2006-10-31

Morning Report: October 31, 2006

Eye in the sky. A terrorist gets lucky, allies do nuke drills, and Israel keeps tabs on its enemies to the north. But there are some changes on the ground that you can't see from an airplane.

Pakistan attack yields limited results, no dead Zawahiri. Yesterday's attack on a madrassa in Pakistan probably didn't kill Zawahiri, says Daveed Gartenstein-Ross at Counterterrorism Blog: 'I just spoke with a military intelligence source who confirmed that the Bajur airstrike (see Andy Cochran's post on it) was conducted by a U.S. Predator, adding that helicopters were also involved. The strike occurred around dawn, as people in the camp were preparing for their morning prayers. My source is skeptical of speculation that Zawahiri may have been killed in the strike, saying that Zawahiri sightings are a dime a dozen. He says it's possible that Matiur Rehman was killed, but is also skeptical of that.' The Pakistani government claimed responsibility for the strike, but they probably didn't do it; Stratfor's analysis figures that 'From Musharraf's standpoint, the notion that Pakistani forces carried out a strike against their fellow citizens is somewhat less damaging than the perception that he has permitted infringements of national sovereignty.' For Musharraf, this is the better of two bad options. (CTB, Stratfor)

Proliferation Security Exercise off Iranian coast. Vital Perspective: '25 nations took part in a U.S.-led naval exercise in waters not far from Iran aimed at training forces to block the transport of weapons of mass destruction and related equipment. Italy, the U.S., Australia, Britain, France and Bahrain deployed ships and personnel to the drill, part of President Bush's Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI). Other countries, including the UAE, Qatar, Pakistan and South Korea, sent observers. About 20 miles from Iranian waters in the Persian Gulf, Italian and Bahraini marines sped through the water in small inflatable bloats and boarded a British vessel, the RFA Brambleleaf, which was carrying mock nuclear detonators. Marines armed with machine guns guarded the crew as another team searched the vessel.' (Vital Perspective)

Israel overflies Hezbollah positions in Lebanon. Debka: 'Israel Air Force warplanes over-fly Hizballah’s reconstructed command centers and fortifications in S. Beirut Tuesday. According to DEBKAfile’s military sources, the low Israeli air passes, about which the Lebanese government complained, recorded Hizballah’s reestablishment in Beirut’s Shiite Dahya district, two months after its military centers were flattened in the Lebanon war. It is now a closed military zone whose entry is closely guarded by Hizballah operatives. Israeli warplanes also recorded Hizballah’s revived bunker system, foundations for new rocket launchers and rebuilt intelligence and surveillance positions rising day by day along the Lebanese-Israeli border. Similarly, the tempo of Iranian-Syrian weapons consignments to Hizballah units has been stepped up. They include ground-to-ground missiles, anti-air, anti-tank and shore-to-sea missiles. DEBKAfile’s military sources confirm that Hizballah has fully re-stocked the arsenal of rockets of the type which blasted northern Israel for 33 days in July and August.' Debka identifies the benefits of UNIFIL and Resolution 1701 to Syria and Iran as follows:
1. The takeover of Beirut’s government centers in Beirut by Iran-backed Hizballah and pro-Syrian factions – if possible without bloodshed. The weapons will be used to quell possible political or armed resistance. None of these groups, joined by Gen. Michel Aoun’s pro-Syrian Maronie Christians will have no qualms about sparking a civil war or murdering prime minister Fouad Siniora and other ministers in order to achieve their aims. This information has been in American, French, German and Israeli intelligence since the start of October, prompting US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice to say Monday, Oct. 30: “We too have heard that there are people who would like to destabilize the government of Prime Minister Siniora. We’ve heard that there are people who would like to intimidate or assassinate again, they’ve done it before in Lebanon.”

2. In the case of an armed clash, however limited in scope, between the US and Iranian forces massed in the Persian Gulf or in Iraq – which Israel’s high command believes unavoidable – informed Israeli sources have no doubt Hizballah will hit back on Tehran’s behalf with a fresh rocket offensive against Israeli cities.

Reuters has this: 'Israeli warplanes flew at a low altitude over Beirut, its suburbs and large areas of south Lebanon on Tuesday, witnesses and Lebanese security sources said. United Nations peacekeepers and Lebanon say Israeli overflights violate Security Council Resolution 1701 that ended a 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas in August. Israel says its combat planes would continue to fly over Lebanon to ensure that weapons are not smuggled into southern Lebanon from Syria to resupply Hezbollah.' (Debka, Reuters)

Gaza op underway. Arutz Sheva: 'Though not quite the invasion that has been widely called for of late, an IDF reserves force entered Gaza overnight in an operation to ferret out terrorist cells. Four Kassams hit Negev. The objective of the IDF mission was to remove trees and brush that could be used to camouflage terrorists, and to otherwise thwart potential attacks from southern Gaza against Israel. The soldiers entered Gaza east of Khan Yunis, near the former site of Gush Katif "capital" N'vei Dekalim and north of the Sufah Crossing. They began clearing the area in an effort to make it harder for terrorists to lie in wait to carry out attacks.' (A7)

Commentary. As I've said before, I think the Bush Administration's strategy provides for regime change in Tehran and Damascus, because without it, none of the Administration's moves up to this point would make any sense. But what about the changes taking place in America and elsewhere in the Western world?

A recent (subscription) column by David Brooks in the New York Times speculated on the coming "era of what's next" when neither conservatism nor liberalism dominates. Judith's recent post explored the challenging relationships between people from different political camps. And this, I think, is the big story in its own way.

Michael Totten has some thoughts on the movie 'Syriana'. Money quote:
Part of the story revolves around powerful oil companies that dictate American foreign policy, which is cartoonish and conspiratorial. (Oil companies, in the real world, lobbied for the lifting of sanctions against Iraq rather than for regime-change in Iraq. They did not get their way.)

This is only one part of the story, however. If you can just let it go and run with it for the sake of the movie, the rest holds up reaonably well on a thematic level. Liberal and reformist Muslims are the good guys. The Islamists are not. The point of the story, as the plot unfolds, is obvious: the United States should support liberal and reformist Muslims in the Middle East for their sake as well as for ours. You could argue, if you wanted, that Syriana is a neoconservative film. The writer and the director don’t think of it that way. But that’s partly because liberalism and neoconservatism are not as far apart as they think.

It's not just that liberalism and conservatism are in flux; it's that the very notions of "conservatism" and "liberalism" have mutated almost beyond recognition. Many people still identify, and will continue to identify, as "liberals" or "conservatives"; but it will be just that, a matter of identity more than of philosophy.

Frank Warner, a liberal for liberation, has a response to Thomas Sowell's column on diversity. Warner writes: 'What unites us? I wouldn’t give up too fast on diversity, but we all have to recognize the limits of its benefits and its potential for division and destruction. We want diversity, lots of it, and we want to stir it all together.'

When the smoke clears and the dust settles from the current Mideast conflict, many basic questions will still remain. We will have to deal with one another, and we will have to exchange ideas and opinions. How do we deal with differing political opinions, religions, philosophies, cultures, worldviews? That question itself is part of the debate. And it is why some of the most important changes will not be brought about on the battlefield, but in our daily lives.

2006-10-30

Duke Case

Barring any surprising new revelations, I will not be posting further on the Duke lacrosse rape case, except possibly if a trial verdict is announced. Contrary to my initial impressions, I am prepared to say at this point that I believe it's unlikely that the accuser's claims have any merit.

I'm not going to go into the particulars of the case further except to say that you can follow it on the news.

The following comments, excerpted from an earlier post, may help to explain my frame of mind at the time the Duke case appeared, and shed some light on why I was predisposed to believe the accuser's story:
Initially, I was inclined to believe the alleged victim's story. The lack of sensationalistic details, such as obscenities written on the victim's body in dog feces, to my mind distinguished it from the Tawana Brawley hoax. Still fresh in my mind was a post on rape I had recently written, which particularly highlighted the problem of rape in the college environment. (If you need to know more, please read about the Orange County rape case, in which the crime was recorded on video. Three boys repeatedly raped and sodomized the unconscious 16-year-old victim with a lighted cigarette and a pool cue. From the LA Times: "Judge Francisco Briseño said minors and first-time offenders usually are not sent to prison, but in this case the defendants had degraded the victim — laughing and mocking her as she lay unconscious on a pool table — and were slow to show contrition.") In this context, it was hard for me to imagine what the Duke accuser could possibly hope to gain from making a spurious complaint.

And then there was the Ryan McFadyen e-mail. "i plan on killing the bitches as soon as the[y] walk in and proceeding to cut their skin off while cumming in my duke issue spandex." Nice guy.

But from the outset, a couple of things troubled me about the Duke incident. First was the defending attorneys' confidence that DNA evidence would not harm their clients. Second was the curious method of identifying the suspects: they were white. Apparently the alleged victim could provide no other details - tall or short, stocky or slight, blond or brunet, long or short hair, bearded or clean-shaven, uncut or circumcised - about the three men who had violated her for half an hour. In this context, the attention to the assailants' whiteness seems odd and gratuitous.

Several of my closest friends have been raped, and at least one in a college setting. I will not lightly dismiss a woman's claim that she has been abused. (Contrary to the impression you might get from FrontPage, rapes don't only happen in Europe.) I do not care the slightest bit whether you think the victim was a "lady" or a "person of note" or otherwise. And I've seen enough old-fashioned sexism and racism to know that these things haven't disappeared either. (A number of commentators on this incident have been kind enough to illustrate this point for me.) But I'm not naive enough to believe that every claim of rape - or race bias - is truthful. And it's also true that some individuals who are black, gay, or Jewish, have been known to fabricate incidents of fictitious racism, homophobia, or anti-Semitism for perverse reasons of their own.

There's nothing more for me to add right now. Rapes happen, and many real rapes go unreported; and even among rapes that are reported, justice too often goes unserved. And then again there are false rape claims, which hurt both the men who are falsely accused and the women who will find justice that much more elusive. I leave it to you to decide which group this case belongs to.

FINAL UPDATE: Gay Patriot reports that DNA tests have cleared all of the three lacrosse players accused in the case, and have cast doubt on the alleged victim's denial that she engaged in sexual activity before the purported rape:
DNA testing conducted by a private lab in the Duke lacrosse rape case found genetic material from several males in the accuser's body and her underwear _ but none from any team member, including the three charged with rape, according to a defense motion filed Wednesday.

The motion, signed by attorneys for defendants Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans, complained that the information was not disclosed in a report on the testing prosecutors provided earlier this year to the defense.

"This is strong evidence of innocence in a case in which the accuser denied engaging in any sexual activity in the days before the alleged assault, told police she last had consensual sexual intercourse a week before the assault, and claimed that her attackers did not use condoms and ejaculated," the motion read.

I consider the matter closed.

Morning Report: October 30, 2006

Closing in. Allied navies flood the Middle East, and Egyptians break the code of silence around mob sexual abuse.

Iran: The gathering storm. Debka:
Hundreds of US and allied war ships foregathered in the strategic seas of the Middle East and India in the last days of October 2006 for two primary missions: To prepare for a US-led military strike against Iran which has stepped up its uranium enrichment program with a second centrifuge project - undeterred by the prospect of UN sanctions; and measures to fend off palpable al Qaeda threats to oil targets.

1. A large-scale US-Indian sea exercise called Malabar 06 is in progress off the Indian coast of Goa, ending Nov. 5. The American vessels taking part are the USS Boxer carrier, the USS Bunker Hill guided missile battle cruiser, the guided missile destroyer USS Howard and the USS Benfold , as well as the Los Angeles-class nuclear attack submarine Providence and the Canadian guided missile frigate HMCS Ottawa. Indian maritime might is displayed with its warships like INS Beas , INS Mysore , INS Shakti , INS Ganga , tanking ship INS Gharial , submarine INS Shankush and Coast Guard ship CGS Samar Malabar also involves the landing of large number of soldiers ashore, ahead of the Indian acquisition of the massive amphibious USS Trenton transport dock which can carry six helicopters and about a 1000 soldiers. Our Tehran sources report that last Thursday, Oct. 26, Iranian officials were seriously rattled by a rumor that an Iranian spy plane had located the USS Boxer heading for the Persian Gulf. It prompted fears of an imminent American military assault to lift Republican prospects in the coming US midterm elections of Nov. 7. In any case, the Iranians suspect that at the end of the joint US-Indian exercise in the Arabian Sea, Boxer will veer west and head into the Persian Gulf. There would then be four US air carriers with task forces parked opposite Iranian shores, including the USS Enterprise Strike Group, the USS Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group and the USS Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group, which are already in place. According to the intelligence reaching Iran, the Boxer and its escorts carry 850 Marines who have just spent months in special training for operations on offshore oil rigs and platforms.

2. American, Italy, France, Britain, Australia, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait are taking part in an exercise practicing the interception of ships carrying nuclear materials or components for use in advanced weapons. The exercise opposite Bahrain is the first to be held in the Persian Gulf under the three-year old proliferation security initiative. It applications could be translated equally into the enforcement of sanctions against North Korea, which conducted its first nuclear test on Oct. 9, or Iran. ...

Read the rest at the link, and find out what Saudi Arabia is doing. (Debka)

Silent no more. Sandmonkey: 'The story is as follows for the those of you who didn't hear about it: It was the first day of Eid, and a new film was opening downtown. Mobs of males gatherd trying to get in, but when the show was sold out, they decided they will destroy the box office. After accomplishing that, they went on what can only be described as a sexual frenxy: They ran around grabbing any and every girl in sight, whether a niqabi, a Hijabi or uncoverd. Whether egyptian or foreigner. Even pregnant ones. They grabbed them, molested them, tried to rip their cloths off and rape them, all in front of the police, who didn't do shit. The good people of downtown tried their best to protect the girls. Shop owners would let the girls in and lock the doors, while the mobs tried to break in. Taxi drivers put the girls in the cars while the mobs were trying to break the glass and grab the girls out. It was a disgusting pandamonium of sexual assaults that lasted for 5 houres from 7:30 PM to 12:30 am, and it truns my stomach just to think about it.' Thke press was silent about the incident - 'Until Nawarah Negm blew the whole thing wide open on live television on the Dream Channel.' Read the whole thing. (Sandmonkey)

Commentary. Short post today. I'll leave you with this comment by Cyrus from a thread at the Free Iran News Forum:
As I said in a short essay in 1993 we should not judge Free World Machiavellian politicians by their words but by their hard and difficult choices, actions, and great sacrifices. Due to the fact that I do not have much respect and trust on Machiavellian politicians of Neo Colonialists EU, Russia, China and some of so called US Machiavellian American Politicians who are hiding behind the so called “Realist” platform (CFR Invitation to Ahmadinejad ...) to deceive the public opinion therefore I do not expect any good outcome and actions against Islamic Fascists until I see real results and rotten regime change as minimum. We should not forget that the G8 is partially responsible for helping Islamic Fascists in past 28 years under so called “Realist” platform and so far we have not seen any real support for Regime Change. Unfortunately today “Hypocrisy” is the name of the game for short term gain in the name of National Interest …. and that is why great majority of Americans are loosing interest in politics and don’t have much trust and respect for today politicians. The American founding fathers - George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Adams … were not Machiavellian and that is why they have been able to create a great foundation and the founding fathers have achieved what our generation can not achieve with far superior power … Why?

Whether we like it or not, Detente With Islamic Fascists Terror Masters is unwritten G8 policy today and for past 28 years. So far we have not seen any clear actions for regime change …..

2006-10-29

Morning Report: October 29, 2006

Where are they? If they're Egyptian troops, they're going to the border; if they're Egyptian Baha'is, they don't exist; if they're al-Qaeda, they might be in a submarine. But where are the modernist Muslims?

Egypt shifts troops to Gaza border. Debka: 'Egyptian-Israeli border tension rises with transfer of thousands of Egyptian interior ministry troops to Gaza’s Philadelphi Route in breach of accords with Israel. DEBKAfile’s military sources report 4,000 Interior Ministry Al Aman al Markaz troops were suddenly moved to the Egyptian-Gaza border Saturday. They have beefed up the borders guards already deployed in the North Sinai region of many of the Palestinian arms smuggling tunnels riddling the border. ... Our intelligence sources explain the sudden Egyptian build-up by two developments: Internal rivalry in the Egyptian government between defense and intelligence ministers Gen. Tantawi and Gen. Suleiman. The latter has sent the extra troops to establish a presence on the sensitive border. The other is the urgent need for an effective buffer to guard Sinai against a spillover of a Fatah-Hamas showdown which appears to be on thee verge of flaring in the Gaza Strip.' (Debka)

Egypt: No rights for Baha'i religion. Or Does It Explode:
A few months back we reported on the controversy in Egypt over whether the Baha'i religion can be listed on Egyptian identity cards. The Ministry of Interior does not want Egyptian citizens of the Baha'i faith to have this right, and are currently appealing a lower court judge's decision to grant this simple right.

Now the Egyptian government has released an Advisory Report on the status of Baha'i in Egypt and the country's commitment to religious freedom. Let's listen in on the summary of the 24-page report provided by the Baha'i Faith in Egypt blog:

In brief, it concluded that since the Baha'i Faith is not recognized in Egypt as a "divine religion," therefore its followers in that land have no rights whatsoever and that they simply do not exist! Consequently, they concluded that Egypt's Constitutional guarantees of freedom of belief and religion do not apply to the Baha'is.

Full post at the link. (ODIE)

ThreatsWatch: Submarine threat to Ras Tanura? ThreatsWatch: 'As al-Qaeda warns Canada of a Canadian 9/11 attack if the American ally does not withdraw its heavily engaged (and extremely effective) troops from Afghanistan, intelligence suggests that an increased threat to Saudi Arabian oil facilities exists. The reaction to the intelligence has been primarily to marshal allied naval assets to protect the world’s largest offshore oil export facility, the Ras Tanura terminal, as well as Bahrain’s Bapco refinery. The potential methods of an al-Qaeda attack on the offshore Ras Tanura terminal are numerous, including an explosives-laden small craft such as that used against the USS Cole or a rocket or missile attack from a small craft or even an attack from al-Qaeda operatives that may have infiltrated the Saudi Arabian military or the terminal and/or refinery staff.' (ThreatsWatch)

Commentary. Here's a brand new blog I think you should know about: Smart and Final Isis. They are "two conservative, Republican women who met in a chat room filled with fans of a big-time conservative icon." Specifically,
Smartsoimustbeabitch (aka Smartso) is the Left Brain of this operation (logical, sequential, “Detail” person). Isis is the Right Brain (Intuitive, Synthesizing, “Big Picture” person).

They're committed to improving the quality of discourse in the Rightosphere and elsewhere. Oh, and don't start in on the Muslim-bashing with them, either. Here's their most recent piece, quoting Aslam Abdullah on alt.Muslim: "Kill us too, we are also American." Welcome to the blogosphere, SFI, and keep up the good work.

Michael Totten has some thoughts on islamophobia and "islamophobia":
First of all, I want to publicly commend Dean Esmay for challenging right-wing bigotry (you heard me) against Muslims. It ought to go without saying that I am not referring to opponents, peaceful or otherwise, of Al Qaeda, Hamas, The Taliban, Hezbollah, Wahhabism, Algerian Salafism, etc., ad nauseum. I am referring here to those who demonize a billion people -- including my wonderful old West Beirut neighbors, as well as the Iraqi Kurds who love us more than anyone else in the world -- as mortal enemies.

...
Bigotry against Muslims in general, rather than hostility to terrorists and fanatics in particular, is a bit of an issue in the rightosphere (to borrow Ali Eteraz's terminology), and occasionally even in my own comments section. It's a problem I should probably mention more than I do.

The inverse is easily as big a problem. Bogus claims of "Islamophobia" are trotted out just as often by the bigots' evil twins.

Follow Michael's link to Johann Hari. Here's a quote from the JH post that I think gets right to the point:
Like all people who cry wolf, those who cry Islamophobia are aiding and abetting the real wolves out there. There is an authentic Islamophobia howling in the background.

Finally, let me leave you with a link to Ali Eteraz, who stands at the center of this latest blaze of dialogue. Here's Ali on the non-locality paradox:
Having tried on numerous occasions to get articles about reform in the Arab and Muslim world(s) into mainstream western press, I have discovered a trend: Too Local. “A great article, but too local,” has been the refrain of many very intelligent and fair-minded editors of my acquaintence, when I show them something about this or that sheikh or movement or progressive fatwa. Where are the modernist Muslims, the mob asks? Well, here.

Wondering where all the modernist Muslims are? Well, now you know.

And don't forget to bookmark Eteraz on your browser.

2006-10-27

Morning Report: October 27, 2006

Taking stock. The mission in Iraq requires new thinking and new approaches; and shock waves from a bombing reverberate across years and hemispheres.

Army realignment. Defense Tech: '"Pentagon records show one-fifth of the Army's active-duty troops have served multiple tours of war duty while more than 40% haven't been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan," reports USA Today. So the Army is "realign[ing] its forces to prevent a small slice of soldiers who are shouldering much of the fighting from wearing out."' (Defense Tech)

AMIA bombing fallout. Counterterrorism Blog:
The Argentine request for Rafsanjani's arrest is an important symbolic step - although real justice will continue, unfortunately, to be delayed. Iran has a record of evading the consequences of supporting terrorism. Over two years ago I wrote an article on Britain's failure to fulfill an Argentine extradition request for Hadi Soleimanpour, who had been Iran's ambassador in Buenos Aires when the AMIA bombing occurred.

It is important to note that in Iran's last presidential election, Rafsanjani was considered the moderate.

The AMIA attack was a textbook Iranian-Hezbollah operation, meticulously planned and aimed at achieving both mass murder and political goals. Terror is part of Iran's diplomatic tool kit - a fact that ought to focus attention on Iran's ongoing efforts to obtain nuclear weapons.

Full article at the link. Iran Focus lists the names of the officials charged:
Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, former Iranian President, currently chairs Iran’s State Expediency Council and is deputy chair of the Assembly of Experts

Hojatoleslam Ali Fallahian, former Iranian Minister of Intelligence and Security

Ali Akbar Velayati, former Iranian Foreign Minister, currently the chief foreign policy advisor to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Major General Mohsen Rezai, former Supreme Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), is currently the secretary of the State Expediency Council

Major General Ahmad Vahidi, former Commander of the IRGC Qods Force, is currently Deputy Defence Minister

Mohsen Rabbani, former cultural attaché at the Iranian embassy in Buenos Aires

Ahmad Reza Asgari, alias Mohsen Ranjbaran, former official at the Iranian embassy in Buenos Aires

Imad Fayez Mugniyeh, commander of the Shiite Lebanese group Hezbollah’s overseas operation, currently believed to be hiding in Iran

“We have proven that the decision to attack the AMIA headquarters on July 18, 1994 ... was a decision made by the highest authorities in Iran's government at the time”, Argentine chief prosecutor Alberto Nisman was quoted as saying by news agencies on Wednesday.(CTB, Iran Focus)

Rumsfeld on Iraq timetable. Voice of America: 'U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says it is entirely reasonable for U.S. and Iraqi officials to discuss setting benchmarks and target dates for achieving their goals during the coming year. He says some of that has been done, but he says he is not aware of any agreement by Iraqi officials to develop a comprehensive plan, or to make any such plan public. Secretary Rumsfeld spoke at the Pentagon on Thursday as controversy continues to swirl about recent statements by U.S. and Iraqi officials. ... "The idea [is] of saying, 'We're here, we want to get there, here are some steps to get there, let's go ahead and tell the world these are the steps, we want to get there, we've kind of agreed on them. And then see if we can't do it," he added.' (VOA)

Commentary. Earlier this week, Debka favorably compared President Bush's statements on Iraq with the Israeli leadership's pronouncements on the recent Lebanon war: 'Olmert and his pep talk are in good company. President George W. Bush, echoed by British premier Tony Blair, speaks of America’s many achievements in the Iraq War while admitting that changes may be necessary in tactics. Unlike Olmert, however, neither takes his public for fools. They admit mistakes were made in Iraq which need to be corrected.' The article goes on to argue that State Department official Alberto Fernandez' controversial statements actually enhanced the Administration's credibility.

Threats Watch has a partial transcript and analysis of President Bush's recent press conference. TW's Kirk writes:
The only point I’ll emphasize is that, as the president notes, the current government led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is only five months old. To many it seems that the Iraqis have had a long time to get themselves together, but the process of establishing a new representative government where before there was nothing but a police state would have taken a long time even if we had done everything right. Obviously we did not, and my estimation is that we could have saved about a year by handling things differently after the fall of the Baathist regime. But regardless this would have taken years, and it is safe to say that if General Washington and the Continental Congress had been given the timetable many wish to force on Maliki’s government, the United States would not exist today.

Iraq the Model draws some lessons from the Amara experience:
What will happen if the MNF are withdrawn prematurely before the job is done?

Perhaps the lesson from the recent troubles in Amara when militias took over large parts of the city gives a clear answer and offers Iraqis and the allies a forecast of what the future holds for us should we make the wrong decisions.

I think the decision to announce a phased withdrawal of troops (which is now dubbed as a phased handover of security responsibility) was made without putting in consideration the developments on the ground. And I think pressures on the American and British governments accelerated the process in a reactionary protective manner rather than a rational pragmatic one.

I suspect the allies and the Iraqi government were fully aware of that time bomb called militias but they turned their backs on this fact and acted as if the mission is moving forward smoothly without any disruptions.

It is easy to do it on paper…It takes no more than a small celebratory ceremony…lower this flag, fly the other one and invite officials, generals and journalists to publicize the meaningless event.
But at the same time the other camp represented by the militias was watching cheerfully and celebrating their riddance of an obstacle that was preventing them from taking over cities like Amara.

Mohammed concludes that 'Action must be based upon a clear, well studied strategy combined with determination to acknowledge and correct mistakes rather than running away from them or just whining about them which seems to be the strategy of many these days.'

2006-10-26

Morning Report: October 26, 2006

Israel/Germany incident in Mediterranean. Debka:
Conflicting versions released by Germany and Israel of an incident in which two Israeli F-16 warplanes flying low said to have shot two missiles at a German naval vessel off Lebanon. DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources have investigated the incident, which was first disclosed by the German daily Der Tagesspiegel earlier Wednesday, Oct. 25 . They confirm that it did occur and involved six Israel F-16 warplanes and the German navy command ship, the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern F 218 frigate, which leads the UN naval force opposite Lebanon. Tuesday evening, Oct. 24, Israeli warplanes were flying low over Damour 20 km south of Beirut on their way to gather intelligence of arms smuggling to Hizballah through the Lebanese coast. The European fleet deployed to monitor the coast for arms smuggling cannot get close enough because the ships are not allowed by the Lebanese government to access coastal waters. On their way from west to east, the Israeli F-16s passed low over the German command vessel, releasing infra-red decoys to ward off any rocket attack. This triggered an alert on the German frigate and its crew jumped to battle positions.

At this point, the Israeli and German versions diverge. he frigate’s officers flashed Berlin a signal that Israeli air force planes had fired two missiles near the ship. Israel denies this. The Israeli defense minister Amir Peretz, who talked by telephone to the German defense minister Franz Josef Jung Wednesday night, insisted the ship’s officers were wrong. The conversation was described as acrimonious. DEBKAfile’s sources in the German capital add that Israel agreed to send over films taken by its warplanes in the course of the episode to convince the Germans that no missiles were fired and expected Berlin to release a notice of clarification on this point.

Arutz Sheva: 'Defense Minister Amir Peretz on Wednesday spoke with German Defense Minister Franz-Josef Jung, telling him that reports that IDF fighter planes fired at a German UNIFIL ship in southern Lebanon are simply untrue.' Jerusalem Post: 'In the wake of the controversy surrounding earlier reports of IAF fighter planes firing on a German warship, IDF sources said Wednesday evening that several days ago there was an incident in which a German helicopter took off from a warship off the Lebanese coast, in an area where, according to agreements, it had to declare the flight to the IAF. Since Germany failed to follow this procedure, the IAF scrambled its fighter jets towards the area but the problem was solved without confrontation and without any shots being fired, reported the IDF.' Previous DiL post here: Israeli planes buzz German navy ship. (various)

Gay partnership victory in New Jersey. CNN: 'In a decision likely to stoke the contentious election-year debate over same-sex marriage, the New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled that state lawmakers must provide the rights and benefits of marriage to gay and lesbian couples. The high court on Wednesday gave legislators six months to either change state marriage laws to include same-sex couples, or come up with another mechanism, such as civil unions, that would provide the same protections and benefits. The court's vote was 4-to-3. But the ruling was more strongly in favor of same-sex marriage than that split would indicate. The three dissenting justices argued the court should have extended full marriage rights to homosexuals, without kicking the issue back to legislators.' Gay.com: 'New Jersey's Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision issued Wednesday, has failed to find that the state's same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. But the justices found New Jersey's 2-year-old domestic-partnership system inadequate, and gave the Legislature 180 days to "enact an appropriate statutory structure" giving same-sex couples rights equivalent to those of married couples. The seven plaintiff couples "pursued the singular goal of obtaining the right to marry, knowing that, if successful, the rights of marriage automatically follow. We do not have to take that all-or-nothing approach," Justice Barry Albin wrote in the 4-3 majority opinion.' Previous post at DiL: Gay partnership wins in New Jersey. (CNN, Gay.com)

Australian Muslim leader: Women are meat. The Australian: 'The nation's most senior Muslim cleric has blamed immodestly dressed women who don't wear Islamic headdress for being preyed on by men and likened them to abandoned "meat" that attracts voracious animals. In a Ramadan sermon that has outraged Muslim women leaders, Sydney-based Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali also alluded to the infamous Sydney gang rapes, suggesting the attackers were not entirely to blame.' Tammy adds: 'Lying hypocrite. All Australians, especially Muslim women, should reject this Bravo Sierra and take that religion back from the cavemen who squat and defile it. And do I hear a condemnation of this freak from the American feminist establishment?' (The Australian via Tammy Bruce)

CTB: Hijack attempts were test runs. Counterterrorism Blog: 'In a September 18 article for the Daily Standard, "Practice Makes Terror," ... I argued that the "rash of false alarms" following the August 10 revelation of a foiled transatlantic air terror plot may not have been entirely false. I argued that there may be casings and dry runs occurring -- and that a number of incidents that were casings may not end up being remembered as such. Now a new article in Norway's Aftenposten lends further credence to the view that casings are indeed occurring ...' Read the rest at the link. (CTB)

Commentary. Yesterday's Morning Report carried an item from Debka reporting that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki rejected the US proposal of a timetable. Today's Belmont Club has more:
The Iraqi PM publicly denounced American calls for a timetable to shutdown militias and decried US operations against death squads, including operations against Sadr City. "We expected it," US officials said. (AP/Breitbart)

Maliki has nailed his colors to the mast on this issue at least. Legally Iraq is a sovereign country, which the US must treat it as any other country from the perspective of US national interest. Theoretically Maliki is under no obligation to obey Washington, which is correspondingly under no compulsion to support Maliki. While America would prefer to see a stable government in Iraq that is ultimately a task that cannot be delegated to Americans indefinitely. So expect some hardball to be played as this is the way of relations between nations. That said, Maliki's statements imply he values American support less necessary than the goodwill of his Shi'ite base.

The post is long but well worth reading in full. The post quotes a US Army intelligence sergeant: 'We need to backtrack. We need to publicly admit we're backtracking. This is the opening battle of the ideological struggle of the 21st century.' Wretchard explains: 'In one sense, the US defeated Saddam's Army and the Sunni insurgency too well.'

On the Arab-Israeli front, this morning's analysis from Stratfor expresses skepticism about the idea of an anti-Iran coalition between Israel and the Arab states (excluding Syria). 'Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni reportedly plans to attend a U.N. conference on democracy in Qatar next week. Wednesday's announcement of the travel plans, which have not yet been confirmed, is the latest event in a series of developments that underscore Qatar's attempts to emerge as a regional player in the Middle East. It also points toward a larger geopolitical trend: Israel's eagerness to court what Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has called an axis of moderate Arab states in hopes of countering Iran and its radical allies as they try to exploit the Arab-Israel conflict to their advantage.' Despite the growing trend of back-channel Israeli/Arab contacts, Stratfor's analysis argues that "the reality is far more complex" involving Tehran's advantage in manipulating Sunni/Shi'a sectarian tensions. The article also notes that Sunni states like Egypt and Qatar - and the unique case of Turkey - further complicate the picture.

Stratfor's analysis concludes with the assertion that a lasting Arab/Israeli peace is contingent on a resolution of the "Palestinian problem". Forgive me if I think this is hogwash. It's just the standard CW on the Middle East that we've been conditioned to accept. The regimes in Tehran and Damascus are milking the Palestinian pseudo-problem for all it's worth. I call it a pseudo-problem because I don't think the problem lies in the Palestinian territories at all - nor does its solution. The solution lies in Syria and Iran - and specifically in a fundamental change in the nature of those regimes.

I do not believe that regime change in Iran and Syria will solve everything. It is a necessary but by no means sufficient element of a future free and secure Middle East. The remaining elements will require more learning and more hard work by all parties. President Bush has publicly recognized the scale of the challenges we're facing and the setbacks we've seen - and he's determined to press forward. I agree.

The future will be determined by the interplay of a great many shifting factions, loyalties, and ideals - and I am not speaking only of Iraq.

2006-10-25

Condi Ticks Off Theocons

Baptist Press, via Timbre of a Timefree Mind:
Conservative Christians are upset over comments made by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during a State Department ceremony to install Mark Dybul, an open homosexual, as the nation’s new global AIDS coordinator.

With first lady Laura Bush standing with her Oct. 10, Rice welcomed Dybul’s family -- which she introduced as his “partner,” Jason Claire, and his “mother-in-law,” Claire’s mother. As Dybul was sworn in, Claire held the Bible.

Several conservatives spoke against the appointment of a homosexual man to an ambassador-level role of stopping the spread of AIDS, and many objected to the “mother-in-law” reference.

“That’s astonishing that that fact would be underscored, highlighted by the Secretary of State,” Tom Minnery of Focus on the Family Action said. “This is very provocative and very disappointing.”

BWAHAHAHAHA!!!!!
Rice’s chief of staff called to tell Minnery it was a mix-up and someone was supposed to check on the mother-in-law status but didn’t.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, doesn’t believe it was a mistake because “the U.S. State Department is in the business of diplomacy and avoiding faux pas.” He added in his Oct. 16 Washington Update e-mail that in the “world of protocol, verbal miscues are anathema.”

Waaaaaah.
Peter Sprigg, vice president for policy at FRC, said Rice’s comments were “profoundly offensive,” especially considering the Bush administration’s support of a federal marriage amendment to protect traditional marriage. He also objected to having a homosexual implement Bush’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

“We have to face the fact that putting a homosexual in charge of AIDS policy is a bit like putting the fox in charge of the hen house,” Sprigg said.... If we are not willing to say that men should not engage in sex with other men, then we are really not willing to tackle the root causes of the AIDS problem.”

Golly, I'm telling you, this guy's call on "profoundly offensive" carries a LOT of weight with me ........

Veil Debate

Phyllis Chesler at NRO:
... The veil in Muslim lands is imposed upon women whose religious training and opportunities for scholarship and ritual authority is practically nonexistent. The veil is no more freely chosen than is their religion, which neither women nor men are allowed to leave without risking exile or death. Muslim women in Muslim lands or in immigrant communities in the West might gain their only access to public attention and approval if and when they espouse a fundamentalist point of view, namely one that favors Islamic gender and religious apartheid and that upholds the view that women must be veiled.

However, when Muslim women in Western countries wear the veil it has some additional connotations. Veiling is a visible, public, symbolic, and very aggressive statement about refusing to assimilate into a Jewish-Christian and modern democracy. It is a way of remaining apart, different. ... It is a way of rejecting sexual promiscuity, sexual availability in the West and paradoxically, embracing Islamic gender apartheid (arranged marriage, polygamy, wife-beating, segregation, female genital cutting, honor killing, etc.).

If veiling did not mean any of the above I might have one view about it — but might still view it as a slippery-slope problem. But since veiling does have the above meanings I say this: If we allow our Western views about tolerance to force us to tolerate the intolerant; if we allow human-rights violations to flourish as expressions of religious liberty — then we are lost. Thus, I would ban veiling in the workplace, at school, and in public venues but at this time take no position about it at home or in the mosque in the West.

Sweden's Nyamko Sabuni.
An elegant, vivacious woman who uses subtle make-up and wears soft clothes in pastel shades and tight woollen sweaters, she argues for a total ban on veils being worn by girls under the age of consent, which is 15 in Sweden.

“Nowhere in the Koran does it state that a child should wear a veil; it stops them being children. By putting a veil on a girl you are immediately saying to the outside world that she is sexually mature and has to be covered. It’s wrong,” she said.

Discussion on comments threat at Feministing.
Discussion on comments thread at Feministe.

Israeli Planes Buzz German Navy Ship

Debka:
Conflicting versions released by Germany and Israel of an incident in which two Israeli F-16 warplanes flying low said to have shot two missiles at a German naval vessel off Lebanon. DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources have investigated the incident, which was first disclosed by the German daily Der Tagesspiegel earlier Wednesday, Oct. 25 . They confirm that it did occur and involved six Israel F-16 warplanes and the German navy command ship, the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern F 218 frigate, which leads the UN naval force opposite Lebanon.

Tuesday evening, Oct. 24, Israeli warplanes were flying low over Damour 20 km south of Beirut on their way to gather intelligence of arms smuggling to Hizballah through the Lebanese coast. The European fleet deployed to monitor the coast for arms smuggling cannot get close enough because the ships are not allowed by the Lebanese government to access coastal waters. On their way from west to east, the Israeli F-16s passed low over the German command vessel, releasing infra-red decoys to ward off any rocket attack. This triggered an alert on the German frigate and its crew jumped to battle positions.

At this point, the Israeli and German versions diverge.

The frigate’s officers flashed Berlin a signal that Israeli air force planes had fired two missiles near the ship. Israel denies this. The Israeli defense minister Amir Peretz, who talked by telephone to the German defense minister Franz Josef Jung Wednesday night, insisted the ship’s officers were wrong. The conversation was described as acrimonious. DEBKAfile’s sources in the German capital add that Israel agreed to send over films taken by its warplanes in the course of the episode to convince the Germans that no missiles were fired and expected Berlin to release a notice of clarification on this point.

Jerusalem Post: Germany says the Israelis fired.
Germany claimed on Wednesday that IAF planes flew over a German missile ship that was patrolling off the Lebanese coast and fired a number of shots at the ship.

There was no information on when the incident supposedly occurred.

The IDF was investigating the report.

Arutz Sheva: Defense Minister says they didn't.
Defense Minister Amir Peretz on Wednesday spoke with German Defense Minister Franz-Josef Jung, telling him that reports that IDF fighter planes fired at a German UNIFIL ship in southern Lebanon are simply untrue.

The two are expected to meet in Israel next week. Peretz also told the senior German official that Israel will do what it can to enhance cooperation with the UNIFIL force responsible for monitoring the ceasefire in southern Lebanon.

New Jersey Victory for Gay Partnership

AP via Yahoo News:
New Jersey's highest court opened the door Wednesday to making the state the second in the nation to allow gay marriage, ruling that lawmakers must offer same-sex couples either marriage or something like it, such as civil unions.

In a ruling that fell short of what either side wanted or most feared, the state Supreme Court declared 4-3 that gay couples are entitled to the same rights as heterosexual ones. The justices gave lawmakers 180 days to rewrite the laws.

..."Although we cannot find that a fundamental right to same-sex marriage exists in this state, the unequal dispensation of rights and benefits to committed same-sex partners can no longer be tolerated under our state Constitution," Justice Barry T. Albin wrote for the four-member majority.

The court said the Legislature "must either amend the marriage statutes to include same-sex couples or create a parallel statutory structure" that gives gays all the privileges and obligations married couples have.

The three dissenters argued that the majority did not go far enough. They demanded full marriage for gays.

CNN:
In a decision likely to stoke the contentious election-year debate over same-sex marriage, the New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled that state lawmakers must provide the rights and benefits of marriage to gay and lesbian couples.

The high court on Wednesday gave legislators six months to either change state marriage laws to include same-sex couples, or come up with another mechanism, such as civil unions, that would provide the same protections and benefits.

The court's vote was 4-to-3. But the ruling was more strongly in favor of same-sex marriage than that split would indicate. The three dissenting justices argued the court should have extended full marriage rights to homosexuals, without kicking the issue back to legislators.

Gay Orbit:
It should be noted that the New Jersey decision today does not tell the legislature that they have to impose “gay marriage” on the states. Rather, it tells the legislature that they have 6 months to come up with a plan to give gay couples the same benefits and rights as opposite sex couples.

Feministe:
The court is sticking strictly to an equal protection argument and declines to get into the business of whether marriage can be labeled a fundamental right. At least, the majority does. The dissent is interesting, because it’s not opposition to the equal protection argument. Instead, it’s an argument in favor of just going for gay marriage full out. No reason to punt the question of semantics back to the legislature (which now has 6 months to decide on a label: domestic partnerships, civil unions, etc.): just do it. The dissenters also argue that there is a fundamental right to same-sex marriage encompassed in the liberty clause of the NJ State Constitution, so we’re now at a point where there’s a 7-0 consensus on the recognition of same-sex partnerships, which, frankly, is a major step up from the previous string of defeats for SSM advocates.

Cobb calls it "a decision I can live with".
As you might presume, I am against gay marriage, in the same way I am against human rights for animals. Misinterpret what as you may but they are apples and oranges. The very declaration of being gay is OK, but don't call it marriage. So I think this decision, from the way it is reported here, is exactly the proper ruling for a court. Defend civil liberties, but leave it to the people to determine the social acceptability of the declaration. Once again, I have no problem with the state acknowledging and defending civil unions, and I think the precedent for matters such as medical benefits, etc is well established in the law. But don't call it marriage.

I hope that the people of NJ recognize the importance of recognizing the difference between the civil and statutory definitions of civil union and the social convention of marriage and that they uphold the status quo with regard to the current definition of marriage as between a man and a woman. It is the people's right to decide, as I've said before we all have a say in these matters. By not being activist and establishing gay marriage by legal fiat, the NJ judiciary did the right thing, and they should be commended.

Commentary. I'm very, very happy with this decision. It's a clear victory for gay equality; and by refraining from a judicially-mandated redefinition of "marriage", the court allows moderate conservatives like Cobb to find common ground, and respects the legislative process.

Of course, I will call it "marriage" if I damn well please. As a citizen, I am free to do that, just as I am free to call a milkshake a frappe or a grinder a sub. (Or more to the point, as our Secretary of State is free to refer to a gay man's partner's mother as his mother-in-law.) If you disagree with my use of the term, we can argue about it - and that's all to the good.

What matters is not the name but the substance.

Morning Report: October 25, 2006

Nuclear labs and meth labs. Documents from Los Alamos turn up in an unexpected place, a behemoth changes course, and an Arab leader doesn't like deadlines. One Middle Eastern country takes steps to help sex slaves; while a Western leader refuses to back down in the face of ill winds.

Police raid turns up Los Alamos documents. AP via Yahoo: 'Authorities in northern New Mexico have stumbled onto what appears to be classified information from Los Alamos National Laboratory while arresting a man suspected of domestic violence and dealing methamphetamine from his mobile home. Sgt. Chuck Ney of the Los Alamos Police Department said the information was discovered during a search last Friday of the man's records for evidence of his drug business. Police alerted the FBI to the secret documents, which agents traced back to a woman linked to the drug dealer, officials said. The woman is a contract employee at Los Alamos National Laboratory, according to an FBI official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the case.' Defense Tech has more:
While the FBI won't comment, the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) has some insights.

According to unconfirmed sources, the information was classified as Secret Restricted Data which means it would involve nuclear weapons data and may have concerned detection of underground nuclear weapons testing. Also unconfirmed, the person in possession of the information worked either in Technical Area 55 where all of the Lab’s plutonium is stored or in the X Division which handles nuclear weapons design data for a maintenance subcontractor of the Lab.

POGO also notes six previous security incidents at LANL since 9/11.

Full articles at the links. (AP, Defense Tech)

On changing missions. The Belmont Club takes a look at the US military's evolution from countryside battlefields to urban warfare: 'This exercise is interesting because it illustrates just how long it takes for an institution as large and complex as the US military to reorient itself from an old mission to a new one. For purposes of historical comparison it wasn't until the mid-1950s that the US adopted a coherent strategy on the use nuclear weapons — weapons which had been developed ten years earlier. ... One tacit assumption to Urban Resolve 2015 is that the fighting will take place in "enemy" cities. However there is the possibility that some of the urban fighting in the coming decades will take place in Western European cities, such as Paris. In that environment the intelligence, culture, governance and legal aspects of the problem may dominate the purely military. Maybe Belfast would be a better laboratory model than Baghdad.' Read the full post at the link. (Belmont Club)

Maliki rejects timetable. Debka: 'Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki angrily refutes US timeline plan for curbing violence and disavows US-led Sadr City raid. “I affirm that this government represents the will of the Iraqi people and no one has the right to impose a timetable on it,” said Maliki, refuting the statement from US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad in Baghdad Tuesday that the Iraqi government had agreed to a timeline for progress on security and the economy. The Iraqi PM complained he had not been consulted on a US-Iraq raid of the teeming Shiite Sadr City slum of Baghdad, which is dominated by the anti-US cleric Moqtada Sadr, and insisted “that it will not be repeated.” At least 4 killed and 18 injured in the fighting in Sadr City overnight. ...' (Debka)

Blair: No change in Iraq strategy. AP via Jerusalem Post: 'Britain will not change its strategy of staying in Iraq until that country's forces are ready to take over responsibility for security, Prime Minister Tony Blair said. He rebuffed calls for a quick withdrawal, saying it was crucial that British troops remain in Iraq as long as they are needed. "To do anything else would be a complete betrayal not just of the Iraqi people, but of all the sacrifices that have been made by our armed forces over the years," Blair said during his weekly House of Commons question and answer session. "There will be no change in the strategy of withdrawal from Iraq, only happening when the Iraqi forces are confident that they can handle security," he said.' (AP via JPost)

Israel grants residency rights to sex-trade victims. Jerusalem Post: 'From this point on, victims of the Israeli sex trade will receive temporary residence and work in Israel for the period of one year, Interior Minister Roni Bar-On announced on Wednesday. In an interview with Israel Radio, Bar-On added that the benefits will be granted regardless of whether the women testify against their abusers. Previously, the government had restricted such benefit to those who helped prosecute smugglers and sex-trade employers.' (JPost)

Terrorists to go free in Shalit deal. Arutz Sheva: 'In an interview with Israel Radio this morning, David Hacham, a senior advisor to the defense minister, confirmed reports that had appeared in the Arab press stating that Israel had agreed to free terrorists in a deal for the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.' (A7)

West bickers, Iran builds nukes. ThreatsWatch:
Even though the Islamic Republic remains in defiant violation of the United Nations Security Council’s demand that it cease enrichment operations by August 31, Iran’s ambassador to Russia, Gholamreza Ansari, said that Tehran is anxious to restart nuclear talks regarding its nuclear program. Said the ambassador, “I am certain that Iran is ready for talks to begin as soon as possible, all issues can be discussed during these negotiations.” But the United States believes that Iran’s claims of being willing to discuss ‘all issues’ is little more than a stalling tactic, designed to buy the regime more time, month by month, for furthering its nuclear weapons program.

The United States likely does not view it coincidental that Iran’s re-stated desires for more talks, a call that is made by Iran on almost a daily basis, is accompanied today with news that a second Iranian 164-centrifuge cascade is in place and will soon be ready for operation. This according to IAEA head Mohammed ElBaredei, who said yesterday that “based on our most recent inspections, the second centrifuge cascade is in place and ready to go.” ElBaredei remains unconvinced that Iran is trying to acquire nuclear weapons, adding, “The jury is still out on whether they are developing a nuclear weapon.”

Also today, even as Russia recently earlier vowed to oppose and punishment of Iran through UN sanctions, implying a veto vote, reports today suggest that the United States and European diplomats are arguing over the Russian construction of Iran’s Bushehr nuclear reactor. ...

Steve Schippert's article concludes: 'This week could be a contentious week of diplomatic conflict for all involved as the issue of Iran sanctions nears the floor of the Security Council chambers.' (ThreatsWatch)

Commentary. There's a column by Melanie Phillips in USA Today about anti-Americanism in Britain. Go to the link to read the whole thing, but here's a key extract:
But British animosity toward the U.K.'s most important and historic ally is wider and deeper. Partly it derives from simple snobbery, the long-standing British belief that Americans are vulgar upstarts who lack the gravitas that Britain has accrued from a thousand years of history.

Probe further, however, and you discover anguish at the progressive junking of that history. Schools, for example, no longer teach the history or values of the British nation on the grounds that national identity based on a majority culture is viewed as "racist." Instead, they promote multiculturalism, the doctrine that minority value must have equal status to those of the majority. Loss of confidence in Britain's role in the world has demoralized its governing class so badly that it has come to believe that the nation state is the principal source of all ills from prejudice to war, and that legitimacy resides instead in supranational institutions.

So no international action can be taken without sanctification by that holy of holies, the United Nations. As a result, the British regard Bush's "unilateral" foreign policy with undiluted horror. This is made worse by disdain for Bush himself, regarded as a tongue-tied cowboy who actually believes in God — to the post-religious British, the nearest thing to a certificate of lunacy.

The biggest single cause of British anti-Americanism, however, is Israel. Despite being the target for more than half a century of genocidal Arab and Muslim aggression, Israel is widely perceived in Britain as the regional bully, and its acts of self-defense are viewed as the principal motor behind both the Middle East impasse and Islamic grievance because of its supposed refusal to allow the Palestinians to have a state of their own.

Read it all at the link. Kudos to USA Today for publishing Melanie Phillips' column. I'll just add that I think it's a good sign that Phillips is appearing in a popular, mass-circulation paper like USA Today.

Oppression of women occurs in many places and on many levels. The Israeli government's compassionate response offers hope to countless women and girls living in misery.

2006-10-24

The Al-Durah Affair

The image of Muhammad al Durah, "gunned down in a hail of Israeli bullets at the very beginning of the Al Aqsa Intifada", was one of the most potent icons of the recent Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Phillipe Karsenty, director of Media Ratings, was accused of "striking at the honor and respectability" of France 2's Jerusalem Bureau Chief Charles Enderlin and France 2 by questioning the validity of footage aired on September 30, 2000, in the first days of the Oslo War, depicting a cowering Muhamad Al Dura being shot while being sheltered by his father near the former Jewish community of Netzarim in Gaza.

The Belmont Club explains:
The Augean Stables tells the story of how French bloggers are now on trial for questioning France2's account of the murder of Muhammad al Durah, who the network portrayed as having been murdered by IDF soldiers. At the time the charges were filed there was widespread French public approval of the action. But new information which emerged since has shifted the ground. ... The Augean Stables notes that whatever the charge sheet says, the media is a defendant too. "In the final analysis, these are not arcane French legal matters at stake, but tests of the French ability to meet 21st century challenges." In fact, a constitutional challenge. Without anyone noticing, in the years between World War 2 and the present the Press has acquired the power to be the arbiter of a great many events: the success or failure of public enterprises, the guilt or innocence of the accused and even the power to declare defeat or victory in war.

A media watchdog group founded by Philippe Karsenty alleged that the images were staged, with the knowledge or participation of France's France2 network. More questions followed:
By 2002, two investigative documentaries, one German and one French, had raised questions about the veracity of the tightly-shot footage and the claims accompanying it. Raw footage from that day was released and separate instances of the staging of injuries were clearly seen. The documentaries alleged that there was no sign of blood on the ground where the father and son were supposed to have bled for 20 minutes and questioned why there was no footage of an ambulance evacuation or records of an arrival at the hospital or autopsy for the boy.

France 2 refused to air the German documentary, but the French one sparked a demonstration in Paris outside the company’s offices. At that point, Karsenty wrote an article calling for France 2’s Enderlin and France 2 chief Arlette Chabot to resign. In response, Enderlin and France 2 itself sued Karsenty and two others.

Many of those who followed the first trial expressed optimism that the case would be judged in Karsenty's favor. The Belmont Club:
Nidra Poller completes her coverage of the Mohammed al-Dura libel trial against France2 at Pajamas Media. France2 comes off very, very badly in the evidence. And the prosecutor has already recommended that France2's suit against the first defendant, Karsenty, be dropped. Personally I don't think the trial is so much about the relative justice of Israeli and Palestinian causes so much as the absolute depths to which the modern broadcast media may have plunged.

Here's an excerpt from Nidra Poller's coverage of the September trial:
Philippe Karsenty takes the stand. The judge’s questions are pertinent, Philippe’s answers are clear and compelling. Does he personally think the scene was staged or simply questionable? Philippe replies that he was initially convinced by the Schapira film, but realized after further investigation that the incident had to be staged. He gives an example: when it became clear from ballistics tests that the al-Duras could not have been hit by direct fire from the Israeli position, it was claimed they were hit by ricochets. But the father says he was hit 9 times, and the boy 3 times. Twelve ricochets? It’s impossible.

Then comes the ten-gun question: why don’t Israeli officials protest? Karsenty’s answer is plausible: they think it would do no good to bring the image back to the forefront. Even if the truth could be established, it would turn against them.

Q: Denis Jeambar and Daniel Leconte, who viewed the 27-minute outtakes, said (Radio Communauté Juive) all the scenes were staged except the al-Dura scene. Jeambar cited a video of the father displaying his scars, a new element of proof shown by France 2 at a press conference.

A: I did not see the film because I was not allowed to attend the press conference. Leconte told me he was interested in the affair, and intended to investigate it. But Arte [French-German-Spanish cultural TV channel] warned him they would not work with his production company, Doc en Stock, anymore if he didn’t drop the subject. Jeambar was under pressure from inside l’Express, notably Jacques Attali. Alexandre Adler told me that Charles (who is his brother-in-law) was tricked by his fixer. Many people have told me privately that they know the scene was staged, but they won’t say it in public.

The judge’s features tighten as if he is trying to hide his surprise…or distress. ...

But despite what observers saw as a strong performance by the defense and a weak one (or none at all) by France2, the court ruled in favor of French TV:
Four years later, the trials have begun and the first verdict was received Wednesday. At his trial, Karsenty presented four expert witnesses backing up his claim that not only were Al-Dura and his father not killed by the IDF, the entire scene was most apparently staged with the knowledge of the cameraman.

The procureur de la republique, a court-appointed officer in the French legal system charged with assessing the case in the interests of civil society, recommended that the case be ruled in Karsenty’s favor. He said that Karsenty had offered enough evidence to make such assertions a legitimate part of public discourse. The judge ruled that Karsenty had not checked other sources thoroughly and had used unwarranted strong language.

Nobody from France 2 even showed up for the trial. The TV station’s lawyer called no witnesses to the stand and declined to cross-examine any of Karsenty's witnesses or comment on the evidence displayed. The plaintiff’s summation asserted that the honor and reputation of France 2 is beyond reproach and submitted a letter of praise from President Jacques Chirac.

The court ordered Karsenty to pay Enderlin 3,000 Euro and awarded a symbolic 5 Euro to France 2 Television. He plans to appeal the decision and the next trial is due to begin on October 26th.

The Augean Stables reflects:
To say that the decision was disappointing is obviously putting it mildly. But it was not unexpected. Numerous people wrote me to say, watch out. As one American blogger who lives in France wrote:

I followed closely your reports on the first part of the trial. I’m still pessimistic. The reason I’m pessimistic is because they’re only asking for the symbolic euro. France2 wants the case just so they can say the courts ruled in their favor, not in order for sanction actually to be applied. I’m afraid the French courts are so politicized that they will give them what they want.

Others noted that the absence of any effort on the part of France2 — no witnesses, no questions for hostile witnesses, no presence of either Enderlin or Chabot — could indicate not a lack of preparation (alone), but a secure knowledge that they need do nothing since they knew they’d win. Several people who claimed to know, informed me and Karsenty independently, that the fix was on before the trial. When I suggested that to an Israeli lawyer I know after the first trial but before the decision, she responded indignantly, “No. The French judiciary is really independent.” I wanted to believe that.


The Augean Stables has a comprehensive introduction to the Al Durah affair at this link.

All of TAS's Al-Durah-related posts may be found at this category link.

Neo-Neocon will be covering the second part of the Al Durah / France2 defamation trial.

Morning Report: October 24, 2006

Shinbari dies, Berri crosses the line. A terrorist leader is killed while a Lebanese politician speaks the unspeakable ... and injustices against women go on.

Terrorist leader Ata Shinbari killed in Gaza shootout. Debka: 'After 10 Qassam missiles were fired into Israel in 48 hours, Israeli troops were hunting the Palestinian launchers and their crews in northern Gaza Monday when confronted with a large group of gunmen. Both parties opened fire. Nine armed Palestinians were killed and 20 injured. Shinbari was a senior commander of the Popular Resistance Committees, which is active in the missile offensive and was Hamas’ partner in kidnapping Gideon Shalit in June. Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of a massacre on the first day of Eid el Fitr. Another three Palestinian gunmen were killed in a clash with Israel soldiers operating against smuggling tunnels on the Philadelphi strip in S. Gaza.' (Debka)

Totten: Nabih Berri crosses the Red Line. Michael J. Totten writes on some surprising comments by Lebanon's Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri. 'A few days ago Lebanon's Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri floated the idea of opening peace talks with Israel. ... Lebanon is a hard country to read from afar. I can't tell you how many times a government official said some boilerplate nonsense in public that almost everyone knew wasn't sincere. You had to know the Lebanese "street," and you had to look at the target audience. Most statements on foreign relations are intended for foreign consumption, especially the bits about Syria. The same goes for Israel. ... Even so, advocating peace talks with Israel was a "red line" when I was in Beirut. Some Lebanese did it anyway, but they only did it in private.' Go read the full article at the link. (MJT)

Muslim clerics: Woman raped by father-in-law must leave husband. The Muslim Woman:
Soon after a Muzaffarnagar district court in Uttar Pradesh convicted and sentenced the father-in-law of Imrana for raping her, clerics say her husband should leave her.

...

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) has also remained silent over the clerics’ reaction and the court verdict. AIMPLB’s silence was much stonier when a fatwa was issued by leading Islamic seminary Darul-uloom Deoband, annulling Imrana’s marriage and asking her to marry the rapist last year when the case was reported.

...

On June 6, 2005, 28-year-old Imarana was raped by her 69-year-old father in-law Ali Mohammad. Since then the case has raked up heated issues like uniform civil code, the role of panchayats and Shariat in India.

Despite a ten-year jail term for the rapist, Imrana, the mother of five, is now a terrified woman. She says her priorities are her children and she will abide by law and religion.

Full post at the link. (TMW)

Commentary. If you're having trouble keeping track of the players on the strategic stage (I know I am), keep watching Dreams Into Lightning. I'm planning a new "database" feature consisting of short, factual roundups on various persons, places, and events. On the TypePad site, these will be grouped under the new category "Database". And watch for more format tweaks.

What is there to say about the repulsive misogyny in Imrana's case? Only that it shows a mentality in which women are treated as objects and the victim is seen as a suitable object for punishment.

The courageous Bangladeshi journalist Jamil Ziabi writes: 'We can draw a comparison. On the one hand, what Al-Qaeda does: it adopts Islam as a slogan, and operates in words and deeds in its name. Its leader is Osama bin Laden, who uses his money and capabilities to beguile youth, and to push them into the folds of terrorism, so that they will eventually explode themselves, kill innocent people, and spread fear and terror. On the other hand, there is what Muhammad Yunus and Muhammad Abdu Latif Jameel are doing with their money and capabilities in order to fight poverty, and to contribute to security, stability and international peace.' But are enough people reading and heeding his words? When books are being confiscated in Jordan, you have to wonder. But as ODIE says, "it is a sign of fear".

2006-10-23

10/24 - 0000Z

Hezbollah rebuilds missile positions - Debka. 'Hizballah reconstitutes its pre-war fortified lines and missile positions opposite Israel – plus the latest Iranian surveillance systems. Upon taking over the IDF’s northern command from the Lebanon war commander, Monday, Oct. 23, the incoming OC Maj-Gen. Gad Eisenkott said tersely: We are keeping close watch on Hizballah’s rearmament. The refurbished fortifications, according to DEBKAfile’s military sources, are under cover.'

Military brass blowing the propaganda war - Defense Tech. 'Many blame the media for the estrangement, but part of the blame rests squarely on the chip-laden shoulders of key military officers and on the often clueless Combined Press Information Center in Baghdad, which doesn't manage the media so much as manhandle them. So writes super-blogger Michael Yon in an essay in The Weekly Standard. Yon, a former soldier-turned- journalist who spent nine months embedded with infantry units in Iraq and Afghanistan last year, has fearlessly reported the facts from some of the worst places in the world, including Baqubah in north-central Iraq, where in January 2005 I was on the receiving end of a spectacular suicide bombing. Now Yon writes about a foe nearly as harmful to the U.S. war effort: Lieutenant Colonel Barry Johnson, departing head of the Baghdad Press Information Center.'

US troops raid Shi'a television station in Baghdad - JPost. 'US troops late Monday raided the offices of a television station affiliated with a major Shi'ite party represented in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government, the station's deputy editor said. Haidar Kadhim said the troops arrived at al-Furat television complex in the central Baghdad's Karadah neighborhood at about 9:30 p.m. (18:30 GMT), disarming the station's 40 armed guards but allowing the management and editorial teams to continue to work undisturbed.'

Gay Patriot joins Log Cabin. 'Now that the man [Patrick Guerriero] who supported the group’s decision not to endorse his party’s nominee in the 2004 presidential election, who attacked that nominee after claiming to remain neutral in the race and who even refused to indicate whom he had voted for after that good man had won a decisive reelection, has stepped down as head of the organization, I am joining in the hope that the group’s new leadership will spend more time building bridges to the party whose very name is in the organization’s name and less time trying to get along with the left-leaning gay groups.'

Morning Report: October 23, 2006

Low. Israel flies low, Hezbollah lies low, and Olmert takes the low road.

Israeli overflights not deterred by French threats. Ha'Aretz: 'srael Air Force planes swooped low over Lebanon on Monday, a day after the Jewish state rejected a call by France's defence minister to halt violations of its neighbor's airspace. The planes conducted mock raids over much of southern Lebanon, Reuters reported, and residents saw them flying low over the capital Beirut, but neither Hezbollah nor the Lebanese army fired anti-aircraft rounds at them as they have done in previous years.' (Ha'Aretz)

We have not yet begun to fight! Well isn't it about time we started? asks Debka.
Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert informed the nation Sunday night: “Our soldiers will be trained to stand up to the threats confronting us, principally from Iran, and we have already started work.” Already, he said. So what have “we” been doing till now? Handing the Gaza Strip to the Iranian-armed Hamas?

He was addressing a group of his Kadima party followers.

The new star poised to expand the government coalition this week, Israeli Beitenu’s Avigdor Lieberman, added his two bits: “I’m joining he government,” he said “to save Israel from the Iranian nuclear (threat).”

Debka's analysis concludes: 'Olmert continues to keep up the hollow pretense that the decision to go to war against Hizballah unprepared and the decisions he took while it was going on were the product of profound political and military wisdom. His feeble attempts to gloss over Israel’s very real loss of strategic credibility in the region, while using both hands to hold his government together, are exceedingly harmful. Iran, Syria, Hizballah and Hamas, convinced that Israel is daydreaming if not half-asleep, are encouraged to march on to a fresh war as long as the Israeli leaders who got their sums so badly wrong in Lebanon remain firmly in place. Therefore, shoring up the incumbent government for the long haul – led by the very prime minister, foreign and defense ministers and chief of staff who mismanaged the Lebanon war - could provide Ehud Olmert with stable rule, but also spell calamity for Israel. Lieberman and his big talk will be proven immaterial when the Iranian rockets, launched from Lebanon as recently as July and August, start flying again – this time from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank as well; next the heavy missiles from Tehran and Damascus.' Full article at the link. (Debka)

Vital Perpective on Nasrallah's Jerusalem Day no-show. Vital Perspective: 'On Friday, Hezbollah marked al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day by holding a subdued military parade in comparison to years past where the streets were filled by massive military parades in Beirut to demonstrate the importance of Jerusalem to Muslims. Instead of thousands of terrorists marching in uniform, the invitation-only event in a concert hall featured an orchestra, a choir and several anti-Israel speeches. Hassan Nasrallah, the keynote speaker in years past, was noticably absent Friday. His deputy filled in, telling the hundreds of supporters in attendance that Hezbollah would not give up its fight against Israel. In 1981, Ayatollah Khomeini declared the last Friday of Ramadan al-Quds Day to demonstrate the importance of Jerusalem to Muslims. The al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem is the third holiest site in Islam after the Saudi cities of Mecca and Medina.' (Vital Perspective)

Israel Matzav on Saudi Hamas play. Debka recently reported: 'Saudis bring over to Jeddah hardline Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal for last-ditch try to avert Palestinian civil war. The Hamas politburo chief traveled from Damascus disguised as a pilgrim. Saudi rulers offered him and his movement generous terms for breaking away from the Damascus-Tehran bloc, freeing the kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilead Shalit and signing a cooperation pact with Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas. In a back-up move, the Saudis last week invited to Mecca the heads of the Syrian opposition in exile: former Syrian vice president Khalim Haddam, today a sworn foe of Syrian president Bashar Asad, the leader of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood Sader e-Din Ali Bayanouni and Bashar’s uncle, Rifat Asad, who aspires to oust his nephew and take his place. This act is seen as Riyadh’s warning to Asad of dire consequences, including punitive financial measures, if he tries to disrupt this Palestinian reconciliation move. To demonstrate its importance to the oil kingdom, King Abdullah granted Meshaal a private audience. DEBKAfile’s Middle East sources describe this as a direct Saudi challenge to Iran and its schemes - in contrast to the inertia displayed by the Egyptian, Jordanian and Israeli governments. ...' Israel Matzav adds:
What's clear from this article is that the Saudis - who are Sunni Muslims - are fearful of Iran exporting its Shiite revolution to Syria and the 'Palestinian Authority.' With the ongoing civil war between Sunni and Shiites in Iraq, and the occasional civil war between them in Lebanon, were Iran to turn Syria and the 'Palestinians' into Shiite territories, it would leave only Israel and Jordan outside the Iranian envelope in this area. And that could have revolutionary consequences for the Saudis.

Full articles at the links. (Debka, Israel Matzav)

Commentary. Carl's analysis adds some detail to the talk of an Arab, anti-Iranian coalition that's been going around.

2006-10-22

Iraq the Model and the Lancet Study

It's rare for me to criticize Iraq the Model, and downright weird to find myself on the same side with anti-American bloggers like Riverbend. So let me be clear upfront that I am very skeptical of the the Lancet study; but I believe it needed a better response from ITM than Omar's rant - eloquent though it is - and I'm afraid the ITM brothers have hurt themselves more than the Lancet. I'll try to explain why.

When I first read Responding to the Lancet Lies, I cheered - but I also winced because I was afraid it would generate a backlash in the Iraqi blogosphre. It looks like I was right.

The first problem with Omar's post is that it begins:
Pajamas invited us to respond to a study full of lies made by Burnham, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health that claimed 665,000 Iraqis were killed since 2003. The disgraceful study is expected to be published on the website of The Lancet, a medical journal today.

This makes it sound like Omar and Mohammed were being set up by Charles and Roger. Now I know that's not what happened and I know nobody put any words in Omar's mouth, and as partners at Pajamas Media they have every right to accept assignments from PJM. But I think this was a bad way to begin the article and it's an invitation to other Iraqis to criticize the brothers for being "tools" of an American-controlled media group.

More important, the ITM post lacks a serious attempt to refute the article. Here is what Omar wrote about the article's accuracy:
When the statistics announced by hospitals and military here, or even by the UN, did not satisfy their lust for more deaths, they resorted to mathematics to get a fake number that satisfies their sadistic urges.

When I read the report I can only feel apathy and inhumanity from those who did the count towards the victims and towards our suffering as a whole. I can tell they were so pleased when the equations their twisted minds designed led to those numbers and nothing can convince me that they did their so called research out of compassion or care.

And he's probably right. But he needs to go the extra step and show why the numbers are wrong. He doesn't do that.

By contrast, Zeyad at Healing Iraq gives a fairly dispassionate - and not overwhelmingly partisan - analysis of The Human Cost of War in Iraq. Zeyad begins:
I urge you to carefully read the study first. Very few people seem to have actually done so.

In comparison, the much-criticised Iraq Body Count relies only on media reports (mostly Western and often by conflating 2 different sources) for their maximum body count of 48,639 civilians. I have said and will say again that the media reports only a tiny fraction of deaths in the country, usually the victims of car bombings or other significant violent events.

The collaborative study by the John Hopkins University, The School of Medicine at the Mustansiriya University, and the MIT Center for International Studies, pubished in The Lancet, is not the same. It is not an actual body count. This is an estimate of the total number of excess deaths over the last 3 years.

It uses cluster samples (uniform groups of samples in a specific geographical areas) as opposed to simple random samples. This is usually much more cost-effective and easier and in this case it’s, unfortunately, the only available method to get an estimate.

Simply put, the methods used by the study are valid, but in Iraq’s case, where the level of violence is not consistent throughout the country, I feel that the study should have been done differently. 654,965 excess civilian deaths is an absurd number. My personal guesstimate would be half that number, but the total count is not the point now.

Zeyad goes on to say:
One problem is that the people dismissing – or in some cases, rabidly attacking – the results of this study, including governmental officials who, arguably, have an interest in doing so, have offered no other alternative or not even a counter estimate. This is called denial. When you have no hard facts to discredit a scientific study, or worse, if you are forced to resort to absurd arguments, such as “the Iraqis are lying,” or “they interviewed insurgents,” or “the timing to publish this study was to affect American elections,” or "I don't like the results and they don't fit into my world view, therefore they have to be false," it is better for you to just shut up. From the short time I have been here, I am realising that some Americans have a hard time accepting facts that fly against their political persuasions.

Now I am aware that the study is being used here by both sides of the argument in the context of domestic American politics, and that pains me. As if it is different for Iraqis whether 50,000 Iraqis were killed as a result of the war or 600,000. The bottom line is that there is a steady increase in civilian deaths, that the health system is rapidly deteriorating, and that things are clearly not going in the right direction. The people who conducted the survey should be commended for attempting to find out, with the limited methods they had available. On the other hand, the people who are attacking them come across as indifferent to the suffering of Iraqis, especially when they have made no obvious effort to provide a more accurate body count. In fact, it looks like they are reluctant to do this.

The whole post is well worth reading. I am not in a position to assess the accuracy of Zeyad's claims, but his writing is clear, well-reasoned, and supported with solid information. If I were forming my opinion on the basis of these two posts alone, I would find Zeyad's analysis more credible than Omar's.

I have consciously kept the focus of this post narrow, and confined to my thoughts on the two Iraqi bloggers' reactions to the Lancet study. I'll add other rebuttals, critiques, and rejoinders to the study as my schedule permits. Also, there are a couple of other recent posts on the Iraqi blogs that I want to talk about, but I'll have to save that for another time.