These are all the Blogs posted on Monday, 12, 2012.
Monday, 12 November 2012
Abu Qatada wins appeal against deportation
The radical Islamist cleric Abu Qatada has won his latest legal challenge against being sent back to Jordan where he faces allegations of plotting bomb attacks.
The ruling by the special immigration appeals commission (Siac) is a major setback for the home secretary, Theresa May, who personally secured assurances from the Jordanian authorities that he would not face a trial based on evidence obtained by torture.
The Home Office expressed immediate disappointment, saying the judges had applied the wrong test: "The government strongly disagrees with this ruling. We have obtained assurances not just in relation to the treatment of Qatada himself, but about the quality of the legal processes that would be followed throughout his trial.
"Indeed, today's ruling found that the Jordanian judiciary, like their executive counterparts, are determined to ensure that the appellant will receive, and be seen to receive, a fair retrial'. We will therefore seek leave to appeal today's decision."
Qatada, who has waged a seven-year fight against his deportation, has previously been described by the British courts as "a truly dangerous individual at the centre in the United Kingdom of terrorist activities associated with al-Qaida".
The ruling is a blow to the home secretary's renewed strategy of deporting international terror suspects with diplomatic assurances about their future treatment. May travelled to Jordan to negotiate the fresh assurances, but without the legal backing of British judges the deportation cannot go ahead.
Now the work of the MOD Judicial Diversity team is coming to fruition in ensuring that the ranks of the judiciary are stuffed with women and men filled with a 'common purpose'.
When Shaima Alawadi was found beaten to death in her own dining room with a tire iron, CAIR and countless Muslim organizations rejoiced, and not just for the usual reason that Muslims rejoice when a woman is murdered, but because they had their own living dead proof that Islamophobia was the biggest problem in America since German Measles.
A note lying on the floor read, “Go back to your country, you terrorist;” which clearly meant that Shaima Alawadi’s murder was a hate crime, probably by someone who spent a lot of time reading Robert Spencer, joining militias and working on a Kibbutz.
There was talk of organizing a One Million Hijabs for Shaima Alawadi march, which in Saudi Arabia is just known as another Wednesday. Muslims and useful idiots began uploading photos of themselves in Hijabs with signs reading “I Am Shaima”. A Sojourners blog used the murder to compare Islamophobia to the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide.
The truth about the murder of Shaima Alawadi was that she wasn’t murdered by someone who hated Islam, but by a Muslim, in keeping with the teachings of Islam which permit husbands to beat their wives.Shaima Alawadi was indeed murdered because of her Hijab, not because of prejudice against her Hijab, but because of the misogynistic culture that the Hijab represents.
Like so many Muslim women, Shaima Alawadi was murdered in an honor killing by her husband. Like so many Muslim women, she was forced into an arranged marriage at a young age, 15, and lived an unhappy life. Like so many Muslim women, she perpetuated the generational oppression of women, passing on the same misery to her unhappy daughters. And like so many Muslim women, when her desire for freedom conflicted with the Islamic patriarchy, she was murdered for it.
According to court documents revealed in the New York Times, Alawadi’s eldest daughter, Fatima, was found in a car with a 21-year-old man. After her mother picked her up, Fatima said “I love you, Mom” and jumped out of the car going 35 m.p.h., sustaining injuries. While recovering in the hospital, Fatima told authorities that she was being forced to marry a cousin in Iraq — not the man with whom she’d been in the car. Alhimidi, Alawadi’s husband, is in Iraq with his two eldest children (Fatima and her brother) for her funeral. They are expected to return the U.S. later this month.
This is the true hate crime here. Not American hatred of Muslims, but Muslim hatred of women and Muslim women participating in the oppression of other Muslim women until the dam breaks.
There ought to be a one million march of Hijabs for Shamia Alhimidi, empty Hijabs commemorating the Muslim women murdered by their husbands and their brothers, those who committed suicide, jumping out of cars, drinking acid or hanging themselves.
And it’s time for us to wake up to the meaning of the Hijab and the Koran.
One final note
Alzaidy told the newspaper her father and Alawadi’s husband had previously worked together in San Diego as private contractors for the U.S. Army, serving as cultural advisers to train soldiers who were going to be deployed to the Middle East.
A Muslim man who beat his wife to death with a tire iron and then tried to blame the crime on Americans is who we were using as a cultural adviser. And it makes sense. Because that is the culture of the Muslim world.
Police have asked a hate crime investigator to look into vandalism discovered on a war memorial at a park near Toronto’s waterfront. . . shortly after Remembrance Day ceremonies wrapped on Sunday.
“Canada will burn praise Allah," was written with permanent marker across the monument in Coronation Park, near Lake Shore Blvd. W and Strachan Ave.,
City of Toronto workers were on scene Sunday night cleaning the memorial. If the vandalism is declared a hate crime, the formal charge will remain mischief but the penalty accompanying a conviction will be much more severe.
The Victory Peace monument was created to mark the end of the Second World War. It features 50 words in 50 different languages, all of them meaning “peace.” Sculptor John McEwen said it’s apparent that whoever defiled the piece did not stop to consider the meaning of the work.
Egypt women stand and wait to vote last December, but now face potential destruction of their rights with new constitution.
CAIRO: The leading Egyptian women’s rights organization, the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights (ECWR) has condemned the constituent assembly in the country tasked with writing the first post-uprising constitution.
The ECWR said in a statement that the cancellation of a number of women’s rights clauses is “planned aggression against Egyptian women” and demanded that women and their rights are protected in the new constitution.
“In the light of intimidating the Egyptian women and seeking to attack their rights by some dominant mainstream in the constituent assembly of the constitution, the Egyptian society was shocked due to the announcement, on behalf of some members of the committee, on the cancellation of article 68 from what is known as the draft of constitution,” ECWR said in their statement.
Article 68 had guaranteed the rights and equality of women and men in all sectors of society, including political, cultural, economic and social life “and all other fields without prejudice to the provisions of Islamic Shari’a.
“The State provides the services of motherhood and childhood for free. The state ensures the women’s health care, social and economic rights and the right of inheritance and reconcile with her duties towards the family and her work in the society. The state provides protection and special attention of household, divorced, and widowed women and others of women who most in need,” read Article 68.
The rights group urged the constituent assembly to abide by the understanding that men and women are equal under Egyptian law.
“The need to include specific references aiming at establishing the principle of equality between women and men, addressed ‘women and men’, instead of the signals or ambiguous and general words such as ‘personals and citizens or individuals’. The reference of women or men in the preamble reinforces the idea that says women and men are equal in the constitution and both of them have the same rights and duties, and they are treated equally without any discrimination,” ECWR continued.
Women’s rights have become a major focal point in the new constitution, with a number of conservatives on the assembly pushing to revoke many of the gains achieved in the years leading up to the Egyptian uprising, including divorce rights, economic rights and the age of marriage. Salafists – Islamic puritans – have been calling for the age of marriage to be lowered as well as the cancellation of woman’s right to divorce.
ECWR said that the “commitment to guaranteeing equality in the rights between the Egyptian women and men which includes guaranteeing full rights and freedom and the necessity of passing on legislation that enhance achieving equality. Additionally, passing any other mechanisms and measures to protect persons and categories from discrimination,” it continued.
The first draft of the new constitution has already sparked fears that conservatives are taking much more control of Egypt’s future through provisions that put more weight on Islamic law rather than civil law.
Women’s rights are at the forefront of the ongoing controversy.
KAIROUAN, Tunisia — On the Friday after Tunisia’s president fell, Mohamed al-Khelif mounted the pulpit of this city’s historic Grand Mosque to deliver a full-throttle attack on the country’s corrupt culture, to condemn its close ties with the West and to demand that a new constitution implement Shariah, or Islamic law.
“They’ve slaughtered Islam!” thundered Dr. Khelif, whom the ousted government had barred from preaching for 20 years. “Whoever fights Islam and implements Western plans becomes in the eyes of Western politicians a blessed leader and a reformer, even if he was the most criminal leader with the dirtiest hands.”
Mosques across Tunisia blazed with similar sermons that day and, indeed, every Friday since, in what has become the battle of the pulpit, a heated competition to define Tunisia’s religious and political identity.
Revolution freed the country’s estimated 5,000 officially sanctioned mosques from the rigid controls of the previous government, which appointed every prayer leader and issued lists of acceptable topics for their Friday sermons. [which is what Ataturk instituted in Turkey, and what every regime in the Muslim world wishing to constrain full-throated Islam must do]
That system pushed a moderate, apolitical model of Islam that avoided confronting a dictator. ["moderatye Islam" means "Islami light" or rather, an Islam which deliberately deflects attention from the central teachings of Islam, enshrined forever in Qur'an, Hadith, and Sira]. When the system collapsed last year, ultraconservative Salafis seized control of up to 500 mosques by government estimates. The government, a proponent of a more temperate political Islam, says it has since wrested back control of all but 70 of the mosques, but acknowledges it has not yet routed the extremists nor thwarted their agenda.
“Before, the state suffocated religion — they controlled the imams, the sermons, the mosques,” said Sheik Tai’eb al-Ghozzi, the Friday Prayer leader at the Grand Mosque here. “Now everything is out of control — the situation is better but needs control.”
To this day, Salafi clerics like Dr. Khelif, who espouse the most puritanical, most orthodox interpretation of Islam, hammer on favorite themes that include putting Islamic law into effect immediately, veiling women, outlawing alcohol, shunning the West and joining the jihad in Syria. Democracy, they insist, is not compatible with Islam.
“If the majority is ignorant of religious instruction, then they are against God,” said Sheik Khatib al-Idrissi, 60, considered the spiritual guide of all Tunisian Salafis. “If the majority is corrupt, how can we accept them? Truth is in the governance of God.”
The battle for Tunisia’s mosques is one front in a broader struggle, as pockets of extremism take hold across the region. Freshly minted Islamic governments largely triumphed over their often fractious, secular rivals in postrevolutionary elections. But those new governments are locked in fierce, sometimes violent, competition with the more hard-line wing of the Islamic political movements over how much of the faith can mix with democracy, over the very building blocks of religious identity. That competition is especially significant in Tunisia, once the most secular of the Arab nations, with a large educated middle class and close ties to Europe.
The Arab Spring began in Tunisia, and its ability to reconcile faith and governance may well serve as a barometer for the region.
Some analysts link the assertive Tunisian Salafi movement to what they consider a worrying spread of violent extremism across North Africa — including an affiliate of Al Qaeda seizing control of northern Mali; a murderous attack on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya; a growing jihadi force facing Israel in the Sinai; and a mob looting an American school and parts of the United States Embassy in Tunis.
Senior government officials said the various groups share an ideology and are in contact with one another, suggesting that while they are scattered and do not coordinate their operations, they reinforce one another’s agendas. There have been several episodes of jihadists caught smuggling small arms from Libya to Mali or Algeria across Tunisia, for example, including two small trucks packed with Kalashnikovs and some manner of shoulder-fired missiles or grenades in June, said Ali Laarayedh, the interior minister.
President Moncef Marzouki and several ministers blamed the domestic spread of Islamic extremism on the ousted government, saying it created a vacuum by gutting traditional religious education over the past 50 years. Mr. Marzouki estimated that the number of violent extremists was only about 3,000, but he acknowledged that they were a growing menace to national security.
Aside from a few “zealous” leaders, most are misguided youths, said Mr. Laarayedh, the interior minister. Critics find their potential for violence unsettling, and repeated episodes — security forces shot dead a young Salafi in a confrontation last week — play havoc with the image of a country dependent on tourism.
The government, dominated by the Renaissance Party, is struggling to contain the problem without resorting to the brutal methods of the toppled dictatorship. It has jailed about 800 Salafis, said Samir Dilou, the human rights minister, and arrests of those advocating violence accelerated after protesters looted the American Embassy compound on Sept. 14 in response to a video mocking the Prophet Muhammad.
The word Salafi encompasses a broad spectrum of Sunni fundamentalists whose common goal is resurrecting Islam as practiced by the Prophet Muhammad when he founded the faith in the seventh century. Salafis range from peaceful proselytizers to those who spread Islam by force.
In Kairouan, 100 miles south of Tunis, Salafis control 5 of the city’s 35 mosques, said Sheik Ghozzi, the Grand Mosque’s prayer leader.
“The Salafis find themselves empowered because they have not faced any resistance from the government,” said Sheik Ghozzi, 70, a slight man wearing a short-cropped gray robe. Without a “strict” reaction, along with dialogue, they will become “a danger to the state,” he said.
The Grand Mosque, a sandstone citadel, reflects the martial origins of Kairouan, the capital of the first Muslim army to capture North Africa. It is Tunisia’s oldest mosque.
Sheik Ghozzi and other critics accuse the extremists of pushing a far less tolerant version of Islam than that long practiced in Tunisia. Salafi prayer leaders recruit young men to die fighting in Syria, he said, although Islam forbids killing other Muslims.
Salafis repeatedly try to chase tourists from the Grand Mosque; have threatened to level the popular shrine of Sidi Sahbi, a companion of the Prophet Muhammad buried here, although so far they have only fought with worshipers trying to pray there; and imported Saudi Arabian clerics who demanded that Tunisians confront the West. At some mosques, traditional prayer leaders were threatened with beatings or even death if they did not leave, Sheik Ghozzi said. In others, the locks were changed to bar them.
In a few towns, the struggle degenerated into brawls with sticks and fists. The Salafists have also enforced Islamic law on their own. In Sidi Bouzeit this September, a group of about 70 Salafists sacked the only hotel in town that sold alcohol, shattering its outdoor fountains by heaving full cases of beer into them.
“They want their own imams who use their words, who speak their language,” Sheik Ghozzi said. “They want someone who calls for jihad, who tells them to go fight in other countries, who curses the Shiites and who calls on them to go out to defend the Koran by force.”
It was worshipers who asked Dr. Khelif not to return after that first Friday, Sheik Ghozzi said.
But Dr. Khelif, 60, a pediatrician and the son of a famous Grand Mosque imam, said only misguided Tunisians consider his preaching somehow foreign.
“Islam is the Islam that was revealed to the prophet — it was not Islam revealed to my father or any other Tunisian father,” he said, speaking in his clinic, pictures of the Grand Mosque mingled on the walls with Walt Disney characters. Dr. Khelif, who has grown a long, shaggy white beard and assumed the duties of prayer speaker at another mosque since the revolution, denied that any Salafi preachers occupied mosques by force. Worshipers are free to pray elsewhere, he noted.
In a show of strength, the Salafi movement organized a huge rally at the Grand Mosque last May, drawing tens of thousands of followers from around Tunisia who voiced frustration at the slow pace of applying Islamic law.
But Nourredine Khadmi, the minister of religious affairs, said that his ministry was in the process of evaluating potential new imams and that he had appointed some 2,000 imams since January. “By winter, everything will be stable,” he said in an interview, though last spring he predicted it would be by August.
“It is a difficult problem to resolve,” said Abdelfattah Mouru, a Renaissance Party founder and himself the victim of several physical attacks by young Salafis. “You need either public opinion or a public force. You cannot dispatch the police into the mosques to put them in order, it is impossible, it is both immoral and against the religion.”
In Tunis in October, five men set fire to the shrine of Leila Manoubia, a 13th-century saint. Young Tunisian women wrote their names on the walls if they wanted to get married or pregnant. Salafis condemn such prayers as idolatry, although who attacked the shrine remains unconfirmed.
“I want Tunisia to be a place where a woman can wear a veil or not, where we can pray or not,” said Asma Ahmadi, 34, who said she started visiting the shrine at age 15 and considers it as much about tradition as religion.
“They are trying to break the mystical balance between tradition and religion in Tunisia,” she said. “They are trying to burn our identity to replace it with something we don’t know.”
Biddy Martin, The Toiling Belle Of Amherst, Or, What Would Theodore Baird Think?
A story about Amherst, the brand new very much with-it and get-with-the-program Amherst, with a practically brand-new president, one Biddy Martin, described -- by whom? -- at her wikipedia entry as an "American intellectual and author," and author she is -- of
Woman and Modernity: The (Life)Styles of Lou Andreas-Salomé, Cornell University Press, 1991.
Femininity Played Straight: The Significance of Being Lesbian, Routledge Press, 1996.
"Sexualities without Genders and Other Queer Utopias", Diacritics, vol. 24, no. 2/3, Critical Crossings (Summer - Autumn, 1994), pp. 104–121.
and as an "American intellectual and author" was selected a year or two ago by Amherst's Board of Trustees, headed by one JideZeitlin, to be the new president of Amherst. That new president is, as far as I can tell, as distant from distinction and fitness for the task (if we agree with Jacques Barzun's house blend of cultivation and common-sense) as affirmative-action choice Sonia Sotomayor or Elena Kagan (known, and remembered, at Harvard Law School not for scholarly articles, not for displays of Holmesian melancholic and acerbic wit, nor for thoughtful Brandeisian briefs, but for one thing only: showing her deep concern for students by providing free coffee on campus, the kind of thing that wins favor just the way a bad teacher can garnder good reviews if he -- or she -- distributes to the class brownies or cookies, preferably home-baked, a week or two before those Student Evaluations are to be filled out) is for the task of being of a Supreme Court Justice.
What would Reuben Brower think? Or Henry Steele Commager? Or that master teacher of English literature, beloved Theodore Baird? Autres temps, autres coeurs.
Here's the story, from today's New York Times, about the latest undignified wretched case of the Varsity Drag:
Sexual Assaults Roil Amherst, and College President Welcomes the Controversy
It began with a first-person account of an elite college’s callous treatment of a rape victim, written by a woman from the rural South who said she never felt fully accepted on campus. The resulting storm has engulfed Amherst College, leading to debates about not only rape, but also group identity, tradition and how directly or publicly a school should confront its problems.
It may be that no college leader in the country was as well prepared to face this controversy than Biddy Martin, president of Amherst since September 2011. As an academic, she has written extensively on gender and sexuality, and as an administrator, she has a history of tackling — though not always successfully — thorny disputes. Months before sexual misconduct became the dominant issue on campus, she started overhauling the way that Amherst handled sexual assaults.
And she is, herself, a woman from the rural South, who attended an elite college where she did not feel fully accepted.
The last few weeks have drawn the kind of harsh scrutiny to Amherst that leaders of such institutions usually hope will fade, but that is not Dr. Martin’s style. In an interview, she said she regretted that her school had been dragged into the spotlight for negative reasons, but she welcomed the underlying topics that were being brought to light, too.
“It’s an incredible opportunity to have a conversation about this issue,” she said. “These are the kinds of things I think we’re alive to think about.”
Dr. Martin, 61, has her detractors — particularly at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she led a failed attempt to secede from the state’s university system — but over her career she seems to have collected an even larger group of friends and admirers. Among advocates for campus crime victims, her response to the current crisis has earned glowing praise.
“I think we’re very lucky to have her,” said Dana Bolger, a student activist who had criticized Dr. Martin for not moving fast enough to address sexual assault in her first year at Amherst. “I think she wants to create real change.”
That may require all of Dr. Martin’s political skills. A faction of Amherst students and faculty members say that fraternities and some sports teams have an insular, hard-drinking, all-male culture that is a large part of the problem, while others on campus and among the college’s affluent, mostly male alumni and donors (it was a men’s college until the 1970s) dispute that. On one side there are people who question Dr. Martin’s commitment to change, and on the other are some who say she was too quick to accept that sexual assault is a problem.
Last spring, in response to student complaints, Dr. Martin’s administration made a series of changes, requiring that a professional investigator look into every complaint of sexual misconduct and hiring an outside expert, Gina M. Smith, to review the school’s handling of both accusers and the accused.
But the issue took on a life of its own on Oct. 17, with the publication of the article by a former Amherst student about being raped and then treated dismissively by administrators. It dominated campus conversations, drew worldwide attention and led several others to step forward and say that they, too, had been sexually assaulted at Amherst.
The topic flared anew on Nov. 5 with publication of a note by a former student who committed suicide, saying that he had been sexually assaulted at the school. He recounted an insensitive comment from Dr. Martin after he filed a complaint; she said she remembers the encounter differently.
After the first article appeared, Dr. Martin asked Ms. Smith to investigate the case, acknowledged publicly that the college had handled such episodes poorly, gave news media interviews and held a series of forums for students to express their concerns. She voiced support for ideas like creating a recurring program to remind students about appropriate sexual conduct, victims’ rights and the responsibility of witnesses.
“Biddy Martin’s response is not the norm,” said Colby Bruno, managing attorney at the Victim Rights Law Center in Boston, who has handled rape cases on several campuses. “Usually we see denial, delay and secrecy.”
Dr. Martin has a confidence and an easy, direct manner that have helped her go far in the clubby world of higher education, but she also knows what it is like to not fit in. She said that understanding the views of both the insider and outsider is essential to her way of doing business.
She grew up in southern Virginia, where she was a standout student and, at a shade under 5-foot-5, a high school basketball star. She shared a first name with other women in the family, each of whom went by a nickname.
Her parents, a school secretary and a salesman, “thought girls didn’t need to go to college, and they worried that I would be turned into a liberal lunatic,” she said. “Their greatest fear was that, as they put it, those eggheads would think they were better than we were, and when I went to William and Mary, I did encounter some prejudice.”
As a scholar of German literature, and a lesbian, she did not always fit in back home, either — where, she said, “what mattered was high school football.”
She earned a Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin, and then taught German studies and women’s studies at Cornell. There, she developed a lasting habit of spending time with students: on campus walkways, in dining halls and at arts shows and sports events.
Dr. Martin moved into Cornell’s administration, becoming provost, the second-ranking position. She reorganized the life sciences departments, whose fields spread across multiple colleges, winning praise for resolving turf disputes.
In 2008, she became the chancellor at the University of Wisconsin and quickly developed a following, particularly among students who saw her as unusually approachable. She even made a cameo appearance in a popular rap video about a school dance. She campaigned for and won a tuition increase, with the additional money plowed into undergraduate education and financial aid for low-income students.
But Dr. Martin’s instincts failed her in 2011, when she struck a deal with the state’s new governor, Scott Walker. They agreed that the Madison campus would break away from the university system, but they did so without involving the system’s president or the Board of Regents. Dr. Martin has said that the governor’s office demanded secrecy.
The plan failed in the face of fierce opposition from the system and the Legislature. With her position at Wisconsin uncertain, Dr. Martin left for Amherst a few months later.
She may have been in a no-win position at Wisconsin, said Judith N. Burstyn, who led the executive committee of the Faculty Senate during that fight. “But being insubordinate to your superiors is a difficult position to put yourself in.”
Don M. Randel, a former Cornell provost who worked with Dr. Martin there, sees a theme in her career.
“There’s a real boldness and toughness to her, a willingness to take on disagreements, though without being abrasive,” said Mr. Randel, who is president of the Andrew Mellon Foundation. “I think that’s what you saw at Wisconsin, and what you’re seeing at Amherst.”
Israel Faces Escalation across both Syrian and Gaza Borders
Rocket damaged home in Nativot, Southern Israel Golan Artillery Exchanges with Syria
Sources: APSource: Reuters
At brunch on Sunday here in Pensacola, a friend, who is a research scientist at a local think tank, and I discussed the growing instability on Israel’s northern border with war-torn Syria and rocket onslaught against Southern Israel from Gaza. We were focused on whether the Iron Dome System was truly cost effective against a veritable fusillade of rockets, given the high cost per kill. We thought that inevitably Israel may have to go into Gaza and complete the cleanout of Hamas and Islamic Jihad rocket support not achieved when Operation Cast Lead was aborted in January 2009.
We discussed the recent supposed IAF raid on the munitions factory in the Sudan purportedly targeting Iranian supplied rockets and short range missiles for assembly and transport across Egypt via the Sinai Peninsula into Gaza. We also noted the troubling incidents of mortar fire artillery and counter battery missile exchanges from across the Syrian frontier with Israel’s Golan Heights. That latter marked the first return fire by IDF forces stationed there since the October 1973 War. Clearly the Assad regime’s control over that frontier has deteriorated given fighting with opposition forces that have entered the border zone.
Over the weekend more than 140 rockets were fired from Hamas-controlled Gaza, with direct hits on three houses in Nativot and Sderot in Southern Israel. The much vaunted Iron Dome system scored two “kills” of incoming Grad rockets, including one near Beersheba. Earlier this past weekend, an anti-tank rocket was fired at an IDF patrol near the Gaza frontier - see this IDF summary report of this weekend’s activities.
Monday, PM Netanyahu spoke to a gathering of foreign diplomats in Ashkelon hard by the northern Gaza frontier. Netanyahu noted the threat to more than one million of Israel’s citizens in his remarks to the foreign diplomats:
If an alarm is sounded, all of us have exactly 30 seconds to find shelter. This is the situation in which one million Israelis find themselves.
[. . .]
A million Israelis, including many little children, like the ones here, are
targeted on a daily basis, by people who took areas that we vacated, that
the Government of Israel vacated, came in there, and are now hiding behind
civilians, while firing on civilians, firing on our children.
Israel Hayom headlined a report about the deteriorating situation in Southern Israel, “Countdown to large ground operation in Gaza has begun”. Israel Hayomnoted comments from public figures about possible retaliation. This despite an alleged Egyptian- brokered cease fire alleged to go into effect on Tuesday:
Home front Defense Minister Avi Dichter warned on Monday that there would be no recourse but to invade Gaza with ground troops. "There is no precedent in history of destroying terror by air power alone. It hasn't happened and it won't happen. Thus it is necessary to reformat Gaza altogether," Dichter, a resident of Ashkelon, said.
Tzachi Hanegbi, former chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and a close associate of Netanyahu, also said Monday that Israel's patience had worn out. "Israel's deterrence against terror from Gaza, including Hamas and others there, no longer exists, and now we find ourselves in a countdown toward a large and aggressive ground operation in the Gaza Strip. Air power has run its course. They have obviously forgotten the lessons they learned from Operation Cast Lead. The terror organizations in Gaza want to drag us into a conflict there so that we take our attention off the real threat, which is from Iran."
The Syrian Golan frontier tensions spiked with the mortar attacks and exchange of artillery fire prompted Israel to fire its advanced Tapuz anti-artillery missile. The Jerusalem Post noted PM Netanyahu’s warning on Monday to the faltering Assad regime in Damascus, less than 42 miles away from the Israeli frontier . ” Israel "will not allow anyone to breach our borders or to fire on our citizens."
Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon noted there is heavy fighting inside Syria between Assad and opposition forces making the matter of control problematic.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon cautioned about future exchanges that might jeopardize the Disengagement Agreements between Syria and Israel.
When my brunch partner in Pensacola asked about the escalation threat on the Golan Heights, I pointed out that Druze villages lie astride the border. The Druze minority inside Syria had previously supported Assad. Given Sunni supremacist opposition forces fighting in Syria near the border zone, the Druze are at risk. These opposition forces view the Druze as heterodox. The Syrian Druze might panic and elect to join their brothers across the frontier seeking sanctuary in the Israeli-held Golan.
Escalation on both Israel’s border with Syria and southern border with Gaza raises the risk of possible security operations on two or three fronts, should Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon react to Syrian frontier developments.
ATHENS (Reuters) - Arm raised in a Nazi-style salute, the leader of Greece's fastest-rising political party surveyed hundreds of young men in black T-shirts as they exploded into cheers. Their battle cry reverberated through the night: Blood! Honour! Golden Dawn!
"We may sometimes raise our hand this way, but these hands are clean, not dirty. They haven't stolen," shouted Nikolaos Mihaloliakos as he stood, floodlit, in front of about 2,000 diehard party followers filling an open-air amphitheatre at Goudi park, a former military camp near Athens.
"We were dozens, then a few hundred. Now we're thousands and it's only the beginning," cried the leader of Golden Dawn, a far-right party that is seeing its support soar amid Greece's economic collapse. Last month's rally revealed the party, which describes itself as nationalist and pledges to expel all illegal foreigners, has a new-found sense of triumph, even a swagger, that some find menacing.
Riding a wave of public anger at corrupt politicians, austerity and illegal immigration, Golden Dawn has seen its popularity double in a few months. A survey by VPRC, an independent polling company, put the party's support at 14 percent in October, compared with the seven percent it won in June's election.
Political analysts see no immediate halt to its meteoric ascent. They warn that Golden Dawn, which denies being neo-Nazi despite openly adopting similar ideology and symbols, may lure as many as one in three Greek voters.
"As long as the political system doesn't change and doesn't put an end to corruption, this phenomenon will not be stemmed," said Costas Panagopoulos, chief of ALCO, another independent polling company. "Golden Dawn can potentially tap up to 30 percent of voters."
The party now lies third in the polls, behind conservative New Democracy and the main opposition, the radical leftist Syriza. Violent behavior by Golden Dawn members, who often stroll through run-down Athens neighborhoods harassing immigrants, seems to boost rather than hurt the party's standing.
As the government imposes yet more austerity on an enraged public, the collapse of the ruling conservative-leftist coalition remains on the political horizon. The possibility that Golden Dawn could capture second place in a snap election is slim but real, say pollsters.
Analysts believe that, ultimately, the party lacks the broad appeal and structure needed to gain mass traction. In World War Two Greece suffered massacres and famine in its fight against the Nazis, and the spectre of the 1967-1974 military junta still hangs heavy over its modern politics. So why are many Greeks now turning to a party whose emblems and rhetoric, critics say, resemble Hitler's?
Golden Dawn denies any such resemblance. In an interview with Reuters at an open-air cafe in the Athens district of Papagou, a traditional neighbourhood for military personnel, Ilias Panagiotaros, a Golden Dawn lawmaker and spokesman, explained the party's appeal. "Golden Dawn is the only institution in this country that works. Everything else has stopped working or is partially working," he said.
"We operate like a well-organized army unit, because the military is the best institution in any country." Greece's far-right party goes on the offensive (PDF) link.reuters.com/rut83t > Greece's other debt problem (PDF) link.reuters.com/ryq82t
Short, squat and combative, Mihaloliakos once praised Hitler and denied the Nazi gas chambers existed. A former special forces commando in the Greek army, he met the leaders of the Greek military junta while in prison for carrying illegal weapons and explosives as a member of a far-right group in 1979.
When pressed on such issues, Golden Dawn says they are all in the past and it is looking to the future.
For years after Mihaloliakos founded the party in 1985 it remained marginal: in the 2009 elections Golden Dawn won just 0.29 percent of the vote, or fewer than 20,000 votes. Yet in June, the party amassed votes from across the political spectrum, wiping out the more moderate nationalist LAOS party and winning support from as far left as the communist KKE party, pollsters said.
Now it is stealing votes from New Democracy, which flip-flopped on the international bailout keeping Greece afloat and, after coming to power, imposed harsh cuts instead of relief measures. Though Golden Dawn attracts mainly urban male voters up to 35 years old, the party is also gaining its share of women and the elderly, primarily those suffering unemployment or falling living standards, say pollsters.
Part of its appeal is down to the sort of welfare work that Hamas, the Palestinian party, does in Gaza. Golden Dawn distributes food in poor neighborhoods, helps old ladies get money safely from ATMs - and has also set up a Greeks-only blood bank.
One story repeated at cafes, but not verified, is that of a Greek whose house is taken over by immigrants. When he asks the police for help, he is given the Golden Dawn number. Not only do they throw out the squatters but deliver the house clean and painted, the tale goes.
"I voted for Golden Dawn for the first time in June and I will vote for them again because they are the only ones who really care about Greece," said 45-year-old Demetra, an unemployed Athenian, as she walked through the party's rally at Goudi park. "All the other politicians have sold us out."
The gathering was a chance for the party to relish achievements and flex muscle. Well-built youths in black T-shirts emblazoned with the Swastika-like party logo stood in military formation at the entrance. Two men stood to attention on both sides of the podium, flagged with a big sign reading "Getting the stink off the country", while speakers delivered patriotic oratories.
A short film showed highlights of the year, which included attacks on immigrant street vendors, clashes with police outside parliament and food distribution to the poor. When the film showed Golden Dawn lawmaker Ilias Kasidiaris slapping a female communist lawmaker, Liana Kanelli, across the face on live TV, youths bellowed profanities against the victim.
"Golden Dawn's target is simple. We want the absolute majority in parliament so we can replace the constitution with our own," Kasidiaris told the crowd. "It will then be easy to immediately arrest and deport all illegal immigrants."
Pollsters were ready to write off the party when Kasidiaris slapped Kanelli after she swatted him with some papers during a dispute he was having with a Syriza lawmaker. Kasidiaris says he was defending himself; Kanelli says she was coming to the aid of the Syriza lawmaker after Kasidiaris had thrown water at her.
Painting Golden Dawn as an aberration stemming from the financial crisis, pollsters said the party's support would dwindle. The opposite happened - the party gained 3 to 4 percentage points in polls as a direct result of the Kasidiaris incident.
"In this slap, Greek society saw the whole, immoral political establishment get slapped," said Panagiotaros, a thick-set man with a shaved head and a goatee. "People thought: finally!"
‘SPEAK GREEK OR DIE'
In parliament Golden Dawn's 18 lawmakers cluster in a rear corner of the marble-covered hall, but make no attempt to hide their ideology. Recently, Panagiotaros asked the welfare ministry to find out which babies admitted to state day-care centers were actually Greek. Eleni Zaroulia, wife of party leader Mihaloliakos and also a lawmaker, described immigrants as "every sort of sub-human who invades our country carrying all sorts of diseases."
Artemis Matthaiopoulos, another Golden Dawn lawmaker, was formerly the bassist for a heavy metal band called Pogrom, which produced songs such as "Speak Greek or Die" and "Auschwitz".
Rights groups say racist attacks in Greece have been surging, but that many immigrants are reluctant to report them because of their illegal status or mistrust of the police.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other groups recorded 87 racist attacks in the first nine months of the year (comparable statistics for previous years are not available). Perpetrators often used clubs or crowbars and sometimes large dogs, say rights groups. In May an Albanian was attacked with a sword by a masked motorcycle rider; in August a young Iraqi was stabbed to death.
"This is not even the tip of the iceberg - there are even more attacks that are not recorded anywhere," said Daphne Kapetanaki of the UNHCR.
Victims or witnesses sometimes identify Golden Dawn members as the attackers. Javied Aslam, head of the Pakistani Community in Greece organization, estimates that about 400 Pakistanis have been attacked in the past eight months by Golden Dawn supporters. "There is a huge climate of fear," he said. "People don't leave their houses and workers who leave for their jobs in the morning fear they may not come back home."
Golden Dawn strongly denies any involvement in racist attacks. Several of its members have been detained in relation to such assaults, but have been released for lack of evidence.
One Nigerian victim, 31-year-old Confidence Ordu, said he was beaten up by Golden Dawn supporters in broad daylight in Athens in January as passersby looked on without intervening. Ordu, who was granted asylum when he came to Greece five years ago, said he was walking out of a central Athens subway station when four men dressed in black attacked him, shouting "You don't belong here. Greece is for Greeks".
"I tried to fight back but there were four of them," said Ordu. "They kept punching and hitting me while I was on the ground. There was nothing I could do. So I acted like I was dead until they left. I had blood all over my face and arms."
Bleeding profusely, he went to a nearby police station. He says police first demanded to see papers proving he was a legal immigrant before taking down details of the assault.
"I'm scared all the time and I watch my back all the time," he said. "I only go to places I know. I never go out at night."
Like other victims, he accuses Greek police of supporting Golden Dawn and hindering immigrants in reporting attacks. In a July report, advocacy group Human Rights Watch said gangs of Greeks were regularly attacking immigrants with impunity and authorities were ignoring victims or discouraging them from filing complaints.
Greek police deny accusations they are soft on, or even sometimes work with, Golden Dawn. Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias has vehemently denied reports that police were beating up illegal immigrants and has threatened to sue British newspaper The Guardian over the issue. He is at such odds with Golden Dawn that the party ridiculed him during the youth festival at Goudi park.
But a member of the police officers' union, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, admitted there was some sympathy for the party among the ranks. "There are some among the police who ideologically support Golden Dawn and a handful that have been violent against illegal immigrants," the unionist said. "But these cases are being probed by justice."
With more than one million foreign nationals in Greece, a country of 11 million people, tensions are unlikely to ease any time soon. While the government regularly rounds up thousands of immigrants, only a few hundred are sent to specially-built detention centers.
Many migrants pouring in from Asia and Africa, mainly through Greece's porous border with Turkey, dream of moving on to other European countries, but find themselves trapped in Greece by EU rules that return them to their point of entry. Aid groups say they are often forced into crime to survive.
In one case that shocked the nation in 2010, two Afghans lethally stabbed a 44-year-old Greek on the street to steal his video camera as he was taking his pregnant wife to hospital. They were caught trying to sell the camera for 80 euros ($101) and were later sentenced to life in prison for murder. In another much-publicized case, a grandfather was killed on a bus for a handful of coins.
Such incidents, unheard of in Greece a few years back, have fanned resentment against foreigners, who are also seen as stealing jobs while one in four Greeks is unemployed. The jobless rate among young Greeks is even higher - more than 50 percent for those under 25.
Ahead of a visit to Berlin in October, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, leader of New Democracy, told German media that Greece's woes were similar to conditions that led to the collapse of the Weimar Republic in Germany and ushered in the Nazis. Extreme leftist populism and "an extreme right, you could almost say fascist, neo-Nazi party," were clashing in the same way that battles between communists and fascists marked the 1919 to 1933 Weimar years, he said.
Syriza is already leading New Democracy in some opinion polls and Golden Dawn could grow stronger, say some observers. George Kyrtsos, an editor who managed the election campaign of the far-right LAOS party, said: "If New Democracy shows signs of collapse, we may see outrageous situations... the two top parties fighting it out on the streets."
Golden Dawn, which gives few details of its finances beyond saying it is funded by supporters, is now opening offices across the country and in Greek communities overseas, including New York.
Panagiotaros, the party spokesman, said he and his colleagues would even be ready for the top spot. The party's priorities for government, he said, would include eradicating corruption and jump-starting the economy, but most importantly closing the borders and expelling all illegal immigrants.
"We will seal the borders but do it properly, not the nonsense they are doing now. Then we will immediately deport all illegals," he said. "Although, when we come to power, they'll leave by themselves."
Boaden, Stout Defender Of BBC's "Impartiality," Is Now Out
Here is what Helen Boaden wrote in defense of the indefensible BBC in 2006:
Bias at the BBC?
I am not surprised that some readers of the Mail on Sunday, the Daily Mail and the Express are furious with the BBC. If I had paid my licence fee in good faith for an organisation which claims it is passionately committed to impartiality, only to discover – according to the Mail on Sunday – that the organisation itself has admitted it is biased, I would be pretty livid.
According to the Mail on Sunday, and other recent press reports, we have admitted that we are an organisation of trendy, left-leaning liberals who are anti-American, biased against Christianity, in favour of multiculturalism, and staffed by people who wouldn’t know an unbiased fact if it hit them on the head.
The Mail on Sunday based its story on a leak from what it called a “secret” meeting of BBC executives and governors, and claims that it was our former political editor, Andrew Marr himself, who confessed to the liberal bias of the organisation. His take was reinforced by Jeff Randall, who until recently was our business editor. “If they say it, then it must be true” was the thrust of the story.
Well I was one of the people who was at the "secret" meeting. and I have to say the reality was somewhat different to the way the press are reporting it.
For a start, this wasn’t a secret meeting... it was streamed live on the web. The meeting was made up of executives, governors and lots of non-BBC people like John Lloyd from the FT and Janet Daley from the Daily Telegraph. It was planned as a serious seminar to investigate and understand better the BBC’s commitment to impartiality in an age in which spin and opinion riddle much of the world’s journalism. The seminar was part of a bigger project kicked off by Michael Grade earlier this year to re-examine the underlying principles of impartiality in the digital age when boundaries between conventional broadcasting and the new platforms will increasingly disappear.
To keep us all on our toes, a rich variety of formats was used during the day. I was on a "Hypothetical" – where a panel of people in charge is given a series of mounting “real life” crises and asked how they would handle each of them. It was fun, occasionally illuminating, and often very challenging.
There was for example a heated debate about the whether or not a Muslim newsreader should be allowed to wear a headscarf. Jon Snow was all in favour. BBC Washington correspondent Justin Webb was vehemently against. I had deep reservations because I felt a scarf would be a distraction from the news but pointed out - in the interests of debate - that if we banned the headscarf, how would we justify that cross which I was sure I had once seen Fiona Bruce wearing. From this discussion emerged the wholly untrue newspaper story that the BBC had banned Fiona’s cross.
The point of the Hypothetical is to generate discussion, debate and ideas. The situations aren’t real; the discussions aren’t binding and they certainly don’t define BBC policy.
There was discussion of the BBC’s culture and some provocative points were made.
Jeff Randall made a few good jokes about the occasional examples of political correctness he found among some BBC colleagues. I remembered an incident about 15 years ago when a freelance reporter working for me on a programme about bullying in Feltham Young Offenders’ Institution asked me if it was acceptable to broadcast what they had discovered: that most of the bullies in Feltham at that time were black and most of the victims were white. Not only was it acceptable, I told the reporter, if he had evidence of this he had a duty to report it. And so we did.
Andrew Marr made some comments about BBC culture being more liberal than the rest of the country – points he makes in his book on journalism.
The main thing is, however, they were both giving their personal opinions. That is entirely their right and what they had been asked to do in the interests of discussion. I disagree with them. I found their claim of liberal bias unconvincing – based on anecdote and attitude rather than evidence.
The BBC employs more than 20,000 people across the UK. It is not a chattering class club of the kind depicted by the papers. It is a hugely varied organisation with many different cultures and a huge variety of opinions on every single issue among its staff. What does unite BBC staff however, is a deep commitment to BBC values and at the heart of those values is a commitment to impartiality.
When I first joined the BBC I asked a very experienced and subtle journalist what was meant by BBC impartiality. “It means we don’t take sides,” he said. “We don’t take sides either explicitly or implicitly. We test all opinion toughly but fairly and we let the audience make up their own minds.”
It’s a simple but absolutely correct definition which audiences see, hear and read in our output everyday. In the end, the personal views of our staff are not the point. The issue is that their views and opinions never stray on air.
And that’s where the broad audience comes in. What really counts is not what a group of BBC executives and VIPs think, or indeed what a few columnists believe. The important thing is whether or not our audiences think we are biased. And on that the evidence is robust.
Asked recently which of the four main broadcasters they would term "trustworthy", nearly two thirds - 60% - cited the BBC. In contrast, 26% said ITV, 16% mentioned Channel 4, and 14% Sky. (Mori, 2006)
That research is very cheering but it never allows us to rest on our laurels. Impartiality is not so much a fixed point as a process of open mindedness which should be the basis for everything we do in journalism.
Part of that open mindedness is being tested in exercises like the Hypothetical which ran at the impartiality seminar. No one has all the answers on any subject and debate and discussion are vital if we are to ensure that impartiality remains a living reality rather than an empty claim.
It’s a shame that the newspapers have made mischief with the seminar, but we won’t let this small storm put us off trying to get impartiality right.
Senator Warner: Are you able to say at this time if we continue what you have laid before the congress here, this strategy. Do you feel that that is making America safer?
General Petraeus: Sir, I believe this is indeed the best course of action to achieve our objectives in Iraq.
Warner: Does that make America safer?
General Petraeus: Sir, I don't know actually. I have not sat down and sorted this in my own mind. What I have focused on and what I have been riveted on is how to accomplish the mission of the multinational Iraq.
-- an exchange during the recent testimony of General Petraeus before the Senate
A Few More Questions For General Petraeus:
Q.: General, you have not “sat down and sorted this out in [your] own mind.” Does that make sense? Shouldn’t you not merely “accomplish the mission,” but ask yourself if the mission makes sense?
A.: Sir, I don’t know actually. I have to focus on the job I was given.
Q.: But what if the job, what if the mission, does not make sense?
A.: I’d have to think about that long and hard, Senator.
Q.: You have been in Iraq, General Petraeus, for a long time.
Q.: You were there in 2003.
Q.: You were there in 2004. You were in Tel Afar. You were building up Iraq’s forces. You were allowing American weaponry to be distributed to what were called “Iraqi” forces without much oversight.
A.: I was there, yes, in 2004. In Tel Afar. And elsewhere in the north. There was no time to waste in getting those weapons into what we thought were the proper hands, Iraqi hands, so they could help defend themselves.
Q.: Not all of those hundreds of thousands of weapons did end up in hands that were using them only to defend themselves, were they?
A.: No, sir.
Q.: Where did that weaponry end up? Isn’t it true that some of it ended up on arms markets, sold to the highest bidder, or even ended up in Syria? Isn’t it true that some of those weapons ended up in the hands of people who hate Americans and want to kill them?
A.: Well, Senator, if we are going to worry about that, there are plenty of people in Iraq to hate Americans and would like to see them dead, and if we counted all of those, I’m just not sure, outside of Kurdistan, how many people we would have left to work with.
Q.: General Petraeus, you have a Ph.D. from Princeton, isn’t that true?
A.: Yes, sir.
Q.: And you have a reputation as being something of a strategic thinker. You wrote a very detailed manual on counter-insurgency. Isn’t that right?
A.: Yes, sir.
Q.: And in that manual, you suggest there are some helpful rules, some generally-applicable principles, that apply to all counter-insurgencies, and that you think they might be helpful in this case.
A.: Yes, sir.
Q.: And one of those rules, or laws or deductions was that, and let’s see if I get this right, that “in general, insurgencies last ten years.” Do I have that right?
A.: Yes, sir.
Q.: General Petraeus, does that mean that we should be prepared to stay in Iraq for another six years – if the “insurgency” in Iraq lasts the average length of time you say an insurgency does last?
A.: Well, sir, I haven’t given that much thought.
Q.: You haven’t?
A.: No, sir, I’ve been too busy with accomplishing the mission, trying to fulfill the mission.
Q.: General, if I were to tell you that a colonel in the British army had written a study concluding that “in general, civil wars last 4.7 years,” what would you say to that?
A.: I’m not sure I understand, Senator.
Q.: Would you find something a bit doubtful about someone who came to such a conclusion, and who thought further that such a conclusion might be useful?
A.: Yes, Senator, I take your point. There are many variables, of course.
Q.: And one of those variables, the biggest variable of them all, in Iraq is that there is both an insurgency, or many insurgencies, and a civil war, or several civil wars, and in the meantime the Muslim population, whatever it is fighting for or against, is certainly not a friend, and cannot be an ally, of the Americans who are, and will remain, Infidels. Isn’t that right?
A.: I couldn’t say actually. But I see what you are saying, and I think it is something I will have to explore with my advisers.
Q.: Yes, that would be helpful. That would be desirable. Now General, some Congressmen have come back from trips to Baghdad, where they met with you, and have reported that you have said the American forces might have to stay another nine or ten years. Is that true?
A.: I may have given that impression, sir. I talk about what might be or could be, not what necessarily will be.
Q.: So you think it might be necessary, it might make real sense, for the American forces, stretched as they are, with all the damage done to the morale, and to the quality of those forces, that everyone in the Pentagon knows about, you think perhaps it might make sense to keep American forces in Iraq for, as one Congresswoman put it last week, “another nine or ten years”?
A.: Sir, the situation in Iraq is evolving. I really couldn’t say. I’m not trying to evade giving you an answer. I just can’t say.
Q.: What kind of regime, what kind of neighborhood, what kind of welcome, do you think people in Iraq would offer Americans for the next nine or ten years?
A.: I really couldn’t say.
Q.: General, the other day I was disturbed to read the transcript of your answers to the set of questions posed to you about Islam. You apparently have read “parts of the Qur’an” but had not heard of the Hadith or Sira. Is that correct?
A.: Yes, sir.
Q.: Do you think that in order to discover the mental make-up of the people in Iraq -- I’m not going to call them “Iraqis,” you notice, General -- we might, just might, look into Islam?
A.: That makes sense, sir.
Q,: General, what do the officers and men, the soldiers and Marines, learn about Islam? What are they taught at Fort Jackson and Fort Bragg and Fort Benning before they are in country?
A.: I don’t know, Sir.
Q.: You don’t know?
A.: No, sir.
Q.: Do you think you should find out? Do you think morale might improve, and effectiveness might improve, if the soldiers knew in advance what attitudes they would encounter, and where those attitudes come from?
A.: I don’t know, Sir. I’m not sure that the hostility that they encounter is something we should tell them about in advance. They may not necessarily encounter it. They may have their own experiences.
Q.: But that is the general experience, isn’t it?
A.: Yes, sir.
Q.: And many soldiers in Iraq have been quoted as saying they find the “Iraqi” soldiers and police untrustworthy, as well as unwilling to take the risks that American soldiers routinely take? Isn’t that true?
A.: Yes, sir. But that doesn’t prevent us from working with them, as in Anbar Province. The success we have had in Anbar Province has been quite remarkable, sir.
Q.: Isn’t that “success” really a function of the local Sunnis wanting American weapons and money – just the way people all over Iraq, including the Shi’a, have wanted to get their hands on American weapons and American money?
A.: To some extent, Sir.
Q.: And isn’t it also a function of the local Sunnis simply resenting the Al Qaeda people who have been so extreme in their behavior, so domineering, that they have made enemies of the Sunnis?
A.: Yes, sir, there is that.
Q.: So it is really no wonder that the local Sunnis would turn on Al Qaeda, which after all was killing anyone who did not follow their orders?
A.: No, sir.
Q.: Not quite a miracle after all. And even if a “miracle,” a purely local one, that has no relevance to other regions, to the Shi’a in Baghdad or in the entire south of Iraq, does it?
A.: That remains to be seen, Sir.
Q.: Does it? Does it remain to be seen by 160,000 American troops? Do they have to experience it for themselves, or can we use the past as any guide? Do we have any reason to think that the Sunnis who are now, as you put it, “working with us” in Anbar Province, will ever acquiesce in the new status of Sunnis in Iraq?
A.: Senator, I don’t think the Sunnis are happy, anywhere in Iraq, with what has happened to their power. Even those who hated Saddam Hussein now claim they miss him, they wish he would come back.
Q.: And do you trust those Sunnis to be allies of Americans, or rather, while they are willing to work with the Americans, do you think they could ever be permanent allies of the Americans?
A.: Sir, I’ve been so busy trying to accomplish the mission that I just haven’t given this thought. I use what I can. The Sunnis in Anbar help defeat Al Qaeda.
Q.: General, some people say that if the American forces withdraw from Iraq, it is dead certain that “Al Qaeda will take over.” President Bush has said as much. And then other people, with the same certainty, tell us that it is undeniable that if we leave then the Shi’a, along with Iran, will take over all of Iraq. The forces of Al Qaeda hate the Shi’a and call them “Rafidite dogs.” The members of Al Qaeda think the Shi’a are not only not real Muslims, but they also play on the notion that any Shi’a in Iraq cannot be a real Arab, must be a Persian. Isn’t that right?
A.: Something like that, Sir. I haven’t studied the matter very closely.
Q.: So how is it that either Iraq will be taken over, definitely, by Al Qaeda, or by its enemy, the Shi’a, backed by Shi’a Iran? Who’s right?
A.: I don’t know, Sir. I haven’t given it any thought.
Q.: No thought? No thought as to what might happen in Iraq if the Americans withdraw?
A.: No, sir. Except that it would result in a bad situation, with lots of instability and fighting.
Q.: Bad for whom, General?
A.: Well, instability is always bad for America, isn’t it?
Q.: Is it, General? Is instability within the Islamic world bad for us? Is open hostility within the Islamic world bad for us? Was the Iran-Iraq War “bad for us,” as you put it, General?
A.: Well, I don’t think that our oil supplies would be as secure.
Q.: General, do you know that during the Iran-Iraq War oil supplies were largely untouched, and the price of oil went down steadily from 1980 to 1988?
A.: No, Senator, I did not.
Q.: General, President Bush has often spoken of bringing “freedom” and “democracy” to -- and these are his words, not mine -- “ordinary moms and dads in the Middle East.” Have you ever had occasion to think about those words, and what Islam teaches about “freedom” and “democracy”?
A.: No, Senator, I have not.
Q.: So, would it or would not surprise you to learn that in Islam men are regarded as merely “slaves of Allah” who must fulfill his will, or endure without complaint even his whim, and that it is not right for mere mortals to think that they know best, and that they can vote in just any government or regime they want, but must always and everywhere do the bidding of Allah?
A.: Well, Senator, that’s a tough question. I just don’t know enough about Islam to comment on that. I do know that I’ve always been taught that the love of freedom is universal, that everyone has that love of freedom, and no one wants to be a slave of anything. That’s why my father fled the Netherlands, and brought his boat here. He didn’t want to live under the Nazi occupation. He loved freedom.
Q.: General, I think many people in the Western world, many people in Western Europe, many people in the Netherlands right now, are worried about whether or not they will live in freedom. But you know, they are worried about a different kind of occupation, a new threat to their freedom. And General, I don’t think we are going about it the right way. I don’t think Iraq is the place to be.
A.: Senator, I don’t know anything about what is going on in the Netherlands today, or the rest of Western Europe. I’m under CentCom.
Q.: General, as you know, the Shi’a Arabs are about 60-65% of the population. So in any “democracy” that we bring them, they are going to win the vote, win power, have the Shi’a rule. Isn’t that right?
A.: Well, I suppose if there is bloc voting you could say that. But if they vote for individuals, that wouldn’t necessarily happen.
Q.: Do you think that in Iraq most people vote as individuals, for individual candidates, and pay no attention to whether those candidates are Sunni Arabs, or Shi’a Arabs, or Kurds?
A.: Senator, during the elections in Iraq I was not part of the Observer Force. I had many other things to do, many other things on my mind. I’ve got a war to fight, I’ve got people to train.
Q.: General, I have some figures here. The war in Iraq has cost a certain amount to date. And there is more to come, even if we were to announce a total withdrawal tomorrow. There is the cost of bringing home all that equipment, for example. Isn’t that right?
A.: Assuming we do bring it all home, yes, Senator.
Q.: Do you think it makes sense to leave that equipment behind, General? Are you quite sure that the mutually hostile groups in Iraq won’t use that equipment in ways that we wouldn’t approve?
A.: No, Senator, I’m not.
Q.: General, on another question, could you tell us how keeping American troops in Iraq has an effect on the Jihad elsewhere in the world?
A.: Sorry, I’m not sure I understand the question.
Q.: Well, in 1970 there were 15,000 Muslims in the Netherlands. And now there are a million. And in some cities in Europe, or parts of the biggest cities, the police do not go, and non-Muslims feel unsafe. And everywhere there are mosques and madrasas going up.
A.: I’m still not sure I understand the question.
Q.: I would like you to tell us what the continued presence of American troops in Iraq, for another year, or another five years, or another ten years, would do to the instruments of Jihad to spread Islam around the world. For example, what effect those American forces would have on the spread of Islam all over the globe? And since Jihad to spread Islam, until it dominates everywhere, and Muslims everywhere rule, is a central duty in Islam, how does our being in Iraq help in the war of self-defense against the Jihad?
A.: Senator, I haven’t really given that much thought. I’ve been focused on the mission.
Q.: General, you have been following the news in Europe, haven’t you?
A.: Well, of course, sir, I try to stay informed.
Q.: And you know that all over the countries of Western Europe there is great alarm over what people have been discovering about the behavior, the attitudes, the beliefs, of their Muslim populations, and it seems the more they find out about Islam, the more worried they become. Are you aware of that?
A.: Well, Senator, not actually. In a general sort of way I know that immigrants always have a tough time adapting.
Q.: Do they now? Did your father, Sixtus Petraeus, have difficulty when he arrived in the United States in 1940, fleeing the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands -- did he have difficulty integrating into American society?
A.: No, Senator, he didn’t.
Q.: General Petraeus, is it possible that an ideology, that is a Total Belief-System, may in fact mold the worldview of those who are taught from infancy to believe in that Total System, and who learn almost nothing outside of what that Total System permits, and who grow up surrounded by family members and others who have never doubted, never been allowed even to be exposed to the doubts expressed by others, that Total System?
A.: I’m not much on ideology, Senator. I’m a kind of hands-on guy. I do my job. And my job is doing the very best I can as a member of the Armed Forces of the United States.
Q.: General, what constitutes fighting a war?
A.: Senator, I would say that what we are doing right now in Iraq constitutes fighting a war. Yes, in Iraq we are fighting a war.
Q.: A war against whom?
A.: Against the terrorists and those who would deliver Iraq over to the terrorists.
Q.: General, do you think Pakistan has been delivered over to the terrorists?
A.: I couldn’t say, Senator.
Q.: What about Saudi Arabia? Has Saudi Arabia been delivered over to the terrorists?
A.: As I understand it, Senator, the Saudis have been doing their utmost to de-program their own homegrown Al Qaeda members -- and we can learn from them.
Q.: Can we? Are you quite sure? And do you know how Saudi Arabia has spent some one hundred billion dollars spreading Islam throughout the Western world?
A.: No, I’m not familiar with Saudi finances, sir. I concentrate on the military aspect of things.
Q.: General, can you tell us why we are in Iraq?
A.: Well, let me put it this way. I am in Iraq to accomplish the mission. I haven’t given much thought as to larger questions. I have a job to do and I am giving it the very best I can.
Q.: I think that about sums it up. This session is adjourned.
Pennsylvania election officials say they are not planning to investigate the extraordinary turnout and vote totals that President Obama garnered from parts of Philadelphia last Tuesday.
"In a presidential election year, there are times where you get extremely high turnout," said Ron Ruman, press secretary for Pennsylvania's Department of State, in a telephone interview with Fox News. "We would investigate if we thought there was something shady going on. But at this point, we have no reason to think that."
Ruman's comments came as Philadelphia news outlets and election analysts have flagged the near-unanimity with which the Obama-Biden ticket swept pockets of the City of Brotherly Love. As the Philadelphia Inquirer first reported last week, six of Philadelphia's 66 wards handed the president victory shares of 99 percent or better. In 20 of the wards, the Obama vote totals exceeded 97 percent.
On Monday, the Inquirer reported that in 59 of Philadelphia's "divisions" -- these are subsets of wards, wherein fewer than 1,000 people might be registered to vote -- GOP nominee Mitt Romney failed to win even a single vote. Collectively, the votes for Obama across these divisions added up to 19,605, to Romney's zero.
"I don't find it hard to believe that there are neighborhoods in the United States where President Obama got 97 to 99 percent of the vote -- basically all African-Americans," said Michael Barone, a Fox News contributor who is the longtime editor of The Almanac of American Politics. "There are such neighborhoods, and you can see them in central-city, black ghetto (areas)."
However, Barone noted that turnout rates in these areas was sometimes reported to have exceeded 90 percent, a level of enthusiasm that he said should arouse suspicion. "Philadelphia's been a place that's had some pretty irregular election procedures in the past," he said.
State Rep. Sam Smith, the Republican from the 66th District who serves as speaker of the Pennsylvania House, called the results "questionable." "In some precincts in Philadelphia, I think you're going to see, as they finish the official count, places where there are more people voting in a precinct than actually signed in at the poll book," Smith told Fox News.
Asked what gave him that idea, Smith cited the electoral history of the city and said he thought it would be "predictive" this time around, as well.
Former U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, a Democrat whose congressional district abutted Philadelphia, said he has seen firsthand the "machine" at work in the city's politics, but he did not question the president's vote totals.
"The polling across the nation showed that the African-American community was supporting the president by about 98, 99 percent," Sestak told Fox News. "I think the people voted the way they believe in."
A Fox News analysis found that in some inner-city areas of Illinois, the vote totals for the president more or less matched those seen in Philadelphia.
In 10 of Chicago's 50 wards, for example, the Obama-Biden ticket captured 98 percent of the vote or more. In six of those wards, the figure climbed to 99 percent.
Kahlili: Iran rejects Hotline Request following Attack on US Spy Drone
When the Iranian Revolutionary Guards naval units engaged in a provocative confrontation with US Naval units in 2011 in the Persian Gulf, the Obama Administration requested establishment of a hotline to avoid triggering a conflict. That was rejected by the Islamic Republic. Reza-Khalili reports in a World Net Daily article that following the recent attack on a US drone over the Persian Gulf that, the Obama Administration repeated its request for a hotline, only to have it rejected as a sign of weakness. A Reuters report further suggests that the MQ-1 Predator drone, attacked by two aging Iranian Soviet built Sukhoi -25s, may have collecting information on Tanker traffic at Kharg Island:
Iran believes a US drone targeted by its forces this month was gathering intelligence on oil tankers off its shores, an Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander told the semi-official Mehr news agency today.
Washington said Iranian warplanes opened fire on an unarmed US drone over international waters on November 1.
Iran said it had repelled an aircraft violating its airspace.
The incident underlined the risk of escalation in tensions between the United States and Iran in an ongoing dispute over Tehran's nuclear programme.
'The drone was flying near Kharg Island and our understanding is that ... it was gathering economic information and intelligence on Kharg Island and oil tankers (in the area),' Amir Ali Hajizadeh, a brigadier general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, was quoted as saying by Mehr.
Facilities on Kharg Island handle most of Iran's crude oil exports.
'The Islamic Republic of Iran has some red lines that the Americans should understand and respect. If this is repeated, we will definitely react,' he added
“The U.S. had requested Iran set up a direct hotline, and Iran rejected the request,” Maj. Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, a senior military aide to the supreme leader, said Sunday, according to Fars News Agency, a media outlet run by the Revolutionary Guards.
Kahlili further noted the comments of a Revolutionary Guards officer in their aerospace division:
“This (drone) shooting was a warning to America,” Brig. Gen.Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the Guards aerospace division, added Sunday.
“We will not undercut the defense of our national security, and if in the future the enemy crosses our red line and repeats this incident, we will respond in harsher measures,” he told Sepah news, the official site of the Revolutionary Guards.
A more ominous warning about further confrontations was contained in an official analysis of the drone incident was posted on Irannuc.ir,. Kahlili’s conclusions were:
First, this incident demonstrates that the Islamic republic has not counted out a military confrontation with America, the opposite of what the American leadership believes – that Iran won’t look for a confrontation and actually is avoiding such, and its rhetoric is a bluff. According to Iranian military analysts, however, this incident shows that the Islamic republic has the capability to win an asymmetrical war against the U.S. using its own tactics and military capabilities despite U.S. military superiority.
Second, America reacted to the incident cautiously, not militarily, diplomatically or even publicly, in its one public statement. The lack of action in the view of Iranian military analysts means that America is in no way looking for a confrontation with the Islamic republic and in fact has such confrontation as its red line. Therefore, it’s only natural that the Islamic republic is aware of this limited U.S. strategy and will benefit from it.
Lastly, the Islamic republic has decided to respond to U.S. and Israeli actions in Syria and Sudan by showing its capability in confronting the U.S. at its borders, and this, according to its military analysts, will create a tactical deterrence.