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The Oil Cringe of the West: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly Vol. 2
edited by S.B. Kelly
The Impact of Islam
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Sir Walter Scott's Crusades and Other Fantasies
by Ibn Warraq
Fighting the Retreat from Arabia and the Gulf: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly. Vol. 1
edited by S.B. Kelly
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by J. E. G. Dixon
Hamlet Made Simple and Other Essays
by David P. Gontar
Farewell Fear
by Theodore Dalrymple
The Eagle and The Bible: Lessons in Liberty from Holy Writ
by Kenneth Hanson
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interviews by Jerry Gordon
Mohammed and Charlemagne Revisited: The History of a Controversy
Emmet Scott
Why the West is Best: A Muslim Apostate's Defense of Liberal Democracy
Ibn Warraq
Anything Goes
by Theodore Dalrymple
Karimi Hotel
De Nidra Poller
The Left is Seldom Right
by Norman Berdichevsky
Allah is Dead: Why Islam is Not a Religion
by Rebecca Bynum
Virgins? What Virgins?: And Other Essays
by Ibn Warraq
An Introduction to Danish Culture
by Norman Berdichevsky
The New Vichy Syndrome:
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Jihad and Genocide
by Richard L. Rubenstein
Spanish Vignettes: An Offbeat Look Into Spain's Culture, Society & History
by Norman Berdichevsky



















These are all the Blogs posted on Friday, 10, 2012.
Friday, 10 August 2012
Australian court upholds terror manual charge

From AFP,  the Australian and the Herald Sun

SYDNEY — A former Qantas worker found guilty of producing a do-it-yourself jihad manual had his conviction reinstated by Australia's High Court Friday, with judges ruling he had extremist intentions. Lebanese-born Belal Khazaal, an ex-Qantas cabin cleaner, was jailed for 12 years (with a non-parole period of nine years) in 2009 over the Arabic-language handbook, which included how-to guides on bomb-making, assassinations, kidnappings and shooting down planes.

The 110-page "Provisions of the Rules of Jihad: Short Judicial Rulings and Organisational Instructions for Fighters and Mujahideen Against Infidels" named ex-US president George W. Bush and his CIA chief George Tenet as targets.

Khazaal, 42, had his conviction for knowingly making a document connected with assistance in a terrorist act quashed by an appeals court in 2011, but government prosecutors sought to have it reinstated by the High Court.

A five-judge panel headed by Chief Justice Robert French ruled Friday that Khazaal's original conviction should stand. In its decision published today, the court unanimously allowed the appeal.

“In relation to the argument on the appeal, the court held that the evidence pointed to by the respondent did not suggest a reasonable possibility that the making of the e-book was not intended to facilitate assistance in a terrorist act,” the High Court ruled. “In relation to the notice of contention, the court held that no error had been shown in the trial judge's directions.”

The manual, which he posted on the internet, contained advice on assassination, bombmaking and shooting down planes, among other things. It comprised material written in Arabic concerning Islam and jihad that Khazaal had downloaded from the internet. It also included a dedication, foreword and other short passages that he had written.

Following the order, Khazaal, dressed in a long grey robe, embraced supporters in court before being led away by corrective services officers.

Posted on 08/10/2012 3:17 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Friday, 10 August 2012
Israel: Wave of Fires May Be Arson Jihad; Four Local Muslims Caught Near Jerusalem Fire

From the 'Jerusalem Post'

http://www.jpost.com/NationalNews/Article.aspx?id=280720

"Police suspect "wave of nationalistic arson attacks'".

'Dozens of firefighting crews, planes needed to control Kiryat Tivon blaze, homes burned, residents evacuated'

'Police said on Thursday that they suspect a spate of fires over the past two days is part of a "wave of natiionalistically motivated arson attacks".

'Nationalistically motivated'.  In other words:  Jihad by Fire-Setting. - CM

'It took some 30 firefighting crews, as well as firefighting aircraft, to gain control over a fire in Kiryat Tivon, southeast of Haifa, on Thursday afternoon.  It was the second blaze in the area in as many days.

'Police evacuated several people from their homes.  An old age home was also evacuated.

'At least two homes were damaged by the fires, but no injuries were reported.

'The municipality opened a shelter for displaced people at the Narkisim school in Kiryat Tivon.

Asst.-Ch. Hagai Dotan, head of the Coastal Police, said the fires may be a form of nationalistic attack.

No, Hagai Dotan, the word you need is Jihad.  The continual Muslim attempt - whether by force or by fraud - to weaken non-Muslims and get them to submit to Muslim rule. - CM

'Police arrested four Palestinians from the West Bank (sic: in other words, 'four local Arab Muslims from Judea and/ or Samaria' - CM) whom they found in the vicinity of a fire near Jerusalem on Wednesday, on suspicion of involvement in starting the blaze.

'Dotan said that police and Fire and Rescue Services were on high alert due to the threat of additional arson.

'Earlier on Thursday, firefighters succeeded in gaining control of a fire just outside Jerusalem near Moshav Even Sapir.

'Wednesday saw firefighters battle blazes in the same areas, as well as in the eastern Carmel mountains.

'No injuries were reported'.

Some of the damage caused by these fires can be seen in the photos accompanying the Ynet report:

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4266730,00.html

'Suspicion: Wave of nationalistically-motivated arson fires'.

Again: 'nationalistically motivated'.  Jihad. - CM

'Authorities suspect recent fires in Kiryat Tivon, Even Sapir and Beit Shemesh caused by arson; investigation launched.

'Coastal District Police Commander Hagai Dotan has ordered the establishment of a special team to investigate the circumstances behind the recent fires that have hit Israel in the past week.

"It is suspected that we are experiencing a wave of nationalistically motivated arson fires", he said, "There is no intelligence to support the claim but from a national perspective a sequence of arson fires in Tivon, Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh cannot be coincidental".

'Earlier, firefighters gained control over a large fire that broke out between Kibbutz Shaar Haamakim and Kiryat Tivon.

'Haifa Fire Services chief Arie Regev estimated the fire broke out as a result of arson, noting that a total of six fires were recorded in the area in the past week.  "Six fires in the same place cannot be caused by negligence," he said.  Police are saying that Thursday's blazes are part of a wave of arson attacks.

'Fire and Rescue Services commissioner Shahar Ayalon said there is no evidence to suggest that the recent fires were caused by arson.  Nevertheless, he stated that there is suspicion of arson that warrants an investigation.

'The fire reached some trees which caused several houses to catch fire...Twenty-seven crews worked to contain the flames along with dozens of Jewish National Fund and Nature and Parks Authority teams.  Two aircraft assisted the extinguishing efforts.

'Large police and Magen David Adom forces were also at the scene.  One police officer suffered smoke inhalation but refused to be taken to hospital.  Meanwhile, two large fires also broke out near Beit Shemesh and in the Ibtin area.

"This is one of the most complex fires we've worked on since the Carmel Disaster", one of the firefighters said.

'The fire broke  [out] a day after a blaze that destroyed 70 dunam near the Amakim Junction...

'Earlier, a fire broke out in Moshav Even Sapir near Jerusalem.  Firefighters managed to contain the flames...

'Fire Services officials said that the fire had come close to the Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital causing heavy traffic in the area...".

Arutz Sheva had a little more:

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/158758#.UCTc8q68seU

'Fire Fighters, Police Say: It's Arson.

'Arab arson season is in full bloom in Israel: sources in the fire department and the Zevulun precinct police told Arutz Sheva that the fires set Thursday are the result of arson.

'Several blazes broke out Thursday.  One, near Sha'ar HaAmakim, in the southeastern approach to  Haifa, was spreading toward Tivon in the afternoon..

"A large fire blazed in the same region Wednesday, but Thursday's fire did not break out in the same place.

'Outside Jerusalem, near Even Sapir, the fire that burned Wednesday reignited and was brought under control after dozens of local residents were evacuated from their homes...

'In addition, a fire broke out near an IDF ammunition depot in the Rehovot area, near Tel Nof.  No -one was hurt.  Fire crews were able to bring the blaze under control in a relatively short time.

'While high temperatures and irresponsibility by campers are always potential causes of fires, it is a well known fact that Arabs (that is, Arab Muslims - CM) intentionally set fires as an easy way of terrorizing Jews and destroying their property.  Arab inciters (that is, Arab Muslim inciters - CM) have called on Arabs (that is, on Muslims - CM) to do just this, on more than one occasion.

'When a fire broke out near Jerusalem six weeks ago, Major General Niso Shaham, who was then Commander of the Jerusalem Police, told a Channel 2 reporter that there is currently a plethora of arson attacks in the Jerusalem area.  The reporter said that fire fighters told him that there were several incidents of arson every day in the Jerusalem area alone, and Shaham did not deny this.

'Arabs have been documented setting fire to fields in Judea and Samaria, where this is a common practice of theirs...".

Setting fire to crops, pastures, forests and property has always been part of Jihad.  It was regularly done in the ceaseless ghazi raids that ravaged the mediterranean coast of southern Europe from the 7th century onward.

If these July and August fires in Israel are being set by Arab Muslims - as seems highly likely - then the motive is not 'nationalism', nor is it simple vandalism, nor is 'terror' alone the right word for it: it is Jihad, fire-setting to sow terror and cause harm, with a view to weakening the Infidels and enabling Muslims to achieve dominance.  

And in the Comments attached to some of these articles one can see that some members of the non-Muslim public, Israeli or non-Israeli, have figured it out.

For example, at Jerusalem Post, someone remarked acidly "The Jews found a barren land. They brought it back to life with vast reafforestation campaigns...Now the colonialist Muslim Arabs want to return it to its barren state.  Another contribution of Islam to human progress".  And someone else, quoting the sentence 'Police said Sunday that they suspect a spate of fires over the past two days is part of a "wave of nationalistically motivated arson attacks"', added - "You mean jihad. the struggle to make Islam supreme. Say it."

Posted on 08/10/2012 4:35 AM by Christina McIntosh
Friday, 10 August 2012
Banned in Cologne

When human rights meet multiculturalism, difficulties are certain to arise, and conflicts ensue, that would not have surprised Michael Oakeshott. If all political questions are to be answered by means of mere syllogisms in which abstract principles are the major premise, absurdities and worse will result. Such, at any rate, was his belief.

In Germany a controversy has arisen over the practice of circumcision. A Muslim doctor in Cologne was brought before a court because a child aged 4 whom he had circumcised in his office bled heavily and had to be taken to hospital by his mother. The doctors at the hospital alerted the authorities because the rules regarding circumcision had been flouted, and the doctor ended up in court. He was subjected to no penalty, but the judges argued that no circumcision could be legally carried out, except for strictly medical reasons, until a boy had reached the age of religious discretion (deemed in Germany to be 14), when he could choose for himself.

Not surprisingly, this caused uproar among the Jews and Muslims of Germany: 200,000 and 4 million respectively. The matter was especially sensitive for the most obvious of historical reasons. Representatives of the Jews said that the ruling could be the end of Jewish life in Germany, while Muslim leaders said it meant that boys would be taken to Turkey for the operation. However, the latter solution would not necessarily put parents beyond the law; for if a young boy had been circumcised, contrary to German law, they could be held responsible, even if the operation had been performed in another jurisdiction where it was legal.

The case has gone to appeal, and so the jurisprudence is not yet fixed. The appeal judges will have to wrestle with knotty problems of principle: how much better it would have been if the question had never been raised, and the problem swept under the great carpet of unknowing.

I will leave aside the question of whether it is reasonable to fix the age of religious majority, when a child is said to be able to decide for himself on religious matters, at 14; personally I rather doubt it, especially where social and community pressure are very strong. From what I’ve seen of close religious communities, 21 would be more realistic.

But what the appeal court will have to pronounce upon is whether the rights of the individual child outweigh the rights of very old religious communities to practice their rites, even where they seem to clash with the former.

The court of first instance in Cologne argued that male circumcision for reasons other than medical is a form of mutilation, or modification. The judgment read:

Circumcision modifies a child’s body in a lasting way. This modification is contrary to the interest of the child, who must decide his religious affiliation for himself…The right of the child to his physical integrity overrules that of the parents in the matter of religious education.

No doubt some people will argue that circumcision has health benefits, for example reducing the rate of HIV transmission, of cancer of the penis, and of cancer of the cervix among women. It might be argued (I do not personally know the statistics) that these benefits outweigh the chances of complications of circumcision itself, just as doctors in Britain can claim that the Abortion Act in practice allows abortion on demand, because any abortion is safer statistically than any continuing pregnancy, and can therefore always be performed on health grounds. Sophistical, but not easy to refute.

However, it is unlikely that the appeal court will accept the argument that circumcision is in the interest of the child on health grounds. In the modern world the health risks of failing to be circumcised are easily avoidable; and the avoidance of remote health risks is not the whole of a child’s ‘interest.’

I think it fair to say that most people who believe that human rights, in so far as they can be said to exist, inhere in the individual and not in the community of which he is a member. Indeed, they exist in part to protect the individual from the powerful and often preponderant claims of the community to regulate his life. And yet the same people will probably be very uneasy with the Cologne court’s ruling, and not only because of the peculiar historical context in which it was handed down. (That the particular historical context was, and always should be, of great importance in decision-making was, of course, one of Oakeshott’s points.)

The rationalist in politics would probably have to concede that the Cologne court was right: circumcision is an attack on the physical integrity of the child, one to which he has not agreed and to which he is not mentally competent to agree. The law does not permit parents to tattoo their children or pierce their ears before the age of 16 (though in practice, and increasingly, it is flouted). How much more important is the integrity of a child’s genitals! The fact that one mutilation – tattooing – is frivolous or whimsical, and the other – circumcision – of deep religious significance: it is not for the state to decide what is whimsy and what is serious. I have known many tattooed and pierced people, indeed (and alas), who take their tattoos and piercings seriously.

It is no good arguing that, if a mutilation is performed early enough in life, the child will not remember it and will regard his own body as being natural rather than mutilated. Humans are resilient and can get used to almost anything. The question could be decided only by asking a large and unselected group of uncircumcised men whether they wished they had been circumcised; and even this method would not be without objection, because they would mostly come from a culture in which circumcision was not seemed socially or religiously desirable.

The unexamined life, said Socrates is not worth living. Perhaps so, though I am not entirely sure that it is up to philosophers to say whose lives are worth living; but what the Cologne case illustrates is that life can sometimes be examined too closely for comfort. Carpets are sometimes for sweeping things under.

First published in the Library of Law and Liberty.

Posted on 08/10/2012 6:09 AM by Theodore Dalrymple
Friday, 10 August 2012
The Onion: 'Romney Murdered JonBenét Ramsey,' New Obama Campaign Ad Alleges

This is a spoof on the Romney killed my wife ad from the Onion.

CHICAGO—With campaign rhetoric becoming increasingly heated and both presidential nominees releasing more attack ads, a new 30-second spot from the Obama campaign this week accuses his opponent Mitt Romney of committing the 1996 murder of 6-year-old beauty pageant queen JonBenét Ramsey.

Titled “He Did It,” the advertisement asks if anyone can truly remember where Romney was the night of the child’s murder, and whether the U.S. populace wants a president capable of strangling a little girl and dumping her body in her parents’ basement.

President Obama appears at the end of the advertisement to approve the message.

“I think this is a fair ad, and I think Mitt Romney owes an explanation to the American people as to why he murdered JonBenét Ramsey,” said Obama campaign manager Jim Messina, who called the commercial’s black-and-white reenactment of Mitt Romney carrying a kicking and screaming child to her death “accurate.” “Ultimately, voters need to know who they’re getting with Mitt Romney: a job- and child-killing businessman who is so deceitful he won’t release his tax returns or admit to a senseless murder that shook the nation to its core.”

Scheduled to run in multiple swing states, with significant airtime in Ramsey’s home state of Colorado, the ad criticizes Romney not just for killing the prepubescent girl, but for going to extreme lengths to cover it up. It also states that Mitt Romney paid former school teacher John Mark Karr to falsely come forward as the murderer, and accuses the former Massachusetts governor of being a sex offender.

Over a silhouette of Romney walking away from the Ramsey mansion—blood dripping from his hands—the commercial’s narrator asks, “If Mitt Romney kept the murder of JonBenét a secret from the American people, what else is he hiding?”

Moreover, at the end of the spot a smiling Romney is seen at a campaign event saying, “I killed her, and I had a good time.” Sources from the Romney campaign were quick to announce that the audio and video had been cobbled together from different statements he made during that particular rally.

“Personally, if I killed JonBenét Ramsey, I would have come clean and told the American people that on day one,” Obama’s communication director David Axelrod said on Sunday’s installment of Meet The Press. “But I think that’s a key difference between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Barack Obama never murdered a child, and Mitt Romney did.”

According to sources at Obama’s Chicago headquarters, the “He Did It” commercial is just the first in a new series of attack ads that accuses Romney of drowning actress Natalie Wood in 1981, convincing cult leader David Koresh to burn down the Branch Davidian ranch in Waco, TX, and causing the Challenger disaster.

“I think these ads will end up being very effective,” former Bill Clinton campaign strategist Dick Morris said. “If you are an undecided voter and you are constantly seeing images of Mitt Romney standing over a child’s lifeless body, or, as in the case of the ‘Zodiac’ spot, shooting two high schoolers at point blank range on their first date, that’s a pretty persuasive image right there.”

Added Morris, “This ad very effectively reminds us that no child murderer has ever been elected into the White House.”

Though the Obama campaign has denied it, many Beltway observers have said the advertisements are retaliation for the Romney camp’s highly controversial ad, “Boom,” which accuses the president of being the fertilizer bomb that destroyed an Oklahoma City federal building in 1995

Posted on 08/10/2012 7:03 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Friday, 10 August 2012
The Firing Of General Muwafi

From The Washington Post:

Egypt’s scapegoat for the Sinai attack

By

August 9, 2012

In firing Egypt’s chief of intelligence for his alleged failings in Sinai, President Mohamed Morsi sacked a general who has won high marks from U.S., Israeli and European intelligence officials — and who, ironically, has been one of the Egyptians pushing for a crackdown on the growing militant presence in Sinai.

This week’s shuffle is bound to raise concerns among U.S. and Israeli officials about the security policies of Morsi’s government and its seemingly mutual self-protection pact with the Egyptian generals who still hold considerable power through the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, or SCAF.

Morsi and the military appear to have concluded that the fired intelligence chief, Gen. Murad Muwafi, was a convenient scapegoat after the attack Sunday by terrorists in Sinai that left 16 Egyptian soldiers dead. After that attack, the Egyptian military launched an armored assault in Sinai to “restore stability and regain control” in the lawless desert that had become a haven for Islamist militants.

Ironically, it was Muwafi who had told a visitor two months ago that he favored an assault in Sinai by an Egyptian armored battalion that would include 30 tanks, eight helicopters and other equipment. Such a crackdown had also been urged by U.S. and Israeli officials, but the Egyptian military delayed major action until Wednesday, after the 16 soldiers were killed.

The statements that accompanied Muwafi’s firing were surprising, given this background. The Egyptian media blamed him for ignoring an Israeli intelligence report about Sunday’s attack. Muwafi confirmed in a statement that “we received a detailed intelligence warning” and said he said he passed it to the military to take action. “It is the responsibility of intelligence to collect information and it is the job of others to learn the operational lessons on the ground based on the intelligence information,” Muwafi explained after his firing, according to a press report.

Muwafi looked the part of the traditional mukhabarat chief. He was tall and handsome, well-spoken in French and English, and ran the General Intelligence Service from a gleaming modern office set in a park in Cairo. U.S., Israeli and European officials intelligence officials saw him as one of the bright lights of the new government. This praise may have made more senior Egyptian generals jealous.

Muwafi had also been Egypt’s main interlocutor with the Palestinians. He had been working in recent months to broker a unity pact between Hamas and Fatah. Muwafi understood that Egypt had much more leverage over Hamas after the extremist group had been forced to flee its base in Syria; working with the Israelis, Muwafi had negotiated what amounted to a de facto cease-fire with Hamas in Gaza.

The new Egyptian intelligence chief will be Gen. Mohammed Shehata. He is described as an experienced officer who “knows the Palestinian file well.”

Because of Muwafi’s growing reputation with Western governments, some worried that he might position himself as another Gen. Omar Suleiman, the charismatic intelligence chief who was the closest adviser to President Hosni Mubarak and ran some of the country’s harshest counterterrorism programs. But the ruling Muslim Brotherhood didn’t appear to have that fear — at least not until this week when Morsi and the military were looking for a fall guy for the Sinai debacle.

In June, a few days before the final presidential runoff that elected Morsi, I posed the Muwafi question to a leading Muslim Brotherhood strategist named Khairat el-Shater. He said that if the Brotherhood won, it would keep Muwafi in his job because “we do not want collisions” over foreign policy.

He added that the Brotherhood recognized that certain key contacts, such as with Israel and America, had been handled largely through intelligence channels and that continuity was important. But that was then, apparently.

The Muwafi incident is just a blip on the broad radar of U.S.-Egyptian relations, and American officials generally think that the Morsi government is off to a good start. But the incident does show two things:

First, the situation in Sinai is dangerous and getting worse. U.S. intelligence believes that scores of jihadists have migrated into Sinai in recent months — some from the tribal areas of Pakistan, some from Libya and some from Egyptian prisons. Among them are people a U.S. official describes as “al-Qaeda wannabes.”

Second, the Egyptian military is preoccupied with buffing its image and fending off potential critics. In that exercise in self-preservation, the generals seem quite happy to work with Morsi and the Muslim Brothers — as in the firing of Muwafi.

Posted on 08/10/2012 8:28 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 10 August 2012
In Turkey

I confess freely that I'm finding it difficult to make sense of recent events in Turkey, and I submit that anyone offering a confident analysis is exaggerating either his access or his analytic acumen. There is obviously a great deal happening; but the people who understand it aren't talking, and the people who are talking don't understand it.

Here is what we do know: This morning, there was a terrorist attack in Izmir that claimed the life of a Turkish soldier and injured eleven more. A remotely-controlled land mine exploded as a military bus was passing on a road in the Aegean town of Foça. The attack is believed to be the work of the PKK, and has many of the PKK's signature hallmarks. To judge from reports on Twitter, Izmir citizens were--predictably--appalled, enraged and terrified.

The location of the attack was significant. Izmir is in Western Turkey, and while PKK attacks are not unknown here, they are not common. Civilians were targeted by bombs in KuÅŸadası and ÇeÅŸme in 2005, and in Güngören, in Istanbul 2008--although the authorship of the latter bombing is unclear. In 2010, a bomb targeting police forces exploded in Istanbul's Taksim Square (it is impossible to set off a bomb in Taksim Square without endangering civilian lives, so in no way can this be considered a purely military target, and given that Turkey's army is a conscript army, I am not sure this distinction is in any case meaningful.) Last year saw a deadly bombing in Çankaya, Ankara, and a bizarre, but mercifully thwarted, attack on an Izmit ferry. But the PKK assumed responsibility for neither--the former was assumed to be the work of a PKK splinter group, the latter, a lunatic.

So why Izmir, and why now? It is hard to believe that Istanbul is better protected than Izmir; Istanbul would have been the more spectacular target were the aim to show, "We can hit you anywhere." Some speculate that it is because Izmir swings to the right on the issue of negotiations with the PKK to a much greater degree than those in Istanbul. Izmir is also an opposition CHP stronghold--but whether this is significant I don't know.

Meanwhile, there is something close to a news blackout about the battle of Åžemdinli, in the Southeast. Some reports are trickling out, and while I don't know what to make of them, I am certain the news isn't good:

As intense fighting between government forces and militants of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) continue unabated in the southeastern province of Hakkari, Bianet reporter Nilay Vardar has travelled to the heart of the conflict zone to relate the developments there which mainstream media has given only superficial coverage to. ...

The moment we stepped into downtown Åžemdinli, everyone began pointing toward the plumes of smoke rising from Mt. Goman and Mt. Efkar as if to say "Look, they do not believe us."

Everyone was anxious to tell me their stories because there were virtually no journalists from the mainstream media in town. Ä°dris Emen from the daily Radikal had been there for three days, not to mention the local reporters who could not get their voices heard.

They kept asking why no journalists had come, and thus everyone was in a hurry to get their stories across just as a journalist had arrived from Istanbul.

Locals were so inured to clashes in the area for 35 years that the sounds of constant artillery fire and low flying helicopter gunships were no strangers to them. The only difference was that this was the first time around that a battle had lasted for so long.

Yesterday, the same reporter, Nilay Vardir, observed that

[t]he clashes are raging over an area 600 square kilometers wide, including Mt. Goman and Mt. Efkar across the district center.

Over 500 villagers were forced to evacuate their homes in the days that followed the eruption of the conflict.

The PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) has run "identity checks" on many village roads, and even on the road to Yüksekova. The "identity cheks," which are cited as the main reason that ignited the conflict, are a means for the PKK to assert its presence, according to what I have heard.

"Hit and run" turns to "hit and stay?"

BDP (Peace and Democracy Party) [My note: the party is something like Sein Fein to the PKK's IRA] Deputy Esad Canan who accompanied us in our car during our trip from Yüksekova to Åžemdinli said the PKK had revised its tactic from "hit and run" to "hit and stay," allowing it to establish "area control" in Åžemdinli.

Canan also said the officials' muted response to the issue was due to the state's loss of control in the area.

"We [were not allowed to] enter through the borders of our district with the mayor, and this shows the state is hiding something," he said in regards to their aborted attempt to enter a neighborhood in downtown Åžemdinli.

The clashes are raging over an area 600 square kilometers wide, including Mt. Goman and Mt. Efkar across the district center.

Over 500 villagers were forced to evacuate their homes in the days that followed the eruption of the conflict.

The ongoing clashes are the most protracted ever, he also added.

"We are just like back in the 1990s. There is a de facto 'OHAL' (state of emergency)," Canan said.

Deputy Canan also elucidated on the reasons as to why the conflict had broken out now and why in Åžemdinli in particular:

"Åžemdinli is where the PKK launched its first raid in 1984 in tandem with Eruh; it bears symbolic significance. Secondly, it [represents] a reaction against the state's claim to have finished the PKK off and Prime Minister ErdoÄŸan's rhetoric of intervention against the formation of a Kurdish [entity] in Syria," Canan said.

"The PKK is telling the state to pay attention to Åžemdinli rather than picking on Syria," former Hakkari Deputy Hamit Geylani also explained, as he kept us company at an "iftar" meal where we dined together with all the other reporters in the district.

No explanations, merely allegations

The question of exactly how many troops and PKK members lost their lives in the conflict is still shrouded in mystery. Reports indicate that 10 soldiers died until now, including in the attack in downtown Hakkari. There is talk of bodybags being picked up from hospitals.

Further claims are also abound that the troops who died were mercenaries and that the Turkish Armed Forces had mistakenly killed 17 soldiers. All this is nothing but hearsay, however, as authorities have barred all access into the region.

The PKK announced that it had lost four guerillas. Families keep arriving in Åžemdinli to pick their funerals up, but officials deny them access into the area for reasons of security.

As freelance journalist Frederike Geerdink noted on August 3,

'A new tactic', says Murat Karayilan, commander of the Kurdish armed movement, the PKK, via a Kurdish news agency. No, says the Turkish army, it's a big anti PKK operation. Fact is that in the South-east of Turkey an unusually long battle is being fought between the army and the PKK. The fighting has been going on now for eleven days.

Usually [such] confrontations are short: the PKK attacks an army post or police station or explodes a mine, after which they quickly go back into hiding. The army, in its turn, bombs PKK camps in the mountains on the Turkish-Iraqi border. Battles that last for days, like now in the Åžemdinli region, are unusual.

Whether the PKK, like Karayilan says, has really changed tactics, must nevertheless be doubted, says analyst Gareth Jenkins. He works in Istanbul for the American Institute for Central Asia and the Caucasus. Jenkins: 'The PKK can't really hold territory; they don't have the military means for that'.

But that it is a one-sided, long lasting attack on the PKK, like the army says, isn't very convincing either: the military's power is so much greater that such an operation shouldn't have to last eleven days.

The fighting started when eleven days ago the PKK put up roadblocks in the area, stopped cars and checked people's identities. That triggered the army action. Jenkins: 'I think the PKK changed tactics already about a year ago. Then Kurdish groups declared so-called 'democratic autonomy', and ever since the PKK wants to show they ultimately call the shots in the area.'

The recent PKK bombing of the Iraqi-Turkish pipeline, on July 30, suggests another dimension of the conflict: The explosion not only interrupted Iraqi oil transfers, but suggested that the PKK remains willing to target Turkey's strategic assets, integrally tied to its energy infrastructure.

Yesterday, the Turkish interior minister, Ä°dris Naim Åžahin, claimed that half of the PKK terrorists killed in the southeast were carrying Iranian, Iraqi, Armenian and Israeli identification. The day before, the same minister claimed that there was "no difference" between a terrorist who employed mortars and bullets in Geçimli and one who "writes articles in Ankara"--a comment that suggests the dismal effect this conflict, if unabated, will have on prospects for democratization and freedom of expression in Turkey. Prime Minister Erdogan today agreed, suggesting that those responsible for the escalation of violence were--of course--the press. ""Know that every sentence you write about [the terrorists]," he said,"is the element of propaganda they are looking for but can not find. And know that we keep track of that." What precisely this means is unclear, but it is surely connected to the lack of reporting we're receiving from the Southeast. It is no small irony that it is now possible for those of us living in Istanbul to receive more news from Mars than from Hakkari.

While obviously it is absurd to suggest that the PKK is comprised of Armenians and Israelis, the idea that Assad is providing assistance to them isn't--on the face on it--at all implausible. It seems to me unlikely that Iran is actively assisting them; they've got enough problems of their own with the PJAK that I can't imagine they'd want to stir up that hornet's nest--but who knows. Now, I stress that I am speculating here, but it does seem obvious that were I Assad, I'd want the Turkish military and the Turkish intelligence services completely tied down with its own domestic uprising; and I'd hope to foment as much public backlash in Turkey against the AKP's foreign meddling as possible.

That said, from various credible reports it sounds as if Assad's forces are so confused at this point that they're hard-pressed to find their own backsides with both hands. I have heard from journalists I trust that Assad's forces are bombing and strafing at random while missing obvious targets such as the FSA headquarters. This does not sound to me like a regime in a position to pull off a complicated act of internal subversion in Turkey. But again, I stress, I am speculating, based on very limited real knowledge--as is almost everyone with an opinion about this region.

Meanwhile, Turkey's rapprochement with Iran is all but officially over. This morning, Iran announced that it had suspended arrangements for visa-free travel for Turkish citizens. (As one Turkish journalist remarked on Twitter, "Break up is official: Iran suspends visa privileges for Turks. Will officials exchange letters and gifts?" "Americans," I replied, "feel like the previous girlfriend who tried to warn Turkey, but everyone dismissed her as 'just bitter.'" This got a few laughs, but I suspect it also captures the truth just a bit too well for comfort.)

Two days ago, on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's website, Iranian Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Seyed Hassan Firouzabadi warned Turkey that "it will be its turn" if it continued to "help advance the warmongering policies of the United States in Syria." It would not, Firouzabadi said, be "an appropriate precedent, that neighboring countries of Syria contribute to the belligerent purposes of the Great Satan, the United States. If these countries have accepted such a precedent, they must be aware that after Syria, it will be the turn of Turkey and other countries."

Foreign Minister DavutoÄŸlu was clearly not best pleased by these comments. "There are disagreements between Turkey and Iran over the Syrian crisis for which the Syrian regime bears the whole responsibility," he replied. "It is our right to expect Iran to assume a constructive attitude in the face of the blood of Muslims spilled in Syria in the holy month of Ramadan. Blaming Turkey or other countries would produce no positive result ... and I have made perfectly clear to Salehi that Iranian officials should seriously filter their statements before making them."

Rumors here are circulating that DavutoÄŸlu is in bad odor in Ankara, his foreign policy vision having failed to deliver upon so much as a single one of its rosy promises. It is not clear how seriously these rumors should be taken: I for one cannot remember the resignation of a high-level Turkish politician over anything short of a leaked sex tape; political failure appears no obstacle to political advancement in Turkey. That said, immediately following his warning to Salehi, DavutoÄŸlu departed with unusual haste to Myanmar to address the plight of the long-suffering Rohingya Muslims. Given that DavutoÄŸlu's immediate neighborhood--and at least seven districts of his homeland--are in flames, this does seem an odd place for him to be. It isn't unusual in Turkey for attention to be diverted from domestic discontents by some spectacular display of humanitarian interest in a far-away, long suffering Muslim people (the last time, it was Somalia), but this is particularly bizarre. So who knows what machinations are playing out in Ankara.

Watch this space.

Posted on 08/10/2012 8:38 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 10 August 2012
Columbus Breaking The Egg
Posted on 08/10/2012 8:57 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 10 August 2012
Assistance to Syria

Why? Peter Mullen, mullin' it over in The Telegraph:

Why has our government decided to give greater assistance to the opponents of Assad’s regime in Syria? The answer is to be found in cliché, sentimentality and fantasy, a misperception of what is actually going on there. There is a prevailing romantic vision of idealistic – it helps the delusion if they can be described as “young people” – aspiring democrats bravely spending their lives (and their mobile phone accounts) against the brutal dictator Assad.

No doubt Assad is a very nasty piece of work, but many of those who are opposing him are by no means pure as the driven snow; and many of them may actually be a great deal worse. The “activists” – as the relentlessly euphemistic BBC refers to Assad’s opponents – are not aspiring democrats at all. The reality is that the opposition to Assad is largely an uprising of Sunni militants whose aim is not simply to cast out the foul dictator but to exterminate all those who do not share their own extreme views: the Alawites, the Druze and the Christians especially.

You would think it incumbent on those in the press who presume to talk about international conflicts to betray at least elementary signs of political savvy: what one might call a reality quotient. But no. It’s always got to be black and white: complicated conflicts spoken of as if they were Star Wars – the simple opposition of the sons of light against the servants of darkness.

This is not the case. Has no one noticed that there is a fundamentalist, violent Islamist insurgency all across North Africa and the Middle East, extolled by the blissfully ignorant as “the Arab Spring”? Libya and Egypt are in chaos and darker forces than any imagined by the BBC and The Guardian are seizing the reins of power and will, given time, pose a more perilous threat to world peace than that exercised by such as Gaddafi or Assad.

Moreover, the revolution is not confined to North Africa and the Middle East. We must observe also what is going on in Sudan and Somalia, Mali, Yemen, Nigeria and half a dozen other loci of instability.

The fact is that every few hundred years there is a militant Islamist insurgency. It has to be defeated. It was defeated at the Battle of Tours, at Lepanto, in Malta. Only a few centuries ago, they were at gates of Vienna. And if we don’t take decisive action, they will soon be there again.

Posted on 08/10/2012 9:02 AM by Mary Jackson
Friday, 10 August 2012
Ain't no grammar like what their used to be

The Telegraph's Peter Mullen abandons all hope:

Abandon hope, Michael Gove, of restoring standards of ordinary literary competence in schools: for the shepherds are hirelings. There’s no hope – because a whole generation of teachers know no grammar. Moreover they are proud of not knowing it: for to betray any signs of linguistic competence would be “elitism,” wouldn’t it? And, I imagine, they think “syntax” has something to do with a surcharge on cigarettes.

They say, “I was sat” when they mean “I was sitting.” They say, “I was stood” when they intend – insofar as such thickos are capable of intending anything – “I was standing.”

They say, “I refute it” when they can mean only “I repudiate it”.

They say, “rise to a crescendo”, blissfully ignorant of the plain fact that the crescendo is not the pinnacle of sound but the approach to it.

They say such as, “walking along the river bank, the trees…” No, stupid, the trees were not walking along the riverbank. What you mean is “As I was walking along the riverbank, I noticed that the trees….”

They say “tragedy” when they mean “atrocity.” They say “gender” when they mean “sex”. (Is it possible, by the way, to have “gender” with someone?)

They say, “hearing impaired” when they mean “deaf” – as in “as hearing-impaired as a post.” (Compare “as partially sighted as a bat). They talk of “hate crimes” – as if there were such things as love crimes. They say “icon” when they mean “pornographic image.”

They say “racially aggravated murder” – as if that made the victim feel worse than if he were just being routinely murdered – as in a way that took all account of “diversity,” his “ethnic origin” etc. They say “loses out” when they mean “loses”.

They say “any time soon” for “soon” and “miss out on” for “miss”.

The sheer awfulness of all this is that when one goes to the trouble of pointing out such infelicities and desecrations, the reply comes back, “it’s only words.” And this from the very people whose profession is words.

(Oh dear, I hope I don’t sound too angry: but, if I do, it’s only because I am angry.)

I agree unanimously. It is of tantamount importance that people stop saying I was stood going forward.

Posted on 08/10/2012 9:09 AM by Mary Jackson
Friday, 10 August 2012
Islamic Violence and Pressure is Spreading into Burkina Faso

Same story, different area. From the NYTimes:

DAKAR, Senegal — A rare diplomatic opening inside Islamist-held northern Mali was tried on Tuesday by the foreign minister of neighboring Burkina Faso — an attempt to avert a war that some Western officials say is now nearly inevitable.

The foreign minister, Djibril Bassolé, met in the town of Kidal with a leading warlord, Iyad ag Ghali, who directs the Islamist Ansar Dine movement, which is allied with Al Qaeda’s regional franchise. Diplomats and others consider him a central figure in the jihadists’ attempt to impose a harsh version of Shariah law in Mali’s vast north — an initiative that has helped push nearly 400,000 people from the region.

Mali’s northern area, much of it desert, has been virtually closed to outsiders since its seizure from the faltering Malian Army, itself weakened from a coup d’état in the capital by a coalition of Islamist and nomadic forces in late March. The Islamists, some from other countries, have since pushed the nomadic Tuareg out, and an iron cloak of Shariah law that includes public beatings, whippings and even a deadly stoning has descended on a region previously characterized by moderate religious practices.

See my interview with Thomas Wheelock, a collector of art from the region to get an idea of what will be lost under Islam.

Posted on 08/10/2012 9:30 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Friday, 10 August 2012
Those Drones On Which The American Military Now So Much Relies

From the Wikipedia article on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or Drones:

During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Syrian missile batteries in Lebanon caused heavy damage to Israeli fighter jets. As a result, Israel developed the first modern UAV. Israel pioneered the use of UAVs for real-time surveillance, electronic warfare and decoys.[12][13][14] The images and radar decoying provided by these UAVs helped Israel to completely neutralize the Syrian air defenses at the start of the 1982 Lebanon War, resulting in no pilots downed. [15]

With the maturing and miniaturization of applicable technologies as seen in the 1980s and 1990s, interest in UAVs grew within the higher echelons of the U.S. military. In the 90s the U.S. Department of Defense gave a contract to US corporation AAI Corporation of Maryland along with Israeli company Mazlat. The US Navy bought the AAI Pioneer UAV that was jointly developed by American AAI Corporation and Israeli Mazlat, this type of drone is still in use. Many of these Pioneer and newly developed U.S. UAVs were used in the 1991 Gulf War. UAVs were seen to offer the possibility of cheaper, more capable fighting machines that could be used without risk to aircrews. Initial generations were primarily surveillance aircraft, but some were armed (such as the General Atomics MQ-1 Predator, which utilized AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-ground missiles). An armed UAV is known as an unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV).

Posted on 08/10/2012 10:34 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 10 August 2012
The American Government: Further Sanctions On Hezbollah

CNN:

August 10, 2012

(CNN) -- The U.S. Treasury Department on Friday announced an extension of sanctions against Hezbollah, a Lebanon-based Shiite militant group, for its support of the Syrian government.

Hezbollah, which the United States has long designated a terrorist organization supported by Iran, has provided training, advice and extensive logistical support to President Bashar al-Assad's military campaign against an uprising that began last March, the department reported.

The agency accused the group of directly training Syrian government personnel inside Syria, and facilitating the training of Syrian forces by the Quds Force, an elite unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps.

"Hizballah's extensive support to the Syrian government's violent suppression of the Syrian people exposes the true nature of this terrorist organization and its destabilizing presence in the region," Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen said in a written statement announcing the sanctions.

Friday's announcement comes just as fighting for control for the embattled Syrian city of Aleppo raged and just before a trip by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Turkey for talks on the Syrian crisis.

But the specifics of the extended sanctions are unclear.

Meanwhile, Great Britain also announced Friday an extra $7.8 million in aid for the Syrian rebels fighting to oust al-Assad.

The money will not pay for weapons but is intended for medical and communication supplies, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said.

"The people of Syria can not wait indefinitely," he said. "The Syrian people need urgent help." [what "Syrian people" is he talking about? The Sunni Syrian People? The Christian Syrian People? The Druse Syrian People? The Alawite Syrian People? All constitute part of the "Syrian people"?]

Hague's announcement came as shelling and clashes continued throughout Syria.

Syrian security forces killed at least 91 people, including 51 in Aleppo, said the Local Coordination Committees (LCC) of Syria, a network of opposition activists.

The day before, opposition groups said at least 134 people were killed.

Residents reported intense shelling Friday in a village in Hama as well as in two neighborhoods in Homs, the LCC reported.

An activist from the Al Midan neighborhood of Damascus told CNN described tanks as being everywhere smoke billowing in the capital. Troops, he said, were raiding homes and arresting people.

"The situation is terrible," said the activist, who was not identified because of security reasons.

Witnesses also reported shelling in Aleppo, Syria's largest city, the LCC said.

Syrian armed forces are tracking down and inflicting "heavy losses" on rebels in the Aleppo neighborhoods of Al-Ithaa and Saif Al-Dawla, Syrian state TV said Friday.

The Syrian government and rebel groups have been battling for days to control Aleppo, a key front in a conflict that morphed into a civil war after government forces began cracking down on peaceful protesters in March 2011.

Roughly 17,000 people have been killed since the fighting began, the United Nations said last month. The opposition has put the toll at more than 20,000.

Civilians in Aleppo were increasingly at risk from aerial attacks, artillery shelling and gunfire, Human Rights Watch said Friday. The group urged both sides to refrain from indiscriminate attacks.

"As Syria deploys helicopters, fighter jets, tanks, and heavy artillery in populated areas of Aleppo, it should do everything feasible to protect civilians from harm," said Anna Neistat, acting emergencies director at Human Rights Watch.

"At the same time, the Free Syrian Army forces in and around the city should do what they can to minimize the risk to civilians in the fighting."

The incessant bloodshed if forcing increasing numbers of Syrians to flee across the borders into Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, the United Nations refugee agency said Friday.

Almost 150,000 Syrians are now living as refugees, the agency said.

In Turkey alone, the refugee population has exceeded 50,000 people, with more than 6000 new arrivals recorded this week alone. Many are from the Aleppo area.

Foreign powers have called on al-Assad to stop the bloodshed and step down but they have not intervened militarily in Syria as they did in Libya.

Syria's harshest critics including the United States were absent from a meeting called by Iran to discuss the Syrian crisis. However, more than two dozen countries attended attended, notably China and Russia, key allies of Damascus.

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi called the meeting a success, Iran's state-run news agency IRNA reported Friday.

"Attendance of more than 30 countries at the conference shows its success, and we hope that more countries whose policies correspond and are in line with Iran's diplomacies attend similar conferences in the future," the foreign minister said, according to IRNA.

George Sabra, a spokesman for the opposition Syrian National Council, disagreed.

"When the Iranians talk about their readiness to host a meeting between the regime and the various opposition factions in Tehran, they forget that the problem in Syria is not about finding a place to initiate a national dialogue, the main problem is to stop the regime from mass-murdering innocent civilians and shelling every city in Syria," he said.

Posted on 08/10/2012 10:38 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 10 August 2012
Kahlili: Iran’s EMP Threat to America and Israel

Source: 

Illustration Radical Iran by John Camejo for The Washington Times

Last Friday, upwards of 10,000 viewers watched a live webcast, The Electronic Armageddon.   It focused on the Electronic Magnetic Pulse (EMP) threat, both natural, from solar geo-magnetic storms, and manmade, from nuclear atmospheric detonation.  A distinguished panel of experts spoke at length about the realities of EMP vulnerabilities interspersed with new videos from The Clarion Fund and other sources as well as possible solutions.  The Electronic Armageddon webcast was a collaborative effort of the Congressionally chartered Task Force on National & Homeland Security (TFNHS), The United West and the New English Review.  


One of the experts on the Electronic Armageddon webcast was Reza Kahlili, ex-CIA agent in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and author of the award winning book, A Time to Betray.  Kahlili knows firsthand the threat of an EMP attack that might be unleashed by a Shiite Mahdist Iran. An Islamic Republic obsessed with the prospect of using nuclear weapons to bring about chaos  that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah  Khamanei and President Ahmadinejad  fervently support. That was evident in one of the first actions of President Ahmadinejad when elected in 2005. He convened his cabinet had them sign an agreement that they then took to the well in Qom for the moribund Twelfth Imam’s counter signature. Since then a road has been built to the holy well in Qom for ‘consultations’.


The Twelvers’ ideology, a form of Islamic rapture, has the Twelfth Imam leading an Islamic army to defeat a Jewish army lead by the Masih ad-Dajjal, a Jewish anti-Islamic figure and ‘false messiah’. Moreover, that doctrine further suggests that the resurrected Twelfth Imam and his fervent Shiite followers will conquer and retake Jerusalem without damage to Muslim holy sites.


Last year, Kahlili  revealed a secret Iranian documentary, “The Coming is Upon Us”   made by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, with authorization from both  President Ahmadinejad  and  Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamanei , clearly stating  the  timing and the ideology for the destruction of Israel and America. Watch that chilling video, here.


The only means of fulfilling that Mahdist dream scenario realistically is through an EMP nuclear detonation over Israel.  That  made the revelations of Kahlili about  The Electronic Armageddon and reported in yesterday’s Washington Times, “Iran’s Radical Rulers close in on the bomb”, of concern to both America and Israel.   Kahilli disclosed:


The latest IAEA report as of May verified that Iran has enough enriched uranium for six nuclear bombs, should it advance enrichment to weaponization grade.


Meanwhile, Iran, in collaboration with China and North Korea, has stockpiled more than 1,000 ballistic missiles capable of reaching all U.S. bases and oil fields in the region, Israel and several capitals in Europe. Iran currently is working on intercontinental ballistic missiles under the guise of its space program that will soon be capable of reaching any point on the planet. It has produced hundreds of cruise missiles, a clear threat to the flow of oil out of the Persian Gulf, and has armed its vessels with long-range ballistic missiles, with plans to expand its naval mission into the Atlantic Ocean and right behind the Gulf of Mexico.


According to a former intelligence officer of the Revolutionary Guards now defected to a country in Europe, Iran also has several neutron bombs (super-electromagnetic weapons). The source, who attended a commanders’ briefing by the Revolutionary Guards, said they have discussed a strategy in which “many planes will fall from the sky” — a clear indication that Iran is prepared to deliver an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack. The International Atomic Energy Agency has verified that Iran has test-launched ballistic missiles off ships in an exercise similar to an EMP attack.

The possibility of ship launched  attack by Iran discussed by Kahlili, whether against Israel, to fulfill the Islamic Republic’s rapture scenario or to bring America back to a literal Stone Age, was underlined in supporting comments from fellow Electronic Armageddon panelists:


AMBASSADOR R. JAMES WOOLSEY
Former Director, CIA and Chairman of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies

DR. WILLIAM R. GRAHAM
President Reagan's Science Advisor, NASA Administrator
Chairman EMP Commission

AMBASSADOR HENRY COOPER
Former Director of the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization

CONGRESSMAN ROSCOE BARTLETT
House Armed Services Committee
Chairman, Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee


FRITZ ERMARTH
Former Chairman National Intelligence Council

DR. WILLIAM FORSTCHEN
Author of EMP Novel
One Second After

DR. PETER VINCENT PRY
Executive Director
Task Force on National and Homeland Security.



Yisroel Hayom (YH) in today’s edition reflected the rising divide between the Netanyahu government in Jerusalem  and the Obama Administration in Washington over assessments about when to unleash a possible military option against Iran’s nuclear program.  In a lead article, “US-Israel rift over Iran nuclear red line deepens”, YH noted the controversy over an alleged new US National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear program rapidly reaching its objectives:


The U.S. still believes that Iran is not on the verge of producing a nuclear weapon and that Tehran has not made a decision to pursue one, U.S. officials said on Thursday.

Their comments came after Israeli media reports claimed U.S. President Barack Obama had received a new National Intelligence Estimate saying Iran had made significant and surprising progress toward military nuclear capability.

The new National Intelligence Estimate report on the Iranian nuclear program is very similar to Israeli assessments on the matter, and the perturbing nature of the report highlights the disparity between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's positions relative to that of President Obama.

Later, Defense Minister Ehud Barak suggested that the new U.S. report, which he acknowledged might be something other than a National Intelligence Estimate, "transforms the Iranian situation into an even more urgent one."

But U.S. National Security Council Spokesman Tommy Vietor disputed the Israeli reports, saying the U.S. intelligence assessment of Iran's nuclear activities had not changed since intelligence officials delivered testimony to Congress on the issue earlier this year.

"We believe that there is time and space to continue to pursue a diplomatic path, backed by growing international pressure on the Iranian government," Vietor said. "We continue to assess that Iran is not on the verge of achieving a nuclear weapon."

Israeli commentators don’t buy the Obama Administration dithering on such an existential threat  as an EMP attack suggested by Kahlili. Note what Ben Gurion University Middle East Historian and author Benny Morris concluded in an YH opinion, “Stop Iran at all Costs”:



Destroying Iran's nuclear installations, even if it only delays their progress toward an atomic weapon for one or two years — will shake Iran and force it to reconsider its options, especially if accompanied by threats that Israel is determined to prevent a nuclear Iran even if it means using nonconventional weapons. Such an attack will also function as a signal to all of Israel's enemies in the Middle East that their dreams of annihilating Israel are not necessarily realistic.

And one word to those who are afraid of what Iran's response will be: It will pale in comparison to the damage Iran will cause if it has nuclear capabilities.



Both America and Israel could deter the effects of possible Iranian EMP attacks by shielding their electrical grid systems and adopting other measures including securing back up transformers.  Dr. Pry of the TFNHS , who co-authored a number of reports for the Congressionally-chartered EMP Commission,  indicated that to robustly shield our electrical grid in the US would cost no more than $20 billion equivalent to an additional 22 cents for each electricity user in America.  Perhaps an equivalent effort by Israel National Electrical Authority would yield the same cost effective means of protecting its citizens from an Iranian EMP attack.  Overarching that is the necessity to act to deter Iran permanently from unleashing an Islamic nuclear rapture on the Middle East region and the World. Kahlili suggests in his Washington Times opinion article that can only come from America and the West supporting regime change in Tehran.  

Watch for an interview with Reza Kahlili in the September New English Review.

Posted on 08/10/2012 11:24 AM by Jerry Gordon
Friday, 10 August 2012
Denial Runs Deep in Hebron

One of the most troubling aspects of Palestinian discourse is the refusal to acknowledge the Jewish historical presence in Biblical Israel. In an article recently published in Middle East Quarterly, Alexander Joffe reminds readers how Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat once “famously told then-U.S. president Bill Clinton that there was no Jewish temple in Jerusalem, causing the usually unflappable Clinton to nearly explode.” Joffe continues, “Denials regarding the Jewish historical connection to the Land of Israel generally and categorical denials that Jews constitute a nation are all frequently heard from Palestinian leaders, intellectuals, and others.”

The tendency to deny Jewish history is also evident in Old Hebron: The Charm of a Historical City and Architecture. This book, published by a Palestinian group, The Hebron Rehabilitation Committee (HRC), in 2009 fails to accurately describe the Jewish presence in Hebron, which dates back thousands of years. One way the book does acknowledge the Jewish presence in Hebron is through repeated references to the terrible massacre perpetrated by Baruch Goldstein in 1994 that resulted in the deaths of 29 Palestinians in the Ibrahim Mosque.

By way of comparison, the book, which is nearly 200 pages in length, makes no reference to the Arab-perpetrated massacre of 62 Jews in Hebron that took place in 1929. By repeatedly mentioning the 1994 massacre of Palestinians and omitting any reference to the 1929 massacre of Jews (which helped end centuries of Jewish presence in the city), the text obscures the truth and demonizes Israel.

If the book did acknowledge the 1929 massacre, it would provide an implicit acknowledgment that Jews were present in the city before their return after the Six Day War in 1967 and embarked on what Emad Hamdan and Yousef al-Tarturi, author of chapter on Hebron's economic and political situation term a strategy of “Judaization.”

Hebron, where according to Genesis, Abraham and Sarah were buried, is one of the most important cities in Jewish history and, does not need to be “Judaized.” Writing in the September/October 2005 issue of Biblical Archeological Review, archeologist Jeffrey R. Chadwick reports, “Biblically speaking, before Jerusalem, there was Hebron. And except for Jerusalem, no other ancient city is more important in Biblical tradition than Hebron.”

Jews Erased from Hebron

Acknowledging the historical presence of Jews in Hebron is clearly something the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee did not want to do. This organization is not just about renovating the city of Hebron – with funds provided by Western donors – but about using an opportunity to memorialize its work as a chance to erase Jews from the Biblical city of Hebron, also funded by Western donors.

The production of this book was subsidized by the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation and Development, which funded the production of the Arabic and Spanish versions of the text. (The agency's logo is printed on the cover). The British government paid for its translation into English. In the English version of the text, the HRC expressed its gratitude “to the British Representative Office in the OPTs [“Occupied Territories”] who funded the English version of the book.”

Distorted History

The manner in which the book downplays Hebron's Jewish history becomes apparent in a discussion of the city's name that appears in the introduction written by Nazmi al-Jubeh. Al-Jubeh reports that the city was named after the Prophet Abraham “who settled in the city and influenced its development, to the extent that the city was named after him at the beginning of Islamic rule.” Of course, Abraham lived thousands of years before the advent of Islam.

He also reports that “different times in history, Hebron was called Kiryat Arba' or the village of the four, possibly referring to a federation of four tribes or four hills; then it was called ‘Habra' and ‘Habron', which is probably derived from the verb “Habar”, meaning “to be joined, coupled, befriended”, in reference to Abraham the friend.” It continues:

The name continued to be used until the dawn of Islam, and was mentioned in a letter sent by Prophet Mohammed to Tamim al-Dari and his tribe. It was however progressively replaced by “Khalil al-Rahman”. Hebron was chosen by Prophet Abraham as a place of burial for his wife Sarah, and later on for himself and his children Isaac and Jacob their wives. At the end of the first century B.C. their tombs were surrounded by a great towering wall which has resisted the effects of time, war and destruction and has been standing tall until this very day. (Page 15)

Here, Al-Jubeh summarizes Hebron's pre-Islamic history without acknowledging by name the Jews who had lived in the city for thousands of years prior to its conquest by Muslims in the 7th Century. Any reasonable introduction to the city of Hebron would state in one way or another “Jews lived here.” Many of the central events of Jewish history are centered in Hebron. References to Hebron abound in the Hebrew Scriptures. The New Harper's Bible Dictionary edited by Madeline S. and J. Lane Miller (1973) reports the following:

The spies [Joshua sent into the Promised Land] found the giant Anakim among Hebron's inhabitants (Num. 13:22). Hoham, King of Hebron, was part of the Amorite confederacy defeated by Joshua (Josh. 10:3m 23, 36, 39, 11:29). Caleb took it as part of his inheritance (Josh. 14:13-15, 15:13f.; Jud. 1:20). It became one of the six cities of refuge (Josh. 20:7, 21:11; I Chron. 6:55, 57). David was anointed king in Hebron (II Sam. 2:11); and there six of his seven sons were born (II Sam. 3:2-5). Absalom raised his standard of rebellion against his father in his birthplace (II Sam. 15:10). Hebron was fortified by Rehoboam (II Chron. 11:5, 10). (Page 252)

Most, but not all Jews were removed from Hebron during the Babylonian Exile when the city fell into the hands of the Edomites, but according to Nehemiah 11:25 some remained in the city at the time of the construction of the wall around Jerusalem. The importance of Hebron in the Bible helps explain why Judah Maccabee successfully led his fellow Jews in the struggle to take possession of the city from the Edomites in the Second Century BCE.

The Rebellion that Dare Not Speak Its Name

Al-Jubeh's first reference to the Jews in Hebron prior to its Muslim conquest in the early Seventh Century CE occurs when he describes the destruction the city endured under Roman Rule in the Second Century CE. He writes:

The most important and massive destructions, with the greatest impact on the city's evolution, were those which took place between 132 and 135 AD, [sic] whereas the city took part in the rebellion against the Romans and the remaining rebels took refuge in its fortifications. Hence, large Roman legions encircled the city and systematically pounded its walls and forts and set fire to its houses. This attack transformed it from a booming fortified city into ruins. Jews, a large number of whom had taken part in the rebellion, were barred from living in the city, and a certain number of them were sold as slaves.

Here al-Jubeh does two things. First he refers a Jewish defeat in Hebron at the hands of the Romans without explaining how the Jews came into possession of the city in the first place. Secondly, he downplays the fact that the rebellion, which took place “between 132 and 135 AD” was the Bar Kochba Rebellion, a Jewish uprising against Rome. Why omit even the name of the rebellion in question?

No Prayer at Tomb Until Islam Arrived

Al-Jubeh's treatment of the history of the Ibrahimi Mosque, built atop the Tomb of the Patriarchs, is also distorted by his efforts to emphasize the sanctity of the site upon which the mosque while denying the presence of other, older and pre-existing faiths that were present at the Tomb of the Patriarchs prior to the arrival of Islam in the 7th Century CE. These faiths are, of course, Judaism and Christianity, both of which pre-date Islam.

On page 53, al-Jubeh writes, “one can see that the sacred nature of this site is very old indeed but its transformation into a prayer site only occurred under Islam.” The notion that the Tomb of the Patriarchs was a sacred place, but not a place of prayer until it came under Muslim rule does not make sense.

Exactly how does a place become sanctified or made “sacred” without prayer? And if the Tomb of the Patriarchs was not a place of prayer prior to the arrival of Islam, then how does al-Jubeh explain the existence of the Herodian-style enclosure surrounding the cave – upon which the Ibrahimi Mosque was built?

On page 47, al-Jubeh reports that while most people believe the enclosure was built by King Herod, there is some uncertainty over who actually constructed it. A number of scholars, al-Jubeh reports assert it was built “a long time before Herod's reign.” While this may be an attempt on al-Jubeh's part to divorce the site from its Jewish history (Herod was a Jew), the main issue is the existence of the enclosure itself and the motives behind its construction.

The enclosure was built in a manner very similar to the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Writing in the May/June 1985 issue of Biblical Archeological Review Nancy Miller reports that “An English scholar who visited Machpelah in the late 19th Century wrote that “The Hebron Haram appears to have been a miniature copy of the Temple Haram at Jerusalem.” She continues:

He was right. Both are rectangular structures built of thick walls enclosing a platform. In addition, the measurements of both seem to be based on the standard Palestinian foot of the Greco-Roman period.
Perhaps even more striking, the Machpelah enclosure and the Temple Mount enclosure are built with exactly the same proportions. … If we examine the length-to-width ratios of these two structures, we discover that they are practically identical. The length-to-width ratio of the Machpela enclosure is 1.77:1; that of the Temple Mount enclosure is 1.73:1.

Miller goes onto to report that “both enclosures are oriented to the points of the compass” with the walls of Temple Mount oriented to the north, south, east and west and with the walls surrounding the Machpelah, it is the corners that are oriented to the cardinal points of the compass. And Miller, who believes (like most scholars) that the enclosure was built by Herod), reports that “As on the Temple Mount, Herod created a flat surface inside the Machpelah enclosure. Then he paved the floor with huge paving stones said to be about three feet thick.”

Why would the builder (whoever he is) create in Hebron a miniature of the Second Temple in Jerusalem – which surely was a place of prayer – if the Machpelah was not? In short, al-Jubeh's assertion that the Tomb of the Patriarchs was at the same time a sacred space (but not a place of prayer prior to Islam) is simply a round about way for al-Jubeh to say – despite all the evidence to the contrary – the Jews in Hebron (whose presence he barely acknowledges) lacked the religious imagination to pray at one of their holiest sites and that it wasn't until Muslims arrived was the site given its proper due. This may be an expression of normative Islamic doctrine regarding the Jewish people and Judaism, but it is terrible history and has no place in a book that purports to offer a historical analysis of the city.

“No Church at All”

Al-Jubeh is not content with denying the Jewish historical presence in the city of Hebron. He also attempts to deny Christianity's connection to the city by denying that contrary to numerous other sources, the Ibrahimi Mosque was built atop a Byzantine church constructed in the 6th Century CE. Al-Jubeh asserts that “there actually was no church at all” on the site. To buttress his case, al-Jubeh cites contradictory descriptions of the church offered by pilgrims who visited the city at different points over the course of nearly two centuries. One visitor who visited the city circa 400 CE wrote of a “roofless church” and another, who visited Hebron in 570 CE, al-Jubeh reports, wrote of “a basilica consisting of a wall with columns” that had wall going down the center aisle that allowed Jews to enter from side and Christians from another.

To undermine the credibility of this second report, al-Jubeh reports that there had been no Jews in Hebron between the failure of the unnamed Bar Kochba rebellion of 135 CE and the Islamic conquest in the 7th Century CE. Al-Jubeh writes “there had been no Jews in Hebron since 135 AD [sic], all the way up to the Islamic conquest, by order of the Emperor. It is not possible that they could have been allowed to congregate there, at a time of fierce Byzantine persecution, both official and popular.”

By order of the Emperor? Which Emperor is al-Jubeh talking about? Yes, Jews were banned from Jerusalem – but not Hebron – after the Bar Kochba rebellion. And yes, Jews were discriminated against and some instances persecuted throughout the Byzantine Empire, but Judaism remained a legal religion in the empire. There are Byzantine-era synagogues throughout the Middle East including Hebron. Clearly, this lends credence to the pilgrim's report that Jews were present at the Tomb of the Patriarchs even under Byzantine rule, despite al-Jubeh's assertion to the contrary.

Conclusion

The Hebron Rehabilitation Committee did not offer up an accurate history of the city, but instead offered a counterfactual narrative written in the service of Islamic theology, which asserts that Abraham himself was the founding adherent of Islam and not the first Jew. The HRC is also working to promote a Palestinian ideology that denies the Jewish connection to the land of Israel, most notably the Temple Mount.

The publication of this text raises some difficult questions: Can Muslims accept historical facts that contradict their scripture? Can Palestinian leaders and intellectuals accept facts contrary to their ideological propaganda?

A version of this first question has bedeviled Christians as they have struggled with the challenges posited by the historical-critical method of Biblical interpretation, especially its application to the story of Christ's Passion.

A version of this second question has bedeviled Western democracies that have had to come to terms with the tragic aspects of their own history that undermine their national myths.

There is another question that needs to be asked: Exactly what were the Spanish and British Governments thinking when they paid for the production and translation of this deceitful and anti-historical text?


First published in CAMERA.
Posted on 08/10/2012 12:10 PM by Dexter Van Zile
Friday, 10 August 2012
Afghan police chief kills US soldiers invited to dinner

From The Telegraph

The Americans were killed after being invited to dinner to discuss security in Sangin district of Helmand on Thursday evening. The shooting was at least the third incident this week where Afghan forces have opened fire on foreign forces.

Thursday night's shooting appeared to be a carefully planned attack, Afghan officials said. American special forces soldiers had been invited to break the Ramadan fast at a house in the Sarwan Qala area by a police commander called Assadullah.

During the meal they came under fire.

"During dinner, the police commander and his colleagues shot them and then fled. The commander was Afghan National Police in charge of local police in Sangin," a senior Afghan official told the Reuters news agency. "It looks like he had drawn up a plan to kill them previously," the official said.

Another district official however suggested that the Afghan police had not fired the fatal shots, but had tipped off nearby Taliban fighters who had arrived to kill the Americans.

A spokeswoman for American forces in Afghanistan said it was too early to say if the killer was a rogue member of the Afghan forces, or an infiltrator in disguise. She said: "Three US Forces-Afghanistan service members died following an attack by an individual wearing an Afghan uniform in southwest Afghanistan today. . . "

Posted on 08/10/2012 12:12 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Friday, 10 August 2012
Can What Threatens Europe Be Turned Back As At Poitiers, Lepanto, Malta?

"The fact is that every few hundred years there is a militant Islamist insurgency. It has to be defeated. It was defeated at the Battle of Tours, at Lepanto, in Malta. Only a few centuries ago, they were at gates of Vienna. And if we don’t take decisive action, they will soon be there again."   -- Peter Mullen in The Telegraph

In The Telegraph Peter Mullen mocks the Western depiction of the Syrian conflict. He notes that it has been in simplemindedly painted as a war between the Forces of Light (the insurgents, who whatever else they are are far more Muslim than the Ba’athist regime they are attempting to unseat) and the Forces of Darkness (the Assad regime, which is supported by Alawites, by Christians, by Druse, by many Kurds, and even by Sunni Arabs who fear that  a new regime will be more Islamic – how could it not be? – than a regime run by Alawites.

But his last paragraph – quoted above – is meant to be monitory,but instead, in misrepresenting the history it alludes to, offers a false hope in the very sentence that is meant to show that the writer understands the Muslim threat.

He likens what is now going on in Syria -- “a militant Muslim insurgency” that “has to be defeated” – to Europe’s own past, wherere the same Muslim insurgency “was defeated at the Battle of Tours, at Lepanto, in Malta.”

But was not an “insurgency” that Charles Martel stopped outside of Poitiers in the eighth century. There was no Muslim population in place that rose up against non-Muslim rulers. It was, rather, a Muslim invasion from the outside. And while the  advance of Islam was halted, the presence of Islam in Europe, that was no more than a few decades old at the time of Martel’s victory, did not end. The Muslims were ensconced in the Iberian Peninsula, and ruled over Christians and Jews, and it took more than 500 years of the Reconquista to dislodge them from power, and even then, they continued to plot after 1497 (when they were officially expelled, unless they accepted Christianity), and even, late into the 16th century, were making secret appeals to  the Ottoman sultan to support their plotting against the Christians of Spain.

The battle of Lepanto, in 1570,  has entered Western memory  as a great Christian victory over Muslims. It was indeed a victory, in which the Venetian fleet (aided by the Spanish) defeated the Ottomans. But it was only a single victory in a war -- the Cyprus War -- that the Holy League (Venice, Spain, the Papacy) soon lost. Venice, whose fleet had been triumphant at Lepanto, soon made a separate peace with the Ottomans, and the outcome of the Cyprus War was that Cyprus was transferred from Venetian to Ottoman control.  

What about the Siege of Malta in 1565? Muslim Arabs held the island of Malta for a long time, at one point reducing the population to practically nothing. It was Roger I of Sicily who, in expelling the Muslim Arabs from southern Italy (and Sicily) , intelligently decided to also expel them from Malta so that they would not have a fortified position nearby from which to launch attacks. Thus was Malta again given over to Christians. And it is true that in 1565, the Maltese withstood the siege laid by the Ottomans. But this siege was not an “insurgency” but an invasion from the sea, by an Ottoman fleet. To repel a siege is a victory, but it is not a great victory for you have merely maintained your previous position, and the Ottomans did not, because their siege failed, lose any territory; they simply failed to gain Malta. And in 1551, 14 years before the “Christian victory” in the Siege of Malta, Barbary corsairs attacked the Maltese island of Gozo, conquered it, and removed its entire Christian population, all 5,000 people, and sent them to be enslaved in North Africa. The Christian victory at the Siege of Malta did nothing to undo that defeat, or to bring any of those people home.

And when Peter Mllen writes that Muslims – in this case the Ottoman Turks – were “at the gates of Vienna,” where they were, for the second attempted conquest, in 1683, and pushed back, he then adds, as his final sentence: “And if we don’t take decisive action, they will soon be there again.” But they are there. They are inside the city of Vienna, by the hundreds of thousands. And they are in Berlin, and Paris, and Marseille, and Lille and Roubaix. They are in Madrid. There are more than a million Muslims now living in London itself, and in Moscow too.

What does Peter Mullen have to say about that? Does he consider that an invasion, or as something innocuous, because it was not accomplished with ships and cannon and tanks and planes? The end result is the same, and as demographic disparities work their sinister magic, unless there is  a determined effort to decrease the Muslim population in Western Europe, the percentage of the total European population that is Muslim will continue to skyrocket. Is this okay, as long as it is achieved without having a Battle of Poitiers, or of Lepanto, or a Siege of Malta?

Posted on 08/10/2012 1:24 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 10 August 2012
Jon Huntsman, Sr: Romney Should Release His Taxes

From The Washington Post:

08/10/2012

Jon Huntsman Sr., longtime Romney backer, calls on him to release tax returns

The internet is alive with speculation that the secret source Harry Reid claims to have on Mitt Romney’s tax returns is Utah industrialist Jon Huntsman Sr. He is the founder of Hunstman Corporation and the father of the former GOP presidential candidate — and the speculation is based on the fact that his profile fits with much of what we publicly know about Reid’s presumed confidante.

But I just got off the phone with Huntsman, and he confirmed to me that he is not Reid’s source.

However, in a move that could be significant, Huntsman forcefully called on Romney to release his tax returns. This matters, because Huntsman is a longtime backer of Romney — he has long been close to Romney; he supported his early campaigns; he was the national finance chairman of Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign; and he has raised a lot of money for him over the years. (He backed his own son in the latest GOP primary.)

“I feel very badly that Mitt won’t release his taxes and won’t be fair with the American people,” Huntsman told me. In a reference to Romney’s father, who pioneered the release of returns as a presidential candidate, Huntsman said: “I loved George. He always said, pay your taxes for at least 10 or 12 years.”

“Mr. Romney ought to square with the American people and release his taxes like any other candidate,” Huntsman said. “I’ve supported Mitt all along. I wish him well. But I do think he should release his income taxes.”

Reid has claimed that he has it from someone who knows that Romney paid no taxes for a long time. Some have speculated Huntsman is Reid’s source because Huntsman is partners with Robert Gay, a lontime managing director of Bain; they are both officers at Huntsman Gay Global Capital. Huntsman is also close to Reid.

But Huntsman adamantly denied discussing Romney’s returns with Reid, and said he knew nothing about them.

“That’s absolutely false,” Huntsman said of the speculation. “I have absolutely no knowledge of Bain or Mitt Romney’s tax returns.”

Asked directly if he had ever had a conversation of any kind with Reid about Romney’s returns, Huntsman reiterated he hadn’t. Huntsman said his main connection to Reid is through their shared interest in cancer research.

In any case, the more important thing here might be Huntsman’s call for Romney to release his returns. He may be the highest profile Republican — and he’s certainly the one closest to Romney — to do so thus far.

Posted on 08/10/2012 2:04 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 10 August 2012
When Crazy Islam Is Crossed With Notes From The Underground

70 sect members found living underground in Russia

Seventy members of an Islamist sect who have been living in an underground bunker without heat or sunlight for nearly a decade have been discovered living on the outskirts of the city of Kazan in Russia.

A reclusive sect that literally went underground to stop contact with the outside world kept 27 children in dark and unheated cells, many of them for more than a decade, prosecutors said Wednesday. The children have been freed and the parents charged with child abuse.

Some of the children, aged between 1 and 17, have never seen daylight, health officials said. The sect's 83-year-old founder Faizrakhman Satarov, who declared himself a Muslim prophet in contradiction with the principles of Islam, has also been charged with negligence, Irina Petrova, deputy prosecutor in the provincial capital of Kazan, told The Associated Press.

No members of the sect, who call themselves "muammin" after the Arabic term that means "believers," have been arrested, she said.

The children were discovered last week when police searched the sect grounds as part of a probe into the recent killing of a top Tatarstan Muslim cleric, an attack local officials blame on radical Islamist groups that have mushroomed in the oil-rich, Volga River province.

Members of an underground sect in Russia's Volga River province of Tatarstan province stand at the gate of a house outside the provincial capital, Kazan (AP)

Satarov, a former top imam in the neighboring province of Bashkortostan, declared his house outside Kazan an independent Islamic state. He ordered some 70 followers to live in cells they dug under the three-story building topped by a small minaret with a tin crescent moon. Only a few sect members were allowed to leave the premises to work as traders at a local market, Russian media reported.

The children have been placed in local hospitals for observation and will temporarily live in an orphanage, pediatrician Tatyana Moroz said in televised remarks.

The cramped cells, without ventilation, heating or electricity, form eight levels under a decrepit three-story brick house on a 700-square-meter (7,530 sq. foot) plot of land. The house was built illegally and will be demolished, Tatarstan police told local media.

"They will come with bulldozers and guns, but they can demolish this house over our dead bodies!" sect member Gumer Ganiyev said on the Vesti television channel. The ailing Satarov appointed Ganiyev as his deputy "prophet," according to local media.

Satarov had followers in several other cities in Tatarstan and other Volga River provinces, local media reported.

In a 2008 interview with the Komsomolskaya Pravda daily, Satarov said that he fell out with other clerics and authorities in the Communist era, when the KGB sent him to Muslim nations with stories about religious freedom in the officially atheist Soviet Union. Government-approved Orthodox Christian, Muslim and Jewish clerics routinely traveled abroad on Soviet publicity trips.

"That's how I became Satan's servant, a traitor," the white-bearded and turbaned man was quoted as saying. "When I understood that, I repented and started preaching."

Muslim leaders in Tatarstan said Satarov's views contradict their dogma.

"Islam postulates that there are no other prophets after Mohammad," Kazan-based theologian Rais Suleimanov told the Gazeta.ru online publication Tuesday. "The teachings of Sattarov, who declared himself a prophet, have been rejected by traditional Muslims."

The sect members stopped accepting new members and are "only dangerous to themselves and their children," Suleimanov was quoted as saying.

Police entered Satarov's house last Friday as part of an ongoing investigation into the killing of Valiulla Yakupov, Tatarstan's deputy chief mufti, who was gunned down in mid-July as he left his house in Kazan. Minutes later, chief mufti Ildus Faizov was wounded in the legs after an explosive device ripped through his car in central Kazan.

Both clerics were known as critics of radical Islamist groups that advocate a strict and puritan version of Islam known as Salafism.

The emergence of Salafist groups in Tatarstan and other Volga River provinces with a sizable Muslim population has been fueled by the influx of jihadists and clerics from Chechnya and other provinces of Russia's Caucasus region, where Islamic insurgency has been raging for years.

Last year, Doku Umarov, the leader of the embattled Chechen separatists, issued a religious decree calling on radical Islamists from the Caucasus to move to the densely-populated Volga River region that includes Tatarstan.

Prosecutors have named two suspects in the cleric's killing who remain at large and arrested five others in the case. Islamist youth groups have staged rallies in Kazan demanding the detainees' release.

More than half of Tatarstan's 4 million people are Sunni Muslims. Tatars converted to Islam more than a thousand years ago, and the province became an important center of Muslim learning and culture under Tatar-Mongol rulers who controlled Russia and parts of Eastern Europe.

Islamic radicals from the Caucasus have called for the establishment of a caliphate, an independent Islamic state under Shariah law that includes the Caucasus, Tatarstan and other parts of Russia that were once part of the Golden Horde - a medieval Muslim state ruled by a Tatar-Mongol dynasty.

Posted on 08/10/2012 3:15 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 10 August 2012
The Turkish Lobby Played a Long Game – And Won

Dexter Van Zile writes in today's  The Algemeiner:

How is this for a movie idea?
 
The inhabitants of six peaceful villages located in a vast, but crumbling, empire receive an edict from government officials telling them to pack their things and prepare for their relocation, which will take place in eight days. Having heard rumors of terrible massacres resulting in the death of their kinsmen elsewhere in the empire and guessing that a similar fate awaits them if they comply with the order, the villagers, who are mostly artisans and farmers, ascend a nearby mountain with the few antiquated guns they own and small herds of livestock.
 
Atop this mountain, they build a compound to hold off their attackers. There they wait, atop a mountain that looms over a vast sea to the west and a wide plain to the east. They fly banners telling passing ships of their plight in hopes of being rescued.
 
Soldiers from this crumbling empire repeatedly attack this poorly armed band of villagers, but fail each time to overrun their compound. In one instance, the villagers cause an avalanche to fall down on their attackers in a scene reminiscent of the Red Sea crashing in on the Egyptians as they chased the ancient Israelites into the wilderness. Eventually, the soldiers give up trying to overrun the compound and decide to simply starve them out.
 
Things look pretty bad for the villagers, but just when things look the bleakest, warships from a powerful navy see the banners. The villagers send out swimmers who tell their story to a ship’s captain. After learning of the villagers’ plight, the captain orders that they be rescued. A battleship lays down a barrage on the empire’s soldiers. The villagers are ultimately delivered to their new homes out of reach of the regime intent on marching them out into the desert to die.
 
Yes, it sounds like a fantastic story imagined by someone who spent his adolescence playing Dungeons and Dragons.
 
But it’s true. These events took place on the Anatolian Peninsula in 1915. The heroic villagers were approximately 5,000 Armenians slated for destruction by the Young Turks, the founders of modern-day Turkey. Their rescuers were the French navy and their new home was Anjar, a city in Lebanon. (READ MORE)

Posted on 08/10/2012 5:08 PM by Dexter Van Zile
Friday, 10 August 2012
Uglier than usual back of a bus

You have heard the expression that someone who is particularly ugly has a "face like the back of a bus"? These are uglier than usual backs of buses, made so by an unpleasant poster. Maybe one in three of the buses I saw this afternoon at Walthamstow Central, on routes around east London or destined for central London bore one of these posters advertising next week's 'Al Quds' march. I have reported on this event before here. As I said then Al Quds is the name some Arabs give Jerusalem. The Ayatollah Khomeni of Iran declared 30 odd years ago that the last Friday in Ramadan was to be Al Quds day, when Muslims the world over are to express their hatred of Israel and their love for the Palestinian Arabs. The ones they keep in camps rather than integrate them into their own respective countries.

The Harry's Place website has asked their readers to call on Transport for London to remove these adverts, which depict an imprisoned Nelson Mandela, wearing a PLO scarf and looking wistfully through the bars of his cell at the Mosque of Omar in Jerusalem and quote his words on the subject of the 'Palestinians'.

The guest writer at Harrys Place says: What you can do

Contact TfL’s partner for advertising on London’s buses, CBS Outdoor. You can contact Aiden Dunning, the Director of Legal & Business Affairs, at: [email protected] (telephone: 020 7428 2874) and feel free to Cc in Mike Hemmings, their head of Marketing, at: [email protected] (telephone: 020 7428 2852). 

If you’re a Londoner, contact your MP, local councillors and assembly members – you can find out who they are and how to contact them, here.

Attempts to advertise their events by other extremist organisations (that's his opinion of course) including the English Defence League would be rightly crushed. A five minute phone call with your elected representative and a polite e-mail to the gentleman above could be all this needed to get the IHRC off the buses of London.

In previous years the march has been on a Saturday or Sunday. This year the march is actually on a Friday when it is hard for working Englishmen and women to get time off.  Other proposed events during the period of the Olympics have been stopped or the organisors made to re-arrange. That this one is confident of their chosen date to spend so much on advertising makes me wonder what the authorities priorities are.

Photographs E Weatherwax and S Sto Helit. August 2012.

Posted on 08/10/2012 5:10 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Friday, 10 August 2012
A Cinematic Musical Interlude: Sit Down You're Rockin' The Boat (Stubby Kaye)
Watch, and listen, here.
Posted on 08/10/2012 8:14 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 10 August 2012
Non-Muslim Owner Of Sandwich Shop Attacked For Not Closing During Ramadan

From lefigaro.fr:

Un restaurateur agressé parce qu'il ne faisait pas le ramadan

Mots clés : , , ,

Par Laurence De Charette Mis à jour | publié Réactions (82)
Le restaurateur a été agressé devant son commerce, dans le quartier de Belsunce, près du Vieux-Port de Marseille.
Le restaurateur a été agressé devant son commerce, dans le quartier de Belsunce, près du Vieux-Port de Marseille. Crédits photo : ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP

Un commerçant marseillais a été menacé puis frappé par un homme qui exigeait la fermeture du snack pendant le ramadan.

«L'homme était en voiture, aux côtés d'une femme voilée. Il m'a interpellé à plusieurs reprises, menaçant: “Toi, je te conseille de fermer.”» Jean-Marc Azer, commerçant depuis trente ans dans le quartier de Belsunce à Marseille, est encore sous le choc. En début de semaine, après-midi, il a été brutalement agressé par un passant exigeant la fermeture de son snack en raison du ramadan. Après avoir été soigné à l'hôpital de La Conception, il est de retour dans son restaurant, malgré une ITT de six jours.

Entouré de ses trois employés, Jean-Marc Azer, âgé de 64 ans, a décidé de rester ouvert, mais ne sort plus dans la rue sans jeter un regard prudent aux alentours. «Je l'attends… explique-t-il. Au début, je n'ai pas compris ce que me voulait cet homme au volant d'une voiture grise, raconte-t-il. Je me suis approché. Plusieurs fois il m'a répété: “Tu as intérêt à fermer. On ne sert pas de nourriture pendant le ramadan.” Le ton est vite monté. Je lui ai répondu qu'il n'avait pas à faire sa loi en France. Ils ne vont pas tout imposer!» L'automobiliste redémarre. Mais moins d'une heure plus tard, Jean-Marc Azer entend un claquement sonore derrière lui. Le sang se met à couler de son oreille. L'homme l'a frappé par derrière avec une ceinture au bout métallique. Les pompiers arrivent.

L'affaire suscite beaucoup d'émotion dans le quartier, où le snack ne désemplit pas de visiteurs. Le restaurateur, d'origine égyptienne, mais de confession non musulmane, a reçu de nombreux soutiens, notamment celui de l'association des commerçants de Belsunce. Ces derniers ont écrit aux élus, à la préfecture et à la police pour exprimer leur «indignation». L'imam de la mosquée du Marché aux Puces (XVe), Haroun Derbal, a également condamné le geste de l'agresseur. «En trente ans, c'est la première fois que je vois une chose pareille, déplore le restaurateur. C'est un quartier où vivent une majorité de musulmans, mais aussi des juifs, des Arméniens, des chrétiens, des gens athées… et il n'y avait pas de problèmes. Il ne faudrait pas que cet homme donne le mauvais exemple.»

Le commerçant a déposé plainte et l'affaire, prise au sérieux, a mobilisé les services de police. Un enquêteur s'est rendu sur place mercredi pour rencontrer le commerçant blessé. Les bandes vidéo d'une caméra située à quelques mètres ont été saisies, mais le suspect, âgé d'une trentaine d'années, n'a pas été retrouvé. Le ramadan a commencé le 20 juillet et doit s'achever le 19 août.

Posted on 08/10/2012 8:22 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 10 August 2012
Non-Muslim Owner Of Sandwich Shop Attacked For Not Closing During Ramadan

From lefigaro.fr:

Un restaurateur agressé parce qu'il ne faisait pas le ramadan

Mots clés : , , ,

Par Laurence De Charette Mis à jour | publié Réactions (82)
Le restaurateur a été agressé devant son commerce, dans le quartier de Belsunce, près du Vieux-Port de Marseille.
Le restaurateur a été agressé devant son commerce, dans le quartier de Belsunce, près du Vieux-Port de Marseille. Crédits photo : ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP

Un commerçant marseillais a été menacé puis frappé par un homme qui exigeait la fermeture du snack pendant le ramadan.

«L'homme était en voiture, aux côtés d'une femme voilée. Il m'a interpellé à plusieurs reprises, menaçant: “Toi, je te conseille de fermer.”» Jean-Marc Azer, commerçant depuis trente ans dans le quartier de Belsunce à Marseille, est encore sous le choc. En début de semaine, après-midi, il a été brutalement agressé par un passant exigeant la fermeture de son snack en raison du ramadan. Après avoir été soigné à l'hôpital de La Conception, il est de retour dans son restaurant, malgré une ITT de six jours.

Entouré de ses trois employés, Jean-Marc Azer, âgé de 64 ans, a décidé de rester ouvert, mais ne sort plus dans la rue sans jeter un regard prudent aux alentours. «Je l'attends… explique-t-il. Au début, je n'ai pas compris ce que me voulait cet homme au volant d'une voiture grise, raconte-t-il. Je me suis approché. Plusieurs fois il m'a répété: “Tu as intérêt à fermer. On ne sert pas de nourriture pendant le ramadan.” Le ton est vite monté. Je lui ai répondu qu'il n'avait pas à faire sa loi en France. Ils ne vont pas tout imposer!» L'automobiliste redémarre. Mais moins d'une heure plus tard, Jean-Marc Azer entend un claquement sonore derrière lui. Le sang se met à couler de son oreille. L'homme l'a frappé par derrière avec une ceinture au bout métallique. Les pompiers arrivent.

L'affaire suscite beaucoup d'émotion dans le quartier, où le snack ne désemplit pas de visiteurs. Le restaurateur, d'origine égyptienne, mais de confession non musulmane, a reçu de nombreux soutiens, notamment celui de l'association des commerçants de Belsunce. Ces derniers ont écrit aux élus, à la préfecture et à la police pour exprimer leur «indignation». L'imam de la mosquée du Marché aux Puces (XVe), Haroun Derbal, a également condamné le geste de l'agresseur. «En trente ans, c'est la première fois que je vois une chose pareille, déplore le restaurateur. C'est un quartier où vivent une majorité de musulmans, mais aussi des juifs, des Arméniens, des chrétiens, des gens athées… et il n'y avait pas de problèmes. Il ne faudrait pas que cet homme donne le mauvais exemple.»

Le commerçant a déposé plainte et l'affaire, prise au sérieux, a mobilisé les services de police. Un enquêteur s'est rendu sur place mercredi pour rencontrer le commerçant blessé. Les bandes vidéo d'une caméra située à quelques mètres ont été saisies, mais le suspect, âgé d'une trentaine d'années, n'a pas été retrouvé. Le ramadan a commencé le 20 juillet et doit s'achever le 19 août.

Posted on 08/10/2012 8:22 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 10 August 2012
Syrian Analyst Muhammad 'Issa And His Vivid Oriental Imagination

An instructive dispaly of one version -- there are so many -- of the crazinesses that pass for historical understanding in the Arab and Muslim world, including in this case the belief that the founder of Wahhabism was a Jew named "Mack-Ren." Muhammad 'Issa is not the only one who believes, or pretends to believe, such nonsense. In this case he is defending the Assad Regime, and fondly predicts that out of all this strife will come a new "Syrian Empire." Beato lui.

Watch his self-assured nuttiness, the product of the atmospherics of the Muslim Middle East (which can also affect, at times, others)  here.

Posted on 08/10/2012 8:33 PM by Hugh Ftizgerald
Friday, 10 August 2012
Evgeny Morozov On The Khanna Couple And Other TED-Talk Con-Men

The Naked and the TED


Hybrid Reality: Thriving in the Emerging Human-Technology Civilization
By Parag Khanna and Ayesha Khanna
(TED Books, $2.99)

The Demise of Guys: Why Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It
By Philip Zimbardo and Nikita Duncan
(TED Books, $2.99) 

Smile: The Astonishing Powers of a Simple Act
By Ron Gutman
(TED Books, $2.99)

I.

THE NEW PAMPHLET—it would be too strong, and not only quantitatively, to call it a book—by Parag and Ayesha Khanna, the techno-babbling power couple, gallops through so many esoteric themes and irrelevant factoids (did you know that “fifty-eight percent of millennials would rather give up their sense of smell than their mobile phone”?) that one might forgive the authors for never properly attending to their grandest, most persuasive, and almost certainly inadvertent argument. Only the rare reader would finish this piece of digito-futuristic nonsense unconvinced that technology is—to borrow a term of art from the philosopher Harry Frankfurt—bullshit. No, not technology itself; just much of today’s discourse about technology, of which this little e-book is a succinct and mind-numbing example. At least TED Books—the publishing outlet of the hot and overheated TED Conference, which brought this hidden gem to the wider public—did not kill any trees in the publishing process.

It might seem odd that Parag Khanna would turn his attention to the world of technology. He established his reputation as a wannabe geopolitical theorist, something of a modern-day Kissinger, only wired and cool. For almost a decade he has been writing pompous and alarmist books and articles that herald a new era in international relations. He has also been circling the globe in a tireless effort to warn world leaders that democracy might be incompatible with globalization and capitalism. And that the West needs to be more like China and Singapore. And that America is running on borrowed time. And that a new Middle Ages are about to set in. (“When I look at the 21st century, I reverse the numbers around and I see the 12th century.”) This is probing stuff.

All of these insights are expressed in linguistic constructions of such absurdity and superficiality (“a world of ever-shifting (d)alliances,” “peer-to-peer micromanufacturing marketplace”) that Niall Ferguson’s “Chimerica” looks elegant and illuminating by comparison. Khanna must be a gifted schmoozer, too: the acknowledgments sections of his books are primary documents of contemporary name-dropping. Almost everyone he quotes can expect effusive praise. As I.F. Stone once said about Theodore White, “a writer who can be so universally admiring need never lunch alone.”

Khanna’s contempt for democracy and human rights aside, he is simply an intellectual impostor, emitting such lethal doses of banalities, inanities, and generalizations that his books ought to carry advisory notices. Take this precious piece of advice from his previous book—the modestly titled How to Run the World—which is quite representative of his work: “The world needs very few if any new global organizations. What it needs is far more fresh combinations of existing actors who coordinate better with one another.” How this A-list networking would stop climate change, cyber-crime, or trade in exotic animals is never specified. Khanna does not really care about the details of policy. He is a manufacturer of abstract, meaningless slogans. He is, indeed, the most talented bullshit artist of his generation. And this confers upon him a certain anthropological interest.

The “technological” turn in Khanna’s “thought” is hardly surprising. As he and others have discovered by now, one can continue fooling the public with slick ahistorical jeremiads on geopolitics by serving them with the coarse but tasty sauce that is the Cyber-Whig theory of history. The recipe is simple. Find some peculiar global trend—the more arcane, the better. Draw a straight line connecting it to the world of apps, electric cars, and Bay Area venture capital. Mention robots, Japan, and cyberwar. Use shiny slides that contain incomprehensible but impressive maps and visualizations. Stir well. Serve on multiple platforms. With their never-ending talk of Twitter revolutions and the like, techno-globalists such as Khanna have a bright future ahead of them.

In their TED book, the Khannas boldly declare that “mastery in the leading technology sectors of any era determines who leads in geoeconomics and dominates in geopolitics.” Technology is all, the alpha and the omega. How to Run the World, which appeared last year, already contained strong hints about what would happen once he embraced the shiny world of techno-babble with open arms (and, one presumes, open pockets). There we learned that “cloud computing—not big buildings and bloated bureaucracies—is the future of global governance,” and, my favorite, “everyone who has a BlackBerry—or iPhone or Nexus One—can be their own ambassador.” Of their own country of one, presumably.

Hybrid Reality contains few surprises. Khanna and his wife fashion themselves as successors to Alvin and Heidi Toffler, an earlier fast-talking tech-addled couple who thrived on selling cookie-cutter visions of the future one paperback, slogan, and consulting gig at a time. Today the Tofflers are best-known for inspiring some of Newt Gingrich’s most outlandish ideas as well as for popularizing the term “information overload”—a phenomenon which, as numerous scholars have shown, was hardly specific to 1970 (which is when Alvin Toffler mentioned it in Future Shock) and is probably as old as books themselves. To embrace the Tofflers as intellectual role models is to make a damning admission: that one is far more interested in inventing half-clever buzzwords than in trying to understand the messy reality that those buzzwords purport to describe. In a recent article in Foreign Policy on the Tofflers, the Khannas are unusually candid about what it is they admire about them:

Need we say more [about this prediction]? Even though it was written during the Carter administration, if you remove the dates from the passage above you have a template for most of today’s editorial columns on the aftermath of the current financial meltdown. It’s all here: the identity crisis of corporations, skyrocketing commodity prices, morally bankrupt economists, and currencies in flux and free-fall.

So the Tofflers have much to teach us about the origins or the consequences of the current financial crisis! This of course is laughable. The fact that, three decades later, their glib, abstract, and pretentious writings can still serve as a template for the likes of the Khannas says more about the state of public debate in America today than it does about the accuracy of Toffler-style futurism.

When the Khannas discuss the charms of their newly found profession in Hybrid Reality, the whole enterprise is revealed as a jargon-laden farce: “Futurism is a combination of long-term and long-tail, separating the trends from the trendy and the shocks from the shifts, and combining data, reportage, and scenarios.” It doesn’t sound like a very demanding job: “It helps to travel and be imaginative, but it is even more useful to observe children.” And why all this effort? So that we can better predict the apocalypse. “Avoiding civilizational collapse will require harnessing technologies that help us decipher complexity, overcome decision overload, and produce comprehensive strategies.” The Khannas have come to accomplish nothing less than the rescue of civilization.

TOFFLER-WORSHIP and futuristic kitsch aside, what does Hybrid Reality actually argue? There are several disjointed arguments. First, that technology—“technology with a big ‘T,’” as they call it—is supplanting economics and geopolitics as the leading driver of international relations. This means, among other things, that Washington deploys tools such as Flame and Stuxnet simply because it has the better technology—not because of a strategic and military analysis. It is a silly argument, but wrapped in tech-talk it sounds almost plausible.

For the Khannas, technology is an autonomous force with its own logic that does not bend under the wicked pressure of politics or capitalism or tribalism; all that we humans can do is find a way to harness its logic for our own purposes. Technology is the magic wand that lifts nations from poverty, cures diseases, redistributes power, and promises immortality to the human race. Nations, firms, and cities that develop the smartest and most flexible way of doing this are said to possess Technik—a German term with a substantial intellectual pedigree that, in the Khannas’ hands, can mean just about anything—and a high “technology quotient.”

Today, they believe, we are entering a new era, when humans will be so intricately dependent on technology that “human-technology coexistence has become human-technology coevolution.” This is what the Khannas mean by the “Hybrid Age”—a “new sociotechnical era that is unfolding as technologies merge with each other and humans merge with technology.” They proceed to outline its inevitable consequences. Designer babies? Check. Cloned humans? Check. Sex robots that “can be made to look like anyone you want”? Check. A paradise!

Any stretch of time that deserves a name of its own—an age, an era, an epoch—must have at least a few distinct characteristics that make it stand out from the past. The problem is that all the features that the Khannas invoke to emphasize the uniqueness of our era have long been claimed by other commentators for their own unique eras. The Khannas tell us that “technology no longer simply processes our instructions on a one-way street. Instead, it increasingly provides intelligent feedback.” How is that different from Daniel Boorstin’s bombastic pronouncement in 1977 that “the Republic of Technology where we will be living is a feedback world”? And the Khannas’ admonition that “rather than view technology and humanity as two distinct domains, we must increasingly appreciate the dense sociotechnical nexus in which they constantly shape each other”—how is this different from what Ortega y Gasset wrote more eloquently in 1939: “Man without technology ... is not man”?

The idea of hybridity that the Khannas assume to be their sexy and original insight has been with us for a long time—long before social media and biotechnology. While some dismiss such theorists of hybridity as Bruno Latour and Donna Haraway, who have questioned the epistemological foundations of the modern scientific enterprise, as being on the wrong side of the Science Wars, hybridity is by no means a postmodernist idea. Here is Daniel Callahan—a respected bioethicist who can hardly be accused of PoMo transgressions— writing in 1971: “We have to do away with a false and misleading dualism, one which abstracts man on the one hand and technology on the other, as if the two were quite separate kinds of realities.... Man is by nature a technological animal; to be human is to be technological.... When we speak of technology, this is another way of speaking about man himself in one of his manifestations.”

For modern theorists of technology, hybridity is an ontological—not an emergent—property. They believe, to quote Callahan again, that “to be human is to be technological,” and that it has always been thus. As it turns out, this seemingly innocent assumption about the world can have serious implications for how we think about politics, morality, and law. It inspired Latour’s notion of “distributed agency”—in its crudest form, the idea that neither guns nor people kill people but rather a fleeting, one-off combination of the two. (The entity that shoots is a “gun-man.”) This is not meant to suggest that people no longer have to go to jail for murder. It is only to point out that, if we really want to explain a particular act of shooting, we need to account for factors like the material design of the gun, the marketing considerations of its manufacturers, the severity of anti-gun laws, and so on.

The latest technologies might make us more aware of this hybridity—of the techno-human condition, if you will—but to speak of the Hybrid Age makes as much sense as to speak of the Nature Age: the fact that climate change makes us more aware of the air we breath or the water we drink does not fundamentally alter the dynamics of our dependence on these resources. To posit that we are moving into the Hybrid Age is to assume that there was once a time—according to the Khannas, it was just a few years ago—when such hybridity was not the case, when man and technology trod their separate paths. It is to believe that human nature changed sometime last year or so. This, of course, is nonsense—even if makes technology companies feel important. As the Dutch philosopher of technology Peter-Paul Verbeek puts it in his fine book Moralizing Technology, “We are as autonomous with regard to technology as we are with regard to language, oxygen, or gravity.”

But still the Khannas roll dizzily along. “The Hybrid Age is the transition period between the Information Age and the moment of Singularity (when machines surpass human intelligence) that inventor Ray Kurzweil, author of The Singularity Is Near, estimates we may reach by 2040 (perhaps sooner). The Hybrid Age is a liminal phase in which we cross the threshold toward a new mode of arranging global society.” These are end times. The Hybrid Age is the preparation for the apotheosis of the Singularity— a Singularity-lite of sorts. (Ayesha Khanna serves as a faculty adviser to Singularity University.) This periodization of history is just a marketing trick. Those who believe in Kurzweil’s ugly and ridiculous thesis, which at TED conferences is probably the majority, have already grudgingly accepted the fact that a few unexciting decades will transpire before it comes to pass—and so the Khannas move in to claim these decades as their own, as their brand, while promising us that all the fun of the Singularity—who doesn’t fancy uploading his soul to the cloud so that it can commingle with the soul of Steve Jobs?—will happen even sooner than we think.

As the Hybrid Age sets in, inaction is not an option. “You may continue to live your life without understanding the implications of the still-distant Singularity, but you should not underestimate how quickly we are accelerating into the Hybrid Age—nor delay in managing this transition yourself.” Sinners, repent! The day of the Lord is nigh! And in case you wonder where you might turn for assistance in “managing this transition,” the Khannas are there to help. They are eschatological consultants. They run a for-profit consulting firm “providing insight into the implications of emerging technologies” that bears the proud name of the Hybrid Reality Institute. So far the firm’s main accomplishment seems to be convincing the TED Conference to print its verbose marketing brochure as a book. But perhaps this is what the Hybrid Age is all about: marketing masquerading as theory, charlatans masquerading as philosophers, a New Age cult masquerading as a university, business masquerading as redemption, slogans masquerading as truths.

THIS BOOK is not just useless piffle about technology; it is also an endorsement of some rather noxious political ideas. Those already familiar with Parag Khanna’s earlier celebrations of autocracies in Southeast Asia will not be surprised by some of the most outrageous paragraphs in his TED book. China is one of the Khannas’ role models. They have the guts to write that “a decade from now we will look back at China’s 12th Five-Year Plan as the seminal document of the early 21st century.” Take your pick: 12th Five-Year Plan or Charter 08. Somehow the latter never gets a mention in this book. Perhaps it is not seminal enough, or it is insufficiently driven by technology. And what makes the Five-Year Plan so seminal? “It pledges $1.5 trillion in government support for seven ‘strategic emerging industries,’ including alternative energy, biotechnology, next-gen IT, high-end manufacturing equipment, and advanced materials.” Would it really surprise anyone if in a few years some of that $1.5 trillion were to trickle down to the Hybrid Reality Institute?

The Khannas also heap praise on Singapore, “a seamlessly efficient cosmopolitan world capital of finance and, increasingly, innovation.” Alas, they do not explain how Singapore has become so “seamlessly efficient.” Perhaps this quotation from Lee Kuan Yew, its first long-time ruler—conveniently omitted by the Khannas—may shed some light: “Everytime anybody wants to start anything which will unwind or unravel this orderly, organized, sensible, rational society, and make it irrational and emotional, I put a stop to it without hesitation.” The Khannas approvingly note that Singapore is “the leading role model in city-state Technik for entities from Abu Dhabi to Moscow to Kuala Lumpur.” That all three aforementioned cities are situated in despicable authoritarian regimes—which might explain why they look up to Singapore—does not much trouble the Khannas. They recently announced that they are moving to Singapore. Good. The autocratic city and the apologists for autocracy deserve each other.

It only gets worse, as the Khannas proceed to profess their deep and inherently anti-democratic admiration for technocracy. That they can spit out the following passage without running any risk of being disinvited from respectable dinner parties and television shows is a sign of how well our debate about technology—a seemingly neutral and nonpolitical issue—conceals deeply political (and, in this case, outright authoritarian) tendencies:

Using technology to deliberate on matters of national importance, deliver public services, and incorporate citizen feedback may ultimately be a truer form of direct participation than a system of indirect representation and infrequent elections. Democracy depends on the participation of crowds, but doesn’t guarantee their wisdom. We cannot be afraid of technocracy when the alternative is the futile populism of Argentines, Hungarians, and Thais masquerading as democracy. It is precisely these nonfunctional democracies that are prime candidates to be superseded by better-designed technocracies—likely delivering more benefits to their citizens.... To the extent that China provides guidance for governance that Western democracies don’t, it is in having “technocrats with term limits.”

Things in Hungary are pretty bad, but to suggest that Hungarians would be better off with China-style governance is really reprehensible. And to imply that China’s technocrats have term limits is outright offensive.

In the domestic American context, the Khannas also celebrate the infusion of “experts such as Tim O’Reilly and Craig Newmark [who] ... stepped in to advise Washington on Gov 2.0 technologies such as open-data platforms.” “Such citizen-technologists,” we are told, “are crucial ... to [improving] government efficiency.” Once again, the technologists—and the technocratic agencies they are enlisted to support—are presented as objective, independent, and free of any ideological leanings. Nowhere do we learn that Tim O’Reilly runs a profitable corporation that might stand to benefit from the government’s embrace of open-data platforms, or that Craig Newmark is a committed cyber-libertarian who used to worship Ayn Rand. Or that Jimmy Wales, who is advising the British government, is so enthralled with Rand and objectivism that he named his daughter after one of the characters in a Rand novel. Nor do the Khannas tell us that the public embrace of “open-data platforms” is often accompanied by an increase in government secrecy or a growing reluctance to fund public journalism. (Why fund the BBC if “citizen-investigators” can now be asked to do all the digging for free?) The pursuit of efficiency alone cannot guide public policy—this is why we have politics; but technocrats rarely want to hear such truths. And the Khannas cannot be trusted to tell them.

AS IS TYPICAL of today’s anxiety-peddling futurology, the Khannas’ favorite word is “increasingly,” which is their way of saying that our unstable world is always changing and that only advanced thinkers such as themselves can guide us through this turbulence. In Hybrid Reality, everything is increasingly something else: gadgets are increasingly miraculous, technology is increasingly making its way into the human body, quiet moments are increasingly rare. This is a world in which pundits are increasingly using the word “increasingly” whenever they feel too lazy to look up the actual statistics, which, in the Khannas’ case, increasingly means all the time.

What the Khannas’ project illustrates so well is that the defining feature of today’s techno-aggrandizing is its utter ignorance of all the techno-aggrandizing that has come before it. The fantasy of technology as an autonomous force is a century-old delusion that no serious contemporary theorist of technology would defend. The Khannas have no interest in intellectual history, or in the state of contemporary thought about technology. They prefer to quote, almost at random, the likes of Oswald Spengler and Karl Jaspers instead. This strategy of invoking random Teutonic names and concepts might work on the unsophisticated crowds at Davos and TED, but to imagine that either Spengler or Jaspers have something interesting or original to tell us about cloning, e-books, or asteroid mining is foolish. “A new era requires a new vocabulary,” the Khannas proclaim—only to embrace the terminology that was already in place by the end of the nineteenth century. They may be well-funded, but they are not well-educated.

Their promiscuous use of the word Technik exposes the shaky foundation of their enterprise—as well as of many popular discussions about technology, which inevitably gravitate toward the bullshit zone. To return to Harry Frankfurt, the key distinction between the liar and the bullshitter is that the former conceals “that he is attempting to lead us away from a correct apprehension of reality,” whereas the latter conceals that he is not interested in reality at all. The bullshitter “does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose.” To suggest that Parag and Ayesha Khanna—and numerous pundits before them—might be pursuing purposes other than describing—or improving—reality is almost self-evident. (A look at the website of the Hybrid Reality Institute would suffice.) The more interesting question here is why bullshit about technology, unlike other types of bullshit, is so hard to see for what it is.

It is here that the Khannas stand out. Technik, as they use this term, is something so expansive and nebulous that it can denote absolutely anything. Technik is the magic concept that allows the Khannas to make their most meaningless sentences look as if they actually carry some content. They use Technik as a synonym for innovation, design, engineering, science, mastery, capital, the economy, and a dozen other things. It is what fixes cities, reinvigorates social networking, and grants us immortality. Technik is every pundit’s wet dream: a foreign word that confers an air of cosmopolitanism upon its utterer. It can be applied to solve virtually any problem, and it is so abstract that its purveyor can hardly be held accountable for its inaccuracies and inanities.

It is Technik that makes much of the Khannas’ writing circular and simplistic. Take this highly confusing sentence: “Good Technik requires a combination of the attributes that deliver high human development, economic growth, political inclusiveness, and technology preparedness.” Translation: “Good Technik requires Technik.” As for the simplistic part, try this: “Technik unites the scientific and mechanical dimensions of technology (determinism) with a necessary concern for its effect on humans and society (constructivism).” If I read the Khannas correctly—and I cannot be sure, for they seem confused about the terms “determinism” or “constructivism,” at least as those are used in the philosophy of technology—their novel interpretation of the old German term Technik proposes to reveal that technologies are material and technologies have effects. Is this insight so profound that it needed a high German word to explain it?

But the Khannas do not want to abandon the simpler term “technology,” either, so they try to inflate it, too. Remember, “the Hybrid Age is the era when we renew our thinking about technology with a big ‘T.’” Sticking to the notion of “technology with a big ‘T’” yields insights such as this: “From the printing press to penicillin and now Twitter and genomics, technology ceaselessly demonstrates its transformative impact.” The printing press and penicillin and Twitter and genomics do indeed have transformative effects, but to assume that they all matter in the same way—which is the inevitable result of lumping them under the rubric of “Technology,” the one with its own rules, wants, and agendas—is as stupid as it is dangerous.

Perhaps, if one had to give a three-minute TED presentation about penicillin, Twitter, genomics, and the printing press—but why would anyone ever want to give such a talk?—a catch-all term such as “technology” might be of some help. But analytically it is useless, in the way that lumping Warhol, Chardin, hip hop, Chaplin, Haydn, and science fiction under the term “arts” is useless. At such a level of generality every fool can sound brilliant. The unfortunate thing is that, while few people would grant any substance to an argument that identifies a common meaning in Warhol, Chardin, hip hop, Chaplin, Haydn, and science fiction, we easily fall for grand theories that mysteriously connect humans and material artifacts to some grand narrative about the universe, be it the Singularity, Toffler’s Third Wave, or the Hybrid Age. When, fifteen years ago, Leo Marx accused technology of being “a hazardous concept” for leading precisely to this kind of addled thinking, he was too polite. In the hands of skilled hustlers such as the Khannas, technology is itself a counterfeit concept, which does little but make complex ideas look deceptively simple. Much like Glenn Beck’s magic blackboard, it connects everything to everything without saying anything significant about anything.

II.

I CAN SURMISE why the Khannas would have wanted to write this book, but it is not immediately obvious why TED Books would have wanted to publish it. I must disclose that I spoke at a TED Global Conference in Oxford in 2009, and I admit that my appearance there certainly helped to expose my argument to a much wider audience, for which I remain grateful. So I take no pleasure in declaring what has been obvious for some time: that TED is no longer a responsible curator of ideas “worth spreading.” Instead it has become something ludicrous, and a little sinister.

Today TED is an insatiable kingpin of international meme laundering—a place where ideas, regardless of their quality, go to seek celebrity, to live in the form of videos, tweets, and now e-books. In the world of TED—or, to use their argot, in the TED “ecosystem”—books become talks, talks become memes, memes become projects, projects become talks, talks become books—and so it goes ad infinitum in the sizzling Stakhanovite cycle of memetics, until any shade of depth or nuance disappears into the virtual void. Richard Dawkins, the father of memetics, should be very proud. Perhaps he can explain how “ideas worth spreading” become “ideas no footnotes can support.”

The Khannas’ book is not the only piece of literary rubbish carrying the TED brand. Another recently published TED book called The Demise of Guys: Why Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It—co-authored by Philip Zimbardo, of the Stanford Prison Experiment fame, is an apt example of what transpires when TED ideas happen to good people. One would think that a scholar as distinguished as Zimbardo would not need to set foot in Khanna-land, but, alas, his book brims with almost as many clichés and pseudo-daring pronouncements. Did you know that “in porn, male actors have enormous penises,” and that “porn is not about romance”? The book’s main premise is that the Internet and video games are re-wiring the brains of “guys,” much to the detriment of civilization. Read and be terrified, especially if you are a “guy,” because “[guys’] brains are being catered to by porn on demand and by video games at a flick of the switch or a click of the mouse.” This is almost as good as Allan Bloom’s admonition in The Closing of the American Mind that Walkman headphones lead to parricide. The evidence presented is inconsistent and all over the map. As the science journalist Carl Zimmer has noted, The Demise of Guys gives a Daily Mail column as much credibility as a peer-reviewed paper. And a new TED book on the science of smiling—Smile: The Astonishing Powers of a Simple Act, by Ron Gutman—contains even more banality than the Khannas’ little masterpiece of TED emptiness—a remarkable feat. There one may read, for example, that “under certain conditions, when men see women smile at them they interpret that as a sign that the women think they are attractive.” This is what passes for advanced thinking.

When they launched their publishing venture, the TED organizers dismissed any concern that their books’ slim size would be dumbing us down. “Actually, we suspect people reading TED Books will be trading up rather than down. They’ll be reading a short, compelling book instead of browsing a magazine or doing crossword puzzles. Our goal is to make ideas accessible in a way that matches modern attention spans.” But surely “modern attention spans” must be resisted, not celebrated. Brevity may be the soul of wit, or of lingerie, but it is not the soul of analysis. The TED ideal of thought is the ideal of the “takeaway”—the shrinkage of thought for people too busy to think. I don’t know if the crossword puzzles are rewiring our brains—I hope TED knows its neuroscience, with all the neuroscientists on its stage—but anyone who is seriously considering reading Hybrid Reality or Smile should also entertain the option of playing Angry Birds or Fruit Ninja.

Parag Khanna’s writings on geopolitics never amounted to much of anything even before his turn to technology, but it is instructive to see how his presentation has changed now that he has embedded himself in the TED firmament. Save for a hackneyed nod to the “world’s chessboard,” he now makes only cursory references to power structures and strategic alliances. Instead he strikes all the right chords to elicit approval from the TED crowd—musing on genetics, neuroscience, synthetic biology—all in order to inform us that “our ability to augment ourselves” is growing by the minute. As is customary in such discourse, no mention is made of the fact that the Human Genome Project, for all the hype it generated a decade ago, has not accomplished much. Likewise, MRI scans are celebrated as if they offered direct and immediate access to truth. (“Harnessing fMRI mental scans, companies ... are gathering the ‘unspoken truth.’”) The Khannas’ Japan—as packaged for TED consumption—is the land of cutting-edge technology: you would never know that 59 percent of Japanese homes still have (frequently used!) fax machines.

The Khannas are typical of the TED crowd in that they do not express much doubt about anything. Their pronouncements about political structures are as firm and arrogant as some scientists’ pronouncements about the cognitive structures of the brain. Whatever problems lurk on the horizon are imagined primarily as problems of technology, which, given enough money, brain power, and nutritional supplements, someone in Silicon Valley should be in a position to solve. This is consistent with TED’s adoption of a decidedly non-political attitude, as became apparent in a recent kerfuffle over a short talk on inequality given by a venture capitalist—who else?—which TED refused to release for fear that it might offend too many rich people.

Since any meaningful discussion of politics is off limits at TED, the solutions advocated by TED’s techno-humanitarians cannot go beyond the toolkit available to the scientist, the coder, and the engineer. This leaves Silicon Valley entrepreneurs positioned as TED’s preferred redeemers. In TED world, tech entrepreneurs are in the business of solving the world’s most pressing problems. This is what makes TED stand out from other globalist shindigs, and makes its intellectual performances increasingly irrelevant to genuine thought and serious action.

Another fine example of the TED mentality in the context of global affairs is Abundance, a new book co-written by Peter Diamandis, the co-founder of the Singularity University. He is a TED regular and the person who blurbed Khanna’s book as “an enormously important contribution to our thinking about how to create a better tomorrow.” (Singularity may rid us of death, but it won’t abolish backscratching.) Diamandis delivers an abundant list of pressing global problems accompanied by an equally abundant list of technologies that can fix them. Here, too, politics rarely gets a mention.

Given TED’s disproportionate influence on a certain level of the global debate, it follows that the public at large also becomes more approving of technological solutions to problems that are not technological but political. Problems of climate change become problems of making production more efficient or finding ways to colonize other planets—not of reaching political agreement on how to limit production or consume in a more sustainable fashion. Problems of health care become problems of inadequate self-monitoring and data-sharing. Problems of ensuring one’s privacy—which might otherwise get solved by pushing for new laws—become problems of inadequate tools for defending one’s anonymity online or selling access to one’s own data. (The Khannas are not alone in believing that “individuals [must] gain control over the value of their time, skills, data, and resources. We must be ruthless in earning from those who want our attention.”)

It is in the developing world where the limitations of TED’s techno-humanitarian mentality are most pronounced. In TED world, problems of aid and development are no longer seen as problems of weak and corrupt institutions; they are recast as problems of inadequate connectivity or an insufficiency of gadgets. According to the Khannas, “centuries of colonialism and decades of aid haven’t lifted Africa’s fortunes the way technology can.” Hence the latest urge to bombard Africa with tablets and Kindles—even when an average African kid would find it impossible to repair a damaged Kindle. And the gadgets do drop from the sky—Nicholas Negroponte, having spectacularly failed in his One Laptop Per Child quest, now wants to drop his own tablets from helicopters, which would make it harder for the African savages to say “no” to MIT’s (and TED’s) civilization. This is la mission civilatrice 2.0.

It is hardly surprising that the Khannas’ deep admiration of Singapore’s technocratic authoritarianism is well-received by the TEDdies—after all, they prefer to fix broken countries as if they are broken start-ups. That solving any of their favorite global problems would require political solutions—if only to ensure that nobody’s rights and interests are violated or overlooked in the process— is not something that the TED elite, with its aversion to conventional instruments of power and its inebriated can-do attitude, likes to hear. Politics slows things down; but technology speeds things up. TED’s techno-humanitarians—that brigade of what the Nigerian-American writer Teju Cole has dubbed “The White Savior Industrial Complex”—would defer to China’s “technocrats with term limits” and have them bulldoze entire villages in order to build another Foxconn plant rather than bother with the slow progress of political reform. The Khannas are on to something when they write that “the Hybrid Age ... might also become a Pax Technologica,” but there are pitifully few reasons to believe that a Pax Technologica would do much good for the world. Techno-humanitarianism is much more techno than humanitarian.

Evgeny Morozov is the author, most recently, of The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom (PublicAffairs). This article originally appeared in the August 23, 2012 issue of the magazine.

Posted on 08/10/2012 8:57 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald

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