“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."

Monday, March 31, 2008

Think We Should Kill Elephants? Think Again. An Elephant That Paints!

I am stunned, and if you are not... Do me a favor and pass this on! After all, this is the Elephant Bar.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Obama Slings a Tale.

Democratic Slinging Machine.

Well it seems as if Hillary is not the only Democratic candidate to spin a yarn. Obama has made some adjustments to his history. The Camelot connection to the white folks in Massachusetts is not quite the case:

Obama Overstates Kennedys' Role in Helping His Father

Sunday, March 30, 2008; Page A01

Addressing civil rights activists in Selma, Ala., a year ago, Sen. Barack Obama traced his "very existence" to the generosity of the Kennedy family, which he said paid for his Kenyan father to travel to America on a student scholarship and thus meet his Kansan mother.

The Camelot connection has become part of the mythology surrounding Obama's bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. After Caroline Kennedy endorsed his candidacy in January, Newsweek commentator Jonathan Alter reported that she had been struck by the extraordinary way in which "history replays itself" and by how "two generations of two families -- separated by distance, culture and wealth -- can intersect in strange and wonderful ways."

It is a touching story -- but the key details are either untrue or grossly oversimplified.

Contrary to Obama's claims in speeches in January at American University and in Selma last year, the Kennedy family did not provide the funding for a September 1959 airlift of 81 Kenyan students to the United States that included Obama's father. According to historical records and interviews with participants, the Kennedys were first approached for support for the program nearly a year later, in July 1960. The family responded with a $100,000 donation, most of which went to pay for a second airlift in September 1960.

Obama spokesman Bill Burton acknowledged yesterday that the senator from Illinois had erred in crediting the Kennedy family with a role in his father's arrival in the United States. He said the Kennedy involvement in the Kenya student program apparently "started 48 years ago, not 49 years ago as Obama has mistakenly suggested in the past."

The real story of Barack Obama Sr.'s arrival in the United States and the subsequent Kennedy involvement in the airlifts of African students sheds light on the highly competitive presidential election of 1960 and Africa's struggle to free itself from colonialism, as well as the huge strides made by the Obama family, which has gone in two generations from herding goats in the hills of western Kenya to the doors of the White House.

In his speech commemorating the 42nd anniversary of the Selma civil rights march, Sen. Obama linked his father's arrival in the United States with the turmoil of the civil rights movement. Although the airlift occurred before John F. Kennedy became president, Obama said that "folks in the White House" around President Kennedy were looking for ways to counter charges of hypocrisy and "win hearts and minds all across the world" at a time when America was "battling communism."

"So the Kennedys decided 'we're going to do an airlift,' " Obama continued. " 'We're going to go to Africa and start bringing young Africans over to this country and give them scholarships to study so they can learn what a wonderful country America is.' This young man named Barack Obama got one of those tickets and came over to this country. He met this woman whose great-great-great-great-grandfather had owned slaves. . . . So they got together and Barack Obama Jr. was born."

A more accurate version of the story would begin not with the Kennedys but with a Kenyan nationalist leader named Tom Mboya, who traveled to the United States in 1959 and 1960 to persuade thousands of Americans to support his efforts to educate a new African elite. Mboya did not approach the Kennedys for financial support until Obama Sr. was already studying in Hawaii.
(More here)

The Folly of DeBaathification and the Basra Insurrection.

"In the past five years America has suffered 4,000 combat deaths and spent the astronomical sum of $3 trillion trying to get post-Saddam Iraq to a position where an elected Iraqi government is capable of running the country on its own."

There are now 30,000 Iraqi troops trying to undo the lawlessness of Shiite militias in Basra. There are 300 killed. Iran has a hand involved. The results of five years of American nation building hang in the balance of the outcome. George Bush and his hand picked team knew what was best to run Iraq. DeBaathification and the disbanding of the Iraqi armed forces was the doctrinaire strategy imposed by Bush. We may be witnessing the logical outcome of that decision.

Westhawk sees it as a test of America's exit strategy. We shall see:

President Bush has called the current battle between Iraqi security forces and Sadr militiamen in Basra “a defining moment.” In his mind, President Bush probably likens the Basra battle to America’s Whiskey Rebellion, when President Washington had to defend the new constitution against a militia uprising. Of course, many other observers interpret the violence in Basra as Shi’ite factions, some in government uniforms, battling for economic spoils in Basra and the surrounding oil patch.

For the U.S. military in Iraq, the battle for Basra is a defining moment for its exit strategy from the country. Namely, will,

Indigenous soldiers + U.S. advisors + U.S. ISR, logistics, and air support = battlefield dominance?

The current battle in Basra is the purest test of this model; to my knowledge there are no U.S. general purpose ground combat units yet engaged in this action. If the Iraqi conventional ground forces, with U.S. indirect support, can prevail against the stubborn Sadr militia in Basra, the U.S. military command will see a quicker way out for U.S. general purpose units in the country.

More importantly, success of this advisor-support model will encourage various factions in Iraq to ally themselves with the U.S. – they won’t want to be on the wrong side of this model when it is used in the future. Demonstrating a technique that works will indicate that there is at least one useful tool in the toolbox. When everyone witnesses that, the incentive for being a troublemaker will drop


New Iraq receiving baptism of fire in Basra

By Con Coughlin Telegraph

This time President George W Bush has got it right. He describes the latest flare-up in the oil-rich southern city of Basra as a "defining moment in the history of a free Iraq", and no one can argue with that.

The US President's record of public declarations on Iraq's future has not always been happy. He will certainly never live down his confident prediction on board the USS Abraham Lincoln in May 2003 that major combat operations had ended. While it was true the military campaign to overthrow Saddam Hussein's regime (which, incidentally, was a stunning success) had achieved its major objective, the actual task of winning the "battle of Iraq", as the President termed it, had only just begun.

In the past five years America has suffered 4,000 combat deaths and spent the astronomical sum of $3 trillion trying to get post-Saddam Iraq to a position where an elected Iraqi government is capable of running the country on its own.

At the time of Saddam's demise, the general assumption within the British and American governments was that it would take about three years to get Iraq back on its feet. The country needed a new constitution and the opportunity to elect a government for the first time in its history. But it also needed military and security resources, and they basically disintegrated after Mr Bush had given his blessing to the disastrous deBaathification programme that removed military and security personnel who had held office under Saddam.

While tangible progress was possible on political reconstruction - the constitution was approved and a government duly elected - providing Iraq with the means to protect itself and enforce the rule of law has been deeply challenging, and the burden of preventing the insurgent and terrorist groups sabotaging the Pax Americana has mainly fallen to the US-led coalition.

Until, that is, last week, when for the first time since Saddam's overthrow, the Iraqi government made what could prove to be the historic decision to assert its authority by laying down a direct challenge to the lawless militia groups that have turned large swathes of Iraq's second city into a no-go zone. In military terms, Basra has been a confrontation waiting to happen since British troops withdrew from the city centre to the air base last September.

Rather than being - as the anti-war brigade claimed - a humiliating retreat, the tactical withdrawal from Saddam's old summer palace on the banks of the Shatt al-Arab was undertaken on the basis that the continuing presence of British troops was exacerbating, rather than helping, the local security situation. The fiercely nationalistic Iraqis did not want outsiders telling them how to run their affairs.

Formal control of the city was returned to the Iraqis in a short ceremony at the air base last December, but much of Basra has remained under the control of a combination of radical Islamic militias and criminal gangs, which has made it virtually impossible for the Iraqi government in Baghdad to exercise its authority over the city.

I attended the Basra hand-over, and after the formalities the local Iraqi military commander, General Mohan al-Furayji, invited me to celebrations in the city centre. When I asked my British military escort whether this was feasible, he replied, "It depends whether you fancy making a one-way trip."

The activities of the Iraqi kidnap gangs in Basra, which almost daily abduct victims at will for either financial gain or political advantage, was one of the many issues General Mohan told me he was keen to confront as soon as he had the manpower available to deal with the militias.

"The lawlessness in Basra is an insult to the Iraqi people and an insult to the Iraqi government. It simply cannot be tolerated," he said.

General Mohan, who is now overseeing the Iraqi government's attempts to disarm the militias in Basra, personifies the folly of the American deBaathification programme.

Formerly a senior officer in Saddam's Republican Guard, he was briefly jailed in the 1990s after falling out with the Iraqi dictator. An Iraqi patriot, rather than a Saddam loyalist, he was nevertheless barred from active participation in the initial post-Saddam Iraqi administrations because of his links with the former Baathist regime.

He was brought back into the security apparatus only when Iraq's first democratically elected government took office under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Just how much of the bloodshed of the past five years might have been avoided had highly professional and experienced military officers of General Mohan's calibre been allowed to participate from the start of Iraq's reconstruction is an issue historians will debate for generations to come.

But the fact that he and other members of the Iraqi government believe they now have both the confidence and resources to assert their authority represents a critical moment in the country's development, one which could ultimately decide the country's destiny.

The coalition may have succeeded in its goal of establishing a democratic, pro-Western government in Baghdad, but not everyone in Iraq is happy with this arrangement, particularly radical Shia leaders such as Muqtada al-Sadr, whose Mehdi Army is in the vanguard of the resistance to the Iraqi government's forces in Basra.

Al-Sadr and his supporters, who receive military and financial support from Iran, are fiercely opposed to the current political status quo, and want to see the creation of an Iranian-style Shia state in Iraq, which would not at all be in the West's interests.

The big difference between the Iraqi government and the Mehdi Army is that the former has been elected, while the other seeks to impose its hardline anti-Western ideology on the Iraqi people who, in Basra at least, have no say in the matter.

Most of the Iraqi forces now attempting to ensure that the rule of law, rather that the law of the gun, prevails in Basra have been trained by the British military, which is providing air and artillery support for the Iraqi government cause.

For the battle for Basra is a test of both the Iraqi government's legitimacy and virility. If General Mohan and his colleagues can prevail over the militias who pose the greatest threat to Iraq's survival as a democratic entity, the Iraqi people can look forward to taking charge of their own destiny - and the coalition's troops can start planning their withdrawal in the knowledge that their mission has been successfully accomplished.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Polar Bear Shot in Fort Yukon

The village of Fort Yukon is in Interior Alaska. The polar bear, which is a coastal bear, was spotted eating lynx carcasses Thursday morning. Zeb Cadzoq killed it later in the day.

Polar bear shot in Fort Yukon

by Jason Moore
Thursday, March 28, 2008

FORT YUKON, Alaska -- Fort Yukon, south of the Brooks Range, is more than 200 miles from the Beaufort Sea.

But that's how far a polar bear wandered to its demise.

Residents say the young bear, perhaps a two-year-old, was shot on the outskirts of the Yukon River village Thursday afternoon.

Fort Yukon officials said no in the village can remember a polar bear sighting in that area.

The city manager says it appears the bear was feeding on carcasses placed in the dump by trappers.

Residents, like Paul Shewfelt said they feared the bear would not leave the village.

"I think his weakness would have been he would have come back," Shewfelt said. "The smell of the town, the community, the people cooking, dog feed -- pretty sure it would have come back. You've got the dump there."

The man who shot the bear flew the head and hide to Fairbanks Friday to notify state Fish and Game officials.

Contact Jason Moore at

NASA Finds slight Global Cooling

From the best paper in Canada.

National Post

Monday, March 24, 2008

Perhaps the climate change models are wrong

Lorne Gunter, National Post Published: Monday, March 24, 2008

Bob Strong, Reuters

They drift along in the worlds' oceans at a depth of 2,000 metres -- more than a mile deep -- constantly monitoring the temperature, salinity, pressure and velocity of the upper oceans.

Then, about once every 10 days, a bladder on the outside of these buoys inflates and raises them slowly to the surface gathering data about each strata of seawater they pass through. After an upward journey of nearly six hours, the Argo monitors bob on the waves while an onboard transmitter sends their information to a satellite that in turn retransmits it to several land-based research computers where it may be accessed by anyone who wishes to see it.

These 3,000 yellow sentinels --about the size and shape of a large fence post -- free-float the world's oceans, season in and season out, surfacing between 30 and 40 times a year, disgorging their findings, then submerging again for another fact-finding voyage.

It's fascinating to watch their progress online. (The URLs are too complex to reproduce here, but Google "Argo Buoy Movement" or "Argo Float Animation," and you will be directed to the links.)

When they were first deployed in 2003, the Argos were hailed for their ability to collect information on ocean conditions more precisely, at more places and greater depths and in more conditions than ever before. No longer would scientists have to rely on measurements mostly at the surface from older scientific buoys or inconsistent shipboard monitors.

So why are some scientists now beginning to question the buoys' findings? Because in five years, the little blighters have failed to detect any global warming. They are not reinforcing the scientific orthodoxy of the day, namely that man is causing the planet to warm dangerously. They are not proving the predetermined conclusions of their human masters. Therefore they, and not their masters' hypotheses, must be wrong.

In fact, "there has been a very slight cooling," according to a U.S. National Public Radio (NPR) interview with Josh Willis at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a scientist who keeps close watch on the Argo findings.

Dr. Willis insisted the temperature drop was "not anything really significant." And I trust he's right. But can anyone imagine NASA or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) or the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change -- the UN's climate experts -- shrugging off even a "very slight" warming.

A slight drop in the oceans' temperature over a period of five or six years probably is insignificant, just as a warming over such a short period would be. Yet if there had been a rise of any kind, even of the same slightness, rest assured this would be broadcast far and wide as yet another log on the global warming fire.

Just look how tenaciously some scientists are prepared to cling to the climate change dogma. "It may be that we are in a period of less rapid warming," Dr. Willis told NPR.

Yeah, you know, like when you put your car into reverse you are causing it to enter a period of less rapid forward motion. Or when I gain a few pounds I am in a period of less rapid weight loss.

The big problem with the Argo findings is that all the major climate computer models postulate that as much as 80-90% of global warming will result from the oceans warming rapidly then releasing their heat into the atmosphere.

But if the oceans aren't warming, then (please whisper) perhaps the models are wrong.

The supercomputer models also can't explain the interaction of clouds and climate. They have no idea whether clouds warm the world more by trapping heat in or cool it by reflecting heat back into space.

Modellers are also perplexed by the findings of NASA's eight weather satellites that take more than 300,000 temperature readings daily over the entire surface of the Earth, versus approximately 7,000 random readings from Earth stations.

In nearly 30 years of operation, the satellites have discovered a warming trend of just 0.14 C per decade, less than the models and well within the natural range of temperature variation.

I'm not saying for sure the models are wrong and the Argos and satellites are right, only that in a debate as critical as the one on climate, it would be nice to hear some alternatives to the alarmist theory.

The Moron!
And a first class demagogue to boot! The left loves to accuse the right of playing the fear card in regard to Islamist terror. But no issue has been demagogued and manipulated like global warming and climate change. When it comes to fear mongering, the left are unparalelled.

Prime Minister Maliki's leadership and the Basra Gamble

..."British forces, which ran Basra until December, have reduced their numbers and largely stay in the city airport. Their laissez-faire occupation strategy allowed the province to flourish in illegal smuggling of products, from autos to fuel. Religious fundamentalism grew to a point where women are openly targeted and killed for their choice of clothes. Political parties, gangs and militias intermixed, both in economics and bullets."...
- Pat Dollard

I highly recommend you visit Pat Dollard.

Questions of timing emerge on Iraq offensive

Backing an operation that has rekindled violence could prove a miscalculation for Bush, some of his allies say.

By Peter Spiegel, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
March 29, 2008

WASHINGTON -- As U.S. forces are drawn further into renewed fighting, the potential for deepening chaos in Iraq is raising questions about whether the Bush administration made a wise decision or a costly miscalculation in backing an Iraqi government offensive against Shiite militias.

President Bush said Friday that the offensive answered critics who have accused Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's Shiite Muslim-dominated government of inaction and of favoritism toward Shiites.

"I would say this is a defining moment in the history of a free Iraq," Bush said at the White House.

"The decision to move troops, Iraqi troops, into Basra talks about Prime Minister Maliki's leadership."

But some of the administration's allies have begun to question the timing and wisdom of the offensive, which has met with stiff resistance since it was launched Tuesday in the southern city of Basra. Since then, fighting against Shiite militiamen has spread through much of southern Iraq and into Baghdad. Iraqi forces have called in U.S. airstrikes to fend off well-armed groups in Basra, including an attack by a Navy jet on a mortar position.

Signifying the potential difficulty ahead, other U.S. assets, including special-operations forces and spy planes, are expected to join the fight.

Within the Pentagon, officers expressed concern about the rapid spillover of violence into areas where U.S. forces have spent more than a year painstakingly working to restore order, especially the Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad.

U.S. officials have long believed that Iraqi militias should be disbanded. But military analysts inside and outside the Pentagon are questioning whether this was the time and place to do it.

The offensive comes two weeks before Army Gen. David H. Petraeus is to testify before Congress on his plans for Iraq.

Petraeus is known for opening his recent presentations by displaying what aides call his favorite slide: a chart showing attacks in Iraq spiking last year, then dramatically dropping amid the deployment of 28,500 additional U.S. troops.

Pentagon officials worry that the recent violence will mar that otherwise compelling narrative.

The extra troops are scheduled to leave by the end of July, and Petraeus is expected to make a recommendation on whether and how fast troops should be sent home after that.

As violence has spread this week, the relative calm that had been returning to Baghdad was disrupted by images that recalled the sectarian war before the troop buildup: repeated shelling of the fortified Green Zone; demonstrations by outraged Shiites; checkpoints in the slums of Sadr City manned by Mahdi Army militiamen loyal to cleric Muqtada Sadr, who say they are being unfairly targeted in the offensive.

The U.S. Embassy was locked down and Baghdad is under a curfew.

In his White House appearance Friday with Kevin Rudd, the new Australian prime minister, Bush seemed unsure about the reasons for the timing of the offensive, saying he had yet to talk to Maliki about it.

"I'm not exactly sure what triggered the prime minister's response," he said.

Bush said the offensive showed the newfound capability of the Iraqi armed forces and the resolve of the country's leaders, especially Maliki. But Maliki, who traveled to Basra to personally oversee the operation, faces a heavy political cost if it bogs down, and he is already confronting demands that he resign.

The 4-day-old offensive was launched by Maliki to confront those outside the law, Bush said, explaining that Basra is an Iraqi port with goods and services that has drawn criminals.

"This is a test and a moment for the Iraqi government," he said.

"And it is an interesting moment for the people of Iraq because . . . they must have confidence in their government's ability to protect them and to be evenhanded."

But retired Army Gen. Jack Keane, an architect of last year's troop buildup, suggested Friday that Maliki acted out of personal animus toward Sadr, rather than in the best interest of Iraq.

"He's a very impulsive person," Keane said of Maliki in an NPR interview. "I think that's what happened here. I think he's way out in front of what the military realities on the ground are."

Gary J. Schmitt, a military analyst at the American Enterprise Institute who was an early supporter of the buildup, said he believed the administration was taken by surprise by Maliki's decision, but that with provincial elections set for October, the central government had to act.

"Tactically, this might not have been the optimal moment, or they may not have prepared as well as they should have. But I think it was quite predictable," Schmitt said. "With the elections coming, it should have been understood as a necessity."

The operation could also affect the U.S. presidential campaign. Continued violence would hinder the ability of Republican Sen. John McCain, an early supporter of the troop increase, to campaign on the success of that strategy. It would also trip up Bush's hopes of leaving office with Iraq appearing to at last be on a glide path to stability.

To prevent drastic deterioration, Keane suggested, U.S. troops may need to be sent south to aid the Iraqis, who took control of Basra's province three months ago from British forces, which have been rapidly withdrawing from the region over the last year.

"In the near term, the Iraqis wanted to do this by themselves, and I can understand our commanders certainly letting them go ahead and give it a try," Keane said. "We may find ourselves also providing some ground forces, although we would do that reluctantly because of the efforts that we have up north to finish Al Qaeda once and for all."

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said any decision to move U.S. troops to southern Iraq would be "a commander's call."

But as American commanders struggle to deal with the end of the U.S. buildup, other Pentagon officials said, a move to send backup units to southern Iraq is unlikely.

Times staff writers Paul Richter and James Gerstenzang in Washington and Tina Susman in Baghdad contributed to this report.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Iraq's Ties to Terrorism Prior to 9/11

How does this idiot have any credibility? This week, the leftwing politicos were a twitter with the idea of a Gore/Obama ticket. Say whatever you want about Republicans but look at the disgusting alternative presented by the Democrat party.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to fight "to the end".

Another day in Paradise.

Hyperbole is as plentiful as oil in the the Middle East. It is hard to take seriously a statement from al-Maliki that he will see this "to the end". More than likely, the Iraqi PM may have decided that the time to engage the forces of al-Sadr is when there are still enough Americans around to help. Talk about a tar baby.

Does the US let the Iraqis settle this or do we engage and settle the debate about the US future in Iraq? How does any US president leave Iraq?

Stalled assault on Basra exposes the Iraqi government's shaky authority

By Patrick Cockburn Independent
Friday, 28 March 2008

The Iraqi army's offensive against the Shia militia of the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in Basra is failing to make significant headway despite a pledge by the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to fight "to the end".

Instead of being a show of strength, the government's stalled assault is demonstrating its shaky authority over much of Baghdad and southern Iraq. As the situation spins out of Mr Maliki's control, saboteurs blew up one of the two main oil export pipelines near Basra, cutting by a third crude exports from the oilfields around the city. The international price of oil jumped immediately by $1 a barrel before falling back.

In Baghdad, tens of thousands of supporters of Mr Sadr, whose base of support is the Shia poor, marched through the streets shouting slogans demanding that Mr Maliki's government be overthrown. "We demand the downfall of the Maliki government," said one of the marchers, Hussein Abu Ali. "It does not represent the people. It represents Bush and Cheney."

The main bastion of the Sadrist movement is impoverished Sadr City, which has a population of two million and is almost a twin city to Baghdad. The densely packed slum has been sealed off by US troops. "We are trapped in our homes with no water or electricity since yesterday," said a resident called Mohammed. "We can't bathe our children or wash our clothes."

The streets are controlled by Mehdi Army fighters, many of whom say they expect an all-out American attack, though this seems unlikely since the US says that an attack on the Shia militias is a wholly Iraqi affair.

In Basra, Iraqi forces have cordoned off seven districts but appear stalled in their effort to dislodge the Mehdi Army fighters. Masked gunmen in some cases have captured or seized abandoned Iraqi army vehicles and painted pro-Sadrist slogans on their armour.

A co-ordinated mortar bombardment struck the main police base in the city beside the Shatt al-Arab waterway and there was heavy shooting in the main commercial street of Iraq's southern capital. An Interior Ministry source said that 51 people had been killed and more than 200 wounded in three days of fighting in Basra. There was an attempt to assassinate Basra's police chief in which three of his bodyguards were killed by a bomb.

Mr Maliki's surprise offensive against the Mehdi Army is likely to have repercussions far beyond Iraq. The Americans must have agreed to the attack though they had previously praised the six-month ceasefire declared by Mr Sadr on 29 August and renewed in February as being one of the main reasons why violence had fallen in Iraq. Although Mr Sadr has said the truce is continuing it is ceasing to have much meaning.

President George Bush praised Mr Maliki yesterday saying he faces a "tough battle against militia fighters and criminals". He said that the Iraqi Prime Minister had taken a bold decision "in going after the illegal groups in Basra".

But the rapid increase in violence may puncture optimism in the US over the "success" of the surge in leading to a turning point in the five-year-long war.

The Green Zone, the heavily fortified centre of American power in Iraq, was wreathed in smoke yesterday as it was struck by rockets and mortars fired from Shia neighbourhoods. In a further blow to the belief that the surge has restored law and order, one of the two Iraqi spokesmen for the Baghdad security plan, which is at the heart of the surge strategy, was kidnapped and three of his bodyguards killed before his house was set on fire. The victim was Tahseen Sheikhly, a Sunni who often appeared with American officials to proclaim the success of the surge.

Clashes are now taking place across Iraq and most of the Shia districts in Iraq. In the middle of last year a Mehdi Army commander said that his militia controlled 80 per cent of Shia Baghdad and 50 per cent of the capital as a whole. This is probably only a slight exaggeration. There has also been heavy fighting in Kut on the Tigris, where 44 have been killed and 75 wounded, and in Hilla on the Euphrates where 60 people died. In past months the Sadrists have been locked in a struggle for Diwaniya, also on the Euphrates south of Baghdad, where they have been fighting police units controlled by Badr, the militia of the other great Shia party, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI).

When he first came to power, Mr Maliki balanced between ISCI and the Sadrists but has steadily become closer to the first party and has shown growing hostility to Mr Sadr. The last great battle between the Sadrists and the Iraqi government backed by the Americans was in Najaf in 2004 and was ended by the intervention of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani who wanted the Sadrists humbled but not crushed. He also did not want to see the Shia community divided into warring factions. It is possible that the Grand Ayatollah may seek to mediate again but Mr Maliki may find it difficult to compromise after his claim that he will win control of Basra.

The government has about 15,000 soldiers and the same number of police in Basra but this is not a great number in a city of two million. The police are closely linked to the militias and are unlikely to prove a resolute ally against the Mehdi Army.

US gave $300m arms contract to 22-year-old with criminal record

Ammunition moving to the front. How much did the little son of a bitch make and who helped him?

· Old stock sent to Afghan forces battling Taliban
· 40-year-old ammunition had to be destroyed

Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington
The Guardian, Friday March 28 2008

The Pentagon entrusted a 22-year-old previously arrested for domestic violence and having a forged driving licence to be the main supplier of ammunition to Afghan forces at the height of the battle against the Taliban, it was reported yesterday.

AEY, essentially a one-man operation based in an unmarked office in Miami Beach, Florida, was awarded a contract worth $300m (£150m) to supply the Afghan army and police in January last year. But as the New York Times reported in a lengthy investigation, AEY's president, Efraim Diversoli, 22, supplied stock that was 40 years old and rotting packing material.

"Much of the ammunition comes from the ageing stockpiles of the old communist bloc, including stockpiles that the state department and Nato have determined to be unreliable and obsolete, and have spent millions of dollars to have destroyed," the paper said.

The report on AEY was the latest instance of private firms securing lucrative defence contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan under the Bush administration's policy of privatising growing aspects of the military.

"Operations like this pop up like mushrooms after the rain," said Milton Bearden, a former CIA official who in the 1980s was in charge of arming Afghan rebel groups fighting the former Soviet Union.

"For the most part the US or coalition forces will stick with the Warsaw Pact weapons and munitions systems that were already being used by the Afghans or the Iraqis. There becomes an insatiable demand for certain munitions. Suppliers go all over the world sweeping out warehouses and you end up with boxes of junk and unstable gear if you are not careful."

The army suspended AEY from future contracts during the course of the investigation - although it continues to fill existing orders. The New York Times said Diversoli was unaware of the action, although he was to be notified yesterday.

Until then, however, Diversoli appears to have had a lucrative run. He told the newspaper his firm had won contracts worth at least $200m each year since 2004. AEY also supplied weapons to US agencies, and rifles to Iraqi forces.

In 2006, AEY was among 10 firms bidding on a contract to supply 52 kinds of ammunition for the Afghan security forces. But while his business was taking off, Diversoli was accused of violent behaviour involving two girlfriends and the parking attendant at his apartment building. In December 2006, Diversoli was charged with battery after beating up the parking attendant, according to the newspaper. Police recovered a forged driving licence from Diversoli's flat which led to a separate charge. He entered a programme for first time offenders to avoid trial.

AEY's contract was approved weeks later in January 2007, and Diversoli began scouring the globe for suppliers. Diversoli turned to Albania, which had large weapons dumps. However, the New York Times reported that the firm ended up paying for Kalashnikov rounds that were so obsolete that the US and Nato funded programmes to see them safely destroyed.

AEY also purchased 9 million cartridges from a Czech citizen who had been linked to illegal arms trafficking to Congo.

At first, the Pentagon defended its contractor. "AEY's proposal represented the best value to the government," the Army Sustainment Command wrote to the New York Times. Henry Waxman, the member of congress from California who heads the committee on government oversight, said yesterday he would conduct hearings into the contract next month.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

"...for you will pay with your blood."

"Take lessons from the examples you see, for you will pay with your blood."

Basra and Iraqification. Shiites Fighting Shiites.

The Iraqi government should be able to handle this. They should also know that now that it has started, it needs to be finished. The independent militias must be dissolved in order for there to be a credible national government. A successful outcome will go a long way to justify US involvement. A failure will be a calamity.

On one part of the news clip, notice how the Iraqi troops handle the street by handing out Qurans. Interesting.


Clashes continue in southern Iraq

Heavy fighting has continued for a third day between Shia militias and the Iraqi security forces in southern Iraq.-BBC

There are reports of extensive exchanges of fire between the Iraqi army and militiamen in Basra and in the town of Hilla, just south of Baghdad.

More than 70 people have died and hundreds have been injured in days of violence sparked by an Iraqi crackdown on Shia militias in Basra.

There have also been violent clashes in Kut and the capital, Baghdad.

On Wednesday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki gave Shia militants in Basra 72 hours to lay down their arms or face "severe penalties".

The leader of the Mehdi Army, Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr, has spoken of the possibility of negotiations to end the violence.


In Basra, police chief Adbul Jalil Khalaf said he survived an assassination attempt overnight, in which three of his bodyguards were killed.

Residents in the city have said that they are beginning to run out of food and water.

One told the BBC that the Iraqi army broke into shops, took food and water, then set fire to shops and cars on the street.


  • Third largest city, population 2.6 million approx
  • Located on the Shatt al-Arab waterway leading to the Gulf - making it a centre for commerce and oil exports
  • Region around city has substantial oil resources
  • 4,000 UK troops based at international airport

"I am trying to look out of the window now, but I can't - the smoke's really heavy and smells really bad. Everything is burnt," he said.

An oil pipeline near Basra, which carries oil for export, was damaged by a bomb.

A Southern Oil Company official told the Reuters news agency that the main pumping station of Zubair 1 was shut down and that exports would be greatly affected.

"Firefighters are struggling to control the fire, which is huge. A lot of crude has spilt onto the ground... We will not be able to repair it unless security is provided for the crews," he said.

In the capital, Baghdad, thousands of Sadr supporters gathered in Sadr City, a vast Shia-dominated suburb, to demand Mr Maliki's resignation over the military operation.

The city's fortified Green Zone was again hit by several rounds of rockets, causing a fire, Iraqi and US embassy officials said.

Iraqi police in Kut said dozens of people were killed in clashes on Thursday between Iraqi and US forces, and Shia militiamen, the AFP news agency reported.

And the number of gunfights in other parts of southern Iraq appears to be growing, says the BBC's Crispin Thorold in Baghdad.

Power struggle

Through the night and the early morning there have also been clashes in the towns of Hilla and Diwaniya.

Late on Wednesday, a US military air raid called in support of Iraqi forces in Hilla caused a number of casualties.

The fighting still seems to be mainly with members of the Mehdi Army, the militia loyal to Moqtada Sadr, our correspondent says.

The Medhi Army had held to a ceasefire for more than a year, contributing to the general fall in violence across Iraq.

It is not clear what has prompted the government crackdown at this time. The government says its campaign aims to re-impose law and order in Basra.

However, Sadrists say the government is attempting to weaken the militias before local elections scheduled for October.

At stake, analysts say, is control of Iraq's only port city and the region's oil fields.

Saudi Arabia Influence in Pakistan Increasing. US Gets Starchy Handshake.

Saudi Choice, Mr Nawaz Sharif.

If you want to know how some of the New Pakistanis really think go here. From the link we have this:

...But interestingly enough the media had no reason to complain about the PMLN leader Mr Nawaz Sharif, who actually met the American visitors only to tell them that their line would no longer be followed and that the parliament would lay down its own independent policy in light of its electoral mandate to undo the one-man policy adopted after 9/11. As Mr Sharif briefed the press he was flanked by an ex-foreign service officer who claims to have already defied the “American diktat” in the past in his own way. The former US Deputy Secretary of State, Strobe Talbot, writes in his book Engaging India: Diplomacy, Democracy and the Bomb (2004) about what this Pakistani diplomat did during a meeting at the Islamabad Foreign Office: “He rose out of his chair and lunged across the table as though he were going to strangle either [Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence] Bruce Reidel or me, depending on whose neck he could get his fingers around first. He had to be physically restrained”...

Pakistan's new leaders tell US: We are no longer your killing field
· Visiting envoys earn cold reception from coalition
· PM wants new approach to fight Islamic extremism

Declan Walsh in Islamabad
The Guardian, Thursday March 27 2008

The Bush administration is scrambling to engage with Pakistan's new rulers as power flows from its strong ally, President Pervez Musharraf, to a powerful civilian government buoyed by anti-American sentiment.

Top diplomats John Negroponte and Richard Boucher travelled to a mountain fortress near the Afghan border yesterday as part of a hastily announced visit that has received a tepid reception.

On Tuesday, senior coalition partner Nawaz Sharif gave the visiting Americans a public scolding for using Pakistan as a "killing field" and relying too much on Musharraf.

Yesterday the new prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, said he warned President George Bush in a phone conversation that he would prioritise talking as well as shooting in the battle against Islamist extremism. "He said that a comprehensive approach is required in this regard, specially combining a political approach with development," a statement said.

But Gilani also reassured Bush that Pakistan would "continue to fight against terrorism", it said.

Since 2001 American officials have treasured their close relationship with Musharraf because he offered a "one-stop shop" for cooperation in hunting al-Qaida fugitives hiding in Pakistan.

But since the crushing electoral defeat of Musharraf's party last month, and talk that the new parliament may hobble the president's powers, that equation has changed. Now the US finds itself dealing with politicians it previously spurned.

The body language between Negroponte and Sharif during their meeting on Tuesday spoke volumes: the Pakistani greeted the American with a starched handshake, and sat at a distance .

In blunt remarks afterwards, Sharif said he told Negroponte that Pakistan was no longer a one-man show. "Since 9/11, all decisions were taken by one man," he said. "Now we have a sovereign parliament and everything will be debated in the parliament."

It was "unacceptable that while giving peace to the world we make our own country a killing field," Sharif said, echoing widespread public anger at US-funded military operations in the tribal belt.

"If America wants to see itself clean of terrorism, we also want our villages and towns not to be bombed," he said.

US officials have long paid tribute to the virtues of democracy in Pakistan. But, as happened in the Palestinian Authority after the 2006 Hamas victory, policymakers are racing to catch up with the consequences of a result that challenges American priorities.

The US has long been suspicious of Sharif, whom it views as sympathetic to religious parties. Unlike Benazir Bhutto, whose return from exile was negotiated through the US, Sharif came under the protection of Saudi Arabia. But now Sharif's party, which performed well in the poll, is an integral part of the new government.

Yesterday Negroponte and Boucher travelled to the Khyber Pass in North-West Frontier Province, the centre of a growing insurgency. They met with the commander of the Frontier Corps, a poorly equipped paramilitary force that the US has offered to upgrade. The US has earmarked $750m (£324m) for a five-year development programme in tribal areas. At least 22 military instructors are due to start training the corps this year.

The timing of the American visit - before the new cabinet is announced - has offended Pakistanis. "It flies in the face of normal protocol at a time when public opinion is rife that they are making a last ditch effort to save Musharraf," said Talat Hussain, a prominent journalist.

It is unclear how Pakistan's foreign policy will be formulated in future. Musharraf's power may have been cut but the strong army is lurking in the shadows, and the coalition is wrangling over cabinet posts, including that of foreign minister.

Gilani must manage other tensions, particularly over whether to reinstate Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, the deposed chief justice who was freed from house arrest on Monday. Chaudhry has become a folk hero but is viewed with suspicion by Gilani's Pakistan People's party.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Is It Fair To Ask Chelsea Clinton About Monica Lewinsky?

I say no. There was no other purpose than to humiliate Chelsea Clinton. She handled the question with grace. She is the daughter campaigning for her mother. It has no relevance to her mother's campaign and at this time was a tasteless loutish question.

Brits Want US More Engaged in the World

Spring Time in America

Basra is being strained with 25 dead over the last few days. That is where the British lectured the US on following their lead by going "softly softly". Well the British did go softly softly and left Basra to the Iraqis.

The Arabs, to a country, hardly help at all in Iraq. They are too busy spending their oil money building cities and buying things to be of much assistance. They have also been getting a little sniffy about the dollar. They seem more disposed to "eau d'Euro".

The Germans are all for Nato troops in Afghanistan as long as they do not have to fight. The legacy of their grandfathers still has them traumatized.

One in ten Ohioans is on some type of public assistance and two of three likely candidates for the US presidency have other ideas about US involvements around the world. Tony Blair had no small part in encouraging the US to be more involved in Iraq. (The famous British Dossier on Iraqi WMD's impressed this army of one.)

Thanks for the advice Mr. Brown, but I think softly softly needs to be re-examined.


Gordon Brown to tell US to re-engage in world

By Andrew Porter, Political Editor Telegraph
Last Updated: 2:21am GMT 26/03/2008

Gordon Brown is to urge America to re-engage with the world in the manner which it did after the Second World War, saying the world is at a point in history when it needs American "values and leadership".

In a landmark speech next month which will be given on his second official visit to the United States as Prime Minister, Mr Brown will also appeal to the American people saying the US has always provided inspirational leadership at crucial times in world history and this is a point in history when it is needed again.

Gordon Brown's speech will be directed more at the candidates campaigning to succeed President George W Bush

Significantly making the speech in the Kennedy Library in Boston, Mr Brown will evoke the memory of JFK as well as other American leaders he feels have been vital to global peace and prosperity including Presidents Truman and Roosevelt.

While arguing that the challenges of post-1945 are different to today's, he believes that the leadership which President Truman gave in helping Europe should be drawn upon.

Today's global challenges include extremism and climate change, he is expected to argue.

A Downing Street source said: "He feels that this is a time for new US leadership and time to face up to the challenges. Iraq should not be allowed to cloud people's judgement that America can and should be a force for good."

The Prime Minister is to visit the United States in three weeks time for his first lengthy trip to the country as Prime Minister.

His speech will be pro-American, defying promptings from Labour MPs that he should be more of a critic of Washington.

The speech will be likened to Tony Blair's Chicago speech in 1999 which guided his foreign policy and included his first outlining of the "liberal interventionist" doctrine.

That subsequently guided his actions in foreign affairs including, with varying degrees of success, the military action in Kosovo and Iraq.

The speech will be directed more at the potential new US Presidents, Republican John McCain, and the two Democrat challengers Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, rather than the incumbent George Bush.

Mr Brown fears that after the Iraq war America's incoming administration may revert to a less engaged outlook in order to appease voters.

Some of the candidates have also been advocating protectionist trade measures which Europe and Britain oppose.

But the Prime Minister is likely to point out the great post-war institutions like the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund were all driven by the United States.

It is American values that can shape the new global architecture, Downing Street believes.

Another Number 10 source said: "The Prime Minister has always made clear that he is a strong Atlanticist and he also believes that the problems of the world can only be solved with the United States actively engaged."

In his Chicago speech, Mr Blair talked about humanitarian and just wars. However Mr Brown is expected instead to talk of how global institutions can bring countries together so they can work more effectively than is currently the case.

On the four-day trip, Mr Brown will be keen to establish himself more on the world stage than has been the case since he took over from Mr Blair.

He is not widely known in the States in contrast to his predecessor who was seen in a great light for his support of America after 9/11 and over Iraq.

Brown believes the leadership which President Truman gave in helping Europe rebuild after WWII should be drawn upon

Downing Street confirmed that Mr Brown will visit America from the April 16 to 20.

Mr Brown first visited Washington in July last year, a month after becoming Prime Minister.

In contrast to the matey, "jeans and bomber jacket" style of Mr Blair's meetings with President Bush, Mr Brown adopted a more formal approach.

He wore his trademark blue suit and his only concession to Camp David informality was when he was taken for a spin by the President in a golf cart.

The British Government's decision to withdraw troops from Basra soon after Mr Brown took office reportedly irritated Washington.

Last week Mr McCain visited Downing Street. Mr Brown is determined to appear impartial in the race for the White House despite Labour's strong links with the Democrats.

The Prime Minister believes there should be stronger institutions which can act as an early warning system for financial markets.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Today at the EB Rainbow Room - Dialogue and Understanding

In an effort to promote social understanding and dialogue, the EB is proud to present Dr. Ilyas Ba-Yunus, Ph.D., from the State University of New York College at Cortland. Dr. Ba-Yunus' works include The Myth of Islamic Fundamentalism. We are reminded that that Islam is a total way of life with laws and regulations governing every aspect of human life and the institutions of society. Being divinely inspired, Islam provides the only way to maintain a cohesive social structure in an increasingly complex world.
Dimensions of Islamic Ideology

All human beings have two major needs. First, they have to have food, clothing and shelter. These are known as economic needs. To these, we humans at different times and places have also added other things considered to be essential for life (means of communication and transportation, leisure and amusement, cooking and heating, etc.).

Secondly, as we grow up, we develop sexual and reproductive needs. As basic as they are, these needs can not be satisfied without us interacting with, cooperating with and living with other human beings.

However, paradoxically, these very demands also have the potential of great discord and dispute in the presence of others unless we develop some measure of normative control. Polity or the exercise of power, then, is the third major element that we humans need while living a plural life.

Lastly, but not least, we human beings have also shown a great need for the super natural and some way of communicating with Him - individually and collectively.

All societies, however primitive or modern, see to it that these four human needs are satisfied through highly regulated patterns of interaction. Sociologists call these patterns of interaction institutions - of economy, family, polity, and worship. Without first three of these human society is unthinkable. Without all four of them, human society has not existed historically. Together, norms governing these social institutions describe most essential ingredients of social life universally. As dissimilar as these institutional patterns of interaction are, ideally or from culture relativity point of view, they must be interdependent and mutually reinforcing (6).

However, in reality except for the very primitive societies, this is hardly the case. In fact, we may safely hypothesize that as a society becomes more complex, indeed with every new development, its institutions tend to exert centrifugal pressure upon one another.

Last in the succession of Divinely revealed religions of the world, Islam came at the threshold of accelerating societal complexity. Human population was increasingly becoming sedentary. As horticulture was widely replaced by irrigation based civilizations, animal husbandry and nomadism was giving way to agricultural and international commercial settlements while gold standard was already giving rise to a monetary economy almost world wide.

At this juncture in human history, Islam came with full compliment of social institutions essential for human society. We do not know of any other "ism", ideology, or religion which deals with these four indispensable aspects of human life at once - as manifestations of the same source which provides them with organic unity. A common ideological root in Islam, obviously, is meant to keep the increasingly complex society of man from coming apart at its institutional seams. This claim stands in defiance to all other ideologies of the past and the present which have failed to provide a singular design of institutional unity for human society.

When practiced in its totality, Islam aims at creating what the Qur'an calls the "Middle Nation" as against all other "oscillating cultures" which only take extreme positions(7). The centralizing tendency in Islam has the potential of negotiating ideological extremes and providing them a common ground. For instance, in its economic aspects, although Islam respects private property and favors an open mrket system, yet it discourages excessive capital accumulation by prohibiting interest, gambling, profiteering and hoarding. Far from creating a socialistic economy, it ordains transfer of substantial amount of resource from the very rich to the very poor and the needy who are encouraged to seek work and discouraged to subsist on charity. Thus, Islamic economy has a built-in motivation for the individual initiative while commanding dispersion far in excess of what capitalism would tolerate but far below the level that socialism could tolerate. In short, Islam allows capitalism minus material obsession. While defying any socialistic solutions, however, it attacks the very roots of exploitation in a free market economy.

Traditionally, human family has functioned on the basis of extended kinship. It is mainly since the advent of industrialization that the family has become increasingly marriage based. Hence the modern nuclear family. Islam does not commit itself to either form. While there may be few precious tears to be shed on the passing of tribal or clan system, Islam is aimed at creating a web of relationships in which the family of orientation (birth) plays a major role in shaping, accommodating and sustaining the family of procreation (wife and children). Even if arranged marriage is a norm among Muslims, Marriage in Islam can not be solemnized without an explicit consent on the part of the marrying partners in the presence of adult and sane Muslims. Not being a sacrament, marriage in Islam is strictly a civil contract requiring a declaration, witnessing and documentation if possible. In this respect alone, Islamic marriage has preempted modern marriage by more than thirteen hundred years.

Having rejected priesthood, Islam leaves no room for theocracy. By the Divine decree in the Qur'an and according to the Sunnah of the Prophet(p), Shura is the fundamental principle of polity in Islam. Roughly translated as consultation in English language, however, Shura does not mean an advice that could be rejected later. The structure of the Khilafah following the Sunnah of the Prophet(p) shows that Shura constitutes consultation that culminates in binding decisions . This puts Islamic polity squarely between democracy and authoritarianism. After all Shura has its roots in the Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Prophet(p). Consequently, Islamic polity may elect the rulers who institute laws, make any policies, and introduce any programs as they deem fit only so long as they do not transgress the authoritative limits as laid down in the Qur'an and the Sunnah. In short, the Qur'an and the Sunnah describe constitutional limits of Islamic polity. But, then, who is going to decide whether or not those in authority in Islam acted according to the Qur'an and the Sunnah? The answer is that the Qadi or the judge does this for you. An independent judiciary specializing in the Shariah, then, is a necessary condition of the process of Shura.

Evidently, this system is not theocracy. Obviously, it does not accommodate monarchy either.

Finally, worship in Islam has broader as well as more specific meanings. In a broader sense, worship or Ibadah in Islam literally means obedience to all the commandments as laid down in the Qur'an and the Sunnah including all institutional as well as extra-institutional rules of conduct. Thus, when a person avoids interest or extramarital involvement, preaches Islam, or participates in and promotes Islamic polity, he or she is worshipping. Likewise, when a Muslim develops his personal character according to the Qur'anic commandments, he or she is engaging worship. In a more general sense, then, worship in Islam means obedience to the Divine commandments.

In a more limited sense, as in its dictionary meanings these days, worship in Islam means observations of the "Five Pillars" - the proclamation of faith or the Shahadah, praying five times a day or the Salat, giving poor due or the Zakat, fasting from dawn to dusk for the whole lunar month of Ramadhan or Saum, and pilgrimage at Makkah at least once in life time or Hajj. These " Five Pillars of Islam" must not be considered to be mere supplications. They are duties imposed on Muslims by their Creator. They are not left at the convenience or whims and wishes of the believer. These duties are to be performed consciensciously at their proper times as practiced and instructed by the Prophet(p). What is emphasized here is that this is not God who needs man's worship and sacrifices. It is man who needs to worship Him in order to strengthen his own moral fiber and personal commitment (Taqwa) to obey the commandments of his Creator.

Because both aspects of worship in Islam belong to the same generic root i.e. the Qur'an, relationship between the two is close and reciprocal. While worship in terms of the Five Pillars is necessary for committing a Muslim personally to the practice of the Islamic institutional order, this commitment or Taqwa itself needs Islamic institutional environment in which to nourish and sustain itself. There is little doubt that without personal commitment or Taqwa, the institutional order of Islam would not last very long.

It is equally true that without an Islamic institutional environment, Taqwa would be rendered useless, goalless, and meaningless.

Personal worship in terms of the rituals, even if performed collectively or in congregations, is characteristic of all religions in which its function is to inculcate in the worshipper personal piety aimed mainly at developing a commitment to do good to others and avoid harming them. But, these religions do not generally go any further than that; and because they do not do so, they do not provide personal piety an appropriate environment which it may promote and in which it may rejuvenate itself. Indeed, in most societies these days personal piety of the worshipper is becoming increasingly irrelevant because contemporary social institutions of modern societies do not have any generic relationship with and, indeed, go against the very spirit of personal piety.

In Islam, as must be evident from the above, personal worship and abidance by the Islamic laws governing other institutions are two sides of the same coin. One can not be without the other. This broadening of the meanings of worship in Islam is unique to it. Above all, what it means is that for all or most Muslims to become pious, personal ritualistic worship at home or in the mosque must be reinforced by the Islamic economy, the Islamic family and the Islamic polity. Thus, those who are afraid of the spread of "Muslim extremism", must understand that peaceful Muslim can be found only in a functioning Islamic order. This is the message that the "Islamic fundamentalists" are trying to convey to their rulers, and to those who are leading the non-Muslim world.

Summary and Conclusion

In this paper we have tried to show that expression Islamic fundamentalism which is increasingly gaining currency especially among Western policy makers, intellectuals and the media, is not only misleading, it may also be counterproductive.

The term is misleading because its vocabulary and its imagery is borrowed primarily from Christian fundamentalist movement of the American South. American fundamentalists proclaim a number of dogmas which are not welcome among American liberal church leaders as well as secular elites in the media, politics and the universities.

But, to be scared of the fundamentalist movement in their back yard is one thing. It is quite another to look at Islam in the image of their garden variety. There is no and there has never been any fundamentalist/nonfundamentalist differentiation in Islam during the past fourteen centuries.

As used by American, and now increasingly also by other Western elites, the expression Islamic fundamentalism, and the very negative connotations that go with it, may also be counter-productive. This is because to many a sensitive Muslim ear, it may sound like a deliberate effort to create a new rift in the already fractionated world of Islam. May be most Western elites do not even know that they are victims of the medieval anti-Islamic biases of their forefathers. May be they are falsely afraid of something which may surprise them only if they set their ethnocentrism aside. Even so, during these closing years of the 20th century, the world is waking up to the fact that one does not have to harbor Western values in order to outperform the West (8).

Every ideology, whether religious, economic, political or otherwise, is based on certain fundamental principles. So does Islam. The question is, are Islamic fundamentals dogmatic in the same sense as those of Christianity? A closer look shows Islam to be a surprisingly integrated ideology which has pre-empted modern socioeconomic ideologies by quite a few centuries. Only, Islam does not leave its institutions at the mercy of self-centered and materialistic pragmatism.

More seriously, it must not be overlooked that the primary responsibility of the misperception of Islam in the West and among other non-Muslims lies on none other than the Muslim elites - political, educational, economic and those in the media - of the past and the present.

No teachings of Islam can be equal to experiencing Islam as a living society. However, since deviance from Islam has increasingly become a norm among those who have taken upon themselves to lead the Muslim masses, Islamic norms are becoming deviant in Muslim societies. Consequently, those who call for and are active in trying to reestablish the Islamic institutional order, draw the wrath of the Muslim elites in several different ways - ridiculed in media presentations, criticized in academic and educational publications, ignored in national and international business dealings, and often severely punished by those in control of political power. Compared to the treatment that Islamic activists receive from leaders of their own societies, being labeled as Islamic fundamentalists by the Western elites, may look awfully benign indeed.

However, in the long run existing Western attitude toward Islam is definitely more harmful than any atrocities committed by the Muslim elites. Existing Muslim elites, with a few exceptions, are either dependent on the West for their own claim to power; or they are superficially Westernized to one degree or another, perhaps, less in their convictions than in their action. In either case, most Muslim leaders these days tow the Western line voluntarily or otherwise. Thus, as long as the Muslim elites are able to keep the Islamic activists under control, say, in Algeria, in Egypt, in Pakistan and in the oil rich sheikdoms, Western powers do not have to intervene with force directly. However, sustained Islamic revivalist activity or assumption of power by the Islamic activists (like in Iran in 1978 or in the Sudan in 1992) apparently gives rise to an ancient anti-Western specter in the minds of the Western elites. Now that the Soviet Union, the arch rival of the West for the most part in the 20th century, is gone for good, full attention is being given to Islam - the fallen "enemy" that is trying to resurrect itself. "Islamic fundamentalism" is only relatively a milder expression, which betrays the same old Western antipathy toward Islam.

It must be noted here that any direct Western intervention in the Muslim countries - even at the behest of the government in power - invariably creates an hostile reaction among the masses boosting the appeal of the Islamic revivalist movements - most often the only voice of political dissent in the Muslim world. This is how the West has been contributing to the appeal of the call for return to Islam. There is hardly any empirical data available on the subject, but it is quite plausible to believe that the Western posture toward revolutionary Shia Iran has contributed tremendously to the Islamic call in Sunni Muslim countries. Likewise, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan on Christmas eve in 1979, created an anti-socialist backlash even among leftist intellectuals in Pakistan, in Algeria and even in such avowedly Marxist countries like Southern Yemen (Ahmed, 1981). Besides, the chronic problem of Palestine, and now Bosnia and the Muslim states under former Soviet Union (Tadjikistan, Chachnia) have undoubtedly been tremendous contributing factors in this direction.

But, under the setting sun of the 20th century two momentous developments are taking place, one of them in the Muslim world and the other in the West. First, the Islamic revivalism is fast taking root in the newly independent Muslim countries especially among the intellegentia many of whom received their higher education in some of the most renowned seats of learning in North America and Europe. Toward the end of the first half of the 20th century, there was only one visible Islamic revivalist movement in the Muslim world - Jamaate Islami of Pakistan. The Ikhwan al Muslimoon of Egypt were already in ruins and scattered at the behest of the British in 1948. At that time undoubtedly there were many in the Muslim world who would subscribe to the views of these two movements. However, by 1950, Jamaaat was the only organized movement of its kind left in the Muslim world.

But, toward the end of the second half of the 20th century, today nearly all major Muslim countries from Indonesia and Malaysia to Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and nearly all of North African countries have active Islamic movements. Additionally, Iran (a Shia state) and Sudan (a Sunni state) are already functioning Islamic states. Algeria, Egypt, and Yemen seem to be next in line. Should this happen, other Muslim states may not necessarily fall like the dominoes. Which and how many other Muslim states will adopt Islamic polity shall to a great extent depend upon how already Islamicized states behave and are allowed to survive. In any case, in as much as the West stricken Muslim political elites have so far spectacularly failed in seeking solutions to the chronic problems of their respective societies, Islamic revivalists armed with most advanced education and training that the modern world can offer, seem to be the most formidable and able adversaries to their brittle regimes. Last forty years saw the emergence of two Islamic states (Sudan and Iran), and two (Algeria and Afghanistan) nearly succeeded in doing so. Next forty years may see the emergence of four or five more such states. It means that by the 2030's, there may be six or seven functioning Islamic states in the world.

Two patterns of international relations may be predicated regarding this development. First, provided Western ambivalence toward Islam is not abated, these Islamic states, like Shia Iran and Sunni Sudan today, would go out of their way to cooperate among themselves and support one another politically, economically and otherwise, notwithstanding their sectarian differences. Secondly, despite Iran's hostility toward the West which is more situational than ideological, these Islamic states would love to create a happy symbiosis with the West (as well as with others) i.e. unless others continue to attack and subverse Islamic revivalism. None of the Islamic revivalist movements, not even the hated Ikhwan of Egypt and the Jamaat of Pakistan have been inherently anti-Western in the same sense as the socialist ideology or the Soviet Union was.

Second event of great significance that is going on at the time of this writing is the transformation of the Western religious landscape. With a world wide migratory movement from technologically less developed countries of the so-called Third World toward industrially developed nations of the West, both Europe and North America are homes not merely to the Christians and the Jews. They are also now hosting Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and scores of other large and small belief systems. Of these, Islam undoubtedly is the fastest growing community. This growth of Islam in the West is not due to immigration alone. In significant respects, it is also because of DAWAH (invitation to Islam) and conversion to Islam (see Ba-Yunus and Siddiqui, 1994). Future of this community in the West on the one hand, and quite significantly, the nature of the relationship between the West and the future Islamic states on the other hand, shall to one degree or the other depend on the resourcefulness, organization and political and social savy with which Muslims in the West compose themselves. With their high level of education, professionalism, and income especially in America and Canada what is needed is unity in organization, resource mobilization and social and political policy before they would be perceived as "model minorities" recreating the correct image of Islam, making their presence felt and wisely exercising their political clout.

In short, given the disgraceful attitude toward Islam and Muslims especially on the part of many a Western policy and opinion maker, some one has to take an initiative to correct the situation. While Islamic revivalists are doing their share in the Muslim world, Muslims in the West especially those in North America have to do their share in this endeavor. That their potential to do so is increasing by the day, there is little doubt about it.

Thank You, Dr. Yunas. I stand corrected and will no longer use the incorrect term "Islamic fundamentalist." Instead, I will refer to "Islamic activist" or "Islamic revivalist."

I have no doubt that this will be a more peaceful world when Islam reigns supreme and the precepts of the prophet Muhammad (PBUH) are observed and kept by all. It's the interim period that I am worried about.

Additional reading:
Christian Science Monitor: Q&A Islamic Fundamentalism
Doc's Talk: Islam is not a religion nor is it a cult. A very interesting breakdown and observation on Muslim demographics and corresponding "revival" activities.

China and a Free Tibet = United States and a Free Republic of Texas?

I guess I am a Tibet agnostic. I simply do not care about it one way or another. The Chinese take it very seriously as the US would if there were sedition, insurrection and secession in Texas. Here are two perspectives and sympathies from the left of center English Independent and a Chinese nationalistic point of view.

Missing: monks who defied Beijing

By Nigel Morris Independent
Tuesday, 25 March 2008

They were the 15 youthful Tibetan monks – three still in their teens – who sparked a rebellion by daring to speak out against China's repression of their homeland.

The group paraded peacefully down Barkhor Street in Lhasa old town on 10 March handing out leaflets, chanting pro-independence slogans and carrying the banned Tibetan flag. Their demand was that the Chinese government that has ruled Tibet since 1951 should ease a "patriotic re-education" campaign which forced them to denounce the Dalai Lama and subjected them to government propaganda.

The reaction of the authorities, desperate to snuff out the most serious uprising against Chinese rule for almost half a century, was rapid and brutal. The group was detained on the spot, with eyewitnesses reporting that several of the monks suffered severe beatings as they were arrested and taken away. They have not been seen since.

Amnesty International called last night for their immediate release, along with all the other anti-Chinese demonstrators picked up in the past three weeks. The human rights organisation said they were at "high risk of torture and other ill treatment" and called on supporters to write to Hu Jintao, the Chinese President, with copies to the Chinese embassy in London.

Steve Ballinger, a UK spokesman for Amnesty, said: "China's reaction to peaceful protests in Tibet and neighbouring provinces – detaining demonstrators, flooding the area with troops and reportedly using violence – does not bode well for the Olympics. Some protests may have turned violent and the Chinese authorities have a responsibility to protect the lives and property of people in the region. But locking up peaceful protesters and locking out journalists is totally unacceptable. These monks must be released immediately and all those detained in recent weeks must be accounted for. If basic human rights are not respected, China's promises to clean up its act ahead of the Olympics will seem very hollow indeed."

The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD), which operates in exile from India, expressed its "deepest fear" that monks face "extreme inhumane treatment" in Chinese detention centres. It said: "Torture is a regular exercise in Chinese-administered prisons and detention centres in Tibet."

The plight of the monks was being seen as a key symbolic test for the Chinese government as it tries to bring calm to the country before this summer's Olympic Games in Beijing. Yesterday the Olympic flame was lit in Greece and began a global journey to the Olympic stadium in Beijing. But its progress risks being overshadowed by protests if China continues apparently to ignore the human rights of those who protest against it.

The monk's march – on the 49th anniversary of a failed uprising against Chinese rule – was among the first in Lhasa. Amid the chaos, police ordered traders in the market to go home and soldiers were drafted in. The action was futile as protests began in other monasteries in support of the 15 monks and lay people began marching in support of Tibetan rights.

The monks – who were visiting Lhasa's Sera monastery – have not been seen since their arrest. Nothing is known of their condition or whereabouts.

With the province "locked down" by the police and army, and all foreign journalists and observers forbidden from travelling to Tibet, there is little firm information about the extent of the uprising. But unconfirmed reports suggest there have been more than 1,000 arrests in the province and about 100 deaths in clashes between Tibetans and the authorities.

Many other groups of monks have taken to the streets complaining that the authorities were increasingly restricting their religious freedoms. They were soon joined by groups of civilians protesting that their Tibetan identity was being eroded by a deliberately policy of flooding the area with the minority Han Chinese ethnic group.

The protests erupted into rioting four days later which Tibet's exiled government said claimed 80 lives.

Beijing appears to have quelled the unrest for the moment by sending troops to Tibet and the provinces of Gansu, Qinghai and Sichuan. But pressure is mounting on China to begin talks with the Dalai Lama, whom it has blamed for inciting the unrest. A group of 29 Chinese dissidents have signed an open letter calling for talks with Tibet's spiritual leader and demanding a UN investigation into the situation. Support is also growing for a boycott of the Olympics if Beijing persists in its brutal treatment of dissent.

Monday, March 24, 2008

So? 5 Years - 4000 Dead - $600 Billion Burned - 2/3 Americans Opposed. So?

Trish said:
Mon Mar 24, 01:25:00 AM EDT

...We can't leave because - why? Because due to our efforts the ME has become something other than a running sore of nursed grievance and bloody violence, something other than a collection of "inbred retarded peoples" wasting our time, effort, and treasure for years on end?

One giant "gaza sh*thole" don't bother me none. Grand social engineering projects that engage the military without hope or promise of end, do.

Seeing as how we're not leaving, however, one would think you have little cause for such high dudgeon. The expression of a little genuine satisfaction might be in order, hm?..."

Dick Cheney in 1994

Nuclear and Conservation is the Only Option

Heading into the wrong direction.

It takes electric energy to convert any source, be it tar sands, corn, tree branches, coal or pig manure to a liquid fuel that we can use. If we go to batteries, we need electricity and a lot of it. The source for clean cheap energy is here and has been for some time.

Nuclear technology, developed in the 1950's, is available now. Instead of re-creating the wheel every time a nuclear plant is built, we need three or four off-the-shelf versions of nuclear power plants that on a large scale would be not much different than going to a home depot and picking up a generator.

An obvious over-simplification, because of politics, environmental and security issues, but other than wishful thinking, there is no plan B. There is simply no credible alternative. In order for nuclear to be successful it must be accompanied by serious and comprehensive energy conservation.

The Friends of the Earth prefer solar and wind mills, but the French may have it right.


UK and France 'plan nuclear deal'

Anti-nuclear campaigners have reacted with dismay to reports that Britain is on the brink of signing a deal with France to construct a new generation of power plants.
Downing Street declined to comment on claims that the agreement would be sealed during the forthcoming state visit to the UK of French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The Guardian reported that, as well as committing themselves to using nuclear power to combat climate change, Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Mr Sarkozy would unveil a new Anglo-French drive against illegal immigration.

According to the paper, Britain aims to draw on French expertise to build new nuclear power stations that will reduce the country's reliance on fossil fuels like coal, which are blamed for global warming.

Creating a pool of skilled British nuclear workers would put the UK in a position to join with France in exporting the technology to the rest of the world over the coming decades.

France has long relied heavily on nuclear power for its energy needs, and in 2006 the two premiers' predecessors Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac created a Franco-British Nuclear Forum to allow the UK to share in technological know-how from the other side of the Channel.

Nuclear power supplies almost 80% of France's electricity, against around 20% in the UK. The Government wants to replace Britain's ageing plants, which are due to be decommissioned over the coming decade, and last week began the process of licensing four reactor designs, including one by France's EDF and Areva.

A Downing Street spokesman refused to discuss what would be on the agenda at the Anglo-French summit being held at Arsenal football club's Emirates Stadium in north London on Thursday. "We are having discussions, but anything that happens at the summit will have to wait until the summit," he said.

Friends of the Earth nuclear campaigner Neil Crumpton said: "The idea of selling nuclear power around the world as a solution to climate change is just nonsense.
"Nuclear power is limited, dangerous and requires a lot of hi-tech skills to deal with the waste. By far the better technology is renewables, particularly solar power in the deserts and wind power in more northerly climates. It is these safe, simple, easily constructed technologies that the UK and all other countries should be promoting."