Memorial Day

Please take a moment to remember those who have given their lives in the defense of freedom.

I had the privilege of serving in the armed forces of the United States for ten years. During my four years in the Marine Corps, my unit took part in Operation Desert Shield / Desert Storm. Our story is told here:
1st Light Armored Infantry Battalion, USMC

The Marines we lost are remembered here:
In Memoriam

(Mac users: This site is best viewed in Microsoft Internet Explorer; the navigation menus don't show up in Safari and Firefox.)

Have a pleasant Memorial Day weekend. Enjoy the blessings of liberty - and remember, freedom brings responsibility, so celebrate responsibly.

UPDATE: Mamamontezz has Memorial Day posts here and here. Go check 'em out.

The Long Road Home

My reflections on Desert Storm. I served with the First Light Armored Infantry Battalion in the 1990-1991 Kuwait campaign. This item was originally posted here.

Asher Abrams, 1st LAI Battalion USMC, 1989-1993
Posted to the unit veterans’ bulletin board.

“That is a chapter of ancient history which it might be good to recall; for there was sorrow then too, and gathering dark, but great valour, and great deeds that were not wholly in vain.”
-- J.R.R. Tolkien, ‘The Lord of the Rings’ I:2

“It is not your job to finish the task -- but neither are you free to abandon it.”
-- Rabbi Tarfon, 1st century

We gave what our leaders asked of us. If they had asked more, we would have given more.

Before the ground campaign began, we were told that the American forces’ final objective would be Baghdad, and that we would eliminate Saddam Hussein. As we all know, this did not happen. “The word was passed; the word was changed.” But we did liberate Kuwait.

All of us need to know that what we are doing has meaning and purpose. This is especially true in war. War is a hard thing -- having a reason gives us the motivation and the will to fight. Sgt. Michaels talks about this in his book (pp. 97-100): “It’s about my comrade, and his tiny Kuwaiti flag...” I don’t think this is naive. I think it is honest, truthful, and inspiring.

Nothing we do will ever be complete or perfect. If you’ve read ‘The Lord of the Rings’, or seen the movie, you might have noticed that theme. It’s not a story of superheroes, but of little people who are at the mercy of forces greater than themselves. They don’t set out to do great things; they love their home and dream of returning to it. They confront evil in a world that gives them no choice. Only then do they discover what they are truly capable of. Their victory comes with the loss of teachers, leaders, friends, and innocence. But they win, and some come back alive. It falls to them to tell the tale.

One of Dave Snyder’s favorite sayings was, “This isn’t fun anymore. I want to go home!” What made it funny, of course, was that in the military you can’t go home when you want, and a lot of what you do isn’t fun. But in the end Dave got his wish -- he went home before the rest of us.

Those of us who returned alive from Desert Storm have done many things with our lives. Some are still defending our Nation, either as “lifers” or as defense or security personnel. Others may have turned to teaching, creativity, or volunteering, enriching other people’s lives in whatever way we can. (Ken has contributed this site, where we can share our thoughts and memories, and honor our fallen comrades.) Many of us have married or had relationships, raised children, or discovered things about ourselves we had not known before. All of us have given of ourselves, and continue to do so.

We must all, each of us, find our purpose in the world. In war, your purpose is clear: defeat the enemy and come back alive. Life off of the battlefield is not so simple. All of us must find our own way home. It is a long, hard road.


to Arthur Chrenkoff for the link.

Posting Break

Dreams Into Lightning will be on a posting break for the week ending June 4 (this Saturday). Morning Report will be on leave. With the exception of a Memorial Day piece, and possible one or two short items today, there will be no new posts until Sunday, June 5.

Have a pleasant and safe Memorial Day weekend. See you next week.


Poison Pill: The Media Today

"Someone is trying to make us look bad." That seems to be the message for Patrick D. Healy in this New York Times editorial on the media's credibilty. (Hat tip: Democracy for the Middle East.)

For Healy, the operative metaphor is the case of the cyanide-laced Tylenol from way back in the 1980's. I'll let Patrick explain:
SO many Americans apparently now see journalists as self-interested, careerist and unprofessional that perhaps it would make sense for media executives to call up another group of bosses who once faced fundamental questions about their product: the makers of Tylenol in the 1980's.

After all, Johnson & Johnson proved that credibility, not to mention market share, could be regained after scandal - in its case, a series of deaths caused by cyanide-laced capsules some 20 years ago. Part of the strategy was to portray the company as a victim in its own right.

But as Healy admits a few lines later, "It would be hard for the media to pitch itself as a innocent victim of its own shortcomings."

No one is secretly stuffing bad reporting into the TV and print media while the editors' backs are turned. The MSM have only themselves to blame for the state of affairs, and they don't have much time to fix the problem.

And there's the key concept that Healy misses: this is not a PR issue, it is a quality issue. The media need to fix the problem, not just improve their image. Or to return to the Tylenol metaphor, they need to imagine that every newscast, every newspaper, every magazine is a bottle of pills, which is going to be ingested by the consumer. They need to make it their business - their responsibility, their personal mission - to ensure that the product contained therein is nothing but the purest "medicine". This will be a bit more complicated than adding a new layer of shrink-wrap to the packaging.

And here's where the New York Times ventures into territory charted by Neo-Neocon.

Healy writes: "With credibility in mind, several news executives are now trying to limit the use of anonymous sources." A-ha! Now perhaps we are getting somewhere. How long has this practice been with us, anyway?

Neo writes:
Well, it turns out you can blame it on Watergate.

The recent prominence of anonymous sources in the Newsweek Koran-flushing story tweaked my curiosity about the history of the practice.

To the best of my recollection, the newspapers of my youth attributed every quote to an actual named person--not that I was paying a whole lot of attention at the time to subtleties like that. Now, however, it seems as though articles are often merely glorified gossip columns full of anonymous commentary--a sort of "he said, he said" kind of journalism--especially any article written by Seymour Hersch, which usually consists of nothing but a long string of such tidbits.

The only thing we know for sure is the identity of the article's author. We are asked to take the facts on trust, without a chance to evaluate the source of the remarks. This over-reliance on the anonymous source gives both the journalist and his/her informant an overwhelming power, and takes away our ability to judge the veracity of what we are being told. I believe it's one of the most pernicious trends in journalism.

This practice seems to be the logical development of a phenomenon that started with Vietnam and became stronger with Watergate. ...

As usual, Neo nails it. Read her whole post - it's beautifully written, carefully thought out, and meticulously researched. But meanwhile, back at the Times, the thought of breaking that anonymous quote addiction is already giving Healy fits of withdrawal:
But reducing anonymous sources could have its limitations. Many journalists, believe it could undermine the ability to get at the truth that so many readers and viewers believe the media is missing or trying to avoid.

And even if the news media outlets were squeaky clean, somehow freed of all human failings, there would still be Americans whose biases would lead them to distrust the media.

("Whew! Well, I guess we're off the hook. If we stop using anonymous quotes, we won't be able to get at the truth ... and anyway, folks love us for our imperfections, right?")

"Many journalists believe ... " You see? He can't even write an editorial about anonymous sources without quoting an anonymous source.

If the MSM really wanted to clean up their act, they might follow these sensible guidelines, devised by prominent journalists in a 2003 Poynter report:

• Anonymous sources should be encouraged to go on the record.

• We should weigh the source’s reliability and disclose to readers the source’s potential biases.

• The more specific we can be in describing the source in the story, the better.

• Anonymous sources should not be used for personal attacks, accusations of illegal activity, or merely to add color.

• The source must have first-hand knowledge.

• Journalists should not lie in a story to protect a source.

(Hat tip, again, to Neo.) These are sensible guidelines, a first step towards curbing the use of anonymous sources. They do not "undermine" jounalists' ability to get the truth out, they enhance it.

But this isn't what the New York Times wants to hear. And so, after bravely facing up to the enormity of the problem, Patrick Healy retreats into utter denial. The last lines of his column are almost painful to read:
And even if the news media outlets were squeaky clean, somehow freed of all human failings, there would still be Americans whose biases would lead them to distrust the media.

Analysts say that the political partisans who are most likely to be critical of the press are also among the most reliable and hungry consumers of the news.

Maybe therein is a silver lining: if the people who distrust you the most are also many of your most devoted customers, perhaps survival is assured. They have accepted flaws as part of the bargain of following the news.

Well, there's the sound of confidence for you. Especially that last paragraph - "maybe" and "perhaps" in the same sentence! And maybe, perhaps, I might possibly be the Queen of the Space Unicorns. There's always hope, right?

Earth to the MSM: The public doesn't trust you. Deal with it. You folks at the New York Times want the public to "trust" you? Listen, I'll let you in on a secret: My readers don't trust me, either - and I don't expect them to. That's the whole idea. I have to earn their confidence, and keep it, every single day.

No one is perfect, and the human mind is limited. Sometimes a thing can look like one thing, and be something else, or nothing at all. (Ask me about green lasers and Coptic Christian murders.) What bloggers demand of themselves - because their audiences demand it of them - is a commitment to openly acknowledging past errors and learning from them. And even more, a commitment to getting the story right the first time.

"Scrutiny is intense. The Internet amplifies professional sins, and spreads the word quickly. And when a news organization confesses its shortcomings, it only draws more attention." No kidding. The internet does exactly the same thing to us bloggers - that's why we treat our medium, and our audience, with the utmost respect. "Also, there is no unified front - no single standard of professionalism, no system of credentials." All respectable bloggers live by a strict code that forbids concealing our errors or reporting dubious "facts". This "single standard of professionalism" - and its attendant "unified front" - may soon become more concrete with the help of Roger Simon and the nascent Pajamas Media organization.

As I've said before, a growing segment of the population are willing to take a cue from Neo's cinematic namesake by "swallowing the red pill" and awakening from the pseudo-reality of the media matrix. The problem for the media, then, is not one of image, but of substance. The mainstream media must adapt to a more critical and demanding public - or face extinction.

Morning Report: May 27, 2005

Pakistan bomb kills at least 18. Debka reports: 'Blast at Bari Imam shrine in Pakistan capital of Islamabad kills at least 18 people early Friday. Police believe suicide bomber struck as thousands of Sunni and Shiite Muslim devotees were celebrating festival. Shrine is near government buildings and diplomatic enclave.' Updates at Command Post. (Debka, CP)

AUT ends Israel boycott. Britain's Association of University Teachers voted to strike down a boycott of two Israeli universities. Ha'Aretz reports: 'Britain's biggest union of university teachers voted yesterday to end its boycott of two Israeli universities. The decision to cancel the boycott passed by a two-thirds majority. The council of the 40,000-member Association of University Teachers (AUT) announced it had decided in a special session to overturn the boycott against Bar-Ilan and Haifa universities immediately. The measure, which had drawn outspoken criticism, was put in place last month.' (Ha'aretz)

Iraqi Operation Thunder targets insurgents. A major offensive by Iraqi and US forces called Operation Thunder (no connection with the Iranian dissident action of the same name) is set to begin in western Iraq. Command Post states: 'In the wake of American led offensives in Western Iraq and Haditha, the Iraqi government has stated it is prepared to commit a massive force to take the initiative away from the insurgency. Iraqi Defense Minister Dulaimi has announced Operation Thunder will commence shortly and will consist of over 40,000 Iraqi troops. The purpose is to secure Baghdad then fan out to other trouble spots, presumably in the restive Anbar province. ...' Full details at the link. (CP)

Woman TV host killed in Afghanistan; station won't buckle to terrorists. A woman television host was murdered in Afghanistan, but the station won't give in to intimidation, according to this item from the Feminist Majority Foundation's Feminist Daily News: 'A 24 year-old Afghan woman who was a presenter on a popular music program on a private television station in Kabul was shot and killed in her home last Wednesday. Shaima Rezayee was fired from her job with Tolo TV in March after pressure from conservative mullahs, who complained about the “un-Islamic values” of the show, according to the Times Online. The program was also criticized by the Ministry of Information and Culture for the pop videos that were shown and for “casual” conversations between male and female presenters. Saad Mohsenia, who heads Tolo TV, told the Christian Science Monitor that there are no plans to change the programming following Rezayee’s murder, stating, “…we do not allow individuals to dictate the terms to us, to act as terrorists.” ' (FMF)

US attorney says no authority to enforce gay nondiscrimination. The Washington Blade reports: 'Scott J. Bloch, head of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, startled gay activists this week after testifying before Congress that he does not have the authority to enforce a ban on discrimination against federal employees based on sexual orientation. “We are limited by our enforcement statutes as Congress gives them,” Bloch said when asked to explain his stance. “The courts have specifically rejected sexual orientation as a class protection.” ... The White House released a statement in April 2004 expressing President Bush’s support for a longstanding policy that bars discrimination based on sexual orientation in the federal workplace. “Longstanding federal policy prohibits discrimination against federal employees based on sexual orientation,” the memo said. “President Bush expects federal agencies to enforce this policy and to ensure that all federal employees are protected from unfair discrimination at work.” The U.S. Office of Special Counsel is an independent federal agency that works to protect federal employees from discrimination and from retaliation in cases where employees act as “whistleblowers,” by reporting corruption or incompetence.' The Blade adds that Human Rights Campaign and Log Cabin Republicans have called for Bloch's resignation. GayPatriot clarifies that 'Bloch has based his belief on the fact that since no federal law bars discrimination based on sexual orientation, his office lacks a mechanism to enforce the Executive Order and longstanding policy.' However, GP adds, 'while Mr. Bloch's office may not be able to prosecute federal officials who discriminate based on sexual orientation, it should be able to reprimand them for such discrimination and protect the employee claiming discrimination.' (Blade, GP)

State of the Insurgency. Today's analysis at The Middle Ground concludes that the Iraq insurgency is having difficulty recruiting, and will be operating at a significantly degraded level in the next few months: 'Recall that these groups are small, insular cells. Working relations are built on absolute trust and not easily won. As much as some might believe otherwise, money is not handed over like candy at a barmitvah. Particularly, in today's atmosphere of slowly closing financial resources and other issues making it difficult just to "send money, will write". Requests are made and approved through regular, nearly beaurocratic processes and approved further up the food chain (see AQ manifest and other stories regarding operations, including September 11). Whether Zarqawi died, is wounded or just took the low road out of Dodge to save his ass, operations will be extremely slowed down for a bit. ...' (TMG)

Good news from Iraq. Morning Report is pleased to announce that it will begin carrying the series "Good News from Iraq" on a regular basis. From today's edition: 'You might remember Dhia Muhsin, carpenter from a working-class Baghdad neighborhood of al-Dora, who became a celebrity of sorts back in March, when he and his nephews stood up to insurgents who terrorized his area and in a firefight lasting half an hour killed three of them and forced the rest to retreat. Well, two months on, and Muhsin is still ready to take on any intruders: “I expect them (the insurgents) to come back and I’m ready to face them,” says the 33-year old who seems to have inspired his neighbors ...' Read the rest at the link. (GNFI)

Guantanamo: Disgrace Yes, Gulag No

Michael J. Totten offers the best assessment of the human rights abuses, real and otherwise, at the US detention facilities in Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. Quoting Hitchens, Michael goes on to add:
One reason [Christopher Hitchens] is able to write these kinds of sentences without being dismissed as a knee-jerker is because, well, he isn’t a knee-jerker. He doesn’t exaggerate, he doesn’t describe as torture things which aren’t torture, and he doesn’t wallow in moral equivalency.

... It’s exactly the sort of thing those of us who are repulsed by prisoner abuse, vastly-milder “Koran abuse,” extraordinary rendition, and all the rest of it need to make it all stop – or at least be properly condemned and punished wherever and whenever it is uncovered.
What we don’t need are hysterical heavy-breathers like Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International, describing the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as the gulag of our times as she did in the foreword to the group’s latest annual report. ...

Go read the whole post at the link.


Patriots, Rabble Rousers, and Comic Strip Artists to Watch Out For

Alison Bechdel of Dykes to Watch Out For got a surprise in her e-mail recently:
Imagine my surprise when I saw David Horowitz’s name in my in-box the other night. He’s the once-radical-now-conservative force behind Students for Academic Freedom—an organization that is more or less to academic freedom what Bush’s Clear Skies Initiative is to reducing mercury emissions.

David was asking for permission to reprint a recent episode of my comic strip on the SAF website. It’s the one where the conservative student Cynthia is tabling for SAF, and Ginger, her professor, engages her in a little Socratic dialogue ...

I've posted previously on Alison Bechdel's character Cynthia. I'm planning to write a longer post soon about Cynthia; the strip is fun, beautifully drawn, and well worth reading on its own, but the introduction of a conservative character is especially interesting.

MJ at Friday Fishwrap is still steaming after spotting a certain unbecoming resemblance in the Desert Sun. These memorable comic book covers seem to have lightened her mood a bit, though.

Also on the wild side ... Beth and Wintermelonsoup/Nerdstar spent an exciting weekend at the zoo, which might have helped to take Nerd's mind off her ailing grandpa. And while looking for jobs in their new home, Beth muses on how not to be out as an unrecognized military spouse.

Makes you wonder, doesn't it? The lions can do whatever they like in front of a lot of schoolkids ... but two adults in a loving, committed relationship have to keep it a secret.


Arab, Muslim Women Today

Ayaan Hirsi Ali has some words for today's Left at Transatlantic Intelligencer (hat tip: LGF):
Because the left is exactly like the Muslims! I wanted to give priority to the defense of immigrant women who are victims of domestic violence. They said to me: “No, that’s not a priority! The problem will take care of itself when the immigrants have jobs and are integrated.” It is exactly what the Imams say who demand that we accept oppression and slavery today because tomorrow, in Heaven, God will give us dates and raisins…. I think we need first to defend the individual. The left is afraid of everything. But fear of giving offense leads to injustice and suffering. ...

Go to the TransInt link for the full, translated quote. Original French link is there also.

Nadz reads the celebrity blogs so you don't have to. Find out what Michael Moore, Moby, Rosie O'Donnell, and Barbra Streisand are spewing ... Also check out her post on shifting the blame. Excerpt:
Women's rights

The problem: Don't get me started. Ok, everything. Read my past entries for details.
AlJazeera pundit: Why do Americans always tell us what to do? There are problems for women everywhere around the world, so why focus on the fact that we treat women like shit? Because you have a hidden agenda to make Arabs look bad, and to control us! You want us to feel humiliated! Oh, I'm so humilated!
Nadz: So now you know what it's like, jerk. Think you're the only person on the planet who has felt embarrassed or degraded? The reason people criticize the ME over women is because we are one of the world's most mysogynistic regions. If that bothers you, don't tell others to shut up, change it! Instead of blaming colonialism and American imperialism, try demanding gender equality.
AlJazeera pundit: Ah, but they don't really want gender equality! They want us to be just like them, or else. We'll do it our own way, in our own time, on our own terms.
Nadz: Yeah, I'm sure women's rights are really high on your list. That's why you've either done nothing or apologized for doing nothing these past few decades. It's in everyone's interest to have a more egalitarian society - and women's rights are not just a "western concept". It is a universal issue.

As always, read it all at the link.

Irshad Manji is in fine form (and when isn't she?) with this response to a reader who claims she is offending 98.9% of all "true Muslims" and should write about fashion instead:
First, am I to censor myself because you are offended? Suppose I told you that I’m offended by the fact that you’re offended. Do you then have an obligation to clam up, simply because I’m offended? Of course not. Offense is the most minor price of breaking deadly silences. Deal with it.

Second, how did you determine that that 98.9% of true Muslims in the world are offended by me? Why not 98.7%? Or 99%? Please cite your sources, as I do with every claim I make in my thoroughly un-academic book.

Finally, I appreciate your suggestion to write about fashion. It’s certainly up my alley, since I sit on the inter-faith editorial board of Seventeen magazine. I can see a title now — The Cardinal’s Sin: What Catholic Priests Can Learn from Hijab-Wearing, CNN-Watching Muslim Housewives. If you’ve got a better title, bring it on.

Go to the link for Irshad's current posts (updated twice a month).

Fayrouz saw the latest "Star Wars" (Revenge of the Sith) and posts some plot spoilers. For real excitement, read the rest of her post to learn about a handshake between officials of two Middle Eastern countries (hint: it wasn't Iran and Syria). Fayrouz concludes: "Whether some pessimists want to admit it or not, tides of change have started to hit the Middle Eastern shores."

Morning Report: May 24, 2005

Operatioin Squeeze Play brings results. Debka reports: 'Joint Iraqi-US military swoop on guerilla and terrorist hideouts in Baghdad nets another 143 armed men bringing Operation Squeeze Play total to 428. Operation mounted to catch Abu Ghraib detention facility assailants continues.'

Daily Demarche: No fence is good enough. Diplo-blog The Daily Demarche compares five policy experts' ideas about the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, and concludes: 'I want our troops home, and I am more than certain that they want to come home. But they are there today because the job was not finished the first time. We failed to uphold our promise to the people of Iraq under the President’s father, and the situation degenerated. Is there anyone out there today who thinks that leaving Iraq tomorrow will result in a better future for the Iraqis, the Middle East or America? I would love for them to tell me how that can come to be. Until that time we owe it to the people of Iraq and the ME to see the job through. ...' Read the full article at the link. (Daily Demarche)


Iran Report

Op Thunder hits Brussels. On May 18, Operation Thunder 1 struck the European Parliament, as Iranian expatriates in Europe staged an audacious act of civil disobedience:
Thursday, May 19, 2005
Update on Operation Thunder One - in Brussels

I reported earlier today, Anjomane Padeshahi, lead by Foroud Fouladvand launched Operation Thunder One. The campaign appears designed to shame the European Union into ending its support of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

One of our readers, Arash Kamangir, left the following report:

Dear DoctorZin,

Europe just blocked all media coverage. There were so many cameras and reporters on the scene, but nothing was reported. Its the most ignored event of the whole year.

Operation Thunder 1 started in the morning of May 18, 2005. There were around 151 vehicles parked in front of the EU Parliment Building, in Brussel, Belgium. The cars were chained together, and the people were out side and inside of the cars depending on the situations.

The operation started with couple of hours delay, since EUROPEANS some how expected this, they checked every cars. However, Anjomane Padeshahi's soldiers manage to get there.

Once again, EU police, broke their own law and committed crimes and they used force against non-violent soldiers (IRANIANS). ...

Link here: Free Iran - Protesters Block EU Parliament

Rice: World "must not tolerate" nuclear IRI. From VOA, via Regime Change Iran:
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Monday said the world must not tolerate any Iranian attempt to develop a nuclear weapon. She spoke as European foreign ministers prepared for new talks with Iranian officials on the nuclear issue.

"The United States has focused the world's attention on Iran's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction," she said. "And along with our allies we are working to gain full disclosure of Iran's efforts to obtain nuclear weapons. The world must not tolerate any Iranian attempt to develop a nuclear weapon, nor can it tolerate Iran's effort to subvert democratic governments through terrorism."

The revolution will not be televised. Free Republic (ht: RCI) posts photos of the student protests that are taking place in Tehran RIGHT NOW.

Another One Leaves the Left

This time, it's the San Francisco Chronicle carrying the words of an apostate from the Leftist religion:
Nightfall, Jan. 30. Eight-million Iraqi voters have finished risking their lives to endorse freedom and defy fascism. Three things happen in rapid succession. The right cheers. The left demurs. I walk away from a long-term intimate relationship. I'm separating not from a person but a cause: the political philosophy that for more than three decades has shaped my character and consciousness, my sense of self and community, even my sense of cosmos.

I'm leaving the left -- more precisely, the American cultural left and what it has become during our time together.

I choose this day for my departure because I can no longer abide the simpering voices of self-styled progressives -- people who once championed solidarity with oppressed populations everywhere -- reciting all the ways Iraq's democratic experiment might yet implode.

My estrangement hasn't happened overnight. ...

Read the whole thing here:
David Thompson: Leaving the Left

David Thompson's website:
Thompson at Large

Comments at Roger Simon and Michael Totten.

Morning Report: May 23, 2005

Wolf Brigades score victories; Iraqis suffer losses. Iraq's elite Wolf Brigades struck a blow to terrorism, according to Iraq the Model: 'According to Al-Iraqia TV, the Wolf brigade's intelligence elements successfully infiltrated the terrorist groups in the Abu Ghraib region and the information gathered this way paved the way for the latest operation which was done in two waves; the 1st raid was accomplished yesterday while the 2nd one started at 5 in the morning today and has just ended as Al-Iraqia reporter at the scene in Abu Ghraib said. The successful raids which represent the largest operation performed by Iraqi forces so far had resulted in arresting 450 suspected terrorists. The brigade depended mainly on its intelligence personnel who recognized the suspects' faces and pointed them out one by one. The Wolf brigade did almost all the job with the multinational forces providing backup when needed. Among the detainees was an "Amir" i.e. someone who beheaded at least 10 Iraqis. Also it's believed that the terrorist who lead the latest large attack on the prison in Abu Ghraib was also among those detained. Abu Ghraib area has a special significance in the plans of terrorist groups and it's the joint between Baghdad and Anbar province (which includes Ramadi, Fallujah and Qa'im). This area hasn't tasted peace since the terrorists began their operations against Iraqis and coalition troops two years ago. The area also hosts one of the biggest camps of the former Iraqi army; a factor that made it easy for terrorists to possess weapons and ammunition. The raids ran smoothly and were clearly very well planned and implemented as no casualties happened among the soldiers of the Wolf brigade.' On Monday, four people were killed in a bomb attack apparently targeting security forces, Fox News reports. (ITM, Fox)

Belmont Club on Galloway: Style vs. substance. Most who observed British MP George Galloway's performance before the US Senate found Galloway's presentation impressive. Wretchard at The Belmont Club is more interested in what was asked and answered during Galloway's 47 minutes of fame: 'The really striking thing about the Galloway's testimony as transcribed by the Information Clearing House is how the Senators and the Member of Parliament for Bethnal Green and Bow were pursuing a non-collision course. Galloway had come to score press and public relations points at which, by all accounts, he was successful at doing. But Senator Coleman and Levin seemed totally uninterested in responding to Galloway's sharp political jibes. It was almost as if the Senators were deaf to his political posturing. Instead, they focused exclusively and repeatedly on two things: Galloway's relationship with Fawaz Zureikat and Tariq Aziz. Zureikat was a board member of Galloway's Mariam foundation who is also implicated in the Oil For Food deals. Tariq Aziz was Saddam's vice president. ...' In light of the Senators' utter indifference to Galloway's provocations, and the curious disappearance of his testimony from the Senate Committee's website, Wretchard concludes: 'The Senators were building a causal bridge to something, but to what? I am in no position to say, but will guess that Galloway's testimony and its disappearance from the Senate website can only be understood in the context of what Coleman and Levin were trying to achieve. My own sense is that the investigations are cautiously nearing far bigger game than George Galloway; but that his evidence or his refusal to give it is somehow crucial to achieving this larger goal. ...' Read the full article at the link. (Belmont Club)

Kuwaiti women get the vote. Morning Report belatedly notes this important May 16 news item: 'Kuwaiti lawmakers approved political rights for women Monday, clearing the way for females to participate in parliamentary elections for the first time in the Gulf nation’s history.' Nadz offers this analysis: 'And it's about time, too. The activism and hard work of Kuwaiti women has finally paid off - although as always, there's a catch: "fundamentalist Muslims included a requirement that any female politician or voter abide by Islamic law" So what does that mean, exactly? "Abide by Islamic law" could mean many things, from separate polling stations to women being told who to vote for by their husbands. You can be guaranteed that the conservatives will use this to restrict female voters as much as possible. It will take more action by Kuwaiti feminists to stop them. But there's no doubt that this is a clear step forward, and should serve as a reminder that there is much more to be done.' Nadz also writes about some important Arab/Muslim women: Nawal al Saadawi, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Amina Wadud, Hind al-Hinnawy, Irshad Manji, and Mukhtiar Mai. Read her post, and follow the links there for more information. And don't miss the current posts at Nadz Online. (MSNBC, Nadz Online)


Dreams Into Lightning Marks 20,000 Visits

... and counting. Congratulations to the visitor in Germany, Windows XP user, who read my post on hair at 7:53 AM (Pacific) on May 21, and became this site's 20,000th visitor.

And thanks to all the 20,078 people who've visited so far. From my stats I know I've got readers in Iraq, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Europe, Britain, and every time zone in North America. (Special thanks to that regular reader in the Nome Time Zone!) Also a personal thank you to the regulars I know by name (either onscreen or in person): Blanche in SF, Diane in Ottawa, Gila in Portland, Stefania in Italy, Judith in New York, Tom the Redhunter, the Fadhil brothers in Baghdad, and Jane Novak in New Jersey, who started me down this road to perdition.

LCR's Patrick Guerriero Addresses Basic Rights Oregon

Patrick Guerriero of Log Cabin Republicans addressed a group in Lake Oswego, Oregon this afternoon. The event, hosted by Basic Rights Oregon, drew about 30 people in weather that was sunny and rainy by turns.

Guerriero was introduced by host Karl Rohde (pronounced "roadie"), who opened his elegant, Frank Lloyd Wright - inspired home (designed and built by Rohde's father, he told us) to the event. Karl served on Lake Oswego's City Council as both the only Republican and the only openly gay member, and led passage of the city's civil rights legislation. Also introducing the speaker was Roey Thorpe of BRO; Guerriero praised Ms. Thorpe's activism, which he said had earned her respect at the national level.

The Massachusetts-born Guerriero joked that there were "more Republicans here [in the room] than in all of Massachusetts", although perhaps most of the guests were BRO-affiliated Democrats. He began his talk by noting the need for "a segment of the LGBT community to speak out with a centrist voice for equality - in every state." For that, he said, the help of the Republican Party will be needed "in every area" because all major advances in civil rights in the modern era have come through working within institutions.

"I debate the far Right all the time," he said; "someone has to do it." (In response to Pat Buchanan's "amazing" accusation that he is advocating for the "radical homosexual agenda", Guerriero counters that he is advocating for basic respect and dignity - in short, for "the right to have boring families.") "We want the most stable and conservative thing," he said.

Outlining the special role of gay conservatives and the Log Cabin organization in the national debate, Guerriero enumerated three areas of particular interest: (1) family recognition and responsibility; (2) the war on terror, and our responsibilities toward the thousands of lesbians and gays serving silently in the American armed forces; (3) persons of faith. Lesbians and gays in the American military, he said, unlike their British and Australian comrades, cannot be honest with their commanding officers about their most important relationships, and must face painful discrimination in the area of family notification.

Guerriero concluded by noting that "conversations are going on in the kitchens of conservative America" which will provide the framework for a broader understanding of gay people and their relationships. In an interview with Gay Patriot, he said of LCR, "our goal is to go out of business." Looking forward to the day when LCR will no longer be needed as an activist organization, he told BRO: "Some of us are going to be here when we get into the endzone."

Lesbian and gay activists have won many victories for equality, but face some tough challenges from the opposition, which has been highly effective in gaining grassroots support. The task ahead is to win the grassroots back. In the Gay Patriot interview, Guerriero outlined the three phases of gay activism:
The first phase, which was necessary, was this very angry, in-your-face…I’m thinking of the folks at Stonewall who had the guts to rise up against the police. ... The second phase from the mid-Eighties to, I think, probably the Year 2000 – I’ll use that since it was an election year….was this effort to show that there was a different face to the community. So that was when folks started their black tie dinners; Log Cabin Republicans comes to Washington and professionalizes itself. And you have organizations that took this kind of rabid, more left-leaning, aggressive, in-your-face type of tactics [phase] to a “now we have to make ourselves feel good” [phase]. ... And then from 2000, and I’ll use that year loosely, the challenge which I don’t think any organization has quite figured out yet, is how you move to the third phase of this [gay rights movement]. How do you speak to the conservative grandmother in Toledo, Ohio, and the conservative Southerner who has only been yelled at about these issues – and probably cast a bad vote at some point in his or her life. Or even said something that they would probably take back now.

We are now at the beginning of the third phase. This is not the hardest part - that part was done by those who stood up to police and criminal harrassment and legal prosecution in earlier years. But it is a part that requires dedication and maturity. Or as Guerriero says, "our biggest focus is to prepare Log Cabin Republicans enough to grow up."

What this means in practical terms, he explained in response to a question, is meeting the challenge of going from "safe" environments like the liberal coastal cities to places like rural Washington and interacting with persons of faith. It means asking ourselves whether we've maybe spent a few too many activist dollars in the big cities instead of places where the funds were needed more, or perhaps called a few too many people "bigots" who weren't really bigots but just uninformed. Guerriero recalled that he's met many Republicans who have said, "you're the first person who just asked to talk about [gay issues]" - all too often, gay activists were picketing and protesting but not dialoging.

The battle for equality will be won. If we are complacent and timid, the speaker said, it will take fifty years; if we take action, it can be done in fifteen years. The choice is ours.

Log Cabin Republicans
Basic Rights Oregon

Many thanks to Patrick Guerriero for visiting Oregon. Also thanks to Karl and Roey for making this possible, and to Eric Carver, the Finnish-American freelance journalist who covered the event for audiences in Finland.

Also, a personal thank you to the gentleman who gave me a ride back home to downtown Portland - thanks for the ride, and for the stimulating debate about Iraq!

(Don't worry - I promise not to rub it in when you finally realize you were wrong.)

Politically Correct Homophobia, Misogyny

Cathy Young nails it at ReasonOnline: Multiculturalism:
On April 30, American journalist Chris Crain became the victim of a hate crime in Amsterdam. While walking in the street holding hands with his partner, he was savagely beaten by seven men shouting antigay slurs. A few days later, Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Program at the Human Rights Watch, expressed some sympathy for the gay-bashers. Crain's attackers were reportedly Moroccan immigrants.

"There's still an extraordinary degree of racism in Dutch society," Long opined to the gay news service PlanetOut. "Gays often become the victims of this when immigrants retaliate for the inequities that they have to suffer."

Welcome to Politically Correct World, where acts that would merit unequivocal condemnation if committed by white males are viewed in a very different light when the offenders belong to an "oppressed group."

Read it all. Hat tip: Gay Patriot.

Morning Report: May 22, 2005

Oregon's Smith to Arab leaders: Freedom first. Debka reports: 'US senator Gordon Smith [R - Oregon] advised Arab leaders to first take care on injustices in their own countries before fixing Palestinian issue. Addressing World Econonic Forum panel in Amman, he said: “Obviously greatest US commitment is to Israel’s security”, he stressed, and justice for Palestinians “if possible.”' (Debka)

North Korean ship docks near Seoul. Incredibly, the North Korean government is experiencing a shortage of fertilizer. South Korea has agreed to provide the humanitarian aid during inter-Korean negotiations, CNN reports: 'For the first time in over two decades, a North Korean ship docked in a South Korean port Sunday, the start of a series of voyages to pick up fertilizer donated to North Korea by the South Korean government. ... South Korea pledged to send 200,000 tons of fertilizer to North Korea during meetings last week between the two nations. ... North and South Korea ended rare bilateral talks on Thursday without agreement on Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions.' (CNN)

Stefania Hits Print in JPost

Congratulations to Stefania LaPenna of the blog Free Thoughts! Stefania has published an article on Iran in the Jerusalem Post. Read it here:

Deceive and Rule


Another Successful Meet-Up

PDX LiberalHawks had another meet-up in Portland Wednesday night. Five of us got together - Michael Totten, Michael W., Martin, Richard, and myself - over drinks and dinner. We talked about politics, liberalism, conservatism, and the "radical center". All agreed that liberals have better food.

One thing I mentioned is this: Now that we know one another in person, none of us can say "I don't know anybody else who voted for Bush." There's strength in numbers. The internet is a great way to share information, but meeting other people face-to-face gives you a kind of solidarity that the internet can't. Whoever you are, whatever your politics, there are probably other people out there who'd like to meet you. (Hannah Arendt argued that human activity can be divided into three realms: labor, work, and action. Labor is the stuff you do to survive; work is your creative activity; and action is your interaction with other people in person - the political sphere in its purest form. But I digress.) Anyway, it's always good to know you're not alone.

Thanks to all who attended - and to those who couldn't make it, we missed you. Hopefully we'll hook up soon.

We're set for next week's meeting, too - this one will be in my neighborhood.


MSH, Ian Curtis +25 Years

Today marks twenty-five years since the death by suicide of Ian Curtis, lead singer of the Manchester, England -based rock band Joy Division (previously known as Warsaw and Stiff Kittens, and subsequently re-formed as New Order); it's also the 25th anniversary of the eruption of the Mount Saint Helens volcano in southern Washington State, which killed 57 people.


Chrenkoff: Good Guys Wear Black

This is repulsive.
"Star Wars" director George Lucas says that although he wrote the original film during the Vietnam War, his six-part saga could apply to the war in Iraq.

''In terms of evil, one of the original concepts was how does a democracy turn itself into a dictatorship,'' Lucas told a news conference at Cannes, where his final episode had its world premiere.

''The parallels between what we did in Vietnam and what we're doing in Iraq now are unbelievable.

''On the personal level it was how does a good person turn into a bad person, and part of the observation of that is that most bad people think they are good people, they are doing it for the right reasons,'' he added.

Arthur Chrenkoff has a few choice words for Mr. Lucas; go read his "Open Letter" at the link.


Free Muslims Against Terror - Update 2

The Autonomist has a good post with photos.

Good comment from the thread at LGF:
the low crowd turnout had two causes:

1) muslems didn't show up, and...

2) people who claim to want to see moderate muslems to denounce jihad didn't show up.

the former, as pointed out, face ostracism and reprisals when they return home.

what was your excuse?

Now, I live in the Pacific Northwest, and I didn't have the chance to fly 3,000 miles to "the other Washington" to participate. But I know that there are things I can do in my community, and I'm doing them. Perhaps the same is true for you. No, the turnout for this event wasn't great, but it was a start, and it tells us we've got our job cut out for us. Let's keep working.

Africa Report

YU students rally against Sudan genocide. A group of students at New York's Yeshiva University organized a rally against genocide in Sudan, reports Kesher Talk: 'It got a respectable crowd, considering that it took place on Mother's Day. The rally was generated by a group of students at Yeshiva University, and there were many references to Jewish values from the podium and many kippot and tzitzit in the crowd. (Of course, the so-called social justice groups that staged the May Day rally in Union Square were nowhere to be seen.)' Judith also reports some welcome - though out-of-character - words from a Human Rights Watch representative. Read the full article at the link. (Kesher Talk)

Sudan violence rises. A recent news item reports: 'Rape, kidnapping and attacks on civilians increased last month in Sudan's Darfur region despite a growing international effort to end the bloodshed, a senior United Nations (UN) official said on Thursday. Hedi Annabi, the deputy head of UN peacekeeping operations, said African Union (AU) troops were effective in helping to stem the violence where deployed but underlined the importance of the AU's plans to beef up the force. "Instability, violence and civilian suffering in this troubled region continue," he said to the UN Security Council, adding there were also attacks on aid and relief workers. He called the attacks a "worrying trend in light of the role played by the humanitarian community in sustaining the 2.45 million conflict-affected civilians in Darfur".' A State Department report at AllAfrica notes: 'Because Jingaweit [Janjaweed]militia continue to attack civilians in Darfur and thus perpetuate a lack of security in the region, bringing short-term stability to the area will require considerable strengthening of the African Union (AU) mission in Sudan, a senior U.N. official said May 12. Assistant Secretary-General Hedi Annabi told the U.N. Security Council that organized violence continues and that attacks on civilians, rape, kidnapping and banditry actually increased in April. Although there was no evidence of direct involvement of regular government forces, there were widespread reports of abuse by the pro-government Jingaweit militia.' (AllAfrica)

Egelund: Horn of Africa crisis highlights neglect. United Nations Undersecretary General Jan Egelund cited Ethiopia and Eritrea, as well as Southern Africa, as regions slipping beneath the industrial world's radar. According to a State article at AllAfrica: 'Speaking with journalists after a private briefing to the U.N. Security Council on the humanitarian situation in Africa, Egeland said, "In general there is too little attention and there is too little investment" in Africa's humanitarian challenges. "Today a majority of our activities in Africa are badly underfunded. The majority [of projects] are less than 20 percent funded so far this year." Calling the situation in northern Uganda "one of the worse humanitarian crises in the world," the U.N. aid official warned, "We will have a break in the food pipeline in June unless we get more resources." "Already in the Horn of Africa and in parts of southern Africa we are having very meager rations and decreasing rations. In Ethiopia and Eritrea we are not able to feed all [the people] we should be feeding," Egeland said.' (AllAfrica)

Ethiopia: Election observers arrested. A recent bulletin from Stratfor (subscription service) reports: 'Ethiopia's opposition parties said May 14 that many of their election observers were arrested across the country, in addition to one candidate from the opposition United Ethiopian Democratic Forces. The opposition parties said that more than 100 observers remain in detention ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for May 15.' (Stratfor)



Judith at Kesher talk has an excellent post in response to Andrew Sullivan's recent dishing on the subject of hair.

Sully quotes a reader who suffers from that horribly debilitating social affliction: a hairy back.
A very hairy back.
Like Robin Williams’ arm hair hairy .... There. I've said it. I've admitted it. The weight is off my shoulders, though the follicles remain. I feel much better. Knowing there are people out there like you, people who support folks with back hair almost makes life worth living again. I say almost because I do have a couple of other hurdles to clear. Like biting my fingernails rather than a manicure. And I like red meat and regular beer. But then, recovery is a process, right?"

The question then arises of people who use depilatories. Judith takes up the debate:
I personally find this fad repulsive. I haven't seen as many naked guys lately as I would like, but to whatever extent I have been exposed to the hairless pubes look, it grosses me out. If I wanted to lech on smooth hairless boys, I would be a pedophile. Men have pubic hair, pre-pubescent boys don't. Women have pubic hair, pre-pubescent girls don't. Any guy who would be turned off because I don't shave down there is going to be politely shown the door.

Judith then lets another genie out of the bottle:
I have never shaved, period. Anywhere. I have never been very hairy and as I've gotten older the body hair has gotten even thinner, so at this point it looks like I shave my legs and pits, but I don't. ...

Now, I have always wondered: Why is it that straight men have this fixation on women's armpit hair (or its absence)? Is a woman with - gasp - unshaved armpits some kind of freak? Apparently it is an abomination - nay, a crime against nature - for a woman to fail to shave under her arms. "Female armpit hair" appears to have replaced "bra-burning" the new cliche of the Scary Feminist. Or as Judith says:
What gets me is the extremes of emotion this subject generates. To listen to blog comments when the topic comes up, women who don't shave are the most repulsive civilization-destroying creatures out there, almost as bad as terrorists. And of course any woman who doesn't shave must be a brain-dead New Age antiwar moonbat hippie. ...

My social life isn't quite as glamorous as I might wish, but I can tell you one thing - I'm not going to judge a date on how scrupulously she shaves her armpits. Sheesh.

Free Muslims Against Terror - Update

Davids Medienkritik doesn't sugarcoat it - turnout at the march in Washington, DC by the Free Muslims Against Terror was disappointing. Coverage from the MSM was sparse and overtly hostile, but you already knew that. Tune in to Little Green Footballs for the inevitable snarky comments (as well as a few positive ones). Perhaps Adrenalyn says it best: The name should really be "Three Muslims Against Terror".

A Message About Iraq

This message was forwarded by Andrea "Pajamas" in Minnesota. This Ali is not Ali Fadhil of ITM / Free Iraqi fame, but another Iraqi.
I am sending you this message to thank you for your support to the Iraqi people. I would love to tell you that people like you give us a huge hope to live in a better condition. I know that things are not going very well in Iraq at the moment, but we are trying our best to defeat our enemies. The problem with us Iraqis is that the number of countries surrounding us have dictators, from the smallest security service man to the highest rank in the government. These people send their brain washed children and support them. They are countries like, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Sudan, Egypt etc. + many Palestinians who want to solve their problems in Iraq. I wish we can see better days in Iraq soon and hope your country men will be safer.
By the way I live in London at the moment and going to Dubai tomorrow for 2 weeks. I was a regular reader to the brothers blog and comment section for a long time, but was unable to keep up with them.
Thank you again for your support and I hope Mr. Coleman will kick George Galloway's and Kofi Anan's As*es. Keep in touch.

Best Regards,

Your Iraqi friend Ali

Thanks, Andi, for passing this on.


Culture of Life: The Reading Hour

We had television in our family while I was growing up, but we didn't have much of it. Mom and Dad were pretty strict about what got watched and what didn't: "Captain Kangaroo" and "Lost in Space" early on, but no Saturday morning cartoons; later, "All in the Family", "Mary Tyler Moore", and "Bob Newhart", but none of the other sitcoms, which Mom considered coarse and vulgar. Actually I should clarify that Mom set the TV schedule - Dad didn't watch television, period. And they never, ever used television as a "babysitter".

Instead of sitting in front of the television tube, the four of us (my parents, my sister, and I) would sit around taking turns reading aloud, usually a chapter at a time, from some book. Both my parents were literary people and had excellent taste in books. This ritual, which lasted throughout our school years, helped us to bond as a family (and believe me, we had plenty of problems, so we needed all the help we could get) and did wonders for my literacy and speaking skills. It is one of the main reasons I feel comfortable writing and (to a lesser extent) speaking.

The best writing reads well aloud; indeed, the best writing is meant to be read aloud. Even in modern times, novelists like Toni Morrison and Theodore Sturgeon have affirmed the value of live reading. I read silently a lot, but even then I am conscious of how a passage sounds when read out loud; sometimes I will read a paragraph or two to my empty living room just to enjoy the sound of it. Personally, I do not think it is possible to write well without an awareness of the sound of the spoken word.

The books we read:
Madeleine L'Engle - A Wrinkle In Time
(I was too young to catch the Kennedy-era references - "Camazotz", indeed! - but I took its warning against cold intellectualism to heart; and I never forgot Meg's words, "Like and equal are not the same thing at all!" In retrospect, I think there must have been a strong anti-Communist message.)

Lucy Boston - The Legend of Green Knowe (series)
(Even though I was too old, I had nightmares about the trees near our house.)

Susan Cooper - The Dark Is Rising (series)
(Another wonderful fantasy series drawing on the lore of ancient Britain.)

Charles Dickens - A Tale of Two Cities, A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist
(I remember being troubled by the constant references to Fagin as "the Jew"; but it didn't lessen my admiration for Dickens as a writer. "A Christmas Carol" is still one of my favorite works of literature.)

Louis Slobodkin - The Spaceship Under the Apple Tree (series)
(Delightful stories of first contact in small-town America. Among my favorite lines: "General Store? Who is this General Store?" The bond between Eddie and his ET pal Marty - who, like Eddie, was always getting into trouble - was very warm.)

Louisa May Alcott - Little Women
(The relationship between the cross-gendered Jo and Laurie fascinated me.)

... I could add a lot more titles to the list if I thought about it, but those are just the ones that pop up for me now.

If I could make just one request of today's parents, it would be: Read with your kids. Don't just read to them, when they're at the storybook age (do that, certainly); but also get in the habit of sharing good books with them as they grow up. That is a gift they will keep for a lifetime.

"The Accretion of Truth"

Doubt is the prerequisite of truth. I don't buy the Millite idea of inevitable progress. But I do believe that one by-product of a free society is the advance of science and a better understanding of human nature. So we do not view women as we did a century ago. This is not simply a random, relativist change: it's because we now know the truth about the equality of women, we experience it daily, and our blind prejudices and cruelties have far less power . . . Ditto with race. And, so some extent, with abortion. Our ability, for example, to see the development of a fetus, to understand its development with far greater precision and detail than ever before, has inevitably sharpened our awareness of its humanness . . . And the reason our view of homosexuality has changed is not because we are somehow losing our sense of what is true or false: it is because we have a better, more informed view of what is true and false. This is not relativism. It is the accretion of truth. - Andrew Sullivan, quoted at The American Scene (hat tip: Ramesh Ponnuru at The Corner


PDX LiberalHawks Meet-Up a Success

Agents of the Portland Mukhabarat converged on the Horse Brass Pub Monday night and commandeered two tables to welcome Michael J. Totten back from Lebanon. Jason, Martin, Patrick, Richard and Sean were there, and Jason's fiancee Danica joined us as well. Ann from Portland Clasroom TV was kind enough to accept my invitation to the meet-up.

Stories were told, beer was drunk and spilled, and fish and chips were consumed. Michael shared stories of Lebanon, including his impressions of the Druze - nice, quiet folks, but don't mess with them. We learned the etymology of a certain word which entered the English language after WWI, and of its unique significance in baseball. And, of course, we laid the foundations of the next phase of the neocon-Zionist conspiracy ... oh, wait, I'm not supposed to talk about that part.

Thanks to all who attended, apologies to any whose names I might have overlooked, and I know we're all looking forward to the next event - which, it was decided, will feature round tables. Hopefully Michael W., new to the PDX LiberalHawks group, will be able to join us next time.

Truth Warrior

Thanks to Ann for passing this on. Truth Warrior (Osam Altaee) is an Iraqi refugee living in Lebanon. He has a fascinating, and horrifying, story to tell; he is also severely critical of the UNHCR.

From his website:
I'm an Iraqi. I was born in the south of Iraq in a small town called ‘Al Khodor’ which is nearly 250 kilometers south of Baghdad in the Almothana province. When I was ten years old, I met an old Kurdish woman from Kurdistan, where people were fighting against the Iraqi regime for freedom and democracy. This old woman told me the stories of how our army murdered all the men gender of her family and destroyed her village. This fact built in my heart a blind haters for the army. And when I was thirteen years old, my father did not join the party al-ba'ath. To punish him, someone of the aforementioned party submitted a false report against him in which, he accused my father of dealing into politics against the Iraqi regime, which was a forbidden issue. Subsequently, my father has been jailed for four years in Abu Ghraib prison.
These were the two main reasons that drove me to hate the Iraqi regime and to believe so deeply in long lasting peace and endeavor to handle problems in a good manner. I became against the policies of Saddam, which aim to use the force and arms against the Kurdish and Iran; I had lot of troubles. They pursued me to the college and hindered me from pursuing my studies. Then I was obliged to join the army during the war between Iraq and Iran. Since the war was originally against my believes, I decided to react. I did in no way want to join the army. I choose to physically harm my body. Desperately, I have decided to cut my left foot and arrange it to look like as I had an accident. I used two thinks to accomplish the mission: A fuse of a hand grenade and a motorbike. At night I attached the fuse to my foot when riding the motorbike and enlightened the fuse, when it exploded, I capsized the motor and opened the tank of petrol to put some on my foot and fire started on it and the motor. I was sure my plan looks like an accident because the fire will hide the traces of the explosive powder. I was then taken to a hospital; the doctor discovered the traces of the explosion and did a report indicating that what happened was not an accident but a premeditated act, which will cost me a military trial. I had deserted the army after one year when I finished my treatment.

After years of living in fear and terror (the details in my ebook THE TRUTH WARRIOR), I found I could not continue to live under the tyrannical rule of Saddam and fled to Lebanon seeking refugee status. I thought I would find a community of people there that provided protection and support for people in need. What I found, instead, was the UNHCR ...

From an e-mail:
I am SAM, an Iraqi refugee living in Lebanon at the moment; I have spent the last 10 years of my life as a refugee registered with the UNHCR in Beirut. The last 4 years, I have spent as an activist for peace and human rights (especially refugees and asylum seekers) on the Internet; I'm also books author and ebooks publisher. I have launched many campaigns to improve our situation as refugees in Lebanon and hopefully bring more understanding to our problems worldwide. I helped make many changes and improvements at the UNHCR office in Beirut; I used the Internet as the field for my activities (you can read more about that in my free ebook 'MY CAMPAIGNS'). All my ebooks could be download from my websites, all my ebooks are free.

This is my newest campaign, it's about the illegal and humiliating actions of the UNHCR, who using photos of refugees as banners and human-buttons to collect money. ...

Once again, that website:
Truth Warrior.

Truth Warrior is also linked at The Iraqi Holocaust.

Iraqi Holocaust blog

For new readers and as a reminder to regular readers: please visit The Iraqi Holocaust for information on torture, mass murders, and atrocities against the people of Iraq under the Ba'ath regime of Saddam Hussein. For more detailed reports, see Iraqi Holocaust Files.

And don't forget to pass these links on to a friend.


Arab Blog Roundup

Hammorabi: Zarqawi's days are numbered. Iraqi-American blogger Sam at Hammorabi writes: 'Top aide for Zarqawi has been captured by the Iraqi forces North of Baghdad. Ghasan Al-Rawi and another two of his top supporters have been arrested 10 days ago. They provided logistic, financial and safety support to Zarqawi. They are involved in numbers of terrorist attacks and organizing others. Iraq provided 25 million dollars for information to capture zarqawi. Zarqawi himself believed according to some local reports as having possible infection in his blood possibly due to some kind of injuries. He was admitted and investigated in Ramadi which provided safe heaven to many terrorists. Irrespective of his illness he is not more than Saddam in hiding. His days according to the available information are counted. ...' Go to the link for the full story, and take a look at the photo of the Iraqi schoolgirl. She lost at least 20 friends and classmates in a terrorist bombing.

Fayrouz: Here and there. Another Iraqi-American, Fayrouz, posts an e-mail she received from a Marine veteran of the 1990-91 Desert Storm conflict. Also more on Iraqi victims of terrorism, and another photo. Read her post on the march against terror, too.

"The Party is the Party." What is the Ba'ath Party? One thing it is not, says Syrian blogger Karfan, is a "political entity".
Karfan wonders when in monkey's name this “Thing” became a real party. Yes, granted we call it “The Party”and “Baath Party”, but these are mere names of some “thing” that exists and we had to call it a name. It does not mean anything like a political party or any political or organizational entity. It just exists around us and between us like that black-cloud of pollution on top of Damascus and Banias, like the sewage stink, or like the Mukhabarat's Peugeot white cars. “Baath Party”, “People's Assembly”, “Cultural Center”, and “People's Army” are just names of things that had nothing to do with those names. ...

Omar at Iraq the Model says Karfan's post has abolished whatever differences he once thought existed between the Syrian Ba'ath and its Iraqi version. "they're identical twins, I swear!" Omar goes on to say:
Reading this article took me back to Iraq in 2002; every single tiny detail is exactly the same; the army, the Ba'ath party and its hateful regional convention, the worn out-slogans and the numbness you can see clearly on many faces.

Syria's self-styled "Heretic", Amraji, has some thoughts on national and cultural identity:
What is the meaning of national belonging and cultural authenticity in the Age of Globalization? Being true to oneself might indeed be the best strategy for coping with this Age, or any other age for that matter. But how can one be true to a divided fragmented self?

Obviously, this will not be easy. Still the mere acknowledgement of the existence of this problem sets one apart from the prevalent intellectual scene around here, where everyone seems sure, acts sure, or is required to be sure, of who he/she happens to be. You don’t even need to give an answer here to be a heretic.

But, once you begin to dabble with potential answers, you become more than just a heretic, more than a simple outsider, you become an outcast. This is actually quite the refreshing thought, when you think about it.

Amarji goes on to warn of the dangers of isolationism - and he gives a potent metaphor for the traumatized peoples of the contemporary Middle East.

Ali at Free Iraqi joins President Jalal Talabani in congratulating Tony Blair. Ali recalls listening to Blair's speeches with other Iraqis in the weeks prior to the war. Read the post for Ali's description of their reactions.

Alaa is back and blogging at The Mesopotamian again. He has some thoughts on the jihadists:
I hope this will not be understood as some kind of class prejudice, however facts are facts and must be looked at objectively and things called by their real names. Also, 99 % of those men belong to particular clans, tribes and a certain sect, that I am sure you will not have much difficulty at guessing which. This is quite painful, because, we in the cities are very mixed and many of our families are a mélange of Shiaa, Sunnis, and even Christians. However, most of these men actually are seen to be of provincial origin. This reinforces my conviction, which I have expounded long ago in some of my earlier posts, and which can be simply expressed as follows:

The problem in Iraq is not so much a sectarian issue, but rather more to do with the nature of our peasant problem.

The whole thing can be traced back to our history, and particularly the Revolution of 1958 that deposed the Monarchy that essentially consisted of a social system based on the hegemony of the cities allied with feudal Lords or Shiekhs ( as they were called here). I believe that all what has happened ever since is a sequel and natural consequence of that particular event, which is of paramount importance in our recent history. This matter requires much research and analysis, and is difficult to deal with in the scope of a brief blog post.

It's great to have Alaa back; let's hope we hear more from him soon. Meanwhile, go check out his post.

Just in case you didn't get the memo, Egyptian Sandmonkey wants you to know that all Islamic reformists are apostates.
Nope, it's not a Mullah or a mufti who issued this glorious fatwa this time, it's the fellow Egyptian journalist Rim Azmi whose article "Muslims in Name, Apostates in Fact," ran in the weekly Al Ahram El Ararby. I thought it was such a great informative article - it made me realize that i am a western wannabe asskissing apostate- that i figured i should post some paragraphs and leave some comments of my own.

Shall we?

Read the whole Al Ahram article, with Sandmonkey's commentary, at the link.

Kuwaiti Girl wants to be an astronaut. Or, to be more exact, a cosmonaut: she's set her star on the Russian space program. (She is also a certified Sergei Kirkalev groupie.) Follow her blog as she keeps up on the latest space missions and struggles with the Russian language. Still, there are a few Russian space traditions she'll probably leave to others.

Muslims to March Against Terror - May 14

In a historic show of support for freedom and democracy, American Muslims will lead a demonstration in Washington, DC on May 14 against terrorism. The organization Free Muslims Against Terrorism writes:
To date,70 organizations have sponsored the first ever Muslim led March Against Terror. Approximately 20 of the 70 organizations are Muslim, Arab or Middle Eastern. This is the good news. The bad news is that of the leading Muslim organizations four have refused to participate or endorse the rally. The absence of these organizations is ironic. For the past 10 years, these organizations have complained that they are unfairly being accused of not doing enough to fight terror. But when a Muslim organization takes the lead to organize a March Against Terror they argue that it is not necessary and refuse to join.

These organizations have done enormous damage to the American Muslim community and Muslims are finally rising up to tell them “you don’t represent us or our American Muslim values.”

Over the last three years, American Muslims have witnessed the creation of several new progressive, moderate and secular Muslim organizations that actually represent the views of the silent majority and are bypassing the organizations that falsely claim they represent main stream Islam. Their monopoly is coming to an end.

As to the March Against Terror, moderate American Muslims recognize that those who commit murder and destruction in the name of Islam are using a warped interpretation of Islamic theology to justify their evil. Thus, we understand that the war on terror is more than a military battle, it is an ideological battle and the only ones who can win this battle are Muslims themselves. This is why we are organizing this march.

Go and read the full declaration at the link. The bad news, as Roger Simon points out, is that four Muslim organizations have refused to join. But
the good news is that the march is on. In that sense this dissension is much like the reported difficulties with the formation of the government in Baghdad. But then, what democractic government has ever formed without difficulties? (Yes, I know people are being gunned down in the street, but even those horrible and sad events are reminiscent of democratic revolutions in other countries - like France and the USA.)

Stay tuned for more news on the Muslim march against terror. By the way, the event is not restricted to Muslims or Middle Eastern people and is open to all who support democracy and freedom. If you're going to be in the area, I encourage you to participate.

Iran Report

Doctor Zin: MEK not an option.
Iran freedom activist Gary Metz, better known as "Doctor Zin", takes issue with an article by David Johnson at FrontPage in a Sunday post at Regime Change Iran. Johnson had advocated support for Maryam Rajavi's organization, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), as a means of bringing about regime change. Critics of this plan, including Doctor Zin, contend that the NCRI is an alias for the Mojahedin-e-Khalq (People's Mujahedeen Organization, variously abbreviated MEK, MKO, PMO) which is recognized as a terrorist organization by the US State Department. In this view, support for the MEK (under whatever name) would be tantamount to a repetition of the "enemy of my enemy" fallacy, for while the MEK are opposed to the current islamist regime in Tehran, they are no friends of freedom and democracy. Doctor Zin writes:
Since I have been publishing all the major news on Iran for several years now, I am well aware of the various options in regards to the Iranian threat. I know most of the leaders of the Iranian expatriate community and there is little support for the MEK among them. I believe the MEK may have a place at the table in a future Iran, but a limited one.

I have also been aware of the massive campaign the MEK have been waging to legitimize themselves in the eyes of our government. I also understand the only way they will ever be in power inside of Iran is if the U.S. were to back them in an overthrow of the Iranian government.

It appears that is exactly what the MEK are seeking. David reported on the MEK's recent conference in Washington D.C. (attended by a few hundred Iranian, virtually all MEK supporters) saying:

[Their] plans for Iran remain ambitious. Mrs. Rajavi's [leader of the MEK] position as an interim president is planned to last for only six months after the fall of the current Iranian regime. At the end of her interim term, free and monitored elections would be held throughout Iran.
It appears the leader of the MEK is seeking U.S. help in replacing the Islamic Republic with herself as the new leader, for six months.

So who are the MEK? Here is the DiscoverTheNetwork.org's own report on the MEK:
Islamist-Marxist terrorist group that seeks to topple the Iranian regime
Served Moscow as a source of information on Iran during the Cold War
In the early 1970s, murdered five American military technicians working with the Iranian army
By the late 1980s, created a 10,000-strong fighting force in Iraq to aid Saddam Hussein ...
The MEK was founded in 1965 after a split in a Marxist-Leninist movement that had waged a guerrilla action in northern Iran. Its ideology emerged as a mix of Islam and Marx, with ingredients from the Iranian religious sociologist Ali Shariati, who advocated an "Islam without a clergy." The MEK, with KGB help, engaged in a campaign against the Shah and sent cadres to Cuba, East Germany, South Yemen, and Palestinian camps in Lebanon to train as guerrillas.
Yes, they have money (from places unknown), weapons and organization. Is David actually advocating that we "install" the MEK, even if only temporarily? The Khomeini regime was supposed to be a temporary regime.

Read the full post at the link for detailed information on the MEK. Doctor Zin believes that Washington must support the Iranian people in their struggle against the mullahs, but he opposes involving the MEK in this process. The post concludes: 'The MEK will likely play a part in a post Islamic Republic, but they need to find their way in a real democratic government. I hope that FrontPageMag.com will rethink its support of the MEK.'

Ledeen: Regime's hand, Washington's silence.
Michael Ledeen sees the hand of the mullahs as far afield as Iraq and Lebanon (where the vacuum created by the Syrian withdrawal may be filled by the eager Hezbollah) while President Bush retreats into silence: 'We know this is going on, yet we are fighting a purely defensive war in Iraq alone.' And yet, Ledeen argues, it doesn't need to be this way:
The terror masters hoped and expected that they would be able to turn Iraq into a replay of Lebanon in the 1980s, when they drove American and French armed forces out of the country. But they have failed. Contrary to their hopes and expectations, we — and the Iraqi people — have not been spooked by the wave of terror, and the Iraqis have demonstrated grit, bravery, and patience far beyond most expectations. Indeed, as the slaughter of innocent Iraqis grows, the people are manifestly becoming more resolute; dead national guardsmen and soldiers are quickly replaced with new volunteers, and the murder of government officials has not deterred Iraqi citizens from participating in government. The Iraqis are fighting back.

Worst of all, from the standpoint of the terror masters, the ultimate threat — freedom — is growing stronger, just as the president wishes, and freedom is spreading even though, despite his constant promises to support democratic revolution, he is doing virtually nothing to help it. He, along with Secretaries Rice and Rumsfeld, has not rallied to the side of the Iranian people, even though the Iranians have abundantly demonstrated their desire to be rid of the mullahs. Two weeks ago there were massive demonstrations and work stoppages in the oil-rich regions, centering around the city of Ahwaz. The demonstrators called for an end to the regime, scores of people were killed, and hundreds were beaten and arrested. On May Day, workers again demonstrated against the regime, this time in all the major cities. In Tehran, strongman and likely president-in-waiting Hashemi Rafsanjani was hooted down by the crowd, and pictures of him and Supreme Leader Khamenei were torn down and trampled. Yet no one in the American Government spoke a word of support for the demonstrators ...

Ledeen is getting tired of saying "Faster, please." Read the article at the link.

Morning Report: May 9, 2005

US forces strike Iraq insurgents. CNN reports: 'U.S. forces have launched an offensive against "insurgents and foreign fighters" near Iraq's border with Syria, killing at least 75 of them in the first 24 hours of the operation, the U.S. military said Monday. According to the military, coalition and Marine Corps aircraft and forces from the U.S. Army, Navy and Marines are involved in the fighting in Iraq's Anbar province. "The operation is currently on the area north of the Euphrates River, in the Al Jazirah Desert. The region is a known smuggling route and sanctuary for foreign fighters," the military said in a statement.' Debka adds: 'A merger of all Iraq’s insurgent forces is behind the deadly surge of violence that has climbed to 55 attacks per day. US has launched offensive with air support against Iraqi insurgents in Anbar province near Syrian border. US military reports 75 rebels killed in first 24 hours. Targeted are Obeidi sanctuary for foreign fighters who continue to stream into Iraq and smuggling route from Syria. Joint commands and operational units, including al-Zarqawi’s al Qaeda wing, are focusing action on Baghdad area timed for formation of new Iraq government.' (CNN, Debka)

Yemen's ambassador to Syria seeks asylum. Debka reports: 'Yemeni ambassador Syria Ahmed al-Hasani fled to London last week and asked for political asylum. Al-Hasani was Yemeni air force commander during 2000 al Qaeda attack on USS Cole in Aden harbor when 17 US seamen killed, 500 injured. He testified to links president Salah and Yemeni military and intelligence officers maintain with al Qaeda to this day – amid joint Yemeni-US counter-terror combat in Saada region'. Armies of Liberation explains: 'The Jihad in Yemen takes the form of the state attacking its Shia minority. There have been indications that aspects of the Yemeni government, in collusion with some leadership in the opposition Islamic Islah party, are close to al-Qaeda. A recent defector from Yemen, the Ambassador to Syria, says that its very likely that President Saleh was aware of the plans for Cole bombing. Indeed , Saleh refused to investigate the bombing until the US threatened military action. Sheik al-Zindani is on the US’s most wanted list and is a leader of the Islah party. He met Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, and became his mentor. After returning from Afghanistan, Zindani became the leader of Islah’s radical faction, and the “Afghan Arabs.” Using state power, today Shia libraries are being trashed, mosques prohibited from preaching the Shia version of Islam, and mass arrests are taking place with thousands held without trial. All Shia schools are now closing. Officials of Saleh’s Sunni government have characterized their teachings as “blasphemous,” “backwards,” and “deviant.” The curriculum of some hard core Wahabbi schools, the greater threat according to analysts, was not addressed in their statements. There is also a very bloody and violent element to the jihad in Yemen. ...' Read the post at Armies for full details and links. (Debka, Armies of Liberation)

Nobody's Perfect

Quote of the Day:
However, he added, "The press has never pretended to be perfect. My own paper pretty much decided to overlook the Holocaust."

Bill Keller, Executive Editor of the New York Times, speaking at the Frank R. Kent Memorial Lecture in Journalism at Johns Hopkins University; go read Rand Simberg's thoughts at Transterrestrial Musings.


Log Cabin Lesbians to Watch Out For

Alison Bechdel, the fabulously talented creator of the lesbian-themed comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, has always managed to blend feminist and gay activism with excellent line art, rich characters, warm humor, and a sense of irony. While staunchly liberal, she's not afraid to take occasional shots at leftist/feminist sacred cows.

A couple of years ago, Bechdel took the bold step of introducing a conservative lesbian character, a college student named Cynthia. To Alison's credit, she does a pretty good job of portraying Cynthia sympathetically, and even lets the conservative character (I think) get the better of some political debates. Considering that Cynthia is a composite "conservative" drawn by an artist who's firmly liberal (Alison herself believes the 2004 election was "rigged"), the character manages to avoid being a caricature, a stereotype, or a conflicted, self-loathing lesbian.

Read Alison Bechdel's blog here. A fan's page has a collection of links to DTWOF strips featuring Cynthia.

I'll be interested to see what Alison Bechdel does with Cynthia in the months to come. Given Cynthia's interest in the Middle East, perhaps she will be reading up on Irshad Manji. Why, I'll bet Cynthia's love interest*, Samia, is already reading The Trouble With Islam Today.

*UPDATE: I should clarify that Samia is in a relationship with Ginger; Cynthia's crush on Samia is just that. I have it on good authority that they will not become involved with each other.

Africa Report

Congress considers Sudan action. According to an April 26 article by Margaret Talev in the Sudan Tribune, the US Congress is considering action to help stop the violence and suffering in Sudan:
Seven months after President Bush declared that a conflict in a remote swath of Africa amounts to genocide, several members of Congress are pushing for more substantive U.S. intervention in the Darfur region of Sudan.

Displaced Sudanese women build a makeshift tut in Otash camp on the outskirts of Nyala town in Sudan's South Darfur region. (AFP).

They say the West has a moral obligation to do more to stop the killings, rapes, destruction and food shortages estimated to have killed 180,000 or more people and displaced 2 million.

At least 10 proposals before the House and Senate this year address this two-year-old struggle, which has pitted Arabs against non-Arab blacks, nomads against farmers and Muslims against Muslims, and brought an agricultural economy to its knees.

The proposals include emergency relief funds added to the supplemental Iraq war spending bill, but also more controversial ideas:

• A long-shot effort to suspend trading of stocks for international companies with business in Sudan.

• Calls for enforcing no-fly zones, and for pressuring the United Nations and NATO to send thousands of troops.

• Authorization for use of military force by the United States.

A lack of consensus persists over how deeply the United States should involve itself.

The military is spread thin with its involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, and other concerns include the risks in intervening in yet another Islamic conflict, the lack of pressing U.S. economic or national security interests in Darfur, and resistance from nations, including China and Russia, that have oil and weapons investments tied to Sudan.


Said Eric Reeves, a Smith College English professor who has spent the past several years on leave as a full-time Sudan researcher: "We are talking about a country that's right in the heart of Africa, on the volatile border between Islamic and non-Islamic Africa, between Arab and [black] Africa in a racial sense.

"It is very possibly a powder keg. It's a reason for us to call into serious question the geopolitical wisdom of talking a good game but not really doing what needs to be done."

Canada may send 150 troops to Sudan. The CBC reports that Canada may send as many as 150 peacekeeping troops to Sudan: 'Canada is reported ready to send up to 150 military personnel as peacekeepers to war-torn Sudan. A child refugee from Darfur washes clothes outside her shack at the Iridimi refugee camp near Iriba in eastern Chad, September 2004. Ottawa would also donate some used military equipment and increase its humanitarian aid for the northeast African country. An official announcement is coming in the next few days, the Canadian Press reported Saturday. The federal government has already earmarked $20 million in aid for Sudan. And Gen. Rick Hillier told CBC News Friday that Canada was making plans to send troops to the Darfur region of Sudan by the end of the summer. ...'

CIA - Khartoum meetings alleged. An article by Norm Dixon, appearing in Green Left Weekly and posted at Passion of the Present, alleges that a secret meeting between CIA officials and General Salah Abdallah Gosh of Sudan's secret police indicates an ongoing relationship between the Khartoum regime and the Bush Administration. The article, which draws heavily on a piece by Ken Silverstein in the Los Angeles Times, states:
Ken Silverstein, writing in the April 29 Los Angeles Times, reported that US government officials revealed to him that, in the previous week, “the CIA sent an executive jet ... to ferry the chief of Sudan’s intelligence agency [General Salah Abdallah Gosh] to Washington for secret meetings sealing Khartoum’s sensitive and previously veiled partnership with the administration”.

Gosh is almost certainly among the scores of Khartoum officials named in a sealed United Nations file as being responsible for “crimes against humanity” in Darfur provinces, in western Sudan. The UN Security Council voted on March 31 to refer the file to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

As Sudan expert and human rights advocate Eric Reeves () points out: “Gosh is directly responsible for tens of thousands of extra-judicial executions, killings, ‘disappearances’, as well as countless instances of torture, illegal imprisonment and other violations of international law.”

According to the LA Times report, Washington has cooperated closely with the Islamist dictatorship’s secret police, the Mukhabarat, since before the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the US. Following 9/11 attacks, which Khartoum immediately condemned, the relationship has steadily deepened.

The secret alliance has continued to strengthen despite the Mukhabarat’s central role in directing and arming the Arab-chauvinist janjaweed bandit gangs, which are spearheading the persecution of Darfur’s non-Arabic speaking farmers.

The article further charges that 'US and European governments have refused to provide adequate funds, equipment and logistics to African Union (AU) soldiers deployed as cease-fire monitors in Darfur, the only force in a position to prevent or discourage attacks on civilians. Only 2300 of the 3500-4000 troops originally promised to be in place have been able to deploy, and even they have taken around six months to arrive.'

Ivory Coast talks fail to reach deal. 'Representatives of the rebels and army in Ivory Coast have failed to reach agreement on a disarmament timetable after five days of talks,' the BBC reports. 'But they did say they would meet again in the next few days. Under a peace agreement mediated by South Africa in April, government forces and rebels who control the north were due to lay down arms this month. Both sides began pulling back heavy weapons from the front-line last month, as part of the agreement. The prime minister's representative, Alain Richard Donwahi, said the talks in Ivory Coast's capital, Yamoussoukro, had been positive. A timetable would be presented to military chiefs from both sides next Friday for approval, he was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying.'