Please Help New English Review
For our donors from the UK:
New English Review
New English Review Facebook Group
Follow New English Review On Twitter
Recent Publications by New English Review Authors
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
by Emmet Scott
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
The Literary Culture of France
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
The West Speaks
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:
by Theodore Dalrymple
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 Thursday, 12, 2011.
Thursday, 12 May 2011
Arab Spring (Egypt Division)

From The New York Times:

Crime Wave in Egypt Has People Afraid, Even the Police

CAIRO — The neighbors watched helplessly from behind locked doors as an exchange of gunfire rang out at the police station. Then a stream of about 80 prisoners burst through the doors — some clad only in underwear, many brandishing guns, machetes, even a fire extinguisher — as the police fled.

“The police are afraid,” said Mohamed Ismail, 30, a witness. “I am afraid to leave my neighborhood.”

Three months after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, a surging crime wave in post-revolutionary Egypt has emerged as a serious threat to its promised transition to democracy. Businessmen, politicians and human rights activists say they fear that the mounting disorder — from sectarian strife to soccer riots — is hampering a desperately needed economic recovery or, worse, inviting a new authoritarian crackdown.

At least five attempted jailbreaks have been reported in Cairo in the past two weeks, at least three of them successful. Other similar attempts take place “every day,” a senior Interior Ministry official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk publicly.

And newspapers brim with other lurid episodes: the Muslim-Christian riot that raged last weekend with the police on the scene, leaving 12 dead and two churches in flames; a kidnapping for ransom of a grandniece of President Anwar el-Sadat; soccer fans who crashed a field and mauled an opposing team as the police disappeared; a mob attack in an upscale suburb, Maadi, that sent a traffic police officer to the hospital; and the abduction of another officer by Bedouin tribes in the Sinai.

“Things are actually going from bad to worse,” said Mohamed ElBaradei, the former international atomic energy official who is now a presidential candidate. “Where have the police and military gone?”

The answer, in part, is the legacy of the revolution: Public fury at police abuses helped set off the protests, which destroyed many police stations. Now police officers who knew only swagger and brutality are humbled and demoralized.

In an effort to restore confidence after the sectarian riot last weekend, the military council governing the country until elections scheduled for September announced that 190 people involved would be sent to military court, alarming a coalition of human rights advocates.

Prime Minister Essam Sharaf emerged from an emergency cabinet meeting to reiterate a pledge he had made before the riots: that the government backs the police in using all legal procedures, “including the use of force,” to defend themselves, their police stations, or places of worship.

It was an extraordinary statement for a prime minister, in part because the police were already expected to do just that. “This may be the first time a government ever had to say that it was fully supporting its police,” said Bahey el-din Hassan, director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies. “It is an indication of the seriousness of the problem.”

Many Egyptians, including at least one former police officer, contend that the Egyptian police learned only one way to fight crime: terrorizing suspects.

Now police officers see their former leader, Interior Minister Habib el-Adly, serving a 12-year prison sentence for corruption and facing another trial for charges of unlawful killing. Scores of officers are in jail for their role in repressing the protests.

They were arrogant, and they treated people like pests, so imagine when these pests now rise up, challenge them and humiliate them,” said Mahmoud Qutri, a former Egyptian police officer who wrote a book criticizing the force.

“They feel broken.”

Mr. Hassan, who has spent his career criticizing the police, said he sympathized. Police officers who fought to defend their stations from protesters are in jail, while those who went home to bed are not facing any trial, he said.

“So the police are asking, ‘What is expected of us?’ It is a very logical question, and the problem is they don’t have an answer,” he said, blaming higher authorities.

Shopkeepers say the police used to swagger into their stores bluntly demanding goods for just half the price. Now, Mr. Ismail said, the witness to the jailbreak at the police station, the officers who come into his cellphone shop murmur “please” and put the full price on the counter. “The tables have turned,” he said.

The change in public attitudes is equally stunning, said Hisham A. Fahmy, chief executive of the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt. “It’s: ‘Talk to me properly! I am a citizen!’ ”

The spike in crime is a remarkable contrast to life under the Mubarak police state, when violent street crime was a relative rarity and few feared to walk alone at night. “Now it is like New York,” said Mr. Fahmy, adding that his group, which advocates for international companies, had been urging military leaders to respond more vigorously.

At a recent soccer match pitting a Cairo team against a Tunisian team, a cordon of police ringed the field until a referee made a call against an Egyptian goalie. Then the police seemed to vanish as a mob of fans assaulted the referee and the visiting team. Five players were injured, two of them hospitalized, and the referee fled the scene.

“When the violence erupted, the police just disappeared,” said Mourad Teyeb, a Tunisian journalist who covered the game. The one policeman he found told him, “I don’t care, I don’t assume any responsibility,” Mr. Teyeb said, adding that he feared for his life until he found refuge hiding in the Egyptian team’s dressing room.

Some see a reactionary conspiracy. “I think it is deliberate,” said Dr. Shady al-Ghazaly Harb, another organizer of the Tahrir Square protests, contending that officials were pulling back in order to invite chaos and a crackdown. “I think there are bigger masterminds at work.”

Officials of the Interior Ministry, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the security situation, said the destruction of police stations during the revolution had contributed to the disorder. The remaining stations are overcrowded with prisoners from other facilities. Of the 80 prisoners who escaped in Shobra, 60 have been recaptured, an officer said.

Mansour el-Essawy, the new interior minister, has called the lawlessness an inevitable legacy of the revolution. Of the 24,000 prisoners who escaped during the revolution, 8,400 are still on the run, and 6,600 weapons stolen from government armories have not been recovered, Mr. Essawy said in a recent interview with an Egyptian newspaper, Al Masry Al Youm.

After the revolution, he said, the police justifiably complained of working 16- hour shifts for low pay. Bribery customarily made up for the low compensation, critics say. So the ministry cut back the officers’ hours, and as a result also cut back the number on duty at any time. And the sudden loss of prestige made it harder to recruit. “People are not stepping forward to join the police,” he complained.

Posted on 05/12/2011 2:52 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 12 May 2011
Muslims in Wales - similar trend to England

A fifth of people in Wales live in poverty because of their social background, claims a new report.

Research for the Equality and Human Rights Commission shows gender, disability and ethnicity all contribute to achievements at school and work.

The study says Muslim men are 50% less likely to be in work than Christian men, while 76% of Muslim women are less likely to be in work.

The Welsh Assembly Government will not comment until it has seen the report.

Posted on 05/12/2011 3:32 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Thursday, 12 May 2011
Eastleigh – Kenya’s Battleground to Fight Radical Islam

From International Christian Concern

Eastleigh is a suburb of Kenya’s capital city Nairobi which was allotted to Asian and African elites before the country’s independence in 1963. Now, the dingy district consists of thousands of Somali immigrants, most of whom are refugees. While Somalis outside of Kenya may find it difficult to identify Nairobi on a map, Eastleigh on the other hand is widely known and often considered a Somali home-away-from-home, or a ‘little Mogadishu.’ The impoverished community has become a recruiting ground for providing dispensable bodies to fight for the reign of Somali warlords or militant Islamic groups.

Those who kill people in Somalia are also here – scattered all over the place,” said a Muslim sheikh. This is the hotspot of Somali fundamentalism…. They are recruiting right here in Nairobi.”

Eastleigh has become a port through which Somali insurgents – like U.S.-labelled terrorist faction Al Shabab – raise money and recruit fighters. Hard-liners push a strict interpretation of Islam in Eastleigh’s mosques and madrassas. My teachers tell us al-Shabab is fighting for our religion and for our country,” said 11-year-old Ahmed Awil. Sometimes they ask us if we would like to go [to Somalia] and fight.”

According to unconfirmed statistics gathered by the Institute for Security Studies in Kenya, one in every ten refugees crossing the border from Somalia into Kenya is a member of Al Shabab, . . .  From Eastleigh, Al Shabab reportedly treats its wounded and runs madrassas, from which children often disappear.

Christianity has also been threatened in Eastleigh.  Imam Hussein, a Christian convert and an Ethiopian refugee who came to Eastleigh after fleeing persecution in his home town, worships with several other believers in secret underground services. According to Hussein, there is only one church building that remains in Eastleigh, even though Kenya is still considered a predominantly Christian country.

Ask any Kenyan what has happened to the church across the street. It used to be the largest in Eastleigh,” said Hussein. Three shopkeepers told me the church was bought out by Somalis. “They’re building a mall in its place.”

It struck me as odd that poor Somali immigrants could afford to buy property and then bulldoze the building to the ground, but the reality is that many Somalis come to the country not as poor refugees but with thousands of dollars acquired by piracy.

This is not only pirate money, but this is also religious money, Islamic money. Yesterday they start some building, after one month, maybe two months, you cannot imagine, the house is complete in a very unique way, like you are in Dubai. Most of them are refugees, how can they afford that? This money is a dream.”

Hussein had studied under the mujahedeen (holy warriors) in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan before converting to Christianity. He had been told to return to Africa to preach extremist ideology to impoverished communities like Eastleigh.

If you have studied the Quran, you must be a leader and you must be in the field preaching Allah. There are two kinds of fields. If you are chosen in the field of jihad, you sacrifice yourself dying in jihad. If you are in the field of Imam [an Islamic preacher], you’re supposed to follow the regulations of Sharia. . . They give you a lot of money,” Hussein said in explaining how the spread of radical Islam, like what is seen in Eastleigh, is funded.

If you’re approached by a Somali offering you twice the amount your home is worth, you had better sell or else,” a missionary in Nairobi told ICC. It’s dangerous for them to hold onto the money, so Somalis come to Nairobi and invest in property and housing.”

Eastleigh is not an anomaly, but an example of successful implementation of Saudi strategies to expand the rule of Islam and Islamic law into impoverished communities. Without immediate intervention, Eastleigh, and countless other communities in Africa and the Middle East will fall prey to this radical agenda and experience the same decay that has characterized life in Somalia.

Posted on 05/12/2011 3:44 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Thursday, 12 May 2011
In Syria, The Alawites Hold On -- But This Internal War Has No End
From The New York Times:
May 12, 2011

In Syria, a Tense Calm After Shelling and Gunfire

BEIRUT , Lebanon — A day after the Syrian military intensified a methodical, ferocious march across the country’s most restive locales, residents and activists reported a tense calm in many places Thursday, 24 hours before the opposition’s ability to muster protest in the streets is tested again after Friday prayers.

In what has emerged as one of the most brutal waves of repression since the Arab Spring began, the Syrian military shelled Homs, the country’s third-largest city from tanks on Wednesday, forcing hundreds to flee and detaining hundreds more.

The military said on Thursday that it had ended what it called military operations in Homs, and residents reported that 10 tanks had withdrawn from the hardest-hit neighborhood, Bab Amr. After a day of shelling and gunfire, and sporadic shots heard before dawn, the area was relatively quiet, a resident there, Abu Haydar, said by telephone.

“Most of the people have left Bab Amr,” he said. “It’s too dangerous.”

In Baniyas, a city on the coast that was besieged this week, a tense calm persisted. A resident, Abu Obada, said by phone that security forces had urged residents to reopen their shops, but many were reluctant. Schools and government offices remained closed, he said. In a nearby town, Bayda, residents were asked to sign pledges promising not to take part in protests, which have gathered across the country on successive Friday.

“Some of them signed,” he said. “Others were too scared to go and sign.”

So far, the military has entered in force three large towns — Homs, Baniyas and Dara’a — with other assaults reported on towns near Dara’a and in the countryside around Baniyas.

“It’s very hard to have new protests in Baniyas,” Abu Obada said. “The army’s still deployed in the center of the city where people used to gather.”

A small protest was reported Wednesday night at the university in Aleppo, Syria’s second-largest city and a locale that has remained relatively quiet so far. The government has sought to forcefully keep campuses quiet in both Aleppo and Damascus, the capital.

“Students can really light a match,” an American official said in Washington. “They haven’t yet, but it’s something definitely to keep a close eye on.”

On Wednesday, dozens of tanks occupied Homs, as black-clad security forces, soldiers and militiamen in plain clothes filtered through the industrial city of 1.5 million people. At least 19 people were killed there Wednesday, human rights groups said.

The crackdown in some neighborhoods alternated with the relative calm in the center of a city that is home to a Sunni Muslim majority and a Christian minority.

“We see the smoke rising in the sky after we hear the shells explode,” said Mr. Haydar. “The sky was pretty quickly covered in smoke.”

In public statements and interviews, the government has acknowledged the crackdown, describing the military’s targets as militant Islamists and saboteurs. It said nearly 100 soldiers and members of the security forces had been killed, and American officials say that some protesters have indeed taken up arms.

In Washington, two Obama administration officials said that the United States still did not see a clear or organized opposition or another leader in Syria who could serve to unite the foes of the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

One administration official said that some national security officials were hoping that even if Mr. Assad stayed in power, he would move away from the alliance with Iran because so many of the Sunni protesters wanted to see an end to that alliance. “There are some who think that because of that, Assad would have to back away,” the official said.

But he said the administration remained divided about whether Mr. Assad would actually make a break from Iran.

The Syrian news agency, which has portrayed the crackdown as the response to an armed uprising, said two soldiers were killed and nine were wounded in Homs and Dara’a.

But the sheer scope of the crackdown — along a crescent that runs from the coast to the border with Jordan — suggests a leadership willing to bring to bear the full force of its feared security forces, as it tries to navigate perhaps the greatest challenge to four decades of rule by the Assad family. In the past week, the government has sought to prove it has the upper hand in a conflict that has rivaled the bloodshed in Libya, now mired in what resembles a civil war.

An economy that the government has sought to modernize is reeling from the unrest, residents say, and critics warn that the government is sowing the seeds for more violence with the breadth of the killings, detentions and torture it has administered.

“The only exit the regime is offering right now is to restore the wall of fear and turn Syria into a very backward society through methods which would make it impossible for the regime to open the political system in any meaningful way,” a Damascus-based analyst said on the condition of anonymity, given the danger of the situation there.

Though the Syrian government said it had formed a commission Wednesday to draft a new law to govern general elections, critics called it a largely cosmetic step by a government in survival mode, hewing to its own logic that it must provide an exit from the crisis to sustain its support among minorities, the middle class and the business elite.

“Can the regime bring this to a close?” the analyst asked. “That’s the urgency felt by forces within the regime right now. They can’t afford financially for this crisis to last much longer. That’s why they’re hitting very hard right now to make sure the protests aren’t an issue, to bully them into staying home and to restore the wall of fear.” To do so, he said, would require even more “extreme and, most importantly, arbitrary kinds of violence.”

The shelling in Homs singled out two neighborhoods, Bab Amr and Aldubiyeh, both of which have witnessed persistent protests against the 11-year rule of Mr. Assad. Checkpoints proliferated across the city, and hundreds of residents were said to be fleeing.

Residents in Homs said that the shelling was most intense between 5 and 7 a.m. and that no one was allowed in or out of the neighborhoods, not even to collect bodies. Pharmacies and grocery stores were the only shops open there. Activists said ambulances were banned from entering, forcing people to treat the wounded in their homes.

One resident quoted neighbors as saying that they saw two helicopters join the assault.

Wissam Tarif, executive director of Insan, a Syrian human rights group, said 500 people were detained there in the past 36 hours, and residents reported that many of them were being held in a soccer stadium and a school in the city.

“It is one of the worst days,” Mr. Tarif said. “They’re taking everyone, basically.”

Abu Omar, a resident who fled Wednesday across the Syria-Lebanon border, painted a portrait of some neighborhoods in a state of terror, administered by the security forces and plainclothes militiamen wearing bracelets to identify themselves. He said that they had lists of people who had taken part in the protests and that they were going house to house to detain them.

“It’s misery there,” he said. “Many houses were wrecked, especially those that belonged to people who participated in the demonstrations. They’re taking revenge.”

By nightfall, Syrian television declared the operations in Homs over and, on the news scroll, said that residents had showered soldiers “with roses and rice.”

The military also deployed tanks in Hara, a town near Dara’a where demonstrations galvanized the unrest in mid-March. Mr. Tarif’s group said eight people had been killed there and many had been wounded, though he had no precise number.

At least 360 people were reported to have been detained in Maadamiya and other towns on the outskirts of Damascus, joining an estimated 10,000 still in custody.

When they go back to normalization — and they’re not thinking about it yet — can they leave the army and the security forces in the streets forever?” Mr. Tarif asked. “The minute they pull back, people are going to go back into the streets.”

This will eventually explode again,” he added.

In Egypt and Tunisia, where the speed of revolutions contrasts with the bloody, protracted struggles in Bahrain, Yemen, Libya and Syria, the military proved decisive as an institution that could navigate a transition. Despite persistent reports of low-level defections among conscripts, Syria’s elite units appear to have remained loyal.

In Egypt, the military was semi-independent from the regime,” said Nahed Hattar, a Jordanian political analyst in Amman. “In Syria, it is the regime.”

Posted on 05/12/2011 6:49 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 12 May 2011
Geert Wilders in Nashville

             Rebecca Bynum, Geert Wilders, Kaye Doughty and Jerry Gordon

Last night we had a lovely dinner at a private home. Mr. Wilders is delightful in person. The Baron Bodissey was there as was Sam Solomon, Janet Levy, Bill Warner and many others. Tonight Mr. Wilders will address a much larger audience at Cornerstone Church in Madison thanks to the newly formed Tennessee Freedom Coalition.


Thursday, May 12th 7 PM
Cornerstone Church
726 West Old Hickory Blvd. Madison, TN

Posted on 05/12/2011 7:08 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Thursday, 12 May 2011
A Musical Interlude: Pink Shoelaces (Dodie Stevens)

Listen here.

Posted on 05/12/2011 8:44 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 12 May 2011
Barack Obama's step-grandmother under police protection

Barack Obama’s step-grandmother is being protected by police in Kenya after her life was threatened by al-Qaeda terrorists in Africa.

Security is said to have been enhanced in response to a specific threat from Al Shabaab, the Somalian branch of al-Qaeda, following the death of Osama bin Laden.

“We received reports of plans to attack the home of Mama Sarah Obama (the third wife of Mr Obama’s paternal grandfather) and we immediately put in place adequate security measures,” Stephen Cheteka, the local police chief, told Africa Review.

Fears for Mrs Obama are thought to have further increased in the 10 days since bin Laden’s assassination, prompting a steadily rising number of officers at the property.

Mrs Obama, whose full name is Sarah Anyango Obama, is believed to have been born in 1922, and is known by the president as Granny Sarah. She is a non-practicing Muslim. I don't know how non-practicing a woman who goes on haji and prays that her husband's grandson will embrace Islam actually is.

Posted on 05/12/2011 10:20 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwaxe
Thursday, 12 May 2011
'I'm gonna send that kaffir bitch straight to hell.'

Laura Wilson, 17, had a brief relationship with Ishaq Hussain, 22, who lived close to her before giving birth to their daughter in June last year.

Sheffield Crown Court was told that Hussain failed to acknowledge the child as his own and did not offer any support, leading to friction between Laura, her family and Hussain.Things came to a head last October when she went to Hussain's house and told his family he was the father of the child, prosecutor Nicholas Campbell QC said.

Hussain and his friend, who also had an affair with her and was said to be her first love. They sent a flurry of text messages to one another. Asghar allegedly sent a text message to Hussain which said: 'I'm gonna send that kaffir bitch straight to hell.'

Mr Campbell said Asghar sent text messages to the friend using words to the effect of 'I'm going to kill Laura.' 'She was a loose cannon and they had to get rid of her,' he said.

Hussain, of Ferham Road, Rotherham, and Ashtiaq Asghar, also from Rotherham, deny murdering Miss Wilson some time between October 8 and October 11 last year. The teenage student went missing from her home in Holmes and her body was found two days later in a canal. Mr Campbell told the jury: 'The two defendants are jointly responsible for her murder.'

Laura . . .  went to see the Asghar and Hussain families to tell all. Laura told Asghar's mother she loved her son and 'wanted to have babies' by him but the mother became angry and hit Laura with a shoe. She said he would never have a baby with a white girl and called her 'a dirty white bitch who opens her legs.' Laura then saw Hussains's family and told them she had give birth to his baby.

'Her actions that night brought the truth to both of their front doors,' said Mr Campbell. After that Hussain and Asghar spent more and more time together. Text messages recovered later showed they even talked about getting a gun.

In the language of the film Asghar said: 'I will make a show and make some beans on toast' - a reference to the carnage after a bomb blast, said Mr Campbell.

It was clear the references to 'unbelieving kaffir b*****ds' referred to the 'mission' to kill Laura. The hearing continues.

Posted on 05/12/2011 11:05 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Thursday, 12 May 2011
Muslim Inferiority Complex Is Not Just A Complex

Translated, abridged and introduced by Raymond Ibrahim

What if an entire civilization developed an inferiority complex? What ramifications would that have on the rest of the world? How would such paranoia play itself out in the interaction of civilizations?

An Arabic op-ed entitled "The Broder Dilemma and Inferiority Complex," written by the Muslim intellectual Khaled Montaser late last year, and translated below, portrays the Muslim world as suffering from just such an inferiority complex.

We Muslims have an inferiority complex and are terribly sensitive to the world, feeling that our Islamic religion needs constant, practically daily, confirmation by way of Europeans and Americans converting to Islam. What rapturous joy takes us when a European or American announces [their conversion to] Islam—proof that we are in a constant state of fear, alarm, and chronic anticipation for Western validation or American confirmation that our religion is "okay." We are hostages of this anticipation, as if our victory hinges on it—forgetting that true victory is for us to create or to accomplish something, such as those [civilizations] that these converts to our faith abandon. [and the list of "famous converts" turns out to be a tiny group of cranks and crazies, or opportunists looking for Muslim financial support. Think of

And we pound our drums and blow our horns [in triumph] and drag the convert to our backwardness, so that he may stand with us at the back of the world's line of laziness, [in the Muslim world] wherein no new scientific inventions have appeared in the last 500 years. Sometimes those who convert relocate to our countries—only to get on a small boat and escape on the high seas back to their own countries. [but what this writer cannot dare to allow himself to say, much less to think, is that Muslim backwardness is a result of Islam itself, a result of regarding people as "slaves of Allah" who ideally will acquire a permanent habit of mental submission, who will shy away from free and skeptical inquiry (because that threatens their belief in the mumbo-jumbo of Islam, but the consequences for these adherents of Islam go beyond possible questioning of Islam]

The dilemma which we Muslims imbibed from one end of the earth to the other—by way of our sons, our intellectuals, our youth, our elders, our men and our women—regards the German writer Henryk Broder. We celebrated him through our media and Internet sites, saying that he had converted to Islam, because he said "I have been saved from misguidance and have come to know the truth, returning to my natural state [fitriti, i.e., Islam]." Our writers and intellectuals portrayed Broder's statement as a slap to Germany's face, since he was one of the most critical opponents of Islam, but now he had announced his repentance.

Then the truth was immediately revealed and the embarrassing predicament which we imbibed of our own free will: for Broder is not to blame; he merely wrote a sarcastic article—but we are a people incapable of comprehending sarcasm, since it requires a bit of thinking and intellectualizing. And we read with great speed and a hopeful eye, not an eye for truth or reality. Some of us are struck with blindness when we read things that go against our hopes.

We actually imagined that the man was speaking truthfully and sincerely! Thus we drank from the bitter cup of failure and shame, products of our chronic ignorance and contemptuous feelings of inferiority and detestability.

[Translator's note: many popular Arabic/Muslim websites—including Al-Islam Al-Youm (Islam Today) Al-Sharuk News, Al-Moheet—continue to gloat under headlines like "Famous German embraces Islam after his long struggle against it."]

How come the Buddhists don't hold the festivities we do for those who convert to their religion? And some of these converts are much more famous than Broder. Did you know that Richard Gere, Steven Seagal, Harrison Ford—among Hollywood's most famous actors—converted to Buddhism? What did the Buddhist countries of Asia do regarding these celebrities? What did the Buddhists in China and Japan do?

Did they dance and sing praise and march out in the streets, or did they accept these people's entrance into Buddhism as a mere matter of free conviction? When Tiger Woods, the most famous golf player and richest athlete in the world, discussed his acceptance of Buddhism, did China grant him citizenship, or did Japan pour its wealth on him? No, being self-confident, they treated him with equality, not servility.

It is sufficient for the Buddhists that these celebrities purchase their nations' electronic goods—without any beggary or enticements.

Posted on 05/12/2011 11:40 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 12 May 2011
Lawrence Wright's Bizarre Argument On Why Aid To Pakistan Hasn't Worked As Planned

Ignorant of Islam, Lawrence Wright presents at the beginning of his article a bizarre view as to why Pakistan, given American aid for so many years, is a mess, and India, which was not given such aid, has done much better. He ignores completely the role of Islam in encouraging despotism, discouraging democracy, and acting as a permanent brake on economic development. But that's okay, I suppose, because one hardly expects him to do better, or The New Yorker, which has been publishing nonsense about Islam, including a preposterous piece by John Cassidy in January about how Islam supposedly has nothing to do with the economic backwardness of Muslim states.

But let's be grateful for one thing. Wright, wrong as he is in his search for an explanation, and preposterous as is his asrgument against aid for Pakistan because, you see, such aid is actually -- in Wright's view -- bad for Pakistan, because what other possible reason could there be (if you ignore Islam) than all that American aid, which made the Pakistanis dependent, and thus deprived them of the need and desire to strive, as apparently poverty-stricken aid-less India possessed.

 When Wright leaves the subject of comparing Indian and Pakistani economic development, however, he is good on the subject of Pakistani generals and their bottomless meretriciousness. And the argument, for those who believe in such things as "the Arab Spring," that aid to the Pakistani army gives it too much power, and that the Pakistanis have a stake in not finding or ending the "terrorist threat" because then American aid will come to an end, and they want that aid to go on forever, is not the best argument for cutting such aid, but it is the kind of argument that those who do not understand the better argument - that all Infidel aid to Muslim states should be cut, so that they will have to suffer the consequences, and ultimately recognize the sources, of their own many failures, political, economic, social, intellectual, and moral, and the best way to do that is to stop bailing them out, stop saving Muslims from the consequences of Islam.

Here's Wright's New Yorker piece.

And if you want the most useful paragraph in the piece, here it is, lazybones:

"Not only has American military aid been wasted, misused, and turned against us; it may well have undermined the Pakistani military, which has feasted on huge donations but is far weaker than its nemesis, the Indian military. If the measure of our aid is the gratitude of the Pakistani people and the loyalty of their government, then it has clearly been a failure. Last year, a Pew Research Center survey found that half of Pakistanis believe that the U.S. gives little or no assistance at all. Even the Finance Minister, Hafiz Shaikh, said last month that it was “largely a myth” that the U.S. had given tens of billions of dollars to Pakistan. And if the measure of our aid is Pakistan’s internal security, the program has fallen short in that respect as well. Pakistan is endangered not by India, as the government believes, but by the very radical movements that the military helped create to act as terrorist proxies."

Posted on 05/12/2011 12:07 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 12 May 2011
Mehr Lichtenberg

Every astronaut dreams of coming down to earth.

Posted on 05/12/2011 1:33 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 12 May 2011
Musharraf Admits That "Rogue" Elements In Military May Have Protected Bin Laden

Osama bin Laden dead: Gen Pervez Musharraf admits 'rogue elements' may have helped bin Laden

Gen Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's former military ruler has admitted that rogue elements of the country's intelligence service may have helped Osama bin Laden evade justice for years before he was shot dead by a US Navy Seals team.

Gen Pervez Musharraf
Gen Pervez Musharraf's comments will reignite suspicions of a 'shadow' element operating within the ISI Photo: REUTERS

President Barack Obama has already demanded to know whether government or military officials knew of the al-Qaeda leader's presence in Pakistan.

Now, in the first high-level admission that bin Laden may have had a support network within the Pakistani military establishment, Mr Musharraf said: "As a policy, the army and the ISI are fighting terrorism and extremism, al-Qaeda, and the Taliban. A rogue element within is a possibility." His comments will reignite suspicions of a "shadow" element operating within the military's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate to further the cause of Islamic extremists.

The links date back to the 1980s when Pakistani officers channelled arms to Jihadi groups battling Soviet forces in Afghanistan and continued as Islamabad armed militant groups to take on Indian troops in Kashmir. [the "links" go back far far before that, to when the texts of Qur'an and Hadith and Sira were written and interpreted so that no further interpretation was desired or necessary, and the gates of Ijtihad slammed shut. The "links" are those which connect all those who take Islam to heart, as do so many members of the Pakistan military, and all the members of Al Qaeda, among other groups pursuing Jihad through immediate violent means]

American officials have been convinced of the existence of a "rogue" ISI of "retired and semi-retired" agents since the July 2008 suicide attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul, which killed 58 people.

They intercepted telephone conversations which convinced them that ISI figures had played a key role. At the time one senior US diplomat said then military ruler General Musharraf "simply cannot rein them in, he has no control over them." Pakistani officials denied the claims.

Posted on 05/12/2011 3:30 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 12 May 2011
Everywhere In Europe, The Consequences Of Everyone Becoming Fed Up With Unchecked Muslim Immigration

From The Telegraph:

The Left Is In Meltdown All Over Europe

by Toby Young

Even young people are drifting Right.

Tempting though it is to blame Ed Miliband for Labour’s poor performance in the local and regional elections, I doubt Labour would have fared much better under another leader. As David Goodhart pointed out in The Independent, Labour’s success has traditionally been dependent on an alliance between the traditional working-class and middle-class liberals and that coalition has now collapsed:

Labour has lost around 4 million working-class voters since 1997, and at the last general election, for the first time, Labour’s middle-class vote (in the ABC1 sense) was higher than its working-class (C2DE) vote. To win an election, Labour needs to win back lots of those blue-collar voters; the trouble is that Labour’s middle-class voters, especially the liberal graduates among them, have increasingly divergent values and interests.

The draining away of working-class support isn’t a problem confined to the Labour Party. Left-wing parties all over Europe are facing similar difficulties. Labour was punished by the British electorate last year, polling its lowest share of the vote since 1983, but not as severely as the Social Democrats were by the Swedes, polling their lowest share of the vote since universal suffrage was introduced in 1921. This was the first time in the Social Democrats’ history that it lost two elections in a row. Only 22 per cent of those Swedes in work voted Social Democrat in 2010, a number that fell to 13 per cent in the Stockholm region.

The same picture emerges wherever you look. In the European election in June, 2009, the Left took a hammering. In Germany, the Social Democrats polled just 20 per cent of the vote, their worst result since the Second World War. In France, the Socialist Party only mustered 16.5 per cent, its lowest share of the vote in a European election since 1994. In Italy, the Democrats polled 26.1 per cent, seven percentage points less than they received at the last Italian election. As David Miliband pointed out in a recent lecture: “Left parties are losing elections more comprehensively than ever before. They are fragmenting at just the time the Right is uniting. I don’t believe this is some kind of accident.”

So what are the causes of this meltdown? It’s particularly baffling given that the whole of Europe was adversely affected by the recent problems afflicting the international banking system. One of the reasons socialists believe history is on their side is because they think capitalism is inherently unstable, lurching from one crisis to another. Yet the financial crisis of 2007-08 has sent voters scurrying towards the Right, not the Left. What’s going on?

The obvious answer is immigration. [not so much immigaration as Muslim immigration]  The educated liberal elites who control most Left-wing parties are pro-immigration. Not only do they believe in its economic benefits, they believe in the virtue of diversity as an end itself. The traditional European working classes, by contrast, are suspicious of immigrants and worry about them taking their jobs or – worse – taking money out of a welfare pot they haven’t contributed to. These tensions were containable when the majority of immigrants were from the developed world, but have been brought into sharp relief with the increase in immigration from the Middle East, Africa and Latin America – asylum seekers as opposed to economic migrants. In Sweden, for instance, the proportion of immigrants from less developed countries increased from 13 per cent to 36 per cent between 1980 and 2000. Of the one million immigrants who’ve entered Sweden since 1990, three quarters of them aren’t in full-time employment. These are the welfare free-riders that the Right-wing Sweden Democrats drew attention to in their 2010 election campaign, polling 5.7 per cent of the vote.

On the face of it, mass immigration has been the undoing of leftwing political parties across Europe since it erodes the shared values that are an essential prerequisite of a well-funded welfare state. Why should indigenous, working populations support the high levels of taxation necessary to sustain generous welfare payments if the beneficiaries are people unlike themselves? If they can’t look at a benefit recipient and think, “There, but for the grace of God, go I”, why should they continue to pay such high taxes? This problem was spelt out by David Willetts a few years ago:

The basis on which you can extract large sums of money in tax and pay it out in benefits is that most people think the recipients are people like themselves, facing difficulties that they themselves could face. If values become more diverse, if lifestyles become more differentiated, then it becomes more difficult to sustain the legitimacy of a universal risk-pooling welfare state. People ask: ‘Why should I pay for them when they are doing things that I wouldn’t do?’ This is America versus Sweden. You can have a Swedish welfare state provided that you are a homogeneous society with intensely shared values. In the United States you have a very diverse, individualistic society where people feel fewer obligations to fellow citizens. Progressives want diversity, but they thereby undermine part of the moral consensus on which a large welfare state rests.

In Britain, as in other European states, traditional working class voters no longer trust the Left-wing party to put their interests above those of recent immigrants. In a recent but as yet unpublished YouGov poll, respondents were asked whether Britain now feels like a foreign country. Working-class centre-left voters agreed by 64 per cent to 26 per cent.

But this isn’t the whole of the story. After all, the Left fared equally badly in the recent Finnish elections, yet only 2.5 per cent of the population of Finland are foreign-born, most from Russia, Estonia and Sweden. Earlier this year, the True Finns – Finland’s equivalent of UKIP – polled 19 per cent of the vote, a five-fold increase since 2007. The Social Democrats, by contrast, saw their share of the vote fall from 21.44 per cent in 2007 to 19.1 per cent. The vote-winning policy for the True Finns was their opposition to the Portuguese bail-out and their success could well be a blueprint for insurgent, Right-wing parties across Europe as the crisis in the Eurozone deepens. If working class voters can no longer empathise with those in need in their own countries, as Willetts suggests, it’s likely that they won’t empathise with those in foreign countries, either.

What seems to be happening across Europe is the fracturing of both the state and the super-state as sources of tribal identity. The European Union has only ever commanded the loyalty of the liberal middle classes and as their political alliance with traditional working-class voters collapses it seems increasingly unlikely that the EU will survive the current economic crisis, at least not in its present form. More surprising has been the decline of the state as a unit capable of commanding people’s loyalty. In Scotland, the beneficiary of Labour’s desertion by working-class voters has been the Scottish Nationalist Party and that, too, seems a pattern likely to be repeated elsewhere. Ethnicity in Europe is beginning to trump more abstract sources of collective identity, as it did in the former Soviet Union after the collapse of the Communist control system in 1989. If UKIP changed its name to the England Independence Party it might see a surge in its support comparable to that of the True Finns.

It would be premature to completely write off the Left as a political force in Europe. The most obvious direction for Labour to go in if it wants to win back its traditional working class supporters is to propose tighter immigration controls than those currently being imposed by the Coalition – and my reading of why Maurice Glasman’s “Blue Labour” is gaining traction within the Party is that it would provide the ideological fig leaf to do precisely that. But working class voters might have a hard time trusting Ed Miliband if he suddenly embraces draconian immigration controls.

What the Left needs is an intellectual colossus, someone capable of articulating a vision that re-unites the liberal intelligentsia with the traditional working class and persuades them to put the interests of the collective – whether the nation state or something larger and more abstract – before those of their family and their tribe. Ultimately, the reason for the left’s political failure is the intellectual vacuum at the heart of the Left-wing project, the absence of an intellectually robust alternative to free-market capitalism. In the meantime, Right-wing and nationalist parties will keep on making gains at the Left’s expense.

Posted on 05/12/2011 5:24 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 12 May 2011
Michael Totten: Hezbollah Days

“We Know Where You Live”

Posted By Michael J. Totten On May 12, 2011 @ 12:43 pm In Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Here is the third part of an excerpt from my new book, The Road to Fatima Gate: The Beirut Spring, the Rise of Hezbollah, and the Iranian War Against Israel. Parts I and II are here and here if you missed them.

Hezbollah’s iftar was segregated. Only women, journalists, and VIPs were allowed in. It was held outside the dahiyeh across the street from the Marriott Hotel in an area controlled, if that is the word, by the Lebanese government.

Dozens of people, nearly all of them women, walked up a flight of stairs toward a double set of doors. Most wore an enveloping black abaya or a headscarf over their hair.

Dan snapped a photo.

A group of men abruptly stood up from a bench and walked toward us.

“Salam Aleikum,” I said. Peace be upon you.

“You took pictures without permission,” one of them said, even though we were standing in a public place.

“Who are we supposed to ask?” Dan said.

“Come with me, please.”

The man led us up the steps to the front of a wide and squat concrete building. There were two separate entrances, one for women, the other for journalists and VIPs. A gaggle of Hezbollah security agents manned the doors. Several sat behind a long table. This, apparently, was where we were supposed to check in.

Dan and I showed our passports and press credentials to the man who looked like he was in charge. He stuffed them in his briefcase. Then he confiscated Dan’s camera.

“Hey,” Dan said. “Give me my camera back.”

“Just one minute, please,” he said and set the camera aside.

I sat in a chair next to the table. Dan remained standing.

“Which hotel are you staying at?” the man asked me.

I didn’t like the idea of telling Hezbollah where I was staying, but I answered his question. I didn’t tell him I was moving into an apartment two days later.

They kept us waiting for almost half an hour for no discernable reason while thousands of people, including at least a dozen journalists, got in ahead of us.

“What is the problem?” Dan said.

“Just five more minutes, please,” the head of security said. Five more minutes for what? Our names were supposed to be on the list, and we had credentials.

A security agent stepped behind me as I scribbled in my notebook. He craned his neck and tried to read over my shoulder. I frowned at him and abruptly turned so he could not read what I was writing.

Dan paced back and forth in front of the security table.

“What is the problem?” the head of security asked him.

“I have a job to do,” Dan said.

“I have a job to do, too,” he said.

“You’re doing a great job so far!” Dan said.

Our first two meetings with Hezbollah had gone smoothly enough. Hussein was friendly. And he invited Dan and me to the iftar. Yet now, just a few days later, we were prevented by security from going inside Hezbollah’s one open event.

I whipped out my cell phone to dial Hussein. Perhaps he could get us in faster. The instant the head of security saw my phone, he said, “Okay, you can go in now.” He did not know who I was calling and seemed to fear I had a personal connection with someone in Hezbollah who outranked him.

Another agent led me and Dan away from the security gate, through a metal detector, and to a random space past the entrance far from everything else. He wanted us to stand in this exact spot. Not three feet over there, but right here.

“This is a parking garage,” Dan said.

No cars were inside, but he was right. Parking spaces were clearly marked out on the parts of the ground not covered by tables, chairs, security booths, or movable walls. Thousands of conservatively dressed women sat at rows of tables in front of us. No one bothered to tell us where to go or what to do. So Dan raised his camera to take some pictures.

Three security agents descended on him.

“No photos,” one of them said.

“I was invited here so I could take photos,” Dan said.

“No photos right now,” the man repeated.

Though we weren’t allowed to photograph the women at the tables, we at least wanted to get a better look than we could from where we were standing. So we started walking.

“No!” the agent said.

It seemed we would even have to ask to use the bathroom in this place as though we were children. Or prisoners.

After standing in no place in particular like dorks for several minutes, more security guys finally led me and Dan to a small walled off area where we could sit and eat. This was the “press room.” We could not see any of the thousands of women, nor could we see the pulpit where Nasrallah was going to speak. But at least we could sit. And of course we were segregated. This was Hezbollah.

“Sit over there,” an agent said and pointed to a table away from where other, mostly male, journalists sat.

I don’t like control freaks, and I was done taking orders.

No,” I said. “We are going to sit with other people.”

Dan and I sat at a set table draped with a clean white cloth. Yellow chicken, fatty beef, brown and white rice, hummus, yogurt, and vinaigrette salads were spread out in front of us. There was plenty of bottled water to go around. The food didn’t look great, but it looked okay. (And it was.) I smiled when it occurred to me that my meal was paid for by the Islamic Republic of Iran. It was about time they did something for citizens of the Great Satan.

The man sitting next to me introduced himself as a Lebanese journalist named John.

“Where are you from?” he asked me.

“United States,” I said.

“Ooh,” he said. “Don’t tell them that.”

“They already know,” I said. You couldn’t just walk into a Hezbollah event without being vetted.

Suddenly a muezzin screamed in Arabic over the loudspeakers. It was a thunderous call to prayer, and it was real screaming. I had heard the call to prayer hundreds of times in Beirut, but I never heard anything like this. It was electrifying and dramatic and, strangely enough, it gave me a thrilling shot of adrenaline.

Ominous military music threatened to blow out the speakers. Then the sound system switched, briefly, to music from Star Wars. It switched, briefly again, to the soundtrack from The Terminator.

Someone, perhaps the same muezzin, screamed anti-Israel incitement over the music. You didn’t have to be fluent in Arabic to figure out what that was about.

After dinner, a security agent summoned all the journalists to the women’s side of the wall. A small press area was roped off a hundred feet in front of the pulpit.

Secretary General Nasrallah emerged to a standing ovation. Then he droned on for an hour, so softly I could barely hear a word over the post-dinner chitchat. Perhaps these women didn’t show up to hear him at all. Maybe they just wanted free food.

Dan snapped photos. I sat and passively perused the “resistance” posters on the concrete pillars and walls. Scenes of explosions, gunmen, and mayhem were plastered up everywhere. Just over my head was a photo of a child clenching a bloody rock in his fingers.

Slowly, the audience began filing out, even though Nasrallah was still speaking. He wasn’t so much a blowhard as a bore. Even his “base,” at least the female half of it, didn’t think he was worth sticking around for.

Soon the hall was almost half empty. Maybe Nasrallah realized he had to get to the point. Perhaps it was scripted this way. Either way, he suddenly started to scream.

Israel this!

Israel that!

Oh, snore. I didn’t want to be rude, but I could no longer physically stop myself from rolling my eyes.

Then a belligerent fat man grabbed Dan.

“Come with me!” he said and led Dan and his camera away.

“What’s going on?” I said.

“You can stay,” he said to me. “We need to speak with him,” he said, referring to Dan.

“Excuse me,” I said. “I need to know what the problem is here.”

“Did I take a picture of something I wasn’t supposed to?” Dan said and swallowed hard.

Fat man fumed with rage and refused to answer. He led us to a table at a security checkpoint near the entrance to the garage. Four security agents followed and sat us down in chairs. Two stood behind us. Two sat opposite us at the table. Fat man tried to look at the pictures on Dan’s digital camera but had trouble figuring out how.

This guy would have looked like a bully even in a photograph. He had pasty white skin, a trimmed beard, small black eyes, and short cropped hair. A permafrown rippled across his forehead. He wore a thin blue button-up shirt, the kind you would find at a clearance sale at a Walmart.

“What did I do?” Dan said.

“You will not speak unless you are spoken to,” fat man said. “We will conduct our investigation. When we complete our investigation, we will tell you what you need to do.”

Dan and I looked at each other. “What we need to do?” I said.

“What you need to do,” fat man said. “Give me your passport,” he said to Dan. Dan reluctantly handed it over. Fat man’s older bespectacled sidekick copied Dan’s passport and press ID information into a notebook by hand.

I fished my cell phone out of my pocket. Once again, it was time to call Hussein Naboulsi.

“Do not call anybody!” fat man said. It was no use anyway. We were still in the parking garage, and my cell phone couldn’t pick up a signal.

Dan and I sat in silence while the security agents darkly discussed our situation, whatever it was, among themselves in Arabic. Fat man boiled as he failed to figure out how to operate Dan’s camera.

I thought about grabbing Dan and his camera and making a run for the exit. Inside was Hezbollah’s mini police state. Outside was free Lebanon. But unspoken threats of violence were barely concealed beneath their swaggering postures. I knew they had guns, even though I couldn’t see them. Being detained by Lebanon’s Party of God was not exactly like being detained by the Republican or Democratic parties in the United States.

“Who are you!” fat man bellowed as he squinted at Dan’s passport.

“Daniel _____,” Dan said.

“Where do you come from!” He barked his questions the way drill sergeants give orders.

“The United States,” Dan said, clearly annoyed. Obviously, he was from the United States. Fat man was looking right at Dan’s passport.

“What is your first name!”

Dan sighed. “Daniel,” he said.

“What is your family name! Is your family name Isaac?

At last we were getting down to brass tacks. Dan hadn’t taken pictures of anything sensitive. Hezbollah had fingered him as a Jew because of his name.

They knew our names before they let us in. Perhaps that explains why they almost did not let us in.

“Isaac is my middle name,” Dan said. “My last name is _____.”

“What is your religion!” This was not an investigation. It was an inquisition.

“Christianity,” Dan said, as though it should have been obvious.

“Are you sure!” fat man demanded.

“Yes, I’m sure,” Dan said nervously. “I’m Protestant.”

“Is this your first time in Lebanon!”

“Yes,” Dan said. “This is my first time in Lebanon.”

“Have you ever been here before!”

Like when? And how? As a soldier during the Israeli occupation? I knew Israeli journalists sometimes used second passports to travel to Lebanon and even to meet with Hezbollah. It was an open secret. And if I knew it, Hezbollah knew it.

“This is my first time here,” Dan said truthfully.

“Where do you live!”

“I live in Gemmayze,” Dan said, referring to a gentrified bohemian neighborhood in East Beirut.

“Where exactly do you live?”

“In an apartment next to Gemmayze Cafe,” Dan said. I wished he hadn’t.

Two Western journalists, a man and a woman, stopped by the table where we were detained. Fat man’s bespectacled sidekick took the woman’s video camera and rewound the tape. He sat there and reviewed every minute of footage in real time on the view screen. Lord only knows what he was looking for. The paranoia in the room was physically palpable. He caught me staring and flashed me a menacing look.

An hour or so later, Hussein Naboulsi arrived, all handshakes and smiles as usual. I never thought I would feel relieved to see a Hezbollah official, but I sure was glad to see him.

“Hussein!” Dan said. “It is so good to see you. Will you please tell us what’s going on?”

“I don’t know yet,” he said, “but I will take care of it.”

Hussein happily spoke to fat man in Arabic. Fat man glowered and growled.

I took Hussein aside. “That man is rude, hostile, and belligerent,” I said. Hussein seemed surprised that I would say this. “And he won’t tell us why.”

“He is the security chief,” Hussein said. “He is in charge of everyone here.”

“We didn’t do anything,” Dan said.

“I know,” Hussein said. “I am sorry about this. I am on your side.”

Hussein, the security chief, and a handful of agents took Dan’s camera and went to a room in the back. They stayed there for twenty minutes. When they finally came out and handed Dan back his camera, almost fifty pictures had been deleted from the memory card. But they said we could go.

On our way out the door, the chief said to Hussein that Dan and I were no longer welcome at any of Hezbollah’s events, as if we would ever want to experience something like this again.

I thought I had an idea what Lebanon would feel like if these guys ruled it. Lebanon in 2005 was a libertarian’s paradise. Under Hezbollah, though, it would be a bigoted, authoritarian, gender segregated, micromanaging bully state.

After Dan and I reached the safety and comfort of the free Lebanese streets, I turned to him. “Do you think Hussein is genuinely a nice person?” I said. “Or are they playing a good-cop, bad-cop game with us? Maybe he’s just good at his job as the artificially friendly face of Hezbollah.”

“I think he’s genuinely a nice person,” Dan said.

“So do I,” I said and nodded.

We were wrong.


Two days later, I moved from my cheap hotel in East Beirut into a two-bedroom apartment with Dan in West Beirut. I took the bedroom just off the living room. He wanted the room down the hall.

Lisa, the previous tenant, was still packing her boxes as I came in.

“Welcome home,” she said and handed me the keys. “Enjoy Beirut. I’m off to Dubai.”

My cell phone rang. According to the caller ID, it was Hussein Naboulsi.

“Hussein,” I said as I answered. “What’s up?”

“You are a liar!” he screamed.

“What?” I said, shocked to hear Hezbollah’s “friendly” media liaison enraged.

“I can’t believe it. You lie about Hezbollah!”

“Slow down,” I said. “What are you talking about?”

Lisa paid me no mind and placed some of her books into a box. She didn’t know whom I was talking to.

“I saw your website,” Hussein said. “You are writing against the Party!”

I had no idea what he was talking about.

“What did I say against Hezbollah?”

Lisa glanced over at me, slightly interested in my conversation now.

“You write things that are not true!” Hussein said.

“What on earth did I write that isn’t true?” I hadn’t written an article about Hezbollah yet and thought he might have me confused with somebody else.

“I am looking at your website right now.” He quoted my own words back at me. “You wrote, ‘The goons picked me up at my hotel. They stuffed me in the back of the car, blindfolded me, drove me around in circles, then took me (I think) into the mountains to a safe house to talk to the sheik.’”

“Oh, for God’s sake,” I said. “That was a joke.” I had forgotten I even wrote it. “I was making fun of my American readers who thought you were going to kidnap me. Did you read the next sentence? In the very next sentence I wrote, ‘ Actually, that’s not what happened at all.’”

“I read everything!” he said.

“Then you know it was a joke. I said it was a joke. How can you accuse me of lying?”

“You are propagandizing against us!”

“Stop yelling at me,” I said.

Hussein was screaming so loudly at me through the phone now that Lisa could hear him. She could see that I was annoyed and concerned, and she stopped packing her books.

“You insulted Hezbollah!” he said. “Who do you think we are?”

And then he said something I won’t ever forget. “We know who you are, we read everything you write, and we know where you live.”

I pressed the “End Call” button on my phone as fast as I could. Lisa just looked at me. She still wasn’t sure who I was talking to.

“That was Hezbollah,” I said.

“Oh, shit,” she said and took a step back.

“They said they know where I live.”

Her eyes slowly widened as the gravity of what I just told her sank in. She turned and looked at the door. No one was banging on it from outside in the hallway or prying it open with a crowbar.

“Well,” she said and gulped. “You’ve been living here now for, what, ten minutes? They can’t possibly know.”

She was right, of course. Hezbollah thought I was still back at the hotel. No one who worked there knew where to find me, so it would be a waste of time to ask about me at the front desk.

Still, I was nervous. Terrified, actually. And I had no idea what I should do.

I called Charles and Dan, told them what happened, and said I needed a drink.

We met at a bar a few minutes later.

Dan was concerned.

Charles was furious.

“You need to threaten him back,” he said.

“What?” I said. “Threaten Hezbollah? Are you joking?”

“No,” he said. “I’m not joking.”

“I can’t do that,” I said.

“Sure, you can,” he said. “You can’t imagine how paranoid Hezbollah is. You’re an American. Not only do they dare not touch you; they are afraid of you.”

I didn’t know about that, but Charles was right that Hezbollah was paranoid. I spoke to a half-dozen Lebanese sources and friends, and they all agreed that Hezbollah was all scream and no action when it came to American journalists. No one from the Party of God would actually stalk me at my apartment. It had been years since any Western journalist had been harmed in Lebanon. I knew that already. And if Nasrallah decided to change the rules all of a sudden, Hezbollah almost certainly would not start with me.

But I couldn’t get Hussein’s threat out of my head. Once, on my way home from dinner, a slightly creepy individual followed me for a couple of streets and all the way into my building. We got into the elevator together. I lived on the sixth floor, but I stepped out on the fourth and walked the rest of the way up so he wouldn’t know which apartment was mine. I knew I was just being paranoid, but I couldn’t help it. And I couldn’t keep living like this.

I needed Hussein off my case. And I was sure he wasn’t accustomed to being yelled at by Americans. So I steeled myself and called him back.

“All-oe?” he said.

“Hussein!” I said in a sharp tone of voice. Then I paused for effect. “This is Michael Totten.”

He instantly started screaming again. “I can’t believe what you write about Hezbollah!”

It was as though two days hadn’t passed, as if he picked up our conversation exactly where it left off when I hung up on him. This time, though, I wasn’t nervous. I was angry.

“Hussein!” I said. “You need to shut up and listen to me.”

He kept screaming about how I insulted the Islamic Resistance in Lebanon.

“Hey!” I said as loud as I could. “Shut up for a second.”

He finally stopped screaming at me, surprised, I think, by the tone in my voice.

“You will never call me and threaten me again,” I said. “Do you understand?”

“What are you talking about?” he said.

“You know what I’m talking about,” I said.

“I didn’t threaten you!” he said.

“Yes, you did,” I said. “I remember exactly what you said. You said, ‘We know who you are, we read everything you write, and we know where you live.’”

“I did not say we know where you live,” he said.

“Don’t lie to me. I know what you said.”

When Hezbollah says “We know where you live,” it makes an impression that is hard to forget.

“I meant we know who you are.” He sounded anything but convincing.

“You said you know where I live.”

“I did not say that. I did not say that. If I did say that, I was just stressed out.” He didn’t know what he said. “Do you think we have agents out in the streets or something?”

“Of course you have people out in the streets!” I said. “Do you think I’m stupid?”

“If I said that, yes, it would have been a threat,” he added. At least he didn’t try to say “We know where you live” meant he wanted to send me a Christmas card.

“It won’t always be like this between us,” he said. That was a lie. Someone else in Hezbollah’s press office later told Dan that he and I were both blacklisted for life. “Honest to God,” he continued, “it is against our principles to threaten people.”

That was bullshit. He had threatened me just two days before. Hassan Nasrallah had recently said, “Death to America was, is and will stay our slogan.” After the U.S. invasion of Iraq, he went even further. “Death to America is not a slogan. Death to America is a policy, a strategy, and a vision.” What the hell was that if it wasn’t a threat?

It had been years since Hezbollah hunted Western civilians in Lebanon. That much was true.

But reining in the belligerence, the authoritarianism, the intolerance, and the menacing—that was just too much to ask. Those things were too much a part of what Hezbollah was. Even the media relations office, the office that was supposed to establish contacts with Westerners who might be sympathetic, the office that hired the happy-faced, seemingly friendly Hussein Naboulsi, couldn’t keep its mask on for long. Just the slightest nudge with your pinkie was enough to break their delicate public-relations propaganda system in half.

Hezbollah had made some progress since the black years of the war. Every armed faction behaved badly in Lebanon then. The men of Hezbollah, like most people in Lebanon, had mellowed out and matured a bit during peacetime. That was something.

But it wasn’t enough.

Their weapons remained an affront to Lebanon’s sovereignty. Their territory looked and felt like a police state, more so than even some police states I’d visited. They still threatened and bullied Americans. Their belligerence, in my experience, seemed instinctive and unrestrainable. And they remained on a war footing with Israel. I wasn’t yet certain, but I had a very bad feeling that Hezbollah just might blow up the country. And I was right.

Posted on 05/12/2011 5:41 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 12 May 2011
And In Law School You Thought Studying The Rule Against Perpetuities Was A Waste Of Time
From AP:
May 9, 2011

Millionaire's heirs get inheritance after 92 yrs

An undated photo of Wellington R. Burt.

An undated photo of Wellington R. Burt. (AP Photo/The Saginaw News)

SAGINAW, Mich. — Ninety-two years after his death, Saginaw lumber baron Wellington R. Burt is finally parting with the fortune he withheld from his descendants until 21 years after the death of the last grandchild born in his lifetime.

The estate is now valued at $100 million to $110 million. It will be shared among 12 of his heirs later this month.

According to The Saginaw News, Burt once was among the eight wealthiest Americans. He made millions of dollars in the harvesting of the Saginaw Valley's timber and then another fortune in Minnesota's iron mines. He served as mayor of Saginaw and later as a Michigan state senator.

But when it came time to divide his fortune, he gave his children and grandchildren small allowances comparable to the one he gave his cook. He died March 2, 1919, and his remains rest in a 15-foot-tall white mausoleum in Forest Lawn Cemetery.

Under terms of Burt's will, the bulk of the estate was to be distributed 21 years after the death of his last surviving grandchild.

At 19 years old, Christina Cameron of Lexington, Ky., is the youngest of the 12 and is in line to receive $2.6 million to $2.9 million.

She said one thing is pretty clear: Her great-great-great grandfather didn't have much use for his relatives.

"I'm pretty sure he didn't like his family back then," Cameron said.

Cameron is the great-granddaughter of Marion Landsill. She was the last survivor among Burt's grandchildren who were born in his lifetime. She died Nov. 21, 1989.

Saginaw County Chief Probate Judge Patrick McGraw said the estate is "one of the most complicated research projects" he's faced in his 12-year career in Saginaw.

When McGraw arrived in 1999, the estate had long been a part of courthouse lore.

"It's a case everyone talked about," McGraw said. "It was definitely interesting. I didn't think in 1999 that, in 2011, I would be the one to distribute it."

Burt's six children, seven grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and 11 great-great grandchildren missed out on the inheritance, either because they weren't eligible for it or because they didn't live long enough.

Those who will inherit are three great-grandchildren, seven great-great grandchildren and two great-great-great grandchildren, among them Cameron and her 20-year-old sister. The heirs range in age from 19 to 94.

In April, about 20 attorneys representing the heirs met in Michigan State University's Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center and struck a deal on division of the estate. It gives larger amounts to those farther up in the family tree who have fewer siblings. The trust is scheduled to open by May 31.


Posted on 05/12/2011 7:41 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 12 May 2011
Libyan Rebels: What Do We Want? Money. When Do We Want It? Now.

From CNN:

May 12, 2011

Washington -- A top Libyan opposition leader said Thursday the United States should recognize his group.

In an interview on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer," Mahmoud Gibril said when he meets with White House national security advisor Tom Donilon on Friday, his main message will be to clear up "misperceptions" about extreme elements in the opposition and to ask for formal recognition.

"We need the recognition as the sole legitimate interlocutor of the Libyan people," said Gibril, the interim prime minister of Libya's Transitional National Council (TNC).

To date, the United States has not recognized the opposition formally, although it has provided aid. Italy and France have recognized the opposition group.

Speaking earlier in the day, Gibril also said the United States should turn over some of Libya's frozen assets to his group because "a human tragedy is in the making right now."


He said Libyan rebels are facing a "big hurdle" in getting the U.S. government to free up some of the more than $30 billion in frozen Libyan assets to help those suffering under embattled leader Moammar Gadhafi's regime.

"Time is the crux of the matter, because having solved this problem in a matter of four or five weeks might be too late," Gibril told a group gathered at the Brookings Institution.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, said Wednesday he is currently drafting legislation that will allow some of the money to be transferred to the TNC.

"It will not come from the American taxpayer. It will come from Col. Gadhafi himself," Kerry said. [by gad, it better]

Kerry, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, said during a Thursday hearing on Libya that the TNC has made "quite remarkable" progress.

"They've begun to develop institutions which can provide basic services for their people, they are thinking about how to deal with humanitarian dislocation and challenges and while some institutions are going to have to be built from scratch over a period of time," Kerry said.

But others in Congress have concerns.

"Do we have confidence in the people to whom we are providing assistance?" ranking Republican Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana asked at the hearing.

Gibril acknowledged some skeptics have questions about "cracks and disagreements" within the council.

Quoting the doubters, he asked rhetorically, "'Are we safe with this TNC? Are we safe with this group?'" Then he gave his response: "The TNC represents the whole Libyan territory; this is a national umbrella encompassing all Libyan regions."

Gibril said the council is not a political organization, but is instead is an administrative organization managing the Libyan opposition until the Gadhafi regime falls and Libyans elect their leaders though a democratic process.

He is headed to the White House and Capitol Hill on Friday to meet government officials.

Last March Gibril met privately with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she was in Paris for a meeting with the Group of Eight foreign ministers.

At the State Department on May 5, Clinton said, "Clearly on our agenda is looking for the most effective ways to deliver financial assistance and other means of supporting and helping the opposition."

Posted on 05/12/2011 7:50 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 12 May 2011
Couplet Composed While Daydreaming In A Law School Classroom

"Fair of form and fair of face/But what's the Rule In Shelley's Case?"

Posted on 05/12/2011 8:05 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 12 May 2011
A Musical Interlude: I Can't Get Started (Bunny Berigan)

Listen here.

Posted on 05/12/2011 8:15 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald

Most Recent Posts at The Iconoclast
Search The Iconoclast
Enter text, Go to search:
The Iconoclast Posts by Author
The Iconoclast Archives
sun mon tue wed thu fri sat
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31     

Via: email  RSS