Morning Report: January 2, 2008

A shooting in Sudan, a massacre in Kenya, a scandal in Malaysia, a volcano in Chile, and more.

Sudan probes US diplomat's death, claims "not a terrorist attack". ABC: 'Sudan Sudanese authorities on Wednesday questioned witnesses in the slaying of an American diplomat who was shot by gunmen in a drive-by attack in the capital. Sudanese officials insisted the shooting was not a terrorist attack but the U.S. Embassy said it was too soon to determine the motive. John Granville, 33, an official for the U.S. Agency for International Development, was being driven home at about 4 a.m. Tuesday when another vehicle cut off his car and opened fire before fleeing the scene, the Sudanese Interior Ministry said.'

Church burned in Kenya; many killed. AP: ' NAIROBI, Kenya - A mob torched a church where hundreds had sought refuge Tuesday, and witnesses said dozens of people — including children — were burned alive or hacked to death with machetes in ethnic violence that followed Kenya's disputed election. The killing of up to 50 ethnic Kikuyus in the Rift Valley city of Eldoret brought the death toll from four days of rioting to more than 275, raising fears of further unrest in what has been one of Africa's most stable democracies.' Gateway Pundit has a roundup on this tragedy.

Malaysia minister resigns after sex video. AP via MSNBC reports that Malaysia's Health Minister Chua Soi Lek has resigned after being pwned on video with a woman in a hotel room. He's married with three kids.

Volcano erupts in Chile. AP via CNN reports that hundreds of people fled a volcanic eruption in Conguillio National Park, about 400 miles south of Santiago.

Irshad responds to critics. Irshad Manji responds to feedback on her CNN commentary faulting the late Benazir Bhutto for failing to fulfill her potential:
Many of you have branded me tasteless, disrespectful, opportunistic and just plain selfish for refusing to practice hero worship.

Some have called my commentary a personal attack on Bhutto. But questioning someone’s track record is not the same as challenging their humanity. Surely people who believe in Bhutto’s democratic ideals would appreciate the essence of democracy: dissent.

Dissent is fine, others wrote, but why so soon after her murder? Let me turn the question around. Would media be interested in airing a balanced assessment of Bhutto’s achievements after her death ceases to be news? Sorry, people. That’s not the way journalism works.

Better that something thoughtful be published and criticized than not submitted at all because its nuance or timing will offend. If you can’t handle offense, then you can’t handle meaningful democracy....

Go to the link for the rest.

Bhutto killing: CTB names names. Paul Cruickshank at the Counterterrorism Blog: 'It is much too early to say for sure who ordered Benazir Bhutto killed. The Musharraf regime has not done itself any favors by the way it has handled the aftermath of her assassination, helping to fuel conspiracy theories about her death. But that should not detract from the fact that the prime suspect, Baitullah Mehsud, a Taliban commander in South Waziristan with presumed strong links to al Qaeda, had both the motive and capability to see her killed. If the accusations against Mehsud hold up then it will be no easy task for the Pakistani authorities to bring him to justice.' More at the Guardian,

The drone surge. In from the Cold covers the increase in UAV activity in recent months:
From the robots used against roadside bombs, to the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) operating overhead, our military forces are relying, more than ever, on remotely operated systems to save lives and expand capabilities. ...

A Pentagon official interviewed for the story predicts that demand for the drones will remain high, despite the projected decline in ground units. That will (likely) renew the debate over UAV employment, and how much coverage is really required for on-going operations. Accidents aside, the sustained, high operations tempo of Predator, Raven and Global Hawk units puts added pressure on crews, maintenance personnel, the logistics system--and the extensive intelligence network used to process information gathered by UAVs.

Read it all at the link.

Dear Mom. Jason at Countercolumn retells his grandfather's harrowing loss of his crewmates to the Luftwaffe on August 17, 1943. And: "On September 8th, 2001, he found them." Read it all.

Zoe: Activist, neocon. After delivering a meticulous rebuttal to a backward-thinking article at the Wall Street Journal, Zoe at A. E. Brain muses:
I have no illusions that I won't get soaking wet either. But what makes me a neo-con rather than a Kumbayah-singing feelgood Hippie is that I believe in personal responsibility, and actually doing something to keep the dark of ignorance away rather than singing or praying. Not that I can do much. Write articles, letters, talk to politicians, fight my own personal battles, give help on support sites where "we are so close we bleed in each others wounds" and try to live my life too without this dominating my blog or my life too much. I loathe being an "activist", it is so, so Not Me, but what else can I do and remain true to my principles?

And in the meantime, a nuclear-armed power is descending into anarchy, a brave woman has lost her life, in the long term there's a decreasing likelihood that the majority of denizens of the solar system will speak English or live under a Democracy in 300 years time, and I should keep my sense of proportion.

Commentary. Norm Geras has some thoughts on the liberal "Who are we to criticize?" mantra:
Two familiar variants of the 'Who are we?' objection don't withstand much scrutiny. One is the frankly relativist variant that would forbid us from applying 'our' standards - on human rights, democracy, etc - to another culture which supposedly doesn't share those standards. The relativist argument fails for the simple reason, among others, that it treats the culture in question as a monolith. In virtually every case of this kind there are people within that culture who are themselves proponents of the criticisms coming from without and of the values in light of which these are being levelled. To say of some external 'we' that it's none of our business is in effect to argue for leaving such people, local critics of dictatorship and oppression, unsupported against the upholders and beneficiaries of dictatorship and oppression.

A second variant of the argument says that our real business is to concentrate on political sins and omissions close to home - where (the implication often is) we are more capable of making a difference for the better. Apart from the fact that the one focus doesn't rule out the other since you can object to injustices in your own society while giving what support you can to movements against injustice elsewhere, this argument is usually one of mere convenience anyway. Most of its sponsors don't genuinely believe that, for example, the work of the anti-Apartheid movement internationally was misguided, or that people in Britain should ignore the appeals of Amnesty International concerning prisoners of conscience in far-off places. They're just wanting to discomfit some political interlocutor over a criticism he or she has made, the force of which they'd prefer not to have to acknowledge.

I mean to do a post one of these days on the liberal "we". Meanwhile, let's keep working to make this year - and every year - better than the one before.