Morning Report: October 31, 2007

Madrid bombers sentenced. Fox News reports: 'MADRID, Spain — Twenty-one of 28 defendants were found guilty on Wednesday in the 2004 Madrid train bombings, but another accused ringleader was acquitted in connection with Europe's worst Islamic terror attack. Judge Javier Gomez Bermudez read the verdicts in a quiet courtroom, with heavy security, including bomb-sniffing dogs and police helicopters, outside. The backpack bomb attacks killed 191 people and wounded more than 1,800 on March 11, 2004.' The Telegraph: 'The men received symbolic sentences of more than 39,000 years each but under Spanish law they will only serve a maximum of 40 years in jail. Two Moroccan men Jamal Zougam, 33, and Abdel Majid Bouchar, 23, were both found guilty of planning and carrying out the attacks on four commuter trains on March 11, 2004 which killed 191 people and injured more than 1,800. A Spanish miner, Jose Emilio Suarez Trashorras, 30, was found guilty of supplying the explosives used in the blasts and was also sentenced to almost 40,000 years. ... But seven defendants were cleared of all charges including one of the alleged key masterminds, the Egyptian Rabei Osman Sayed Ahmed, 35, who is serving a prison sentence in Italy after he was convicted of belonging to an international terrorist group.' Finally, you might be surprised to learn which British newspaper used the I-word in its headline and called the bombing The worst Islamist attack in European history :
On the morning of March 11 2004, as thousands of commuters made their way to work, 10 bombs packed with nails and dynamite exploded on four trains heading into central Madrid. The blasts killed 191 people and injured nearly 1,800. It was the worst Islamist terrorist attack in European history. ...

The events of 11-M, as the attacks are known in Spain, initially divided the country along political lines. The bombings were carried out just three days before a general election, which saw the incumbent conservative Popular party (PP) of José María Aznar defeated by the Socialist PSOE led by José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.
From the moment the attacks took place, the PP argued that they were the work of the Basque separatist group Eta; Mr Aznar went so far as to phone national newspaper editors, assuring them this was the case. Despite evidence soon emerging of a van containing detonators linked to the attacks and a recording of verses from the Qur'an, the PP stuck to its line.

The police investigation and subsequent trial uncovered no evidence of a link to Eta. The bombings were carried out by a group of young men, mostly from north Africa, who were, according to prosecutors, inspired by a tract on an al-Qaida-affiliated website that called for attacks on Spain. The tract called for "two or three attacks ... to exploit the coming general elections in Spain in March 2004", saying that they would ensure the "victory of the Socialist party and the withdrawal of Spanish forces [from Iraq]".

Read the rest at the link.

Azarmehr on the worst option. Azarmehr:
Ever since Ahmadi-Nejad became the president, we have feared a military attack on Iran as the worst option. Instead we have presented the pro-democracy movement in Iran as the most viable option to bring peace and stability to Iran, the region and to the world.

Sadly the Islamic Republic apologists, individuals like Ray Takyeh, Fareed Zakaria, Hossein Nasr, Laura Rozen etc. and organisations like CASMII, Iran Action, SWP etc. have consistently tried to diminish the strength of desire for change from the current theocracy to a secular democracy amongst the young dominant Iranian population and have tried to present the Islamic Republic as an acceptable form of government and even a 'shining beacon of democracy'. Their efforts with the help of funding they receive from the Islamic Republic petro-dollars and the misguided support of 'useful idiots' has meant that the pro-democracy movement in Iran has not been able to enjoy the support and the recognition it deserves and hence not count as a credible alternative to the ever increasing menace of the clerics ruling Iran.

Yet there now seems to be an even worse option on the table. Limited strikes on military and nuclear targets which will destroy much of Iran's infrastructure but keep the clerics in power!

In fact the Ayatollahs in Iran seem to be welcoming the limited strikes, and as always their biggest fear has been regime change from within.

Go to the link for the rest - and for photos.

In case you missed it, October 29 was Cyrus the Great Day. Via The Spirit of Man, here's Aryamehr:
October 29, the “Cyrus the Great Day” And the anniversary of his issuing the first declaration of human rights

Twenty five centuries ago, when savagery was the dominant factor in human societies, a civilized and compassionate declaration was written on clay and issued to the “four corners of the world” that dealt with important issues relevant to the rights of humans, the same issues that not only in those days but even today can inspire those who believe in human dignity and rights.

This document, known as “The Declaration of Cyrus the Great,” emphasized on the removal of all racial, national discrimination and slavery, bestowing to the people, freedom to choose their places of residence, faith and religion and giving prominence to the perpetual peace amongst the nations. This Declaration could actually be considered as a present from the Iranian people, expressed through the words of Cyrus, their political leader and the founder of the first empire in the world, to the whole humanity. In 1971, the general assembly of the United Nations recognized it as the first Declaration of Human Rights, thus, registering such an honor to the name of Iran as the cradle of this first historical attempt to establish the recognition of human rights.

Unfortunately, today, Iran is considered a country whose people are deprived of the very rights that were discovered, articulated and expressed by themselves. ...

That's from the Committee to Save Pasargad. Winston at TSOM adds the following in Persian:

دیروز سالروز گرامیداشت کوروش کبیر و یادبود این پادشاه بزرگ ایرانی بود. یادش را گرامی میداریم و به خاطر میسپاریم که اعلامیه حقوق بشر کوروش هخامنشی اولین اعلامیه رسمی جهانی حمایت از حقوق اولیه انسانی مثل ازادی و عدالت بوده و خواهد بود

Iraqi forces capture suspected terrorists in Khadra raid. MNF-Iraq: 'Iraqi Special Operations Forces conducted a raid Oct. 29 in Khadra detaining a suspected al Qaeda in Iraq terrorist network leader and three others. The AQI leader is believed to lead four insurgent groups who are suspected of conducting attacks on Iraqi Security Forces and terrorizing local civilians. Coalition Forces believe he and his network are involved in attacks on Iraqi infrastructure and medical facilities, including the burning of Iraq’s main drug storehouse which provided medicine to sick citizens.'

Iraqi police learn the basics. CENTCOM: 'The Military Police Platoon from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment developed a 10-day preparatory class to implement the basics for Iraqi Police recruits prior to attending the Baghdad Police Academy which initiates them as official police officers. “This course is designed to give … IPs a basic understanding on what their job will consist of,” said Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Brinson, the MP Platoon’s top sergeant for HHC, 1st Squadron, 7th Cav. Regt. The trainees, waiting to attend the academy, come from various stations in the surrounding area to learn basic policeman skills, he added. It’s an orientation, ensuring all baby IPs go into the academy on the same level of general knowledge. “The training covers basics on ethics, principles, Iraqi law, first aid, basic rifle marksmanship, responding to a crime scene and search techniques in various scenarios. The recruits follow a structured daily schedule emphasizing teamwork and discipline,” said Brinson, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native.'

Lawlessness and murder in Yemen. Jane Novak at Armies of Liberation:
This kind of anarchy results from the fact that the entire leadership structure of Yemen’s security forces and military is in the hands of the president’s relatives who operate with impunity, and so do their associates, and their associates’ associates. And so it goes until things deteriorate to the point that a college security guard can walk into a police station, shoot a prisoner in the head, and then go dancing home to threaten the dead guy’s kid.

Iraqpundit on Blackwater immunity. IraqPundit is livid:
I had hoped the days of American disastrous decisions in Iraq were behind us. You know, disbanding the Iraqi military, etc. Well, my hopes were dashed by this report in the NYT:

"State Department investigators offered Blackwater USA security guards immunity during an inquiry into last month’s deadly shooting of 17 Iraqis in Baghdad — a potentially serious investigative misstep that could complicate efforts to prosecute the company’s employees involved in the episode, government officials said Monday."

Why is this a stupid move on the part of the U.S.?

"Blackwater employees and other civilian contractors cannot be tried in military courts, and it is unclear what American criminal laws might cover criminal acts committed in a war zone. Americans are immune from Iraqi law under a directive signed by the United States occupation authority in 2003 that has not been repealed by the Iraqi Parliament."

Commentary. Here's an analysis from Family Security Matters. Bill Siegel asks: Has Bush stopped being Bush?
The latest sign came last week when Bush referred to the possible start of World War III. First, by doing so, he has distanced himself from the wisdom of Norman Podhoretz’s World War IV narrative which traces the current war back through the true third world war—the Cold War.

More importantly, however, Bush has undermined himself by stating that WWIII has not yet started. This flies in the face of the Bush Doctrine which postulated that the threat posed by our Islamic enemy (however one wishes to describe it) has been aimed at us for decades and seeks not only our destruction but world domination. It is precisely this enemy which has developed or can access the tools, weapons, and strategies to actualize its goals, and which can marshal the support of billions worldwide, that places us in a new kind of “imminent danger.” The reality of this imminence is exactly what most of America learned, if only temporarily, on 9/11- that we already are involved in a global war.

Bush used to operate out of this perspective. ...

I'm going to come back to this particular point (about the WWIII comment), but this passage gives you the sense of what a lot of us are feeling about Bush these days. Next part ditto, and even more interesting:
Still worse is Condi Rice’s conversion once she became Secretary of State. Because the Secretary of State has no power to fire Foreign Service Officers in the State Department, the Department winds up running the Secretary rather than the converse. Accordingly, one of Bush’s most trusted advisors has become a megaphone for the Department’s long held malignant strategies. Accepting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for instance, as the cause of all other Middle East problems and the barrier to true peace is a long-standing State Department worldview which has repeatedly failed to achieve what the Department says it intends.

Bush fought this distorted vision in his first term, only to have Rice embark on her current disastrous road trip to help Prime Minister Ehud Olmert give up more of Israel. Bush is re-enabling the extortion process (which has for decades been mislabeled the “peace process”) as it repeatedly fulfills the Islamic goal of using diplomacy to reduce Israel step by step until it is easy to annihilate—by Iran, Syria, Palestinians, take your pick. [Emphasis added - aa.]

Now I have to admit I didn't know that about the State Department, but in any case it's a sad fate for Condi and those of us who had high hopes for her. But the FSM article concludes on an optimistic note:
All appearances aside, however, Bush should never be underestimated. The hallmark of his presidency has been and will continue to be that he says what he means and does what he says. So far, he has made major strides in changing the course of our history and has kept an unflinching focus on the challenge at hand. While he recently looks as if he is deviating, it would be as foolish to count him out as it would to gamble that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is simply bluffing when he states his intentions to wipe Israel off of the map or to bring America to her knees.

President Bush has granted Rice and Hughes great leeway. They will at least diffuse liberal charges that he did not exhaust diplomatic and politically correct options.

And I tend to agree with this. It ain't over till it's over, and the Chief has got a lot invested in his Middle East policy and legacy. He's got a year left. A lot can happen in a year.

Now about the World War III business - here's my unscientific opinion. First, I don't think that a person's willingness to adopt Podhoretz' "World War Four" terminology is necessarily a good indicator of their seriousness about the current conflict. And a United States President does not throw around the phrase "World War Three" (or Four) lightly.

I think Bush wanted to send a signal to the Russian government here. Moscow might be betting that it can get the Bush administration to back down on Iran by raising the specter of regional conflict. Bush, by invoking everyone's worst nightmare with the deliberately loaded phrase "World War Three", shows that he's having none of it. He is making the point that in the mind of George W. Bush, "nuclear Iran = World War Three", and in effect telling the Russian President: "Listen, Boris, you're not scaring me with your worries about regional conflict. You know what really scares me? A nuclear Iran. Because a nuclear Iran equals World War Three. And I'm gonna do whatever it takes to prevent that."