The Middle Ground: Possible Talks with Insurgents

Kat at The Middle Ground reports:
I have suggested reading as a continuation of the information from Iraq the Model and the Newsweek article that continues to see the Sunni insurgency in Iraq being delicately sliced away from the foreign jihadists ...

Read the rest at the link. Also, Kat notes some positive changes in al-Jazeera's policy, and reflects on the trend of terrorists targeting Christian groups in Iraq. Go read it all, and don't forget to bookmark The Middle Ground.

Night Flashes

If you missed State of the Union, Gay Patriot liveblogged it ... We're lost! shrieks Time's Michael Ware ... Howard Dean is as great an asset to his party as ever, the Brothers Judd inform us ... Tammy spots a malignant narcissist in its natural habitat ... and Daily Pundit knows who the right-wingnuts will blame for the next natural disaster ...

Democracy in the Middle East

I don't have time right now to write a full post, but I want to direct your attention to these three very good pieces on the subject of democracy.

ITM: A place for democracy in the Middle East?
If we go back in time to the latest colonial era we’d see that the intellectual environment at that time was far more developed than at the later stages of independence and national governments, we’d see that freedom of press and expression was fairly better than what we had at later times and even religious parties we’re going through a phase of reevaluating their history and ideologies; at that time there were many religious reformists who were calling for rereading our history and were searching for dialogue channels with the western civilization. Even the Muslim Brotherhood-to which most current Islamic parties belong-we’re more ready to talk, discuss and reform than they are now and at that time, this was considered a leap on the road of reforming the religious thinking.

But the independence wave that came later mostly through military coups allowed the pan-Arab nationalists to take over and impose their point of view on the peoples; they took away freedoms of speech and though and oppressed everyone that didn’t follow their ideology. The people found themselves stuck with one leader, one party and one opinion to follow while all kinds of opposition were either eliminated or severely marginalized.

This was at least the case in Iraq for decades and the same applied to the rest of the neighborhood more or less.

In Iraq were not allowed group or meet for any reason outside the approval of the party and it was officially considered a crime for a number of people to gather and talk politics, the charge that I remember too well was that “they are grouping” and that was enough for conviction. That’s why each and every meeting required the approval of the government before it could be held.
However there was one place that the government couldn’t stop people from meeting at, that was the mosque.

Michael Ledeen: Choosing Tyranny
When people say, as they often do, with a glint of ethnic or cultural superiority in their angry eyes, that Arabs or Africans or Persians or Turks just aren't "ready" for democracy, that such people prefer tyrants, or that they have no history of democracy and are hence incapable of it, or they have no middle class, without which no stable democracy can exist, or they believe in Islam, which brooks no democracy, I try to remind them that some of the worst tyrannies came from highly cultured Christian countries with glorious democratic and humanistic traditions.

Neo: Liberal vs. Illiberal Democracy
It's true that the US has encouraged the spread of democracy in the Middle East and elsewhere. But it's a major oversimplification to imagine that America--or, for that matter, those dread neocons--think democracy by itself is any sort of answer to anything at all, except a way to give Jimmy Carter some more business in his old age.

To anyone who may have misunderstood, I declare here and now that democracy, by itself, is not "the answer." It is, however, part of the answer.

A more complete "answer" would go something like this: it's democracy, coupled with protection of human and civil rights (including those of minorities and woman), and widespread education that avoids indoctrination in mindless hatred. The goal is liberal democracy.

Morning Report: January 31, 2005

Coretta Scott King dies. AP reports: ' Coretta Scott King, who turned a life shattered by her husband's assassination into one devoted to enshrining his legacy of human rights and equality, has died. She was 78. Flags at the King Center were lowered to half-staff Tuesday morning. "We appreciate the prayers and condolences from people across the country," the King family said in a statement. The family said she died overnight, but did not say where she died. She suffered a serious stroke and heart attack in 2005.' (AP via Yahoo)

IRI: UN referral would end diplomacy.Reuters reports: ' Iran said on Tuesday a move by the world's top five powers to report it to the U.N. Security Council would close diplomatic avenues to a solution of its long-running nuclear standoff with the West. Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Germany and the European Union agreed in London that the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog should report to the council this week on what Iran must do to cooperate with the agency. Iran reacted angrily to the new pressure and said even reporting its case to the council would kill off diplomatic efforts to resolve the row over a nuclear program that Tehran says is purely peaceful, not military as the West suspects.' (Reuters)


New Portland Blog: Ms. Fanni

Please welcome Ms Fanni's Neighborhood to the blogosphere. Won't you please ... ?

Morning Report: January 29, 2006

Hamas wins Palestinian elections. Winds of Change offers two views on the recent Hamas victory in Palestine. Armed Liberal reasons that 'if there is going to be peace between Israel and its neighbors, the rejectionist Palestinian movement must transform itself into a real political movement, because real political movements don't have the luxury of living in fantasy worlds - because their actions have real consequences. So one of two things will happen. Hamas will be forced to make accommodations to reality - or it will lead the Palestinian state to destruction.' But Colt isn't thrilled about that second prospect; with Hamas (which, unlike Fatah, gets its funding largely from unsavory sources) in power, 'Hamas becomes indistinguishable from al-Qaeda and the mullahs, or Hamas's PA collapses. Either as a terror-state or a failed state, the territories will quickly become a staging ground for international jihadists. All those terrorists being in one place will make them easier to kill. But a lot of people will be butchered - in Israel, Egypt, Jordan and probably the West - before that happens, all of them unnecessarily.' (Winds of Change)

Labor unrest grows in Iranian capital. Bus drivers in Tehran made good on their threat to strike, reports this thread at Free Iran citing SMCCDI. Reports indicate that many cab drivers and motorists are showing solidarity by flashing their headlights and giving a V for victory sign. Drivers are said to have resisted attempts by bassij (militiamen) to commandeer their vehicles, and there are reports of buses and stations being torched - despite a brutal crackdown by the regime which has led to the imprisonment of as many as 1000 strikers and supporters. (SMCCDI via Free Iran)


Chapter 10 of Pacific Memories is up.

The men of the 136th Field Artillery Battalion have just finished pouring the concrete in the mess hall and installing field showers in their post at Viti Levu, Fiji: it must be time to ship out.
Our time was devoted more to lectures on the world situation and on maintenance of our equipment. Now we knew it was only a question of a few weeks, or even less than that, until our departure would be a reality. The great physical tension was about over. No more getting up before daylight, gulping breakfast down, and dashing off to a vacant field somewhere to hold simulated fire. There was the letdown from all that. But there arose a different tension, now, a tension resulting from uncertainty over the details of an event that was, in itself, an absolute certainty.

There is a wistful holiday season to the strains of "White Christmas", and 1943 rolls around. Our narrator looks forward to one last furlough ... and gets a belated and unwelcome April Fool's surprise.

Read it all here.


I'm going to skip posting Morning Report for the next couple of days while I work on finishing the posting of my Dad's WWII memoir. I'm past the halfway point now, and I'm going to see if I can get it finished by the end of the week. The typewritten original runs to 126 pages and unfortunately ends abrutply after Chapter 14; he typed a title page for a fifteenth chapter but apparently abandoned the project at that point. What he did write, though, is remarkable in its vivid detail. If you're interested, you are invited to visit my father's World War II blog at Pacific Memories.


Morning Report: January 25, 2006

Harper wins, Conservatives gain in Canada vote. Conservative Party Leader Stephen Harper emerged the winner in Canada's national election, after incumbent Prime Minister and Liberal Party Leader Paul Martin conceded defeat and resigned his post as party head Monday night. In addition to capturing the office of Prime Minister, the Conservatives gained a plurality in the Canadian Parliament - but not, as Harper acknowledged, an absolute majority: "Although Canadians have voted for change, they have not given any one party in the House of Commons a majority. They have asked us to cooperate, to work together and to get on with tackling the real concerns of ordinary working people and their families," said Harper, quoted in the Telegraph. The CBC has a complete roundup of Canadian election news along with complete results by region and riding (blue means Conservative and red means Liberal here). Kate at Small Dead Animals is happy. Gay and Right has some thoughts. The Belmont Club quotes a thoughtful comment by NDP's Jack Layton, and observes: 'In a certain mental universe the poll victory of Stephen Harper is not one particular outcome in a long series of elections, a process in which sometimes you lose, sometimes you win. It's the northern equivalent of the US Presidential election of 2000. Those who think along those lines do not simply want to win the next election but demonize the enemy and smash them; just as some want to end the reign of Halliburton and BushChimpHitler and establish a progressive hegemony forever. While this mentality is confined to a few, this minority by its militance often sets the agenda. ...' Read the whole post at the link. (various)


Bleg: Gay Canadian Conservative Blogs

It looks like Canada is getting a new Prime Minister. I'll be interested to see how the Conservative victory up North will affect Canada's gay rights situation. Can anyone recommend some good gay conservative Canadian blogs? I've already got Gay and Right covered. Others?

Morning Report: January 23, 2006

Iran roundup. Arutz Sheva: 'World renowned investigative reporter and terror expert Kenneth R. Timmerman, author of the bestselling book "Countdown to Crisis: the Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran," and Carl Limbacher, reporter for NewMax.com, reveal that the US and Israel will destroy Iran's nuclear facilities in less than 10 weeks from now.' Forbes: 'Swiss banking giant UBS AG said Sunday it has stopped doing business with Iran because of the company's economic and risk analysis of the situation in the country. UBS will no longer deal with individuals, companies or state institutions such as Iran's central bank, said company spokesman Serge Steiner. A similar policy is also being implemented in the case of Syria, he said. All existing business with customers in Iran will be canceled, but Iranians in exile are not affected by the decision, Steiner said, confirming an article in Swiss weekly SonntagsZeitung.' Via Regime Change Iran. Debka adds: 'Tehran plans a nuclear weapons test before March 20, 2006 – the Iranian New Year, moves Shahab-3 missiles within striking range of Israel. Reporting this, the dissident Foundation for Democracy in Iran, a US-based watch group, cites sources in the US and Iran. The FDI adds from Iran: on June 16, the high command of the Revolutionary Guards Air Force ordered Shahab-3 missile units to move mobile launchers every 24 hours instead of weekly. This is in view of a potential pre-emptive strike by the US or Israel. Advance Shahab-3 units have been positioned in Kermanshah and Hamad within striking distance of Israel, reserve launchers moved to Esfahan and Fars. The missile units were told to change positions “in a radius of 30-35 kilometers” and only at night. DEBKAfile’s Iranian sources add: FDI reporting has a reputation for credibility. Western and Israeli intelligence have known for more than six months that Iran’s nuclear program has reached the capability of being able to carry out a nuclear explosion, albeit underground. It would probably be staged in a desert or mountain region and activated by a distant control center. Tehran would aim at confronting the Americans, Europeans and Israelis with an irreversible situation. At the same time, an explosion of this sort would indicate that Iran is not yet able to produce a nuclear bomb that can be delivered by airplane or a warhead adapted to a missile. The stage Iran has reached is comparable to Pakistan’s when it conducted its first nuclear tests in the nineties and North Korea’s in 2001. All the same, an Iranian underground nuclear blast, which will most probably be attempted on March 22, would turn around the strategic position of all the parties concerned and the Middle East as whole. The question now is: will the United States, Israel or both deliver a pre-emptive strike ahead of the Iranian underground test - or later? Or will Washington alternatively use the event to bring the UN Security Council round to economic sanctions? Tehran is already organizing to withstand economic penalties. For Israel, the timing is getting tight in view of its general election on March 28. Acting prime minister Ehud Olmert must take into account that a ruling party which allows an Iranian nuclear explosion to take place six days before the poll would draw painful punishment from the voter.' (A7, Forbes via RCI; Debka)

ITM: Mehdi Army to defend Iran. Meanwhile, Mohammed at Iraq the Model writes: 'The leader of Mujahideen, defender of faith, future Ayatollah and higher leader of the Mehdi Army (may God keep him safe) Muqtada al-Sadr announced from Tehran during his latest visit to Iran that al-Mehdi Army will defend any neighboring or Muslim nation that comes under foreign invasion.
The statement was made during a meeting with Ali Larijani, Iran’s national security advisor who is also in charge of Iran’s nuclear program. ... Poor Iraq, the new parliament will have 30 of the soldiers of the Mujahid leader, while those who carry PhDs like Kubba, Chalabi, Dabbagh or, or, or….got nothing… I can’t blame anyone for this because this is what a great percentage of Iraqis chose and I won’t blame those Iraqis for their choice since for decades, they didn’t enjoy a healthy environment that allows objective thinking. Like on Iraqi journalist said; the defeat of the seculars is a great loss for those who won the elections.' (ITM)


Nerd? Geek? Dork?

A Nerd is someone who is passionate about learning/being smart/academia.
A Geek is someone who is passionate about some particular area or subject, often an obscure or difficult one.
A Dork is someone who has difficulty with common social expectations/interactions.

The Nerd/Geek/Dork Test
Tri-Lamb Material
69 % Nerd, 26% Geek, 52% Dork
For The Record:

A Nerd is someone who is passionate about learning/being smart/academia.

A Geek is someone who is passionate about some particular area or subject, often an obscure or difficult one.

A Dork is someone who has difficulty with common social expectations/interactions.

You scored better than half in Nerd and Dork, earning you the coveted title of: Tri-Lamb Material.


My test tracked 3 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 71% on nerdiness
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 34% on geekosity
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 87% on dork points
Link: The Nerd? Geek? or Dork? Test written by donathos on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the 32-Type Dating Test

Hat tip: Turning Violet, via Busties


Beyond Serenity

A friend's fascination with the character of River in the movie "Serenity" got me thinking. Because River isn't really a hero through most of the movie, or a warrior; she's controlled by forces outside of herself. She spends the first part of the movie hiding from her warrior side, and in fear of it. It's only at the end - when she can confront that side of herself - that she can use her abilities to fight evil and protect the rest of the crew of Serenity.

This internal transformation is mirrored on a macroscopic scale by the movie's premise. It was the quest for a utopia - specifically, a world free of violence and aggression - that led to the invention of the aptly-named drug Pax. The drug caused most people to lose the will to live - while in a small minority, it had an opposite, and even worse, effect. Mal must force his crew, in the most horrifying way imaginable, to mingle with that banished, evil side.

And come to think of it, isn't it strange how River's name sounds so much like the word "Reaver"?

Aggression and conflict are part of our reality. There is conflict in our world, there is aggression in our nature. We don't get a choice in this. What we do get to choose is how to handle these things. We can run from them and drive them underground; or we can acknowledge them and work with them responsibly.

If we refuse to acknowledge the dark side of ourselves, we are only inviting it to do us harm. To embrace it is to learn true power, and humility, and wholeness.


Nadz is back!

One of my favorite Arab bloggers, Nadz is back in action after a month-long hiatus. Go check out her post on Soumaya Ghannoushi, Cheerleader of the Patriarchy.

Morning Report: January 20, 2006

Jacques Chirac, warmonger. French President Jacques Chirac threatened to nuke Iran (yes, you read that right) if that country resorted to the use of WMD. Financial Times via MSN reports: 'Jacques Chirac, France's president, has threatened to use nuclear weapons against any state that supported terrorism against his country or considered using weapons of mass destruction. In a high-profile speech on Thursday to update military officers on France's strategic doctrine, Mr Chirac said the end of the cold war had removed neither the threats to peace nor the justification for a nuclear deterrent. Citing the dangers of regional instability, growing extremism and the proliferation of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, Mr Chirac said France's nuclear deterrence remained the fundamental guarantee of its security.' (FT via MSN)

Wretchard on suitcase scenario: Don't panic. In the context of the foregoing, a number of people have expressed concerns like this one: 'The fear is not that Iran would attack us, but that they would produce countless small nuclear devices and turn them over to the terrorists whom they support. These would then be smuggled into many major cities in all the western nations for detonation.' The Belmont Club offers an assessment of the threat from "suitcase nukes". From the attacker's standpoint, the limitation of the weapon is the amount of control it delegates to the suitcase bearer: the weapon "is effectively 'his'" and could be bought, stolen, diverted, or misused in any number of ways contrary to the attacker's wishes. The workaround - closely monitored, one-at-a-time attacks on Western targets - has the disadvantage of slowing down the attack rate and allowing the enemy (that's us) to muster a robust response. Wretchard concludes: 'I should add that the proliferation of suitcase nuclear weapons would be just as much a security nightmare for a rogue state as any other. ... But likely rogue states, unlike the US, would be vulnerable to a low rate attack -- it will only take 2 or 3 nukes to bring a country like Syria to the McNamara's 'knee'. The suitcase nuke game is not one which always favors smaller powers.' Read the post for full analysis. (Belmont Club)

Iraq election results. Iraq the Model publishes the official results of Iraq's election. Omar notes: 'Ironically, the first objection to the results came from the UIA [which placed first, with 128 of 275 seats]. Al-Arabiya TV reported that Ammar al-Hakeem (AbdulAziz’s son) and Hussein al-Shahristani announced that the UIA objects to the way seats were distributed among provinces and they think that this “unfair distribution has cut down the UIA’s share by 10 seats”. Al-Hakeem and al-Shahristani reportedly said that they’ll be writing a memo with their objections to the electoral authorities.' Debka says: 'Iraqi’s Shiite Alliance wins December general election with 128 out of 275 parliamentary seats - short of an absolute majority. Official returns declared Friday assign Kurdish parties – 53, the main Sunni Arab bloc – 44 and former PM Iyad Allawi’s mixed Iraq list – 25. The Shiites will have to negotiate with other ethnic parties to form a coalition government.' (ITM, Debka)

IDF diary. 'Rona and Mark volunteered for two weeks with Sar-El in Israel, assisting the IDF. Kesher Talk is publishing Rona's diary.' Go to the link to read it. (Kesher Talk)


Afternoon Roundup

New Bin Laden tape? The Counterterrorism Blog notes: 'Insight into why bin Laden's tapes have tried to divide the American people from the government can be found in his first encounter with the U.S. on a battlefield. This first encounter occurred on October 3, 1993, when eighteen Americans were killed in the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia. This incident was popularized in the bestselling book and movie called Black Hawk Down. Even though the incident was an overwhelming tactical victory for the U.S., with hundreds of dead Somali militiamen far outstripping the U.S. casualties, President Clinton withdrew shortly thereafter because he thought there was no public support for continuing military action.' More from CTB here.

The case for invading Iran. Thomas Holsinger at Winds of Change lays it out: 'All the reasons for invading Iraq apply doubly to Iran, and with far greater urgency. Iran right now poses the imminent threat to America which Iraq did not in 2003. Iran may already have some nuclear weapons, purchased from North Korea or made with materials acquired from North Korea, which would increase its threat to us from imminent to direct and immediate.' The author cites a panel of military experts assembled in a war game conducted by The Atlantic, largely agreeing with the Atlantic's assessment of the military prospects but disagreeing with the magazine's conclusion that the post-victory occupation would be prohibitively costly.

ITM on election results. Now with a new look, Iraq the Model examines the latest developments around the recent elections and allegations of fraud in Iraq:
Although the international team’s report played down allegations of massive fraud voiced by Sunni parties and former PM Allawi’s list, I expect those parties to be relatively satisfied with what the report has shown since their main goal recently was to prove that fraud has taken place regardless of the extent and then they can use this fact to support their rejection for the idea of the UIA of forming a national unity government that takes election results into consideration. What the Sunni and Allawi want is to form a national unity government based on population percentages.

On yesterday, Jalal Talabani said that negotiations among political parties have stopped and won’t be resumed until the election commission uncovers the final results. The final results are expected to be revealed tomorrow and then there will be a two-day period to receive objections. Those objections will be reviewed by a transitional electoral committee and if the objections found invalid, results shall be approved within two days but if objections found valid, this committee will have ten days to study those objections and announced the approved results.

So, we are expecting to see the results tomorrow and mosques will bring the first reaction of corresponding blocs to today’s report while reactions from politicians will start coming later tomorrow or the day after and I hope they react in a reasonable way and avoid overreactions.

Morning Report: January 19, 2006

Iran roundup. "Permanent 5 Unity Short Lived" is the theme of several articles cited at Regime Change Iran. Go to the post for links, including some reporters who are waking up to the "under-reported option". But Iran Focus reports: 'The United States and the European Union rejected on Wednesday an Iranian offer to conduct a fresh round of talks between the EU-3 – Britain, France, and Germany – and the Islamic Republic over the latter’s suspected nuclear weapons program. ... “The EU has made quite clear that the Iranians have crossed an important threshold, that it is now important for the IAEA Board of Governors to act so that Iran knows that the international community will not tolerate its continued acting with impunity against the interest of the international community”, Rice told reporters. ... “It is the Iranians who walked away from the negotiations, who broke the moratorium and, as that condition exists, I am sensing from the Europeans that there's not much to talk about”, Rice said. The EU foreign policy chief concurred. “We are now replying that it doesn't make much sense to have another meeting if there's nothing new in what they are going to put on the table. So I think the position now is and actually we have said and the Secretary has said today, which is to have the decision: (a) to call for an extraordinary meeting of Vienna -- of the agency; and then to refer [Iran] to the Security Council.' Also via Iran Focus, this Washington Times editorial says that 'In technical terms, the U.S. military has the ability to inflict major damage to Iran's nuclear weapons program, potentially setting it back for years. That's the general view of military strategists in the United States and Israel', but adds, 'Given that Iran's nuclear program is believed to be widely dispersed among dozens or more sites, some of them easily concealed and unknown to foreign intelligence agencies, it's not likely that military action short of overthrowing the current regime could eliminate the Iranian nuclear threat.' Meanwhile, the Iranian regime is shoring up relations with its ally Syria, according to news reports: 'Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad began a visit to Syria Thursday to consolidate an old alliance made increasingly crucial as both countries face mounting U.S. pressure and the threat of international sanctions. Ahmadinejad and Syrian President Bashar Assad were expected to talk about Iran's standoff with the West over its nuclear program and the threat to refer it to the U.N. Security Council, as well as Syria's own troubles over a U.N. investigation that implicated it in the assassination of Lebanon's former prime minister. ... Syria sits on the 35-nation International Atomic Energy Agency board, which meets on Feb. 2 for a vote on whether to refer Tehran to the Security Council.' And Ha'Aretz reports: 'Former Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter said Thursday that Israel should let the international community act to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons but, if pushed to the wall, should act against Iran. Avi Dichter told Army Radio that Israel was currently satisfied with the international community's efforts to stop Iran from enriching uranium but must act if it faces the real danger of Iran possessing nuclear weapons.' (various)

US to shift diplomats from Europe. The EU Observer reports on the US State Department's decision to move many of its diplomatic personnel to new locations in Africa and Asia: 'Washington is planning to move hundreds of its diplomats from Europe to the Middle East and the Asian superpowers, such as China or India. "America must begin to reposition our diplomatic forces around the world," the US secretary of state Condoleeza Rice said in a speech to students at Georgetown University on Wednesday (18 January), the BBC reported. She pointed out that it is not normal to have as many diplomats in Germany, with 82 million people, as in India with 1 billion people. Adding that there are still almost 200 world cities of over a million inhabitants without any US presence - despite its 7,440-strong diplomatic corps abroad - Ms Rice indicated "This is where the action is today, and this is where we must be." he US foreign minister explained the move as part of the administration's plan to build up a "transformational diplomacy," which attempts "to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world."' (EU Observer)


Night Flashes

North Korean missiles may improve Iran's striking range, reports The Counterterrorism Blog ... from the Jerusalem Post, Condi Rice met with Shimon Peres in Washington, and discussed the upcoming Palestinian elections ... also from JPost, Condi condemned the IRI's decision to go ahead with its nuclear program, saying, "I think we have a good deal of coherence in the view of the major powers about the fact that Iran stepped over a line" ... and via Pajamas Media, Vik Rubenfeld reports some new-found friends from Old Europe on the Iran challenge ... meanwhile Ha'Aretz reports that frum Israelis aren't being allowed into Jordan - their tzizit and tallitot are marking them "persona non grata" - ostensibly it's for their "protection" ... if Tigerhawk didn't know better, they'd almost swear the leftist bloggers didn't support the troops ... and Registan points the way to Regostan (no relation), where you can find the best Plov, somsa, manti, lepioshka, shashlik, and even shorpa.

Iran Report

Jonathan Gurwitz of the San Antonio Express-News, coming our way via Marze Por Gohar, offers some refreshing sanity when he says the world must not ignore cries for change in Iran:
The world has come to know only one voice from Iran — that of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In his denial of the Holocaust, his threat to wipe Israel off the map and his relentless pursuit of nuclear technology, Ahmadinejad has become to polite international relations what Howard Stern is to broadcast radio. There are other voices from Iran, however, who don't figure so prominently in the news as the Islamic Republic's firebrand leader.

There is the voice of dissident journalist Akbar Ganji. Ganji, like Ahmadinejad, is a former member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Unlike Ahmadinejad, he recognizes that the 1979 revolution that deposed the Shah has metastasized into a corrupt, malignant cancer on the Iranian nation.

In 2000, Ganji published a series of articles in which he implicated Iran's religious leaders in the murder of political opponents. He is now serving a six-year sentence in Tehran's dreaded Evin prison, where Ahmadinejad reportedly acted as a cruel interrogator and ruthless executioner.

Last summer, Ganji issued a letter to the world from his prison cell, rendered in English by Iranian expatriate writer and poet Roya Hakakian:

"My voice will not be silenced, for it is the voice of peaceful life, of tolerating the other, loving humanity, sacrificing for others, seeking truth and freedom, demanding democracy, welcoming different lifestyles, separating the private sphere and the public sphere, religion and state, promoting equality of all humans, rationality, federalism within a democratic Iran, and above all, a profound distaste for violence."

Go read it all, and ask yourself what you can do to help brave Iranians like Akbar Ganji.

ShrinkWrapped on Screen Memories

One feature of the ongoing psychological disintegration of the Left is the phenomenon of "screen memories", as explained by ShrinkWrapped:
Screen memories and screen perceptions are innocuous pieces of reality that people focus on when traumatized as a way to deal with the overwhelming anxiety, terror, and impotent anger that trauma provokes. By focusing on a relatively neutral aspect of the traumatic situation, the person is able to preserve an illusion of normalcy and comfort.

The behavior of much of the Media, the Democratic party, and the European elites show all the hallmarks of reliance on such screens to avoid feeling traumatized.

Consider the various dangers our country, and indeed Western Civilization, is currently facing. Much of our current discourse concerns which of two sets of dangers are most significant and most immediate.

On one side of the equation reside the risks of the Bush Administration gradually moving the country to the right, with extreme versions of this worry including creeping fascist theocracy, canceled elections in 2008, and other wild scenarios. ...

On the other side would be the dangers of Islamic fascism in all its many guises.

Go read it all and don't forget to bookmark ShrinkWrapped on your browser.

I've had my own experiences with the Left's collective mental breakdown, but we'll save those for another time.

Abu Khabab al-Masri

Who is - or was - Abu Khabab al-Masri? Here's more from the Counterterrorism Blog:
According to a growing number of media reports, a recent U.S. airstrike on a Pakistani border village has likely killed a senior Egyptian Al-Qaida commander named Midhat Mursi (a.k.a. Abu Khabab al-Masri). Since the late 1980s, Abu Khabab has served as a top military aide and deputy to Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan. Mursi was responsible for co-managing Al-Qaida's notorious Derunta military training complex near Jalalabad, where he maintained his own elite terrorist graduate school aptly named the "Abu Khabab Camp."

In November 1995, Abu Khabab organized his first major terrorist plot in response to an international crackdown on the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, dispatching two suicide bombers from the Derunta training camp to target the Egyptian Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan. The twin car bombs killed 17 people and wounded 59 others. In later memoirs regarding Abu Khabab's 1995 operation, Ayman al-Zawahiri explained, "The basic objective was to attack the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, but if that proved difficult to do, then to strike at any other U.S. target in Pakistan. However, following intensive and detailed surveillance, we discovered that bombing the U.S. Embassy was beyond our capability."

Following his success in Islamabad, Abu Khabab teamed up with other veteran Al-Qaida commanders (including Abu Musab al-Suri, who was recently captured in Pakistan) to train a new generation of terrorist sleeper cells destined for targets in the Western world. ...

Read the rest at the link.

UPDATE: Stefania at Free Thoughts points out that this guy also trained the "Shoe Bomber". Don't miss her important, bilingual (Italian/English) blog.

Afternoon Roundup

Top al-Qaeda bombmaker reported killed in Pakistan. Conterterrorism Blog:
ABC News broke the story this afternoon that al Qaeda's master bomb maker and chemical weapons expert, Midhat Mursi, a.k.a. Midhat Mursi al-Sayyid Umar, a.k.a. Abu Khabab al-Masri, a.k.a. Abu Khabab, was killed in last week's U.S. missile attack in Pakistan. A friend in the media with excellent official sources, as well as CNN's David Ensor, report that US government officials can't confirm the killing but won't dissuade the reports either. If true, this is almost as good as killing al-Zawahri; we had a $5 million reward out for Abu Khabab for his long success in training hundreds of terrorists in Afghanistan (including Richard Reid and Zacharias Moussaoui) and for his planning for chemical WMD attacks. ...

A sweeping realignment. Daniel Holt at Publius Pundit:
The US is moving a hundred diplomatic posts from staid Western locations to Africa and the booming East. Clearly the administration recognizes the importance of the sorts of stories Publius covers.

The Financial Times says:

Condoleezza Rice, US secretary of state, yesterday called [the move] a “sweeping and difficult” transformation of US diplomacy.

“In the 21st century, emerging nations like India and China, and Brazil and Egypt, and Indonesia and South Africa are increasingly shaping the course of history,” Ms Rice said[…]

Ms Rice said the US needed bold diplomacy to achieve the mission set out by George W. Bush, president, in his second inaugural address a year ago of supporting democratic institutions worldwide with the “ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world”.

The article also specifies that "This year, 100 diplomats would be shifted to countries such as China, India, Nigeria and Lebanon, she said, with several hundred to be moved over the next few years." Rice cited "the Bush administration's shift away from focusing on what it regards as cold war structures such as Nato and the United Nations".

True Security Begins With Regime Change in Iran

As House Resolution 398 (May 06, 2004) has rightly recognized, the illegitimate government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has engaged, and continues to engage, in efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. Such weapons would pose an immediate threat not only to Iran's neigbors, but ultimately to the entire world.

The cruelty of the IRI regime is well known and abundantly documented. The regime has been implicated in assassinations throughout the Middle East, Europe, and the United States; the murder of more than 100,000 Iranians; continuing policies of rape, torture, and arbitrary imprisonment as political tools; and the kidnapping of thousands of women and girls for sale into prostitution and slavery.

According to the Department of State report released by the Department of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor on February 25, 2004: “The Government's poor human rights record worsened, and it continued to commit numerous, serious abuses. The right of citizens to change their government was restricted significantly. Continuing serious abuses included: summary executions; disappearances; torture and other degrading treatment, reportedly including severe punishments such as beheading and flogging; poor prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; lack of habeas corpus or access to counsel and prolonged and incommunicado detention. Citizens often did not receive due process or fair trials. The Government infringed on citizens' privacy rights, and restricted freedom of speech, press, assembly, association and religion.” These and other abuses clearly indicate that the regime constitutes a grave threat to the people of Iran and to free people everywhere.

It has come to our attention that Israel and/or the United States may be contemplating a pre-emptive military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities. If the United States follows a policy based exclusively on the nuclear issue, however, the results will be catastrophic both for the Iranian people and, ultimately, for the Middle East and the world. Merely striking at Iranian nuclear facilities would at best delay the regime's nuclear program, driving it deeper underground; would certainly provoke even harsher measures against the Iranian people; and would likely lure the West into a false sense of security with the mullahs of the IRI regime plotting their ultimate retribution against America, Israel, and all others who have stood in their way.

The Islamist regime continues to actively undermine American efforts to rebuild Afghanistan and Iraq. Regime-backed agents and mercenaries are killing American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines every week. To wait until Iraq and Afghanistan are “secure” before confronting the Iranian mullahs is folly; rather, the United States must take the battle to the enemy in Tehran.
The vast majority of freedom-loving Iranian people support the right of Israel and all of Iran's Middle Eastern neighbors, as well as the United States, to live in peace and security. Therefore, it is in our common interest that:

1. President Bush must support clear and open policy calling for regime change in Iran.
2. The Administration must abandon its policy of “Afghanistan yesterday, Iraq today, Iran maybe tomorrow”, and confront the threat from the IRI regime immediately.
3. President Bush must deliver an ultimatum to the IRI's primary hidden supporters (Britain) and secondary supporters (France, Germany, EU, Japan, Canada, Russia, and China) to stop giving economic assistance, intelligence assistance, or other assistance to the regime. The EU, in particular, should not use resources stolen from the Iranian people to finance its own failed welfare state.
4. The United States must deliver an unequivocal ultimatum to the Iranian regime to step down peacefully and immediately, and transfer power to a team of Iranian, Iranian-American leaders; this team would set up a referendum under US and international supervision with military presence of US, Sweden, Denmark, and the Netherlands in Iran as the peacekeeper. If the mullahs do not agree to step down peacefully, then the US should provide all necessary financial and military support for freedom-loving Iranian opposition both inside and outside Iran to remove the regime in a short period of time.

The Bush Doctrine advocates America's active role in supporting freedom, democracy, and human rights throughout the world. We call on the Government to act in accord with this wise and noble policy, and help the Iranian people achieve their dream of a free and democratic Iran.

"Human beings are all members of one body.
They are created from the same essence.
When one member is in pain,
The others cannot rest.
If you do not care about the pain of others,
You do not deserve to be called a human being."
A Quote from Famous Persian Poet Saadi Shirazi
( 13th century Persian poet, from Shiraz the birthplace)

Please take a moment to sign the petition, if you haven't yet, here:
True Security Begins With Regime Change in Iran

Morning Report: January 18, 2006

Iran roundup. News media report: 'France rejected Iran's request for more talks on the Islamic republic's nuclear program, saying Wednesday that Tehran first must suspend its atomic activities. Iran asked for a ministerial-level meeting with France, Germany, Britain and the European Union, but its decision to resume some uranium enrichment-related activities "means that it is not possible for us to meet under satisfactory conditions to pursue these discussions," French Foreign Ministry spokesman Denis Simonneau said in Paris. "Iran must return to a complete suspension of these activities." ' Via Regime Change Iran, The Times reports: 'BRITAIN, France and Germany announced yesterday that they would seek an emergency meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency early next month to have Iran referred to the United Nations Security Council, where Tehran could face sanctions for its controversial nuclear programme. After a day of talks in London with diplomats from America, Russia and China, the three European powers signalled that the meeting on February 2-3 would mark the end of years of mediation with Tehran. All six nations agreed that Iran must suspend its nuclear programme. The move means that the spotlight will now fall on the 35 member states of the IAEA, the nuclear watchdog. ... Russia, which has a $1 billion (£560 million) contract to build Iran’s nuclear reactor as well as lucrative arms deals with Tehran, has been more reluctant to act against its trading partner but now appears willing to work with the West.' Amir Taheri writes: 'Treating the issue of Iran's alleged nuclear ambition as a hot potato, the European trio of Britain, Germany and France, has decided to pass it on to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and thence to the United Nations' Security Council. "Our talks with Iran have reached a dead end," says Germany's new foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. The truth, however, is the trio's talks with Iran, which lasted three years, started at a dead-end. ... ' Ahmadinejad, says Taheri, at least deserves credit for his honesty toward the "corrupt midgets" of Europe. And how did it get this way? 'European-style appeasement, partly motivated by a desire to pull faces at Washington, has encouraged the most radical faction in Tehran and helped bring Ahmadinejad to power. All the diplomatic gesticulations that are likely to follow will only compound that effect.' Read the rest at the link. Meanwhile, Michael Ledeen foresees "the inevitable showdown with Iran": 'This administration, like every other Western government, has hoped against hope that it would not come to this. President George W. Bush, for reasons good and bad, threw in with the Europeans' phony-negotiation scheme, even though he knew it would fail. Like the others, he hoped that revolution would erupt, and that decisive action on our part would not be necessary. Like the others, he preferred not to face the hard fact that revolutions rarely succeed without external support. Had Ronald Reagan been around, he would have told W. that the democratic revolution that ended the Cold War only finally succeeded when the United States supported it.' (various)

Schadenfreude squared: Bad guys versus bad guys in Iraq. Christopher Hitchens notes: 'The best news from Iraq this year would certainly be the long New York Times report of Jan. 12 on the murderous strife between local "insurgents" and al-Qaida infiltrators. This was also among the best news from last year. For months, coalition soldiers in Iraq had been telling anyone who would care to listen that they had noticed a new phenomenon: heavy fire that they didn't have to duck. On analysis, this turned out to be shooting or shelling apparently "incoming" from one "insurgent position" but actually directed at another one.' Hitch stresses three points: first, MSM caricatures notwithstanding, Iraqi society is not neatly divided into "camps" but includes a large number of mixed or intermarried families whose loyalties will be more complex than anything Zarqawi can elicit; second, the "insurgency" will soon be defeated and isolated; and finally, with even moderate success on the part of the democratic process, terrorism itself will have been discredited and humiliated in the Middle East. (Hitchens at Slate)

Schadenfreude, part two: Bad guys versus bad guys in Syria. Iran-watchers must constantly bear in mind that not every entity that is "anti-regime" is "pro-democracy". So too in the case of Syria. Lest we imagine that Syria’s exiled former Vice President Abdul Halim Khaddam - now championing the cause of "opposition" - is some kind of democracy activist, Michael Totten writing at Tech Central Station fills us in: 'The man is no democrat. In the 1950s, when the Baath Party was still an isolated group on the fringe, he was among the first to join. He spent his entire career, up until June of last year when he left Syria for Paris, as an “old guard” hardliner who rose to power under Bashar’s late and more ruthless father Hafez Assad. The reason he resigned seven months ago is not because the younger Assad is too brutal, incompetent, of for any other reason hopeful observers might wish to project onto him. Khaddam resigned because Bashar Assad slowly diminished his power and influence since assuming the presidency after his father’s death in 2000.' Short and sweet: He's no good guy. Read the whole thing to learn more. (MJT at TCS)

More bad guys: Wretchard on the heirs of Commander Toothpick. Citing another Hitchens piece, The Belmont Club takes us into the world of deranged warlords and their sometimes equally deranged avengers. 'A couple of traces of Commander Toothpick's past existence still turn up on a Google Search but all of the links are dead as is presumably Commander Toothpick. But his mantle had apparently been taken up by Norberto Manero, who like Joseph Kony, found himself powerful protectors among the different factions jockeying for power. A stone killer is never idle in a lawless Third World country. Manero's greatest claim to notoriety lay in his brutal murder of Italian Catholic priest Father Tulio Favali, after which he consumed parts of the priest's brain. My path crossed Manero's but very indirectly, when I noticed that he had been awarded an Industrial Forest Plantation by the Philippine Government at a time when he should have been in jail ... ' Wretchard concludes: ' In my more cynical moments I'm convinced that nobody gives a damn about children or human rights or the environment in the wilder places of the world: just power.' (Hitchens; The Belmont Club)

COMMENTARY: Today's items should remind us of what is at stake in the Middle East and elsewhere. As I've argued before, the evolution from an eye-for-an-eye mentality of "victim entltlement", toward a worldview based on freedom and true justice, is fundamental and necessary for civilization to continue. Defeating the bad guys is necessary but not sufficient. In the long run, only a policy based on liberty and justice will save us. Otherwise we will all find ourselves living in "the wilder places of the world".


Ray Nagin, please shut the heck up.

Ray Nagin says God is mad at America while LaShawn Barber isn't keen on some fools getting a free pass on stupid statements just because their skin is chocolate. (HT: Insty).

I agree. And it's only out of respect for LaShawn that I'm not using stronger language.

ITM: Not the scale, but the fact of fraud is Maram's political lever.

Iraq the Model reports:
The international investigation team that came to Iraq to check on election results announced that they are delaying the announcement of their report until Thursday.
The interesting thing about this is that the team said they’d disclose their report after the team members leave Iraq! This suggests that the team wants to avoid upsetting any particular Iraqi party while they are still here.

Parties that opposed the preliminary results such as Maram have high hopes on this report; not because they think it can grant them more seats in the parliament as everyone knows now that final results won’t be much different from the preliminary ones but rather because those parties want something that officially proves fraud has taken place regardless of the size of this fraud. It’s just the mere idea that any proven fraud will give Maram and the like more bargaining power to face the UIA with and they think that then, the UIA will not be able to force its point of view regarding the formation of the government and thus will have to reach a compromise with the others and give them a better share. ...

Read the rest at the link. Mohammed also points out that the greatest danger in Iraq is not the increasingly fragmented and isolated al-Qaeda but "the possible interference of the neighbors in Iraq’s internal affairs to destabilize the country and impede the political process". The Syrian and Iranian regimes have an interest in making Iraq look like a quagmire because, they reason, as long as Washington perceives itself as being "bogged down" in Iraq, the regimes in Tehran and Damascus are safe.

I'm hoping they've miscalculated.

National Geographic on Iraqi Kurdistan

This just in from Michael Yon: the current National Geographic print edition (January 2006) carries a great article on the Kurdish region in Iraq. You can watch the preview here, but you have to get the print magazine to read it all. Michael Yon has only positive things to say about the article, and that's good enough for me. Don't forget to visit Michael Yon regularly.

Time Magazine Covers Iranian Repression ...

... and cites Regime Change Iran (sort of). Time Online has a great article called Iran Slamming Its Doors on the World. (Wait! I thought it was America that was out of step with "the world". I'm so confuuused ... )

Please go to the link to read the article, but this just jumped out at me:
Using keyword filters and censorship software pirated from U.S. firms, the government blocked thousands of websites containing news, political content and satire. It even blocked the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). The crude filters make it impossible to look up suggestive words such as women, so a Google search on women's pregnancy produces an ACCESS DENIED screen. [emphasis mine - aa]

Those. Fucking. Pigs.

Azadeh Moaveni's very fine article also includes an intended plug for Regime Change Iran, but as of this posting the link at the online piece is incorrect. (Doctor Zin informs me that he knows for a fact the author intended to mention RCI.) Let's hope the good folks at Time get this fixed.

Latest Iran News

... via Doctor Zin:
Congressional sources informed me that this joint appearance was carefully prepared by both political parties as a show unity on the Iran.

Carol Giacomo, Reuters reported that Republican and Democratic senators said on Sunday the United States may ultimately have to undertake a military strike to deter Iran.
Nedra Pickler, Forbes reported that US Senators said that international penalties against Iran are necessary to contain its nuclear ambitions. ...

Read the rest at Regime Change Iran.

Meanwhile, the Free Iran News Forum has this:
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Monday Iran ‘crossed the threshold’ with its recent nuclear actions and the world must act fast to send Tehran to the UN Security Council.

The Security Council’s five permanent members and Germany are holding talks in London on Monday in search of a common strategy to tackle Iran’s resumption of atomic fuel research and development after a two-year moratorium.

Rice said the United States wanted the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to hold an emergency meeting as soon as possible, fearing if IAEA members waited until a scheduled meeting in March this would give Iran a chance to further ‘obfuscate’ over any nuclear weapons plans.

“We just can’t let them do that,” she told reporters traveling with her to Liberia for the inauguration of Africa’s first woman president. ...

Full post - with more related news - at the link.

Yes, I'm fine, thanks for asking.

Have been preoccupied with personal stuff the last week or so, but I'm OK and should be back to posting again very soon. Thanks as always for your visits.


Morning Report: January 9, 2006

Iran: Revolutionary Guards commander, 12 lieutenants killed in air crash; Zionist conspiracy suspected. Debka reports: 'Head of Iranian Revolutionary Guards ground forces Gen. Ahmad Kazemi and 12 deputies killed in plane crash in NW Iran. Iran claims to have caught an Israeli spy. The small Falcon executive jet came down near Oroumieh, 900 km north of Tehran, according to an announcement from Iran’s state news agency. DEBKAfile’s Tehran sources note the high importance of the dead commander who was appointed only three months ago. Another of the victims was head of the RG intelligence branch. Kazemi, for six years chief of the RG air force, was one of the fathers of Iran’s aggressive military doctrine. Our Iran experts’ first premise is that the crash was engineered by opposition factions to president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad within the regime in an effort to stem the increasing encroachments of state institutions by his backers, the radical Revolutionary Guards. There is no information on the “Israeli spy’s” identity. DEBKAfile’s Tehran sources suggest the purported capture may have been timed to coincide with the plane crash by the same group which sabotaged the plane to shift responsibility to Israel.' Jerusalem Post has this: 'It was the second time in two months that a military plane has crashed in Iran. On both occasions, the planes were carrying passengers and attempting to make an emergency landing. In Monday's crash, the plane, a Falcon of the Revolutionary Guards, was trying to make an emergency landing at Oroumieh, 900 kilometers (560 miles) northwest of the capital, Tehran, state television reported. The plane crashed because its landing gear jammed, preventing the wheels from being fully deployed, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.' Lots more reporting and comment at Free Iran. ShrinkWrapped offers the following analysis: 'The Arab world thrives on conspiracy theories and have not only demonized Israel and the United States, but in the process have created the image of Americans and Jews as giants and supermen. In keeping with such "thinking", I would suggest we start the rumor that the Mossad and the CIA were behind this.' Morning Report endorses the conspiracy theory. (various)

Old Cairo. Michael Totten has a fascinating and unforgettable post on his tour of Old Cairo by night. Michael - whose philosophy is "a bomb only explodes once" - meets up with Big Pharaoh and visits old mosques, the marked at Khan al-Khalili (exotic, even to Michael), Al-Azhar University (where a certain blind sheik once taught), and an old mansion. Don't miss this post, with great writing and amazing photographs. (MJT)

Like a ship out of a fog. The Belmont Club posts a roundup of recent developments, and wonders 'whether larger political upheavals are in the offing in the Middle East. The three collateral unknowns are Syria, Iran and Israel.' Wretchard concludes: 'The relative clarity of vision with which the US entered 2002 is gone, it's place taken by a political class which has demoralized itself in despite of historically unprecedented success. Of the pillars that held up the political world in 2003 only a few remain standing. Arafat dead; Sharon in a coma; Schoeder a factotum of Vladimir Putin; Chirac a shadow of himself; the European Union moribund, the UN a standing joke; Blair badly weakned and America obsessed with cookies left on browsers on government websites. And 2006 just beginning. Interesting times indeed.' (Belmont Club)


Iranian Regime to Kill Another 17-Year-Old Girl

"Nazanin, 17, was sentenced to death by hanging for defending herself against three rapists." Here's the report from FaithFreedom:
Nazanin, 17, was sentenced to death by hanging for defending herself against three rapists.

A young girl who defended herself and her chastity against three male assailants who intended to kidnap and rape her causing injury to one of them who later died in hospital was condemned to death by hanging in an Islamic court in Iran. Nazanin who has seen no more than 17 Springs, all of which under the tyrannical rule of the Mullahs is now facing execution for trying to defend herself and her honor.

No where in the world and under no law self defense is considered to be a crime, but in the tyrannical mullacracy of Iran if a woman does not resist rape she will be stoned as adulterer and if she does she will be hanged.

Nazanin, this young innocent girl, was assaulted by three criminal men in the city of Karaj while walking home in the midday last March (2005). To defend herself she pulled out a knife and stabbed one of her assailants. The knife penetrated the ribs of her attacker who later died in the hospital. The attacks on women in Iran is so frequent that many are forced to carry a concealed weapon for self defense. Unfortunately the Islamic law does not even allow women the right to self defense.

Despite the fact that she had been acting in self defense, as shown by the evidences presented and the testimony of eyewitnesses, Nazanin was sentenced to death by hanging. In the last court hearing she told the judge “I only defended myself and the honor of my family”

Read the rest at the link. HT: Hyphen at LGF comments.

Mark Steyn and the Death of the West

Jason Holliston at Columbia Gorge Dispatch links to the excellent but chilling Mark Steyn piece, "It's the Demography, Stupid". Steyn argues:
As fertility shrivels, societies get older--and Japan and much of Europe are set to get older than any functioning societies have ever been. And we know what comes after old age. These countries are going out of business--unless they can find the will to change their ways. Is that likely? I don't think so. ...

Also via Jason,Lileks weighs in:
The telling line in Steyn's piece quotes that fine Gaul Jean-Francois Revel: "Clearly, a civilization that feels guilty for everything it is and does will lack the energy and conviction to defend itself." I’ve read a lot of Revel; a great man and a profound, clear thinker. Lucky for him, he is old, and will not see his fears made manifest. Guilt is a problem, but it’s not the entire enchilada. It’s guilt married to a peculiar belief that Western Civilization is unique only in its sins. The only thing Western Civ really gave the world was slavery, imperialism, war, and capitalism; the fact that we have eliminated or diminished or abbreviated those sins is due not to anything inherent in Western Civ but some overarching, free-floating Enlightenment unmoored from the cultures that produced it. The world began in 1968, and owes nothing to what came before; if we wish to combat the regrettable enthusiasms of some other cultures whose animus appears religious, we should deconsecrate the cathedrals in order to set an example and light the way. Religion is the enemy to the transnational progressives, because religion holds up laws and codes and rules the wise burghers of Belgium cannot amend.

Lileks worries about those who "see threats and perils everywhere except where there are, you know, threats and perils." ShrinkWrapped relates an exchange with a commenter who also has an interesting sense of proportion:
Last week I posted Liberalism's Alter Nation, not one of my finest efforts but it did trigger an interesting exchange with Gary Farber who posts at Amygdala, a very interesting , often entertaining blog where he writes about science fiction (at least part of the time) which gains him significant points in my estimation. Among his comments on the post were two that I think are exceptionally revealing and underlined the most profound cause of the disconnect between the right and left in this country today.

In his first comment on my post Gary said:

The threat of Islamic terrorism is, in context, comparatively trivial, and no justification whatever to give up the liberty our country holds sacred.

Except at the extremes of left and right, it seems to me that this is the key breaking point in our discourse. If Gary is correct in saying that al Qaeda and Islamic terrorism present a "comparatively trivial" threat, it logically follows that one would be much less concerned about such issues as media bias, the left's conscious and unconscious assault on our war efforts, "whistle blowers" outing the NSA surveillance program, and a whole host of other disputed problems. On the other hand, if you believe, as I do, that Islamic terror represents an existential threat to the West, then the leaks about the NSA program in the New York Times and Washington Post become a major issue of treasonous behavior from the media conjoined with opportunistic and suicidal behavior by the left side of the political divide.

It is impossible to overstate the significance of this fundamental disagreement on basic assumptions.

However, Shrink holds out hope for an ongoing conversation, and some follow-up comments by Gary provide encouragement. Go to the link to read the rest of Shrink's post, and (in the comments) Gary's clarification of his own position.

Meanwhile, Big Lizards posts a rebuttal by Dafydd, countering some of Steyn's more pessimistic projections:
The essay is brilliant, persuasively argued, and displays the passion Steyn has for Western Civ. Fortunately, it suffers from one terrible flaw that spoils everything: it is a classic example of discredited static analysis. ...

Meanwhile, Steyn has a more upbeat piece in the print edition of National Review (issue date December 31, 2005) called "The Defeaticrats." (HT: NYC LiberalHawks) You've got to get the print issue, or else be a subscriber to read it online; but I'll leave you with this quote: "The tragedy is that, on so-called “liberal” terms, this is a war Democrats ought to be gung-ho for..."

Exactly so. As many of us have been saying all along.

Ben at Bad Hair: Liberalism vs. the Left

Guestblogger Ben says it better than I can with this guest post at Fausta's Bad Hair Blog: The Liberal Concept:
The Liberal concept, once upon a time, was a rather simple thing: Government, being a construct of the people, has a logical function of improving the lives of the people. Since "the people" means all the people, and the people on the bottom certainly need a lot more improving than the people on the top, liberalism was a- was-- a modern edition of Noblesse Oblige where the powerful looked after the interests of the not so powerful.

The Left's vision no longer has the government doing that. They've mutated. The Elite of the Left are now the new royalty, and their only interest in maintaining an air of Noblesse Oblige is as a cover for their own ends- if your authority is rooted in your efforts to help the poor, then it's kind of self defeating to actually eliminate poverty, isn't it? ...

Maybe the economics are debatable, but not Issue Number One. Activities designed to improve the lives of people presuppose the primary task of keeping those people alive. If you die, all else is moot. ...

Read it all at the link.

Morning Report: January 8, 2006

Hugh Thompson, hero at My Lai, dies. The helicopter pilot who risked his life to prevent further atrocities by American soldiers has died. On March 16, 1968, Hugh Thompson and his two crewmates came upon the horrifying scene of Vietnamese civilians murdered by US troops. Thompson confronted Lieutenant Calley, who had ordered the massacre, and acted immediately to prevent further loss of innocent life. Bill at Argghhh! has the rest, and Armed Liberal has a tribute. (various)

DeLay abandons quest to resume House Majority Leader role. News reports announce that former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R - Texas, 22nd dist.) will not seek to regain his former title in the wake of the Abramoff scandal. 'Rep. Tom DeLay, the defiant face of a conservative revolution in Congress, stepped down as House majority leader on Saturday under pressure from Republicans staggered by an election-year corruption scandal. "During my time in Congress, I have always acted in an ethical manner within the rules of our body and the laws of our land," the Texas lawmaker told fellow Republicans in a letter informing them of his decision. Still, referring to criminal charges he faces in his home state, he added, "I cannot allow our adversaries to divide and distract our attention." DeLay temporarily gave up his leadership post after he was charged, but always insisted he would reclaim his duties after clearing his name. His turnabout cleared the way for leadership elections among Republicans buffeted by poor polls and by lobbyist Jack Abramoff's confessions of guilt on corruption charges in connection with congressional wining and dining. ...' (AP via Yahoo)

Iran regime skips negotiations, reactivates nuclear centers. New York Times: 'Iran threw negotiations over its nuclear program into disarray on Thursday, abruptly canceling a high-level meeting with the United Nations' monitoring agency in Vienna. The leader of Iran's negotiating team was said to be returning to Tehran. The unexpected turn of events stunned and frustrated officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency and foreign diplomats, who scrambled to make sense of Iran's decision.' Morning Report is sure they're still scratching their heads over that one. BBC: 'Iran says it will resume nuclear fuel research on Monday, despite international appeals to desist.
Officials say seals at nuclear research centres will be removed, ending a two year suspension. The European Union has warned such a move could jeopardise a return to negotiations on Iran's sensitive nuclear ambitions. Resuming the research would mean all of Iran's nuclear activities, apart from uranium enrichment, are active again.' (NYT, BBC)

Rice: US has votes for Iran referral. Washington Post: 'Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday that the United States and its European allies have the votes to bring Iran before the U.N. Security Council for possible censure over its nuclear ambitions, signaling increasing skepticism that continued negotiations with Iran will ever succeed. "The Iranians are digging their own hole of isolation deeper and deeper," Rice said at a breakfast with State Department reporters, referring to Iran's announcement this week that it will resume nuclear fuel research ...' (WP)

Allawi to lead Sunnis; Erbil and Suleimania administrations to unite. ITM: 'Stage two of the current phase of the political in Iraq which we anticipated a few days ago has just begun and its beginning is marked by the emergence of a new large political bloc. The new bloc was announced today in Baghdad after the largest three blocs of Maram-the Iraqi list, the Accord Front and al-Mutlaq’s Dialogue Front-signed an agreement to form one unified political body. This agreement will grant the new political body a significant political weight with a total of approximately 80 seats in the parliament and with good prospects for reaching something close to 100 seats if a few other smaller lists like Mishaan al-Juboori’s list, the Islamic union of Kurdistan, Turkmen and Christians chose joining it. Of course these numbers are not final until the election commission gives the final count and the international investigation team verifies those results and finishes studying claims of fraud.
Anyway, now the equation seems easier to read with only three variables instead of four or five! Allawi who appeared in a press conference today after a relatively long hiatus emphasized again that talking about forming the government should take place only after the investigation is over. Adnan al-Dulaimi and Salih al-Mutlaq were standing behind Allawi during the press conference which means that the two men have given Allawi the leadership of the new alliance. Allawi stressed that the new bloc rejects and condemns terrorism, of course this is something not unusual from Allawi but I think that Allawi this time was speaking on behalf of al-Dulaimi and al-Mutlaq who have recently been accused so many times by the UIA of backing terrorism. ... The day’s other big event is something that has been awaited for quite along time, and it is an achievement of special importance for the Kurds in Iraq, today Masoud Barzani announced that the KDP and PUK have finally reached an agreement to unite the two Kurdish administrations in Erbil and Sulaymaniya. It’s worth mentioning that since after 1991, the Kurdish region was run by two separate administrations; one by the KDP in Erbil and Duhok and the other by the PUK in Sulaymaniya.' (ITM)


Hugh Thompson

Hugh Thompson died Friday morning at the age of 62. Jonah's military guys have more:
I would like to introduce you to someone: CW2 Hugh Thompson. A fellow helicopter pilot from my war...

You probably don't recognize his name and you probably don't know what he did, but you will definitely recognize where and when he did it: My Lai, Vietnam--1968.

What would you call a man who saw his friends committing murder and risked his life to stop them? ...

Read the rest at the link. Armed Liberal says, 'reading his story changed my attitude toward the U.S. military, and indirectly, probably started me on the part to where I am today. I owe him an immense debt, both personally and as a citizen.' Do not miss Marc's Veteran's Day 2004 post.

Filling us in on the details, here's US News:
Skimming over the Vietnamese village of My Lai in a helicopter with a bubble-shaped windshield, 24-year-old Hugh Thompson had a superb view of the ground below. But what the Army pilot saw didn't make any sense: piles of Vietnamese bodies and dead water buffalo. He and his two younger crew mates, Lawrence Colburn and Glenn Andreotta, were flying low over the hamlet on March 16, 1968, trying to draw fire so that two gunships flying above could locate and destroy the enemy. On this morning, no one was shooting at them. And yet they saw bodies everywhere, and the wounded civilians they had earlier marked for medical aid were now all dead.

As the helicopter hovered a few feet over a paddy field, the team watched a group of Americans approach a wounded young woman lying on the ground. A captain nudged her with his foot, then shot her. The men in the helicopter recoiled in horror, shouting, "You son of a bitch!"

Thompson couldn't believe it. His suspicions and fear began to grow as they flew over the eastern side of the village and saw dozens of bodies piled in an irrigation ditch. Soldiers were standing nearby, taking a cigarette break. Thompson racked his brains for an explanation. Maybe the civilians had fled to the ditch for cover? Maybe they'd been accidentally killed and the soldiers had made a mass grave? The Army warrant officer just couldn't wrap his mind around the truth of My Lai. ...

But he wrapped his mind around it quick enough. AP via the Seattle PI:
Early in the morning of March 16, 1968, Thompson, door-gunner Lawrence Colburn and crew chief Glenn Andreotta came upon U.S. ground troops killing Vietnamese civilians in and around the village of My Lai.

They landed the helicopter in the line of fire between American troops and fleeing Vietnamese civilians and pointed their own guns at the U.S. soldiers to prevent more killings.

Colburn and Andreotta had provided cover for Thompson as he went forward to confront the leader of the U.S. forces. Thompson later coaxed civilians out of a bunker so they could be evacuated, and then landed his helicopter again to pick up a wounded child they transported to a hospital. Their efforts led to the cease-fire order at My Lai. ...

Read the rest at the links, and take a few moments to honor the memory of this American hero.


Morning Report: January 5, 2006

Israeli PM Ariel Sharon in critical condition. Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon remains in extremely grave condition at this posting. News reports indicate that he has had a third brain operation in response to his recent stroke. Debka reports: 'His third operation Friday relieved pressure on the brain and removed clots from previous procedures. There is no active bleeding. A catheter is fitted in his brain. Latest CT shows significant improvement.' The Jerusalem Post says doctors are expected to release an update soon; JPost also offers related links. Dreams Into Lightning will post on any new developments. (various)

Iran seeking showdown to avert regime change? Just posted at Regime Change Iran, "Alan Peters" paints a disturbing picture of the Iranian regime's latest tactics: 'Analysts watching Iran on a daily basis were not taken by surprise by the Islamic Regime not showing up at the International Atomic Energy Agency on January 05, 2006, since reports out of Tehran have for the past weeks been mentioning President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad's office privately leaking to the Tehran newspapers that Iran already has four nuclear weapons obtained from the Ukraine. Back in 1991/1992 three nuclear weapon devices the Mullahs had obtained from Kazakhstan were verified on ground in Iran and intelligence further estimates that Iran has totally between eight to 12 nuclear devices from the Soviet era. ... s Iran expecting an attack now that the more pragmatic Sharon is out of the picture or has U.S and Coalition information leaked to them of an impending strike to put an end to nuclear weapons falling into the hands of someone like Ahmadi-Nejad? The new regime in Iran has certainly tried to provoke the USA and Israel beyond the point of endurance. ... Alternatively, is Iran planning to set up a reactive retaliation in the Middle East by the USA from an attack through surrogates like the Hezbollah?' Full text at link. Doctor Zin comments: 'If his sources are correct and Ahmadinejad is leaking that Iran has nuclear weapons, it would appear he is intent on creating a crisis now! Many believe Ahmadinejad is setting a trap for the west because western military action at this time would likely be of a limited nature since the west is unprepared for a full scale occupation of Iran. Such a confrontation would likely end in a negotiated settlement leaving the regime in power, but would also likely include internationally agreed to security arrangements with the regime, a very dangerous proposition indeed.' (RCI)


New Year's Resolution #1

To be named as one of the "Top 10 Reasons People Find Jews Annoying" in public opinion polls worldwide.

Putting the Out in Smoke Out

Towelroad has the definitive spoof of the Brokeback Mountain poster.

Senator John Danforth to Address Log Cabin Convention

News release from Log Cabin Republicans:
We're excited to announce that former U.S. Senator John Danforth (R-MO) will join us for the 2006 Log Cabin Republicans National Dinner. Senator Danforth will receive Log Cabin's Spirit of Lincoln Award. The National Dinner is being held during the 2006 Log Cabin National Convention and Liberty Education Forum National Symposium in Washington, DC. Register now for this special event which runs from April 27-30, 2006.

Senator Danforth, an ordained Episcopalian Minister and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, has become a leading opponent of religious extremism and an advocate for building an inclusive GOP. Danforth has written newspaper op-eds and spoken about the need for the GOP to focus on its basic principles of fiscal restraint, a strong military, and an engaged foreign policy. "We reject the notion that religion should present a series of wedge issues useful at election time for energizing a political base. We believe it is God's work to practice humility, to wear tolerance on our sleeves, to reach out to those with whom we disagree, and to overcome the meanness we see in today's politics," writes Danforth.

"We're grateful to have Senator Danforth joining us in Washington for this special event. There is no better voice for an inclusive Republican Party than John Danforth, whose credentials as a loyal Republican, committed conservative, and man of faith are unquestionable," said Patrick Guerriero, President of Log Cabin Republicans.

Aside from Danforth, the National Convention will feature Congressman Jim Kolbe (R-AZ). The only openly gay Republican in Congress recently announced his retirement after 11 terms in the House of Representatives. The National Dinner will pay tribute to Kolbe, who has been Log Cabin's strongest ally on Capitol Hill. Don't miss the chance to see Congressman Kolbe and Senator Danforth.

Event registration here.

Pat Robertson, please shut the fuck up.

Robertson: Sharon's stroke due to G-d's "enmity".

And free-market enthusiasts wish them many more.

UPI, via Pajamas Media, reports the following:
Jan. 5, 2006 (UPI delivered by Newstex) -- Hong Kong has been ranked as the world's freest economy by the Heritage Foundation for the 12th conservative year.


Morning Report: January 4, 2006

Freedom for Egyptians: US press roundup. Freedom for Egyptians has an excellent analysis of recent American media coverage of Egyptian/US relations. Citing recent articles from the New York Post, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, FFE also notes an ominous silence surrounding Washington's stance toward Cairo: 'Reading the three articles apparently the American public opinion is beating the drums for pressuring the Bush Administration towards more firm measures towards the Mubarak ruling in Egypt that is proving its failure to heed to the U.S. calls to apply true political reform towards democracy and freedom. The Egyptian-US relationship is witnessing unprecedented silence over the past few months. The U.S. has started sending the messages decently when President Bush said in his famous speech in November 2003 that Egypt "has shown the way toward peace in the Middle East and now can show the way toward democracy in the Middle East." Actually, it was Iraq with the help of the US that was capable of showing the first budding democracy in the Middle East with exception to Israel. The message did not go through though. Then U.S. Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice paid a visit to Egypt last summer to give another signal that the U.S. is taking democracy in the Middle East seriously. The tone of the three reviewed articles is directly addressing the Egyptian President as the main obstcale in front of democracy and freedom in Egypt ...' Read the whole thing, and don't forget to bookmark Freedom For Egyptians. (FFE)

CTB: Pakistan arrests al-Qaeda-linked terrorists. The Counter-Terrorism Blog: 'There are news reports that Pakistan arrested Ghulam Mustafa, a.k.a. Ghulam Mustafa Tabassum, in Lahore 10 days ago. Tabassum is a leader in the outlawed Lashkar-e-Jhangvi militant group, which is linked to Al Qaeda.' Full story at the link, with more links. (CTB)

CNET: Microsoft censors Chinese blogger. CNET reports: 'Microsoft has admitted to removing the blog of an outspoken Chinese journalist from its MSN Spaces site, citing its policy of adhering to local laws. The blog, written by Zhao Jing, also known as Michael Anti, was removed from MSN servers on Dec. 31, according to investigative journalist and former CNN reporter Rebecca Mackinnon. She claimed that the blog was actively removed by MSN staff rather than being blocked by Chinese authorities. A Microsoft representative told ZDNet UK on Wednesday that it blocked Anti's MSN Space blog to help ensure that the service complied with local laws in China. ...' More at the link. (CNET)

Pyongyang exports slavery. Via Discarded Lies, the LA Times reports: 'Hundreds of young North Korean women are working in garment and leather factories like this one, easing a labor shortage in small Czech towns. Their presence in this recent member of the European Union is something of a throwback to before the Velvet Revolution of 1989, when Prague, like Pyongyang, was a partner in the Communist bloc. The North Korean government keeps most of the earnings, apparently one of the few legal sources of hard currency for an isolated and impoverished government believed to be living off counterfeiting, drug trafficking and weapons sales. Experts estimate that there are 10,000 to 15,000 North Koreans working abroad in behalf of their government in jobs ranging from nursing to construction work. In addition to the Czech Republic, North Korea has sent workers to Russia, Libya, Bulgaria, Saudi Arabia and Angola, defectors say. Almost the entire monthly salary of each of the women here, about $260, the Czech minimum wage, is deposited directly into an account controlled by the North Korean government, which gives the workers only a fraction of the money. To the extent that they are allowed outside, they go only in groups. ...' Read the rest of this horrifying and heartbreaking story at the link.

Israel army chief: IRI nukes can be destroyed. Regime Change Iran quotes a Dow Jones bulletin: 'Israeli military chief Dan Halutz Tuesday said Iran's nuclear program "can be destroyed," Israel's Army Radio said. The report quoted Halutz as making the comments during a conference at Tel Aviv University. ' Meanwhile, Hyscience cites a report from the Guardian: 'The Iranian government has been successfully scouring Europe for the sophisticated equipment needed to develop a nuclear bomb, according to the latest western intelligence assessment of the country's weapons programmes. Scientists in Tehran are also shopping for parts for a ballistic missile capable of reaching Europe, with "import requests and acquisitions ... registered almost daily", the report seen by the Guardian concludes. ...' (RCI; Guardian via Hyscience)

Debka: Syrian intel chief flees to London. Latest from Debka: 'Retired General Ali Duba, known as father of Syrian intelligence and loyal aide of Presidents Assad father and son has fled to London from Damascus. This defection follows the blunt charges leveled against Bashar Assad by former Syrian vice president Khalam Haddam last Friday, and the UN inquiry commission’s demand that the Syrian president make himself available for questioning in the Hariri assassination.' (Debka)

"Beyond the Mafia regimes." Syrian heretic Amarji: 'Corruption is the Number One obstacle in the face of development in our haggard part of the world. Entrenched regimes which act more like mafia conglomerates than actual governments can never produce the sort of reforms needed to help bridge the Development Gap separating us from the rest of the world. Therefore, those of us who are seriously interested in seeing this region living up to its full potential in terms of being able to provide for the material wellbeing of its various peoples have the awesome responsibility of trying to build alternatives to existing regimes from the ground up. ...' Be sure to follow the link to Dar Emar. (Amarji)

Ed on Abramoff scandal. Captain's Quarters reacts to the Abramoff scandal. Among his conclusions: 'The most significant development from this scandal will be the almost-certain disqualification for serious Presidential runs by anyone currently on the Hill, including Hill(ary) herself. Abramoff's stench will touch everyone currently noted for front-runner status, except possibly the most radical of Democrats, such as John Kerry -- who isn't going to get a second chance anyway. The next President of the US will be someone in a governor's seat now, and someone who hasn't served in Congress before. It could very well be Mitt Romney against Bill Richardson or Mark Warner. We'll see how it develops, but if the Abramoff corruption goes as deep as prosecutors say, look for an unprecedented series of power shifts in the next two cycles -- not partisan, but demographic, as American voters start looking for fresh choices.' (Captain's Quarters)

UPDATE: Fausta at the Bad Hair Blog has lots more links on the Abramoff scandal, and other important issues of the day. Go catch Fausta, who picks up where Morning Report leaves off.