“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."
Saturday, March 31, 2007
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. Romans 1:20 thru 1:25
Here's PETA summed up in a nutshell:
The madness of the animal rights movement
David Kupelinan, World Net Daily
Elevating animals up to the level of human beings -- as actor Steven Segal, one of PETA's celebrity advocates, puts it, "We have to view all life as equal" -- is a round about way of saying that human beings are no more than animals and therefore have no souls.
Why would anyone deny that human beings have a soul, you might ask. Why would that notion that we have a divine spark within us be repugnant? After all, whatever goodness we humans can muster, whatever kindness and consideration we have for each other, is based on the fact that we know we are dealing with another soul. If we are faithful to our spouse, honorable in business, truthful to each other, willing to sacrifice for our children - whatever we consider to be virtuous and noble is tied up in this conviction that we are more than animals, that we are spiritual beings also, esteemed by God.
For many, there is a great comfort and "freedom" in believing that there is no soul, because if there is no soul, there is no God, no divine judgment, no accountability -- you get the picture. We're animals, so we act like animals, we do what animals do. They eat each other, mate in the street, run around naked - kind of like the '60s again, with "sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll."
The radical animal rights folks are exactly like the multiculturalists. Do you think the multiculturalists really care about Eskimo music or how the Ubangis make their lips as big as pancakes? Do they really care that much about cultures that worship rats, cows and sex organs? No, their interest is not really in elevating other cultures, nor in celebrating diversity.
Their interest is in tearing down Western civilization, in denying God, in denying the immortal soul of man -- denying that we will be judged one day by One greater than us.
In the same way, the animal rights radicals don't really love animals. They don't even know the meaning of the word love. They just want to be their own gods. And the way you become your own god in this life is to deny the real One.
Animal-rights radicals loathe the idea of man having an immortal soul, of his being superior to the animals, because if we are superior to animals it is because we have a soul, and that reality makes us subservient to something greater than ourselves. And, as I said, some people just want to be their own god.
Besides, many people just don't get along with other people. After all, people give you a hard time, they can criticize you, they can even tell you the truth when you don't want to hear it. Animals never do that.
The driver hauling the two tons is being held at "El Paso immigration detention center pending immigration removal proceedings." I assume that these proceedings are the customary process prior to an arraignment and trial for the drug charges. I hate to think that he would be returned to Mexico without prosecution.
A total of 12,000 lbs of marijuana and 9.7 lbs of cocaine were seized last week alone. These drugs are killing America. Now methamphetamines have swept through even the rural areas, so there's no getting away from the crime and depredation.
Call me a fundie, but I see a correlation between the rise of secularism and hedonism and the disintegration of American culture. You can thank Madelyn Murray O'Hair and the American Civil Liberties Union for that.
..."as soon as the Islamists come to power: All islamist regimes end up in dramatic failure. That some Islamists today turn violent and even suicidal, is only an indication of their failure to realise their plans. Eventually Muslims will have to wake up to the reality that they are no longer the masters of history, but a deprived and underdeveloped minority in the global community. Only when Muslims face this reality, they will be able to proceed."
Iran has its reasons for taking the British hostages.It is clearly not to impress the West. Is it possible that it is for their bigger goal of rallying Islam behind them? Iran is after all the bastion of Islamic purity. This article from Radio Netherlands
"Muslim reformers intellectually dishonest"
by Michel Hoebink
Muslim modernist reformers are intellectually dishonest. Many are merely using religion as a means to mobilise people for their modernisation projects. That is the bold claim made by secular Syrian thinker Sadiq Jalal al-Azm. But he nevertheless admits that reform of Islam is badly needed.
He jokingly calls himself the 'official atheist of the Arab world'. Since the publication of his book Critique of Religious Thought in 1969, Sadiq Jalal al-Azm is one of the most prominent secularist thinkers in the Muslim world.
The now retired professor of European philosophy at the University of Damascus belongs to a generation of western-educated intellectuals who, contrary to their expectations, gradually saw the Muslim world turn more and more religious. Being an atheist became increasingly dangerous, but Sadiq al-Azm never felt the urge to leave.
He divides his time between Damascus and Beirut and universities in Europe and the US. He also spent a few months in the Netherlands, at the NIAS research institute in Leiden. In the Netherlands, he is a well-known figure because some of his work has been translated into Dutch and in 2004 he was awarded the prestigious Erasmus prize, together with two Muslim modernist thinkers: the Moroccan Fatima Mernissi and the Iranian Abdolkarim Soroush.
What is the difference between you and modernist reformers such as Fatima Mernissi and Abdolkarim Soroush?
"People like Mernissi and Soroush pretend to reform Islam from the inside. They reform Islam as good Muslims. The group to which I belong does not do this. I want to reform the thinking of Muslims too, but I never pretended to do this from inside Islam or as a Muslim. I never made a concession on this matter."
So they are pretending?
"Since the 19th Century, modernist thinkers have been haunted by rumours that they are not real believers, that they merely use religion as a means to mobilise people for reforms. And they even say so themselves: Until today, many of these reformers argue that, if you want to convince the people, you have to speak to them in their 'own language', that is to say: in religious terms.
This may be a valid argument, but it also reveals the instrumental way in which they think about religion.
I admit that it is easy for me to criticise them: I am a man of ideas, a public intellectual who is sometimes called upon to give his supposedly studied judgement on matters of public interest. I'm not involved in organising people and directing movements and so on.
Let me put it this way: In my view there is a division of labour in this effort of modernising Muslim societies.
Both approaches are valid. We need people who work on the inside and we also need people who work from the outside. But personally I think there is a certain intellectual dishonesty in this claim to reform Islam from the inside."
Can Islam be reformed at all?
"I think so, but it requires a departure from the literal text of the Koran. That's a radical step, because the Muslim masses cling to the idea that the Koran is literally true. But it is obvious that the literal text of the Koran simply cannot be applied in modern society.
Take for instance the corporal punishments prescribed in the Koran. Radical Islamists want to impose them, but they are a minority.
The majority of Muslims have split personalities on this matter: They insist that this is the penal law of Islam and at the same time they admit that it is inapplicable. What I propose is to resolve this contradiction and officially state that the shari'a corporal punishments are obsolete.
The problem is that most of my colleagues who claim to reform Islam from the inside do not address this problem, probably because they fear it will alienate them from their audiences. Modernists such as Fatima Mernissi keep playing this game of quoting texts of Koran and Prophetic Traditions in support of their case, implicitly assuming the literal truth of these texts. And if they do not find anything that supports them, they twist and torture the meaning of the text until it suits their demands.
But what about more radical reformers such as Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd who look at the Koran as a historical text and admit that it can no longer be literally applied?
People like Abu Zayd are more honest in asking the question: What can the Koran mean to us today, in light of modern scientific knowledge? But what annoys me is that they keep speaking in the name of the 'real Islam.' Historically speaking, Muslims are divided among hundreds of groups who all claim that they possess the 'real' or 'true' Islam.
As a critical intellectual you can't seriously claim that you possess the 'real Islam'. All you can say is: This is the way it makes sense to me personally."
Some people believe that religion is on the rise again in the whole world, and especially in the Muslim World.
"I think the process of secularisation is irreversible, in Europe and the US but also in the Muslim world. The present so-called revival of religion is just some sort of last spasm, a desperate effort to cling to something that in fact has already disappeared. In the Muslim world, Islamists present themselves as an alternative for western culture, but they do not really have an alternative: Their slogan 'Islam is the solution' is an illusion. Islam simply cannot solve the problems of the 21st Century.
That becomes clear as soon as the Islamists come to power: All islamist regimes end up in dramatic failure. That some Islamists today turn violent and even suicidal, is only an indication of their failure to realise their plans. Eventually Muslims will have to wake up to the reality that they are no longer the masters of history, but a deprived and underdeveloped minority in the global community. Only when Muslims face this reality, they will be able to proceed."
There is no direct evidence, but since the House and Senate set up deadlines on a US exit from Iraq, reported violence seems to have accelerated. Over 400 Iraqi people have been killed over the past four days, AFP reported Iraqi officials and medics as saying.
125 people were killed in a series of coordinated marketplace blasts in Baghdad and town of Khalis on Thursday.
In a separate incident at least 82 men, women and children were slain in blasts as two suicide bomber tore through a market place in the Al-Shaab, in Baghdad on Thursday.
The blasts came just days after former US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told a farewell news conference that violence had fallen by 25 percent in and around Baghdad since 80,000 Iraqi and US troops deployed under the new security plan.
Another 43 were killed were killed in a series of vehicle bombs, roadside bomb and mortar attacks in the town of Khalis in Diyala province on Thursday.
On Tuesday, doctors and army officers said 160 Iraqis were slaughtered in the northern town of Tal Afar, 85 in a suicide bombing targeting a crowd waiting for food rations and another 75 men shot dead.
The announced visit to Syria by Nancy Pelosi, over White House objections is foolish and irresponsible and will only encourage increased violence and sectarian turf wars. Supporting the troops will get a lot more killed.
White House Criticizes US House Speaker's Plan to Visit Syria
By David Gollust VOA
30 March 2007
The Bush administration Friday criticized plans by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to visit Syria. Pelosi and a delegation of other House Democrats are expected to go to Damascus early next week as part of a broader Middle East trip. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.
Officials here say Speaker Pelosi and her delegation are getting all the customary logistical support from the State Department, including a policy briefing on Syria.
But in an unusual move, the Bush administration has publicly criticized the speaker's travel plans, saying the visit will undermine U.S.-led efforts to isolate the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Congressional aides say Pelosi and her colleagues began the mission Friday in Jerusalem where they were to meet Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and would go on to Syria, then Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.
Pelosi, who as House speaker is just behind Vice President Dick Cheney in the presidential line-of succession, would be the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Syria in several years.
At the White House, Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino said the visit was a very bad idea that can only help the Syrian government, which the United States accuses of meddling in Lebanon, supporting Palestinian extremists, and allowing foreign fighters to cross its borders into Iraq.
At a news briefing here, State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said the Assad government showcases visits of this kind to try to conceal its own political isolation:
"We don't think it would be appropriate for high-level visitors, even those from the Congress to pay a visit to Syria right now," he said. "The typical Syrian MO [mode of operation] on this is to use these visits to tell the rest of the world, to say: look, there's nothing wrong. We're having all these visitors coming to Damascus. There's no problem with our behavior. And they point to the visits as proof that there is no problem with their behavior and they are not, in fact, isolated."
McCormack said the administration's advice on visiting Syria would be the same to both Democrats and Republicans, while stressing that travel decisions are ultimately made by the legislators themselves.
Though it maintains diplomatic relations with Syria, the United States withdrew its ambassador from Damascus in 2005 after Syrian officials were implicated in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration Ellen Sauerbrey was in Damascus earlier this month in the highest-level State Department visit there in two years.
But McCormack said her talks were limited to her counterparts in the Syrian government and strictly confined to the issue of Iraqi refugees.
The Pelosi delegation also includes, among others, House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Tom Lantos and first-term Minnesota Democrat Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress.
A group of Senators from both parties visited Damascus in December after the bipartisan Iraq Study Group recommended greater U.S. dialogue with Syria and Iran in efforts to end Iraqi violence.
Friday, March 30, 2007
Very few EB readers and commenting members will find much fault with this assessment from the Telegraph.
Heading for war with Iran
By Simon Heffer
Last Updated: 12:13pm BST 30/03/2007
I start to wonder whether it might not be time for us to get as nasty with other countries as they do with us.
As we wait anxiously to see what will happen to our 15 hostages - for that is what they are - in Teheran, we should feel undiluted rage at the behaviour of other countries and institutions towards us.
Mind you, when those third parties witness the drivelling weakness of the Foreign Office over the last week, and in particular the pathetic show put up by our Foreign Secretary - who must surely be just about the worst in our history - who can blame them?
There is no doubt the 15 were in international waters when captured, or that they were undertaking a United Nations mission in pursuit of upholding UN resolutions. Yet the best the UN itself can do is pass a weak-kneed resolution describing its “grave concern”, rather than a tougher one calling upon all nations to “deplore” Iran’s behaviour.
This is all the fault of Russia, to whom Mr Blair routinely cosies up, and whom the civilised world invites to its annual G8 summit meetings. Russia seems to think it isn’t worth “deploring” the kidnap of our sailors, so we had better start to show Russia what we think of it: by uninviting it from the G8 this year, and every year until it learns some manners.
When not busy ordering the murders of his opponents, Vladimir Putin seems to enjoy hobnobbing with the leaders of civilised countries, so such a sanction would hurt.
We don’t have the means to engage in gunboat diplomacy with Iran, and any special forces operation would be fraught with risks both for the hostages and their rescuers.
For the moment, ever-stricter sanctions on Iran seems the only answer. America is resolute about this. So too, oddly, is the world’s greatest sanction-busting nation, France. So the scope for tightening the economic ratchet on Iran, and the means to do so, look healthy.
However, we should be under no illusions about the effectiveness of such weapons.
Saddam Hussein, after all, was put under sanctions for years. Real hardship was caused to his people, but almost none at all to him and his ruling clique.
President Ahmadinejad of Iran has already threatened Britain about our involvement of “third parties” - that is, the UN - in the present dispute, showing his utter contempt for that organisation.
He would treat sanctions with similar disdain, happily cutting off the noses of his own people to spite their faces. And all the time, the threat he and his inherent instability pose to us all would never cease growing.
Whatever the immediate outcome of this crisis, Britain has some hard decisions to make. Is it worthwhile, any longer, to work through the United Nations?
So long as a morally warped nation like Putin’s Russia calls the shots in the Security Council, no.
We can make debating points about how odd it is that Putin deplores Islamic nutters when they attack his forces but is relaxed about them attacking ours, but in the end there is no point in bothering.
The UN showed itself to be weak with Saddam Hussein. It is no better now.
If we are going to continue to try to be a player in the Middle East, then we have to throw in our lot with the Americans, for no-one else makes the blindest bit of difference there.
The capricious, and indeed downright wicked, behaviour of the Iranians towards our sailors confirms one other thing: that the civilised world cannot let the Ahmadinejad regime develop nuclear weapons.
It is not just his oft-repeated enthusiasm for wiping Israel off the face of the earth that should worry us: it is what this madman might decide he wants to do to anyone else within range.
This is no time for our clueless Government to be mothballing the Navy and cutting down the other services. For, at some stage, Iran’s lethal contempt for the rule of international law is going to mean war.
From National Review Online:
Just Like the Mullahs
Taking hostages is just standard operating procedure for Iran.
By Michael Ledeen
The deep thinkers now torturing themselves for an explanation of the Iranian seizure of 15 British hostages should reread the ancient wisdom contained in the fable of the scorpion and the crocodile. The scorpion is desperate to cross the river, but can’t swim, so he begs the croc to give him a ride. The croc is afraid the scorpion will sting him. The scorpion promises he won’t. The croc gives him the ride. As they get to the far bank, the scorpion stings. The croc is disgusted and cries out “why did you do that? You promised...” And the scorpion says, “but I’m a scorpion.”
Ditto for the mullahs. They took the hostages because that is what they do. They’ve been doing it for a long time. To get a sense of how big this phenomenon has been, just consider that in January, 1989, the Lebanese newspaper Al-Amal reported that, since the mid-Seventies, when the epidemic of kidnapping began, more than 100 hostages had been taken in more than 75 separate incidents. One of the leading kidnappers was the Iranian creature, Islamic Jihad, which thoughtfully explained the practice in a letter to Javier Perez de Cuellar, then secretary-general of the United Nations, in August, 1991:
The issue of detainees and prisoners in the world is one of the outcomes of our confrontation with the powers of hegemony, which America leads as the mother of all corruption along with its germ Israel...As such, the issue of detainees is the reaction of Muslim freedom fighters to those practices. It is also an effort to release our mujahideen who are in prison. And this kind of reaction will continue as long as we are facing the same deeds, and because we believe in the necessity of work to release our freedom fighters from the prisons of occupied Palestine and Europe, and to solve the problem of those we hold in our prisons.
That’s all you need to know, really. The Iranians have two basic reasons to take hostages. One is to break our will and drive us out of the region; the other is to trade their prey for their comrades now in our grip, of whom there is a significant number (several hundred Iranian intelligence and military officers have been captured in Iraq in recent months, according to good U.S. government sources).
Why now? Because now is when they succeeded in doing it; they’ve been trying all along.
Why Brits rather than Americans? In truth, they would prefer Americans, and, as we know thanks to an enormously important scoop in the current U.S. News & World Report, they had at least one failed attempt to do just that, last September. According to a fairly detailed report dated September 7th, from the 101st Airborne Division, a U.S. Cavalry group patrolling the Iran/Iraq border with six Iraqis came across a couple of Iranian soldiers on the Iraqi side of the border. When the Iranians saw them, they jumped back into Iran. Later, “the patrol came upon a single Iranian soldier on the Iraqi side of the border who did not flee.” So the joint patrol engaged the nice Iranian in conversation (at that time, the rules of engagement did not permit us to shoot or arrest the nice Iranians). During the schmooze, an Iranian platoon suddenly appeared and its commander informed the joint patrol that “if they tried to leave their location the Iranians would fire upon them.”
This turned out to be a bit of an understatement, since the Iranian platoon interrupted the conversation shortly thereafter by starting to shoot with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades. “The CF Soldiers returned fire to break contact and left the area to report the incident” (don’t you love the 1984-style language? A simple English translation would have been better: “We shot back at the bastards and got the hell out of there”). The Iranians kept on firing but didn’t hit anyone.
And, by the way, the Iraqi-army guys stayed with the Iranians.
So the Iranians set up a trap, apparently in cahoots with the six Iraqis. We walked into it, but when push came to shove we didn’t surrender; we shot back and lived to file a report.
There’s a lot to dwell on in that report from the 101st Airborne — especially the disgusting rules of engagement (recently changed, inshallah). The old ROE essentially permitted American soldiers to shoot back, but rarely to initiate lethal action, which is no way to win a war. But the point here is that the nice Iranians clearly intended to kill some Americans and capture some others. That didn’t turn out well for them, but they got lucky with the Brits, who didn’t shoot back.
Notice the date of the report: It’s last September, before the surge, before the defection-or-snatch of several top Revolutionary Guards officials, before the latest sanctions vote at the U.N., before the arrest of the Quds-force thugs in Irbil. Taking hostages is just standard operating procedure for the Islamic Republic. Efforts to link the latest event to recent developments may be intellectually interesting, but I think analytically mistaken.
The interesting and important question is what we — yes, we — are going to do about it. You can be sure that the “professionals” in Foggy Bottom and Whitehall are giving learned memos to their leaders in which the word “deescalate” appears with some frequency, along with “diplomatic solution.” I doubt many of them will lose much sleep over their own considerable responsibility for the current unpleasantness, but let’s write a footnote that says: The Brits have labored mightily for many years to prevent the United States from pursuing vigorous action against Iran. The starched-shirt set at Whitehall and at MI6 have a predictable aristocratic disdain for “cowboy” foreign policy, confident in their own consummate abilities to “understand the mullahs” where Americans couldn’t possibly get it, and hence in the ultimate success of the diplomatic track. Now they will have to answer to the families of the hostages, whose accents are likely to be harsher than their own Oxbridge-speak.
It would be nice if someone in a position of power noted that the Iranians have committed an act of war on a NATO country, and that the other members of the alliance can be obliged to join in common action against the aggressor if the relevant terms of the treaty are invoked, as they should be. That should be the first move, showing the Iranians that the West is united and determined to act. It should be accompanied by the appearance of some vessels from what is left of Her Majesty’s Navy, buttressing our own warships and — shhhh! — the French carrier now in the area. If we have actionable intelligence from the recent wave of defectors/prisoners, we should step up the campaign against Iranian officials and agents in Iraq. And we should undertake the legitimate self-defense to which we are entitled, by moving against the terrorist training camps, and the improvised explosive device assembly lines and manufacturing sites inside the Islamic Republic.
Above all, we should, at long last, proclaim this regime unworthy of respect and call for its downfall.
Poland Should Learn From British Hostage Fiasco In Iran Masterpage
Warsaw, Poland March 29, 2007 The European Union response to Iran taking Europeans working under a U.N. mandate should show the Polish government that Poland cannot depend upon the European Union for any assistance if that assistance would be contrary to the interests of any of its members' government.
The British sailors taken hostage by Iran are Europeans. The British forces were operating as part of a multinational force under an explicit UN mandate, to protect oil installations and prevent the smuggling of guns into Iraq
And the European Union has largely abandoned them.
The current President of the European Union, Andrea Merkel, has been telling members of the European Union that the European Union should speak in one voice.
But now when it is time to speak with one voice, the European Union is silent.
The European Union could swiftly solve the hostage crisis.
The EU is by far Iran's biggest trading partner. More than 40% of its imports come from, and more than a quarter of its exports go to, the EU. Remarkably, this trade has grown strongly in the last years of looming crisis. Much of it is underpinned by export credit guarantees given by European governments, notably those of Germany, France and Italy. According to the most recent figures available from the German economics ministry, Iran is Germany's third-largest beneficiary of export credit guarantees, outdone only by Russia and China. Iran comes second to none in terms of the proportion of German exports - in recent years up to 65% - underwritten by the German government. See European Union: will you put your money where your mouth is?
It would be a simple matter of Andrea Merkel to tell the Iranian Government, on behalf of the European Union, that the citizens blatantly taken as hostages in Iraqi waters should be freed or Germany, as a member of the European Union, speaking with one voice for its members, would halt export guarantees.
But that would have adverse consequences for German business interests. And because of that it is likely that the European Union will not speak with one voice and leave its European citizens and the United Kingdom, a fellow member of the unit European Union, to their own devices.
Andrea Merkel by not stepping forward to help the people taken hostage has confirmed that the European Union is little more than a weak trading community and that the members of the European Union will follow their own business interests and disregard others around them should they need help.
Poland should prepare to care for itself and not depend on the Europe Union. The European Union is all talk and side deals. It is weak and will run for help but won't give any.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
No, these are not the names of two soon to be released Hollywood remakes. Unfortunately, this is an on-going series about life in wonderful, multi-culti Minnesota.
The Minnesota Fatwa is a news story that I missed. I knew about the Minnesota Muslim cabbies dustup, but I didn't know about a Minnesota Fatwa until I heard about it on Glenn Beck's television show Tuesday night. It seems that all was well with the Muslims in Minnesota until some new "fire and brimstone Imams" moved into the area and started riding herd. Evidently, these hardcore preachers laid down the law and in June 2006, the Imams (including one of the "Flying Imams") issued a fatwa against liquor in cabs and warned the muslim cabbies that if they allowed it in their cabs, they would be hell-bound along with their infidel fares. Well, what would you do if faced with such a choice?
According to a quite likable common sense Arizona Muslim guest on the Glenn Beck Show, the Muslim people were happy until these Imams arrived and started making everyone's life miserable. That seems to be the way it goes, The wahabist send in their men who first crackdown on their own people, then the neighborhood, the town and so forth. The ultimate goal is an Islamic state with Sharia law, inshallah.
It's a good thing for US Airways that these preachers can't sue them in Sharia court but given the current state of jurisprudence, it may not matter.
Times have changed
Show of power at king's palace reflects growing Saudi influence in region
Orly Azoulay ynet news
Published: 03.29.07, 17:05 / Israel Opinion
The power of the Saudi kingdom, which is gradually becoming a leading force in the Middle East, didn't go unnoticed at the Arab Summit in Riyadh.
The heads of the Arab states coming through the congress palace doors in Riyadh couldn't ignore the opulent wealth evident in every corner: From the Italian marble highlighted by bright lights, to the solid gold faucets in the bathrooms, the shining crystal chandeliers hanging from the expansive session halls ceiling, through to the gold trays bearing the emblem of the royal court on which lunch was served.
A fleet of thousands of shiny new cars had been put at the disposal of the guests. Officials of the Saudi Information Ministry accompanied them to the conference sessions. The hundreds of journalist who arrived from all over the world to cover the summit were taken aback by the luxurious press center prepared for them. Royal guards dressed in white robes and bearing golden swords were stationed in each of the session rooms.
This demonstration of Saudi power is the climax of a recently developing process. The US has realized that its support for Israel coupled with its desire to enforce democracy as was the case in Iraq, served to anger the Arab world and weakened its ability to serve as Mideast mediator.
Thus, in recent weeks Washington has shifted its policies and has decided to come closer to the Arab world. This decision has transformed Saudi Arabia, which is closely affiliated to the American Administration, into a bridge between the US and the Arabs states.
The Riyadh summit has established Saudi Arabia's status as a regional superpower. The reconciliation process between Israel and the Arab world led by the Saudi kingdom has granted the Saudis the status of a popular mediator sought by all.
Leaders of the region are seeking Saudi assistance in resolving the conflicts plaguing them. The Syrian president has asked the Saudis to add him to the diplomatic process being consolidated; the Lebanese president placed the issue of the instability of his country on King Abdullah's table; and the Sudanese president made pilgrimage to Riyadh in the hope that the king would assist him in finding a solution to the ongoing tragedy in the Darfur region.
Heads of the Saudi kingdom are now trying to also use their influence on Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, who arrived at the summit at the very last moment, in order resolve the Iranian nuclear crisis.
Only the Egyptian representatives at the summit walked around bearing an angered expression. It's easy to see how humiliated and offended the Egyptians are by the Saudi's takeover of their leadership role in the Mideast arena. Times have changed: Processes that will evolve shortly in the Middle East and Africa will pass through King Abdullah's courtyard.
Saudi Arabia has managed to bring about an agreement between the Palestinians, which paved the way to the establishment of a unity government, a Saudi official who was proud of his country's new status told me.
He said the Saudis shall continue on this path. He added that they initiated the reconciliation between Israel and the Arab world and will soon convene a joint conference with the participation of representatives from the Middle East and the Quartet, in order to build the engine that will move the peace process forward.
Contrary to him, there are some who contend that Saudi Arabia is attempting to establish a coalition in the Arab world in order to sabotage Iran's nuclear ambitions. Diplomatic sources at the conference told me that behind the scenes the following move is being consolidated: The US has realized that it is losing its power due to its tendency for unilateralism towards Israel and has decided to get closer to Saudi Arabia so that it would consolidate a moderate Arab coalition.
However, just like in Washington, there are no free meals in Riyadh either: In order for the Saudis to enter this process, the Americans assured them that they would exert pressure on Israel to make difficult decisions and to reach a compromise that would enable the Palestinians to establish an independent state. Thus, the US would be granted a type of Arab umbrella for a diplomatic or military campaign against Iran, whereas Saudi Arabia would be able to boast before the Arab world that it had succeeded in bringing about an Israeli compromise.
Symbolic and historic event
A senior official in the Saudi administration told me that had the Israeli prime minister's political status been stronger, it may well be assumed that the peace train would have proceeded much faster. "There's a serious process here," he said.
He told me that the fact that I, a representative of an Israeli newspaper, was present there is not incidental. He added that this was a "symbolic and historic event." It's not just a sign for Israel; it is primarily aimed at the Arab world as if to say: Look, speaking to the Israelis is possible, he said.
The presence of an Israeli journalist in the Saudi king's palace sparked considerable unease. Following publication in the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, Arab journalists and media outlets tried to locate me for an interview. Al-Jazeera reported my visit in its news update, as did the French news agency and the Los Angeles Times.
A journalist working for an Arab TV network told me this has created quite a commotion in the Arab world, and that not everyone was in favor. He said that according to the majority of Arabs, Israel is a cruel occupier. The conference is clearly an Arab world event, and even though it was known that your presence here would irritate a lot of people – the Saudi foreign minister himself invited you, he said. "That says a lot. He has the power and courage to do things that lack consensus."
The Saudis with whom I spoke to during the conference responded with friendliness to my visit. "You are our guest," the official from the Information Ministry accompanying the journalists told me, "perhaps one day we too shall be your guests in your country."
Father returns as a diamond to accompany his daughter down the aisle
By Martin Beckford The Telegraph
Last Updated: 8:32am BST 29/03/2007
A woman had the ashes of her late husband turned into a diamond so he could accompany their daughter down the aisle at her wedding.
Susan Egan came up with the unusual memorial to her husband of 30 years, Mick, after he died of a brain haemorrhage last year.
She found an American company which was able to extract carbon from Mr Egan’s ashes before heating it to extreme temperatures to convert it into graphite.
The rough diamond crystal was then cut to her specifications after being created in special presses.
The synthetic stone took 24 weeks to create but arrived the day before the wedding of the Egans’ daughter Celeste, just in time for her to carry it down the aisle.
Celeste, from Blackpool, told the BBC: “It was emotional but it was nice emotion because I was pleased that it had happened and that I could have something of my Dad to take down the aisle with me.
“It seemed like the right thing to do for us as a family and for my Dad - we think he would have loved the idea.”
Her mother added: “We had to have a blue one because my husband’s eyes are blue. I never visualised that it would be so beautiful until it arrived.
“He is my diamond geezer now."
I may be the victim of societal programming for slim babes. Maybe I have been missing something. I hate to miss something. Perhaps there are many untasted delights on the table set before us. Some say so.
Are they right? It seems as if they are right and wrong. There are clearly many more heavy people of both sexes and in my unscientific observation, many "unbalanced" couples. Help me out here.
Poll shows women see size 12 as overweight
Mar 29 2007
Molly Watson, Western Mail
THE extent of how the size zero debate has hit women's lives is revealed today as it emerged that most think wearing a size 12 dress means they are overweight.more here
Despite the fact that the average woman wears a size 16, an overwhelming 97% think anyone who wears a size 12 or above is fat, according to a new poll.
The Body Idol Survey 2007, published by New Women Magazine, reveals a nation of women riddled with anxiety about their weight and going to desperate measures to slim down.
More than 90% of the 5,000 women polled admitted they often felt fat before a night out, and they wouldn't want to spend time with friends who were fatter than them.
More than three quarters admitted they were jealous of slimmer friends and 84% said they thought about their size and shape every 12 minutes and would feel happier if they could lose weight.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
After all these years of dealing with the lying, two-faced Palestinians, why do we never learn that we can't deal with these terrorists? Why do we keep going back for more? Surely, we would have learned by now that by inserting ourselves between the Israelis and the Palestinians we are providing hope for the terrorists and prolonging the agony.
RIYADH (Reuters) - Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh urged Arab leaders meeting at a summit in Riyadh on Wednesday not to compromise on the Palestinian refugees' right to return to their homes in what is now At the Arab League summit, kings and heads of state will revive an Arab plan for peace with Israel in an effort to end a conflict with Israel seen at the heart of the region's problems.
Haniyeh, who is also leader of the Islamist Hamas movement, told Reuters in an interview, his group would not oppose the Arab plan, but would not give in on the Palestinian refugees' right of return.
"What concerns me more than anything else ... is not to compromise on the fundamental Palestinian rights, foremost being the right of return," Haniyeh said shortly before the summit opened.
It seems to me, that the Bush Administration took the right tack in ignoring Yassir Arafat in the year preceding his death. Then, something changed. I suspect it was Saudi pressure for the US for intervene so as to not look so pro-Israeli. Bush obliged and our negotiating partner is now not only Fatah but Hamas. Lovely, almost as lovely as the situation in Iraq where we're stuck in the middle between cutthroat Islamic fanatics of both sects and bloodthirsty former Baathists and other criminals. None of whom care who or how many people they kill or maim.
And he shall be a wild-ass of a man; his hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him; and over all his brothers shall he dwell. Genesis 16:12Were truer words ever written? The bloodletting will go on until the end of time and the sooner we extricate ourselves, the better.
The Monroe Doctrine states three major ideas. It conveys that European countries cannot colonize in any of the Americas. It enforces Washington's rule of foreign policy, in which the U.S. will only be involved in European affairs if America's rights are disturbed. It also states the U.S. will consider any attempt at colonization a threat to its national security.
This week ITT was fined $100 million for transferring night vision technology to China. That follows a lengthy list of illegal security transfers to China. China is rapidly expanding her military infrastructure using much stolen US technology.
China has recently established a one trillion dollar fund to recycle excess dollars which she holds as a result of US trade surpluses. That money will be used to purchase hard assets such as oil, timber and ore reserves.
China has expanding interests in Latin America, especially Venezuela, which coincidentally has the regime in Latin America most hostile to US interests.
The US can always make a political decision to disengage from the Middle East. The US cannot disengage Venezuela from the Americas, nor can the US disengage from the social problems created in this hemisphere.
Is it the intention and policy of The United States of America to abandon the Monroe Doctrine? It seems to be.
CARACAS, March 27 (Xinhua) -- China and Venezuela have expressed their wish to deepen their strategic association and cooperation during the three-day visit of a senior official of the Communist Party of China (CPC).
During his visit, Li Changchun, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, fulfilled a tight working schedule, speaking to senior Venezuelan officials to exchange ideas on the development of bilateral relations.
On Monday night, Li met Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela, in the Miraflores presidential palace. There he said that since the establishment of the China-Venezuela strategic association, and especially in recent years, relations had entered a new phase characterized by frequent high-level visits, growing political trust and collaboration.
He added that China is certain that cooperation to the benefit of both nations is in the fundamental interest of both nations, and that China seeks to increase strategic consensus with Venezuela.
He also said that the CPC regards exchanges with the Fifth Republic Movement party, founded by Chavez, as very important and called for every closer cooperation between the two.
Chavez said that bilateral relations held many opportunities and good prospects. He emphasized the Venezuelan government's hopes to explore more collaboration with China in other fields.
Li and Chavez attended a Monday night event, where economic and technological cooperation agreements were signed.
Li also met senior members of Venezuela's economic cabinet to review economic cooperation agreements.
He also placed a floral wreath at the grave of South American liberation hero Simon Bolivar at the National Cemetery, and visited the Caracas house where Bolivar was born.
On Tuesday, Li met Cilia Flores, the president of Venezuela's legislature, the National Assembly. He also visited the Caracas offices of CNPC America Ltd, a subsidiary of China National Petroleum Corp.
This is the first high-level official visit by a Chinese official since Zeng Qinghong, China's vice-president, visited Venezuela in January 2005.
China-Venezuela trade was 4.338 billion U.S. dollars in 2006, a record level and up 102.5 percent from a year earlier, according to Chinese official statistics. China and Venezuela established diplomatic relations in June 1974.
Forced to wear the Islamic head scarf that identifies a woman to be without normal human rights and against the Geneva Convention, a British sailor, is paraded on Iranian TV. I am sure we can shortly expect to hear from all civil libertarians and those interested in international law.
TEHRAN, Iran Mar 28, 2007 (AP)— Iranian state TV showed video Wednesday of the 15 British sailors and marines who were seized last week, including a female captive who wore a white tunic and a black head scarf and said the British boats "had trespassed" in Iranian waters.
The British government protested Iran's broadcast of the captured crew as "completely unacceptable." The British military had earlier released what it called proof that its boats were in the territorial waters of Iraq not Iran when they were seized.
History is the only guide that we have to predict future events. Government, religion, politics, and law are all based on the past. There are reoccurring themes. Slaughter and mayhem in World War I and WWII led to the creation of the European Union. The cost was fifty million dead and unimaginable destruction.
When the blood lust was satisfied and all alternatives to war were exhausted, a power of uncontested strength and a demonstrated history of willingness to use that power stepped forward. The US provided the security for a willing Europe to make a meaningful change. That is history. It happened because all parties wanted it to be.
That formula does not exist in the Muslim world. They have not killed enough of each other yet. They will.
50 men 'executed' in Iraq terror carnage
David Byers and agencies
Gunmen have executed up to 50 Sunnis in an ethnically divided Iraqi town, in what appeared to be a horrific revenge attack for the slaughtering of 75 mainly Shia Muslims in a double-truck bombing only hours before.
In signs that the sectarian conflict in the north-western Iraqi community of Tal Afar is rapidly spiralling out of control, dozens of men were randomly shot in the head by rampaging gunmen in an overnight attack at the Sunni district of al-Wahda.
Police and military sources claim that the gang, some of whom may be off duty Shia policemen, stormed through the neighbourhood, firing at their victims at close range and leaving bodies piling up in homes and on Tal Afar's streets.
A doctor at the town's main hospital - still overwhelmed with casualties after the earlier double suicide bombing - this morning confirmed that all those who died had been shot in the head in deliberate execution style.
In the first of yesterday's bombing attacks, one of the bombers was reported to have lured victims to buy wheat loaded onto his truck before blowing himself up. The second exploded was in a used car lot. The death toll from the blasts was still rising this morning, as many of the injured are reported to be in a serious condition.
A doctor at Tal Afar's main hospital said that he was rapidly losing control of the situation.
"I wish you can come and see all the bodies. They are lying in the grounds. We don’t have enough space in the hospital. All of the victims were shot in the head," he told Reuters.
"No less than 45 people were killed. I’ve never seen such a thing in my life." Police and military officials later put the casualty figure at around 50.
The attacks follow an upsurge in violence in Baghdad and outside the capital in recent days which has showed no sign of abating.
US and Iraqi security forces have deployed thousands more soldiers in the Iraqi capital to try to stem a sectarian war threatening to tear the country apart, and the US has increased its own troop deployment in a controversial troop 'surge.'
The Tal Afar carnage is all the more ironic because George W Bush last year used the town as an example of the progress being made in Iraq after US-led forces freed it from al Qaeda in an offensive in 2005.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
The UN issues anther warning about Sudan and calls for stronger sanctions. In Eqypt, Mubarak pushes through a controversial group of Constitutional Amendments in an election boycotted by the Muslim Brotherhood. Today the US rattled the saber but is it just for show and will Iraq even slow down in the run up to the inevitable showdown between the Islamic world and the West?
As if George Bush didn't have his hands full fighting the "evil doers" abroad, the lynch mob is gathering outside AG Gonzalez's office. Bob Novak wrote a column echoing what I said about George Bush being one of the loneliest lame ducks in Presidential history.
Carter's hand still felt in Iran
Last Updated:March 26. 2007 11:00PM
Published: March 27. 2007 3:30AM
Where is Jimmy Carter when we need him the most? The former president who has spent his post-White House years giving his successors the benefit of his foreign policy expertise whether they wanted it or not, has been curiously reticent when it comes to Iran. After all, no U. S. president past or present has more experience with the Persian menace than Carter.
The latest U.N. sanctions against Iran for its determination to enrich uranium with the quite obvious goal of becoming a nuclear power mark almost 30 years of unsuccessful efforts by the civilized world to control a radical rogue regime that got its start because of Carter's misguided policies.
In fairness, however, the former peanut farmer's mistakes were compounded by the tunnel vision of several other administrations that focused unswervingly on Saddam Hussein, whom we now know was merely a loud mouthed con artist when it came to international dealings and a vicious thug and bully at home.
George W. Bush's willingness to accept the fiction of Iraq's secret efforts to build weapons of mass destruction, as Oliver Hardy used to say, has gotten us into another fine mess, while the Iranians clapped their hands in glee over the demise of their Sunni enemy and the installation of a pro-Iranian government in Baghdad. While Saddam's efforts to develop WMDs turned out to be so clandestine that even he didn't know about them, the Iranians were on the road to the real thing.
It is now hard to believe that these new sanctions imposed unanimously by the U.N. Security Council will have the impact intended. The Iranians are nothing if not resilient and stubborn and hard nosed when it comes to dealing with the West. Their apprehension of 15 British sailors and marines in Iraqi waters is a case in point. They also realize that the super powered United States is in no position to do much more than call them names like "evil,'' strained as its military is with the twin problems of Iraq and Afghanistan. Certainly, no one else, including the Russians, is about to back up the tough language-militarily.
The real laugh in all this, of course, is the constant insistence by Internet dummies that an invasion of Iran is next on the Bush agenda and that such an action is imminent. Invade with what? U.S. forces are so depleted in men and materiel that they would have a tough time staging a successful landing on Granada (anyway, we've already done that). Oh sure, we could bust Tehran with a hydrogen bomb and set off a chain reaction of death and destruction unlike the world has ever seen. But get serious.
There was a time, of course, when the threat to level the Iranian capital, backed up with the righteousness of a country whose sovereignty had been violated, might have nipped all this in the bud. But that was when the religious fanatics broke into our embassy and held Americans hostage for more than a year while Carter dithered, something he did a lot of despite his Naval Academy education. Not to open old wounds, but as a lesson for those who don't subscribe to the past is prologue concept, it was Carter's decision to pull the rug out from America's longtime ally in Iran, the shah, and clear the way for a religious zealot with 11th century ideas, that started us on the road here in the first place.
Carter then reinforced growing Iranian dislike for American infidels by permitting the shah to receive medical treatment in the United States although he had been warned of the consequences. This led to the embassy invasion and his decision to use such powerful negotiators as his onetime baggage hauler and then White House chief of staff, Hamilton Jordan, in unsuccessfully trying to free the hostages. Brilliant.
It has been all down hill for the United States in this area since. Ronald Reagan, pressured by the relatives of other victims kidnapped with the backing of Tehran, became embroiled in the Iran Contra nightmare and the first George Bush set the stage for the second's actions by kicking Saddam out of Kuwait in Desert Storm, then wisely withdrawing sooner than some would have liked. We knew then how light a threat Saddam was, but Bill Clinton nurtured the strength illusion.
So, pinning much hope on the economic sanctions is probably unwise. The entire Middle East has been so destabilized by the mess in Iraq that to contemplate what might occur next is an exercise in depression. The radical Persians want to fill the power void and are well on their way to doing so. They really should thank Carter.
Dan Thomasson writes for Scripps Howard News Service.
Departing U.S. Envoy Says Iraq Moving in Right Direction
Voice of America
The departing U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, said in farewell remarks that Iraq is headed in the right direction, but there is still much work to be done. From northern Iraq, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.
Ambassador Khalilzad leaves Iraq after a challenging 21-month tenure.
What started with the promising achievement of a new Iraqi constitution, has ended with a stalled political reconciliation process and rampant sectarian violence in the capital and surrounding areas.
Instead of seeing the withdrawal this year of some American forces, President Bush has authorized the deployment of 30,000 more troops in a bid to stop the violence.
Ambassador Khalilzad told reporters in Baghdad that the recent surge in American troops conducting security operations in these volatile areas provides an opportunity for Iraqis.
"I believe it is very important for the Iraqis to take the opportunity that the presence of these forces provide, to make the decisions and the compromises that are necessary," he said. "And I believe that as long as that is the case, the United States will stay and support Iraq, although the size and composition will vary because our goal is as soon as Iraqis can take matters into their own hands and can stand on their own feet, look after their own security, the better."
The ambassador confirmed a U.S. news report that he and members of his staff have had contacts with representatives from Sunni insurgent groups. He said the talks are aimed at isolating al-Qaida in Iraq.
A few days ago, Ambassador Khalilzad said his good-byes to the people of northern Iraq's Kurdistan region.
At the inauguration of a $200 million water treatment plant financed by the United States, Ambassador Khalilzad pointed to political and reconstruction successes in this part of Iraq as an example of what is possible for the rest of the country.
"The road ahead for the Kurdistan region is one filled with great opportunities and I am excited and invigorated by what is happening here," he said. "I want to assure all my Kurdish colleagues here that the United States will stand with you as you move forward."
On Sunday, Iraqi officials wished the ambassador well in his next post. President Bush has nominated him to be the U.S. envoy to the United Nations.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki thanked Ambassador Khalilzad for his dedication to the Iraqi people and his efforts for Iraq and said he hoped that work would continue.
Ambassador Khalilzad's successor, Ryan Crocker, has had a long career as a diplomat in the Middle East, having served as the top U.S. diplomat in Kuwait, Lebanon and Syria. He leaves his post as ambassador to Pakistan to come to Baghdad.
Note: The picture above of Khalilzad and al-Maliki is of when they were announcing the killing of the the loathsome Zarqawi. I inserted the full size picture (Click on with caution) of the human sewer for the viewing pleasure of some of the EB patrons that needed a smile. I wonder how the virgin thing is working for him?
Monday, March 26, 2007
Every time I hear some Islamic spokesman trying to explain the religion of peace, I always get some variation on,
"It was a terrible thing that your mother's house was blown up by a suicide Muslim girl scout cookie seller, but you have to understand that US support for..."Always a comma. Always a comma. We shall call it the Islamic comma.
This snippet from an article caught my eye...
"Mrs Lamb, from Fareham, fled Iran in 1988 with her sister after they faced persecution for following the Baha'i faith outlawed by Iran's Islamic fundamentalist leaders.
The 38-year-old accountant said: 'I have all the respect for the sailors and sympathy for their families, and I pray to God they come home as soon as possible, safe and healthy.
'But the British and American governments have got to learn to respect other countries and their boundaries..."
Now here is some Muslim drivel from someone who has been no doubt sponging off the British taxpayer because she had to flee the Iranian cesspool created by the mullahs. Yet she has to revert to the use of the "comma". No simple declaration of support just the normal polite version of ,"we hate your guts."
'Capture was wrong – but so is British presence in Gulf'
Pourtsmouth Today (UK)
AN ACTIVE member of the local Iranian community has said both sides must take some of the blame in the ongoing row over the 15 captured sailors.
Munni Lamb is calling for the prisoners to be released safely but has also questioned why British forces need to be in the Gulf at all.
And as the row escalates over what exactly happened during the raid where eight British sailors and seven Royal Marines were captured, UK diplomats are still trying to gain access to the prisoners. It is not currently known where they are being held, although Iranian sources suggest they have been taken to the capital Tehran.
Mrs Lamb, from Fareham, fled Iran in 1988 with her sister after they faced persecution for following the Baha'i faith outlawed by Iran's Islamic fundamentalist leaders.
The 38-year-old accountant said: 'I have all the respect for the sailors and sympathy for their families, and I pray to God they come home as soon as possible, safe and healthy.
'But the British and American governments have got to learn to respect other countries and their boundaries.
'I think the British government is as answerable as the
Iranian government in this situation.
'I don't think any of the politicians on either side are quite telling the truth, but I do think the sailors were in Iranian waters.'
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Amir Mohamed Meshal, 24
Imprisoned U.S. citizen says he was in an al Qaida camp in Somalia, but was never a fighter.
WASHINGTON _ A U.S. citizen imprisoned in Ethiopia reportedly told investigators that he was briefly in an al Qaida camp in Somalia and had tried to fire a gun during a clash with foreign troops in the south of the war-torn country, but denied he was a fighter or had undergone military training.
Amir Mohamed Meshal, 24, of Tinton Falls, N.J., made the statements in early January while he was being held in Kenya for illegally entering the country, according to an account provided to McClatchy Newspapers on condition that the source remain anonymous.
His father, Mohamed Meshal, angrily disputed the account, saying that FBI agents who interviewed his son in Kenya had found no grounds on which to charge him, and that four British citizens who had been held with him were freed and sent home.
“This was under coercion or under threat,” he said of the account. “U.S. officials are orchestrating the whole symphony.”
The case is at the center of an international controversy triggered by the disclosure that Amir Mohamed Meshal _ and scores of other people _ who entered Kenya from Somalia were secretly sent back to Somalia without legal proceedings between Jan. 20 and Feb. 10, then turned over to Ethiopian forces.Read more.
CANBERRA (Reuters) - Australian David Hicks will become the first Guantanamo Bay inmate to face a U.S. military tribunal hearing on Monday, but a growing band of supporters want the trial scrapped and his case heard in an Australian court.
Hicks, 31, a Muslim convert and former ranch hand from the sleepy suburbs of Adelaide, is charged with providing material support for terrorism by joining al Qaeda fighters in
The arraignment before the newly constituted U.S. military commission comes more than five years after Hicks was captured in late 2001 by Northern Alliance forces in Afghanistan as he allegedly tried to flee in a taxi.
Australia's conservative government has refused to intervene in the Hicks case, saying he could not be charged at home because his alleged offences were not a crime in Australia at the time.
But growing public support for Hicks, and frustration at the military commission system, has forced Prime Minister John Howard to express frustration at trial delays and could become an issue for national elections due in the second half of 2007.
"At first there was patience, then there was concern, and now there is increased outrage," said Australian Greens Senator Bob Brown, who heckled
President Bush about Hicks when Bush addressed Australia's parliament in 2003.
Several government lawmakers broke ranks in February and demanded Hicks be returned home. Opinion polls show 69 percent of Australians want him to face a civilian trial at home.
NO "BACKPACKING FROLIC"
Howard has raised the issue of delays directly with Bush, and has an agreement allowing Hicks to serve a prison sentence back in Australia if convicted by the U.S. military. But he continues to support the military tribunals and says Hicks must face trial.
"He wasn't in Afghanistan on some kind of backpacking frolic. These are very serious allegations and they should be tested," Howard told Australian radio earlier this month.
A high-school dropout, Hicks worked on cattle stations in the Australian outback, and as a fisherman, before stunning friends and family when he scored a job in Japan as a horse trainer.
But in 1999, angered by media coverage of Serbian atrocities against Muslims in
Kosovo, Hicks traveled to Albania to join the paramilitary Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), although he claimed he saw no fighting.
The U.S. charge sheet against him says Hicks completed military training at a KLA camp and engaged in hostile action before returning to Australia, where he converted to Islam.
In 2000, Hicks went to Pakistan, where he began training with militant network Lashkar e-Toiba. The U.S. charge sheet says Hicks went to Afghanistan in January 2001 where he met al Qaeda leader
Osama bin Laden.
BRING HICKS HOME
Hicks' father, Terry Hicks, has spearheaded an international campaign to both humanize his son and seek his return home.
In 2003, he went to Times Square in New York, dressed in orange Guantanamo-style prison overalls, and stood inside a metal cage to highlight how his son was being detained. He followed that with a documentary retracing his son's journey.
Australia's law council, which represents the nation's lawyers, has demanded Hicks be returned to Australia, saying the military trial had an "unacceptably low standard of justice."
High-profile Australian adventurer and businessman Dick Smith also joined the Hicks camp, offering to pay his legal bills.
But not everyone has sympathy.
The Australian newspaper said it would be an injustice if Hicks did not have to face trial to account for joining the KLA, Lashkar e-Toiba, al Qaeda and the Taliban.
"To join one terrorist group could I suppose be regarded as careless," the Australian's foreign editor, Greg Sheridan, wrote in February. "To join four is pretty much beyond the pale."
Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Mamdouh Habib wears a shirt bearing a slogan in relation to the continued detention of Australian citizen David Hicks at Guantanoma Bay, as he talks to his campaign advisors in Sydney March 21, 2007. Australian David Hicks, 31, who has been in U.S. custody in Guantanamo Bay for five years, will be the first al Qaeda suspect to be formally charged under new military commission rules when his preliminary hearing opens on March 26. (Ed Giles/Reuters)
Jose Padilla - Another setback ruling
IAMI - A federal judge refused to dismiss terrorism support charges against Jose Padilla on Friday, rejecting defense claims that his 3 1/2 years in custody as an enemy combatant violated his constitutional right to a speedy trial.
U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke agreed with prosecutors that Padilla's years in isolation at a Navy brig did not count because he had not yet been charged.Read more.
From The Sunday Times
March 25, 2007
Iran ‘to try Britons for espionage’
Uzi Mahnaimi, Michael Smith and David Cracknell
FIFTEEN British sailors and marines arrested by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards off the coast of Iraq may be charged with spying.
A website run by associates of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, reported last night that the Britons would be put before a court and indicted.
Referring to them as “insurgents”, the site concluded: “If it is proven that they deliberately entered Iranian territory, they will be charged with espionage. If that is proven, they can expect a very serious penalty since according to Iranian law, espionage is one of the most serious offences.”
The warning followed claims by Iranian officials that the British navy personnel had been taken to Tehran, the capital, to explain their “aggressive action” in entering Iranian waters. British officials insist the servicemen were in Iraqi waters when they were held.
The penalty for espionage in Iran is death. However, similar accusations of spying were made when eight British servicemen were detained in the same area in 2004. They were paraded blindfolded on television but did not appear in court and were freed after three nights in detention.
Iranian student groups called yesterday for the 15 detainees to be held until US forces released five Revolutionary Guards captured in Iraq earlier this year.
Al-Sharq al-Awsat, a Saudi-owned newspaper based in London, quoted an Iranian military source as saying that the aim was to trade the Royal Marines and sailors for these Guards.
The claim was backed by other sources in Tehran. “As soon as the corps’s five members are released, the Britons can go home,” said one source close to the Guards.
He said the tactic had been approved by Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, who warned last week that Tehran would take “illegal actions” if necessary to maintain its right to develop a nuclear programme.
Iran denounced a tightening of sanctions which the United Nations security council was expected to agree last night in protest at Tehran’s insistence on enriching uranium that could be used for nuclear weapons.
Lord Triesman, the Foreign Office minister, met the Iranian ambassador in London yesterday to demand that consular staff be allowed access to the Britons, one of whom is a woman. His intervention came as a senior Iranian general alleged that the Britons had confessed under interrogation to “aggression into Iran’s waters”.
Intelligence sources said any advance order for the arrests was likely to have come from Major-General Yahya Rahim Safavi, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards.
Subhi Sadek, the Guards’ weekly newspaper, warned last weekend that the force had “the ability to capture a bunch of blue-eyed blond-haired officers and feed them to our fighting cocks”.
Safavi is known to be furious about the recent defections to the West of three senior Guards officers, including a general, and the effect of UN sanctions on his own finances.
A senior Iraqi officer appeared to back Tehran’s claim that the British had entered Iranian waters. “We were informed by Iraqi fishermen after they had returned from sea that there were British gunboats in an area that is out of Iraqi control,” said Brigadier-General Hakim Jassim, who is in charge of Iraq’s territorial waters. “We don’t know why they were there.”
Admiral Sir Alan West, the former head of the Royal Navy, dismissed suggestions that the British boats might have been in Iranian waters. West, who was first sea lord when the previous arrests took place in June 2004, said satellite tracking systems had shown then that the Iranians were lying and the same was certain to be true now.
...is it possible that the Democrats are actually worse than I remembered? That does not mean the Republicans are a box of chocolates, but golly gee whiz one afternoon of c-span and one does come to some very scary conclusions. First, Nancy Pelosi believes in whatever she says. There is no cynicism or even a smirk. She is a convicted believer.
Second, the Democrats are very inclusive. They are highly represented by the Congressional Black Caucus. Now, to belong to that august body you need only be black and obviously to get elected from their districts, that is also the only qualification.
The Democrats are in white knuckle terror over the Black Caucus. Just look at The House Democratic Caucus who gave Rep. William Jefferson, D-Louisiana, a seat on the House Homeland Security Committee. This comes after the Republican controlled caucus stripped Jefferson of his seat on the powerful Ways and Means committee last June. You will recall that Jefferson thought his freezer was a bank deposit box and he hid fifty thousand next to the frozen gumbo.
There are some real dopes there, but then when you get to a lot of the white non-caucus dems, many with real nice hair, they get dumber. I do not think John Murtha is dumb but he needs to get hold of his emotions.
So not to give the impression that I am not inclusive, I am beginning to like Maxine Waters and Charlie Rangell. They speak with conviction especially Charlie, and Charlie is one dapper dresser. I do have some visual prejudices. I cannot get past the face of Henry Waxman to even concentrate on his nonsense.
As to the new breed of freshman Democrats, the war veterans included, not a spit of difference between them and any of the hacks of elections past. The entire spectrum of the Democratic rainbow is various shades of puce.
Had the Republicans governed like Republicans instead of the greedy pigs at the trough they were, and had George W. spent more time in the office instead of the gym, this may not have happened. History will not remember he had nice pecs.
Here is what the unionleader.com
has to say :
Sapping the surge: Dems set their deadline
Well, after complaining that President Bush second-guessed the generals in Iraq, House Democrats second-guessed the very general their Senate colleagues overwhelmingly approved just two months ago.
On Friday, the House passed by only six votes (218 to 212) an emergency Iraq war spending bill that requires withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq by August of next year. That's exactly the type of arbitrary deadline Gen. David Petraeus has said would be counterproductive. But never mind what the general in charge thinks, the House has to embarrass Bush. Priorities, priorities.
What was the significance of August 2008? There was none. It was just a date to put on a calendar. As First District Rep. Carol Shea-Porter said, "I signed on because this bill had a date on it."
What date? Didn't matter. Any date would do.
That is wholly irresponsible. But don't take our word for it. Sen. Barack Obama said so. Well, at least he did last summer, when he voted against Sen. John Kerry's plan for pulling out of Iraq by this July, saying an "arbitrary deadline" could make the situation worse. Now he's all for an arbitrary deadline. Gotta get that anti-war vote.
Opponents of the war keep saying that there is "no military solution" in Iraq. Well guess what? President Bush has said that all along. That's why he focused on creating an Iraqi constitution and getting a representative government elected. And that is why his troop surge is being implemented alongside a push to bring warring factions together to stop the fighting.
But what Bush recognizes is that there is no political solution without a military presence. At least not for now. And unless the Democrats have a crystal ball, there's no way they can know that the situation will change by the time they call for the troops to leave.
Besides all that, the House is meddling in the affairs of the executive branch. If House Democrats want to end the war, they can vote to defund it on whatever date they want. But they cannot otherwise dictate the behavior of troops in the field. That is the job of the commander in chief. Our Founding Fathers rightly ensured that there would be only one commander in chief, not 535. The Democrats, as usual, are ignoring the Constitution to do what they think will win them more votes.
That's no way to run a war, or a country.