These are all the Blogs posted on Wednesday, 15, 2012.
Wednesday, 15 February 2012
Policeman dead as explosions rock Kaduna again
From the Nation
A policeman was killed in fresh explosions in Kaduna yesterday, one week after soldiers foiled a suspected Boko Haram member’s attempt to bomb the Army’s 1 Division’s Dalet Barracks. Two others were injured in the blasts. They have been taken to the hospital.
The first explosion rocked the highly populated Ungwan Sarki, opposite Kaduna State Transport Agency (KSTA) loading bay; the second occurred at another location about 500 metres away. The late policeman was said to have gone to check the content of a black polythene bag left at a junction by unknown persons when it exploded, killing him instantly.
Kaduna State Police Commissioner Ballah Magaji Nasarawa gave the name of the late policeman as Sergeant Sunday Badang of the anti-bomb unit.
Last Tuesday, a suicide bomber attempted to blow up the headquarters of the One Division of the Army in Kaduna. But he was shot dead by soldiers on guard while the vehicle exploded shattering the glass panes of a building.
On Monday, a top government official and Director of Finance in the Ministry of Finance, Isuwa Kiforo, was shot at the Government House, when he refused to stop at the security check point and attempted to force his way into the place.
Posted on 02/15/2012 2:09 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Wednesday, 15 February 2012
Martin Kramer On Who's Crazier
Posted on 02/15/2012 9:18 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 15 February 2012
The Washington Post: "If All Options Are On The Table, What Is Being Planned Should American Force Be Necessary?"
From the Washington Post:
February 14, 2012
The U.S.-Israeli trust gap on Iran
TWO MONTHS ago we questioned a decision by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to spell out publicly his objections to an Israeli military strike against Iran’s nuclear program — a speech that must have cheered the commanders of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Now Mr. Panetta has indirectly caused a similar stir: After a conversation with Mr. Panetta this month, The Post’s David Ignatius reported that the Pentagon chief “believes there is a strong likelihood that Israel will strike Iran in April, May or June.”
What could explain this public undercutting of one of America’s closest allies? The unfortunate answer seems to be a lack of strategic agreement or basic trust between the Obama administration and the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu. A senior U.S. intelligence official recently said that Israel has grown reticent about discussing a possible attack on Iran and had declined to offer an assurance that it would consult Washington before acting. That leaves the administration facing the possibility that it will be presented with an Israeli-Iranian conflict that could expand to encompass U.S. forces and allies in the Persian Gulf and trigger unforeseeable consequences in the larger Middle East.
We continue to believe that military action against Iran, by Israel or the United States, is not yet necessary or wise. U.S. and Israeli officials share an assessment that, though Iran is building up nuclear capability, it has not taken decisive steps toward building a bomb. In the meantime, the pressures on its leadership — from sanctions, sabotage, the disarray of allies such as Syria and domestic discontent — are growing. The best strategy for now is to fan those flames, which could cause the regime to retreat or even to fall. On that, we agree with the Obama administration.
Israel has two reasons for judging the matter differently. While the Obama administration suggests that only a clear Iranian attempt to produce a nuclear weapon would justify military intervention, Israel believes that Iran’s acquisition of the capacity to do so — achieving the status of a threshold nuclear power, like India and Pakistan before 1997 — would also be intolerable. That’s understandable for a country within missile range of a regime that has called for the extinction of the Jewish state.
Another factor is more subject to U.S. influence. Israeli commanders judge that in a few months, once Iran has fully prepared a new nuclear facility located under a mountain, Israel’s capacity to disable the program with air strikes will be greatly reduced. The United States would retain a military window of opportunity for longer. But can the Netanyahu government count on the Obama administration to act if a moment of truth arrives?
For now, several top Israeli officials are skeptical. That is where Mr. Panetta and Mr. Obama should be making an effort. Rather than publicly arguing with Israel, they should be more clearly spelling out U.S. willingness to take military action if Iran is discovered taking steps toward bomb-making, such as enriching its uranium beyond present levels or expelling U.N. inspectors. Saying “all options are on the table” is not enough; the Obama administration should be explicit about Iranian actions that will violate its red lines — and what the consequences will be.
Posted on 02/15/2012 9:24 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 15 February 2012
Is The Clock Ticking on Nuclear Iran? An Interview with Israeli Journalist Ronen Bergman
by Jerry Gordon (February 2012)
Ronen Bergman, Israeli intelligence and national security analyst for the major daily Yediot Ahronot, has set the clock ticking on whether the Islamic Republic of Iran will enter what Minister of Defense Ehud Barak has called “the zone of immunity.” That zone would be entered by Iran when it can first assemble and be capable of testing a nuclear device. At the recent Herzliya conference on strategic affairs, IDF military intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi told attendees that Iran had enough enriched uranium at the 20% level to make four bombs. more>>>
Posted on 02/15/2012 9:31 AM by NER
Wednesday, 15 February 2012
A Madman As Metaphor
New York mogul spends $20M at trade show before ending up in mental hospital
February 15, 2012 | New York Post
A manic Manhattan multimillionaire went on a wild shopping spree at a Javits Center trade show, buying up $20 million in upscale tchotchkes before landing in a mental hospital.
Cigar-chomping Ed Bazinet, 68, spent four days going from booth to booth at the New York International Gift Fair, stunning vendors as he snatched up everything in sight — from ice- cream scoops to scented sachets to Scandinavian barbecue tools, witnesses told The Post.
The outrageous outlay raised alarms, and Bazinet was hospitalized, friends said yesterday.
Just before the Javits event, Bazinet tore through a Paris trade show and ordered $39.4 million worth of products, sources said.
In New York, Bazinet — who made his fortune selling miniature ceramic villages and porcelain Snow-baby figurines — went row to row, placing product orders ranging from $200,000 to $2 million, vendors said.
Word was spreading through the event to watch for the man bouncing from booth to booth.
“He’d just say, ‘Give me 1,000 of this and 1,000 of that!’” recalled designer Nima Oberoi.
Bazinet forked over a credit card to buy more than $200,000 worth of Oberoi’s cake platters and serving items before she cut him off.
Posted on 02/15/2012 10:12 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 15 February 2012
Oliver Stone Must Be Very Proud
From Agence France-Presse:
February 14, 2012
Oliver Stone's son converts to Islam in Iran
US filmmaker Sean Stone, son of Oscar-winning director Oliver Stone, converted to Islam on Tuesday in Iran, where he is making a documentary, he told AFP.
"The conversion to Islam is not abandoning Christianity or Judaism, which I was born with. It means I have accepted Mohammad and other prophets," he said in a brief telephone call from the central Iranian city of Isfahan, where he underwent the ceremony.
Sean Stone's famous father is Jewish, while his mother is Christian.
The 27-year-old filmmaker did not say why he converted.
According to Iran's Fars news agency, Sean Stone had become a Shiite and had chosen to be known by the Muslim first name Ali.
Sean/Ali Stone has acted in minor roles in several of his father's films, and has directed a handful of documentaries.
Posted on 02/15/2012 10:20 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 15 February 2012
David Schenker: How Much Aid To A Hostile Egypt, And Why?
A sudden new wave of anti-Americanism is thriving in Cairo.
From the Los Angeles Times:
February 15, 2012
Egypt's Cold Shoulder
As 16 U.S. citizens await trial in Egypt for accepting foreign financing to promote democracy, for the first time in more than 30 years there is a serious debate in Washington about whether to end the $1.3-billion annual military assistance to Cairo. There's no debate in Egypt, however. More than 70% of Egyptians, according to a recent Gallup poll, no longer want U.S. funding.
By deciding to prosecute Americans, post-Mubarak Egypt has intentionally provoked a bilateral crisis. But the legal assault on U.S.-funded nongovernmental organizations and personnel is merely a symptom of a larger, more serious problem. In Egypt today, all major political forces -- the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, or SCAF, the Muslim Brotherhood and the government -- are embracing anti-American populism.
The new atmosphere in Egypt leaves the Obama administration -- and Congress -- with some stark choices. Washington can employ the nuclear option -- cut the assistance and test the durability of the U.S.-underwritten 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty -- or continue to fund an increasingly hostile and unstable state in hopes that democracy will take root.
In this environment, prospects for democracy in Egypt appear slim. Worse, with reportedly as little as $11 billion remaining in foreign reserves depleting at a rate of $2 billion a month, Egypt is on the precipice of an economic crisis. At the same time, a spate of kidnappings in Cairo and mob violence at a Port Said soccer match this month, which killed more than 70 people, point to a deteriorating security situation.
But instead of concentrating on security and economics, in a classic case of Nero fiddling while Rome burns, the civilian government appointed by SCAF is focused on trying the American staff of U.S.-funded NGOs that promote democracy. The allegations against them are a politically driven and incendiary distraction, unmistakably conceived by the SCAF-appointed minister of planning and international cooperation, Fayza Mohamed Aboulnaga, who has emerged as a symbol of the new populist politics of post-revolution Egypt.
Aboulnaga has been in charge of Egypt's NGO file for decades and has been butting heads with U.S. officials for years. WikiLeaks cables from Cairo abound with diplomats' laments over her ability to "fend off" U.S. efforts to promote "even minor reforms" in Egypt. This stance toward Washington seems to have held her in good stead: Aboulnaga is practically the only one among her senior colleagues from the Mubarak era to have survived the transition.
She has consolidated her position by promoting crass conspiracy theories, suggesting a U.S. role in the current instability plaguing Egypt. In her public testimony this year before the Ministry of Justice committee investigating foreign funding of NGOs, Aboulnaga claimed U.S. government-funded democracy-promoting organizations operating in Egypt were engaged in subversive activities. "The funds that entered Egypt recently amount to $200 million to fund unknown activities," she said, "raising doubts and fears of these funds' use in acts of sabotage."
After 30 years and $66 billion in U.S. funding later, these claims of U.S. subversion are insulting. Meanwhile, Aboulnaga says she's wearing the case like a "medal on my chest." Clearly she sees utility in continuing her populist America-baiting, blaming "foreign hands" for Egypt's problems.
So do the Islamists.
This month, for example, a senior Muslim Brotherhood official published an open letter invoking the "American-Zionist" conspiracy and warning that U.S. democratization funds had been channeled to "suspicious institutions." Going one step further, the Brotherhood's more militant cousin, the Salafist party Al Nour, accused the American NGOs of trying to "create discord between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis." Based on the court documents, one Al Nour official observed, the NGO workers "can be considered spies."
Despite the prevalent view that the United States -- in league with Israel -- is a pernicious and destabilizing force in Egypt, Muslim Brotherhood leaders still say American dollars should continue to flow. As Khairat al Shater, a senior official in the Muslim Brotherhood, told the Washington Post, U.S. support to Egypt serves as "compensation for the many years [the U.S.] supported a brutal dictatorship." More ominous, Shater has warned that a cutoff in aid might result in Egypt changing the terms of its peace treaty with Israel.
Shater is pragmatic. Because of the economic situation, Egypt cannot afford to lose foreign funding. At the same time, though, the Brotherhood does not want to be out of step with its constituency. By staking out this position, Shater hopes to both antagonize Washington and keep the aid.
Whether the current xenophobia is ideologically based or cynical populism to distract from the deteriorating conditions at home makes little difference. Either way, there is little Washington can do at this point to change the bilateral dynamic. Indeed, even if Cairo reversed its ill-advised campaign against the American NGOs, funding would still remain in jeopardy.
The problem, alas, is not Egypt's relentless attack against foreign and domestic liberal democratic organizations. No doubt, SCAF, the government and the Islamists have little need for pro-democracy NGOs, but the investigation of the NGOs is a symptom rather than the root of the bilateral crisis. Notwithstanding the parliamentary elections, Egypt today is dominated by a coalition of military authoritarians and aspiring theocrats that views Washington with great suspicion.
Facing extreme challenges at home and in need of distractions, anti-Americanism has become Cairo's preferred populist recourse. Although a solution might be found for this particular controversy -- with or without U.S. foreign assistance -- this bilateral dynamic assures that the next crisis is not far off.
Posted on 02/15/2012 1:34 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 15 February 2012
A Cinematic Musical Interlude: I Got The Horse Right Here (Stubby Kaye)
Posted on 02/15/2012 4:21 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 15 February 2012
An Historical Interlude: Opening Day At Hialeah
Posted on 02/15/2012 4:25 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 15 February 2012
Australia: ASIO Does Its Job, Islamic Society of Victoria Accuses ASIO Of 'Harassment'
From Australia's ABC, as reported on AM by Tony Nicholls.
'Islamic Society Accuses ASIO Of Harassment'
'The Islamic Society of Victoria is preparing to take legal action against ASIO for what it says in constant harassment and bullying.
'Members of the Preston Mosque in Melbourne's north claim intelligence operatives are approaching worshippers on a daily basis, offering them jobs and demanding personal information.
I would take this claim with a heaping tablespoon of salt, myself. And as for the Preston Mosque, it is being watched by ASIO because, in the past, it was frequented by a bunch of jihad terror plotters. - CM
'The secretary of the Islamic Society of Victoria, Baha Yehia, believes sermons are being monitored (if they are, I see no problem with that at all - if their content is innocuous, why should he worry about a few ASIO snoops being bored to tears listening to hours of moral platitudes? And if their content is not innocuous, then they ought to be monitored. - CM) and he wants the harassment to stop.
How dare the dirty kuffar listen in on what Mohammedans say to each other behind closed doors ...If you have nothing to hide, mate, why are you so upset by the idea that a spook from ASIO may be listening to what you're saying? - CM
"We will go to Canberra if we have to. We will go to Canberra and we will complain directly to the Prime Minister", he said.
'The Islamic group has sought the legal services of criminal defence lawyer Robert Stary, who also defended Jack Thomas (that is, convert-to-Islam Jack Thomas - CM) the first Australian to be convicted under anti-terrorism laws.
'Mr Stary says those that support the Palestinian struggle (sic: the genocidal Mohammedan jihad against the Jews - CM) feel vulnerable.
Cry me a river, Mr Stary. I have no sympathy whatever for people who go into public frenzies of genocidal hate; who adulate as heroes people such as Samir Kuntar, who murdered a little Jewish girl by bashing her head with his rifle butt and then whacking her against a rock, and the teenage Arab Muslim boy, Hakim Awad, pickled in hate, who went into the Fogel house and slit the throat of tiny infant Hadass Fogel in her cot. I weep for Hadass Fogel, Mr Stary; you have chosen to weep for those who support her unrepentant murderer, and I have no respect for you whatsoever. Indeed, I despise you. - CM
'They're at the pointy end. They've seen the many prosecutions, some of which have failed, some of which have been successful", he said.
'In 2008, seven people connected with the Preston Mosque were found guilty of belonging to a terrorist organisation. Ringleader Abdul Nacer Benbrika is now in jail.
Now, cue the rote denial of responsibility...- CM
'None of these people used to practise or preach at the mosque. ( Suuuure - CM). They used to attend the mosque. You know, mosques have a different structure to churches", said Mr Yehia.
You can say that again... I know very well, though many of my fellow Australians have not yet figured it out, that a mosque is nothing like a church. And one of the differences between mosques, and other places of worship or meeting, is that no groups of people regularly attending an Australian church, synagogue or temple have formed little gangs and plotted the murder of large numbers of their fellow citizens. But mosque-attending Muslims have been caught doing just that., and more than once, in just the past ten years. - CM
'According to Mr Yehia, the harassment (sic: the entirely rational and justifiable surveillance - CM) of mosque-goers is so constant, that they have recently held a public legal seminar on how to deal with intelligence agents.
"People are more aware now and people know now that they can say no to ASIO and we don't have to speak to you and we don't want to speak to you."
Sounds like ASIO had better step up the surveillance, if the very idea of anybody finding out what Muslims are saying and doing when the dirty kuffar aren't around, is so worrying to Mr Yehia. - CM
"And they know if they do get harassed they can come and report the incident...and if they don't back off, we will be going to the Attorney-General and to David Irvine as well, the head chief of ASIO", he said.
Translation: just let us get on with preaching and plotting Jihad and Sharia in peace, you dirty kuffar! You don't need to know what we're up to! - CM
'Mr Stary believes ASIO has too much power.
"You're got to remember now of course that ASIO has trebled its size since 9/11. It's a very large organisation, really unparalleled in its growth, and its size and its power, in the history of the democracy of Australia", he said.
Curiously, the trebling of ASIO has taken place at about the same time as a significant increase in the size and aggressiveness of the Mohammedan presence in Austrralia...- CM
'Mr Yehia says the intelligence agency's interference is starting to divide the community.
"There's a bit of mistrust in the community, because nobody knows who is working for ASIO, because a lot of people have been approached and they've also been asked to work for ASIO.", he said.
'ASIO says it is inappropriate to comment on specific communities.'
Memo to ASIO: The Ummah, or Mohammedan Mob, is the sheltering sea within which the jihadists, the terror-wielding Sharia pushers and enforcers, swim, and from which, ceaselessly, they emerge. And the more Mohammedans you have in any given place, and the more powerful they are or perceive themselves to be, the more Jihad plots there will be. That is the long and the short of it. Keep on keeping an eye on 'em, no matter how much they whine and squawk and try to pose as poor persecuted little victims. If they had nothing to hide, why should they be so upset? If they had nothing to hide, why are they so rattled by the idea that some among the Mob may be assisting the Police? - CM
Posted on 02/15/2012 3:33 PM by Christina McIntosh
Wednesday, 15 February 2012
Nostalgia For Win, Place, And Show
What could be more damyonrunyonesque, and out-of-sync with the world as it now is, and more likely to put one in touch with one's inner 1930s and 1940s, than going to the track?
Anyone want to come with me?
I'm getting ready. I'm studying Professor Corcilius' commentary on De motu animalium. I wasn't born yesterday, you know.
Posted on 02/15/2012 4:26 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 15 February 2012
Australia: Unearned and Overweening Mohammedan Sense of Entitlement Infuriatingly On Display as "Islamic Women's Welfare Association' Demands that the Government Pay for Their Travel Home to Visit Relatives
By this demand, made in a submission to 'a federal multicultural inquiry', they have definitely gone too far too fast, if the tone of the 300+ reader comments attached to the article which reported it, are any indication. Such was the fury with which ordinary punters greeted this latest and truly outrageous demand that - as you will see, from the article itself and then within the Comments, which I recommend - other Muslims of a more cautious frame of mind have felt it necessary to loudly distance themselves from the ladies of the IWWA in what can only be called a frantic attempt at Damage Control.
Here is the story, as reported by John Masanauskas in the Herald-Sun.
'Pay for our trips home - the Islamic Women's Welfare Association'.
'New migrants should get taxpayer subsidies to visit overseas relatives, an Islamic group has told the Federal Government.
'The Islamic Women's Welfare Association also says Muslims prefer to live close to their own people (translation: they just hate having to be in contact with the najis kuffar - eeeew! - CM) and Australia should consider how to "facilitate the purchase of homes for new migrants".
In other words: pay for the establishment of Mohammedan colonies...CM
'In a submission to a federal multicultural inquiry, the association has urged the Government to give tax deductions to newly arrived migrants so they can visit relatives in their homelands.
As I said above, just read the reader comments to this article: many Commenters identify as the children of post-WWII migrants and refugees, who made their own way by their own hard work, and who - if they wanted to revisit the Old Country - scrimped and saved and did it on their own, sometimes taking years to scrape sufficient funds together. Their scorn for the greedy, arrogant Mohammedans would blister paint. - CM
"Migrants face a lot of sacrifices such as having to travel long distances to visit relatives, spending on communication costs (so you want us to subsidise your telephone calls to Karachi and Kabul and Baghdad and Beirut, eh? Sorry, no can do. - CM), missing out on some events occurring in native countries, etc.", the submission said.
Yes, you're missing out on the riots, church-burnings, lynchings of Christians, Hindus, etc, stonings, beheadings, kidnappings, breaking-in of kidnapped Christian and Hindu 'possessions of the right hand", bombings, and the 'honor' executions of recalcitrant females. How sad. - CM
"This loss should be compensated by the Government in one way or another to retain migrants in their country of adoption".
Gee, they do think they're allah's gift to Australia, don't they? Question: does this mean that if we refuse to give them what they want, they'll up and leave? I'm not paying, ladies, so..?.
And now for some Damage Control from a different Muslim group. - CM
'Victorian Muslim and President of the Australian Council of Bosnian Organizations Senada Softic-Telalovic said while some help might be justified for needy refugees who had to go home to settle their affairs, she didn't support travel compensation for all newcomers.
Of course, not all newcomers are Muslims...- CM
"That type of argument will bring further outrage from those who are so anti-migrant and so anti-multiculturalism", she said.
She's worried that the IWWA has prematurely alarmed and awakaned the slumbering kuffar by exposing the mindset of Islam all too openly. And yes there is outrage: rational outrage from those who have come to suspect, from the evidence of their eyes and ears, that many Muslims have tickets on themselves' as the saying goes, and are prone to demanding things that nobody else, from any other cultural group, indigenous or non-indigenous, has ever sought or got. I'm not anti-migrant; I am anti-Islam, because I am pro-human rights; and I am against Islam because everywhere it goes Islam relentlessly erases cultural diversity, pressing toward a bleak monoculture from which all trace of anything not-Islam is eliminated. As witness the smashing to atoms of priceless Hindu and Buddhist statues in the Maldives, by pious Muslims, just the other day. - CM
'Mis Softic-Telalovic said that Australia was seen as an ideal migration destination, and new arrivals shouldn't take the country for granted.
Translation: tread warily and lie low for now, the Australian kuffar are getting suspicious. - CM
"Migrants and refugees who come out now are in a significantly better position and you could say a more privileged position, than those who came out in the 1970s," she said.
And certainly much more than those who came out in the 1940s and 1950s, including many Shoah survivors. - CM
'Victorian Multicultural and Citizenship Minister Nick Kotsiras (observe the Greek name - CM) said tax breaks for migrant trips abroad was a ridiculous idea. "We are all equal and no-one should get special privileges", he said.
That's the spirit, Mr Kotsiras. Your long-ago forebears who fought like lions to remove the invading and occupying parasitical Turkish Mohammedans from their homeland, are applauding. Now, stick to that line, and say NO very loudly, every time the Mohammedans come whining to you, demanding this or that because they is so speshul. - CM
'The Islamic welfare association is based in Lakemba, Sydney, which has one of the highest Muslim populations in Australia.
And to learn how Lakemba became so heavily Islamified - the steady harassment of and attacks upon and driving out of the non-Muslims, the violent bullying causing war widows to move out and sell up, their houses being snapped up cheap by Mohammedans - here are two classic articles, one by a former policeman, one Tim Priest, who experienced the exponential rise of Mohammedan organised crime from the 1970s onward in Sydney, as the Mohammedan population expanded there
and one by a journalist, Paul Sheehan.
'Its submission also said that migrants should be free to build their own places of worship "without prejudice or discrimination from the communities they live (in)".
Translation: nobody should ever be allowed to object to, or prevent, the building of a mosque anywhere that Muslims decide to build one.
So much for the article. Now: click on the link, go to the Herald-Sun, and read the Comments. The overwhelming consensus appears to be that non-Muslim Aussies would have no objection to paying for a ticket 'home' to dar al Islam for the overly-entitled females of the IWWA ...so long as it is a one-way ticket.
For example, 'Mrs Platypus', of Moonee Ponds Creek, observed: "If the government is going to subsidise migrant's travel back home, it should be one-way, with visas cancelled".
And 'Carlo s' - "I am willing to pay for the one way airfare for them to go home and never come back".
'Kel M' of Malaysia invoked the bigger picture, having noticed the whine about opposition to 'places of worship': 'When we have the right to build our own places of worship and be free to worship our own Christian God freely in Iraq, Iran, the UAE, Pakistan and Indonesia without fear, then and only then should we give the same right [to Muslims, he means - CM] in Australia. If you are so worried about being so far from your relatives and missing out on events in your homeland, then stay there and don't come to Australia".
'Ron' observed briefly, "Go home and stay there, then, we'll be fine".
Posted on 02/15/2012 6:27 PM by Christina McIntosh
Wednesday, 15 February 2012
Franck Salameh: The British, The French, And The Real Middle East
From The National Interest:
Might Is Right in Syria
In the early 1940s, France—by then a stunted and drained superpower—was no longer calling the shots in international affairs. And it was doing less so in the Levant. Britain was the dominant superpower and by default the artisan of what became the modern Middle East and its Arab sovereign-states system. The Middle East polities we know today were birthed out of a defunct Ottoman Empire; they were not the handiwork of Gallic contrarians invested in a minorities policy bent on carving out the Middle East but were instead drawn by British colonial cartographers consumed by a duty to stately constancy and oneness. This vision of the Middle East as a uniform Arab world was imperial—not to say imperialist—in an eminently British fashion. It was also a model that went against the nature of the dismantled polyphonic Ottoman dominions, taking no stock of the region’s inherent ethnic, cultural, sectarian and linguistic divisions.
But as Lawrence of Arabia admitted some ninety years ago, this was the standard Englishman’s view of the world; a vainglorious illusion of an Arabic-speaking dominion, akin to some fancied English-speaking counterpart. Lawrence would incidentally go on to depict his countrymen’s conception of an “Arab Middle East” as “a madman’s notion for [the twentieth] century [and the] next.” Nevertheless, the die was cast, and an essentially “Arab” (English-designed) “Middle East” would prevail. This was a setback to France’s colonial prestige and its own vision of a region set apart by its différence; a mosaic of smaller, ethnically homogeneous and potentially less fractious ministates. This was also a blow to Near Eastern minority peoples—Alawites, Maronites, Shis and others—to whom France had issued postwar pledges of protection and guarantees of self-determination. But the rights of Near Eastern minorities were ceded to colonial prerogatives and to the English taste for uniformity and empire; la raison du plus fort est toujours la meilleure (might is always right) taught France’s celebrated seventeenth-century fabulist Jean de La Fontaine.
Under the Levantine Sun
For a good part of this past year, Syria’s minoritarian rulers have put La Fontaine’s aphorism to great use. The former slaves have taken a fancy to the craft of their former masters. Indeed, despite the awesome odds stacked up against them, the Alawites have shown remarkable staying power—bloody and depraved as this might be to those unversed in the Middle East’s ways of self-preservation. But what other alternatives are being offered?
Earlier this month, as Russian and Chinese diplomats scuttled yet another U.S.-backed UN Security Council resolution meant to curb the murderous deliriums of Syria’s tyrant-apprentice, the ancient city of Damascus seemed to reemerge as the battleground of age-old communal rivalries, international ambitions and seething sectarian grudges. The early twenty-first century seems hauntingly evocative of the early twentieth. Sure, some of the actors, local and foreign, have changed, and superpowers sparring over regional influence have donned more modern colorings. But in all, little else looks any different under the Levantine sun.
Its apparent endurance notwithstanding, the history of the unitary state in Levantine societies is short and its legitimacy tenuous. A mere sixty years ago, Syria, Jordan or Palestine didn’t even exist as conceptual constructs—let alone as sovereign unitary state formations. The Middle East is inherently pluralistic and multi-ethnic. As such, it is incompatible with the demands of the unitary “national” state model as devised by early twentieth-century Britain. This is at the heart of the fault lines running through and trouncing today’s Syria. But Syria is only one example, and, as in Syria, in most modern Middle Eastern polities the sovereign state has come to incarnate the hermetic stronghold of minority rule, or else the bane of minority communities seldom attuned to the histories and ambitions of the dominant culture.
Ethnic tensions can explain more of what's wrong with Syria today than is often revealed in popular perceptions, public discourse, media coverage and academic writings. Despite the illusions of unity, the norm of Middle Eastern identities and group loyalties is division, communitarianism, diversity and fragmentation. Arabism, Arab identity and Arab nationalism are the tropes of Sunni-Arab majorities—and often theirs exclusively. These Arabisms remain largely unintelligible, unmoving and unattractive to millions of others, including Christians, Jews and heterodox Muslims whose passions and loyalties lay outside the doctrinal and emotive confines of the Arab world.
It’s the Identities, Stupid
Syria’s current Alawite rule, although professedly—and often bombastically—Arab nationalist, remains the implement of a long-hated minority’s quest for autonomy and a bulwark of its communal self-preservation. The alternative is the withering of the Alawite community or its subjugation to the tyranny of a dominant Sunni-Arab majority—something the Alawites have already made clear they will not abide. Imposing sanctions on Syria, calling for the removal of the Assad regime or dispatching foreign military expeditions will not resolve the problem. Another more nuanced approach is needed—a firm but rational one. The brutal savaging of innocent civilians must be stopped, and those meting out this slaughter must be held accountable. At the same time, traditionally maltreated Near Eastern minorities like the Alawites—but also others like the Druze, Copts, Assyrians and Shia—must be afforded avenues for unmolested group organization and political expression that safeguard their autonomy, allowing them freedoms and nurturing their distinct identities.
The principles of autonomy and self-determination proclaimed by President Woodrow Wilson in January 1918 have been trampled in the Middle East of the past century. Yet, the early twentieth-century American calls that all “non-Turkish nationalities” under Turkish rule be granted safety, security and opportunity of autonomous development can still be implemented in the early twenty-first century to the benefit of non-Arab and non-Muslim “nationalities.” Ninety years ago, President Wilson’s political advisor Edward Mandell House wrote that the British map of the Middle East has made the region “a breeding place for future war.” Issuing from the administration of an unseasoned young nation, often belittled for its shallow “sense of history,” this was a prescient call betraying subtlety of spirit, political foresight and a grasp of history that even the courtly British failed to match.
The British map of the Middle East, which has defined the region for close to a century, is an outmoded, failed model. It does not reflect a law of nature, and it does not reflect local interests or indigenous historical claims. It upholds an order that was ill-conceived and largely ill-received—in spite of its perceived endurance. It is high time this structure was replaced and future wars averted. The Middle East’s problems can still be resolved in short order, and Syria can still be plucked from the throes of civil war. But this requires foresight and strict adherence to the Wilsonian principles of the early twentieth century. Namely, this inheres remedying the cognitive dissonance that has guided prevalent attitudes, perceptions and policies toward the Middle East. The solution is a political order that valorizes the Middle East’s differences as much as it does its similarities; a new political map that preserves the region’s long tradition of religious, ethnic and cultural diversity while encouraging mutual recognition and coexistence.
Posted on 02/15/2012 7:43 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 15 February 2012
How The "Arab Spring" Is Doing In Libya
From the Christian Science Monitor:
February 15, 2012
Amnesty International report brands Libya's militias 'out of control'
Six months since the Libyan civil war ended in Muammar Qaddadi's death, a new report from Amnesty International says hundreds of militias remain active in the country, extorting money and killing their enemies.
Libyan militias from towns throughout the country's west parade through Tripoli, Libya, Tuesday Feb. 14.
Last week, Libya's transitional leaders requested that Niger extradite a son of Muammar Qaddafi to stand trial in the country. Today, a new report from Amnesty International lays out its case for why it would be crazy for anyone to send someone to the new Libya to face "justice."
More than six months since Muammar Qaddafi was killed near his hometown, the torture and murder of former Qaddafi loyalists (or suspected loyalists) remain widespread. Some of the victims are sub-Saharan Africans caught in the crossfire of Libya's war, who the revolutionaries insist fought for Qaddafi. (When I was in Libya last year, I was shown African men, wearing rags and some without proper shoes, described as "mercenaries" for Qaddafi; that did not seem accurate to me.)
The militias that toppled Qaddafi's dictatorship remain outside of any central authority and, in the picture painted by Amnesty, are increasingly behaving like ferocious regional mafias. During and immediately after the war, the militias murdered scores of Qaddafi supporters in captivity, tortured many others, and razed the homes of still others to punish them for their political beliefs.
Now, Amnesty says "hundreds of armed militias ... are largely out control," that armed clashes between rival militias are "frequent," and that "thousands" of people remain illegally detained by the militias.
Amnesty researchers met "scores" of torture victims in Tripoli, Zawiya, Gharyan, Misrata, and Sirte in January and February. The victims reported a range of torture methods used against them that were once standard in Qaddafi's own prison system: electric shocks, extensive burning, whippings with metal chains, and hours tied up in contorted stress positions. Some militia members opposed to torture told Amnesty they feared reprisals if they spoke out against it.
During Libya's uprising against Qaddafi, rebel leaders and supporters spoke confidently and often about the new era of respect for human rights that would be ushered in with the demise of Qaddafi. The reality of the early days of the new Libya has been far shot of those lofty promises. The country hasn't had the rule of law for more than 40 years, and vengeance is almost always sought in the aftermath of violent revolutions. But having spent more than two months in Libya at the start of last year, I didn't expect the situation to be as bad as the one described by Amnesty.
I imagined, wrongly as it's turned out, that the Transitional National Council would be able to use the carrot of oil revenue to bring the regional militias under control once the war was over. I was also wrong in thinking the scope of reprisals would be far more limited. Amnesty writes that the NTC "appears to have neither the authority nor the political will to rein in the militias" and is "unwilling to recognize ... the mounting evidence of patterns of grave, widespread abuses in many parts of the county."
How bad is it? There has been no investigation into the murder of 65 people in Qaddafi's hometown of Sirte last October, despite some of the militiamen responsible having been identified; 30,000 people from Tawargha have been expelled from their homes (most of which have since been destroyed) and have not been allowed to return home for the crime of having supported Qaddafi; former soldiers have been tortured until they falsely confessed to rape; others have died after hours of electric shocks and the use of nails and drills.
Libya's revolutionaries aren't the plucky underdogs fighting for freedom anymore. They're the most powerful people in the country, at least for the moment, and some of them, according to the report, are doing horrific things with that power. Libya is currently planning elections for June, but it's hard to imagine a fair or accountable process until the militias are brought under some kind of control.
Posted on 02/15/2012 7:54 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald