad regime of architecting the Ghanem killing by a booby-trapped car explosion to "strike at the parliamentary majority and the Lebanese People which is struggling for its independence, sovereignty and freedom."

The situation in Iraq and Lebanon would be much calmer if the situation in Iran and Syria were much hotter.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Nationalized health care is politicized health care

Another reason why nationalized health care ain't such a great idea: Hamas arrests prominent doctors and Fatah sympathizers.

Hamas forces on Tuesday arrested two ousted officials of Gaza's largest hospital after they entered the building to talk to their former colleagues - the latest sign of Hamas' heavy-handed tactics against supporters of the rival Fatah movement.

Dr. Hazaa Abed, who was dismissed as director of Shifa Hospital last month, was detained along with Dr. Jomma al-Saqa, another ousted hospital official, colleagues and al-Saqa said.

"We were visiting Shifa to greet our colleagues for Ramadan," al-Saqa said in a telephone interview from a police station. "We were asked by the Hamas Executive Force to leave. When we asked why, they put us in a jeep and took us here. I don't know why."

Hamas officials were not immediately available for comment.

Hamas fired Abed and al-Saqa early last month. Both say the dismissals were because of their affiliation with Fatah.

Hamas seized control of Gaza in June after five days of battles against Fatah forces. Since then, Fatah officials say, Hamas has harassed, fired or detained many Fatah officials and installed Hamas sympathizers in key positions. A Hamas supporter was recently named the new director of Shifa.

Al-Saqa also was briefly arrested last month, leading Gaza doctors to launch a slowdown that crippled the coastal strip's medical system. Doctors suspended the slowdown on Monday out of respect for the current Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

While promising to bring law and order to Gaza, Hamas has shown little tolerance for dissent - violently breaking up protests by Fatah supporters in recent weeks.

For all of you who wish for a single-payer system in the USA, reflect on this: The "single payer" will be tempted to institute a political loyalty test for its employees -- you know, to weed out the ones that might disrupt efficient patient care.

You play with nerve gas, you're going to get sprayed

Couldn’t have happened to a nicer bunch of fellas: 'Dozens died in Syrian-Iranian chemical weapons experiment'

Proof of cooperation between Iran and Syria in the proliferation and development of weapons of mass destruction was brought to light Monday in a Jane's Magazine report that dozens of Iranian engineers and 15 Syrian officers were killed in a July 23 accident in Syria.

According to the report, cited by Channel 10, the joint Syrian-Iranian team was attempting to mount a chemical warhead on a scud missile when the explosion occurred, spreading lethal chemical agents, including sarin nerve gas and VX gas.

The factory was created specifically for the purposes of altering ballistic missiles to carry chemical payloads, the magazine report claimed.

Reports of the accident were circulated at the time, however, no details were released by the Syrian government, and there were no hints of an Iranian connection.

The report comes on the heels of criticism leveled by the Syrains at the United States, accusing it of spreading "false" claims of Syrian nuclear activity and cooperation with North Korea to excuse an alleged Israeli air incursion over the country this month.

According to Global, Syria is not a signatory of either the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), - an international agreement banning the production, stockpiling or use of chemical weapons, or the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Syria began developing chemical weapons in 1973, just before the Yom Kipper War. Global cites the country as having one of the most advanced chemical weapons programs in the Middle East.

Or maybe it could've -- say, when these two charmers were on a site inspection....

Monday, September 17, 2007

"OK, we'll report the good news, but you can't make us like it"

Here's a bit of good news from Northern Iraq: U.S. military: al-Qaida in Iraq emir, 2 foreign militants killed in Mosul.

MOSUL, Iraq: Iraqi soldiers killed a top al-Qaida in Iraq leader along with two militants from Saudi Arabia and Libya in a gunbattle in western Mosul, the U.S. military said Sunday.

Residents contacted Iraqi police to report activity by suspected al-Qaida operatives in the area, and U.S. and Iraqi forces launched the raid around noon Saturday, said. Lt. Col. Eric Welsh, commander of the U.S. Army's 2nd battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division.

The suspected militants had pulled their cars up alongside one another and were meeting at an intersection on the city's west side, Welsh said. When about 100 Iraqi soldiers arrived, the suspects fled into a neighboring residential area, he said.

Going after them, Iraqi soldiers stopped two suspicious vehicles. The driver of one of the cars got out and tried to approach the soldiers, then detonated an explosives vest hidden under his clothes — killing himself but no one else, Welsh said.

Iraqi soldiers then engaged the three occupants of the second car, and a gunbattle ensued, he said. All three passengers were killed, and there were no Iraqi casualties, Welsh added.

The victims ["Victims"?!?] were later identified as the al-Qaida in Iraq emir of western Mosul, and two other al-Qaida fighters — one Libyan and one Saudi Arabian, he said.

You can find this Associated Press story at the International Herald Tribune, the Jerusalem Post, and a few other places. But one place you won't find it is at the website. Lots of other Iraq stories are available there, though:

Blackwater Guards Accused of Past Deaths

NEW YORK (AP) -- In the past year, employees of the Blackwater USA security firm have been involved in other incidents in which they were accused of killing civilians and security forces in Iraq....

Contractor Shooting Incidents on Iraqis

A look at some of the incidents involving private contractors firing on Iraqi civilians:...

U.S. Military Deaths in Iraq at 3,780

As of Sunday, Sept. 16, 2007, at least 3,780 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians. At least 3,086 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers....

Progress Slow As Iraqi Politics in Flux

BAGHDAD (AP) -- Muqtada al-Sadr's decision to withdraw from the Shiite bloc is the most dramatic sign of the transformation in Iraqi politics. Old alliances are fraying, new ones are forming....

Thousands March in D.C. War Protest

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Several thousand anti-war demonstrators marched through downtown Washington on Saturday, clashing with police at the foot of the Capitol steps where more than 190 protesters were arrested....

U.S. Expands Anbar Model to Iraq Shiites

KUT, Iraq (AP) -- American commanders in southern Iraq say Shiite sheiks are showing interest in joining forces with the U.S. military against extremists, in much the same way that Sunni clansmen in the western part of the country have worked with American forces against al-Qaida....

WHO: Cholera Cases in Iraq Keep Rising

BAGHDAD (AP) -- The number of suspected cholera cases in northern Iraq continues to rise, with 16,000 people now showing symptoms, the World Health Organization said Friday....

Few See an End in Sight to Iraq War

Outside a Brooklyn art gallery, Kristy Knight threw her arms in the air in exasperation when she was asked about the war in Iraq, which has her angry, frustrated and flatly disbelieving President Bush....

Alcohol Business Dangerous in Baghdad

BAGHDAD (AP) -- The three men glanced left and right before cautiously entering a liquor store on Saadoun Street, one of two areas where alcohol is publicly sold in the Iraqi capital. Inside, they pointed to a bottle of champagne....

Report: Iraqis Losing Religious Freedom

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Religious freedom has sharply deteriorated in Iraq over the past year because of the insurgency and violence targeting people of specific faiths, despite the U.S. military buildup intended to improve security, a State Department report said Friday....

Notice a pattern there? (Here's a hint: how many of these stories tell of positive developments or hope, and how many paint a bleak picture of disease, despair, destruction and death?)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The world's smallest oud 2: the woes of Hamas

Gosh, the Hamas people seem to be having a lot of problems.

They're miffed that neither Egypt nor Saudi Arabia want to talk to them.

Sami Abu Zuhri, Islamic Hamas movement's spokesman in Gaza, slammed on Saturday some Arab states for being prejudiced to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Abu Zuhri made the criticisim in his comment on a Kuwaiti newspaper's report on Friday, which quoted a Hamas official, who spoke in condition of anonymity, as saying that two Arab countries, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, refused to receive Hamas leader Khaled Masha'al.

The daily said that Egypt and Saudi Arabia refused to receive Masha'al unless he apologizes to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and promise to end Hamas control of the Gaza Strip.

Hamas took control of all Gaza in mid June.

In a statement, Abu Zuhri denied the Kuwaiti daily report, saying "these reports are untrue. The Mujahed (holy fighter) Khaled Masha'al did not ask to visit those countries and he isn't interested to visit those countries because it represents the American views."

He, meanwhile, accused "those countries" of being prejudiced to President Abbas, saying "they are working on normalizing the Arab and Islamic worlds with the culture of the parted peace."

They think Fatah is trying to blow them up.

Hamas forces on Sunday said they discovered a bomb next the Palestinian parliament building in Gaza City and accused the rival Fatah movement of planting the device.

Islam Shahwan, spokesman for Hamas' paramilitary Executive Force, said the 33-pound bomb was defused after it was discovered at about 5 a.m.

"It's a dangerous escalation," he said. "We believe that some elements in Fatah, based in Ramallah, are behind this and other attacks," he said. No arrests were made.

It's making them want to just... kill... each other.

Two Palestinians were wounded in what appeared to be an internal Hamas gunfight in the Gazan town of in Deir el-Balah on Saturday night, Israel Radio reported. One of the wounded is a member of the group's special forces.

According to Fatah media outlets, one of the men is a confidant of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and the other is an associate of Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar.

Zahar denied reports last week that he had threatened Haniyeh after he announced that he was ready to renew talks with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

That last thing, the killing each other? Yeah, good luck with that.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The mantle of victimhood

Gary Kamiya writes in Salon of how ashamed he is of America. Ashamed, that is, in the same sense as Professor Carrington was ashamed of his fellow humans when trying to get The Thing from Another World to understand that humans are intelligent, rational beings, and not just gun-happy apes -- of course, Carrington didn't understand that to The Thing, humans were only fertilizer.

Bush's, and America's, response to 9/11 was fundamentally flawed for two reasons: It was atavistic and instinctive, and it was based on a distorted, ignorant and bigoted view of the Arab/Muslim world. These two founding errors are qualitatively different: The first involves emotions, the second ideas. But mixed together, they created a lethal cocktail. The grand justification of "spreading democracy in the Middle East" merely provided a palatable cover for vengeance and racism.

Bush's America responded to 9/11 by lashing out. We chose vigilantism over justice, instinct over reason. Bush demanded that America play the role of the angry, righteous avenger, and America followed him. But we were not taking vengeance on the guy who attacked us but on somebody standing on the corner. The war was like the massacre in Haditha on a global scale.

There's a reason why Americans responded to Bush's demand and why Democrats have been afraid to challenge it. It's biological hard-wiring -- after you're hit, your instinct is to hit back. For conservatives, this instinct is not only natural but necessary. Hence the endless right-wing denunciations of war critics as wimps, girly-men and appeasers.

Kamiya reveals in his 9/11 anniversary essay what it is that persuaded the Left to wave the American flag in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, and what they've since lost: the mantle of victimhood, the only source of moral authority the American Left recognizes.

This is made starkly plain in Kamiya's discussion of how Israel makes America do bad, stupid things:

The angry bigotry that drove the war rings out loud and clear in the right-wing battle cry: "They attacked us, so we had to attack them." The recent TV ads run by war supporters repeat this theme: "They attacked us," a narrator says as an image of the burning World Trade Center appears. "They won't stop in Iraq." The key word here, of course, is "they." Just who is "they"? For Bush's die-hard supporters, "they" simply means "Arabs and Muslims." Cretinous rabble-rousers like Ann Coulter and Michael Savage play to this crowd, demanding that we nuke the evil ragheads. For the establishment, "they" is not quite so explicitly racist. "They" refers not to all Arabs and Muslims, but only to the "bad" ones. The "bad" guys include al-Qaida, Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and the militant Palestinians. And, of course, it used to include Iraq (and may again). Anyone who makes this list is eligible for attack by the U.S.

What makes these wildly disparate entities so evil and so threatening that we're prepared to attack them without cause? Simply that they reject the U.S.-Israeli writ in the Middle East -- and that they're Arabs or Muslims. They are clearly not on our side, but they pose no significant military or economic threat to the U.S. In realpolitik terms, they are no more beyond the pale than many other dubious countries we do business with, from Venezuela to Nigeria to Russia to Saudi Arabia. No one would dream of suggesting that if Cuba attacked the U.S., we should respond by invading Venezuela. But we play by different rules in the Middle East.

America's anti-Arab, anti-Muslim prejudice has several causes. One of them derives from America's powerful identification with the one state that has always been at war with the Arab-Muslim world: Israel. For the establishment, it is axiomatic that America's and Israel's interests are identical, and that enemies of Israel must be enemies of the U.S. America has always identified more with Israel, the plucky underdog and home to Holocaust survivors, than with the Arabs and Muslims who threaten it. Since this view is held by right and left, Democrat and Republican alike, and criticizing it leads to accusations of anti-Semitism, it is difficult to challenge it. This is the reason why there has been almost no discussion in Congress over Bush's saber-rattling with Iran: Iran is Israel's most dangerous enemy, and that fact trumps all other considerations.

America's Israel-centric stance has helped determine the way we see the Arab-Muslim world, but it isn't the only factor. The rise of radical Islam, with its cult of martyrdom and terrifying terrorist attacks, exacerbated America's existing prejudices, flattening out the Arab-Muslim world into a monolithic entity. Our almost complete ignorance of Arabs and Islam, their history and the actual grievances that they have against the West, contributed to this flattening. Oil plays a role. But perhaps the most potent explanation of all is simply the fear of the Other: Islam is not in our cultural tradition, it stands apart, it's mysterious and ominous, and it is all too easy to project our fears on it.

(It's worth pointing out that in days when racism in America was truly rampant, like the 1920s, Americans embraced the image of Rudolph Valentino as 'The Sheik.' The Thief of Baghdad, Tales of the Arabian Nights, Kismet, even the adoption of the rituals of the Shriners showed that Americans didn't start regarding the Arab world as the "ominous Other" until the PLO started hijacking planes and killing Americans, and that was the work of secularists themselves opposed to Islam.)

The Left lost its love of Israel in the wake of the 1967 Six-Day War because Israel showed that it was no longer a precarious perch for Holocaust victims under constant threat from Arab armies that could wipe it off the map at will, but rather a military might that could defend itself against far more numerous but far less capable and motivated enemies. Those enemies showed that Soviet patronage, armaments and ideology were fairly useless in combat. The 1973 Yom Kippur War drove home the point even more effectively, as American support for Israel turned the tide of the war in its favor. Over the last four decades, the Left has come to see Israel as devoid of any moral authority because its struggle is merely to live without fear, as opposed to the struggle of its enemies to escape oppression. (That their oppression is essentially of their own making and of the making of their supposed allies and patrons is not significant to the Left’s thinking.)

Immediately after the 9/11 attacks, American Leftists could proudly stand up and say, “See? We’re victims, too!” (Of course, a lot of them went on to say, “Just like our Muslim brothers, we’re victims of American Imperialism, whose chickens have finally come home to roost.”) However, the military conquest of Afghanistan went too quickly, and the defeat of Saddam Hussein resulted in too few American casualties, and so the mantle of victimhood was destroyed as the Bush Administration and the American military proved that neither the Taliban, nor Saddam’s armies, nor al-Qaida could prevail in combat.

This is the vital distinction between the Left and the normal folks in America: normal folks take pride in America’s victory over its enemies, while Leftists see America’s victory as replacing their pride in victimhood with the shame of the oppressor.

What the Bush Administration has accomplished in the Arab world

Those who yearn for the days of "American engagement" in the Middle East during the Clinton Administration, those who deride President's Bush's vision of a new Middle East, should consider the actual, observable behavior of Arab nations today. Syria claims that Israel mounted an aerial assault deep in its territory, but more disturbing to the Syrians than the Israelis' ability to penetrate its air defenses is the total lack of support, or even interest, from other Arab nations, as described in this Jerusalem Post report:

Issam Dari, the editor-in-chief of the Tishrin daily, one of the Syrian government's mouthpieces in Damascus, said he was more worried by the Arab reactions than the Israeli "aggression."

The Arabs remained silent in the face of the Israeli piracy, he said, adding, "They are pretending as if this happened on Mars or Jupiter."

A Jordanian academic in Amman said many Arab governments were unhappy with Syria's role in Lebanon and Iraq, as well as its close ties with Iran.

"The Syrians are still meddling in the internal affairs of Lebanon by killing anti-Syrian figures," he told The Jerusalem Post. "They are also seen as supporting al-Qaida-affiliated terrorists in Iraq."

The academic said the Syrians should be the last ones to expect the backing of the Gulf countries.

"Syria is a close ally of Iran, which is still regarded as a major threat to stability in the Gulf," he said. "[Syrian President] Bashar Assad has placed himself on the wrong side by forging an alliance with Iran, Hamas and Hizbullah."

An Arab diplomat in Cairo said the failure of the Arab world to voice strong support for Syria "should be seen as a message to the rulers in Damascus that they must revise their policies." He said Assad "needs to realize that the Arab world has changed and become less tolerant toward dictatorships. Many Arab governments are angry with Syria because of its support for Hamas and Hizbullah."

Even Arab autocrats understand that their people seek greater political rights. They see Syria not as a champion of the old Arab order, but as an impediment to the new era of Arab reform. As with Soviet perestroika, the opening of cracks in Arab autocracies' political systems will lead to an accelerating process of change: chalk this up along with the North Korean nuclear retreat as major foreign policy victories for George W. Bush.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Who blinked: Karzai or the Taliban?

Reuters reported yesterday that Afghan President Hamid Karzai is panicking:

Afghanistan's Karzai urges Taliban talks after scare
Sun Sep 9, 2007 6:14AM EDT
By Sayed Salahuddin

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai renewed a call for talks with Taliban insurgents on Sunday, shortly after a security scare forced him to cut short a commemoration speech when gunshots were fired outside the venue.

However, today we get a different picture, from AFP via the News of Australia.

Taliban says it is 'ready for talks'
By Nasrat Shoaib in Kandahar
September 10, 2007 09:20pm
Article from: Agence France-Presse

THE Taliban said today it was ready for talks with the Afghan Government after President Hamid Karzai offered negotiations in a bid to end the rebels' nearly six-year bloody insurgency.

Mr Karzai made the offer yesterday, with the insurgency spiralling to its highest level this year, saying peace could not be achieved without dialogue.

"For the sake of national interests ... we are fully ready for talks with the Government," senior Taliban spokesman Yousuf Ahmadi said.

"Whenever the Government formally asks for negotiations, we are ready," he said. The movement had a "limited" number of conditions for a meeting, he added without elaborating.

Ahmadi said the Taliban could hold talks with the Afghan Government as they had with South Korean officials over 21 hostages whom the hardliners freed last month after several meetings.

"As we did hold negotiations with the South Korean Government, we can hold talks at an even higher level with the Government," he said by telephone from an undisclosed location.

So who blinked? Well, here's a bit more from the Reuters story:

Karzai has repeatedly offered talks with the Taliban, but the guerrillas have refused.

Hmmmm... sounds like Karzai hasn't changed his position at all.

Then there's this from the AFP story:

Ahmadi said it was not clear if Mr Karzai's offer was genuine. "Our understanding is the Government, which terms the Taliban as terrorists, would not ask for negotiations," he said.

Mr Karzai has regularly offered talks with the Taliban, which was in government between 1996 and 2001, and there have been rumours that contact has already been made.

He denied yesterday that "formal negotiations" were under way with the militants but said he was ready to start such dialogue if he could find the "address for the Taliban."

Ahmadi said: "If they want our address - we're among the people. If they're honest for talks, we're ready for it."

Asked for a reaction to the Taliban yesterday, Mr Karzai's spokesman Homayun Hamidzada said the "government's doors are open to anyone who agrees to obey the constitution and other laws of the country to join peace."

It sounds a lot more like the Taliban are tired of getting nowhere with their insurgency. Yes, they set off a lot of suicide bombs but these kill a lot of innocent civilians (183 so far this year) and are generally ineffective against Coalition troops (only 10 killed in suicide bombings this year). In combat operations, the Taliban are losing many times more fighters than they are costing the Coalition. Despite the recent tapes from al-Qaida extolling the purity of jihad, the Taliban may be yearning for the relative quiet of politics.

Of course, if all you had to go on were Reuters' reports, you'd never know it.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Does the AP hire these guys on purpose?

An Associated Press writer named Omar Sinan analyzes a message from Abu Yahia al-Libi, a Libyan al-Qaida leader who escaped from U.S. custody in Afghanistan. Note the incredible statement about the resurgence of the Taliban since the 2001 U.S. invasion:

Al-Libi, wearing a white traditional Arab robe and a black turban, also ridiculed the U.S. for its troubles in Iraq and Afghanistan, claiming the country's power and prestige was in decline.

"America, which is one of the major evil spirits of the age, was only a few years ago bragging about its power and boasting of its army and materiel, at a time when everyone was subordinate to it and submissive to its resolutions," said al-Libi, whose nom de guerre means "the Libyan" in Arabic.

"But today, where is America? Where is the vanity and arrogance of the American army and its policymakers?" he added. "And moreover, where is the value of the American soldier whose killing used to make headlines in all the media but who today is dragged in the streets of Baghdad, hung on the bridges of Fallujah, rolled on the rocks of Afghanistan and burned to coals in the middle of its capital, Kabul."

Al-Libi praised the resurgence of Taliban militants in Afghanistan, who have made a comeback following a U.S.-led invasion in 2001 that ousted them from power.

It might have been worth noting that at the start of 2007, the Taliban were promising a spring offensive to drive the infidels from Afghan soil, and at the end of summer 2007, the Taliban have suffered massive losses and inflicted only minor damage on Coalition forces and the Afghan government. al-Libi, al-Zawahiri and bin Laden can make grandiose claims in Webcasts from undisclosed locations, but they don't seem to be able to match their words with deeds.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

How was this not entirely predictable?

The San Diego Women's Film Foundation was forced to issue a somewhat embarrassing apology on Sept. 5:


A statement was given by the San Diego Women's Film Festival Director in support of the Boycott of Israeli films. The San Diego Women Film Foundation and Festival would like to apologize to all in the community - we are embarrassed and horrified to learn such a position was taken without our knowledge or consent. It is the personal view of the Festival Director and not the view of the San Diego Women Film Foundation and we in no way support, sponsor or condone their statements. Furthermore, the mission of the San Diego Women Film Foundation is to empower, promote and mentor young women and women filmmakers by developing opportunities to expose the art of filmmaking and to tell women's stories to broad and diverse audiences. We do not promote or take a position with any political or religious issues.

For the record, the San Diego Women Film Foundation and Festival is NOT boycotting Israeli films. We are hopeful that filmmakers from the Israeli community will continue to submit films. Actions regarding the Festival Director will be dealt with internally. Again, our deepest and most sincere apologies.

- San Diego Women Film Foundation Board of Directors

Apparently the director of the San Diego Women's Film Festival, Jennifer Hsu, took it upon herself to announce a boycott of Israeli films, and the American Jewish Committee (among other groups) brought her action to the attention of the Foundation.

The American Jewish Committee today expressed appreciation to the San Diego Women Film Foundation and Festival (SDWFF) after it reversed a ban that the festival director had unilaterally imposed against showing Israeli films during the October event.

"We are pleased that the Film Foundation recognized the Festival Director's errant behavior and has moved expeditiously to correct the injustice of excluding Israeli filmmakers," said Tad Seth Parzen, president of AJC's San Diego Chapter.

The Foundation's apology was posted on the SDWFF website, after AJC's San Diego Chapter made a number of inquiries earlier today about the Festival's posture regarding Israeli filmmakers.

My question is, how was this episode not entirely predictable, therefore avoidable? Jennifer Hsu's position on freedom of expession for Israeli artists is a matter of public record. Here's her bio from Alternate Focus, an organization who says "its three founding directors, a Jew, a Christian and a Muslim, are working together for peace and justice by offering the American public media which shows another side of Middle Eastern issues."

Jennifer Hsu

Jennifer Hsu is currently the Festival Director for the San Diego Women Film Festival, and a video documentary-maker. She has an activist art media focus that pervades her work, and she works in the name of feminism, Arabism and the civil liberties movement. Her most recent video project, a collaboration with her partner, Jeremy Taylor, centers on Palestinian and Iraqi refugees living in Yarmouk, a refugee camp in Damascus, Syria. Jennifer has also worked extensively with Women in the Director's Chair Film Festival, TV show "UpFront with Reverend Jesse Jackson", and the University of Chicago Center for Urban School Improvement.

I guess we know what side Alternate Focus focuses on.

Ms. Hsu is also a signatory to the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. That makes her just exactly the kind of impartial advocate of women in the arts that you want to run a women's film festival, because we all know that Israel is unique among Middle Eastern nations in its oppressive treatment of women... or maybe not.

Monday, September 3, 2007

British sailor stopped cold: Not enough global warming

British yachtsman Adrian Flanagan wanted to sail solo from the Pacific Ocean across the Russian Arctic to Europe. He ran into an obstacle: Ice blocks British solo sailor.
The 46-year-old entered the eastern end of the treacherous sea route that stretches from Asia to Europe across northern Russia in late July.

He had hoped that his 11m reinforced yacht would be able to get all the way to Europe due to lighter ice conditions observed in recent years, thought to be a result of global warming.

But after making his way through the Chukchi, East Siberian and Laptev Seas, Flanagan has been forced to a halt by heavy ice at the most difficult point in the route, the Vilkitsky Strait.

Darn that lack of global warming.

Sadly, this probably gets him a lot of Democrat votes

Dennis Kucinich is in the category of "useful idiot" for the enemies of America -- it might be worse than that, actually, in that he may really favor the defeat of America by its enemies as a necessary purgative of reactionary ideas like capitalism, private property, patriotism, religious belief... but in any event, he's willing to use his political capital to whitewash some of the most evil dictators and terror supporters in the world. The latest is Bashar al-Assad of Syria.

Kucinich's own campaign trumpets his visit to Syria with fulsome praise for the boy dictator as a visionary man of peace:

DAMASCUS, Syria, Sept. 2 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In a meeting today with Dennis Kucinich, US Democratic Presidential candidate, Syrian President Bashar Assad said that Syria would be willing to participate in a multinational conference and peacekeeping force to help Iraq to manage its transition from occupied country to sovereign nation.

Assad made these assurances and other observations in a two-hour meeting with Kucinich, who traveled to Syria to discuss a peace initiative which has arisen out of his anti-war work in the House of Representatives. President Assad agreed with Kucinich that various US demands for the privatization of Iraq's oil and partition of Iraq would mean a continuation of war.

"We must stand for strength through peace, for a sovereign and unified Iraq. President Assad is willing for Syria to play a significant role in assisting in the stabilization of Iraq," said Kucinich. "President Assad knows that an international peace keeping and security force must be organized and ready to deploy in order to facilitate the end of the occupation. He understands that the US cannot leave a vacuum in Iraq, but that at the present time the US occupation is fueling the insurgency. He is recommending a parallel political process involving an Iraqi national conference, the disarming of militias, and the building up of an Iraqi army which would eventually takeover from international peace keepers."

Kucinich said the fact that Syria, a nation of just 20 million people, has both welcomed and is providing free health care and education to the million and a half Iraqi refugees is evidence of Syria's vital role in the region. "The international community must recognize and appreciate that Syria has at its own great cost provided a lifeboat to millions who suffer from the humanitarian crisis which the war in Iraq has created."

Late last night Kucinich and his wife Elizabeth visited a neighborhood of Damascus which was teeming with Iraqi refugees. "People are desperate. They have lost loved ones in the war. They have nothing but the clothes on their back, but they have their lives, thanks to President Assad's willingness to open Syria to the Iraqi refugees. This is a profound humanitarian gesture, since it has significantly increased the population of Syria. Now we must help Syria provide for these refugees," Kucinich said.

Kucinich told President Assad that he will take up the refugee matter with the UN Secretary General and the US Congress.

Kucinich and Assad discussed a wide range of other matters including building relations between Syria and the United States, the role of the European community in negotiations between Syria and Israel, hopes for a national unity government in Lebanon, conditions affecting Pakistan and Assad's desire for a peace agreement with Israel hinging on resolution of matters relating to Golan.

After the meeting Mrs. Kucinich met with British born Mrs. Assad to discuss their mutual interests and work in community economic development, education and the welfare of refugees.

Kucinich and his wife Elizabeth visited the ancient holy site of Notre Dame de Saydanaya, where today fully veiled Muslim women worship together with Christians. "This is the one of the few places in the world that I have witnessed such profound coexistence, and harmony," Mrs. Kucinich said. "In this time of religious strife it is important to bear witness to places which show the way of peace."

This evening Kucinich spoke to over 150 academicians, journalists and politicians in Damascus where he presented his new security doctrine. "Strength through Peace turns the neoconservative doctrine of Peace through Strength on its head. The neo-cons' Peace through Strength, has led to unilateralism, military build up and illegal war." Kucinich told the packed audience, "Strength through Peace favors the upholding of international law, treaties and direct engagement, which is why I am here" Kucinich added.

"I believe that through direct communication there is new hope for peace," he said. "The world is ready to fall in love with America again. It is important that America reaches out to show our true values, our compassion and our willingness to work for peace."

The trip is continuing with a visit to Lebanon.

SOURCE Kucinich for President 2008

Kucinich politely doesn't mention that the reason Assad was able to open his country to so many Iraqi refugees is because he's opened his country to terrorists who infiltrated into Iraq and committed horrific acts that created the refugee crisis.

Kucinich is continuing his trip into Lebanon. One wonders what his Lebanese hosts will say to him about Syria's helpfulness in their country. If Kucinich talks to the Lebanese president, he'll get the pure pro-Syrian, pro-Hezbollah line; if he bothers to speak with the Lebansese prime minister, he may get an earful about the real intentions and actions of Syria.

Amazingly, even the People's Daily of Communist China has a more balanced report of the Syrian-Lebanese situation than Kucinich's press release:

Visiting U.S. Democratic congressman Dennis Kucinich on Sunday underlined the important role of Syria in boosting security and stability in the region, the official SANA news agency said.

"My visit to Syria comes from my conviction that it plays an important and constructive role in the region," Kucinich was quoted as saying in a lecture at the al-Assad library in the Syrian capital.

"I believe in the necessity of holding direct contacts with Syria in order to realize peace," he added.

Kucinich, a U.S. presidential candidate, praised Syria's role to host more than 1.5 million Iraqi refugees, calling upon the UN to help it in bearing part of the burdens resulted from such a situation.

Kucinich, currently on a fact-finding tour in the region, held talks earlier in the day with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said SANA.

U.S.-Syrian relations, strained since 2003 as the Arab country strongly opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, witnessed a remarkable tension after the assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri in Feb. 2005.

Washington has been accusing Damascus of doing little to stop alleged anti-U.S. militants and weapons from crossing into Iraq and of being involved in Hariri's killing, both of which are denied by Syria.

The United States, unilaterally imposing economic sanctions against Syria in 2004, withdrew its ambassador to Syria right after Hariri was killed, but still maintains a lower-level diplomatic mission in the Syrian capital.

The People's Daily story is confirmation that Kucinich believes that assassinations play an important and constructive role in the Middle East.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Victory in Lebanon

For the past three months, the Lebanese Army has been battling an al-Qaida-affiliated militant group holed up in a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon. The Lebanese Army has finally achieved victory -- at a cost of 158 troops in those three months. Proportionate to their relative national populations, 158 Lebanese troops represent the same percentage loss as 11,850 troops would be to the USA.

Camp falls & the Lebanese are celebrating victory at last
Sunday, 2 September, 2007 @ 5:06 PM

Beirut - Eyewitnesses have reported that the Nahr el-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in north Lebanon has fallen and the army appears in complete control and is now chasing the fleeing militants.

There are conflicting reports about the whereabouts of Shaker el-Absi the leader of the militant Fatah al-Islam terrorist organization. One eyewitness reported that he was captured by the army, but other eyewitnesses reported that he was able to escape.

Salim Taha, the last known spokesman of Fatah al-Islam has already surrendered to the Lebanese army according to army sources. Many other militants were captured according to the same sources.

The latest reports revealed that the army today killed 32 militants , but lost five soldiers to sniper fire, raising to 158 the total number of troops killed in the conflict.

Currently there is a huge traffic jam north of the camp. The Lebanese troops have set up road blocks for checking the vehicles for fleeing Fatah al-Islam militants.

Even in the Lebanese capital Beirut, over an hour's drive to the south, officials searched vehicles at military checkpoints set up on major streets. Other checkpoints went up along the coastal highway linking the north with Beirut, causing traffic jams.

State television reported that Lebanese residents of nearby villages, armed with guns and sticks, fanned out to protect their houses and prevent militants from melting into the local population. Smoke billowed from a field near the camp where residents said the army set fire to bushes to deny militants a hiding place.

The Lebanese residents in north Lebanon are celebrating the victory of the army. Fireworks are everywhere in north Lebanon in celebration. Troops were showered with roses and rice , in appreciation of their courage and sacrifices.

As we publish this article Lebanese are firing celebration shots in the air at news that the army finished off Fatah al-Islam, while others are waving the Lebanese flags and chanting as convoys of cars honk their horns.

The army was not ready yet to formally declare an end to fighting in the camp, large parts of which have been destroyed by army bombardments in the siege.

Fighting between the army and Fatah al- Islam militants broke out on May 20 and the Lebanese have been anxiously waiting for this day to celebrate victory.

Update - 6:00 PM Beirut time:
Army sources have reported that the troops were able to capture additional 24 militants of Fatah al Islam this afternoon. This raises the number of militants that were captured today to 40.

Update - 6:10PM Beirut time:
The Lebanese army has issued an appeal to the Lebanese citizens urging them not to fire any shots( in celebration of the victory ) to show respect to the Lebanese army troops that fell victim during the fight.

The army has also called on the Palestinians to stay away from the Nahr el Bared camp and not totry to return to it under any condition, since it is totally destroyed and will be rebuilt by the Lebanese government as soon as possible . Similar appeals were made by the Palestinian leadership in Lebanon.

Update - 6:25PM Beirut time:
The National News Agency has reported that the army has captured Shaker el-Absi the fugitive leader of the militant Fatah al-Islam terrorist organization. There were many conflicting reports about the whereabouts of Absi and many have reported that he was able to escape.

Picture: Lebanese soldiers flash the "V" for victory signs as they patrol an area near the besieged Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared in northern Lebanon. The Lebanese army has taken full control of the refugee camp where it has besieged Islamist militants for the past three months