2008-02-24

Interview with a Religious Abuse Survivor

Much of what I cover here at DiL is about the struggle against religious oppression in the Middle East. What follows here, though, is an interview (or more properly, Q&A) with a woman who was sent as a teenager to a Christian "religious school" in America. The institution she attended is profiled here:
http://www.isaccorp.org/victorychristianacademy.asp

1.When were you first sent to Victory? What caused your family to decide to
send you there?

I was 15 when I was first sent to VCA. It was April 10, 1990. My parents sent
me there because I was suicidal and had been in the psych ward for two months
and they couldn’t afford it anymore.


2.How long did you stay at Victory?

I was there until Dec 17, 1991. I also did a short stay from Oct 1992-Dec 1992
when I was 18 because I tried to kill myself again. I was 18 though so I was in
this weird limbo space where I was not a staff, but also not really a “girl” in
the school either. Kind of like in VCA purgatory.


3. You are familiar with the information posted at the ISAC site (
http://www.isaccorp.org/victorychristianacademy.asp ). Can you confirm any of
these incidents from your personal experience? Is there any information on the
site that you believe to be inaccurate? Are there other incidents that do not
appear on the site? Have there been any significant developments since 2005?


Yeah, I was there when the stuff went down with Rebecca R. It was
downright funky how crazy everything got. Palmer went absolutely nuts over
her. He would call her into his office with a one-way mirror during school all
day long and keep the lights off and play this really loud classical music. It
was a trip. He only ate bananas for weeks and lost all this weight and preached
all these love sermons. I don’t know much about any recent stuff, I have kept
my distance since I left.


4. I understand that local and county authorities may be unable or unwilling
to zealously pursue some of the allegations against VCA. Have State of Florida
or Federal authorities been involved in any way?


I don’t know. I think they are untouchable due to some kind of Christian school
organization that Palmer is part of. There is a woman ... who was in
the school about 1992 who could tell you more.

5.The mind control techniques are really creepy, especially this "sheep and
goats" business. G. tells me that our mutual friend survived by
internalizing the idea that "I am a sinner". Can you share some of your own
thoughts about this? As a child psychologist today, can you shed some light on
this process?

I think children have to make sense of the world by blaming themselves so they
can trust the adults who are in charge of them. Because, how scary would the
world be if the adults who are in control are really, really wrong? At VCA
especially, all the lies they were feeding us were all about what sinners and
whores, so this would compound the shame and blame we were already feeling.


6. Returning to your own experiences, how did you survive? When and how did
you finally get out? Did you know all along that "these people are really
f*cked up" or did you have to go through a period of "deprogramming" before you
could recognize the abuse for what it was? What things helped you along the
way? And what things made it harder?

I was abused my whole life. My mother was very abusive and a rage-a holic when
I was growing up, so I was used to being abused physically mentally and
emotionally. So really VCA wasn’t as bad for me as it could have been I wasn’t
physically abused there, only mentally and emotionally so yes it was fucked up,
but not anything I wasn’t used to. I got out after I graduated by going to an
almost equally weird college in Pensacola, which was just as misogynistic and
Christian based.

It did take me a while before I realized that what they did was abuse too.
Doing acid and going on Dead tour helped me to see that the world can be a
beautiful place and to experience freedom as a right and a responsibility. I
think also I naturally have a kind of resilient and happy-go-lucky personality
which has helped me to deal with the experiences I have had in my life. I also
went through 9 years of therapy…

7. Has VCA ever threatened or attempted legal action against ISAC or
individual survivors for exposing abuse and misconduct?

Not that I know of.

8.Have your family and community been supportive of your recovery process? How
has your experience at VCA influenced your views of religion? What would you
like to say to parents who might be considering sending their children to VCA?

My parents have never really admitted that they had any kind of real
responsibility for this. They still don’t even really believe it was all that
bad. I just don’t talk about it with them. I can’t even really set foot in a
church and listen to a preacher without getting angry any more. I still believe
in God and Jesus but not any more than I believe in my spirits and ancestors
and the Goddess and Buddha… I don’t pray to God and I don’t really hang out
with Christians. I’m pretty leery of Christians in fact. It took me a long time
to get over the anger I had towards the hypocrisy and fear-based indoctrination
of that place…It took me a long time not to generalize Christianity as what VCA
made it out to be.

9. Are there other so-called "schools" like VCA? What is being done about
them? What else can we do to help?

Yes there are other schools. I don’t know what’s being done though…

2008-02-21

Morning Report: February 21, 2008

Win, lose, or draw?

Missile scores hit on satellite. In from the Cold:
AP military correspondent Robert Burns reports that an SM-3 missile from a U.S. navy vessel successfully struck a defunct spy satellite over the Pacific tonight. The intercept was aimed at destroying the satellite before it reenters the earth's atmosphere, lessening the danger from falling debris that survives reentry, including the platform's large propellant tank, filled with toxic hydrazine.

The missile was launched around 10:30 p.m. EST this evening, and struck the satellite shortly after. Defense Secretary Robert Gates made the final decision to conduct the intercept.

Earlier in the day, it appeared that heavy seas around Hawaii would delay the intercept attempt. But the weather improved in the later afternoon, allowing the launch to proceed.

Pentagon officials say it may be a couple of days before the status of the fuel tank and its cargo are known. However, early reports suggested that the tank was destroyed by the missile impact.

Kurtz: Pakistan votes "no" to war on terror. Stanley Kurtz at NRO: 'Pakistan’s victorious opposition parties are signaling a new approach to terrorism. That strategy “is more likely to be responsive to the consensus of the Pakistani public than was Mr. Musharraf’s and is more likely to shun a heavy hand by the military and rely on dialogue with the militants.”' Read the rest at the link.
Strategy Page: Russia vs. China. Strategy Page:
The [Russian] government is making a lot of noise about rebuilding the armed forces, and another Cold War with the U.S., but this is all talk, to make the government appear like it's doing something. The military would need massive amounts of money (over $100 billion a year, for a decade or more) to restore any meaningful amount of military power. Nothing near that amount is forthcoming. The government is trying to get the population stirred up, so there is less resistance to the purchase of many expensive warplanes and ships. A lot of this necessary because China is buying less, and starting to offer their own stuff, often containing stolen Russian military technology, on the world market. China is threatening to offer its copy of the Su-27 (the J-11). Currently, half of Russian weapons export sales are Su-27s. The Chinese ignore Russian complaints about the stolen technology. To keep Russian weapons manufacturers in business, the Russian military has to buy more, to make up for the lost Chinese sales. Western firms are also going after the lucrative Indian arms market, which Russia has dominated for decades. Last year, Russia sold $7 billion worth of weapons overseas, and may have a hard time topping that this year.

While there is less kidnapping and gunfire in the streets, Russian criminals are still in business. Computer crime is increasing, apparently under the protection of the government. Large scale assaults on foreign banks, corporations and governments are traced back to Russia, yet Russian police refuse to cooperate in rounding up the suspects. At the same time, a former senior intelligence official, who defected to the West, explained how, in the 1990s, Russia stole half a billion dollars from the UN "Oil for Food" program that was supposed to be feeding Iraqis. Russian officials are still known to be ready to deal, if the payoff is big enough. Back home, the government is increasingly making up the rules as it goes along, sliding back to the customs so common when the Soviet Union existed. Those who make a lot of noise in opposition either flee the country, or get prosecuted on some trumped up charge.

The Russian military has a long-standing sense of worry about American technlolgy, too - and the recent satellite shoot-down isn't making them feel any better. China's fretting over it, too. (HT Tammy.)

Commentary. The Russian government has been griping and moaning about US missile defense plans - in Poland and the Czech republic, and now at home. I'll begin by making the obvious comment: If Putin's intentions toward the West aren't belligerent to begin with, why in the world should he be bothered by a defensive weapon? If Bush were saying, "Let's put lots of nuclear missiles in Europe and aim them at Russia," we could expect Putin to have a cow, and it'd be perfectly reasonable for him to do so. But if Vlad the Inhaler is having the vapors over a system designed to prevent Europe and/or America from being nuked, we've got to assume that he wants to nuke Europe and/or America. Why else would he respond with a threat to aim missiles at Poland and the Czech Republic?

(My response would be, "OK, fine. Let's put lots of nuclear missiles in Europe and aim them at Russia." But then, I'm not the President, and it's probably just as well.)

Unrelated, or perhaps not, is Norm Geras' post on the Left. After the obligatory caveats, Norm observes:
Nonetheless, there is a central piece of bad faith in the way that these three themes typically combine on the left to enable their partisans to evade a single inescapable fact: namely that, flawed as they may be, the capitalist democracies are democracies and none of the would-be anti-capitalist countries, anywhere, has managed to sustain comparably good or better democratic institutions over any length of time. Note that I do not say this means it could never happen; I don't believe that. What it does mean, however, is that the democratic institutions we are familiar with have yet to be improved upon in any of those places that some leftists are given to casting an indulgent eye upon even while they seek to distance themselves critically from the institutions they themselves benefit from and which are superior.

Unwilling to profess a clear allegiance towards what is democratically better, a certain type of leftist is always ready to make allowances for what is democratically worse. Is it any wonder, then, if his or her democratic avowals are regarded by many with suspicion?

A connection? Both in this phenomenon and in Moscow's belligerency there is an assumption of a zero-sum principle at work; that is, if you are to win, I must lose. Notice that I do not say it is a fallacy: if in the mind of the other party the game is a win/lose conflict, then they are simply acting according to their own set of rules and assumptions.

Does Russia have to threaten the West in order to be secure? Must leftists support the enemies of civilization to advance their own cause?

Are they really that weak? The answer is the same.

2008-02-20

Morning Report: February 20, 2008

More threats from the regime in Tehran, a terrorist leader turns up dead in the Philippines, and a voice of courage from the European Left. Finally, Portland's man in the Middle East has some thoughts on bad places ... and worse ones.

Debka: Ahmadinejad's belligerent speeches may mean imminent threat. Debka:
DEBKAfile’s military sources reports that the increasingly belligerent statements issuing from top Iranian leaders since the death of Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus earlier this month are seen as betokening serious intent.

President Ahmadinejad said Wed. Feb. 20: “World powers have created a black and dirty microbe named the Zionist regime and unleashed it like a savage animal on the nations of the region.” He was addressing a rally in the southern city of Bandar Abbas, site of the Revolutionary Guards’ command center and main bases. His speech was broadcast in full by state television.

Also Wednesday, an exiled Iranian opposition leader Mohammad Mohaddessin claimed Tehran had accelerated its nuclear weapons program, including the production of nuclear warheads.


CTB: Trifecta for the good guys. The Counterterrorism Blog reports: 'First, we nailed Al Qaeda commander Abu al-Laith al-Liby (or al-Libi, depending on your dictionary). Then someone (the Israelis? the Syrians?) stuck Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh, "the Bin Laden of the 80s," in his well-deserved coffin. Now comes word that the Filippino Army has probably found the remains of Dulmatin, a top Jemaah Islamiah member suspected of planning the 2002 Bali bombings which killed over 200, in a grave in the southernmost tip of the Philippines. Dulmatin was apparently killed in a battle there on January 31 between government troops and a group of Abu Sayyaf, the terrorists who gave him refuge after he fled Indonesia.' Full post at the link.

Danish Socialist leader to islamists: Get lost. Via Muslims Against Sharia: 'Hizb-ut-Tahrir is not only off the grid - they are completely off the chart. If they are so stupid that they really want Caliphs and Sharia intregrated then they pure and simple have come to the wrong country. They have nothing to do in the Danish society and they will not reach the goals they seek so heartedly. I have over the years learned that one should pick ones battles carefully. So an advise to Hizb-ut-Tahrir is - not friendly but with much consideration - that they with benefit can seek other pastures to roam. ...'

Long War Journal on Pakistan elections. The Long War Journal has a sober assessment of the election results in Pakistan:
Western watchers who have closely followed the election in Pakistan see the transition to democracy as being key to fighting the Taliban and al Qaeda insurgency that threatens to destabilize nuclear Pakistan and the wider region. Numerous attacks against the West and India have been hatched in al Qaeda training camps in the tribal areas. The US government hoped a coalition between Bhutto and Musharraf would provide the unity needed between the secular political class and the military to fight the rise of the Taliban and al Qaeda in northwestern Pakistan.

It is now unclear what action, if any, will be taken by the new Pakistani government. The PPP will need to align with one or more parties to form a government. A coalition with the PML-N makes action against the Taliban less likely as Sharif is opposed to military action. The PPP indicated is ready to form a coalition with the PML-N, which may push for the impeachment of Musharraf. The MQM and ANP will also oppose military action against the Taliban. A coalition with the PML-Q may be possible, but the PPP would face serious political backlash for aligning with the party blamed for the assassination of Bhutto and the usurping of the constitution.

And while the defeat of the MMA in the Northwest Frontier Province is a welcome development as the party has facilitated the rise of the Taliban by sponsoring peace deals, there is little reason to believe the ANP will fare better against the rise of extremism. ...

Nevertheless, President Bush sees the elections as a victory for the people of Pakistan, and Morning Report agrees. As the Chief says, "The question then is `Will they be friends of the United States?' I certainly hope so."

AQI officer killed in Diyala, Iraq. Bill Roggio at the Long War Journal: 'Multinational Forces Iraq has confirmed it killed a senior intelligence officer of al Qaeda in Iraq’s network in Diyala. Arkan Khalaf Khudayyir, also known as Karrar, was killed during a raid by “Coalition forces” in Khan Bani Sa’ad on February 17. Multinational Forces Iraq uses the generic term Coalition forces to describe Task Force 88, the special operations hunter-killer teams tasked with dismantling al Qaeda in Iraq’s senior leaders and wider network.'

Commentary. It's not Norway and it's not Denmark. It is an Arab country, a Muslim country, transisitioning to liberal democracy; and as Michael Totten reports on the dungeon of Fallujah, this is what a jail in Iraq looks like:
Next to the Joint Communications Center in downtown Fallujah is a squalid and war-shattered warehouse for human beings. Most detainees are common criminals. Others are captured insurgents – terrorists, car-bombers, IED makers, and throat-slashers. A few are even innocent family members of Al Qaeda leaders at large. The Iraqi Police call it a jail, but it's nothing like a jail you've ever seen, at least not in any civilized country. It was built to house 120 prisoners. Recently it held 900.

“Have you seen that place yet?” one Marine said. “It is absolutely disgraceful.” ...

How many are there now?
“How many prisoners are here right now?” I said.

“320,” Major Ibrahim said.

So the jail is “only” at triple capacity now.

“It's a jail,” Rich Crawford said. “Not a prison. None of them have been tried yet. Later they'll move to a prison if they're found guilty.”

First stop is the cell for minors:
The cell was the size of my living room. Two dozen children lived in this place. They slept on the floor on blankets and had no personal space whatsoever. The kids were grubby, but they didn't appear beaten down or even in bad spirits necessarily.

“Some of them are related to wanted men,” he said.

Then they go to the biggest adult cell.
150 men were smashed together in a single windowless room the size of my house.

“This is the biggest cell,” Sergeant Dehaan said.

No kidding.

There was no furniture. Most men sat on blankets and carpets. A few near the door cautiously stood up to greet us, but they did not shake our hands. They seemed slightly wary, and had a weird look of innocence on their faces, almost like the kids in the previous room who really were mostly innocent. ...

I stepped through the doorway and found a single Arabic-style toilet – basically a hole in the floor. It was, of course, filthy. The room smelled of strong sour urine. There was no wall or curtain for privacy. Dirty cooking pans and dinner plates were stacked in the toilet itself.

I'll let you go read the post for Michael's description of the cell where they hold suspected insurgents. ("Not all Middle Eastern terrorists are alike," Michael says. "These guys are like Arabic Hannibal Lectors.")

There are no women in the jail because, in Arab culture, arresting women simply isn't done.

I'm going to go back up to an earlier point in the post now, because this is the paragraph I want to focus on:
Iraqi Arab culture is slowly reverting back to itself now that the totalitarian regime of Saddam Hussein has been replaced. His government arrested women every day. They were often raped and viciously tortured by his mukhabarat agents.

Now I know Michael and he doesn't shock easily. If he was shocked by the conditions in the Iraqi jail, it must have been pretty bad. But Michael's been all over the Middle East and he knows how much worse things could be. And in Iraq, they used to be a lot worse.

The Western defenders of Arab and Muslim dictatorships are fond of saying that "those people live that way because it's their culture" and "you can't make the Middle East democratic, it's foreign to them." These folks worry about the intrusion of "Western-style democracy" in non-Western countries. (Funny though, China is Communist, and Communism is a European invention. You never hear these people complain about "Western-style Communism.")

The pro-fascist apologetics are disgusting and false. But as Michael's post shows, they are built on a grain of truth. As Michael knows from first-hand experience, there is an authoritarian, even repressive strain in Arab culture, as there is a rigorous gender hierarchy that often oppresses, but occasionally protects, women. This is why, working for freedom and democracy in the Middle East, it's important to be - and as a neocon I use this word advisedly - "realistic" in our expectations.

There is a difference of many orders of magnitude between the jail Michael saw - which is not Western-style democracy but perhaps Arab-style democracy - and the atrocities that came before it. If you don't believe me, go read the post on the Red Building at Sulemaniya. (And the pictures. Oh God, the pictures.)

If, like me, you've had the luxury of growing up in a place and time where torture and arbitrary execution are unknown, it's probably difficult to contemplate the vast range of suffering and depravity that separates the Dungeon of Fallujah from the Red Building at Sulemania. Try. Then you begin to understand why Michael says at the end,
It seems somehow inadequate, tone-deaf, and perhaps even wrong to say Fallujah’s disgraceful warehouse for humans is progress. But it is.

2008-02-19

Morning Report: February 19, 2008

Change is afoot in Cuba and Pakistan.

Castro steps down. Fidel Castro, Cuba's dictator for almost 50 years, has announced his retirement. Fox News: 'The end of Castro's rule — the longest in the world for a head of government — frees his 76-year-old brother Raul to implement reforms he has hinted at since taking over as acting president when Fidel Castro fell ill in July 2006.' Fausta has a roundup. Babalu has the complete text. Excerpt:
Ha llegado el momento de postular y elegir al Consejo de Estado, su Presidente, Vicepresidentes y Secretario.

Desempeñé el honroso cargo de Presidente a lo largo de muchos años. El 15 de febrero de 1976 se aprobó la Constitución Socialista por voto libre, directo y secreto de más del 95% de los ciudadanos con derecho a votar. La primera Asamblea Nacional se constituyó el 2 de diciembre de ese año y eligió el Consejo de Estado y su Presidencia. Antes había ejercido el cargo de Primer Ministro durante casi 18 años. Siempre dispuse de las prerrogativas necesarias para llevar adelante la obra revolucionaria con el apoyo de la inmensa mayoría del pueblo.

Conociendo mi estado crítico de salud, muchos en el exterior pensaban que la renuncia provisional al cargo de Presidente del Consejo de Estado el 31 de julio de 2006, que dejé en manos del Primer Vicepresidente, Raúl Castro Ruz, era definitiva. El propio Raúl, quien adicionalmente ocupa el cargo de Ministro de las F.A.R. por méritos personales, y los demás compañeros de la dirección del Partido y el Estado, fueron renuentes a considerarme apartado de mis cargos a pesar de mi estado precario de salud. ...

The Belmont Club observes:
Castro's letter confesses to a long health crisis; of which he was unsure he'd emerge alive. He apparently came through better than he hoped. But the sands were running out for him. And although he casts his resignation as the selfless act of a man determined to give way to younger leaders, a close reading of his letter indicates that he still hoped to hang on until it became plain his strength was no longer equal to his desire for power.

Ominously, Castro has no intention of giving up his power entirely. He intends to remain, like some kind of spectral force, the voice behind the curtain.


Musharraf's party concedes defeat. Elections in Pakistan brought an end to the government's support of President Pervez Musharraf. Fox News: 'Pakistan's ruling party conceded defeat Tuesday after opposition parties routed allies of President Pervez Musharraf in parliamentary elections that could threaten the rule of America's close ally in the war on terror.' Telegraph: 'Opposition parties led by the son of assassinated leader Benazir Bhutto and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif appear to have defeated President Pervez Musharraf, according to early results from Pakistan's parliamentary elections.' Meanwhile, the US is less concerned about obtaining permission for actions in Pakistan. MSNBC: 'It is an approach that some U.S. officials say could be used more frequently this year, particularly if a power vacuum results from yesterday's election and associated political tumult.' John Widmer at Random Jottings has some thoughts about moderate Pakistan. (Huh? "Moderate Pakistan?" Well, you never know.)
I can't say how much weight one should put on this article, Islam Needs Democracy, by Waleed Ziad, but it's damned interesting. I'd keep it in mind. As a general rule, I'd opine that whenever you hear that some country or group or movement is unified, monolithic (and supposedly unbeatable by us disorganized folks) you should be very skeptical.

And here's Waleed Ziad:
The only long-term solution may lie in the hands of an overlooked natural ally in the war on terrorism: the Pakistani people.

This may come as a surprise to Americans, but the Wahhabist religion professed by the militants is more foreign to most Pakistanis than Karachi's 21 KFCs. This is true even of the tribal North-West Frontier Province.

... So when the Taliban bomb shrines and hair salons, or ban videos and music, it doesn't go down well. A resident of the Swat region, the site of many recent Taliban incursions, proudly told me last month that scores of citizens in his village had banded together to drive out encroaching militants. Similarly, in the tribal areas, many local village councils, called jirgas, have summoned the Pakistani Army or conducted independent operations against extremists.


Commentary. I don't want to get too exited, but this news from Pakistan sure looks like a good thing. Here's an excerpt from the latest article at the Telegraph:
The result also restored some faith in the electoral process as the poll was broadly deemed to be fair.

An alliance of religious conservative and clerics was also ousted from power in two of Pakistan's four provinces.

Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, head of the pro-Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League-Q, said his party had accepted the defeat.

"We accept the results with an open heart," he said, conceding that he would be sitting on the opposition benches in a new-look parliament.

This passage, if factually true, tells you a lot: that the election was widely regarded as fair, that an islamist coalition has lost power, and that the outgoing ruling party has conceded defeat.

And despite media blather about a defeat for Washington's "ally in the war on terror" (and, by extension, a defeat for Bush), the obvious fact is that President Bush treated Musharraf as an "ally" only because he was in power - more or less - and was valuable, more or less, in that role. Now,
Despite warnings of rigging in the lead up to the poll, Senator Joseph Biden, chairman of the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee which observed the election, said the elections were credible.

He said that the results offered an opportunity for the United States to shift to a Pakistan policy less focused on Mr Musharraf.

See above. This, too, will be a good thing.

2008-02-18

Presidents' Day

The Presidents of the United States.

We tend to overlook the Presidents who were sandwiched in between the Revolutionary/Constitutional era and the Civil War. In fact, between Jackson and Lincoln, there were eight Presidents in 25 years (1836-1861) who served one term or less. They were: Van Buren, Harrison, Tyler, Polk, Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce, Buchanan. Most are forgotten now. Among these eight, only James K. Polk could be considered a "strong President".

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StTiCU_fqCg

I'm taking some time to read up on these men, and the time and the nation that they lived in. I'll post more soon.

Science News

Evolution: Four aspects of human thought. PhysOrg: ' In new work presented for the first time at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Marc Hauser, professor of psychology, biological anthropology, and organismic and evolutionary biology in Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, presents his theory of “humaniqueness,” the factors that make human cognition special. He presents four evolved mechanisms of human thought that give us access to a wide range of information and the ability to find creative solutions to new problems based on access to this information. ... These four novel components of human thought are the ability to combine and recombine different types of information and knowledge in order to gain new understanding; to apply the same “rule” or solution to one problem to a different and new situation; to create and easily understand symbolic representations of computation and sensory input; and to detach modes of thought from raw sensory and perceptual input.'

History: Napoleon not murdered, say Italian physicists. PhysicsWorld: 'The idea that Napoleon Bonaparte was murdered by arsenic poisoning appears to have been ruled out by new research by nuclear physicists in Italy. The team analysed samples of the French emperor’s hair that they had irradiated with neutrons and found that it contains about the same amount of arsenic as hair from several of his contemporaries — suggesting that the poison probably came from environmental sources such as wallpaper dyes, rather than from a malicious poisoner. ...'

Astronomy: Organics on Titan. Astronomy: 'Saturn's orange moon Titan has hundreds of times more liquid hydrocarbons than all the known oil and natural gas reserves on Earth, according to new data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft. The hydrocarbons rain from the sky, collecting in vast deposits that form lakes and dunes.'

Mathematics: MathWorld gets a new look. Wolfram Blog reports on the newest upgrades at Wolfram MathWorld. Also, if you are a math geek, do not miss Wolfram Demonstrations. It's crack for mathheads, baby.

Marine life: Save the sharks! PhysOrg reports that extinction may be looming in the future of many large shark species.

The Good News

Denmark MPs: Iranian regime "must be nuts". Judith Apter Klinghoffer:
This time the Danes are more united and more determined to defend their own freedoms. This time the Danish press acted as one. 23 newspapers reprinted the cartoons on the same day. The message of defiance was clear and inhibited the ability of politicians to kow tow to Muslim "sensitivities."

Iranian failure to take this into account led to its humiliating rebuff. The Foreign Affairs Committee of the Danish parliament was about to visit their Iranian counterparts. The Iranian Parliamentarians notified their future guests that they will refuse to meet with them unless an apology for the republication of the cartoons precedes the Danish MPs. The Danes responded by canceling the visit. Cultural understanding, they insisted, is a two way street.

Judith's friend further reports that 'the committee unanimously refused to deliver an apology for what Danish free media prints, and has canceled the planed trip to Iran, and has on public TV said that the Iranians must be nuts (Yes, these were the words), to come up with such demands, and that there's no way Danish politicians are going to visit the country under such conditions.' Arutz Sheva reports similarly blunt language from the Danes: 'Ten members of Denmark’s Parliament have cancelled a trip to Iran following Iran’s insistence that they apologize for the publication in Danish newspapers of cartoons depicting the founder of Islam, Mohammed. A member of the Danish Foreign Policy Committee explained Saturday that the lawmakers had been asked to condemn the cartoons. “They can’t and they won’t,” she said.' Meanwhile, dozens of Danish newspapers have reprinted the cartoons in a show of support for free speech.

Progress in Iraq. And even the New York Times admits it. Sunni extremism is now in retreat.

France may boycott Durban over anti-semitic, anti-Israel propaganda. JTA: 'Nicolas Sarkozy said France would not participate in the Durban II racism conference if it repeated the 2001 anti-Semitic debacle. "France will not allow a repetition of the excesses and abuses of 2001," the French president told CRIF, the umbrella body of French Jewish groups, in an address this week.'

European book fairs to honor Israel. The good news from France doesn't stop with Durban. Turning back to A7, we learn that the largest book fairs in France and Italy are honoring Israel: 'In recognition of its 60th year of independence, the State of Israel will be the "guest of honor" at two of Europe's largest book fairs this year. Dozens of Israeli authors have been invited to France and Italy for the events. The two fairs, each of which regularly draws upwards of 200,000 people, will feature displays and activities about Hebrew literature and the culture of the Jewish State. French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert are expected to open the five-day Paris Book Fair on March 14 ...' And in Italy, the Turin International Book Fair will open on May 8 - the Hebrew anniversary date of Israel's independence - and will feature Israeli books and films.

Patriots demonstrate at Silver Spring. Tom the Redhunter reports on counter-demos against the leftists at the Silver Spring, Maryland recruiting station.

At US-Islamic World Forum, keynote speakers sound a new tone. The Belmont Club:
Tamara Cofman, who's attending the annual 5th Annual U.S.-Islamic World Forum notices that anti-US rhetoric is way down this year. Instead of fire-breathing anti-American keynote speakers, "the opening keynote was instead delivered by President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, who argued that Muslims in Afghanistan and Bosnia were right to expect and accept American military intervention to relieve their suffering, and America was just in coming to their aid."

The reason for the change in tone has been a grudging respect for successes in American foreign policy and Washington's new focus on Iran.

Read the post to find out where a certain well-known American fits in the picture.

Morning Report: February 18, 2008

Middle Eastern threats against Europe, and a European secession.

Saudi officials threatened terror. Via IRIS, the Guardian reports:
Saudi Arabia's rulers threatened to make it easier for terrorists to attack London unless corruption investigations into their arms deals were halted, according to court documents revealed yesterday.

Previously secret files describe how investigators were told they faced "another 7/7" and the loss of "British lives on British streets" if they pressed on with their inquiries and the Saudis carried out their threat to cut off intelligence.

Prince Bandar, the head of the Saudi national security council, and son of the crown prince, was alleged in court to be the man behind the threats to hold back information about suicide bombers and terrorists. He faces accusations that he himself took more than £1bn in secret payments from the arms company BAE. ...

Read the full story at the link.

Iran threatens Netherlands government. Arutz Sheva: 'Iran has charged that a plan by a right-wing Dutch lawmaker to show a film portraying the Muslim religion as backing terror would be "a provocative and satanic act." It warned against allowing freedom of speech "to be used as a cover for assaulting the sensibilities and exalted moral and religious values which are respected by all of humanity," said Iranian Justice Minister Gholamhossein Elham. Dutch legislator Geert Wilders said his film, to be shown next month, shows the Koran as a book that incites murder.'

Kosovo declares indepencence; Bush recognizes. Fox News reports that the ethnic Albanian leadership of Kosovo has declared independence from Serbia, and that President Bush has recognized Kosovo. Serbia "made it clear that it would never accept Kosovo's statehood," according to the item. Debka has more: 'Half a dozen European Union members were ready to follow the US lead and recognize the fourth Muslim state to rise in Europe after Albania, Turkey and Bosnia. But Japan and Australia were in no hurry. And Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Romania, Slovakia and Bulgaria are opposed. Therefore, the 27-member EU bloc is far from a consensus. Russia, while failing to persuade the UN Security Council Sunday night to declare Kosovo’s declaration null and void, is backed by China.' Joel Rosenthal at Pajamas Media has a full analysis, contending that Kosovo is not really independent. Most of Kosovo's 2 million inhabitants are Muslim, but there are also about 120,000 ethnic Serbs. Strategy Page reports: 'The Serb government is preparing to back a "rejection movement" by Kosovar Serbs. The Kosovar Serbs claim they will not accept Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence. Serbia is expected to continue to insist on partition of Kosovo into an Albanian-dominated "Kosovo South" and a Kosovar Serb "statelet" that may ultimately join Serbia. The UN estimates that 120,000 Kosovar Serbs remain in Kosovo.'

"Israel hopes to destroy Hamas within a few months." Strategy Page: 'Israel has declared war on the Hamas leadership, and given the security services permission to do whatever they can to wipe out the Hamas officials involved in attacks on Israel. In (unofficial) cooperation with Fatah, which has the support of half, or more, of the Gaza population, Israel hopes to destroy Hamas in a few months. Fatah publicly condemns Israeli attacks on Hamas, but privately takes advantage of it by taking control of more neighborhoods in Gaza. Fatah support provides Israel with more information on who Hamas leaders are, where they are and when.'

In Iraq, pressure on Sadr and Iran-backed forces continues. Bill Roggio at the Long War Journal has the latest developments in the war against Iranian- and Mahdi Army-backed forces in Iraq. As for Sadr himself, he has to choose between extending the cease-fire, or ending it - which puts him in a tough spot. And that's just where we want him.

Briefly noted. Telegraph: Parviz Khan, UK terrorist who targeted Muslim soldier, gets life. Gateway Pundit: Eighth night of rioting in Denmark.

Commentary. No commentary today. Happy Presidents' Day.

2008-02-15

Morning Report: February 15, 2008

Crimes of love and hate.

Gunmen attack Gaza YMCA. Debka: 'In the latest attack on Christians in Gaza, 14 masked men tied up the security guards of the YMCA in Gaza City before dawn Friday, Feb. 15, blew up the library burning thousands of books, stole a computer and placed another bomb which did not explode. The Gaza center contains a school, a sports club and hall for weddings. The Gaza Strip has a tiny Christian community of 3,500 mostly Greek Orthodox members. Al Qaeda in Palestine vandals are suspected of this and previous attacks on Christian targets.'

Shooting at Northern Illinois University leaves 7 dead. Gateway Pundit: '6 students were shot dead- 21 more were injured. The gunman has been named unofficially as Steve Kazmierczak, 27. The shooting may have been related to a failed relationship-- with the rampage planned for Valentine's Day.'

Oxnard shooting leaves 14-year-old brain dead; gender bias suspected. LA Times: 'Ventura County prosecutors charged a 14-year-old boy with the shooting death of a classmate Thursday and said the killing in an Oxnard classroom was a premeditated hate crime. Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Maeve Fox declined to discuss a motive in the shooting or why prosecutors added the special allegation of a hate crime against Brandon McInerney, who was charged as an adult. But classmates of the slain boy, Lawrence King, said he recently had started to wear makeup and jewelry and had proclaimed himself gay. Several students said King and a group of boys, including the defendant, had a verbal confrontation concerning King's sexual orientation a day before the killing.' Full article at the link. SFGate: 'Prosecutors filed a charge of murder with hate-crime and firearm-use enhancements Thursday against a 14-year-old boy who will be tried as an adult in the school shooting of a classmate who has been declared brain dead but remains on a ventilator.'

Briefly noted. Judith Apter Klinghoffer on cartoon riots. American Islamic Congress slams Afghan journalist's death sentence. Via AIC, Project Nur to hold vigil at Afghan Embassy for Sayed Parwez Kaambaskh. CPD: Senator Lieberman on Iran. Phyllis Chesler reviews Edith Kurzweil bio 'Brave Partisan'. Barry Rubin: Peace must be made as well as desired.

Commentary. It's astonishing and sobering to consider all the various reasons people can dream up for doing harm to others who've done nothing to hurt them. It would be impossible to list all the different crimes of violence that have been committed since yesterday, just as it is impossible to do justice to all the words and acts of kindness and wisdom that have gone unnoticed in that time. Today's report represents an arbitrary sampling of both. Make of it what you will.

2008-02-14

Make Love, Not Jihad

V-day is Verboten-day in the theocratic Muslim world. Here's Robert Spencer at Human Events, via Muslims Against Sharia:
The ever-tolerant Muslim world is now condemning Valentine’s Day.

Jamaan al-Harbash, a member of the Kuwaiti parliament, has called for Valentine’s Day celebrations to be banned. “We call on the commerce minister,” he declared in a fine froth of moral indignation, “to perform his duties by banning celebrations of Valentine’s Day which is alien to our society -- and contradicts our religion’s values and teachings.” Another Kuwaiti MP, Waleed al-Tabtabai, chief of a committee in parliament that monitors “alien practices,” said his committee will undertake a study this week on how to stop Valentine’s Day from initiating the “moral corruption” of Kuwaiti youth.

Over in Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, the notorious religious police who go by the name of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice have banned red roses. The Virtue Cops have even ordered florists and gift shops in Riyadh to take any red item off the shelf, lest Saudi lovebirds associate red with hearts and start a-spooning. Nothing new in that: in 2004, the Saudi fatwa committee forbade Saudis from celebrating the day: “It is a pagan Christian holiday and Muslims who believe in God and Judgment Day should not celebrate or acknowledge it or congratulate (people on it). It is a duty to shun it to avoid God’s anger and punishment.”

This is not just an Arabian Peninsula thing, either. ...

Read the rest at the link. Happy Valentine's Day.
Makelovenotjihad
Make love, not jihad!

Morning Report: February 14, 2008

Fallout from the Mughniyeh killing, and more bluster from Russia.

Hezbollah vows retaliation for Mughniyeh hit. Hezbollah lashed out at the presumptive executioners of its Damascus-based kingpin Imad Mughniyeh. Debka:
"The blood of our slain commander will lead to Israel's demise," said the Hizballah leader, Hassan Nasrallah in a diatribe broadcast at the funeral of the group’s military commander Imad Mughniyeh Thursday, Feb. 18. “I say for the whole world to hear that our war will extend everywhere without restraints. The Lebanon War is not over; there is no ceasefire.” Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki flew in especially to pay his government’s respects to the dead commander twenty-four hours after a bomb killed the man high on America’s wanted list in Damascus. Thousands of chanting supporters carried the coffin through the streets of Beirut’s southern Shiite stronghold in pouring rain. Earlier, at the town center, thousands converged on Martyr’s Square to mark three years since the assassination of former PM Rafiq Hariri. Some 8,000 Lebanese army and security forces were deployed to keep the rival crowds apart amid the country’s tense political deadlock over the election of a president.

Israel Matzav comments, 'Afraid of pishing in his pants if he's seen in public, Hezbullah sheikh Hassan Nasrallah threatened Israel via a videotaped eulogy played at Imad Mugniyah's funeral in Beirut today.' Fox: 'Hezbollah's chief on Thursday vowed to retaliate against Israeli targets abroad after accusing Israel of taking the fight beyond Lebanese borders by assassinating militant commander Imad Mughniyeh in Syria.'

Iranian minister at Mughniyeh funeral; IRI chief thug to visit Iraq. Arutz Sheva:
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki has arrived in Beirut to attend the funeral of assassinated terrorist Imad Mughniyeh. Mottaki arrived in Beirut on a private jet and quickly traveled to the a-Dahiyeh neighborhood where the funeral is taking place.

Fox: 'Iran's hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will make a landmark visit to Iraq on March 2, the first-ever trip by an Iranian leader, the Iraqi government said Thursday. Ahmadinejad will meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and President Jalal Talabani during his two-day visit, according to an Iraqi government spokesman.'

Israel braces for attacks. Debka: 'Defense minister Ehud Barak said the entire national defense system is fully prepared and alert as heavy Israeli reinforcements, including homeland defense units, were rushed Thursday to northern Israel. Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi gave these orders Thursday, Feb. 14, 24 hours after a bomb killed Hizballah’s military commander Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus. ... Israeli forces have been placed on the highest level of preparedness against possible Syrian or Hizballah cross-border strikes. Rocket attacks by Hizballah against Israeli civilians are also taken into account, as well as possible Syrian air force incursions into Israel air space. ... Our sources report that the long-sought terrorist was finally dispatched by a small explosive inserted between the driver’s seat and the back seats, which destroyed only one part of the vehicle, leaving the front and rear intact. Mughniyeh was driving alone to a reception marking Islamic Revolution Day at the Iranian embassy in the Romana district.' Full article at the link.

Patarkatsishvili died of natural causes, police say. That's a preliminary finding, though. Fox: 'Georgian businessman and political activist Badri Patarkatsishvili died of natural causes, according to interim post mortem results, but extensive toxicological tests have not yet been carried out, British police said Thursday.'

From Russia, with love: Putin threatens to aim missiles at Ukraine, US bases. Strategy Page: 'Russia threatened that, if Ukraine joined NATO, and allowed parts of a U.S. missile defense system to be built in Ukraine, Russia would aim some of its ICBMs at Ukraine. The Russians are serious about this. There are numerous reasons why. Many Russians are still upset about how they lost the Cold War, and are no longer a superpower. The current crop of Russian leaders have been playing the nationalism card heavily. This includes making a lot of noise about NATO, and Cold War archenemy the United States, plotting to surround Russia and destroy it.' MSNBC: 'President Vladimir Putin on Thursday repeated his threat to aim Russian rockets at former Soviet satellite states if U.S. missile defense facilities are deployed there. Speaking about U.S. plans for interceptors in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic, Putin said that "our experts consider that this system threatens our national security and if it appears, we will be obligated to adequately react to this."'

Sarkozy won't meet with leaders who don't recognize Israel. Sure is a change from the old leadership in France, n'est-ce pas? A7: 'French President Nicolas Sarkozy told French Jews Wednesday he would not meet with any world leader who does not recognize Israel. Speaking at an annual dinner hosted by the Conseil Représentatif des Institutions juives de France (CRIF), Sarkozy reiterated his support for Israel and called for increased sanctions on Iran to force the Islamic regime to abandon plans to develop nuclear weapons.'

Cedar revival. Gateway Pundit has a roundup, with pictures, on the pro-Lebanese and anti-Syrian demonstrations in Beirut, on the anniversary of Rafik Hariri's assassination.

Briefly noted. Saudis to execute woman for "witchcraft".

Belmont Club offers daily roundups. And Morning Report is sincerely flattered. The Belmont Club, our first stop for first-rate current events analysis, is now posting daily news roundups like this one for February 14, 2008. One more reason to make the Belmont Club part of your daily reading.

Commentary. If it's true that the US has been trying to "play nice" with the assholes in Tehran, this latest turn of events might just rain on that little tea party. Ever since the inconclusive Israel/Hezbollah conflict of 2006, we've been waiting for the other shoe to drop. Well, that thunk you just heard was the sound of the second shoe dropping.

Washington has essentially told Israel "the Iranian nuke thing is your problem". But the Administration must have known that it would be only a matter of time before Israel saw itself as having no option but to attack the Iranian nuclear facilities. That, in turn, could trigger and open conflict between Iran and/or Syria, and Israel and/or the US. If that's the case, what was the purpose of the US/IRI negotiations? Stalling for time?

As I've said before (and as this petition argues), a limited strike against Iranian nuclear facilities, if not accompanied by a comprehensive regime change program, would if anything only set back the cause of liberty for the Middle East and security for the West. Regime change need not imply a military invasion, and if sufficient means exist to overthrow the islamist entity without a conventional military attack, this of course would be the preferable method. But Ahmadinejad and the mullahs have got to go.

There've been so many buildups and anticlimaxes on the US/Iran front that it's futile to try to predict what will happen next. But the Iranian/Syrian axis doesn't seem to be inclined to let this one slip by; and with Israel's government and military still licking their wounds after the humiliations of 2006 and Winograd, they are probably itching for an excuse to get another shot at Hezbollah.

Michael Ledeen is fond of saying "Faster, please." This time, he might just get his wish.

Happy Valentine's Day



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2008-02-13

Imad Mughniyeh

Imad Mughniyeh, the top Hezbollah man in Syria, was sent to meet his virgins by a car bomb in Damascus on February 12, 2008. Dreams Into Lightning is pleased to welcome Mughniye to the growing (but with plenty of room for more) list of dead terrorists.

Wikipedia: Imad Mughniyeh.
Imad Fayez Mughniyah (December 7, 1962 - February 12, 2008), also transcribed Mughniyya, Mogniyah, Moughnie, (Arabic: عماد فايز مغنية‎), alias Hajj Radwan, was a senior member of the Hezbollah organization, a militant Shia Islamist group in Lebanon. He was alternatively described as the head of its security section, a senior intelligence official and as a founder of the organization. Sometimes described as a "master terrorist", Mugniyah had been implicated in the 1983 bombings of the U.S. Embassy, and U.S. Marine and French peacekeeping barracks, which killed over 350, as well as the 1992 bombings of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires and the kidnapping of dozens of foreigners in Lebanon in the 1980s.

Limited information is known about him. He used the alias of Hajj. Mughniyah is included in the European Union's list of wanted terrorists. and had a US$5 million bounty on the U.S. Most Wanted Terrorist list.

According to his Lebanese passport application, Mughniyah was born in Tayr Dibba, a poor village in southern Lebanon. CIA South Group records state that he lived in Ayn Al-Dilbah; a ghetto in South Beirut. His father was a vegetable seller and during the civil war, his house was on the Green Line.

Little is known about his adolescence, but he is thought to have joined Yasser Arafat's Force 17 in 1976. His role at that time was as a sniper, targeting Christians across the Green Line.[8] At some point, he studied engineering at the American University of Beirut.

Mughniyah has been implicated in many of terrorist attacks in the 1980s and 1990s, primarily American and Israeli targets. These include the April 18, 1983 bombing of the United States embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, which killed 63 people including 17 Americans. He was later blamed for the October 23, 1983 simultaneous truck bombings against French paratroopers and the U.S. Marine barracks. The attacks killed 58 French soldiers and 241 Marines. On September 20, 1984, he attacked the US embassy annex building. The United States indicted him (and his collaborator, Hassan Izz al-Din) for the June 14, 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847, which resulted in the death of U.S. Navy diver Robert Stethem. He was also linked to numerous kidnappings of Westerners in Beirut through the 1980s, most notably that of Terry Anderson. Some of these individuals were later killed, such as U.S. Army Colonel William Francis Buckley. The remainder were released at various times until the last one, Terry Anderson was released in 1991.

He had been described as "tall, slender, well-dressed and handsome ... penetrating eyes," speaking some English but better French.


Meir Javendafar at
Pajamas Media: Another setback for Iranian intelligence.
The assassination of Imad Mughniyeh, Iran’s top man in Syria and Lebanon, should set off alarm bells in Tehran. His assassination, according to Iranian media sources, took place in the Kafarsoose neighborhood of Damascus, close to an Iranian school and the headquarters of the Syrian Mukhabarat (intelligence agency). At first glance, the elimination of such a highly valuable Iranian asset, under the very noses of the Syrians, could be taken as a sign that Western intelligence agencies have managed to infiltrate the once seemingly impenetrable walls of Iran’s intelligence operations abroad. ...

The assassination of Mughniyeh is likely to lead to a major restructuring of Iran’s intelligence operations abroad, and even at home. Mughniyeh was a man who traveled frequently between Tehran and Damascus. Therefore it is very possible that his assassins were tracking his movements inside Iran as well. The worst case scenario for Tehran would be if he was compromised by someone inside Iran, a scenario which Iran’s intelligence agency, known by its Farsi acronym as VAVAK, would quite likely be looking into.


Andrew Cochran at Counterterrorism Blog: Mughniyeh, as remembered by CTB.
It was a fitting end for someone who planned and executed numerous deadly terrorist attacks, including the 1983 bombings of the U.S Embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut and the 1994 bombing of the Buenos Aires, Argentina Jewish center. Mugniyah was indicted in the U.S. for his role in planning and executing the 1985, hijacking of TWA Flight 847, which resulted in the murder of one U.S. citizen.

Mughniyeh was also implicated in Hezbollah's kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers in 2006, which led to Israel's incursion into Lebanon. Contributing Experts posted several analyses at that time about his role in that conflict, including:

"Imad Mugniyah likely behind the capture of Israeli soldiers," by Bill Roggio, July 12: "The sophistication of this attack indicates Imad Fayez Mugniyah, Hezbollah's chief of military operations was directly involved. Mugniyah has a long history of successful military and terrorist operations across the globe. Mugniyah has a history of conducting similar snatch and grab operations against the Israelis."

"Inside Hizballah’s decision-making," by Magnus Ranstorp, July 14: "The file for handling special operations of this kind is usually left to Imad Mughniyeh, the elusive terrorist mastermind for Hizballah, who stands with one foot within Hizballah (reporting to Naserallah directly) and with one foot in Iran inside the architectures of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) and the al-Qods unit within the Iranian Pasdaran.

See original for links.

The Belmont Club: Mughniyeh killed in Damascus.
[Hezbollah] had recently been resupplied with rockets, shipped under the label of civilian supplies, past the UN Peacekeeping force. Hezbollah was also supposed to have sent reconnaissance teams disguised as journalist to the Lebanese/Israeli border to obtain video footage of certain areas. The strike on Mughniyeh suggests that parallel counterpreparations mirroring those of Hezbollah were simultaneously in progress. Mughaniyeh was regarded as a particularly difficult target. Wikipedia quotes Robert Baer, a former CIA officer as saying, "Mugniyah is probably the most intelligent, most capable operative we’ve ever run across, including the KGB or anybody else. He enters by one door, exits by another, changes his cars daily, never makes appointments on a telephone, never is predictable. He only uses people that are related to him that he can trust. He doesn’t just recruit people."


Across the Bay: Mughniyeh assassinated in Damascus.
To say that Mughniyeh was an Iranian asset is to understate his relationship with the Iranians. He was much more than an asset. He was an organic part of the Iranian regime, answering directly to Khamenei. Just like Hezbollah is itself an organic extension of the Islamic Revolution -- an Iranian ministry as one Iranian analyst told me -- Mughniyeh is like one step above that, answering directly to Khamenei according to some analysts.

As such, this is a big loss for the Iranians. It was perhaps best encapsulated in the statement by Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, who declared that "the march of Jihad against the enemy has lost an essential pillar." Operationally, this adds to the losses suffered by Hezbollah in 2006, which, unlike stockpiles of Katyushas, is much more difficult to replace.

But it's also a huge embarrassment for Syria. As Michael Rubin noted at NRO's Corner, "as important as who was killed is where." Not that we needed this, or Mughniyeh's aunt Fayza for that matter, to know that Damascus is terror central.

Coming a few months after the Sept. 6 hit on their nuclear facility in Deir el-Zor, this hit on a most-wanted terrorist, harbored in a joint Iranian-Syrian location in the heart of Damascus is a major embarrassment for Assad. Regardless who did it, it reflects quite badly on Assad, not long after his secret nuke facility was pulverized. Speculation over who did it only adds to the embarrassment no matter how you cut it, and whether Israel did it or not, the suspicion that it did would once again make a mockery of Assad's and Hezbollah's proclamations regarding the "loss of deterrence" after the 2006 war.


Thomas Joscelyn at The Weekly Standard: A master terrorist is killed.
But here is something that none of the press accounts I’ve read today have reported: Imad Mugniyah played an instrumental role in al Qaeda’s rise. I detailed Mugniyah’s role in al Qaeda’s terror in Iran’s Proxy War Against America, a short book published by the Claremont Institute last year. I won’t go into all of the details again in this post, but here is a quick summary of the relationship:

• Mugniyah met with Osama bin Laden in Sudan in the early 1990’s. The two agreed to work together against their common enemies, including America. Al Qaeda operatives were then trained by Mugniyah and other Hezbollah trainers, as well as Iranian personnel, in Sudan, Lebanon, and Iran. Both the Clinton administration, in its first two indictments of al Qaeda and bin Laden, and the 9/11 Commission found significant evidence of this early collaboration.

• According to Bob Baer, a long-time CIA operative who tracked Mugniyah for years, one of Mugniyah’s goons facilitated the travel of an al Qaeda operative en route to the November 19, 1995, bombing of the Egyptian Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan. The bombing was among al Qaeda’s earliest operations.

• There is no real doubt that Iran and Mugniyah’s Hezbollah were primarily responsible for the June 1996 Khobar Towers bombing. But the 9/11 Commission also found evidence that al Qaeda may have played some role. Intelligence indicates that al Qaeda was planning a similar operation in the months prior. And afterwards, in telephone conversations that were evidently intercepted, Osama bin Laden received congratulations from his fellow terrorists, including Ayman al Zawahiri.

• Al Qaeda’s August 7, 1998, embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania were modeled after Mugniyah’s bombings in Lebanon in 1983. According to the 9/11 Commission, bin Laden asked Mugniyah for help in executing such attacks and Mugniyah agreed to provide his assistance. Thereafter, al Qaeda adopted Hezbollah’s modus operandi: simultaneous attacks by suicide bombers. Al Qaeda’s August 7, 1998, bombings directly mirrored Hezbollah’s simultaneous strike against the U.S. Marine barracks and a headquarters for French paratroopers on October 23, 1983. In fact, the 9/11 Commission found that some of the terrorists responsible for the embassy bombings were trained by Hezbollah. This is a crucial point: al Qaeda’s most successful attack prior to 9/11--the August 7, 1998, embassy bombings--was modeled after Hezbollah’s operations.

• After the 9/11 attacks, Bob Baer immediately suspected that Mugniyah and his masters had played some role. (I also discussed this in a previous article, "Sy Hersh’s Overactive Imagination".) Amazingly, the 9/11 Commission found that senior Hezbollah operatives were aware of and facilitated the travel of many of the 9/11 hijackers. This evidence was so “disturbing” that the Commission called for a further investigation into the matter. Although he was not named by the Commission directly, Mugniyah was reportedly one of the senior Hezbollah terrorists involved.


Douglas Farah at Counterterrorism Blog: The importance of Imad Mughniyeh.
The assassination of top Shite militant Imad Mughniyeh is important for many reasons, not the least of which was his long-standing ties to Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda network and his crucial role as a link between the Iranian special forces and Hezbollah.

It is also interesting to note that Hezbollah, where Mughniyeh was a top strategist for many years, claimed him as their own immediately upon his death, despite denying responsibility in several of the actions for which he is most famous.


Michael Ledeen: Mughniyah.
Hezbollah was a joint Iranian-Syrian operation in which the Iranians ran the organization and Syria provided the base, and logistical support. As I was the first to report, he flew with Iranian President Ahmadi-Nezhad to Damascus for high-level meetings with Bashar Assad and key Syrian military and intelligence officers a while back. So he had very high standing among the terror masters.


Neocon Express: Imad Mughniyeh, the man behind the Beirut Marine barracks bombing killed.
What truly amazes me is that US media are far more fixated today on whether Roger Clemens was injected with steroids years ago, then they seem to be in this huge story involving the mysterious targeted assassination of a man responsible for hundreds of American lives.


Debka: Tehran, Damascus, Hizballah leadership believed coordinating retaliation for Mughniyeh’s death.
Iran, Syria and Hizballah are certain that the bomb planted in the master terrorist’s Mitsubishi Pajero in the heart of the Syrian capital was rigged by the Israeli Mossad. They are therefore most certainly setting up a major reprisal in the form of a terrorist hit or a military assault.

Wednesday night, all Hizballah’s top leaders went to ground. They even gave the mourning tent set up in the Shiite district of Beirut for their dead leader a wide berth.

Our sources report that the long-sought terrorist was finally despatched by a small explosive inserted between the driver’s seat and the back seats, which destroyed only one part of the vehicle. The front and rear remained intact. Mughniyeh was driving alone to a reception marking Islamic Revolution Day at the Iranian embassy in the Romana district.

DEBKAfile’s counter-terror experts note that the way the explosion was set up recalled the method used by the hit team which killed the Jihad Islami senior operative Ghaleb Ghali in Damascus in October 2004. Then, too, Syria held Israel responsible.


In from the Cold: Justice served.
Mughniyeh’s death represents a major blow for Hizballah. Along with his skills in organizing terrorist operations, Mughniyeh was credited with organizing the group’s defenses during the 2006 war with Israel. He also served as a primary liaison between the group and its patrons in Iran. In fact, Mughniyeh also held a position in the Iranian Quods Force, which provides extensive training and support for Hizballah.

Tuesday’s car bombing is also an embarrassment for Damascus, at least officially. A number of terror groups maintain offices in the Syrian capital, and operate there with relative impunity. As the Washington Post observed, the successful effort to eliminate Mughniyeh represents a “major breach” in Syria’s police-state security apparatus.


Remarks. The embarassment to the Syrian regime can hardly be overstated. As I commented on the recent Israeli airstrike on Syria, the message here seems to be "Syria, you are our bitches."

If sources like Stratfor are to be believed, back-channel negotiations between the US and Iran, centering on Iraq, may now be thrown into chaos or scrapped. This doesn't strike me as altogether a bad thing.

Morning Report: February 13, 2008

A big terrorist is killed in Syria, and another suspicious death in London.

Hezbollah terrorist Imad Mughniyeh killed in Damascus car bomb explosion. The Belmont Club reports that
Imad Muganiyeh, known to Americans as the man who killed Navy diver Robert Stethem; the man who tortured and killed CIA station chief William Francis Buckley, and possible mastermind of the 1983 Marine Barracks bombing in Beirut died in car bomb explosion in a posh suburb of Damascus. Hezbollah has blamed Israeli agents.

However, Israel has denied any involvement. The Times Online says "Israel today denied any involvement in Mughniyeh’s death. 'Israel rejects any attempt by terrorist organisations to attribute to it any implication in this affair,' said a statement from the office of Ehud Olmert, the Prime Minister." And indeed he had no shortage of enemies, ranging from the Saudi backers of Hariri to the United States.


Georgian opposition leader's death called suspicious. IHT: 'Badri Patarkatsishvili became rich in Russia during the 1990s through a partnership with fellow tycoon Boris Berezovsky — one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's most vocal foes. Police said they were treating the billionaire's death as suspicious.' Patarkatsishvili, 52, was said to have died of heart failure. Bloomberg:
U.K. police are treating as ``suspicious'' the death of Badri Patarkatsishvili, a Georgian businessman accused of plotting a coup against pro-Western President Mikheil Saakashvili.

Patarkatsishvili, a business partner of fugitive Russian billionaire Boris Berezovsky, died at 52 in the county of Surrey, near London late yesterday of an suspected heart attack.

The Telegraph: 'Friends of Mr Patarkatsishvili had handed a tape to Scotland Yard’s Counter Terrorism Command, which allegedly carries a conversation between a Georgian official and a Chechen warlord, Uvais Akhmadov, recorded in the summer of 2006, in which he offers to pay the Chechen to assassinate Mr Patarkatsishvili.'

Mo'toons return. Those dreaded Mohammed cartoons are back in the news. Fox: 'COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Denmark's leading newspapers Wednesday reprinted a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad that triggered rioting in Muslim countries two years ago. The newspapers said they republished the cartoon to show their firm commitment to freedom of speech after the arrest Tuesday of three people accused of plotting to kill the man who drew the cartoon depicting the prophet wearing a turban shaped like a bomb with a lit fuse.' Kudos to those Danish newspapers.

IraqPundit on Obama. IraqPundit responds to a Washington Post editorial:
We already know John McCain has had the courage to support Iraq even when it has been unpopular to do so. But the Democratic candidates are another story. "Thanks to Mr. Gates's readiness to adjust, it's more likely that President Bush's successor will inherit an Iraq that is moving slowly toward stability rather than spiraling into chaos," the WaPo writer says. "So it's worth asking why Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton remain so unwilling to alter their outdated and dogmatic views about the war."

Here's what the Washington Post had to say:
DEFENSE Secretary Robert M. Gates on Monday exhibited the sort of sensible and pragmatic judgment on Iraq that has been sorely missing in Washington during the past five years. Mr. Gates took office 14 months ago with the goal of reshaping the U.S. mission so that it would be sustainable past the end of the Bush administration; to that end he publicly embraced the goal of reducing the U.S. troop level to 10 brigades, or about 100,000 troops, by the end of this year. That would be a sharp reduction from the peak of 20 combat brigades and more than 170,000 troops after last year's "surge" -- which has succeeded in dramatically reducing violence in greater Baghdad and western Iraq.

After meeting in Baghdad with U.S. commander Gen. David H. Petraeus, Mr. Gates announced a change of tack. He said he agreed with Gen. Petraeus and other U.S. commanders that after the already-announced drawdown to 15 brigades and 130,000 troops by July, there should be "a brief period of consolidation and evaluation" before any further withdrawals are ordered. That means it's unlikely that the U.S. troop level will reach 100,000 by the time the next president takes office. But it also means that Mr. Gates is listening to his commanders and reacting to the actual situation in Iraq rather than insisting on a preconceived policy.

His judgment looks sound. ...

Go to the link to read the rest.

"We have been this young before." Neo-Neocon has a great post on Leon Wieseltier's piece on Obama in The New Republic.

Commentary. When I've heard liberals talking about the Democratic contest (and I live in San Francisco, where there's no shortage of liberals), I hear a consistent theme in criticism of Obama: that is, that he's a stuffed shirt, or lacks substance, or that there's no there there.

2008-02-12

Morning Report: February 12, 2008

While Russia struggles to remain relevant, the struggle for freedom goes on: American forces make headway in Iraq, but Kuwait takes a step backward.

Russian bombers buzz US carrier. Fox: 'U.S. fighter planes intercepted two Russian bombers flying unusually close to an American aircraft carrier in the western Pacific during the weekend, The Associated Press has learned. A U.S. military official says that one Russian Tupolev 95 buzzed the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz twice, at a low altitude of about 2,000 feet, while another bomber circled about 50 nautical miles out. The official was speaking on condition of anonymity because the reports on the flights were classified as secret.' Full story at the link. The Japanese say the flight violated their airspace. OpFor: 'So is this an opening shot in Putin's new "arms race" with the US? This smacks of an attempt to remain relevant, and a poor one at that. The Russians just are not the global threat they once were, and their aging military equipment is not the fearsome Red Army that it once was, poised to storm into Germany. As Russia struggles for relevance, this type of dangerous nonsense may continue.'

Russian espionage returning to Cold War levels: Norway. Strategy Page: ' February 12, 2008: Norwegian counter-intelligence officials believe that Russian espionage has returned to Cold War levels. There was a sharp drop in Russian espionage during the 1990s, and the new spying is directed more at economic than military information. Norway is a leading developer of off-shore oil drilling technology and techniques, and Norwegians believe it's these secrets the Russians are most interested in. Other nations are also after this technology, and their spies are also active in Norway.'

Totten from Iraq. Michael Totten posts the latest installment in his Anbar Province reports. Excerpts:
The United States plans to hand Anbar Province over to the Iraqis next month if nothing catastrophic erupts between now and then. The Marines will stick around a while longer, though, and complete their crucial last mission – training the Iraqi Police to replace them.

The local police force would collapse in short order without American financial and logistics support. “The biggest problem they have is supply,” Corporal Hayes said to me in Fallujah. “They're always running out of gas and running out of bullets. How are they supposed to police this city with no gas and no bullets?”

What they need more than anything else, though, in the long run anyway, is an infusion of moderate politics. Fallujah is in the heartland of the Sunni Triangle. The city was ferociously Baathist during the rule of Saddam Hussein. It is surly and reactionary even today. Even by Iraqi standards. Even after vanquishing the insurgency. Fallujans may never be transformed into Jeffersonian liberal democrats, but young men from New York, California, and Texas are taking the Iraqis by the hand and gently repairing their political culture. ...

Post-Saddam Iraq is not a police state. Even so, while it's orders of magnitude more moderate and humane than the genocidal and fascistic regime it replaced, many individuals in the government and police departments have rough authoritarian habits that are rooted in Arab culture itself as much as they are legacies from the previous era. ...

Meanwhile, Americans back home argue about whether water-boarding is torture and if it should be outlawed. I’ve had no exposure to interrogators who are tasked with extracting information from high-level terrorists like Khaled Sheikh Mohammad – who reportedly really was water-boarded. But I can say, for whatever it’s worth, that I heard nothing but “liberal” opinions about how ordinary detainees should be treated from every soldier and Marine who talked about it, both on the record and off. Military justice, I suspect, is more in line with the values of domestic liberals and Democrats than many probably realize.

Prisoner abuse is a serious violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. American Marines spend a great deal of time and energy trying to eradicate the practice in Iraqi Police departments. ...

Go read the whole thing at Michael Totten's page.

Kuwait's repressive cross-dressing law encourages police abuse. Already linked once at Dreams Into Lightning but worth a mention in Morning Report, Human Rights Watch reports that the Kuwaiti government has started arresting people under a new anti-cross-dressing law.
The law, approved by the National Assembly on December 10, 2007, criminalizes people who “imitate the appearance of the opposite sex.” ...

Security officials have arrested at least 14 people in Kuwait City since the National Assembly approved an addition (Article 199 bis) to Article 198 of the Criminal Code. The amendment states that “any person committing an indecent act in a public place, or imitating the appearance of a member of the opposite sex, shall be subject to imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year or a fine not exceeding one thousand dinars [US$3,500].”

Dress codes based solely on gender stereotypes restrict both freedom of expression and personal autonomy, Human Rights Watch said. The only known targets of the new Kuwaiti law have been transgender people – individuals born into one gender who deeply identify themselves with another. Kuwait allows transgender people neither to change their legal identity to match the gender in which they live, nor to adapt their physical appearance through gender reassignment surgery. The new law, coming after months of controversy, aims at further restricting their rights and completely eliminating their public presence. In September 2007, the newspaper Al Arabiya reported a new government campaign “to combat the growing phenomenon of gays and transsexuals” in Kuwait.

Full article at the link.

Commentary. The war against islamist fascism and ba'athist-style totalitarianism is a war for liberal values. It is a war for the liberty and dignity of the individual; and it's a war against the encroachment of organized repression from thugs who think they know what's best for you. Here is Andrew Anthony in the Guardian:
The job of the public intellectual - and the Archbishop of Canterbury must inevitably deal with the public - is to take complex issues and make them accessible. Rowan Williams seems to specialise in doing the reverse: making the simple incomprehensible. And when misunderstanding follows, he and his supporters duly blame the media.

It does seem odd that the archbishop has taken such an unblinkingly pragmatic approach to sharia courts - they're here, so let's accommodate them - while managing to maintain a virginal shock at the existence of the 24-hour news media. But leaving aside the over-reaction, the media ought to be congratulated for speedily unpicking the two key points from Dr Williams's tightly knotted argument: 1) that the adoption of some aspect of sharia law seemed "unavoidable"; and 2) that the idea of one law for everybody was a "bit of a danger".

All the subclauses in the world can't disguise the intention that underpins these positions. In seeking to incorporate a disputed deity's authority (which, by the way, it is blasphemous to question) into the common law, and by challenging the principle of equality under the law, Dr Williams launched a strategic attack on secularism.

He and his supporters argue that we should cherry-pick the nice parts of sharia that "converge" with British law. But if we're only talking about the civil aspects of sharia that are supposedly compatible - and here we have to ignore such inconveniences as gender inequality, forced marriages and polygamy - why does the law have to change?

Norm Geras adds: 'What is compatible with the law is compatible with it and therefore needs no special accommodation .... The Archbishop's words betoken the desire to extend the religious content and authority of law-making in this country and should be opposed on that basis. As Andrew Anthony says, we should be moving in the opposite direction.'

2008-02-10

Morning Report: February 10, 2008

Terrorists in Iraq continue to lose ground. What's the difference betseen a leftist and a liberal? The Gray Lady's blurry vision.

Terrorist's diary reveals despair. Washington Post via MSNBC reports on the diary of an Iraq insurgent calling himself Abu Tariq, Emir of al-Layin and al-Mashadah Sector. 'Over 16 pages, the al-Qaeda in Iraq leader detailed the organization's demise in his sector. He once had 600 men, but now his force was down to 20 or fewer, he wrote. They had lost weapons and allies. Abu Tariq focused his anger in particular on the Sunni fighters and tribesmen who have turned against al-Qaeda in Iraq and joined the U.S.-backed Sunni Sahwa, or "Awakening," forces.' The diary was found during a raid on a safe house in Balad, Iraq, on November 3 by US forces. Full article at the link.

Adam Gadahn said to be killed. Bill Roggio, Long War Journal:
One day after a Pakistani newspaper reported al Qaeda propagandist Adam Gadahn may have been killed in the same airstrike that killed al Qaeda leader Abu Laith al Libi, the rumor remains unconfirmed.

Speculation over Gadahn's presence at the al Qaeda safe house in North Waziristan began on Jan. 29, the day of the airstrike. An unnamed US official denied Gadahn was killed in the strike. But on Feb. 7, The News reported, based on statements from Western sources, that Gadahn was killed in the airstrike.

Gadahn was believed to be en route to the village of Khushali Tari Khel to attend an "an important meeting with other senior al-Qaeda commanders for planning the so-called spring offensive against US and NATO troops in Afghanistan," The News reported. Two other al Qaeda leaders, Abu Obeida Tawari al Obeid, a Saudi; and Abu Adel al Kuwaiti, were also reported killed in the North Waziristan airstrike.


Totten: Assad suckers Obama. Michael J. Totten: 'Barack Obama is not a leftist. He is a liberal. The difference between an American liberal and an American leftist on Lebanon is enormous. I can’t tell you how many Western leftists I’ve met who ran off to Beirut where they endlessly excuse or even outright support Hezbollah. ... Obama’s problem isn’t that he’s on the wrong side. His problem is he’s the latest in a seemingly limitless supply of naïve Westerners who think they can reason with Syria’s tyrant Bashar Assad.' Go to the article in Contentions at Commentary for the rest.

Briefly noted. "The declining terrorist threat."

Commentary. Phyllis Chesler takes on Noah Feldman and the New York Times for its oddly selective sympathy for religious wearers of head coverings ... among certain religions, but not others.
Here’s an idea: In a gesture towards even-handedness, perhaps The Paper of Record might also agitate for the right of European Jews to wear headcoverings (kipot or yarmulkes) without risking being cursed, beaten, or knifed to death? Better yet: How about some even-handed agitation for the religious rights, not only of Muslims in Turkey, but of Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Ba’hai, and Zoroastrians, to practice their religions openly in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Indonesia—without being arrested and stoned to death?

Indeed.