2007-11-29

Major Issues

Michael Goldfarb at the Standard wonders, "why the big stink about gays in the military, which just isn't a major issue within the Republican party."

But then again, there's this.

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2007-11-21

One Jerusalem

2007-11-19

AP's Bilal Hussein to be charged.

AP:
NEW YORK (AP) - The U.S. military plans to seek a criminal case in an Iraqi court against an award-winning Associated Press photographer but is refusing to disclose what evidence or accusations would be presented.
An AP attorney on Monday strongly protested the decision, calling the U.S. military plans a "sham of due process." The journalist, Bilal Hussein, has already been imprisoned without charges for more than 19 months.

A public affairs officer notified the AP on Sunday that the military intends to submit a written complaint against Hussein that would bring the case into the Iraqi justice system as early as Nov. 29. Under Iraqi codes, an investigative magistrate will decide whether there are grounds to try Hussein, 36, who was seized in the western Iraqi city of Ramadi on April 12, 2006.


Hot Air:
Bilal Hussein is the AP stringer photographer who was arrested in Iraq by US forces in April 2006 and held on suspicion that he had serious connections to terrorists. Trying him in the Iraqi justice system does make sense. Whether he’s guilty or not (and the evidence suggests that he’s as guilty as a Kennedy in a sorority house), his alleged crimes were against the Iraqi people and committed inside Iraq. But the Associated (with terrorists) Press isn’t happy.

Michelle Malkin has a refresher course in Bilal Hussein's career. Please take a moment to go check out those photos, and the accompanying text.

Sweetness and Light recaps Bilal Hussein's oeuvre, and reminds us that "The last two photos are of the heroic “insurgents” who kidnapped and then murdered the Italian national, Salvatore Santoro."

The Belmont Club comments:
The poor performance of government lawyers so far probably means that Bilal Hussein will have better defense lawyers than the prosecution. On the other hand, the plethora of captured insurgent documents and the number of former insurgents who have switched to the coalition side may mean that the government case, if Hussein is guilty, may be unstoppable.

The expression "to the victors go the spoils" is true in more than the military sense. The winners get to write history because theirs by definition is the winning narrative. Bilal Hussein will get his day in court, but the defeat of al-Qaeda in Iraq -- which the press is only now and very reluctantly beginning to admit -- means that many of the "freedom fighters" and "Minutemen" they devoted such space to have gone from Hero to Zero in the land between the rivers. This should be interesting to watch.


And I'll be watching it here. Stay tuned.

Iran and the shifting battlefield.

Joshua Goodman at ThreatsWatch:
In recent meetings with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Iran made “guarantees” to stop supplying explosively formed penetrators (EFPs). While these guarantees and those before them were met with skepticism, Major General James Simmons, the deputy commanding general of Multinational Corps-Iraq, sees reason to be optimistic: “I’m hopeful… What I see is a diplomatic effort being undertaken by the United States government – and I see a positive response from the Iranian government and that’s good.” A few weeks later, Simmons once again noted additional signs of Iranian cooperation: “We have not seen any recent evidence that weapons continue to come across the border into Iraq.” Simmons’ comments echo an early November statement by Defense Secretary Robert Gates that Iran was playing some role in the reduction of bombings by Shi’a militias. Gates did acknowledge, though, that it was difficult to quantify exactly how much of a positive influence Iran was playing in this matter. Nevertheless, there was a clear recognition that positive steps were being taken.

Similarly, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari noted Iran’s effort to “rein in” Shi’a militias. In a November 6 interview with Ross Colvin of Reuters, Zebari clearly stated that “Iran has been instrumental in reining in the militias and the Mehdi Army by using its influence.” As such, “Part of the security improvement was their [Iran’s] control of the militias. We see this as a positive development.”

For its part, the United States is making a few overtures to Iran as a gesture of goodwill. On November 6, Rear Admiral Gregory J. Smith announced that the U.S. military would release 9 of the 20 Iranians they have captured in Iraq. And while the 9 released Iranians do not include the highest ranking or “most troubling” of the detainees, the U.S. is clearly offering Iran a carrot in the hopes of continuing the cooperation.

Some of these developments were noted in this site's November 18 Morning Report, which cited a Reuters story indicating a perception by the Iraqi government of a "thaw" in US/Iranian relations. That post also cited the NYT article stating that
The Iraqi government on Saturday credited Iran with helping to rein in Shiite militias and stemming the flow of weapons into Iraq, helping to improve the security situation noticeably. The Iraqi government’s spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, speaking at a lunch for reporters, also said that the Shiite-dominated government was making renewed efforts to bring back Sunni Arab ministers who have been boycotting the government for more than four months.

American Future speculated on the possibility of a behind-the-scenes deal between the US and the IRI. Here, Goodman raises another possibility:
The motives for Iran’s temporary shift in strategy with regards to Iraq are unclear, although a number of dynamics are likely to have factored into the equation. For one, with al-Qaeda in Iraq becoming weaker everyday, the focus of the U.S. military was shifting to Iran’s Shi’a network. In fact, the coalition forces have already taken a number of steps in combating the Shi’a threat with notable success – particularly in Baghdad. More importantly, perhaps, is the fact that Iran’s involvement in Iraq seemed on the verge of spiraling to direct conflict with the U.S. By following through on its promise to stop the flow of weapons and fighters, Iran seems to have temporarily brought calm to an almost certain clash.

If I'm understanding Goodman correctly, he believes that it is the Iranian regime, and not the US government, that has been pressured to cut its losses in Iraq - specifically, in order to avoid a disastrous confrontation with the US and save its own resources for its number one priority, the nuclear program. Goodman's concluding paragraph words it this way:
While Iran has grand ambitions for regional hegemony, it views its nuclear program as a basic necessity to achieve all ends. Iran’s support of Shi’a militias in Iraq was, for the time being, endangering its nuclear endeavors. Although Iran is currently quite secure on the nuclear issue, it is unlikely to take any action in the near future to jeopardize its current position. Thus, in the interim, Iran’s behavior in Iraq will likely continue to foil its actions on the nuclear front.


Now I'm going to zoom back to the beginning of Goodman's article to take a look at the other entity he mentions: the IRGC.
The United States government’s October 25, 2007 “Designation of Iranian Entities and Individuals for Proliferation Activities and Support for Terrorism,” was a clear indication of where the administration’s Iran policy will focus on in the near future: namely curbing the threat Iran poses to American forces in Iraq and ending its pursuit of nuclear weapons. At the center of both of these issues is the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Crops (IRGC), the elite Iranian military organization that was singled out as a terrorist entity under Executive Order 13382. As my colleague Steve Schippert rightly noted back in August before the formal State Department designation, “the intent in the President’s Executive Order to specifically designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist entity may be to increase international pressure to divest from the Iranian regime and injure the elite IRGC.”

The IRGC plays a central role in Iran’s activities in Iraq, where the Quds force and the Iranian-proxy Hizballah have been actively training and arming Shi’a militias, and in its pursuit of nuclear weapons, as past United Nations Security Council resolutions have suggested. By targeting the IRGC, a military body whose business operations make it susceptible to economic pressure, the administration may well be trying to pressure those elements close to the source of the problem in the hopes of forcing Iran to cooperate.

He's talking about the recently enacted sanctions, which I previously noted in this October 25 post on new Iran sanctions. I quoted the Treasury Department's press release at some length, and cited Walid Phares at the Counterterrorism Blog, who called it "a master strategic strike into the financial web of the major power centers of the Iranian regime". Phares' CTB colleague Andy Cochran expressed similar enthusiasm:
In my opinion, the broad scope of this sweeping announcement signals a decisive foreign policy decision, in concert with other countries, to significantly ratchet up sanctions against Iran to avoid a more dangerous confrontation (the Associated Press characterizes them as "the harshest since the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in 1979").

And this view would appear to be supported by Goodman's analysis of today's post. Here, though, Cochran's reference to a "more dangerous confrontation" invites the question: Dangerous for whom? In general, a confrontation is more "dangerous" for the side that expects to lose. The way I'm reading this is that both the US and the IRI have decided against coming to blows over Iraq, each party for its own reasons: Iran because it cannot win such a battle and because it needs to conserve its resources for its nuclear program; and the US because the battle, even if won, would prove costly and a Pyrrhic victory.

So it looks as if what's happening is that the arena of confrontation is being narrowed. Neither the US nor the Iranian regime seems to think a conflict over (or in) Iraq is worth the cost. Where we go from here is anybody's guess, but while I'm on the subject of the IRGC, I want to return to The Spirit of Man's post citing Amir Taheri:
A very well written piece on WSJ by Amir Taheri about the nature and goals of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards:

"A few IRGC commanders, including some at the top, do not relish a conflict with the U.S. that could destroy their business empires without offering Iran victory on the battlefield. Indeed, there is no guarantee that, in case of a major war, all parts of the IRGC would show the same degree of commitment to the system. IRGC commanders may be prepared to kill unarmed Iranians or hire Lebanese, Palestinian and Iraqi radicals to kill others. However, it is not certain they would be prepared to die for President Ahmadinejad's glory."

And this is what I have always thought to happen in case of a foreign military intervention. No body will die for this corrupt and monstrous regime and many will not sacrifice their lives for the mullahs. Many many Iranians are willing to take the risk of being bombed if their evil rulers get what they deserve which is what happened to Saddam and Milosevic.

Now read this:

"While many Iranians see it as a monster protecting an evil regime, others believe that, when the crunch comes, it will side with the people against an increasingly repressive and unpopular regime."

And this is exactly what concerns me. A limited bombing strike against the command and control sectors of the Iranian regime will eventually help accelerate the fall of the clerical establishment.

In Taheri's and Winston's view, then, the IRGC is not a monolithic mass but a structure which, with the application of the right kind and degree of pressure, may at least in part be turned to ends other than those which it was originally created to serve.

And if this view is correct, then the application of targeted economic pressure may serve as a means of testing the organization's response to that pressure - and a possible prelude to further action in the future.

But this leads to the other important question, and the one that Winston asks: Who, in the event of the Mullahs' fall, would take over in Iran?

And before you ask, no, I really don't have anything better to do, so ...

... here's a few links I couldn't resist sharing.

The invaluable MJ at Friday Fishwrap has a roundup of enlightening and edifying links to improve your life. Go to the post to find out how to do DC on $85 a day, why C sometimes means F, some of the most disturbing toys (from Japan and elsewhere) ... and much more.

And do not miss her music roundup!

Speaking of Japan, Zoe at A. E. Brain gives us an awesome photo of the Earth from the Japanese moon probe Kaguya.

From the LiveJournal cohorts:

Israel-based cabal plans world domination!

Rabbits. And more rabbits.

2007-11-18

You gonna shoot us a skeet for dinner?

Longtime screen pal Elisa from Madison has launched a fabulostic new blog on lesbian, gay, and queer themes in science fiction, fantasy, and geek culture. Please welcome Queer Universe to the blogroll.
The lesbian characters of Logo’s Exes and Oh’s are a little nerdy. Main character Jennifer is charming, but she’s no L Word beauty: she’s a flat-chested ectomorph with a cute smile.

Baby dyke Crutch is played by Heather Matarazzo, the actress from Welcome to the Dollhouse. Perhaps it's some intertextual bleed, but to me, for all her Seattle plaid and brightly dyed hair, something about Crutch’s awkwardness says former Debate team member. I saw about a dozen women who looked like her at this year’s Wiscon.

Lesbian couple Chris and Kris are dorks, too -- when Kris finds Chris at the skeet-shooting range, she gets out and asks her girl, fake drawl, "You gonna shoot us a skeet for dinner?" These ladies are not cool.

There’s one non-nerd character, Sam, effortlessly beautiful femme and ex of Jennifer. It’s clear to me that deep down, Sam is a nerd chaser.


You gotta to to the link if you want to see that adorable picture of Heather Matarazzo.

2007-11-11

Veterans' Day

Countercolumn: Disabled.
... Now, he will spend a few sick years in institutes,
And do what things the rules consider wise,
And take whatever pity they may dole.
To-night he noticed how the women's eyes
Passed from him to the strong men that were whole.
How cold and late it is! Why don't they come
And put him into bed? Why don't they come?

--Wilfred Owen
1893-1918

Mudville Gazette: In Flanders Fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

— John McCrae (1872-1918)

Anonymous US Army soldier in Fiji, 1943: Soldier, where's your hatred now?
SOLDIER, WHERE'S YOUR HATRED NOW? (F.I., March 1943)

Soldier,
Where's your hatred now?
You haven't any? But you ought to have.
Remember the advice we gave.
Where will you be anyhow
If you forget that you must fight,
That they are wrong, and we are right?
You must make their heads to bow.

"I will fight because I must.
My hatred falters. In the heat of war
The hatred that was once a sore
Festered with a bitter lust,
Becomes a heartache, throbbing deep,
So that I cannot help but weep
Seeing comrades fall to dust."

Soldier,
Why that tear-wet eye?
Your fallen comrades you won't see again?
Remember, this affair is plain:
You may be about to die
Like them; but while you live, be strong,
For right will conquer all that's wrong.
Fight till they for mercy cry.

"You are right, my hatred's gone,
But I remember they are human too -
Those boys who in a sick world grew,
Groping - while afar, the dawn
Awaits to shine on them again
As it has on Freedom's men.
Can I , hating, speed the dawn?"

Soldier,
Spare no love for those
Who try to tear down what we want to save.
They're bestial, and they're not so brave.
Bring conflict to a quicker close:
Destroy their tanks, destroy their planes;
It is this Justice ordains.
Give them death if death they chose!

"I will wreck their tanks and planes
And let their cities fall, for all I care,
And in the name of right, I'll tear
Their bowels out, and smash their brains,
(For you, my country, killed my soul)
And as we approach the goal,
Clamp them in Revenge's chains!"

Soldier,
Bear it for a while,
And if you find no hatred for the foe,
Hate, then, the evil that brought woe.
Hate the greed and hate the guile.
Hate, then, the motive, not the man.
Love the Truth, for if you can,
Soldier, you have won God's smile.

My father's memoir of the Second World War may be found at Pacific Memories.

2007-11-01

Salah Uddin Shoaib Coudhury Won't Let Islamists Run Him Out of Bangladesh

Judith Apter Klinghoffer:
It is easy to lose heart, become cynical, give up on the human race. One has to look at Saudi King Abdullah's visit to Britain, the feminists efforts to justify the subjugation of Muslim women (recently joined by Laura Bush!) or, for that matter, the current preparation for the upcoming "no concessions" Israeli Palestinian conference in Annapolis. But it would be wrong. For it would fail Salah Uddin Shoaib Coudhury and no one has the right to do that.

Last night I had the unique honor of shaking his hand. I knew of his plight. Only six months ago I asked you to sign a petition on his behalf so I was delighted to discover that he is safe, in the US. He is charged with "Sedition - treason -blasphemy" because he tried to board a flight from Dhaka to Tel Aviv to attend a peace conference in 2003. Yes, "is" is the correct tense. International agitation led to his release on bail in 2005 but not to the dropping of the charges. That means he can be rearrested any minute, tortured and placed in solitary confinement or even worse.

What can be worse? He can be held in the same prison that holds Bin Laden supporters of the type who do not tolerate sharing space with Muslims who have a moderate interpretation of Islam. They have tried to assassinate repeatedly and he has narrowly escaped them at least twice before.

So, imagine my surprise when he told be that he is going back on November 5th . Even Sharansky did NOT go back. Yet, this smiling 42 year old insisted that he is. "I have a family there. I have followers there. If I leave they will be disappointed, lose heart. I must go back." I could only shake my head in wonder. We have asked where are the Muslim moderates? He stepped forward and in so doing demonstrated the price such moderates have to pay. I hope those who advocate cutting and running from the Muslim world realize who they are leaving behind and who they are embracing in their stead.

With these thought swirling in my head, I sat down to listen to his talk. Trust Choudhury to surprise me yet again. "Do not think that if you let Israel fall, the US will be safe," he said. "Israeli flags are always burned together with the American ones. I heard a former Bangladeshi supreme court judge say that peace will come only after Israel and the United States will be erased from the map." ...
Go read the rest.