I'm posting from the lovely and cozy Victoria Station Cafe in Putnam, Connecticut (panorama here), now in the second half of my two-week visit to Putnam. You might have heard Putnam mentioned in the news because of the PlayStation shooting a couple of weeks ago, which happened just before I got here. (They've now arrested a couple of suspects.)

But did you hear about the Holiday Dazzle Light Parade?
Putnam, a town of about 9,000, saw an invasion of revelers that reached monumental proportions. The 20,000 in attendance almost matched the number of people who work at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos. The 20,000 is more than a sellout for the UConn basketball team at the Hartford Civic Center. It's more people than the populations of Canterbury, Pomfret, Sterling and Woodstock combined.

The enthusiasm didn't end Sunday night. The Winter Dazzle has accounted for dizzying amounts of people visiting the Norwich Bulletin's web site, www.norwichbulletin.com to see dozens of photos of the event. People just loved this parade.

How to explain it? ...

Read the rest at the link. The announcer on the local station, WINY, was commenting this morning that the station had contacted the news media in Hartford about the event, but was told that their reporters "couldn't find" Putnam. He said they didn't have any trouble "finding" Putnam when somebody got shot. He was pretty irate, and I don't blame him.

(For the record, I've never driven in Connecticut before, and am completely unfamiliar with this part of the state - but somehow, following Route 44 from Bradley Airport through the backwoods of Connecticut in the dead of night, I managed to "find" Putnam. Go figure.)

Anyway, thanks to the magic of blogging, you can get the good news, not just the bad. I was at the parade, I took photos, and I'll post 'em. And no, this has nothing whatsoever to do with the weighty issues facing the world today, but I'm enjoying my hiatus from political blogging and welcoming the chance for a little breathing space.

Regular posting will resume in a week.

Update: Pictures here.


Morning Report: November 19, 2006

One day at a time. Iranian refugees need your help, Egyptian bloggers speak out against arrests and oppression, Pakistan takes a small step forward, and women in the Netherlands need to show their faces. Some thoughts on moving forward in a ruthless world.

Iranian refugees stranded in Moscow airport. This isn't some nice fairy tale from Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. Azarmehr: 'I read about the heart wrenching plight of this family on Ardeshir Dolat's weblog. Watching the video of the mother describing the plight of the family is even more disturbing. I curse every day those who have reduced the children of Cyrus to such misery. I have no first hand knowledge of this family. My information comes from Ardeshir Dolat's weblog and the video on youtube. However I do believe that we owe much of our misery to our proximity with the Russians.' Ardeshir Dolat:
An Iranian refugee family has been imprisoned in the Russian capital for 18 months. Zahra Kamalfar is an Iranian citizen made a refugee claim, together with her two minor children, Ana (DOB 1367-11-02) and Davood (DOB 1373-3-25) through UNHCR in Russia on or about May 3, 2005.

Originally, Zahra and the children were being kept at a hotel at the airport. However, several months ago, they were evicted from the hotel and forced to sleep in the open terminal. They have not had access to shower facilities and are restricted to public toilets.

Zahra and her husband were involved in demonstrations in Iran in the year 2000. In July 8 2004, Zahra was arrested and held in jail. Zahra was in jail for 8 months. Then she was released on a 48 hour pass to visit her family. She immediately fled Iran with her two children on April 6 2005. She and her two children went to Turkey on a false Bulgarian passport arranged by a smuggler. Zahra and her children then traveled from Turkey, transiting through Russia on their way to Germany. When they arrived in Germany, the authenticity of their passports was questioned. Zahra made asylum claims but their asylum claims were refused by German immigration authorities and then they were sent back to Russia. When they returned to Russia, they were detained by the Russian authorities. The Russian authorities then assaulted her and her daughter. The Russian authorities want to send Zahra and her children back to Iran. Zahra is afraid to return to Iran as she believes she will be sent to jail and run the risk of rape, torture and possibly death. She also fears her daughter will be at risk of being sexually assaulted and raped.

The Russian authorities now want to deport the family to Iran; something that the family is convinced will be devastating to their lives and safety. The Russian authorities are imposing pressure on the family by having them stranded in the transit hall of the Moscow International Airport for months, denying them all access to the most basic needs, including shower, proper food, etc. Regardless of the legalities of their case, this is a clear breach of all human rights principles.

Azarmehr brings us up to speed with a bit of Russian/Iranian history. Ardeshir Dolat has a link to a petition which I strongly encourage you to use. Also follow AD's link to Amnesty International and send them a nice note asking them to get hot on this. (Azarmehr, Ardeshir Dolat)

Asghar Akbarzadeh, another Iranian dissident you should know about. Shiro-Khorshid Forever posts this human rights item:
A student was detained by plain clothes individuals and is believed to be held incommunicado at an unknown location.

AI Index: MDE 13/124/2006

17 November 2006

UA 309/06
Incommunicado detention/ fear of torture

Asghar Akbarzadeh (m), student, aged about 21

Iranian Azerbaijani Asghar Akbarzadeh is believed to be held incommunicado at an undisclosed location, where he is at risk of torture.

Go to the link for full details on the case. (SKF)

Pakistan to stop punishing rape victims. Vital Perspective: 'MediaLine reports that Pakistan has changed its rape laws to prevent women from being punished even though they were the victims of sex crimes. Until now, rape was a crime tried in Islamic courts, where any woman found guilty of having sex outside of marriage received stiff punishments, even if she was forced to have sexual relations. Among the changes, the death penalty for extramarital sex has been abolished. Pakistani lawmakers had previously attempted to change the law, but delayed the move because of vocal opposition from Islamist politicians. Women's rights activists welcomed the reform, but said far more must be done to redress the injustices still found in the law.' (Vital Perspective)

Fox reports on persecution of Christians in Egypt. Freedom for Egyptians: 'Shepard Smith's Fox Report ran a report today [Friday, November 17] on Egyptian Christians and on the treatment they receive from the Egyptian government when it comes to building their own churches, torture, arbitrary arrests...etc. Some Egyptian Copts and priests were interviewed and described their struggle to live in Egypt. The report referred to the Alexandria sectarian violence last April, as Egyptian churches became target for extremists.' I'll be posting a round-up on this subject soon - watch Dreams Into Lightning for more. (FFE)

State's James Jeffrey talks Iran. Vital Perspective has a full transcript of a press briefing by Ambassador James Jeffrey, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs. Excerpt:
Q Thank you very much. My name is Ibrahim Bidarva from Persian Service of VOA. In today's meeting between President Bush and Prime Minister Olmert, Iran's controversial nuclear program is at the top of the agenda. Since it's less than a week after the election, this visit is taking and already Robert Gates, nominee for Defense Secretary, said sanction against Iran has not been in the interest of the United States of America. Congress is starting January going to be controlled by Democrats and other developments. What do you think, Mr. Ambassador, about the American policy in the future, starting in January? Is Israel worried to see a change in American policy towards Iran?

MR. JEFFREY: That's about six different questions and three or four comments, several of which I don't agree with, so I'm going to give a scattershot approach to the set of questions.

First of all, I don't think Mr. Gates -- but I could be wrong, but I just went through the 2004 Council on Foreign Relations Report -- I don't think Mr. Gates has said that sanctions don't work. I think Mr. Gates proposed that the United States look for ways to engage Iran, which of course is exactly what we have done since. And the Secretary of State twice, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Iraq and before the press and me on the nuclear issue, raised the willingness to sit down and speak with the Iranians. So I think that we have responded in part to much of that report long before we knew that Gates was going to become the Secretary of Defense.

I think in terms of what will happen in January, I think we should wait till January. I think January is quite a ways away. I would make a comment that it would be -- regardless of how you interpret Iraq in the election and the congressional makeup vis-a-vis Iraq, I would be very cautious about extending that to the question of Israel in general.

And thirdly, it is absolutely proper and fitting that Prime Minister Olmert, a good friend of the United States and we think a good friend of international stability, is here to talk about a country which has threatened to destroy Israel, wipe it off the face of the earth and is busily working on long-range missiles and nuclear weapons. That is an appropriate theme. It would be quite incomprehensible if Mr. Olmert did not want to talk about the existential threat to his country raised by Iran, particularly under this leadership, following these policies.

Full transcript at the link. (Vital Perspective)

Another Egyptian blogger arrested. Sandmonkey: '3arabawy has the news. It's worth noting that he was arrested for walking in the streets of downtown late, and the police who arrested him claimed there was some sort of curfew in effect that justifies his arrest. He should be released soon, because they have no case and they know it. It is however a telling sign of the panic that is undergoing the egyptian police and their fight to still seem to have control on the streets of Cairo, despite all the growing signs to the contrary!' 3arabawy: 'Egyptian blogger Rami Siyam, a.k.a. Ayoub, is currently in Qasr el-Nil Police Station, and will be transferred to Belbeis Prosecutor’s office in the Sharqiya Governorate. Ayoub and and a number of bloggers were leaving Sharqawi’s place around 4 am, when police rounded them up, and took them to the notorious Qasr el-Nil Police Station. They were all released except for Ayoub, who is to be transferred to Belbeis Prosecutor’s Office.' Commenter Purple Rose says: 'The bloggers have scared the hell out of security forces … They have established that they are the free alternative to media in Egypt and are being cracked down on. Blogger solidarity is the only way of standing up against this crack down. All bloggers remember Karim Amer and now Ayoub in your posts'. (Sandmonkey, 3arabawy)

Dutch government backs burqa ban. BBC: 'The Dutch cabinet has backed a proposal by the country's immigration minister to ban Muslim women from wearing the burqa in public places. The burqa, a full body covering that also obscures the face, would be banned by law in the street, and in trains, schools, buses and the law courts. The cabinet said burqas disturb public order, citizens and safety. ... Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk, who is known for her tough policies, said it was important that all people in the Netherlands were able to see and identify each other clearly to promote integration and tolerance.' (BBC)

Arab/Israeli group blog: "Good Neighbours". Via Michael Totten, here's a homepage link to Good Neighbours. Bookmark it! The all-star lineup currently comprises Big Pharaoh, Drima, Free Cedar, Ramzi.S., Shifaa, Tif, Yaeli, and Yasser. Here's Yasser on democracy and peace:
I believe you can’t have democracy if you don’t support democracy in other counties,so its natural to see the United States concerned about democracy in the world particularly in the Middle East also Europe ; take Turkey for example and look how the Turks received huge assistance and incentives from the Europeans to the end of achieving reforms regarding human rights and freedom of expression .

Of course I am not in any way denying or ignoring the fact that you have to build your own democracy but what I am saying is that you can’t possibly have an isolated democratic country amidst a sea of tyranny and that is why success of Iraqi democracy is so important and vital and that is why we have to support the Iraqi people as hard as we can so they can overcome the problems hindering them from establishing a free and democratic state

Contrary to what some people say that all the talk about democratizing the ME is just propaganda to justify American interference in the region I think that the west interest in seeing a democratic ME is a great opportunity that we have to capitalize on.

Yasser takes encouragement from this report at Freedom House. Follow the links for the rest. (GNB via MJT)

Silicone breast implants OK'd by FDA; Tammy PO'd. Tammy Bruce: 'Women surgically mutilating themselves to conform to a media and pornography-driven sick view of what a woman's body should look like is bad enough. For the FDA to approve a device that even the agency admits is faulty and only 'reasonably safe' (whatyever that means), is absurd. But then again, the FDA is now more concerned with the health of pharmaceutical companies and medical profits than they are with the health of individual Americans. ... lastic surgeons love the decision. Silicone implants are more expensive. And the same surgeon, of course, is returned to for the additional surgeries that are needed to remove the ruptured 'device.' Lots more money all around. Plastic surgeons and other 'experts' also hail the decision because silicone implants 'feel more natural' than saline-based. That's great--for the men who want to be feeling them. Here's a Newsflash for that 'feels more natural' crowd--surgically unaltered bodies not only 'feel' more natural, they actually are.' Morning Report seconds Tammy. (Tammy Bruce)

Abizaid on confronting islamist ideology. Via the Standard, Reuters reports:
Army Gen. John Abizaid compared the rise of militant ideologies, such as the force driving al Qaeda, to the rise of fascism in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s that set the stage for World War Two.

"If we don't have guts enough to confront this ideology today, we'll go through World War Three tomorrow," Abizaid said in a speech titled "The Long War," at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, outside Boston.

If not stopped, Abizaid said extremists would be allowed to "gain an advantage, to gain a safe haven, to develop weapons of mass destruction, to develop a national place from which to operate. And I think that the dangers associated with that are just too great to comprehend."

Abizaid said the world faces three major hurdles in stabilizing the Middle East region: Easing Arab-Israeli tensions, stemming the spread of militant extremism, and dealing with Iran, which Washington has accused of seeking to develop nuclear bombs.

More links at the post. (Worldwide Standard)

US, EU to improve anti-terror ties. Victor Comras at Counterterrorism Blog: 'I have often written criticizing shortcomings that have hampered close US- EU information sharing and cooperation related to the investigation of terrorism and terrorism financing. So it’s a real pleasure to write now on steps recently taken by both sides of the Atlantic to try and improve this situation. Last week the EU and US agreed to establish a new high level “contact group” which will focus on overcoming current information sharing and judicial cooperation impediments. A new agreement was also signed during meetings in Washington November 6th between the US Justice Department and European counterparts. The agreement engages both the Justice Department and Eurojust to “to foster the exchange of information between law- enforcement communities in the US and the EU and strengthen co-operative efforts to prevent and prosecute organised crime, human trafficking, cybercrime and terrorism.” (CTB)

Bolton speaks, American media blackballs. Via Gateway Pundit, Democracy Project makes a passage to India to report what the MSM don't want you to hear:
The U.S. Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, launched a scathing attack on the United Nations Friday.

Bolton was furious over the adoption by the General Assembly of a resolution which said the assembly regretted the deaths of 19 civilians in an attack by the Israeli military in the town of Beit Hanoun last week.

Despite the resolution being significantly watered down at the behest of the United States, and being passing by 156 votes to seven, Bolton launched a blistering attack on the UN, and many of its members.

"Many of the sponsors of that resolution are notorious abusers of human rights themselves, and were seeking to deflect criticism of their own policies," he said.

"This type of resolution serves only to exacerbate tensions by serving the interests of elements hostile to Israel's inalienable and recognized right to exist."

"This deepens suspicions about the United Nations that will lead many to conclude that the organization is incapable of playing a helpful role in the region," Bolton continued.

Atlas Shrugs: 'Another Jew hating, Israel bashing resolution passed by the corrupt world body that ignores the Islamic Jihad of the Khartoum Government in Sudan, ignores the oppression of non Muslims in Muslim countries, ignores the mad ravings of Islamic Iran bent on annihilating the West, ignores the brutal killings in Indonesia, ignores their own peace keepers' acts of child rape and slavery - but the light unto nations? That is what they wish to extinguish.' (various)

Wretchard on the absurdities of the Third World. The Belmont Club:
All too often normal Americans make the mistake of going through the front door of the Minister's office to get cooperation. Ministers will tell you what you want to hear; and he will tell the next man something different. Cooperation is often better obtained by building up the trust of key persons who will perform tasks, not for their country or America, but out of a loyalty to you in ways that many Westerners find hard to understand.

But Americans who persist eventually do and the day finally comes when they are equally at home dealing with poor men swathed in the rags that keep out the oily mist of grit and diesel exhaust in which they must stand the all day and looking down from some high apartment window at the snake-line of European luxury cars vaguely visible through the smog, their yellow lights pausing at the port-cocher as they unload their jeweled cargos of local politicians and dubious businessmen at a fine restaurant; knowing that terrorists who threaten all that he knows and loves, all that he has sworn to protect -- are out there. And that he will defeat them.

Commentary. This weekend, the captured fighter pilot Bulldog was rescued from his three-year captivity with the Cylons. Once aboard the Galactica, though, he discovered that he owed his capture and captivity to a decision by Admiral Adama. Enraged, he attacked Adama, but was stopped by the executive officer Tighe, Adama's sometime friend and second-in-command. And here's what the cranky old bastard Tighe - who had no shortage of grievances against Adama himself - had to say:
We're all soldiers, Danny. We're all expendable. And we did what we had to do to protect the mission. It's ugly, but there it is. The Cylons let you go. The question is, Why? Because up until a minute ago, you were doing exactly what they wanted you to do: come here and learn the truth, and seek revenge. And that's exactly what you did. You almost gave them what they wanted.

I'll tell you a dirty little secret. The toughest part of getting played is losing your dignity. Feeling like you are not worth the oxygen you are sucking down. You get used to it. You start to believe it. You start to love it. It's like a bottle that never runs dry. You can keep reaching for it, over and over and over again.

Now Adama asks: "So how do you put that bottle away, Sol?" Tighe answers:
I don't know. One day, you just decide to get up and walk out of your room.

If we want to, we can always retreat into self-pity at real or imagined betrayals. But what will keep us going is our loyalty to the persons and ideals we know and have reason to believe in. This is the test of our character and our faith, and it is the path to victory.

Note to readers. I will be taking a break from posting for a few days. Morning Report is going on leave. Many thanks to all regular and new readers of this site. Regular posting will resume before too long.


Morning Report: November 17, 2006

Dangerous liaisons. In Europe, hope for a refugee from a land where her love dare not speak its name. Connections of a more unsavory character surface in America.

Iranian lesbian granted asylum in Germany. Via Maynard at Tammy Bruce's blog, the BBC reports: 'A court in Germany has accepted an Iranian woman's bid for asylum on the grounds that she is a lesbian. The 27-year-old woman said she would face persecution and isolation if she was sent back to Iran. The court decided she should stay in Germany and said its ruling set a binding precedent for similar cases. ... The woman, whose name was not released, had travelled to Germany in September 2003 where she had applied for asylum.' She was also facing punishment in Iran for refusing to wear a head covering. (BBC)

Suspect arrested in Detroit with cash, cyanide, nuclear info. USA Today: 'Federal agents continue to investigate a Dallas man arrested at a Detroit airport Tuesday after arriving on a flight from Amsterdam with nearly $79,000 in cash and a laptop computer that, according to court papers, contained information about nuclear materials and cyanide. Sisayehiticha Dinssa will appear for a detention hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge R. Steven Whalen at 1 p.m. Monday. He is charged with illegally concealing more than $10,000 in his luggage and with smuggling bulk cash into the USA. If convicted, Dinssa could be sentenced to five years in prison on each charge.' AP at Breitbart: 'Sisayehiticha Dinssa, an unemployed U.S. citizen, was arrested Tuesday after a dog caught the scent of narcotics on cash he was carrying, according to an affidavit filed in court. When agents asked him if he had any cash to declare, he said he had $18,000, authorities said. But when agents checked his luggage, they found an additional $59,000. When they scrolled through his laptop, they said they found the mysterious files.' Dinassa arrived in Detroit from Nigeria by way of Amsterdam and was headed for Phoenix. Go to Tammy Bruce and Gateway Pundit for full round-ups. (various)

More on that nuclear trailer park business. Speaking of nuclear plans in odd places, Tammy brings us up to date on another recent incident:
For more on the significance of drug money now being the primary source of funding for al-Qaida and terrorists world wide, I blogged here about the other recent dscovery of nuclear material, in a drug den, in a border state. This story of nuclear secrets on a laptop with the meth dealing roommate of Los Alamos worker Jessica Quintana, has grown in seriousness. The latest reporting includes the assessment that this could be "potentially the greatest breach of national security" in decades. There's more about Little Miss Quintana:

Though she had completed only one semester of college, in early 2005 Quintana was granted what the nuke world calls a "Q clearance," which meant she had access to nuclear-weapons designs. She had further access to a category of information code named Sigma 15. This meant she could handle material detailing how to override the security locks on U.S. nuclear weapons. The vaults she worked in contained data from 50 years of nuclear tests.

22 years old. Not only no college, but a college dropout, which is even worse. Living in a trailer with a drug dealing roommate. While we still have not been told by the government the significnace of this situation, we at least we now know that Los Alamos is giving extraordinary nuke clearance to people who pose a stunning security risk. Immature. No discipline. Blackmailable because of association, with people involved in crime. And believe me, if she got hired and got that clearance, it must have been par for the course.

So, we are at war with an enemy that we know has been working for over a decade now to acquire nuclear material; we know terrorist groups are ensconced to our south, running the drug trade; and we know that UK spy masters are sure that a terrorist chemical or nuclear attack against Western interests is probable, sooner than later.

Here's the latest from MSNBC: 'It began as a routine police call. At 4:16 p.m. on Oct. 17, two Los Alamos County police officers were dispatched to the Royal Crest Trailer Park. The cluster of mobile homes is located next to Los Alamos National Laboratory, the sprawling New Mexico compound that houses one of America's two main facilities for designing nuclear weapons. A resident had complained that two neighbors were shouting at each other and throwing rocks through the windows of their trailer. The cops expected to find the usual: a domestic dispute that had gotten out of hand. Instead, they discovered what one Los Alamos official—who, like all lab and government sources in this story, would not be named talking about sensitive matters—calls "potentially the greatest breach of national security" in decades. When the police entered the trailer, they found 20-year-old Justin Stone and his girlfriend. Stone said he was a guest of the trailer's owner, 23-year-old Jessica Quintana, who wasn't there at the time. Stone was wanted on a probation violation from an earlier crime. So the police arrested him. ...' Go to the link to read the rest. (various)

Two gunmen killed after Iraq hijacking. AP: 'British ground forces and U.S. military helicopters fought with gunmen on Friday in southern Iraq where four American security contractors and their Austrian co-worker were abducted in a convoy hijacking. It was not known whether the five were still in the area or whether the gunmen were involved in the kidnapping, said Capt. Tane Dunlop, a spokesman for British forces. He said two of the gunmen were killed. Nine other civilians were in the convoy when it was attacked Thursday near Basra. ...' Full story at the link. (AP)

Strategy Page: Muslim moderates are getting PO'd. And it's about time. Strategy Page:
They are the majority, and there are lots of them actively opposing the fanatics. These backlash incidents rarely make the press. Not quite violent enough. But in places like Indonesia, Pakistan, the Gulf States, Africa and Bosnia, the moderates are stopping the radicals. Sometimes with violence, but more often with words, or using the law and their greater numbers. The radicals will often cry "religious persecution," or insist that their opponents are not "true Moslems." These antics have lost a lot of their impact during the last few years. Mainstream Moslems are getting tired of the empty rhetoric and bullying.

In Indonesia, gangs of Islamic radicals on "anti-vice" patrols (to bust up bars and movie theaters), are increasingly running into groups of cops, or pissed off citizens, who chase off the radicals (or arrest them.) Indonesian Islamic radicals have made themselves lots of enemies by denouncing popular religious leaders. The many followers, of those denounced, make their own threats of violence. It's getting harder to be hard core. ...

Read it all at the link. (Strategy Page)

Commentary. In the post-Rumsfeld era, Barbara Lerner asks:
If Rumsfeld really does see the war in Iraq as a regional war that we must fight as such if we are to win, why the devil didn’t he say so? The answer, I think, is that he did, many times and in many ways, starting in 2003. But he would have said it only to the president he agreed to serve, and to a very few trusted allies, like Vice President Cheney, who share Rumsfeld’s sense of the loyalty that serving cabinet members owe to their commander-in-chief in a time of war. To the best of my knowledge, the only time Rumsfeld made it clear, in public, that he disagreed with the president on the scope of the war was when he acknowledged that he had asked for permission to cross the border into Syria to strike terrorists fleeing there after carrying out attacks in Iraq. He asked a number of times, beginning in 2003. The president said no.

Lerner, whom I first cited in this early post, wrote in 2004 about the original Rumsfeld-Garner plan for Iraq:
Rumsfeld wanted to put an Iraqi face on everything at the outset — not just on the occupation of Iraq, but on its liberation too. That would have made a world of difference.

Rumsfeld's plan was to train and equip — and then transport to Iraq — some 10,000 Shia and Sunni freedom fighters led by Shia exile leader Ahmed Chalabi and his cohorts in the INC, the multi-ethnic anti-Saddam coalition he created. There, they would have joined with thousands of experienced Kurdish freedom fighters, ably led, politically and militarily, by Jalal Talabani and Massoud Barzani. Working with our special forces, this trio would have sprung into action at the start of the war, striking from the north, helping to drive Baathist thugs from power, and joining Coalition forces in the liberation of Baghdad. That would have put a proud, victorious, multi-ethnic Iraqi face on the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, and it would have given enormous prestige to three stubbornly independent and unashamedly pro-American Iraqi freedom fighters: Chalabi, Talabani, and Barzani.

Jay Garner, the retired American general Rumsfeld chose to head the civilian administration of the new Iraq, planned to capitalize on that prestige immediately by appointing all three, along with six others, to head up Iraq's new transitional government. He planned to cede power to them in a matter of weeks — not months or years — and was confident that they would work with him, not against him, because two of them already had.

That was two and a half years ago. Now, with Rumsfeld now gone, Lerner concludes:
With the nomination of Robert Gates, a man strongly backed by the first President Bush and his key deal-makers, James Baker and Brent Scowcroft, it seems that Secretary Rumsfeld has proved prescient once again. And I think that Republican hawks like Bill Kristol at The Weekly Standard — hawks who have been screaming for Rumsfeld’s scalp for years — are not going to like the results, because, in the end, no American patriot will.

On a less pessimistic note, Eric Egland at The Standard offers six steps to victory:
1. Encourage innovation by emphasizing small-scale technological solutions and rejecting peacetime bureaucracy.
2. Improve pre-deployment training realism and abandon Cold War-era checklists.
3. Allow local commanders to buy what they need and nationalize the war effort by connecting the American public with the troops and their mission.
4. Strengthen intelligence sharing between tactical and national levels, and develop a national insurgent database.
5. Take the offensive by reducing predictable patterns on the ground while conducting operations that hunt, rather than chase, the enemy.
6. Accept the realities of warfare in the media age by decentralizing the sharing of information with both the Iraqi and the American public.

Read the article for full explanations of what these mean. The common theme is mobility, flexibility, unpredictability - in other words, fighting a guerilla war as guerillas. Spook86 agrees with Egland, and has more here:
Fascinating read at Defensetech.org, which profiles a British commander who has implemented some innovative--and perhaps historical--tactics for controlling a sector of southern Iraq, along the Iranian border. When Lieutenant Colonel David Labouchere found his base a magnet for enemy rocket and small arms fire, he took a page out of the T.E. Lawrence playbook, going light (and mobile).

"Like Lawrence, Labouchere relies on speed and agility. He travels light in just a dozen vehicles per squadron, mostly trucks and speedy Land Rovers but including a handful of Scimitar light tanks armed with 30-millimeter cannons. At night he bivouacs in depressions or nestled between hills to shield him from prying eyes. By day he sorties to patrol the border, show the flag in remote towns and hold court with Iraqi cops, local army troops and the tribal leaders who are his eyes and ears and his allies in the fight against smugglers and foreign fighters. He and his troops shit in ditches, shave with bottled water and eat foil-packed rations. They sleep under the stars on collapsing cots. They live simply and waste little, all in an effort to stay light and to ween themselves from slow, vulnerable ground convoys."

That's the battle. Now let's go back to the war - which, as Lerner and the departing Rumsfeld understand, is not confined to Iraq. Here's what Michael Ledeen thinks the Baker/Hamilton Commission should understand:
Instead of trapping themselves in an imaginary quagmire, the commissioners can help us face the real war. What’s going on in Iraq is not “the war,” which is raging over the entire world. The real question — the life and death question — is: How can we win the war in the Middle East, which now extends from Afghanistan to Lebanon, Iraq, Israel, and Somalia?

That question forces us to devise a strategy to deal with multiple enemies instead of limiting our strategic thinking to the Iraqi insurgency alone. It forces us to confront the terror masters in Tehran and Syria as well as the killers in Iraq. If we ask how to win in Iraq alone, we are led into a fool’s errand of trying to convince our sworn enemies–Iran has been at war with us for twenty-seven years—to act like friends. But if we ask how to win the war, we can see that we have many good cards to play, and many real allies, from the Iranian and Syrian people to the millions of Kurds in Iran, Iraq and Syria, to several other oppressed groups throughout the region, and even to leaders who today denounce us.

Our strategic thinking and our tactical thinking must reflect flexibility. What needs to remain inflexible is our will to win. We can defeat the terror masters - if we choose to.

POSTSCRIPT: Richard Fernandez has been quiet for the last few days, but his latest post is well worth the wait: it's about the Philippines, and it's called The First Iraq.
Imagine a time when America found itself in a war against a foreign foe whose strategy was to inflict a constant rate of loss on the army; invited US and British reporters to feed antiwar elements with atrocity stories; when US commanders who expected a quick war against a corrupt and oligarchic native elite found they had roused the countryside against them. Imagine a time when the issue of this war was central to an American Presidential election, caused a split in one of the major parties and planted the seeds for a world war. Not Iraq. The war was Philippine-American War and the election that of 1912.

In that war,
McKinley's victory in 1900 convinced the Filipinos that the US would not soon embark upon a "responsible redeployment". Washington's stated aim was to remove the obscurantist and bloodthirsty Spanish regime from the backs of the downtrodden Islanders and give them a government better than could be provided by the landed illustrado elite.

Read the post to learn how General Funston gained military advantage; what William Howard Taft said about the Filipinos, and what he meant; the fate of a Philippine hero named Jose Abad Santos; and what secret weapon the Thomasites carried that finally turned the tide. (Hint: We're using it right now.) And there's much more. Find out how the Philippine revolution was interrupted, delayed, and set back - but never stopped. This is the story of how a nation takes its place in the world. Could it one day be the story of Iraq? If you only read one article about Iraq this month, read The First Iraq at The Belmont Club.


Morning Report: November 16, 2006

Not so fast. A North American leader won't be pushed around by Communist China, and an analyst advises Tehran not to hold the party just yet.

Canada's Harper rejects Beijing's trade threats. CTV: 'Canada won't "sell out" on human rights to promote trade and investment with China, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says. "I think Canadians want us to promote our trade relations worldwide, and we do that, but I don't think Canadians want us to sell out important Canadian values -- our belief in democracy, freedom, human rights,'' Harper told reporters during a Wednesday stopover in Anchorage, Alaska. "They don't want us to sell that out to the almighty dollar.''' Shiro-Khorshid Forever: 'I am so proud of the Canadian Prime Minister. Once again he has shown that he is a man of dignity and he will stand up for human rights and human dignity no matter what the consequences. I am very optimistic that one of these days he will stand up against the IRI [Islamic Republic of Iran] and let everyone know that human rights is much more important then oil.' The Spirit of Man: 'This is almost unprecedented in Canadian politics and PM Harper makes all freedom loving people of the world proud by his recent stance.' (CTV, SKF, TSoM)

Europe takes firm action on a major threat. AP: 'European health ministers from 53 countries approved the world's first charter to fight obesity on Thursday, vowing greater action against the epidemic of expanding waistlines across the continent. The charter, approved in Istanbul, Turkey, was drafted by the World Health Organization in consultation with its European member states. It is the first real attempt to compel national authorities to take concrete action to combat obesity.' (AP)

Debka: Israel government "not trying" on Gaza threat. Debka:
Question No. 1: Did Israel counteract Egypt’s permission to let Hamas’ $4million cash infusion from Iran and Saudi through to the Gaza Strip on Thursday, Nov. 16? The answer is no, even though Israeli intelligence knows about Hamas’ regularly smuggled moneys and their destination - not hospitals, schools or food, but guns, troops and, yes, missiles.

Has Israel called Egypt to account for failing to stop the extremist Palestinian groups smuggling of arms and cash past its border guards? No, again. One way would be to move Israeli forces one kilometer deep into the Philadelphi border route for every $100,000 reaching the Hamas war chest. After all, Egypt contracted to seal its border against terrorist traffic under an international accord brokered by the US secretary of state. But prime minister Ehud Olmert prefers to let Cairo off the hook. Thursday, Nov. 15, the day after a deadly Palestinian missile attack on Sderot, he again praised “Egypt’s role in blocking smuggling to Gaza.”

Have the seven Israeli cabinet ministers used their presence in Los Angeles for an intensive information campaign to expose to the American public the role the Europeans and Egyptians are playing in the availability of funds for Hamas hands, despite the freeze imposed by the Middle East Quartet? No again ...

What to do? First, the analysis contends, Israel "must stop fooling itself" about the Palestinians. Specifically, Israelis should recognize that the rhetoric of an imminent Hamas/Fatah accord is largely empty; and they should heed the words of Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh, who admitted 'that Israel erred in pulling out of the Gaza Strip in 2005 without leaving behind a stable, responsible Palestinian government.' The article also suggests limited military options short of a full-scale re-occupation of the Gaza Strip. Full article at the link. (Debka)

Jihad cell busted in Morocco. AKI via The Intelligence Summit: 'Authorities in Morocco say they have destroyed a Jiihadist cell consisting of 13 militants based in the city of Casablanca. In a raid on the safehouse used by the militatns who called themselves "Group for Monotheism and Jihad" [al-Tawhid w'al-Jihad], security forces found a"hit list" with the names of people the cell was allegedly plotting to kill as well as a haul of threatening letters addressed to prominent civil society figures.' (AKI)

Amir Taheri on Ahmadinejad's premature euphoria. Amir Taheri at Benador: 'Iran: Radical circles are unanimous in their belief that Iran can now proceed with its nuclear program without fear of U.S. and allied retaliation. They expect Democrats to revert to Clinton-era policy and seek a "Grand Bargain" with the Islamic Republic - acknowledging Iran as the major regional power and recognizing its right to the full cycle of nuclear technology. This perception has boosted President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's cause in next month's crucial elections. Ahmadinejad argues that Bush's defeat vindicates his own policy of "standing firm against the Great Satan he hopes to see his faction win control of the Assembly of Experts - a body that can elect and dismiss the "Supreme Guide." Ahmadinejad would thus control all levers of power in Tehran. Yet the expected U.S. retreat on Iran may not materialize - or, if it does, produce the results Tehran desires. Why should Democrats be less worried about a rogue state armed with nuclear weapons than the vilified "neocons"?' (Amir Taheri)

ThreatsWatch: Iraq kidnapping details still hazy, but meaning is clear. Steve at ThreatsWatch:
The Iraq Minister for Higher Education, Abd Dhiab, maintains still that 150 were kidnapped and that 70 have been released. He also said that according to the testimony of the released men, some of the kidnap victims were tortured and killed by their captors. With 55 unidentified bodies showing up on the streets of Baghdad overnight, there is likely validity to his claim.

To the detriment of all Iraqis, Shi’a and Sunni, President Nouri al-Maliki is giving every appearance of minimizing the situation, leaving the impression among the Iraqi public that he is misrepresenting either known facts or suspicions or both. This highlights a greater issue for the Iraqi political leadership going forward, with consequences paid by the Iraqi general public. If Maliki continues to refuse to challenge Muqtada al-Sadr and the Mahdi Army and all other bands of terrorist thugs - Sunni or Shi’a - the Iraqi general public stands little chance of realizing liberty.

That, however, is easy to say from the comfort of the continental United States. Action taken will certainly result in the peril of grave danger for the families of the brave at the hands of retaliatory animals. Unfortunately, there is no other path to liberty for Iraq and its citizens. Forget the elections for a moment. Think of the liberty lost (or yet to be attained) when one is fearful for his life to simply walk the streets or go to a university. Without liberty, democracy serves little purpose.

Liberty and liberty alone will transform the Middle East. ...

Go read the whole article, Liberty and the Future of Iraq. It's excellent. (TW)

Commentary. People who are in power, and who feel empowered, often behave very differently from people who see themselves as powerless. Having a stronger Democratic presence in Washington may mute the voice of the juvenile extremist faction of the Democratic party. Perhaps the party's authentic liberal core - the Democrats truly worthy of the name - will rise to the defense of liberty in America and in the world. We'll have to wait and see.


Morning Report: November 15, 2006

Under the radar. Tehran's hand is seen in a Baghdad kidnapping, in a Somali presence in Lebanon, and as far away as London. But others can play the undercover game too.

Baghdad kidnapping work of Iran? The hostages seized yeterday in Baghdad (some of whom were later released) may have been unwilling participants in a show of strength by Iran, according to Stratfor (subscription). Zeyad at Healing Iraq has a very detailed account of the incident:
Up to 80 gunmen, dressed in camouflaged Interior Ministry uniforms in dozens of unmarked four wheel-drive vehicles and pickup trucks with tinted glass, surrounded and blocked all roads leading to the Directorate of Scholarships and Cultural Relations at Andalus Square at 9:30 a.m., Wednesday.

They stormed the four-story building, claiming they were clearing it to prepare for a visit of U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad. But once inside they cocked their weapons and shouted at everyone to stay where they were. In what appeared to be a carefully planned operation, the whole thing took less than 15 minutes. Men were seperated from women, and the women locked up in a room and their cell phones were confiscated. IDs were checked to determine sectarian background and then between 50 to 100 men were hauled off into the pickup trucks. Eyewitnesses said they moved across the Mohammed Al-Qasim highway and passed several checkpoints by Shaab Stadium and the Interior Ministry heading to eastern Baghdad, most likely to Sadr City.

Most of the abducted were employees of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research but many were also academics and students visiting the directorate to apply for scholarships abroad. Even a delivery boy outside the building was not spared. The hostages were of mixed sectarian background, but probably because in a few cases it is hard to determine sect from an ID. Eyewitnesses claim the gunmen spoke in southern Iraqi accent, indicating that they were Shi'ite and probably from Sadr City.

The ministry of Higher Education is controlled by the Sunni Accord front. Abd Dhiyab Al-Ijaili, the minister, is a member of the Iraqi Islamic Party, which has been highly vocal against the crimes of Shi'ite militias.

Later in the day, Tuesday, one of the released hostages posted on an Iraqi message board and said that he was asked by the gunmen whether he was Sunni or Shia because they were not quite sure about his surname. "I'm a Muslim," he replied. "La tit'aiqal," they told him, meaning 'don't be a smart aleck.' He then told them he is Shia, so they tested him with certain religious questions that supposedly only a Shi'ite can answer. He passed the test and was hurled on the Army Canal highway, just before Sadr City.

Go to the link for Zeyad's full post, and maps of the recent kidnapping and of recent abductions in Baghdad. An unknown number remain captive: 'About 70 of the people abducted in a brazen raid on the offices of the Higher Education Ministry have been released, officials said Wednesday, but it was unclear how many remained captive. Dozens of people were taken Tuesday from the central Baghdad office that handles academic grants and exchanges, with the men handcuffed and loaded aboard about 20 pickup trucks by gunmen dressed in the uniforms of Interior Ministry commandos. "Most of the hostages were freed, but that is not enough for us. We will chase those who did this ugly criminal act," Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said, as he met professors and students at Baghdad University to show of support for the country's educational institutions. "We regret what happened yesterday. The government's reaction was strong."' (Stratfor, Healing Iraq, AP)

Rice: Iraq isn't about Palestine. Debka: 'Rice denies a connection between the Israel-Palestinian issue and the Iraq war. There is no connection between the stalemate in the Israel-Palestinian conflict and events in Iraq, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday night. She rejected the viewpoint of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who on Tuesday said progress in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians would stabilize the situation in Iraq. Blair was testifying before the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group. Rice also rejected proposals to promote talks with Syria and Iran. Speaking to reporters in Germany on her way to Vietnam, she noted that Syria was associating itself with extremist elements and that there were no signs that Iran was prepared to contribute to the stabilization of Iraq.' See yesterday's Morning Report for remarks on Blair's recent speech in London. (Debka)

Somali jihadis fought Israel. Debka: 'A United Nations 86-page report discloses that in mid-July, more than 720 combat-hardened fighters were personally selected by Aden Hashi Farah of the Somali Islamist front, some of whose leaders belong to al Qaeda, to fight in Lebanon in return for training and arms from Iran and Syria. DEBKAfile adds: This information was unknown to Israeli intelligence in the Lebanon war during which Israel blockaded Lebanon by sea, land and air. At least 100 Somalis returned home by September accompanied by 5 Hizballah members, while others stayed in Lebanon for advanced training. Fighters were paid $2,000 for their services and $30,000 was awarded the families of those killed. Two Iranians are now in Dusa Mareb to discuss the exploration of uranium in exchange for arms for the Islamic Courts which has captured large parts of the country. DEBKAfile’s military sources report that Israeli security is now seeking the route taken by the Somali fighters to Lebanon - possibly through Egyptian Sinai and Gaza. Senior officials categorize the marriage of radical Iran, Syria- and Somali jihadis as a dangerous step that keeps pace with its nuclear aspirations. Tehran is using the same conventional warfare tactics against Israel as it employed to undermine US and British forces in Iraq to the detriment of the Bush administration.' Full post at the link. ThreatsWatch:
This report, if accurate, shatters many theories and brings to light a number of truths. The first truth is that with foreign support, the ICU [Islamic Courts Union] could acquire the logistics and supply to completely overtake Somalia. With an influx of weapons, including shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, grenade launchers and machine guns finding their way into the ICU’s hands, the forces in the Puntland region as well as the Ethiopian-backed TFG forces may find it difficult to resist the ICU’s attack. If the ICU is able to overtake Baidoa and secure a stronghold in the south, there will be more than just weapons and munitions flooding into Somalia. With an ICU takeover, it’s entirely possible that Somalia could become the new al-Qaeda base in Africa.

Another important truth is that with this report, it seems pretty clear that Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims are willing to set aside conflicting ideologies and cooperate with each other.

TW adds that 'our enemy has assimilated into an elusive worldwide network backed by state sponsors and supporters.' The BBC report says:
Ten countries have been violating a United Nations arms embargo to send weapons to Somalia, according to a UN-commissioned report.
Seven countries - among them Iran and Syria - have supplied military personnel and weapons to the Union of Islamic Courts militia.

While three countries are helping arm Somalia's weak interim government.

The report is due to be discussed by a UN Security Council committee on Friday.

The countries arming the Islamists are Syria, Iran, Eritrea, Djibouti, Egypt, Libya and Saudi Arabia, according to the report.

Ethiopia, Uganda and Yemen are named as the countries supplying Somalia's interim government.

Full details at the links. (Debka, TW, BBC)

Iran/Britain: Infiltrators and counter-infiltrators. Azarmehr:
A group called Vigil, have infiltrated one of the most extremist groups in Britain, the radical al-Muhajiroun group, headed by Omar Bakri Mohammed, yet they claim the British police are just not interested in their evidence.

One academic, who is a member of Vigil, contacted the Metropolitan Police's anti-terrorist hotline saying he had more than 100 hours of material from the chatroom only to be told to contact his local police station.

"The anti-terrorist office showed no sense of urgency to get this information," he said.

It has also been emerged today that a senior executive officer, Abid Javid, in Immigration and Nationality Directorate which processes tens of thousands of asylum and visa applications every year, is a member of the fundamentalist Islamic group Hizb-ul Tahrir which believes in a worldwide Islamic state under Shariah law.

Read the rest at the link. Dreams Into Lightning previously reported on Abid Javid. (Azarmehr)

Winds of Change on the Gates appointment. Joe Katzman says "Huh?" much better than I can: 'So, I've been thinking about W's choice for Secretary of Defense to succeed Rumsfeld. And I'm looking at the sequence of events, and the choice, and again and again I'm left to wonder... is this guy as dumb as his enemies think he is? I know you can't get to the majors without hitting a curveball, and you don't get to the White House without some smarts, and standardized military tests place W slightly higher than John Kerry... but then ...' Go read the rest. (WoC)

Two worthwhile programs on CNN tonight. Tonight at 7pm Eastern (that's 4pm Pacific) Glenn Beck on CNN Headline News will have a one-hour special on terrorism called "The Extremist Agenda". Then at 10pm Eastern (7pm Pacific), Anderson Cooper, who's always worth watching, will do a special on Iraq; Iranian freedom activist Cyrus Kar is going to be on, according to this activist site. (CNN)

Commentary. Who is this woman running the State Department? She's starting to sound like Condoleezza Rice ... I mean the OLD Condi we used to know and love. Let's hope she sticks around.

With the Iranian issue coming to the forefront, I think the Atlantic Ocean is going to start looking a lot wider. I wrote yesterday that I didn't have any comments on Tony Blair's speech, but there is one thing that kind of jumps out at me: it's where Blair says of the Iranian regime
To be fair, they have a genuine, if entirely misplaced fear, that the US seeks a military solution in Iran. They don't.

Blair's assessment of Washington's goals may or may not be accurate; but since when does the British Prime Minister speak on behalf of Washington? If I were the Bush Administration, I'd be irked. Heck, I'm irked just as an American citizen.

I hope the IRI's influence doesn't spread to Washington the way it appears to have done in London. Gateway Pundit suspects two IRI sympathizers, Houshang Amir Ahmadi and Hamid Dabashi, of infiltrating the Baker Iraq Study Group. Gee, what do you suppose they'll recommend?


Gay Palestinian Beaten at Pride Rally

Via American Thinker, Bookworm Room links to this story at SFGate:
A group of gay Palestinian Americans canceled a planned pride march in East Jerusalem on Friday after one of them was beaten unconscious by a local man who said he was from the Waqf Muslim religious authority.

The beating incident occurred on the same day an Israeli gay pride rally went ahead as scheduled, though without a planned march through city streets. The march had been called off after threats by religious and right-wing opponents to mount huge counterdemonstrations. Only minor violence marred the event. ...

In the East Jerusalem beating, two men -- one wielding a knife -- came looking for the group of gay Palestinian Americans who were staying at the Faisal Hostel near the Damascus Gate of the Old City. One of the assailants identified himself as being from the Waqf, the clerical trust that administers Muslim religious sites in the city.

"I'm pretty terrified right now," said Daoud, an MBA student from Detroit who declined to give his full name. "We left the hostel immediately, but when my friend went back to collect some things, they were waiting for him. They asked if he was with 'the homos' and then started beating him." ...

Daoud said nine gay Palestinian Americans had come to Jerusalem to join the pride march. "Maybe I was just being naive. I heard about the pride rally, and I thought it would be nice for us to do something together as a gay community," he said. "We got a different kind of reception instead."

In America, he said, "you have some tolerance and appreciation and understanding of what it means to be gay and to be a Palestinian. We're discovering the hard way it's not so acceptable here."

I won't adopt the sneering tone I've seen some conservative commentators take toward incidents like this, as if it's all a big joke. But it does speak volumes about the gulf between free societies and repressive ones. I'm glad Daoud wasn't injured more seriously. And I'm glad these guys are waking up to the homophobia that's still rampant and dangerous in the Arab-Muslim world - even if it was a rude awakening.

Jerusalem Gay Pride Wrap-Up

In the end, the event was held in a stadium.

A few thousand gays and their supporters rallied in Jerusalem on Friday under heavy security, going ahead with a festival that has sparked religious protests and highlighted deep divisions in Israeli society.

... Organizers had planned a gay pride street parade but cancelled it after police said they needed to beef up security to guard against threatened Palestinian attacks following a deadly Israeli army shelling attack in Gaza this week.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews had also threatened to disrupt the march through the holy city. There have been nightly protests in Jerusalem's religious neighborhoods against the parade.

...Police said they arrested several religious youths near the venue who were carrying knives and brass knuckles. There were also a few minor scuffles between right-wing opponents of the event and gay rights activists in the city but little violence.

Arutz Sheva:
Event organizers reported that some 4,000 people attended Friday’s gay pride event in the Givat Ram area of the capital. About 3,000 policemen were on hand to maintain law and order. There were no serious disturbances reported.

Police security worries spiraled after an errant Israeli artillery shells killed 19 civilians in Gaza on Wednesday and Palestinian militants vowed to carry out suicide bombings in Israel in retaliation.

Responding to those concerns, Pride organizers agreed to turn the parade into a rally, held inside the fenced-in stadium of Jerusalem's Hebrew University, which was ringed by mounted police and anti-riot units.

This article at Time points out some things you should know about Israeli culture:
The fuss over the Gay Pride Parade also exposed some of the seismic cracks inside Israeli society, where modern, secular values collide with fiercely defended religious traditions. The sharp Tel Aviv-Jerusalem rivalry illustrates this divide. Tel Aviv prides itself on its hip nightclubs and a laid-back, cosmopolitan attitude, while an hour's drive away, in some Jerusalem neighborhoods, ultra-orthodox men re-create the customs of 17th century Poland and wear long, black waistcoats and beaver hats that make them broil in the Mediterranean sun.

Making up half of the Holy City's Jewish residents, the ultra-Orthodox ride their own buses, send their kids to religious schools and have the power to close off their neighborhoods to cars on the Sabbath. Any Tel Aviv visitor wandering into these austere communities in shorts and a T-shirt on the Sabbath runs the risk of getting clobbered by a rock.

Even Jerusalem's gays are more subdued than Tel Aviv's. Organizer Canetti says she asked Tel Aviv's participants to tone down their sexy costumes. "We're not having floats or naked men flashing their asses," she says. "We just want to tell people, hey, we're here. We have a right to exist."

Now for my thoughts.

As regular readers of this site know, I originally opposed the Jerusalem parade because I feared it would result in a net setback for gay rights in Israel, and because I was worried about the negative image of Israeli Jews that would likely result from the haredi protests.

But the gay marchers (who, as the previous article indicates, did not copy the notoriously provocative fashions of gay pride events elsewhere) are not responsible for the behavior of the haredi (so-called "ultra-orthodox") Jews. If religious zealots chose to throw a collective temper tantrum in front of the world, they would have nobody but themselves to blame for the resulting damage to the image of Jews everywhere.

The gay pride event challenged Jerusalem's traditional religious community to grow up. It was never a question of whether the hareidi orthodox would approve the event - no one would expect them to - but how they would choose to express their disapproval. Ironically, while reading descriptions of the rioting and the self-justifications of the hareidim, I was once again reminded of the parallel between the insular worldview of Israel's orthodox and that of American left-wingers, which I previously explored here:
Like the religious Zionist movement, the American Left was the only segment of society that was strenghtened, not weakened, by the last war - in our case, Vietnam. Over the next three decades, the liberal movement - that is, the increasingly dogmatic ideology that called itself "liberalism" - consolidated its hold on our media, our educational and cultural institutions. Liberal communities like Berkeley and neighborhoods like, well, the one I live in, ensured that left-leaning Americans could live comfortably without having to rub elbows with "red-staters".

Liberal Americans, guided by a "deep internal sense of being in the right without asking for or needing external confirmation," built and strengthened their own communities but rarely stopped to ask themselves what they might learn from their conservative neighbors...

The compromises made by each side in this controversy are part of the necessary process of Israel's development as a nation. Even the most basic steps - renouncing lewdness and violence - are evidence that the process continues as it must. In the end it can only strengthen Israel's religious community, its gay community, and its society as a whole.

Finally, let me leave you with this article about Israeli lesbian Avigail Sperber, which comes by way of Sarah at Israelity:
Avigail Sperber, 33, is a film director and cinematographer. She has made several documentaries and a short movie, and is currently working on her first full-length film. Her father is Rabbi Prof. Daniel Sperber, who teaches Talmud at Bar-Ilan University and received the Israel Prize for his achievements in his field. For many years, he chaired the public council for state religious Jewish education. Sperber found it especially difficult to accept the disclosure of his daughter's sexual identity. However, his public position, Avigail stresses, was never a factor in her family's acceptance of her lesbianism. ...

For Avigail, the high point in her family's acceptance of her was reached a year ago, when her younger sister Shuli, who had become ultra-Orthodox, was to be married to a young man who had also become ultra-Orthodox. It was considered only natural to invite both Avigail and her present partner, film director Netali Baron (whose film, "Metamorphosis," about four rape victims, was screened this week on Israel Television's Channel 1). Hannah felt this was not enough and began inviting other lesbian friends of Avigail's whose families had severed contact with them. ("Some girls are no longer welcome in their own homes, even on holidays, even without their partner.")

Two years ago, Hannah started a support group for the religious parents of homosexual/lesbian children (fathers were invited, but only the mothers actually attended). Monthly meetings were held at the Sperber home in the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem's Old City. Over the past few months they have not met, but Hannah said this week that the controversy generated by the gay pride parade is a good reason to reactivate the group.

Hannah: "Initially, I attended a parental support group at the Open House [a center for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender, or GLBT, community in Jerusalem]. However, some parents didn't like going there. That's why I launched the group in my home. There are various levels of attitude with respect to the children in this group. One mother, who's very extreme, said she wouldn't invite her daughter to the weddings or other occasions of her siblings. Another mother, a widow, moved me when she declared that she loved her homosexual son very much. Her greatest fear was that he would stop being religious...

Read the rest at the link.

At its best, Israel stands as a model of what a free and democratic society in the Middle East could be. It can, in effect, say to its Arab and Muslim neighbors: "This is what democracy looks like."

For all related posts, please go to this category archive: Jerusalem Pride 2006.

Morning Report: November 14, 2006

Tehran's determination, Washington's vacillation, London's negotiation. Has the West's strategy changed? Did the West ever even have a strategy? Iran has one - and it hasn't changed.

Ahmadinejad: Fuel program near completion. AP via Yahoo: 'President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday said Iran would soon celebrate completion of its controversial nuclear fuel program. "With the wisdom and resistance of the nation, today our position has stabilized. I'm very hopeful that we will be able to hold the big celebration of Iran's full nuclearization in the current year," the hard-line president said referring to the country's nuclear fuel program. Iran's current calendar year ends on March 20.' (AP)

Nasrallah: Lebanon's Siniora government to go. Debka: 'Nasrallah tells his Hizballah followers in S. Lebanon: Siniora government will soon be ousted. It will soon be replaced with a “clean government,” he said. Six pro-Syrian ministers including Hizballah quit the Lebanese government Saturday, breaking up unity coalition talks and aiming to torpedo Foud Siniora’s initiative for an international tribunal to try the men implicated in the Feb. 2005 murder of the Lebanese politician Rafiq Hariri last year, including relatives of Bashar Asad’s. The pro-Syrian camp demanded veto power in the new coalition and threatened to foment civil unrest if their demands were not met. Nasrallah reported that until now Hizballah had spent $300 m in funds received from Iran to repair the damage caused in its war on Israel.' Strategy Page: 'Hizbollah is demanding more seats in the Lebanese cabinet, so that Hizbollah would have a veto over anything the government sought to do. The majority Christians, Sunnis and Druze have refused. Hizbollah believes that it is strong enough to impose its will on the majority of Lebanese. Hizbollah openly boasts of the huge amount of cash it is getting from Iran, and points out that the UN peacekeepers in southern Israel do not interfere with Hizbollah, and, instead, protect Hizbollah from the Israelis. If the majority Lebanese refuse Hizbollah demands, they risk starting another civil war. Hizbollah is less afraid of another war, and this gives Hizbollah an edge.' (Debka, Strategy Page)

Amir Taheri: Iraqis' uncertainties. Amir Taheri at Benador:
The Shiites, grateful though they are to America for having helped them win power for the first time, feel obliged to have a insurance policy for when (not if) the Americans cut and run. This is why all prominent Iraqi Shiite politicians have been to Tehran.

That insurance, however, comes at a price. Iran's rulers insist that the new Iraq turn a blind eye to the activities of Shiite militias, created and armed by Tehran with Hezbollah support.

And, because they are unsure of American steadfastness, the Shiites are pressing for a federal structure that would give them 90 percent of Iraq's oil regardless of what happens next. That, together with the increased activities of Shiite death squads, enrages the Arab Sunnis.

These Sunnis know that as long as there is a U.S. military presence, the Shiites can't move into Sunni provinces to solve the problem the Oriental way - that is, by large-scale killings and ethnic cleansing. But what if the Americans leave before Iraq has a government capable of protecting all communities?

Uncertain about U.S. intentions, many Sunni Arabs tolerate (if not actually support) the Saddamite bitter-enders and, to a lesser extent, the non-Iraqi jihadists and suicide bombers. Just as Iraqi Shiites look to Iran for insurance, Iraqi Sunnis regard Jordan and, to a lesser extent, Syria and Egypt, as putative protectors.

Uncertainty about American fidelity also affects the policies pursued by Iraqi Kurds. ...

Read the rest at the link. (Benador)

Blair's foreign policy speech: Ties with America, isolation for Iran. Via Iran Focus:
There is a fundamental misunderstanding that this is about changing policy on Syria and Iran. First, those two countries do not at all share identical interests. But in any event that is not where we start.

On the contrary, we should start with Israel/Palestine. That is the core. We should then make progress on Lebanon. We should unite all moderate Arab and Moslem voices behind a push for peace in those countries but also in Iraq. We should be standing up for, empowering, respecting those with a moderate and modern view of the faith of Islam everywhere.

What is happening in the Middle East today is not complex. It is simple. Iran is being confronted over its nuclear weapons ambitions. Its stock market has lost a third of its value in the last year and foreign credit is increasingly hard to come by. The statements of its President - such as wiping Israel from the face of the earth - are causing alarm, even in Iran.

To be fair, they have a genuine, if entirely misplaced fear, that the US seeks a military solution in Iran. They don't. But we all want Iran to suspend its enrichment process which if allowed to continue, will give them a nuclear weapon. Under the agreement we brokered in June, the US has said they will talk to Iran direct for the first time in 30 years, if they abide by the UN demand to suspend enrichment. But Iran is refusing to do it.

Instead they are using the pressure points in the region to thwart us. So they help the most extreme elements of Hamas in Palestine; Hizbollah in the Lebanon; Shia militia in Iraq. That way, they put obstacles in the path to peace, paint us, as they did over the Israel/Lebanon conflict, as the aggressors, inflame the Arab street and create political turmoil in our democratic politics.

It is a perfectly straightforward and clear strategy. It will only be defeated by an equally clear one: to relieve these pressure points one by one and then, from a position of strength to talk, in a way I described in July in my speech in Los Angeles: offer Iran a clear strategic choice: they help the MEPP not hinder it; they stop supporting terrorism in Lebanon or Iraq; and they abide by, not flout, their international obligations. In that case, a new partnership is possible. Or alternatively they face the consequences of not doing so: isolation.

Blair goes on to stress the importance of ties with America. Full text of British Prime Minister Tony Blair's speech at the link. (Iran Focus)

Commentary. Marze Por Gohar quotes the Financial Times:
Downing Street officials made clear Mr Blair's speech did not represent a change of policy on Iran and Syria - and Mr Blair himself suggested that those who thought it was such a change were guilty of a "fundamental misunderstanding".

In July - in a speech in Los Angeles - Mr Blair made a similar plea that Iran and Syria must "come in to the international community and play by the same rules as the rest of us - or be confronted". However, Mr Blair's restatement of the argument is now more significant because the Bush administration is thinking hard about whether to engage with Iran and Syria.

The Telegraph has this to say:
Both the American and the Downing Street versions of this formula are being billed as fresh, realistic responses to the dilemma of post-war Iraqi chaos. In fact, they represent a stunningly abrupt volte-face in the Anglo-American approach to the problems of the region.

Iran and Syria would be offered privileged status in resolving the future of Iraq, even though they have previously been regarded as serious obstacles to peace in the Middle East and, in the case of Iran, the most prolific sponsor of terrorism in the West — as Con Coughlin reminds us today with his revelations about Teheran's links with al-Qa'eda. ...

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Washington and London are now so eager for a face-saving formula that would enable them to wash their hands of Iraq and its apparently intractable problems that they are prepared to retreat from positions which they had declared, only weeks ago, to be principled and unflinching.

Instead of delivering ultimatums to Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his nuclear ambitions, Britain and America are to offer him an invitation to play a larger and more influential role in global politics.

I don't have any comments directly on Blair's speech. The Telegraph's view reflects a disappointment with both London's and Washington's retreat into myopic "realist" foreign policy doctrine. My general impression from the text is that Blair has not really said anything new on the Middle East; but his stress on the importance of relations with America is interesting. He's mentioned Russia, China, and the EU in passing, but the stress is on US ties. Clearly a lot of this is directed at the British Left (and perhaps specifically the Mayor of London) but I don't know what the significance of it is in the context of Mideast policy.

My impression from reading the Iranian activist sites is that pro-democracy Iranians view the UK with much greater suspicion than they see the United States. As for what change, if any, is in store for cozy London-Tehran ties, we'll have to wait and see. I'll be watching this closely.

UPDATE: This post by Hashem Hakimi at the Free Iran news forum illustrates exactly what I'm talking about:
The Brits did it at the end!!!??

This was the Brits plan right from the start. To pull the Yanks in & then see to it that they are out with disgrace!? The same old story of special relationship of Brits & the Yanks!!??

Did you learned your lesson!?

INDEPENDENT 14th November 2006.
By Liz Harris

In a major departure from previous foreign policy, Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair urged his so-called “war on terror” ally George Bush last night to engage with Iran and Syria and encourage them to contribute to sorting out the endemic violence in Iraq.

In his annual foreign affairs speech last night at London’s Guildhall, the Prime Minister threw in his lot with the voices of the Iraq Study Group and urged co-operation with Iran and Syria.

The PM is at pains to deny that this is a policy shift. The two countries can either co-operate or face isolation, he told the gathering. ...

Dr. Hakimi's point is that Blair's declaration is indeed no policy shift for London, but rather part of its plan from the beginning - a plan that has little concern for the interests of America or the freedom-loving people of Iran.


Morning Report: November 13, 2006

Ripple or sea change? A foreign submarine follows American warships. But has the President's foreign policy vision been deep-sixed?

Chinese sub stalked American fleet. Washington Times: ' Chinese submarine stalked a U.S. aircraft carrier battle group in the Pacific last month and surfaced within firing range of its torpedoes and missiles before being detected, The Washington Times has learned. The surprise encounter highlights China's continuing efforts to prepare for a future conflict with the U.S., despite Pentagon efforts to try to boost relations with Beijing's communist-ruled military. The submarine encounter with the USS Kitty Hawk and its accompanying warships also is an embarrassment to the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, Adm. William J. Fallon, who is engaged in an ambitious military exchange program with China aimed at improving relations between the two nations' militaries. Disclosure of the incident comes as Adm. Gary Roughead, commander of the U.S. Navy's Pacific Fleet, is making his first visit to China. The four-star admiral was scheduled to meet senior Chinese military leaders during the weeklong visit, which began over the weekend.' UPDATE: Submariners' blog The Stupid Shall Be Punished has more:
Absent from the article will be any indication that it's not tough at all for a submarine to trail a carrier; what's tough is doing it when they're at a heightened alert level and have a friendly submarine attached to them, without having the friendly submarine ready to take you out at any time. ...

It's even lamer than I thought; the Song-class diesel boat was spotted on the surface about five miles from the Kitty Hawk. So, either the Chinese were trying desperately to let us know that they could get that close to us, or this is another of a series of attempts by the Chinese to send their submarines farther afield where they just can't seem to stay undetected and/or submerged. Since they have nothing to gain by taunting us like that, I vote for the second option.

For some background: the Chinese were probably interested in checking out preparations for the Annualex 18G exercises taking place south of Kyushu.

Read the full post at the link. Keep an eye on Dreams Into Lightning for more updates and details. (Washington Times, TSSBP)

Olmert met with Rice in Washington. Arutz Sheva: 'Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met in Washington on Sunday night with US Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice. The two discussed the possibility of a new political realities vis-a-vis the PA (Palestinian Authority) and the Iranian threat. In addition, the meeting served as a prepatory event ahead of Monday’s meeting between Olmert and US President George W. Bush.' (A7)

Blair wants to work with Syria, Iran. Arutz Sheva: 'British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Monday will call on Syria and Iran to work towards increased regional peace and stability as well as working towards reducing violence in Iraq. According to a Reuters news agency report, the British leader believes the time has come to persuade Tehran and Damascus that if they are not part of the solution, then they are part of the problem, indicating Blair intends to paint a picture showing them the consequences of failing to assist towards bringing peace to the region.' AP via Iran Focus: 'British Prime Minister Tony Blair urged the international community on Monday to engage Iran and Syria to advance the peace process in the Middle East and defended his government's close relationship with the U.S. Blair said the outcome of the Iraq war was central to bringing peace to the Middle East, and the world must make clear to Syria and Iran how they can assist in the process as well as the consequences of hindering it. Blair was to deliver the remarks in a speech later Monday and excerpts of the text were released in advance by his office. The United States has said it was willing to hold direct talks with Iran about Iraq - which would be the most public exchange between the countries in years. But the U.S. does not want to discuss broader subjects such as Iran's contentious nuclear program which Washington suspects is aimed at making weapons.' (A7, Iran Focus)

ThreatsWatch on Lebanon. ThreatsWatch:
Hizballah’s weekend move is believed to be driven by their Syrian sponsors seeking to evade further any prosecutions and likely resulting sanctions. The situation is being placed within the context of a greater ‘cold war’ over influence in the Middle East, principally between the United States and an Iranian-Syrian cabal.

But Hizballah’s quiting the cabinet does not automatically dissolve the government based on their non-participation and Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora rejected the Hizballah resignations. In the United States, the White House issued a statement that criticized the move and condemned Iran and Hizballah, stating that “Hezbollah and Iran remain a dangerous, global nexus of terrorism.”

Hizballah deputy chief Naim Kassem siad that the resignations were but the first step in a Hizballah strategy to assume power within the Lebanese government. “There will be other steps that we will discuss in detail with our allies and which we will announce gradually,” he said.

Full article at the link. (ThreatsWatch)

Olmert on Palestinian plans, Iranian options. Vital Perspective: 'In an interview with Lally Weymouth that was just put to print today, Israeli PM Ehud Olmert insisted he still stands by his plan for peace with the Palestinians and declared that Israel 'has many options' to deal with the Iranian nuclear threat.' He's got a comeback for that question about poll numbers, too. Transcript at the link. (Vital Perspective)

The Mesopotamian on America's Iraq policy. Alaa at The Mesopotamian: 'The only thing that America is guilty of is that of underestimating the viciousness of the enemy, and not so much his military capability; because the enemy’s weapon is not so much military prowess, but evil and viciousness. He specializes in hitting below the belt. He has no rules and no scruples, and will stop at nothing. He is absolutely devoid of any kind of human feeling. To think that you can reason with him or somehow accommodate his wishes and desires is absolute folly and suicide. This was clearly illustrated lately in Iraq when all kinds of overtures and approaches were made in forlorn hopes of appeasing him. This only resulted in boosting his morale and appetite for murder and violence. America seems to have become confused and loosing sight of the fundamentals of the issue and even who the real enemy is. Of course this was aided by a massive propaganda assault aimed directly at the American public from abroad and from within.' Full post at the link. (The Mesopotamian)

Kianoush Sanjari. New Iranian blogger Sayeh Hassan at Shiro-Khorshid Forever writes: 'Kianoush SANJARI, a student activist and blogger was re-arresed on Oct. 7th while preparing reports on protests in support of Ayatollah Broujerdi. He is currently being held in ward 209 of the Notorious Evin prsion and is tortured and interoggated several times a day.' Go to the link for the Amnesty International report. (SKF)

Commentary. Despite having left the Marine Corps with the exalted rank of Corporal, I am not an expert on military matters. But if you read the guys who are, they'll tell you that there are a few things - only a few - that you can count on in war. They'll tell you that war is a fluid, ever-changing thing, and that success depends on persistence, flexibility, and your ability to adapt to new conditions, respond to new threats, and exploit new vulnerabilities on the enemy's side.

That last week's Republican losses were a setback in the war against terrorists and dictators is beyond dispute, though the magnitude and nature of that setback may be subject to debate. Still more serious, as some see it, is the Bush Administration's apparent abandonment of the central tenets of its foreign-policy doctrine. In short, it is a victory of the self-styled "realists" over the neoconservatives.

Here is what Debka has to say:
Bush Prepares Switch on Iraq and Downgrading of US Ties with Jordan and Israel
November 12, 2006, 4:14 PM (GMT+02:00)

Monday, Nov. 13, former US secretary of state James Baker and ex-Congressman Lee Hamilton will present their recommendations on Iraq to President Bush in the Oval Office. Their audience will include an array of top administration officials: Vice President Dick Cheney, national security adviser Stephen Hadley, secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte and CIA Director Gen. Mike Hayden, as well as U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Peter Pace. Incoming defense secretary Robert Gates will attend as a member of the bipartisan committee.

Absentees will include outgoing defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who stepped down after the Republican’s lost the Nov. 7 midterm to the Democrats over the Iraq war, and the commanders directly running that conflict, Generals John Abizaid and George Casey.

The timing and composition of the conference indicate that the larger decisions are already in the bag with regard to the new US policy on Iraq and a fresh approach to the radical side of the Middle East led by Iran and Syria, mainly at the expense of Jordan and Israel. Monday’s White House conference will be concerned mostly with tying up the last ends and deciding who performs which part of the revised strategy.

DEBKAfile’s Washington sources report that Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, who is due Monday will be one of the first foreign White House visitors to hear an update on the new policy. He will find he is required to listen rather than speak. Bush will use the occasion to inform him where America’s Iraq policy leaves Israel and the Palestinian dispute.

Now I've recently been reminded from several quarters that Debka is neither omniscient nor infallible, so I pass that caveat on to you. Nevertheless, the bleak report reflects one set of conclusions that can be drawn from the events of the past week. Today's analysis at Stratfor asserts that "the Israelis have real reasons to be concerned" about Washington's plans, which may include cutting a deal with Tehran to end the US/Iran proxy war in Iraq, and perhaps assurances that Israel will not strike Iran on its own.

But as the Stratfor piece notes, Washington may not be in a position to deliver such assurances on Israel's behalf. Meanwhile, Amir Taheri argues that the recent election won't result in an American "Madrid effect" because the word "Iraq" means different things to different people: 'The word "Iraq" brought together a disparate coalition that might unravel, now that the Democrats share greater responsibility in shaping policy.' And Michael Ledeen, channeling James Jesus Angleton, finds that the Gates appointment doesn't signal a radical change of Administration policy, in part precisely because of Gates' reputation as a "team player".

So those are the arguments for optimism - Israel is going to defend itself regardless of what happens in Washington, the Democrats are united in how they feel about Iraq but not on what to do about it, and Gates is enough of a true realist to know how to work with the Bush administration on behalf of its goals.

Who's right? I have no idea. (Taheri sounds a little confused himself when he says: 'One thing is certain. The jubilation expressed in jihadist circles as a result of the Republicans' defeat may be misplaced.' Well, which is it - "certain" or "may be"? But I digress.)

Here's what I am sure of: What happened last Tuesday was part of the democratic process in a free society. And nobody should give up on the struggle based on the results of a single election. We can and must adapt to changing conditions and keep up the fight. This means supporting (real) human rights organizations, humanitarian causes, soldiers' and veterans' aid groups, and pro-democracy groups. It means continuing to expose the lies and distortions of the moribund mainstream media. It means demanding that our colleges and universities teach facts and critical thinking, not multicultural mishmash and anti-American propaganda. And it means continuing to dialog with our neighbors, getting the word out, and standing firm for what's right. Because that's where the battle is being fought.