“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."

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Condi - "Peace in Our Time"

Hezbollah Rejects U.S. Vision of Mideast
By HUSSEIN DAKROUB, Associated Press Writer

BEIRUT, Lebanon - Hezbollah's leader said Saturday that the militant Islamic group's war last summer with Israel has left the U.S. vision of a "new Middle East" in shambles and claimed the guerrilla group was ready to strike Israel again at any time.

During the 34-day war in southern Lebanon, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called for a new era of democracy and peace in the region, "a new Middle East."

But Hezbollah, backed by Syria and Iran, said the U.S. vision aimed at reinforcing Israel.

"There is no new Middle East," Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah told a mass rally in the southern town of Bint Jbeil, one of the towns hardest hit by the war. "It's gone with the wind."

Nasrallah did not personally attend the rally to mark the first anniversary of the war which Hezbollah calls "a divine victory. His speech was relayed to the crowd on a giant screen set up in the main square of Bint Jbeil.

Nasrallah said the guerrilla group would never be at peace with Israel.

"We will not wait for anyone to defend us. We will defend ourselves and our country," he said. "We possess and we will continue to possess rockets that can hit any area in occupied Palestine if Israel attacks Lebanon," he added.

"It is impossible to live with a back-stabbing enemy on our border, who has been assaulting us ever since it was born."

Hezbollah triggered the war by crossing the Israeli border and capturing two soldiers who have not been seen or heard from since.

Nasrallah taunted Israel, saying Hezbollah had thwarted the Jewish state from achieving any of its declared objectives in the war, including freeing the captive soldiers.

"The enemy has even failed to return the two prisoners," he said.

Nasrallah did not explicitly confirm that the two were still alive. But he said the only way to secure their freedom was through "indirect negotiations and a (prisoner) exchange" for Lebanese citizens held by Israel.

Nasrallah charged that the war was the result of "a U.S. decision" and the United States provided Israel with "political and material support."

"There was American pressure on Israel to continue its war until the desired objectives were achieved," he said in his address, broadcast live by Hezbollah's Al-Manar television.

The offensive killed more than 1,000 Lebanese, most of them civilians, according to tallies by the Lebanese government, human rights groups, and The Associated Press. Hezbollah launched nearly 4,000 rockets at Israel during the war, which killed 119 Israeli soldiers and 39 civilians

Hezbollah's critics also blame the group for prompting the current political crisis by stepping out of a coalition government.

The Hezbollah-led opposition has held street protests since Dec. 1 outside Prime Minister Fuad Saniora's office in Beriut. It wants to force him to resign or share power in a national unity Cabinet that would give the opposition veto power.

Saniora, backed by the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority and the United States, rejects the opposition's demand.

Rival governments could emerge if Parliament fails to elect a new president before Nov. 25, when opposition-backed President Emile Lahoud must step down. Iran and Syria back the opposition, while Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the West support the Saniora government.

Visiting French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner warned that Lebanon could face a new civil war if its feuding leaders fail to resolve the political crisis threatening to tear the country apart.

Kouchner delivered the warning on the second day of his visit for talks with Lebanon's rival factions. France, the former colonial power, has encouraged dialogue between the Western-backed government and the Hezbollah-led opposition.

Also on Saturday, Lebanese troops pressed a 2-month-old assault on Islamic militants holed up in a Palestinian refugee camp, storming one of their hideouts and killing eight fighters in a clash, state-run media reported.

The army pounded Fatah Islam's remaining positions with artillery, tank fire and rocket-propelled grenades, the National News Agency and witnesses said. The five-hour bombardment sent plumes of heavy black smoke up above the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon, witnesses reported.

The conflict has left more than 200 dead since it began on May 20 and has threatened to further destabilize the country.


  1. Meanwhile, the Christian Science Monitor reports that the Iraqi Government is on the verge of collapse. ht: Tiger @ Observanda

  2. From the BBC

    Iraq Celebrates Football Victory.
    Iraq celebrates football victory
    Thousands of Iraqis have spilled onto the streets to celebrate their football squad's Asian Cup victory, firing guns into the air despite a government ban.

    Iraq beat Saudi Arabia 1-0. Celebratory gunfire was heard in Baghdad, where authorities had banned vehicles and urged fans not to gather.

    It was feared crowds could be targets for bombers. Some 50 people died in attacks after Wednesday's semi-final.

    Correspondents say Iraq's progress has temporarily united the divided country.

    The team includes Sunni and Shia Muslims, as well as Kurds.

    Thousands of Iraqis, who had been following the match in Indonesia on television, rushed into the streets of the capital and other cities to celebrate.

    The crowds in Baghdad included members of the security forces. Guns were fired into the air despite an earlier warning by the authorities that any such displays would be punished.

    "It's a huge success for Iraq and it's a very, very good news for Iraq," Iraq's national security adviser Mouwaffaq al-Rubaie told the BBC.

    "You should come to see the jubilation and the joy which is spreading all over Baghdad's streets now. People are pouring in, hundreds of thousands of people are pouring into the streets."

    Meanwhile, at the stadium in Jakarta, the BBC's Lucy Williamson said the atmosphere was electric.

    She said there was huge sympathy and support in Indonesia for the Iraqi team, for their difficulties in training and the continuing violence at home.

    Football fever

    Earlier, the Iraqi authorities banned the use of vehicles in Baghdad until 0600 (0200 GMT) on Monday in an effort to prevent a repeat of the bloodshed which followed the semi-final win.

    A similar ban was also imposed in the northern city of Kirkuk.

    Military spokesman Brigadier General Qassim Moussawi said they wanted to stop "terrorists, Sunni extremists and criminals from targeting the joy of the people".

    Iraq surprised the football world by beating tournament favourites Australia, and then former winners South Korea in Wednesday's semi-final match.

    Wild celebrations followed that victory, with crowds dancing in the streets and waving the national flag.

    But the party was brought to a bloody end as insurgents detonated bombs in two parts of Baghdad, killing about 50 people.
    Story from BBC NEWS:

  3. It is so odd, Whit, how the human spirit seems to rise sometimes over all the bad stuff going on around it at the time. Good article.

  4. The US empowers the Sunni minority, provides arms and training to the insurgent Sunni militias and protects them from Iraq's Army, Police and judicial system.
    Then the politicians that tepresent those Sunni militias, working in concert with them, move to collapse the Federal Government, achieving politically, with US assisstance, what they could not achieve by force of arms against those same US forces.

    De facto partition and Civil War, that's what US "success/surrender" in Anbar is leading to.

  5. The Cjinese, selling weapons and ammo to both sides, in Iraq, when US supplies to its' Standing Up ally fall short

    Washington - Stung by criticism from Washington for its failure to move faster on political and security issues, the Iraqi government is pushing back – charging the US is not doing enough to equip Iraq's security forces.

    Lamenting that Baghdad's requests for everything from higher-caliber guns to armored personnel carriers have gone unanswered, Iraq's ambassador to the US, Samir Sumaidaie, said Wednesday, "We have some benchmarks of our own, and this is one of them."

    Washington's list of political and security benchmarks for Iraq to meet will figure prominently in a comprehensive review of Iraq policy in September. The word "benchmarks" has come to symbolize the frustration that Iraqi leaders feel over intense pressure from Washington to meet what Baghdad sees as US priorities.

    Meeting reporters in the Iraqi Embassy, Ambassador Sumaidaie said he could not explain the slow response to Iraqi arms requests. "If we want them to stand up, let's help them stand up," he added.

    The US has had some problems delivering arms and equipment to its own troops in Iraq. Beyond that, the Pentagon and administration officials have debated for years the merits of delivering powerful weapons to the Iraqis. Amid evidence that Iraqi Security Forces are infiltrated by militias and insurgent groups, officials worry that US weapons would be turned against American soldiers.

    The US has also worried that its arms could end up adding fuel to the fire of a potential civil war.

    Sumaidaie said it is counterproductive to leave Iraqi forces poorly equipped. US soldiers arrive at battle scenes in armored vehicles, while "Iraqi soldiers pile into the back of pickup trucks," he noted. "They see their American counterparts fully armed, and that is demoralizing for them."

    US arms sales to Iraq and Afghanistan in fiscal 2007 were pegged to total about $3 billion, including some armored personnel carriers to Iraq, say US defense officials. Air Force Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Kohler, director of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, told the Reuters Aerospace and Defense Summit in December those sales would be similar to sales in fiscal 2006.

    Sumaidaie says the slow US response has led Iraqi officials to turn to other sources. He cites a recent deal with China to sell high-powered rifles to the Iraqi military. "We prefer to work with our American friends," Sumaidaie said, but chided the US that patience is running short.

    The US is also concerned about high-powered weapons and munitions that are showing up at battle sites, such as the growing use of Chinese armor-piercing ammunition by insurgents. Pentagon officials have recently addressed these concerns with Beijing.

  6. From Der Speigel:
    U.S. Officials Voice Frustrations With Saudis' Role in Iraq

    By Helene Cooper

    Bush administration officials are voicing increasing anger at what they say has been Saudi Arabia's counterproductive role in the Iraq war.

    Finally, the US is beginning to protest Saudi guns and jihadis going to Iraq.

  7. "The US empowers the Sunni minority, provides arms and training to the insurgent Sunni militias and protects them from Iraq's Army, Police and judicial system."

    I thought it was a good idea to finally work with the Anbar Salvation Council, hm?

  8. Liberals Going After Fox Advertisers
    Jul 27 04:08 PM US/Eastern
    AP Television Writer
    NEW YORK (AP) - Liberal activists are stepping up their campaign against Fox News Channel by pressuring advertisers not to patronize the network., the Campaign for America's Future and liberal blogs like are asking thousands of supporters to monitor who is advertising on the network. Once a database is gathered, an organized phone-calling campaign will begin, said Jim Gilliam, vice president of media strategy for Brave New Films, a company that has made anti-Fox videos.

    The groups have successfully pressured Democratic presidential candidates not to appear at any debate sponsored by Fox, and are also trying to get Home Depot Inc. to stop advertising there.

  9. Depends, trish, on what the final outcome is to be.

    We are on the way to a fde facto partioned Iraq, for whatever good or ill comes of it.

    It is a failure of US strategic policy, circa 2004, 2005 & 2006. But what the hey ...

    If the Central Government melts down, the newly empowered Sunni walking out ...

    The US protecting the Sunni insurgents, while the Iraq Army tries to arrest and detain them. Supporting militias that have encamped in schools is not a positive move, for US. Not after all the school painting and floor buffing we've invested in those buildings.

  10. "We are on the way to a fde facto partioned Iraq, for whatever good or ill comes of it."

    Yeah, well. That was inhabiting people's nightmares back in the winter of 03/04. Some warned about it beforehand. You got yourself a pre-breakup Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

    Wanna police it?

  11. No, not me or the US military.

    I believe that Mr Cheney was right, in 1993, when he said that nation building & using the military as policemen were fools errands.

    He thought it a sign of inexperience and incompetence to commit the US military to that type of mission. I still agree.

  12. A prominent local anti-war activist has been sentenced to 30 days in jail for staging a sit-in at Congressman Mark Udall's office to protest Iraq war funding.

    Carolyn Elizabeth Bninski, 57, was found guilty of trespassing but acquitted of unlawful assembly during a one-day, six-member jury trial on Friday.

    “If I go to jail that's not such a big issue,” Bninski said. “It's really trying to stop the funding.”

    30-day Sentence

  13. "I believe that Mr Cheney was right..."

    Mr. Cheney was right. Specifically about Iraq and regime removal back in 1991.

    What Bush and Rice said more generally before coming into office was said precisely because of the severe discontent in the military and to a lesser degree the population as a whole with the never ending nation building and peacekeeping binge we'd been on in the Clinton years. (Same severe discontent during the years of occupation coming out of WWII.) I mean, those were really bad, bitter years for the Armed Forces.

    Maybe they were absolutely sincere in the moments that they said it. Cheney probably was, or at least it was a verbatim recital of GHWB's now gob-smackingly brilliant thinking. (He was, after all, defending the decision not to go to Baghdad.) In the cases of New Bush and Rice, however, I think they were simply saying what the country wanted to hear at the time.

    Unfortunately - or ironically - or both - a lot of us voted for him largely for that reason.

  14. What, you think shitholes don't need policing?

    I can't remember the last time we policed in Paradise.

  15. Good Grief, Ruf, I am not sure, but I think I may stick with Grandma Moses.

    Some of those girls at the last, were really attractive, however.

  16. Hey, a couple of them were ex-(somewhat) wives, and, er . . . . . cous . . . . . .

    uh . . . .

    Never mind.

  17. That's not an answer, Trish. I'll ask again. What's there to police?

  18. More than what Rice and Gates say on the trip, “people are monitoring the debate in Washington. Everybody is watching that very closely and then will draw their own conclusions,” an Arab official in Washington said.

    Sunni-led gulf states fear Iran but aren’t confident that the United States has a strategy for dealing with Tehran, the diplomats said.

    U.S. officials say they are in the early stages of building an alliance with the gulf states.

    Middle East

  19. I want to say one more thing about my trip across the USA, which was really my wife's trip, I'm just along for the ride, with my newly purchased Llama .38 Super, which I find is hard to get ammo for. I'm just ridin' shotgun, so to speak.

    "We're going to Lincoln's Tomb."

    "O-kay. You're drivin."

    And we did. And I am glad we did. I remember the wonderful trees, and the lawn, and the silence. And the hush, as of something really important, that is remembered here.

    They told us, Lincoln's line has died out now.

    I felt...hushed, and respectful.

    When we got to Bemidji, Minnesota, we went to a little pizza place. Best pizza I have ever had in my life. Thin crust, lots of stuff on top. We were waited on by two girls, both working their way through college. One black, one white. Beautiful girls, I can't say enough.

    Don't give up on America just yet.

  20. Bob, we've got our share of asshats, and morons; but, those people that keep peeling back the genome, and making photons dance, and perfecting brain surgery, and incredible prosthetics are our kids, too.

    Thanks for reminding us; We're not Dead, yet.

  21. For some reason, I Thought of Doug. I don't know why.

    Do you?

  22. Hey, did you guys here when OPEC set their next meeting date?