2006-03-31

Iran bulletin: IRI funds Nazi groups in Europe.

SMCCDI:
Islamic regime finances Nazi groups in Europe
SMCCDI (Information Service)
Mar 30, 2006


The Islamic regime has increased its financial help to several European Nazi and Far-Right groups, especially, in France, Germany and Austria. Thousands of Dollars and Euro have been already distributed in that line.

The money is being distributed by businessmen with links to some of Dubai's Import-Export circles which are working with the Islamic regime's Intelligence.

This policy intends to boost the regime's anti-Jewish propaganda and to show support of the regime's President and his denial of the Holocaust. It also targets the Iranian masses in an effort to persuade them on the validity of Ahmadinejad's claim which will look stronger with the presence of Europeans sharing his shameful view. [emphasis added - aa]

Does this come as a surprise to anyone?

[NOTE: At present I cannot independently verify this report from SMCCDI. I will post any corroborating or supporting information as it becomes available.]



2006-03-30

Great post at Free Iran ...

AmirN eviscerates Charles A. Kupchan and Ray Takeyh in the International Herald Tribune.
Choice quotes:
First, the Iranian government is anything but nationalistic, and would destroy Iran to replace it with its own “Islamabad” if it could. Second, Iranians are currently either too busy trying to not starve to death, or getting high from drugs as an escape, or avoiding being thrown into prison and being tortured and killed to really care about having a nuclear bomb. A nuclear bomb is irrelevant to a people struggling to just stay afloat and dealing with constant torment and oppression from their own government. ...

The reason the mullahs have staying power is two-fold. First, they brutally and mercilessly oppress any opposition. Though effective in the short term, history has shown that its effect eventually diminishes and gets overwhelmed by a people who eventually reach a boiling point. Second, they have oil and money, which makes many of the world’s greedy nations – Russia, China, European nations, etc – want to continue to do business with and empower them. This too, will eventually be overcome, as the boiling point of the people will not be averted forever. It is a question of WHEN, not IF.

And the Mullahs “freed” nothing except their own “Willy,” which they have subsequently stuck up the backside of the Iranian nation and all of its citizens. ...

As far as the “Iranian moderates,” there is no such thing. The moderates are just the “good cops” in the “good cop, bad cop” routine. The moderates are the wolves in sheep’s clothing. Save the “moderate” mumbo jumbo for the simpletons. ...

Now go read the whole thing at the link.

2006-03-29

Darfur: Stop the Genocide

AJWS:
Rally for Darfur - Washington, D.C. - April 30, 2006

Thank you for your continued activism on behalf of the people of Darfur. As the April 30 Rally for Darfur approaches, we wanted to send you a message to inform and inspire you in your work for the innocent victims of the genocide. Our efforts to bring this genocide to our leaders’ attention must continue.

Facts

In addition to the 400,000 who have already died as a result of the genocide in Darfur:

More than 300,000 people along the western border of Sudan and in the central mountains have been cut off from aid because of the prevailing insecurity in the region. Humanitarian vehicles are routinely attacked and looted.
Janjaweed, the Sudanese government-backed militia, are now spreading their campaign to neighboring Chad – killing, raping and burning villages while shouting their signature racial epithet: "black slaves."
Truth

The Janjaweed will rape and kill my family. And there's nothing I can do.
-Idris Ismael, a 32-year-old Chadian whose village was attacked by Janjaweed. While he managed to run away, his wife, who was eight months pregnant, and his four children did not. (New York Times, 3.20.2006)

There has never been a cost-free, risk-free way to stop genocide.
-Gayle Smith, former U.S. representative to Rwanda (Bloomberg News, 3.22.2006)

Wisdom

I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.
-Elie Wiesel

Sign the Million Voices for Darfur Postcard.

iAbolish (hat tip: Yael)
Petition the U.S. Government: Create a Task Force to Eradicate Slavery in Sudan

Slave abuse in Sudan

Preliminary analysis of interview conducted by CSI field researcher with recently liberated slaves reveal the following statistical pattern of slave abuse:
Based on interviews with 1,306 freed male and female slaves over the age of eleven:
Forced labor 95.5%
Frequent beatings 95.7%
Racial insults 95.8%
Forced conversion to Islam 59.6%
Based on interviews with 1,025 female slaves over the age of eleven:
Rape 69.7%
Gang rape 59.4%
Genital mutilation 33.5%
Based on interviews with 281 boy slaves over the age of eleven:
Rape 6.0%

Since the mid-1980s, Sudan has experienced a surge in cases of slavery. The Sudanese government has supported militias (janjaweed) who raid black African villages, murdering men and taking women and children as slaves.

Despite tremendous effort by the U.S. government to bring about peace in Sudan, UN agencies are reporting that the government-sponsored militias are continuing to abduct women and children in western Darfur — an area not covered by the peace talks.

We need to send a message to U.S. leaders demanding the creation of a special Task Force to investigate and report on slavery in Sudan. We aim to collect 3,000 signatures by March 31 in support of this initiative — can you help us get there?

Sign the petition at the link.

It only takes a second to ask the US government to do the right thing. Add your voice now.

Afternoon Roundup

The Middle Ground: Hassan Abbasi's dream.
Hassan Abbasi has a dream-a helicopter doing an arabesque in cloudy skies to avoid being shot at from the ground. On board are the last of the "fleeing Americans," forced out of the Dar al-Islam (The Abode of Islam) by "the Army of Muhammad." Presented by his friends as "The Dr. Kissinger of Islam," Mr. Abbasi is "professor of strategy" at the Islamic Republic's Revolutionary Guard Corps University and, according to Tehran sources, the principal foreign policy voice in President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's new radical administration.

For the past several weeks Mr. Abbasi has been addressing crowds of Guard and Baseej Mustadafin (Mobilization of the Dispossessed) officers in Tehran with a simple theme: The U.S. does not have the stomach for a long conflict and will soon revert to its traditional policy of "running away," leaving Afghanistan and Iraq, indeed the whole of the Middle East, to be reshaped by Iran and its regional allies.... [Amir Taheri in Opinion Journal]

It's not just the Iranians and other ME dictators that are waiting for this moment. Many left leaning people have been rooting for this moment since even before Iraq, but certainly, as soon as the first tanks crossed the border between Kuwait and Iraq.

In fact, my youngest brother was crowing last night about the falling support for "Bush's War" sighting a poll that states the beginning of the war had 72% support and it is currently down below 50%. From his comments it is easy to understand the thought processes of many in the United States who have never supported the war or have only done so as "sunshine patriots".

From their perspective, a defeat and ignominious retreat is not a defeat for the United States, but a defeat for President Bush and his policies. A defeat is not a defeat of our military, but a defeat of Donald Rumsfeld. It's not a defeat for democracy or freedom, but a win for realistic foreign policies. It's not a defeat for the American people, but a win for the mass voices that just want to go back to the days when the world was "calm" and did not intrude on their way of life.

ITM: Iraq the soap opera.
Most of the debate in Baghdad today was about the alleged message from Bush to al-Hakeem telling him to replace Jafari with another candidate. The simple people I meet at work have made a simplified version o their own of this story that goes like this "Bush told the government that if they don't agree on a president, I will appoint that I choose"! This is followed by a "whatever, maybe this can put an end for this mess" which reminds me that we still believe in firm and direct orders from a boss thinking that one shout or frown from him would be enough to solve the dispute while negotiations seem boring and taking forever, something not unexpected with all the stress and frustration Iraqis have to deal with.

On the other hand the local media was more interested in yesterday's negotiations that were resumed after being suspended for one day after the raid on Sadr's militia. Anyway, the latest sessions seem to coincide with a call from Sistani to the leaders of the UIA to go back to the table and accelerate the process.

It's clear that yesterday's meetings were no different from earlier meetings and was unsurprisingly followed by contradicting statements from who were just sitting at the same table moments ago. ...

Time is passing by and this is not in the interest of the politicians or the people who are getting tired of the way politicians are performing that many of them would tell you they've stopped following the news. One friend told me yesterday that he used to follow the political news every single day but "not anymore, these negotiations have much in common with those thousand-episode Mexican series, you can skip ten episodes and then come back and you will find things exactly where you left them!".

CTB: Taylor busted.
In an incredible stroke of luck, Nigerian policemen arrested fugitive Charles Taylor as he tried to cross by land into Cameroon. According to eyewitness accounts, he was wearing a white safari suit, driving a Landrover with diplomatic plates and had bags full of dollars in the trunk. He made it through the immigration check point, but was stopped when trying to get through customs. ...

2006-03-28

Congratulations

... to the WinXP user, unknown location, who visited Dreams Into Lightning at 11:31 AM Pacific (and, ironically, entered at this archive page)! You are visitor number 40,000 according to Site Meter.

Thanks to all who have visited.

Regime Change Iran

Just as a reminder, make sure you have Regime Change Iran bookmarked on your browser - and if you blog, be sure to link RCI on your sidebar. Regime Change Iran is the project of activist "Doctor Zin", and it's your one-stop shop for all the latest pro-Iranian news: everthing related to Iranian human rights, women's rights, democracy and freedom activism, and ... well, regime change. I read Regime Change Iran every day and you should, too.

Other Iran-related sites you won't want to miss:
Iran Focus
IranMania
Free Iran message board
SMCCDI
SOS Iran
Marze Por Gohar
PGLO - Persian Gay & Lesbian Organization

And finally, if you haven't done so yet, please take a moment to sign this petition:
True Security Begins with Regime Change in Iran


Ben Westlund to Open Campaign Headquarters

Ben Westlund, Independent candidate for Governor of Oregon, will open a campaign headquarters in Bend this Wednesday. From the news release:
Independence Headquarters Opens in Bend
Party this Wednesday!

In Bend for spring break?
Join us for the opening of Ben's campaign headquarters this Wednesday. Bring your friend, bring a chair, bring your checkbook.

We are building a new movement in the center of Oregon, geographically and politically! Join us!

Where: 1195 Wall St, Downtown Bend
When: Wednesday, March 29 5:30pm
Contact: Email ben@benwestlund.com or 541-382-8481

Ben Westlund for Governor - homepage: http://www.westlundforgovernor.com/index.php
Westlund for Governor

2006-03-27

Pakistan: Aisha Parveen Fights Sex Slavery

Via The Killing Zone, the Daily Times (Pakistan) reports:
LAHORE: The courts in Khanpur are to soon decide the case of Aisha Parveen, 20, and the decision could mean life or death for her, reports the New York Times.

“Ms Parveen ... is steeling herself for a state-administered horror. Just two months after she escaped from the brothel in which she was tortured and imprisoned for six years, the courts are poised to hand her back to the brothel owner,” writes Nicholas D Kristof.

Parveen says she was 14 when she was hit on the head while walking to school in NWFP. She awoke to find herself imprisoned in a brothel hundreds of miles away, in the town of Khanpur.

Parveen fought back and refused to sleep with customers, but she says the brothel owner - Mian Sher - beat and sexually tortured her ...

Rantburg weighs in.

Don't forget to bookmark The Killing Zone (homepage) for the latest info on women in the Middle East and the Muslim world.

Debka: A Summit of Also-Rans

Debka reports on the Arab League summit:
The two-day 18th Arab League Summit opening in Khartoum Tuesday, March 28, looks like being a semi-washout. Eight rulers announced their non-attendance including Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, Tunisia’s Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and Oman’s Sultan Qaboos.
The Arab foreign ministers who laid out the agenda and drafted final resolutions agreed on one issue: deep resentment of the US-Iranian dialogue on Iran. The two powers had no business discussing Iraq directly without co-opting a representative Arab voice, they declared. Even Iraq’s Kurdish foreign minister demanded more Arab involvement in helping to stabilize Iraq.
The collective absenteeism is explained by DEBKAfile’s Middle East sources by weakened Arab League leverage in five pressing issues and the summit’s location:
1. Khartoum is way off the beaten track and hardly the safest place in the region for an Arab ruler. Some have unfortunate associations with the Sudanese capital. The Saudi king will recall that Osama bin Laden used Sudan as his home base in the 1990s; to this day, al Qaeda cells fugitives with Saudi links are hiding there. President Mubarak is unlikely to forget that the most serious assassination attempt launched against him emanated from Khartoum in 1995, although its was staged in Addis Ababa.
2. No Arab leader feels comfortable associating publicly with Sudan’s government as long as the Darfur conflict rages. ...

The article cites Hamas as the fifth point of difficulty for the Khartoum summit:
The summit proposes to affirm a draft pledge of $50 m per month for the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority. The Hamas government is due to be confirmed by the legislative council Monday, March 27. At the same time, most Arab leaders were secretly relieved that it would be too late for an elected Hamas official to join the Palestinian delegation. Saudi king Abdullah, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and North African rulers were therefore easily persuaded by Bush officials to withhold an invitation to the summit from Hamas.
Arab summit resolutions must be unanimous to take effect. No Arab ruler relishes the thought that firebrands like Hamas’s Khalid Meshaal, Mussa Abu Marzuk and Mahmoud a-Zahar, the incoming Palestinian foreign minister, would have held the power to veto Khartoum’s resolutions.

Read the rest at the link.

Germany, ElBaradei Urge Iran to Stop Nuclear Work

Xinhua:
BERLIN, March 27 (Xinhua) -- German leaders and Mohammed ElBaradei, chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), urged Iran on Monday to suspend its nuclear program as top diplomats will meet over the issue here on Thursday.

The foreign ministers from Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States will meet in the German capital at the invitation of German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier over the Iran nuclear issue, according to a report from the German news agency DPA.

From the same story:
In another development in Germany on Monday, police searched business sites across the country in connection with the illegal export of double-use equipment to Iran.

The German prosecutor's office in Potsdam near Berlin said that some 250 agents raided 41 companies in 10 German states last week after learning of suspicious purchase requests by a Berlin firm.

The firm which was run by Russians is believed to have exported hydraulic pumps and transformer parts, which could be used at nuclear facilities.

The firm delivered the equipment from Berlin to a company near Moscow, and from there to Iran.


Debka: Hamas won't be invited to Khartoum summit.

Debka reports:
The Bush administration persuaded Arab rulers not to invite Hamas to their summit opening in Khartoum Tuesday, March 28 - but not to cut off funding. - March 27, 2006, 10:57 PM (GMT+02:00) - Most Arab leaders are worried by the rise to power of the radical terrorist group, whose PM-designate Ismail Haniya asks the Palestinian legislative council to vote confidence in his 24-member cabinet Monday, March 28. He is assured of majority endorsement after Hamas’s landslide win of the December election. Mahmoud Abbas will head the Palestinian delegation to Khartoum. But foreign ministers preparing the summit resolutions rejected Western demands to cut off aid to the Hamas-led Palestinian government.

Iran attack: how soon?

I think it's overwhelmingly likely that the US and/or Israel will attack Iran, and perhaps very soon. I've posted previously on signs of an Iran attack. To James Dunnigan's "Ten Signs the US Is About to Attack Iran", I'm tempted to add:
11. Top general says US is not about to attack Iran.


There's been a spike in sectarian attacks in Iraq, too, as Debka notes:
Officials in Baghdad report 120 Iraqis killed in last 48 hours – 1,450 since Feb. 22 blast at the Shiite mosque in Samarra
March 27, 2006, 10:33 PM (GMT+02:00)
The ministry of human rights appealed Monday to US forces and Iraqi security groups to protect civilians during their raids.


Despite all the diplomatic gymnastics, it looks as if Washington and now London are preparing the public for a military showdown. ElBaradei is talking, but I don't think the guys in Tehran are listening.

Related posts:
US to outspend enemy in Iraq?
"Israel will have to attack Iran."
Morning Report March 19 2006
Morning Report March 26 2006

Yemen and Security

Jane at Armies of Liberation links to a scathing column in the Yemen Times:
The political regime used to keep an iron grip over everything, even the opposition parties, sorting out differences with them through bargains and deals. But, when it has found out that these ways will no longer work out, it is going nuts and is behaving like a child who holds a gun and starts firing against everybody without knowing the consequences. ...

An anonymous guest poster at Armies of Liberation comments on Yemen's gun ownership, concluding:
The vast majority of Yemenis are engaged full-time in the business of
survival and savings. They know that goats plus rain equals money,
or that pick-up trucks plus subsidized fuel plus cheap labour equals
money. They also know that there is very little that you can do on a
daily basis with a gun that makes money. Forget notions of weapons
culture, or the odd gun freak that has five or six weapons, ordinary
people in the tribal areas can only afford to keep what weapons they
have in order to protect their other assets, so if you ask yourself
what is required to do this - you arrive at a very different answer,
but one which exactly tallies with first hand observation of rural
people’s houses and lives.

Via Internet Haganah, ICT on the Yemeni connection:
The Yemeni connection to worldwide Islamic terrorism stretches back nearly two decades; its roots can be traced to the war in Afghanistan during the 1980s between the Afghan rebels and the pro-Soviet Communist regime backed by Soviet military forces. During this war thousands of Muslim volunteers from all over the world, especially Arab countries (including Yemen), came to fight alongside their Afghan brothers. The war served these volunteers as a university for the study of radical Islam and prepared them, mentally and physically for the violent confrontation with the "infidel" West and with the Muslim regimes that cooperate with it. The Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan "proved" to them that the power of faith in Islam conquers all other forms of power.

The Afghan Veterans returned to Yemen during the early 1990s, convinced both of their ability to eliminate the remnants of the Communist Muslim regime in the southern region of the United Yemen and of their capacity to expel the foreign presence from Yemeni soil. They formed an alliance with the northern Sana government against the remnants of the southern Communist regime in the hope of being allowed to enlist in the Yemeni army and freely operate in southern Yemen, in order better to expel the American and British presence from Yemen. After these demands were rejected, the Afghan Veterans established radical Islamic organizations that began to undermine the Yemeni regime and perpetrate terrorist attacks against western targets inside Yemen and against senior Yemeni figures suspected of collaborating with the West. Soon these organizations began to cooperate with al-Qa'ida and even received financial support from it.

The involvement of Yemeni volunteers in the Iraqi war was just a matter of time. Just as in Afghanistan, Yemenis comprise a significant component of the Muslim volunteers in Iraq. However, in contrast to the Afghan case, this time the Yemeni regime made it more difficult for them to leave for Iraq; nor was the government pleased to accept them upon their return. As a result, Iraqi veterans and subsequent alumni of Afghan training camps, including the Yemenis, were forced to return to Yemen under false identities. Very quickly the concerns of the Yemeni government were confirmed: the return of Iraqi alumni to Yemen brought with it a wave of terrorist attacks that may threaten the stability in the country. Iraqi veterans, some of whom are members of al-Qa'ida, view Yemen as a convenient ground for the fostering of radical Islamic ideologies and as a target for terrorist attacks against the foreign presence in the region.


Afternoon Roundup

Iran Focus: US postpones talks with IRI on Iraq.
London, Mar. 27 – The United States has postponed direct talks with Iran on the situation in Iraq, a British daily [the Guardian] claimed on Monday.

The talks were postponed after Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and other Iraqi ministers demanded that no negotiations take place over their heads, the Guardian wrote, quoting American officials in Baghdad.

The daily said that talks between Washington and Tehran could not take place until a new Iraqi government was formed.

ITM on yesterday's raid.
The Iraqi government, or more precisely the UIA part of it is obviously so outraged by the joint US-Iraqi army raid on al-Mustafa husseiniya that took place in eastern Baghdad yesterday.

Actually the reactions to this incident are so intense compared the reactions when 30 or 4 beheaded or strangles bodies are found on nearly daily basis in Baghdad in a way that it makes me question the intentions of this part of the government even more; this incident has received more attention and was met by more objections that it deserves, or to be more accurate; other more worrisome and tragic deaths in Iraq are receiving far less attention that they should be. Everyday there are new dead bodies found in and around Baghdad yet no one bothers to open an investigation. Why is this one receiving special treatment? ...

The raid on the husseiniya is not going to be investigated because those killed were Iraqis or Shia, the government will open an investigation because those killed were Sadrists and because Muqtada feels this raid was targeting his militia and fears that letting this one go without making enough noise will probably encourage the Americans to carry out more raids.

Now let's check out stories from the various concerned/involved parties; there's the interior ministry and national security ministry which are largely based on 'eyewitnesses' and statements from Sadr's men in the parliament. These source claim that Iraqi and American soldiers stormed the husseiniya and murdered 20 [unarmed] worshippers (37 in another story). So called eyewitnesses told local media that the soldiers locked the worshippers in one room, lined them against a wall and shot them dead. ...

Of course the MNF website has a different story (hat-tip: fourth rail):

Iraqi Special Operations Forces conducted a twilight raid in the Adhamiyah neighborhood in northeast Baghdad to disrupt a terrorist cell responsible for conducting attacks on Iraqi security and Coalition Forces and kidnapping Iraqi civilians in the local area.

As elements of the 1st Iraqi Special Operations Forces Brigade entered their objective, they came under fire. In the ensuing exchange of fire, Iraqi Special Operations Forces killed 16 insurgents. As they secured their objective, they detained 15 more individuals.


Anyway, footage from the scene shows burned vehicles outside the husseiniya, empty smoke grenades and inside the place there were empty shells of BKC machine gun (the main gun mounted on most of the Iraqi army vehicles) the BKC is not a one-GI carried gun but is rather used as a supportive-fire kind of weaponry and if soldiers were to execute [unarmed] people this would not be their gun of choice because AK-47s or pistols could do the job with less noise and are much easier to carry and it makes more sense to think that this weapon was fired by the people who were hiding inside the husseiniya especially that this gun is abundant at the arsenals of militias. ...

Right now the Sadrists are trying to make a 'national crisis' out of this case, obviously to make some political gains at the expense of their political opponents and to support their accusations against the US military and US embassy.

Read the full analysis at the link.

AFP via Iran Focus: Rice to meet with Chirac in Paris.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will meet with French President Jacques Chirac in Paris during a European swing this week focusing on the Iranian nuclear crisis, the State Department said Monday.

AP via Yahoo has more.
Moussaoui says he planned to hijack fifth plane:
Al-Qaida conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui testified Monday that he and would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid were supposed to hijack a fifth airplane and fly it into the White House as part of the attack that unfolded Sept. 11, 2001.

Moussaoui's testimony on his own behalf stunned the courtroom. His account was in stark contrast to his previous statements in which he said the White House attack was to come later if the United States refused to release a radical Egyptian sheik imprisoned on earlier terrorist convictions.

Morning Report: March 27, 2006

Moscow synogogue attacker sentenced to 13 years. AP via Ha'Aretz: ' The Moscow City Court on Monday sentenced a man who attacked worshippers in a synagogue with a hunting knife to 13 years in prison and mandatory psychiatric treatment. The court found Alexander Koptsev guilty of attempted murder on racist grounds for stabbing and wounding nine men in January at the Moscow synagogue.' (AP via Ha'Aretz)

Russians' photo op with Saddam. Gateway Pundit reports on high-ranking Russian officers photographed with Saddam Hussein, just before the start of the recent Iraq war: 'Iraqi Defence Minister Sultan Hashim Ahmed hands an award to Russian Igor Maltsev, rated as one of the best Russian experts in the sphere of operating air-defense systems. (Gazeta)' (Gateway Pundit)

Of flags and Trafalgar Square. Many photographs were also taken at the free speech rally in London's Trafalgar Square. Andrew Apostolou at Michael Totten's blog observes: 'One of the ways in which the police in repressive societies intimidate people is by turning up at protest meetings and taking pictures of them. What, then, are we supposed to make of this behaviour in London yesterday? Note that this is the same Metropolitan Police that did nothing about demonstrators who incited to violence in May 2005 and then only responded in February 2006 after a public outcry. ...' The Belmont Club has more, and cites a news item: 'British police officers speak to Iranian Reza Moradi, 29, who displayed a banner containing the controversial Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, at a demonstration rally supporting freedom of expression in Trafalgar Square, London, Saturday March 25, 2006.' (various)

"Iraq forces targeted terrorists, didn't enter mosque." Via Lucianne, Bloomberg reports: 'Iraqi forces targeted a terrorist cell during an operation yesterday in a Shiite neighborhood of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, and didn't enter a mosque in the area, the U.S. military said in a statement. ``Iraqi Special Operations Forces conducted a twilight raid in the Adhamiyah neighborhood in northeast Baghdad to disrupt a terrorist cell responsible for conducting attacks on Iraqi security and coalition forces and kidnapping Iraqi civilians,'' the U.S. military said in a statement e-mailed late yesterday from Baghdad. ``No mosques were entered or damaged.'' The statement contradicts claims by an official in Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari's Dawa Party, who said 16 people killed in the operation were in the mosque, according to Agence France-Presse.' Full details at the link. (Bloomberg via Lucianne)

Pakistan news roundup at Plus Ultra. Plus Ultra (Banned in Pakistan) has a roundup of headlines from Pakistan: OIC summit demanded against blasphemy; Pakistani tribesmen stone Afghan consulate; Resistance movements urged to unite for Communist renaissance; Stereotyped concept of women’s role hinders justice; and much, much more. Read it at the link - and if you're in Pakistan, don't get caught. (Plus Ultra)

CTB on suspected Abu Sayyef strike. The Counterterrorism Blog: 'The Abu Sayyaf is suspected in detonating a bomb in the southern Philippines island of Jolo, which killed 9 and wounded 20. Some 2,000 US forces conducted a joint training exercise with their Filipino counterparts there earlier this month. A small contingent of US advisors and trainers is based in Zamboanga, where a bomb was detonated killing one, outside of the military base.' (CTB)

Japan report: China military buildup destabilizing. The Intelligence Summit reports: 'China’s growing military strength and its tense relationship with Taiwan are major destabilizing factors in East Asia, according to a strategy report issued on March 27 by a think tank affiliated with Japan’s Defence Ministry. ... In an annual report on East Asian strategy, the National Institute for Defence Studies, a government-funded think tank, warned of China’s military buildup and its growing pressure on Taiwan under independence-minded President Chen Shui-bian. ... China’s 2.3 million-strong People’s Liberation Army is the world’s largest standing military, and Beijing said earlier this month that its official defense budget would rise to 283.8 billion yuan ($35 billion) in 2006, up 14.7 percent from 2005.' Full report at the link. (TIS)

Minnesota move attacks gays' partnership rights. Duluth News Tribune: 'It won't ban gay marriage, because that's already banned. But the proposed marriage amendment to the Minnesota Constitution could change some other things, legal experts say. The amendment's language would open the door for legal challenges to the benefits and arrangements that unmarried couples -- gay and straight -- use for themselves and their families, legal experts believe. "It's not simply outlawing same-sex marriage; it does more than that," said Beverly Bales, a law professor at the University of Minnesota. Health-care coverage for unmarried partners could be challenged, especially at state-funded institutions like the University of Minnesota. Minneapolis' domestic- partnership registry may not survive. Even legal contracts between unmarried partners may face challenges, some scholars say, affecting health-care directives, insurance claims and financial arrangements -- although others dismiss that concern.' (Duluth News Tribune)

2006-03-26

Night Flashes

Strategy Page on Iran's two navies: 'One is the actual Navy and the other is the naval wing of the Revolutionary Guard. The Navy has three submarines, about 20 frigates and large patrol boats, plus some amphibious warfare and mine warfare vessels, and a lot of small, fast attack craft. The Revolutionary Guard, on the other hand, has hundreds (some estimates suggest thousands) of small fast attack craft, all under 20-meters and lightly armed.' The IRI is also busy promoting subbers to top naval posts ... meanwhile, The Hindu reports that 'the United States is working with Russia at the United Nations Security Council on Iran and is hopeful that some of the "tactical" differences may be resolved through the negotiations' ...

The Taipei Times covers the visit of Taiwanese presidential hopeful, Chinese Nationalist Prty Chairman Ma Ying-Jeou to the US, but the writer isn't pleased with what seems to be written between the lines of Ma's policy toward Beijing: 'Ma didn't spell out the quid pro quo which will prompt China to renounce its use of force against Taiwan, but it has to be acceptance of the "one China" principle. The peace accord idea is not new. US academics and former officials have advanced the same idea under the name of an "interim agreement." The key ingredient is that Taiwan permanently forgoes any possibility of independence' ...

Finally, Lucianne links to The Mirror's story on Jonathan Briley - the "Falling Man" of 9/11 ... read, and remember ...

Afternoon Roundup

Muqty watch. Hot on the trail of his favorite Shi'a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, Zeyad at Healing Iraq has breaking news on a US attack on Muqty's militia, the Mahdi Army:
American forces clashed with Mahdi army militiamen at the Ur district (Hayy Ur), west of Sadr city in Baghdad. It seems an American force attempted to raid a husseiniya in the area and was resisted by militiamen inside.

Between 18 and 21 militiamen have been killed, and the Al-Mustafa Husseiniya was reported to be badly damaged in the ensuing firefight.

I was on the phone with a colleague who lived there and he described it as a battlefield. Apache helicopters and jet fighters are still circling the area.

Al-Iraqiya TV just aired some images from the husseiniya. 17 'guards' were killed. One of the corpses carried a Da'wa party (Iraq organisation) ID, and another carried an ID issued by the Islamic Conference of Iraqi Tribes.

Someone in the background was asking the cameraman to film grenades lying around the corpses, to which the cameraman responded: "I can't show our guys' grenades."

"No, these are American grenades," the man in the background explained.

"Oh, okay I'll film them."

Al-Iraqiya TV was very critical of the attack, and is describing those killed as martyrs.

Wretchard at The Belmont Club follows up:
My first reaction is that US troops were used because Iraqi Police and perhaps even Iraqi Army could not be used for this task, whether out of doubts for reliability or military necessity is unclear. Since the target was a Mosque, a natural target for Iraqi troops, my guess is that operational security could not be maintained if the job was assigned to the Iraqi Forces. Furthermore, I'd speculate that the mission was judged important and urgent, otherwise it would never have been attempted during the negotiations for a permanent government. That's just a guess.

The spin is already in. The BBC is reporting "The American forces went into Mustafa mosque at prayers and killed more than 20 worshippers". ...

Debka:
US forces stage two raids Sunday on Iraqi Shiite locations – a Sadrist mosque in which 20 radical gunmen were killed and another secret interior ministry prison.

Radical cleric Moqtada Sadr’s Mehdi militiamen tried to stop US troops from entering the Mustafa mosque in East Baghdad to arrest suspected terrorists. Sadrist spokesmen say the dead were unarmed worshippers. Elsewhere in Baghdad, a US source confirmed that American and Iraqi forces detained 41 Interior Ministry officers. Government and political sources said they released 17 foreign prisoners they were guarding in a secret bunker complex, similar to the Interior Ministry secret prison discovered last November with 173 most Sunni inmates. The Shiites accuse their foreign prisoners of being Sunni al Qaeda fighters against Americans and Shiites. Saturday US ambassador Salmay Khalilzad said the Shiite sectarian militias must be eliminated if Iraq is to have a unity government and avert civil war.

DEBKAfile adds: The two US assaults Sunday, March 27 have raised tensions between the Americans and the Shiite prime minister Ibrahim Jaafari. It is not known whether the secret bunker was guarded by the Badr Organization militia run by his Dawa party or the rival Shiite SCIRI’s Wolves Brigades. The situation in Baghdad is so volatile that the latest US actions against Shiite militias may have the opposite effect to the one intended by Khalilzad and confront US forces with three active fronts – Sunni, al Qaeda and now Shiite. In the Mull Eed village near Baquba, 30 mostly headless bodies were found on the main street, many of them shot. Another 13 bodies were found earlier Sunday in Baghdad. These episodes appear to be part of the sectarian violence raging in Iraq since last month’s blast at the Shiite Golden Dome mosque in Samarrah. All these events occurred after US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice said the US plans to pull significant numbers of troops out of Iraq this year.


Indymedia: ideals versus reality. In what could be seen as a microcosm of the disconnect between the ideals of true liberalism and the reactionary dogma of the Left, Bill Levinson at Israpundit challenges Independent Media Center to distance itself from San Fransicso Bay Area Indymedia (IndyBay):
During the past couple of weeks, we have compiled incontrovertible evidence that the San Fransicso Bay Area Indymedia (IndyBay) is openly going against the Independent Media Center’s stated mission and bringing discredit upon Indymedia throughout the world. IndyBay.org now has a proven record of censoring articles that condemn abuse of women, Christians, and gay people for no conceivable reason except to prevent condemnation of militant Islamic nations that are doing the oppressing. We therefore call upon the Independent Media Center to disown IndyBay.org as a rogue organization whose actions are not consistent with IndyMedia’s ideals.

IndyBay.org is also facilitating a vicious personal attack on an advocate for the homeless for the “crime” of being pro-Israel. IndyBay.org, at least for a while, banned the advocate from even defending herself against these vicious attacks by Joseph Anderson of the National Council for African American Men in Santa Cruz Indymedia Note that “JA” in the following posts refers to Joseph Anderson. The homeless people’s advocate’s name has been replaced with [advocate for the homeless] because he/she is not the subject of this discussion. Mr. Anderson and IndyBay.org’s facilitation of his smear job are. ...

Bill's charge sheet against SF Indymedia reads like an indictment of the Left in general: 'In this case, IndyBay censored information from gaypeopleschronicle.com as well as the Persian Gay & Lesbian Organization because IndyBay’s support for gay rights– in this case the very basic human right to not be brutalized or murdered because of sexual orientation– ends where the militant “Islamic” world begins. The same “collective” that will doubtlessly squeal “homophobia” at anyone who is unwilling to affirm (not merely tolerate) gay relationships as legal marriages has become a willing accomplice to medieval regimes that actually kill people for being gay.' Read the whole thing at the link. Dreams Into Lightning will follow this story closely, and we'll be interested to see how Indymedia handles this.

Interesting times. Thomas P. M. Barnett has some surprising statistics about today's world (via TPMB's blog).

Morning Report: March 26, 2006

Iran: Britain goes hawkish; no help from "a dead process at Turtle Bay". Winds of Change quotes Captain's Quarters on the UN's role in the Iran standoff: 'We have reached the point where the Western nations looking to defend themselves from Islamofascist threats need to band together instead of working through a dead process at Turtle Bay. The UN does not preserve peace; it preserves the status quo, and unfortunately that allows rogue nations like Iran the breathing room they need to make those developing threats a reality. We need to recognize that and act on it.' More at the link. (Small Town Veteran and Captain's Quarters via WoC)

Afghan court drops case against Christian convert. News reports state that 'An Afghan court on Sunday dismissed a case against a man who converted from Islam to Christianity because of a lack of evidence and he will be released soon, officials said. The announcement came as U.S.-backed President Hamid Karzai faced mounting foreign pressure to free Abdul Rahman, a move that risked angering Muslim clerics here who have called for him to be killed.' An official cited "lack of information and legal gaps in the case"; apparently in Afghanistan it's still OK to execute a person for changing their religion if you do your legal homework. Big Pharaoh, who continues to follow the case closely, sees Abdul Rahman's courage as a true martyrdom operation but advises him to exercise the better part of valor. More reaction at Free Iran. (AP via Yahoo, BP, Free Iran)

Russia denies passing American secrets to Saddam's Iraq. BBC via The Intelligence Summit: 'Russia has denied providing Saddam Hussein with intelligence on US military moves in the opening days of the US-led invasion in 2003. "Similar, baseless accusations concerning Russia's intelligence have been made more than once," a Foreign Intelligence Service spokesman said. A US Pentagon report said Russia passed details through its Baghdad ambassador. One piece of intelligence passed on was false, and in fact helped a key US deception effort, the report said. The report also quoted an Iraqi memo which mentioned Russian "sources" at the US military headquarters in Qatar.' AP via the Jerusalem Post: 'The Bush administration will ask Russia about a report that Moscow turned over information on American troop movements and other military plans to Saddam Hussein during the US-led invasion of Iraq, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday. Rice declined to speculate on whether Russia's actions, as detailed in a Pentagon report based on captured Iraqi documents, resulted in casualties among US troops or what Russian President Vladimir Putin knew about any possible Russian involvement.' Significantly, 'The false intelligence apparently passed on by Russia concerned the date the US was likely to start its main attack on Baghdad. A document from the Iraqi foreign minister to Saddam Hussein, dated 2 April 2003, and quoting Russian intelligence, said the attack would not begin until the Army's 4th Infantry Division arrived about 15 April. This reinforced an impression that the US military were trying to create, in order to catch Iraqis by surprise with an earlier attack, the Pentagon report said.' (BBC via TIS, AP via JPost)

US general says Iran attack "a long way" off. Voice of America reports: 'The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace, said Friday that Washington does not see military action against Iran as an immediate option to force the Iranian regime to scrap its nuclear program. General Pace made the comments on the second day of an official trip to Ankara. Speaking to the private Turkish news channel, NTV, General Pace said, "Iran is a long way from needing any kind of military solution." General Pace added that there was much more that needed to be done "politically and diplomatically before any country considers some kind of military action." ' (VOA)

Hundreds arrested in SE Iran after attacks. Iran Focus: 'Hundreds of people have been arrested in Iran’s south-eastern province of Sistan-va-Baluchistan after a deadly ambush on a government convoy carrying dozens of top provincial officials, an informed source in Tehran told Iran Focus. The majority of those arrested are Baluchis, a predominantly Sunni Muslim ethnic minority, who the authorities have claimed have ties to the attackers. A group calling itself Jondollah has claimed responsibility for the attack. Local state-run media have received instructions from the government not to report the arrests on security grounds, the source, who asked to remain anonymous, said. Twenty-two Iranian government and provincial officials were killed and at least seven, including the governor of the city of Zahedan, were critically wounded in the ambush as their convoy was returning from Zabol to Zahedan in the early hours of March 17. A further seven were taken hostage.' (Iran Focus)

China steps up spying on Russia. Via The Intelligence Summit: '(UPI)- Russia's Federal Security Service or FSB, the successor to the Soviet-era KGB, has arrested Russian scientist Oleg Korobeinikov and charged him with disclosing classified information. Interfax news agency reported Wednesday 23 that Korobeinikov has given a written pledge to the FSB not to leave the area and is currently being interrogated by the FSB. Korobeinikov heads a laboratory of combustion kinetics at the Institute of Chemical Kinetics and Combustion in the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The FSB would not comment on the case. Korobeinikov is well-known in Russia and abroad and is an associate fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He has published over 170 articles and monographs. Analysts speculate that the recipient of the data was either the United States or China. ... In a second espionage case involving China, in February a Moscow court remanded Russian Academy of Cosmonautics member Igor Reshetin in custody after he was charged with sharing dual-purpose technologies with a Chinese corporation. New intelligence has raised concerns in some states that the People's Republic's international spying network may be larger and more penetrative than previously believed.' Morning Report is not sure what a "larger and more penetrative" spy network looks like, but the Russian's can't be happy about it.

TMG on anti-Semitism, then and now. In a welcome return to the blogosphere, Kat at The Middle Ground has an eye-opening analysis of anti-Semitic themes in 'Mein Kampf' and compares Hitler's famous tract to today's anti-Jewish propaganda:
The first thing to note is the language of Mein Kampf, which punctuated with numerous descriptive phrases, appearing similar in floridity to modern Arabist and Muslim writers. This must make it easier to read, comprehend and regurgitate within the psyche of these modern readers as it reflects or is reflected in popular modern treatise.

Secondly, because the writing follows a logical progression and brings the reader along with Hitler in his own ideological progression, it does not appear to be the ravings of a madman, but an intelligent well thought out position.

Third, because I am reading chapter three in which he describes his Vienna period and begins his discussion of his anti-Semitic emergence, it is not enough to simply say that Hitler hated the Jews and the Muslims (of all professed conditions of the faith from "liberal" to "extreme") hate the Jews thus their shared hatred's make them the same. It is, in fact, exact language, rhetoric, descriptions and values which match ...

Read the rest at the link.

2006-03-23

Morning Report: March 23, 2006

Mubarak calls talks. Debka: 'President Hosni Mubarak summons Syrian and Lebanese leaders to urgent talks in Sharm el-Sheikh. He will preside over a discussion Thursday, March 23, between Syrian president Bashar Assad and his deputy Farouq a-Shara, and Lebanese PM Fouad Siniora. DEBKAfile reports the Egyptian ruler hopes they can hammer out a solution for the Lebanese crisis that will salvage the Arab summit opening in Khartoum next Tuesday, March 28. Failing a Syrian-Lebanese consensus on what to do about the pro-Syrian Lebanese president Emile Lahoud, who refuses to step down, the Arab summit will be stuck for a resolution on the key Lebanon issue.' (Debka)

2006-03-22

The Iraqi Holocaust

US-led investigators have located nine trenches in Hatra containing hundreds of bodies believed to be Kurds killed during the repression of the 1980s.

The skeletons of unborn babies and toddlers clutching toys are being unearthed, the investigators said.

...The victims are believed to be Kurds killed in 1987-88, their bodies bulldozed into the graves after being summarily shot dead.

One trench contains only women and children while another contains only men.

The body of one woman was found still clutching a baby. The infant had been shot in the back of the head and the woman in the face. ... [source: BBC]


'You might have heard that an assassination attempt against Uday had taken place in 1996, which left him with injuries that caused impotency. This made him even more cruel and sadistic than his usual self. It has been revealed after the fall of the regime that he shot the doctor who broke the news to him (c.f. interview with one of the close bodyguards of Uday at Al Arabia last year). This added one more complex to his extensive repertoire of psychological problems. He started to hate anything to do with other people having any kind of sexual pleasure.

Well, that horrible day we learnt that the night before the Fedayeen [under Uday's command] had attacked scores of houses and dragged women and young girls to streets and beheaded many with swords leaving the heads at the doorsteps of the victims houses. Some of these heads were left in place for more than twenty-four hours. The atrocities lasted for several weeks.' [source: The Mesopotamian]


... This is the place where in the 1990s Hanna was hung from a rod and beaten with a special stick when she called out for Jesus or the Virgin Mary. This is where she and other female prisoners were dragged outside and tied to a dead tree trunk, nicknamed "Walid" by the guards, and raped in the shadow of palm trees. This is the place where electric shock was applied to Hanna's vagina. And this is where in February 2001 someone put a bullet in her husband's head and handed his corpse through the steel gate like a piece of butcher's meat. ... [source: The Washington Post, July 21, 2003; Page A01.]


From Hammorabi:
There are countless numbers of the documented crimes and torture of this family and those who worked with it. Some of these crimes and tortured methods are listed below:
1. Mass executions without trials
2. Genocides against Shia and Kurds by chemical and conventional weapons
3. Disappearances of thousands for ever after their arrest
4. Arresting and executing large numbers of young men, women and children during Iraq Iran war. The arrests could happen at any time and in any place.
5. Arresting any students just by simple doubt especially if not in the Baath party Shia and Kurds. In 1980s the Baath introduce what is called the (Closed Colleges and Universities) which means that all the students should be Baathist.
6. Cutting tongues until death
7. Mutilation of the body parts including ears cutting and tattoing on the forehead
8. Decapitations with swords
9. Falakah which is striking the feet with a painful sticks
10. Nails pulling
11. Insertions of glass in the gentilia
12. Death by mass rape (raping the victim by several rapist until death) ... [source: Hammorabi]

The Iraqi Holocaust

Radical Women

Cinnamon Stillwell at SFGate:
... the real radical women in the world go largely unremarked by the feminist movement. Today's true heroines are those who do battle with the gender apartheid, violence and oppression practiced against women in the Muslim world. There, women face not just phantom infringements to their civil rights and perceived slights to their sensitivities, but threats to their lives. With the call for reform in the Muslim world come the inevitable requirements of round-the-clock security.

Arab American psychologist Dr. Wafa Sultan is the latest to enter such dangerous waters.

Ever since Sultan took part in a debate on Al-Jazeera with Algerian Islamist cleric Ahmad bin Muhammad in February, the world has been riveted.

The two debated Islamic teachings and terrorism. But instead of the usual excuses, Sultan offered moral clarity. She blasted the Muslim world for being mired in a "medieval" mentality and she dubbed the war on terror not simply a clash of civilizations but "a clash between civilization and backwardness … between barbarity and rationality … between human rights on the one hand and the violation of these rights on the other, between those who treat women like beasts and those who treat them like human beings."

...Born in Syria to a middle-class family and raised a Muslim, Wafa Sultan began to reexamine her religious beliefs after a traumatic incident. A respected medical school professor was murdered before her eyes by two Muslim Brotherhood members shouting "Allahu akbar!" (God is great!). Eventually, she became a secularist and started writing for the Arab American Web site Anneqed.com. She became a strong critic of the intolerance and violence increasingly associated with the Muslim world. She also tackled the taboo subject of Muslim anti-Semitism, rejecting the hatred with which she had been indoctrinated as a child.

Lebanese Christian journalist Brigitte Gabriel has traveled the world sharing her experiences of persecution at the hands of Islamists in Lebanon. She and her family eventually found refuge in Israel, where she underwent an epiphany and, like Wafa Sultan, rejected the anti-Semitism she had grown up with. ...


Nonie Darwish is another Arab woman who has sought to bridge the gap with Israel as well as defend America's battle against Islamic terrorism. A former Muslim born and raised in Cairo and the Gaza Strip who later converted to Christianity, Darwish has lived in the United States for more than 25 years. ...

Irshad Manji is also a woman worth recognizing. A refugee of Pakistani descent from Uganda, Muslim journalist and activist Manji grew up in Vancouver, British Columbia. She went on to pursue an impressive career, which now includes being a visiting fellow with the International Security Studies program at Yale University.

But it is her forays into critiquing Islam that have garnered Manji the most attention. As a lesbian, she faces a double dose of intolerance within Muslim culture, but she has never backed down. ...

And the list goes on: Hirsi Ali, Oriana Fallaci, Phyllis Chesler ...

Read the whole thing at the link.

Pakistan: Rape Victims in Jail

Khaleej Times (via Plus Ultra):
ISLAMABAD - Nearly 80 per cent of the more than 6,000 women and juvenile girls on trial in Pakistan are facing charges under the controversial strict ’Hudood’ Islamic laws that mainly deal with crimes of adultery and rape, said a human rights report published on Monday.


The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) report also noted an increase in the killings of women in the name of honour, English ’Daily Times’ reported. Most such killings targetted women and girls who contracted marriages against family’s will.

Human-rights and civil-society organizations are demanding the repeal of the Hudood laws that were introduced by late military dictator Zia-ul-Haq, in 1979, to gain support of Muslim clerics for his rule.

President General Pervez Musharraf, who seized power in a military coup in October 1999, has called on religious scholars to review the strict Islamic laws that are considered highly discriminatory against women. ...



The Manifesto of Twelve

Via Irshad Manji:
THE MANIFESTO OF 12:
Together facing the new totalitarianism

After having overcome fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism, the world now faces a new global totalitarian threat: Islamism.

We -- writers, journalists and public intellectuals -- call for resistance to religious totalitarianism.

Instead, we call for the promotion of freedom, equal opportunity and secular values worldwide.

The necessity of these universal values has been revealed by events since the publication of the Muhammad drawings in European newspapers. This struggle will not be won by arms, but in the arena of ideas. What we are witnessing is not a clash of civilizations, nor an antagonism of West versus East, but a global struggle between democrats and theocrats.

Like all totalitarianisms, Islamism is nurtured by fears and frustrations. The preachers of hate bet on these feelings in order to form battalions destined to impose a world of inequality. But we clearly and firmly state: nothing, not even despair, justifies the choice of obscurantism, totalitarianism and hatred.

Islamism is a reactionary ideology which kills equality, freedom and secularism wherever it is present. Its success can only lead to a world of greater power imbalances: man’s domination of woman, the Islamists’ domination of all others.

To counter this, we must assure universal rights to oppressed people. For that reason, we reject “cultural relativism,” which consists of accepting that Muslim men and women should be deprived of their right to equality and freedom in the name of their cultural traditions.

We refuse to renounce our critical spirit out of fear of being accused of “Islamophobia,” an unfortunate concept that confuses criticism of Islamic practices with the stigmatization of Muslims themselves.

We plead for the universality of free expression, so that a critical spirit may be exercised on every continent, against every abuse and dogma.

We appeal to democrats and free spirits of all countries that our century should be one of enlightenment, not of obscurantism.

Signed,

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Chahla Chafiq , Caroline Fourest, Bernard-Henri Lévy, Irshad Manji , Mehdi Mozaffari, Maryam Namazie, Taslima Nasreen, Salman Rushdie, Antoine Sfeir, Philippe Val, Ibn Warraq

Morning Report: March 22, 2006

Russia opposes Iran ultimatum. IranMania: ' According to an AFP report, Russia remains opposed to issuing Iran an "ultimatum" on its nuclear activities that involves sanctions, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday. Lavrov reiterated Russia's opposition to a draft statement currently before the United Nations Security Council that would press Iran to suspend uranium enrichment and develop a broader strategy to deal with Tehran's nuclear program.' (IranMania)

US and Iraqi forces capture 50 bad guys. AP via Yahoo: ' Insurgents attacked a police station Wednesday for a second day in a row, but U.S. and Iraqi forces captured 50 of them after a two-hour gunbattle. About 60 gunmen attacked the police station in Madain, south of Baghdad, with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic rifles, said police Lt. Col. Falah al-Mohammadawi. U.S. troops and a special Iraqi police unit responded, catching the insurgents in crossfire, he said. Four police were killed, including the commander of the special unit, and five were wounded, al-Mohammadawi said. None of the attackers died, and among the captives was a Syrian.' (AP)

More Saddam-terror ties revealed. Via Gay Patriot, The Worldwide Standard quotes a Foreign Affairs article: 'The Saddam Fedayeen also took part in the regime's domestic terrorism operations and planned for attacks throughout Europe and the Middle East. In a document dated May 1999, Saddam's older son, Uday, ordered preparations for "special operations, assassinations, and bombings, for the centers and traitor symbols in London, Iran and the self-ruled areas [Kurdistan]." Preparations for "Blessed July," a regime-directed wave of "martyrdom" operations against targets in the West, were well under way at the time of the coalition invasion.' (Standard via GP)

CTB on Afghan Christian convert. Daveed Gartenstein-Ross at the Counterterrorism Blog: 'Yesterday, Bill West wrote about the case of Abdul Rahman, a 41-year-old Afghani man who may face the death penalty for converting from Islam to Christianity. This case has generated an enormous amount of media attention because the U.S. and its allies liberated Afghanistan from the fundamentalist Taliban regime, so Westerners find it disconcerting that people can still be killed in that country for leaving the Islamic faith. While this media attention is warranted, it is important for observers to understand that the problem of apostasy laws reaches far beyond Abdul Rahman and Afghanistan. This is fundamentally an issue that people in the counterterrorism field and those who follow terrorism should care about. The Bush administration has invested in a strategy of democratization to counter the extremism that can be found in the Islamic world. But voting rights will not serve as an effective counterbalance to extremism if voting is simply superimposed over the current Middle Eastern political systems, with their lack of basic political freedoms. The most crucial freedoms for creating true democracy in the Middle East are freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of religion -- and of these, the lack of freedom of religion in the region is the most dramatic.' (CTB)

Chavez: There are no Americans in the airport! AP via Yahoo: 'enezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Tuesday that U.S. troops have been routed by a strong resistance movement in Iraq, but haven't pulled out because officials in Washington won't acknowledge defeat. The United States would also suffer a tremendous military defeat if the Bush administration decided to invade Iran, Chavez told a group of foreign diplomats and government supporters at the Miraflores Presidential Palace.' (AP)

2006-03-21

Jeanne Cavelos on Gender in "Star Wars"

SF writer and astrophysicist Jeanne Cavelos writes:

"Against a background of stars and X-wing fighters, Luke holds his
lightsaber aloft while Leia crouches below him, brandishing a gun: two
tough heroes ready to fight the evil Empire. In my love of Star Wars, I
spent endless hours longing for 'a galaxy far, far away,' replaying the
movie in my head, studying every detail of the poster on my wall. It seemed
to embody the excitement of the movie and its strong heroes, Luke and Leia.
But as the Star Wars saga unfolded, I became troubled. While George Lucas
brilliantly combined diverse ideas and influences to create something
startling and inspiring, one aspect of the movies didn't live up to the
rest. I began to notice something new about the poster on my wall. Luke
above, superior; Leia below, inferior. It seemed to reflect the treatment
of the characters in the movies. The problem is not that the women are
supporting characters, though they are. Even a supporting character can be
striking and compelling. Han Solo is such a powerful, heroic figure, he
nearly eclipses Luke. But the women in Star Wars are not the memorable
figures they could be. Compared to their male counterparts, they are
inconsistent and underdeveloped. There is a clear lack of focus on these
characters on the part of George Lucas and the other writers, a tendency to
sacrifice the female characters to make the males look better, and a decided
inclination to reduce initially powerful women to inaction and irrelevance.
Leia and Amidala, as the two most prominent female figures in the films,
exemplify these weaknesses."


- "Stop Her, She's Got a Gun! How the Rebel Princess and the Virgin Queen
Became Marginalized and Powerless in George Lucas' Fairy Tale"
essay in STAR WARS ON TRIAL edited by David Brin and Matthew Woodring Stover
BenBella Books--FORTHCOMING June 2006
US $17.95/Canada $24.95
ISBN 1-932100-89-X


Jeanne Cavelos is the author of (inter alia) the Techno-Mage books, based on the Babylon 5 TV series. These are among my favorite works of recent science fiction: dramatically and morally complex, and very disturbing, but ultimately hopeful. I'll be looking forward to reading Cavelos' essay in the book when it comes out.
  • Jeanne Cavelos homepage


  • Cross-posted at
  • Translinear Light
  • .

    Afghanistan: Christian Convert May Face Death Penalty

    Big Pharaoh is covering the case of Abdur Rahman, an Afghan man facing a death sentence because he converted to Christianity.
    To Kill or Not to Kill
    Today I was reading what Al Arabiya visitors wrote about the story of Afghan man who might be executed for converting to Christianity. Many of the comments I read made me want to vomit, others were breezes of rationality.

    I chose a few of these comments. I included the good, the bad, the ugly, and the very ugly.

    "We hope that rationality supercedes the implementation of laws that contradict innate human traits. There is no other option besides freedom of religion for all. Only then will the religion be for God"

    "The missionaries use the poverty of the people to spread their faith. By the way, the power of their religion is short lasting because it is abrogated" (BP: Idiot, the guy converted 16 years ago and he was outside Afghanistan)

    "There is no compulsion in religion...you have your religion, I have mine" (BP: That's a verse in the Quran)

    "I am a female medical student. Converting out of Islam is forbidden" (BP: a medical student and she think that way! God help us!)

    "I hope other Islamic nations will learn from this nation (Afghanistan) how to apply Islamic law"

    "Fear God Al Arabiya..and cease such useless news stories" (BP: yea yea, the life of an innocent man is useless to you idiot! Ops, I forgot, he's a dirty apostate!)

    "If I were in his shoes, I would have pretended that I returned to islam then escaped and practiced my faith somewhere else"

    "I was not surprised when I read that. Bush and his ilk are waging a crusade and this is an expected outcome. Coverting people to Christianity occurs in poor areas....I hope Muslim youth will rise up and carry out charity work in order to fight Christian missionaries."

    "Once again Islam is being portrait as the religion of sword. Let Allah judge him. Show mercy and many many others will join our religion. Kill him and many many more will resent being Muslims and the enemy of Islam will have the most effective ammunition to attack our religion." (BP: thank you for having a good mind) ...

    The Taliban Live On
    The Taliban regime ended in Afghanistan but it seems their legacy is still there. An Afghan man might face the death penalty after he committed a "henious" crime. He converted to Christianity - 16 years ago. Abdul Rahman appeared in court last week and his case is being widely monitored by the local media in Afghanistan.

    Ladies and gentlemen, this is what I meant when I said that ballot boxes and happy voters casting ballots are not reminiscent with democracy. A country that doesn't adopt the values of liberal democracy can never be called democratic even if it held 365 elections in a year. I'll give anyone a million dollars if s/he dug in my blog archives and came up with a post where I labeled what happened in Afghanistan, Iraq, and several other countries in the Middle East as "democracy". I have used other terms such as "better state" and "better condition". [my emphasis - aa]

    Bulletin from Stratfor (subscription service):
    Italy will move at the "highest level" to save the life of Abdur Rahman, a convert to Christianity who an Afghan court said may face the death penalty if he does not become a Muslim again, the Italian Foreign Ministry said March 21. Separately, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he was deeply concerned by the situation, and would intervene if necessary.

    Go read Big Pharaoh's full posts at the links.

    Afternoon Roundup

    Trent Telenko at Winds of Change:
    It is a wonder that the Blogosphere hasn’t picked up on the latest media “Frame” on the war in Iraq – that Iraq is in purportedly in the middle of a civil war - and taken it apart like the propaganda it is.

    What is going on in Iraq today is a losing terrorist campaign hyped by media spin as a civil war because the public no longer believes their prior “frame” that we were losing to the terrorists . This is easily proven with a simple comparison with Bosnia Herzegovina’s real civil war in the early-to-mid 1990s. Today there are 26 million Iraqis, according to the CIA’s Fact Book. There are four million Bosnians of whom about half (two million) are Muslim.

    Bosnia Herzegovina’s Muslim population lost 200,000 dead in four years from 1992-1995’s civil war with the Serbs. That averages about 50,000 dead a year of two million Muslims, about one killed per forty people per year.

    If the civil strife in post-liberation Iraq matched that of real civil war in Bosnia ten years ago, there would be 650,000 Iraqi fatalities per year – say 1800 dead Iraqis a day from “sectarian strife” to match the average death rate of Bosnia Herzegovina’s civil war.

    That is not happening and neither is Iraq’s “Civil War.” It isn’t even close. There have reputedly been only about 37,000 Iraqi civilian fatalities (not including terrorists - the MSM likes to count terrorist casualties – including foreign aka non-Iraqi terrorists - as Iraqi “civilian” casualties) from violence in the three years of American occupation. That would be less than a month’s losses if Iraq were suffering from a real civil war like the one in Bosnia.

    The MSM is flat out lying about a civil war in Iraq just as they have lied about everything else in Iraq. They invent new lies when their old ones are disbelieved. Yet they wonder why their audience and circulation drop.


    Neo:
    There is no question that one of the important lessons of this war for the enemy (a lesson already learned in Vietnam, but driven home now in modern form) is that the "spotlight"--i.e. worldwide and domestic US press coverage--is worth its weight in gold.

    At this point in time, winning the propaganda war is the way to go for militarily weaker entities, be they states or stateless terrorists, if they ever hope to win against the US and its interests. It is actually the only way to do so at present; even the acquiring of nuclear weapons by our enemies would not really change that picture, since it's highly unlikely that any of those entities would ever achieve parity with the US on that score. Such weapons would merely up the ante and cause more carnage; they wouldn't change the general equation.

    The "spotlight" is another word for propaganda ...

    The Belmont Club, recapping the tumultuous events of the past few years, concludes:
    It would have been surprising to discover a really simple narrative behind the events of the last four and half years. The public is only now beginning to catch a glimpse of the fantastic complexity that somehow lay beneath the placid exterior of the 1990s, an era that came to an end with everyone worrying about the millennium software bug but which failed to anticipate September 11. The emergence of bewildering detail is reassuring in this respect: the events since are not the simple contrivance of a few bureaucrats at the Mossad or the CIA. Real historical forces and not cheap conspiracies are at work, though perhaps not every politician has realized that yet.

    2006-03-19

    Fighting Rape

    Victoria Brownworth is back in form with a very fine column in the April 2006 print issue of Curve. You need to buy the magazine to read the whole article, but I want to just recap a few of Brownworth's major points here.

    Citing DOJ statistics, Brownworth notes that a rape occurs in the United States every two minutes - and only 39 percent of rapes are reported. But the college campus is an especially dangerous place for women: some 25 percent of college students reported being raped. In a majority of cases, the perpetrator is the victim's boyfriend or a male acquaintance.

    Brownworth contends that "any man can become a rapist." This might sound like gratuitous anti-male rhetoric, but she is simply pointing out that all of us are responsible for our own actions. It's also important because "the average rapist is just that: average" and he will not necessarily oblige you by looking sleazy and dangerous.

    Last spring, Brownworth writes,
    a couple of basketball players at a Philadelphia university were charged with raping a female basketball player at the same school. The young woman told police the men rapedand sodomized her at a party. She admitted she had consumed at least nine drinks, which made her extraordinarily intoxicated (and thus unable to give consent). ...

    The players were tried and acquitted. The judge deemed the sexual encounter sonsensual, despite the victim's testimony that it was not, because the young woman had willingly gone to the party. The alleged victim reported the incident immediately to campus authorities, but it was not reported to police until much later; campus authorities considered it an internal matter. This too weighed against the woman at trial. The men continued to play on the basketball team. The young woman left school.


    Via Alas, we get the repulsive details of the Orange County rape case:
    As most "Alas" readers know, the three boys videotaped themselves gang-raping their classmate Jane Doe over and over (including rape with a pool cue and a lit cigarette), and then spent years legally harassing and smearing Jane Doe in every way they could.

    The victim's punishment:
    It wasn't just the predictable "she's a slut" attacks during the trial, but also paying jurors from the first trial to try and change the minds of jurors from the retrail (is that legal?), and recruiting several of Jane Doe's "friends" to tell stories about her which were later proved to be lies. When Jane Doe moved to a new school, under an assumed name, to try and start over, the defense's private detectives stood in the parking lot of her new school screaming her real name at her.

    Read the post at Alas to find out the sentence these vermin received.

    Meanwhile, Pinko Feminist Hellcat has complete coverage of the case. Don't miss the survivor's statement:
    I will relive forever in my head the morning that my father got a call from the Newport Police Department telling him they had a videotape of his daughter being gang-raped. I remember waking up to my parents standing over me, the look of horror and disgust in their eyes. My father asked me what happened on July Fourth and I told him, "I don’t know," because I couldn’t remember what happened to me.

    That is when he grabbed me and he held me in his arms and tears rolled down his cheeks. He proceeded to tell me a videotape was given to the police that unveiled myself being brutally gang-raped by three men, the three men that I gave all my trust to and thought were my friends. ...

    The harassment and torture started immediately after the assault became known to the public. It started with private investigators sitting in front of our house day in and day out, watching our every move. Our family’s privacy was completely eliminated. The private investigators got worse when they began watching my parents at their places of work. One day I was driving home and a private investigator began following me. I panicked. I did not know what to do. I called my mom on her cell phone for help. All she could do was tell me to drive to the police station and try to calm down. In the parking of the police station the private investigator cornered me and began taking pictures of me. ...

    The worst day of my life was when I heard the verdict of the first jury. I was in my room waiting for the verdict. I remember my mom walking into my room. She sat next to me on the bed and hugged me, looked me in the eye and said it was a hung jury. I felt my stomach drop and my heart being ripped out of my chest. There was no way this could be true. My mom had to be mistaken. When she started to cry I knew she wasn’t. I was in such shock I didn’t know what to feel. I became hysterical and started screaming.

    All my anger I had towards these men and the verdict came out. I thought I was going crazy. Why didn’t anyone believe me? ...

    Before the second trial I was asked if I wanted to see the videotape of the assault. I was terrified. What if I watched it and it literally put me into a mental institution? I spent many weeks deciding. I knew that if I saw the video I would be able to express my feelings better to the jury while testifying, but I also knew how real it would make the assault to me.

    In my heart I knew I had to see it with my own eyes, to be able to know exactly what these three men did to me, so I chose to watch it. I remember my mouth started burning while I was watching the video because it was so dry from hanging open in disbelief. I cannot and don’t think I will ever be able to describe what I felt while watching that video. I remember asking myself, "When did I become a piece of meat and not a human being to these men? How could any sane human do these things they did?" They did things not even savage animals would do. They violated me in every way possible.

    As I watched that video, I remember feeling two distinct feelings. I remember becoming furious at the animals that were attacking me because no human could do such a thing. And I remember feeling my soul and inner being completely deteriorating. I was empty. They had now taken every last bit of who I was and no longer felt human. I was like a lifeless and feelingless doll that these men thought they could use and abuse in any way they wished.

    A part of me died that day, a part that I don’t know if I’ll ever get back.

    The rape happened when she was 16 years old.

    Back to Alas: It's pretty sad that Ampersand has to write,
    Two years is nowhere near enough, but it is almost a miracle that the OC rapists are being punished at all.

    Amp argues that changing rape law alone isn't going to solve the problem; what's needed most is a basic change in the thought patterns of ordinary, "average" people. Amp concludes:
    Real reductions of rape - and increases in the likelihood of convictions - may be accompanied by legal reforms, but they won't be caused by legal reforms. It's only by a massive alternation in how our society thinks of rape at every level - so that "boys will be boys" and "the slut defense" is understood by the average person, the average judge, and the average juror as not merely wrong but also repugnant - that real change will happen.

    Morning Report: March 19, 2006

    Debka: IRI plans offensive. Debka reports: 'Tehran hatches plan for coordinated terrorist attacks in Iraq on US targets and from Lebanon against Israel. To this end, radical Iraqi Shiite cleric Ayatollah Moqtada Sadr, commander of the Mehdi Army, and Lebanon’s Hizballah secretary, Hassan Nasrallah, were secretly summoned to Tehran last week. Israeli defense minister Shaul Mofaz toured military defense line Sunday, March 19, on alert since March 12, while chief of staff Lt.Gen. Dan Halutz reported to the government session in Jerusalem on preparations for large-scale Hizballah action. DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources report the visit by Sadr and Nasrallah was important enough to rate an audience for the two Shiite leaders with Iran’s supreme ruler Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and talks with two high-flying Iranian generals: Qasim Suleimani, commander of the Revolutionary Guards al Quds force, which runs Iranian Middle East terrorist operations and Ismail Dekaiki, recently named head of Iranian terrorist networks in Iraq. The combined Tehran-instigated offensive against US troops in Iraq and northern Israel is aimed at easing US pressure on the Iranian nuclear question. The prospect prompted a high Israeli alert on its northern border with Lebanon from March 12 up until the present.' (Debka)

    Syrian opposition groups unite to "fill void". BBC: 'A group of exiled Syrian opposition leaders has announced they are to form a common front to oppose President Bashar al-Assad's government. Speaking after a meeting in Brussels, former Syrian Vice-President Abdul Halim Khaddam said all factions agreed that the regime Damascus had to go. He said the goal of the new grouping was to set up a transitional government in Syria. Mr Khaddam broke with President Assad last year, after serving his father. The opposition grouping includes the Muslim Brotherhood, Kurds, liberals and communists. The aim of the grouping, a delegate said following the two-day meeting in Brussels, was to be ready "to fill the void" if there were to be a collapse of the Assad government.' (BBC)

    Iran attacks kill 21 or 22 officials. Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty: 'March 17, 2006 – Iran's national chief of police says gunmen have killed at least 21 people in southeastern Iran. Iranian authorities say the gunmen are linked to ethnic tensions near Iran's southeastern border with neighboring Afghanistan and Pakistan. The killings reportedly occurred about 90 kilometers south of the Iranian city of Zabol late on March 16 in Iran's Sistan-Baluchistan Province. The area borders Afghanistan's southwest province of Nimroz and Pakistan's southwest province of Balochistan. General Ismail Ahmadi-Moghaddam says the gunmen posed as security forces. He says they stopped vehicles traveling along Iran's Zabol-Zahedan highway and then killed the drivers and passengers.' The Guardian, via Marze Por Gohar: 'Iran accused Britain of trying to stir religious and ethnic unrest in its eastern border region yesterday after armed rebels ambushed a party of government officials and killed 21. Police said the victims, who included security officials, were ordered out of their vehicles and shot in cold blood. The fleet of cars was then set ablaze. Seven others, including the governor of the provincial capital, Zahidan, were wounded in Thursday night's incident, which happened after gunmen, disguised in military uniforms, set up a roadblock to intercept the convoy as it travelled along a remote spot in the south-eastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan. The convoy had been returning from a function honouring religious martyrs and war dead. Reports suggested that as many as 12 others had been kidnapped by the gunmen, who were said to have fled across the border into Afghanistan or Pakistan after a brief armed exchange with Iranian security forces.' Iran Focus: 'Iran’s Interior Minister pointed the finger at Britain and the United States on Saturday for an armed attack in the south-eastern province of Sistan-va-Baluchistan in the town of Zabol which left 22 Iranian officials dead in the early hours of Friday morning. Radical Shiite cleric Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi also claimed the people behind the attack were the same as those behind a spate of bombings in Iran’s south-western province of Khuzestan earlier this year and in 2005. “What is clear about the recent events in Zabol and Khuzistan is that those behind the assailants were the same”, Pour-Mohammadi told the state-run news agency ISNA. “According to reports received, certain American and British security officials have had meetings with certain leaders of bandits and have encouraged them to carry out terrorist attacks [in Iran]”, he said. Twenty-two Iranian government and provincial officials were killed and at least seven, including the governor of the nearby city of Zahedan, were critically wounded in the ambush as their convoy was returning from a gathering in Zabol to Zahedan.' Roundup at the Free Iran news forum. (various)

    FFE: Egyptian blogger expelled from university. Freedom for Egyptians reports: 'Do you remember the Egyptian blogger/writer Nabeel Abdul Kareem (Abdolkarim) (21 years old)who has a blog under “Kareem Amer” in Arabic who was detained last November for his writings about Islam's reform, lack of freedom for women in the Muslim world and how few have hijacked the religion to carry terrorist crimes? Kareem was a law student in Al Azahr University, the largest Sunni institution in the Muslim world. The university referred him to a disciplinary council that decided on expelling him from the university because of his writings on Islam on his blog and for his progressive views. ...' Read the whole post. In Arabic, here is Kareem - and even if you don't read Arabic, check out the dedication in the blog title. (FFE, Kareem Amer)

    Blasphemy report. Plus Ultra (Banned in Pakistan) has a roundup of the latest developments in religious freedom vs. blasphemy in France, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. (Plus Ultra)

    2006-03-17

    Harvard, U of Chicago: America is the victim of a Zionist conspiracy!

    Shmuel Rosner at Ha'Aretz:
    WASHINGTON - The U.S. Middle East policy is not in America's national interest and is motivated primarily by the country's pro-Israel lobby, according to a study published Thursday by researchers from Harvard University and the University of Chicago.

    Observers in Washington said Thursday that the study was liable to stir up a tempest and spur renewed debate about the function of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee lobby. The Fatah office in Washington distributed the article to an extensive mailing list.

    "No lobby has managed to divert U.S. foreign policy as far from what the American national interest would otherwise suggest, while simultaneously convincing Americans that U.S. and Israeli interests are essentially identical," write the authors of the study. ...


    Here's the study.

    And here's Shmuel Rosner's blog post:
    Exclusive!!! The secret weapon of the pro-Israeli lobby

    The new study on "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy" presents an interesting dilemma to the writer: Do you ignore it - having concluded it is biased, one-sided, foolish, repetitive, and most of all, has nothing new to offer - or do you write about it, knowing that the "Harvard," "Chicago," "professors," "Kennedy school" labels will make it acceptable anyway, even news-worthy, in the eyes of many.

    In short: Does one need cooperate with the advancement of the cause of academic garbage?

    ... Here's the scholarly explanation: "One might assume that the bond between the two countries is based on shared strategic interests or compelling moral imperatives. As we show below, however, neither of those explanations can account for the remarkable level of material and diplomatic support that the United States provides to Israel. Instead, the overall thrust of U.S. policy in the region is due almost entirely to U.S. domestic politics and especially to the activities of the 'Israel Lobby.'"

    Whhhoooo - sounds scary. And how did the lobby succeed in achieving all that? It had a super-secret weapon: "The charge of anti-Semitism".

    Read the rest.