Talabani blasts Baker-Hamilton. MSNBC: 'BAGHDAD, Iraq - The Iraqi president said Sunday the bipartisan U.S. report calling for a new approach to the war offered dangerous recommendations that would undermine his country’s sovereignty and were “an insult to the people of Iraq.” President Jalal Talabani was the most senior government official to take a stand against the Iraq Study Group report, which has come under criticism from leaders of the governing Shiite and Kurdish parties. He said the report “is not fair, is not just, and it contains some very dangerous articles which undermine the sovereignty of Iraq and the constitution.”' Jerusalem Post: 'He singled out the report's call for the approval of a de-Baathification law that could allow thousands of officials from Saddam Hussein's ousted party to return to their jobs. "There is an article to bring back the Baathists to the political scene, which is very dangerous," he said in an interview with reporters at his office in Baghdad.' Debka: 'Iraq’s Kurdish president Jalal Talabani rejects Baker-Hamilton report as undermining the country's sovereignty and constitution. It contains dangerous articles that are an insult to the Iraqi people, he told reporters in Baghdad Sunday, Dec. 10. He referred to the Iraq Study Group’s recommendation of more centralized control of Iraq’s oil wealth and embedding thousands of US advisers in Iraq’s security forces as reflecting the mentality that Iraq is a colony. The solution to Iraq’s problems, said Talabani, lay in giving Iraq control of its own security. There is no security now because the prime minister cannot move 10 soldiers from one place to another (without US authorization). He also objected to including former regime members in reconciliation talks.' (various)
Hezbollah rally in Lebanon. Stratfor: 'Tensions remained extremely high in Beirut, Lebanon, on Dec. 10 as massive demonstrations against the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora entered their 10th day amid heavy security. Sources said hundreds of thousands of Hezbollah supporters were pouring into the streets, waving yellow Hezbollah flags as well as red and white Lebanese flags. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has called for a general strike Dec. 11.' Arutz Sheva:
A mammoth Sunday rally in support of the Hizbullah terrorist party and its pro-Syrian allies has prompted Pope Benedict to issue a call for peace Sunday amid growing fears of a civil war in Lebanon.
The pro-Syrian elements have been staging daily rallies for more than week, choking downtown Beirut in an attempt to topple the anti-Syrian government. Army combat jeeps and thousands of soldiers have surrounded the government offices to protect the Prime Minister and other officials. An anti-government newspaper has warned that the protests will be followed by national strikes and civil disobedience if the government does not surrender to demands by Hizbullah and its allies.
Abu Kais at Michael J. Totten's Middle East Journal:
The Assad regime is in a hurry. Nasrallah hasn’t been able to deliver quickly enough. The Grand Serail is a fortress, and the Lebanese street is slowly turning against the protestors, who don’t even have safe passage back to their homes now. The orders from the Dark Lord’s council are to pack more people in downtown Beirut, and as soon as possible. The plan to occupy or lay siege to the Rafik Hariri International airport seems to be in full swing, although the Lebanese army will reportedly not allow it.
What’s the hurry for? ...
Read the rest at the link. (Stratfor, A7, MJT)
Brain fog. Far more pernicious than the fog of war, Wretchard argues at the Belmont Club, 'Some kind of brain fog has descended upon Western Civilization, a species of madness or abstraction that makes victory against the enemy impossible, not simply because victory is inconceivable, but the very concept of an enemy or warfare has become unthinkable to the postmodern bureaucratic mind. It is the very thought of fighting a foe -- fighting under any circumstances, however justified -- that has become the ultimate taboo. War has been banished, not from reality, but from the list of allowable thoughts.' (Belmont Club)
Iran regime steps up nuclear operations. Arutz Sheva: 'Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Saturday that Iran has expanded production of its national uranium enrichment program by adding 3,000centrifuges at a facility in the center of the country. Uranium enrichment has been banned by the UN Security Council, but its permanent members plus Germany are stalled in their efforts to agree on a sanctions resolution.' Debka: 'The Iranian president is quoted as saying Saturday that expanded production of the national uranium enrichment program by adding centrifuges is the first step towards industrial production. Uranium enrichment has been banned by the UN Security Council, but its permanent members plus Germany are stalled in their efforts to agree on a sanctions resolution.' (A7, Debka)
Iraqi security force takes lead in raids. Multinational Force Iraq:
Iraqi Security Forces and Coalition advisors confiscated weapons and detained suspects in a series of events here this week.
Saturday, Iraqi Soldiers and Coalition advisors detained five suspected terrorists. They also confiscated a weapons cache and stockpile of al Qaeda in Iraq propaganda near Mahmudiyah.
Based on intelligence from previous operations, Iraqi Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, with advisors from Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment., 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, conducted a raid on a small building complex, targeting an improvised explosive device cell, believed to be responsible for several attacks against Iraqi Security and Coalition Forces.
Iraqi Soldiers raided the objective, detained two individuals and observed three others attempting to escape. The Soldiers pinpointed and detained the three men in a canal.
The troops found two AK-47 assault rifles, a mortar cleaning kit, a shotgun and a mortar explosive charge following a search. They also found al Qaeda propaganda and a series of documents indicating future attacks.
In the al Doura neighborhood, 1st Battalion 6th Brigade Iraqi National Police and Coalition Forces seized several weapons caches during an early-morning operation Friday.
The joint operation was conducted based on tips from residents of the neighborhood, leading the police and troops to weapons caches in homes and the al Hassanae’en Mosque. ...
Full article at the link, and don't forget to bookmark the homepage. (MNF-Iraq)
Sandmonkey on Gaza exodus. Egyptian Sandmonkey: 'he Palestinians are leaving Gaza. Not because of Israel, or because of the shelling or the occupation, but because of their fear of a civil war between Hamas and Fatah. ... This is bad because the solution to Gaza ( and the palestinian Israeli conflict), in my opinion, has always been that the more educated more well-off Palestinians who live abroad would come back and invest in the little strip. If a large enough number of them came back, they would change many factors in the equation: Improve economic conditions, provide different voices and opinions of moderation, help raise the educational level in Gaza. Hell, maybe even change the culture of Death that Hamas imposed on the palestinian society over there. But that never happened, partly because of the high level of corruption exhibited in the PA, partly because of the never ending confict drama between the palestinian factions and Israel and partly because the palestinians who live aborad don't want to abandon their cozy lives and move back to freakin Gaza. The supreme majoirty of palestinians I have met who lived abroad (Here in Egypt, US, Europe) would never go back.' (Sandmonkey)
Arash Sigarchi needs help. It's not a nice world out there. If you're wondering what you can do to make a difference, The Spirit of Man has a suggestion: the fund for Arash Sigarchi.
Mr. Sigarchi is now serving jail time for bogus charges such as insulting the leader of the regime and espionage for the United States... etc. His charges are laughable and he doesn't deserve this situation at all.
He also lost his brother in a car accident last year while serving his 14 yr long jail time. His brother died in a terrible accident enroute to prison where Arash was being held. ...
As if he didn't have enough problems, Arash has been diagnosed with cancer. Go to The Spirit of Man to find out more, and please consider using that PayPal link (funds register in Canadian Dollars). Every bit helps. (TSOM)
Commentary. Warfare in the early twenty-first century is indeed proving to be a very different creature from its twentieth-century counterpart, and perhaps some people may be forgiven for failing to recognize war for what it is. What's inexcusable, though, is the abandonment of the highest values that the West holds dear.
Via daddicade in LiveJournal-land, here is the full text of British Prime Minister Tony Blair's speech on multiculturalism at the Telegraph. It is magnificent.
We should begin by celebrating something. When we won the Olympic Bid to host the 2012 Games, we presented a compelling, modern vision of Britain: a country at ease with different races, religions and cultures. This was not the stuffy old Britain that used to be sent up in the comedy sketches of the 1970s but a nation proud, willing and able to go out and compete on its merits.
Right away, the PM begins on a positive note: "We should begin by celebrating something." But celebrate what?
The ethos of this country is completely different from thirty years ago. The courts recognise racial offences in a way that was inconceivable then. We have the most comprehensive panoply of anti-discrimination legislation in the world. We have tough laws outlawing discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, religion, race, gender and disability. The Human Rights Act provides basic protection to ethnic minorities and lays down some minimum standards. It is a matter of some pride to me that it has only been Labour governments that have introduced anti-discrimination legislation.
Our public culture is also completely different. We now have more ethnic minority MPs, peers, and Ministers though not enough. We have had the first black Cabinet minister. The media are generally more sensitive, and include ethnic minority reporters and columnists. Racism has, for the most part, been kicked out of sport. Offensive remarks and stupid stereotypes have been driven out of public conversation. The basic courtesies, in other words, have been extended to all people.
It is this progress - a triumph of liberalism at its best - that Mr. Blair calls upon his countrymen and -women to celebrate. In the words of the much-maligned slogan: Celebrate diversity.
Trevor Philips said recently that Britain was by far the best place to live in Europe, if you are not white. Others might dispute that; but it was interesting he could say it so confidently. Recently, MORI updated a poll they have run over many years, about attitudes to race and ethnicity. Only 25 per cent of Brits say they would prefer to live in an all-white area. In some European countries it's over 40 per cent. Only 12 per cent of whites would mind if a close relative married a black or Asian person; those who would not mind were over 50 per cent. Just five years ago the figures were 33 per cent minding and just 22 per cent not minding.
It didn't happen easily. Most of us grew up in an era when action against discrimination was condemned as political correctness. But from Roy Jenkins seminal and brave speech in 1966 to the National Committee for Commonwealth Immigrants onwards, fair-minded people brought about the change we can justifiably celebrate in 2006.
Notice the rhetorical twist here, where Blair links the buzzword "political correctness" to the positive changes that have happened in Britain - thereby robbing the PC slur of its sting.
The day after we won the Olympic bid came the terrorist attacks in London. These murders were carried out by British-born suicide bombers who had lived and been brought up in this country, who had received all its many advantages and yet who ultimately took their own lives and the lives of the wholly innocent, in the name of an ideology alien to everything this country stands for. Everything the Olympic bid symbolised was everything they hated. Their emphasis was not on shared values but separate ones, values based on a warped distortion of the faith of Islam.
This ideology is not, of course, confined to Britain. It is a global phenomenon, long in the making and taking a long time to unmake.
However, it has thrown into sharp relief, the nature of what we have called, with approval, "multicultural Britain". We like our diversity. But how do we react when that "difference" leads to separation and alienation from the values that define what we hold in common? For the first time in a generation there is an unease, an anxiety, even at points a resentment that our very openness, our willingness to welcome difference, our pride in being home to many cultures, is being used against us; abused, indeed, in order to harm us.
Here the Prime Minister gets to the heart of the problem. Using the words "multicultural" and "diversity" without irony or apology, he asks: 'But how do we react when that "difference" leads to separation and alienation from the values that define what we hold in common? ' That's the central question. Here's how Blair answers it:
I always thought after 7/7 our first reaction would be very British: we stick together; but that our second reaction, in time, would also be very British: we're not going to be taken for a ride.
People want to make sense of two emotions: our recognition of what we legitimately hold in common and what we legitimately hold distinct. When I decided to make this speech about multiculturalism and integration, some people entirely reasonably said that integration or lack of it was not the problem. The 7/7 bombers were integrated at one level in terms of lifestyle and work. Others in many communities live lives very much separate and set in their own community and own culture, but are no threat to anyone.
But this is, in truth, not what I mean when I talk of integration. Integration, in this context, is not about culture or lifestyle. It is about values. It is about integrating at the point of shared, common unifying British values. It isn't about what defines us as people, but as citizens, the rights and duties that go with being a member of our society.
Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and other faiths have a perfect right to their own identity and religion, to practice their faith and to conform to their culture. This is what multicultural, multi-faith Britain is about. That is what is legitimately distinctive.
But when it comes to our essential values - belief in democracy, the rule of law, tolerance, equal treatment for all, respect for this country and its shared heritage - then that is where we come together, it is what we hold in common; it is what gives us the right to call ourselves British. At that point no distinctive culture or religion supercedes our duty to be part of an integrated United Kingdom.
Go read the full text of Blair's speech on multiculturalism at the link. I'd like to say more about it, but here I'll just say this: Blair has done what Bush could not, by framing the present conflict not in terms of conservatism but in terms of liberalism. I'll end with the much-misquoted final words of this speech:
Our tolerance is part of what makes Britain, Britain. So conform to it; or don't come here. We don't want the hate-mongers, whatever their race, religion or creed. If you come here lawfully, we welcome you. If you are permitted to stay here permanently, you become an equal member of our community and become one of us. Then you, and all of us, who want to, can worship God in our own way, take pride in our different cultures after our own fashion, respect our distinctive histories according to our own traditions; but do so within a shared space of shared values in which we take no less pride and show no less respect.
The right to be different. The duty to integrate. That is what being British means. And neither racists nor extremists should be allowed to destroy it.