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February 28, 2005

Old Europe may be starting to smell the coffee...

The cover story for yesterday's UK Sunday Times Magazine was an article by Brian Moynahan entitled Putting the fear of God into Holland. The piece is a fascinating analysis of the evolution of Dutch public opinion towards its large muslim emigrant population over the past several years, including the fallout from Holland's 9/11: the cold-blooded murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh last November.

Moynahan ends his piece with following question:

Is Europe giving way to blackmail? The question was raised in Germany last month by an article in Die Welt, the country's most heavyweight paper, by Mathias Dúpfner, head of the big Axel Springer publishing group. He titled it Europe — Thy Name Is Cowardice. He said that a crusade is under way "by fanatic Muslims, focused on civilians, directed against our free, open western societies" that is set upon the "utter destruction" of western civilisation. This enemy, he said, was spurred on by "tolerance" and "accommodation", which were taken as signs of weakness. Europe's supine response, he said, was on a par with the appeasement of Hitler.
Now if somebody would only tell the French...

February 28, 2005 at 05:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Syria's Version of Dr. Evil Gets a Big Promotion

The Lebanon Wire features a report from the subscription online intelligence service run by WorldNetDaily's founder Joseph Farah. I don't know how credible Farah or WorldNetDaily are, but he is a christian Arab and may well have some good contacts in the mideast. For what it's worth, his assessment is pretty bleak:

While Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is telling the world his military forces will leave Lebanon, a political shakeup in Damascus signals his army won't be leaving without a fight, Middle East intelligence sources tell Joseph Farah's G2 Bulletin.

With increasing international diplomatic pressure to withdraw troops, as well as a mounting popular uprising in Lebanon, Assad has appointed a family member to the No. 1 intelligence post and given him sweeping new powers meant to maintain the Assad dynasty at any cost. . . .

. . . The 54-year-old Gen. Assaf Chawkat has long been responsible for maintaining close ties with Hezbollah, monitoring and controlling its activities and connections with Iran. He has also entrusted with the highly secretive Assad financial issues. According to various intelligence agencies, G2 Bulletin reports, the family has accumulated over the years close to $4 billion stashed in a web of bank accounts in almost every continent.

Chawkat immediately took steps to assure Iran regarding the future of Hezbollah should Syria be forced to move out of Lebanon. General Chawkat is a firm believer in the use of force and in using the Hezbollah as a tool to settle certain Syrian political or military scores. He also gave the Iranians verbal assurances Damascus would not restrain Hezbollah should the U.S. or Israel attack Iran’s nuclear assets.

This calculated variant to use Hezbollah in a direct anti-U.S. campaign fully correlates with tactical theories developed by Chawkat. He plans, according to G2 Bulletin sources, to permit Hezbollah to confront the U.S. and Israel as an Iranian sub-contracted military tool – giving Syria plausible deniability for such attacks. Against the backdrop of growing tension in Beirut, Chawkat is leading the so-called “Lebanon lobby,” a group of active or retired Syrian intelligence generals and Baath Party extremists who are contemplating using Hezbollah to stir up a new Lebanese civil war. . .

February 28, 2005 at 12:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Shiite is hitting the fan in Lebanon

The latest from Nayla Razzouk of AFP via the invaluable Lebanonwire:

Lebanon was headed for a battle of wills between the opposition and the security forces Monday as the pro-Syrian government announced a ban on all public demonstrations ahead of a mass rally called by its critics to coincide with a parliamentary censure vote.

Pro-government parties, including the Shiite Islamist movement Hezbollah, had called their supporters on to the streets for counter-demonstrations, raising fears of violence that the government used to justify its ban.

"All security forces are asked to take all necessary measures to protect security and order, and to ban demonstrations and gatherings on Monday," Interior Minister Suleiman Frangieh said.

February 28, 2005 at 01:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 27, 2005

What can we expect from the Syrians in Lebanon?

Mohammed from Iraq the Model has a sobering prediction regarding likely Syrian tactics in Lebanon:

. . . the Ba'ath regime throughout its criminal history has depended from its early days back in the 50s on criminal elements and local thugs in Baghdad and other cities. The most prominent example was hiring Saddam at that time who was already accused of murdering his own cousin.

And the Ba'athists still adopt this tactic until this moment. The Syrian regime is no exception for this and is also trying-through recruiting paid killers in Iraq-to spread terror and fear and put obstacles on the road of the change.

I think this is also going to happen in Lebanon too after the Syrian troops are withdrawn. The Syrian regime will recruit (if not doing so right now) criminals to carry out sabotage and assassinations after the Syrians leave the country in an attempt to say "we have warned you from the dangers of withdrawal and now you've got to face the consequences ".

The broadcasted confessions of Syrian elements [in Iraq] who work for the intelligence give a clue about what's being planned for Lebanon.

February 27, 2005 at 11:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Imre's obit for Hunter Thompson

WE were somewhere around Chatswood, on the edge of the lower north shore, when the drugs began to take hold. "Pull over at the Shell servo," I said to my accountant: "I need to reassess the situation."

Of course, some people don't regard All Bran as a drug at all.


February 27, 2005 at 11:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

MSM's wilful malpractice in Iraq?

Via Tim Blair via Norman Geras from this month's edition of Prospect magazine (subscription required), Bartle Bull with a searing indictment of "big media's" reporting from Iraq:
Iraq is not about America any more. This has been increasingly true every day since last June, and the failure—or refusal—to recognise this has underpinned much of the misleading coverage of Iraq. In the evenings leading up to the election, I sat on carpets on the floors of a variety of shabby houses in the Baghdad slums. But the daily BBC message I watched with my various Iraqi hosts never budged. The refrain was Iraq's "atmosphere of intimidation and violence," and the message was that the elections could never work. What about the "atmosphere of resolve and anticipation" that I felt around me? Or the "atmosphere of patience and restraint" among those whom the terrorists were trying to provoke? I try to avoid the hotels and the green zone and the Fort Apache press compounds when I am here. Sometimes it seems as though I am on a different planet from my colleagues in big media, and at those moments I worry briefly that I am getting the story wrong. The people at NBC news are not even allowed to go to the restaurant in their hotel. They report from the roof. When I went to the BBC's Baghdad bunker for some interviews after the election, the reporters I had been watching on television asked me, "So what's it like out there in the real world?" They meant the Iraqi street. Before I became a writer, I dealt in the stock and bond markets. The markets tell you every day whether you are right or wrong. You don't have to have philosophical arguments with your boss or your clients: if you make money you are good, and if you lose money you are bad. Elections are one of the few news occasions that provide editors and reporters with the clarity of numbers to help us to judge whether or not we are doing a decent job. January 30th turned out to be a better day for Iraqis than it was for reporters. The failure of "hotel journalism" might be forgivable if it were truly about prudence or even laziness. But there has been something wilful about the bad reporting of this story. It is weirdly personal: Iraq must fail. It is in fact the press that failed, on a scale for which I cannot think of a precedent. Will the big media outlets demand the same accountability of themselves that they demand of everyone else? They should, for the success of these elections was not so surprising to those who dug below the surface of Iraq.
If you don't want to pay the US$6 to read the article or the US$20 for a one year online subscription, send me an email and I'll send you the full text of the article. It's worth reading.

February 27, 2005 at 06:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

All but won?

Ohio journalist Jack Kelly thinks the war in Iraq is as good as won, in spite of what we read in the press:

Those who get their news from the "mainstream" media are surprised by developments in Iraq, as they were surprised by our swift victory in Afghanistan, the sudden fall of Saddam Hussein, the success of the Afghan election and the success of the Iraqi election.
Kelly makes some good points, but my favorite part of his column were the excerpts from this UK Spectator article by Toby Harnden on the 1st Infantry Division's Iraqi "Darwin Awards":
Sitting beneath a Dallas Cowboys T-shirt pinned to the wall of his office deep inside a former Baathist presidential palace, Lieutenant Colonel Jim Stockmoe lolled back in his chair and roared with laughter at the fatal idiocy of so many of his enemies.

‘We’ve had well over a dozen examples of these knuckleheads doing stupid things,’ he chuckled. ‘Here’s a funny story. There were three brothers down in Baghdad who had a mortar tube and were firing into the Green Zone. They didn’t have a baseplate so they were storing the mortar rounds in the car engine compartment and the rounds got overheated. Two of these clowns dropped them in the tube and they exploded, blowing their legs off.’

Abandoning the lifeless carcasses and smouldering wreckage of the car, the third brother sought refuge in a nearby house. The occupants were less than impressed, related Stockmoe, slapping his thigh. ‘So they proceeded to beat the crap out of him and then turned him over to the Iraqi police. It was like the movie Dumb and Dumber.’

Go and read the whole thing.

February 27, 2005 at 03:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 26, 2005

Two steps forward, one step back

Looking at the graphic pictures of seriously wounded Israeli teenagers who were the victims of last night's suicide attack in Tel Aviv is a sobering reminder of how far we need to go before peace will truly be at hand in the mideast.

But it is clear that we are making progress, and that President Bush's policy of refusing to negotiate with the corrupt Arafat and calling for democratic reforms throughout the Arab world is bearing fruit.

David Brooks' OpEd in today's NYT has a good summary of the extent of the progress made throughout the region, including Iraq, Lebanaon, and Palestine, as well as the growing recognition that -- as the Der Spiegel columnist Claus Christian Malzahn put it -- perhaps President Bush was right all along.

After Brooks' piece had no doubt been put to bed, Egyptian President (seemingly for life) Hosni Mubarak made a speech to Egypt's Parliament asking them to amend that country's Constitution to allow for multiparty (i.e. real) presidential elections later this year.

Taken together, these developments represent a true revolution in the Arab world: precisely what Dubya has been calling for since his groundbreaking speech in honor of the 20th Anniversary of the National Endowment for Democracy back in November 2003:

. . . In many nations of the Middle East -- countries of great strategic importance -- democracy has not yet taken root. And the questions arise: Are the peoples of the Middle East somehow beyond the reach of liberty? Are millions of men and women and children condemned by history or culture to live in despotism? Are they alone never to know freedom, and never even to have a choice in the matter? I, for one, do not believe it. I believe every person has the ability and the right to be free. (Applause.)

Some skeptics of democracy assert that the traditions of Islam are inhospitable to the representative government. This "cultural condescension," as Ronald Reagan termed it, has a long history. After the Japanese surrender in 1945, a so-called Japan expert asserted that democracy in that former empire would "never work." Another observer declared the prospects for democracy in post-Hitler Germany are, and I quote, "most uncertain at best" -- he made that claim in 1957. Seventy-four years ago, The Sunday London Times declared nine-tenths of the population of India to be "illiterates not caring a fig for politics." Yet when Indian democracy was imperiled in the 1970s, the Indian people showed their commitment to liberty in a national referendum that saved their form of government.

Time after time, observers have questioned whether this country, or that people, or this group, are "ready" for democracy -- as if freedom were a prize you win for meeting our own Western standards of progress. In fact, the daily work of democracy itself is the path of progress. It teaches cooperation, the free exchange of ideas, and the peaceful resolution of differences. As men and women are showing, from Bangladesh to Botswana, to Mongolia, it is the practice of democracy that makes a nation ready for democracy, and every nation can start on this path. . .

. . . And so they are.

February 26, 2005 at 06:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 25, 2005

Cowards in Academia

Check out author Michael Lewis' thoughtful defense of Harvard President Larry Summers which appeared today on Bloomberg News.   He makes the excellent point that Summers is essentially being punished for having had the courage and honesty to speak plainly about a sensitive topic in a quasi public forum.

. . .  The ideas floated by Summers might be proved right, or might be proved wrong. What they weren't was intellectually dishonest, or lazy. The president of a great university was examining a social problem seriously, as a man who intended to solve it. His argument is nuanced but the spirit in which he makes it is clear: He is hoping to increase the number of women on science faculties.

To do that, Summers argues that you must understand the reason for their relative absence, which may not be simply, as a lot of people want badly to believe, a matter of pure sex discrimination.

And yet, a full six weeks later, the collective response from the academy is still captured by Nancy Hopkins, a biologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who walked out in the middle of Summers's speech. She couldn't stay and listen, she told the Boston Globe, because if she had, "I would've either blacked out or thrown up.''

Faced with a question that science might address -- indeed is busy trying to address -- this scientist preferred to respond with pure emotion. She took a scientific hypothesis and turned it into a political weapon. If we lived in a braver world, one in which people were willing to stand up to other self-dramatizing people who long to see themselves as "victims,'' Professor Hopkins would have become, briefly, a figure of fun, and then been forgotten.

Instead a lot of people have rallied to her side and done what they needed to make sure she did not suffer another fainting spell. . .

I suspect that one reason this whole controversy has drawn as much attention as it has is that people realize we do have a major problem on our college campuses. That there is something seriously wrong when even raising questions about the victim status of any group -- whether it be women, gays, minorities, or whatever -- prompts immediate calls for that person's resignation. And if even a brave, honorable and well-intentioned man like Larry Summers can be forced to apologize publicly, who can blame lesser beings for ducking their heads and remaining silent?

This is no way to run an educational system -- or a society that wishes to remain free. This "new McCarthyism" of the left is a serious problem, and we need more brave men and women like Larry Summers to step up and fight against it.

February 25, 2005 at 06:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

$50 a Head... Literally!

Al Jazeera (of all places) has an interesting piece on the televised confessions of terrorists captured in Iraq. Though they are sympathetic to the view that the confessions are American disinformation designed to put pressure on Syria, the pictures (and stories) speak for themselves. Here is a sample:

"I took part in the decapitation of 10 Iraqis, all of them policemen," a man, who gave his name as Muhammad Hamud Muhammad Mussa and said he was Sudanese, told the US-financed Iraqiya television station.

"I was paid $50 for each beheading even though I'd been promised a lot more," he said.

Amusingly, Al Jazeera did not repeat the NYT's criticism that these broadcasts violated the terrorists' human rights, perhaps because that would imply that they believed the confessions were genuine.

February 25, 2005 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack