These are all the Blogs posted on Friday, 2, 2012.
Friday, 2 March 2012
Stay What Idiotic Course In Afghanistan?
Is Afghanistan worth it? US doubts rise after Quran burning violence.
An Afghan soldier killed two Americans in retaliation for the US Quran burning – and the Afghanistan government offered no apology. It suggests that the relationship is fraying after 10 years of war, some say.
Afghans shout anti-American slogans during a protest in Ghani Khail, east of Kabul, last month over the burning of Qurans at a US military base.
The violent riots and cold-blooded killing of two US military advisers Thursday by an Afghan soldier upset over the US military’s burning of Qurans are raising increasingly urgent questions among troops about whether mission in Afghanistan is worth it – both in the cost of nearly 2,000 American lives and the billions of dollars that the cash-strapped US has poured into the country.
For many, the question is one of gratitude. Though the Pentagon says the burning may have been a mistaken attempt to destroy books in which prisoners were passing extremist messages, rioting Afghan crowds are still chanting "Death to America." Does the act of burning Qurans really overshadow all the "blood and treasure" America has spent in Afghanistan?
Even for others, who are inclined to be more sensitive to the deep offense created by burning Qurans, the past two weeks have been troubling. When Afghan President Hamid Karzai feels no need to apologize for a member of the Afghan Army killing two Americans, it is a sign of a perhaps irrevocably broken partnership, says retired Col. Peter Mansoor, former executive officer to Gen. David Petraeus during the height of the insurgency in Iraq.
“If it’s not a true partnership, then why should we sacrifice American blood and treasure?” says Colonel Mansoor, who is now a professor of military history at Ohio State in Columbus. "Americans have cultural sensitivities, too. Maybe we’re so sensitive to Afghan culture that we’re forgetting our own.”
On both sides, the signs of strain from 10 years of war are growing. Afghans see the Quran burnings as merely the latest sign that the foreign soldiers in their land do not share or care for their culture or beliefs. Americans wonder why they are not lauded for risking their lives for the security of another country.
Lost in the sense of ill-usage, however, is the idea that troops are sent to war not to collect plaudits, but rather to defend some vital US national security interest, says Kimberly Kagan, president of the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think tank, and an adviser to US commanders in Afghanistan. [and wife to one of the cheerleading -- Robert? Frederick? -- Kagan brothers. And all the Kagans are deeply invested in the American ventures in Afghanistan and Iraq]
“It would be wonderful if out of this experience, the soldiers come to love the Afghan people, and the Afghan people come to love us,” she says. But “we’re not in Afghanistan in order for the Afghans to say thanks to us. We’re there because we have core interests in Afghanistan.” [which are?]
Asking for thanks, she suggests, can reek of imperialism or even racism, with the foreign force seeing itself as beneficently saving a people from itself.
For Mansoor, however, the issue is not one of gratitude, but mutual respect.
“We can understand the protests – Karzai doesn’t have to apologize for that,” Mansoor says. He says he can also understand resentments of everyday Afghans who sometimes see American forces as occupiers.
“But when Afghan soldiers take guns out and shoot Americans in the back of the head? These people are in the employ of the Afghan government,” he adds. “President Karzai should give Americans a loud and public apology.”
“Yes, we inadvertently burned Qurans, but it was a mistake. It wasn’t intentional. We weren’t saying, ‘Screw Islam,’ ” he says.
Such an apology comes with political risks – as President Obama learned when he issued one of his own in the wake of the Quran burnings. Republican presidential candidates rushed to be the first to condemn it.
“I think for a lot of people, that sticks in their throat,” Mitt Romney told Fox News. “We’ve made an enormous contribution to help the people there achieve freedom, and for us to be apologizing at a time like this is something which is very difficult for the American people to countenance.”
Newt Gingrich likened the apology to a surrender. If Mr. Karzai “doesn’t feel like apologizing” for the killing of US soldiers by Afghans, “then we should say, 'Goodbye and good luck, and we don’t need to be here risking our lives and wasting our money on somebody who doesn’t care.' ”
Those same political risks echo in Afghanistan, too. For an Afghan public weary of war and, increasingly, of the American presence, a Karzai apology could seem intolerably weak. Moreover, in a society that doesn't shy away from violence to settle perceived injustices – and where the burning of the Quran is a grievous blasphemy – an apology could run starkly against the public mood.
The reaction by the Afghan government in the wake of violence toward US troops, however, has made officials like Mansoor question America’s war there.
In 2010, Mansoor traveled to Afghanistan and “I was pretty high on what we were doing,” he says. But today, regardless of current US troop levels in the country, among Afghans “the feeling of ingratitude runs pretty deep. I mean, Karzai is a disappointment. He’s pandering to his base. And, as a result, he might lose the war.”
Kenyan police let British terror suspect escape the net
Kenyan police unwittingly allowed a British terror suspect to slip through their fingers when they arrested another Briton planning a bombing outrage, it emerged last night.
Anti-terror officers had been monitoring a British woman, believed to be Samantha Lewthwaite, wife of 7/7 bomber Jermaine Linsday and her London born alleged accomplice Habib Ghani, suspecting them of plotting to attack western tourists in the coastal resort of Mombasa.
But when another police team swooped on a third and unconnected British extremist, Jermaine Grant, who was living on the other side of the city – Lewthwaite and Ghani feared the net was closing and fled. Grant was arrested in December and is currently awaiting trial accused of stockpiling chemicals in order to make a bomb. But in their urgency to detain the 29-year-old from Newham, East London, the Kenyan police failed to keep an eye on the movements of Lewthwaite and Ghani.
A senior investigating officer in the Kenyan Police Force, who asked not to be named said: “Our anti-terrorism officers had been watching her, they were acting on intelligence I cannot say from where, since the beginning of December. . . When the officers decided to arrest her, she had already gone when they went to raid her house. . . I think we can say that seeing him [Grant] there in the dock gave that lady a warning that we were also watching her.”
Lewthwaite, the daughter of a British soldier who grew up in the Home Counties, converted to Islam as a teenager and married Lindsay in 2002. (I think there is doubt about whether they were legally married or merely co-habiting following an Islamic nikah) She was pregnant with their second child in July 2005 when he blew himself up on the Piccadilly Line tube killing 26 people. In 2009 she gave birth to a third child, but has had no contact with her family since and is thought to have left the UK last year.
Police fear she and Ghani, who was renting room in a similar property around half a mile away, were planning to unleash a terror attack as the tourist season got underway. But she was afforded so much warning by the Kenyan authorities that she was able to remove large amounts of potentially crucial evidence. All detectives found when they raided her apartment in January was a child’s cot and some documents which investigators are now examining for any potential leads. The 28-year-old had flushed a number mobile phone SIM cards down the lavatory which were retrieved and are now being analysed by technical experts.
Her alleged accomplice, Ghani, grew up in Hounslow, west London and worshipped at the same mosque as the first British suicide bomber Asif Hanif, who blew himself up in a bar in Israel in 2003. When police searched his apartment they discovered ammunition for AK47 assault rifles as well as a number of detonators. Witnesses recalled how the Middle Eastern looking man, who spoke English and Swahili, was regularly visited at the property by a white woman wearing a traditional Muslim hijab.
Kenyan police sources said they believed the pair were not working on the same targets as Grant, but have not ruled out that they were known to one another. The source said: “That man [Grant] was doing something else, but the truth is he was one step away from a bomb. There was everything ready, waiting only for assembly.”
The woman is believed to have arrived in Kenya on a false South African passport in the name of Natalie Faye Webb. The family of Miss Webb, who lives in Essex and has no connection with the alleged plot, but has dual British and South African nationality, said they have no idea how here identity came to be stolen.
A spokesman for the Kenyan Government would not confirm that the woman they were searching for was Miss Lewthwaite insisting that she could be travelling under a false identity. But he added: "We believe she is a collaborator with terrorists not a planner. Our understanding is that she was working with people here, al Qaeda or al-Shabaab people. She is a very big sympathiser with those people. She was not going to carry out an attack but she helped to fund raise, helped in the acquisition of weapons, hiding people, transporting people, that kind of thing."
Barely one week after about four primary schools within the Maiduguri Metropolis of Borno State were razed down by suspected Islamic fundamentalists known as Boko Haram, another round of arson attack was yesterday night unleashed on two private schools.
The two schools - Success Secondary School and Sunshine Stars Secondary School, were believed to have been burnt down by arsonists suspected to belong to the same group. The first private school that was set ablaze since the beginning of the sect’s renewed onslaught on schools in Maiduguri was Experimental Primary and Secondary School, located along the Ruwan Zafi area of the state metropolis. So far, no less than three private schools and four public primary schools have been torched by the suspected Islamic extremists in the state.
The list of the schools are: (public schools) - Budum Primary School, Abbaganaram Primary School, Costain Primary School, Kofa-biu Primary School while the private schools are: Experimental Primary and Secondary School, Success Secondary School and Sunshine Stars Secondary Schools.
LEADERSHIP visited Budum Primary School . . . a teacher in the school who wanted anonymity revealed that, the pupils were still taking lessons in the unaffected parts of the building. The teacher said, “As you can see, the pupils have not been relocated to anywhere, this is where they are still taking their lessons, the other parts that are not burnt. But the big problem we are facing is that, most of the teachers are no longer coming to school after the attack.”
RESIDENTS of Maiduguri, the Borno State capital have called on members of the Boko Haram sect to consider the well-being of the common man in their activities, adding that it is the common man that suffers whenever there is an attack.
A resident who spoke to Nigerian Tribune on condition of anonymity said he found it hard to reconcile the burning of schools with the activities of the Boko Haram sect.
He said: “We are made to understand that they are fighting government, because they do not want democracy. But even Allah said that a Muslim should seek knowledge. Also Quar’an emphasises on the search for knowledge. Now, our children cannot go to school, because their schools were set ablaze. We hope that they would consider us the poor people and stop burning schools.”
He told Nigerian Tribune that following the burning of Gwange 3 Primary School and Success Primary and Secondary School, many children had to go back home, as they could not go to school because soldiers had cordoned off the area. “If they succeed in taking over government, we are still going to be ruled under them; therefore, they should, please, stop burning schools, because that is the only thing a poor man can give his children,”
If Big Oil grew weed, Detroit would be making the bongs. Let’s get something straight, the bailout of the US car companies didn’t only happen because the auto industry was lobbying. Even with the famed United Auto Workers riding shotgun, there’s another huge lobby that wanted to see Detroit bailed out: the Oil Lobby. And by Oil Lobby, we’re talking about the dovetailed interests of western oil companies and the middle eastern despots they rely on for access to the most important oil fields in the world. more>>>
Afghans on Americans who made a mistake: We Will Kill Them Ourselves
Anti-U.S. emotions run high at Afghan dogfighting ring
By Michael Georgy
KABUL (Reuters) - Protests over the burning of Korans at a NATO base may have faded but some Afghans are still venting their rage over the incident -- at a bloody Kabul dogfighting ring.
If emotions here are any indication, desecration of copies of the Muslim holy book did lasting damage to the image of the United States, which is struggling to pacify the country before NATO combat troops leave at the end of 2014.
"We call the dogs who lose Americans. We are furious about the Korans," said Mirwais Haji, 28, as a defeated canine limped off the snow-covered dirt ring on the edge of the capital.
"We want the Afghan government to bring the people who did this to us. We will kill them ourselves."
The burning of the Korans last month triggered widespread protests and a string of fatal attacks by Afghan security forces on NATO soldiers.
The killing of two U.S. officers by an Afghan policeman in the Interior Ministry stunned NATO and cast doubt on its strategy of replacing large combat units with advisers as the alliance tries to wind down the war, now in its eleventh year.
An apology by U.S. President Barack Obama has failed to ease the anger over an incident that has hurt a U.S. campaign to win hearts and minds to gain an edge over the Taliban and force them to negotiate peace.
The Koran burning incident underscored how U.S.-led NATO troops still fail to grasp Afghanistan's religious and cultural sensitivities despite their long presence in the country. [if US and NATO Troops, or rather those who have sent them, grasped the nature of Islam, those troops would not be there to fulfull a hopeless, and what's more senseless, task. Rather, Afghanistan would be left to Muslims, with those who get out of hand and plot against the West dealt with by from afar, using drones, spy satellites, and other means of monitoring, and attacking, from the air, as necessary]
That insensitivity could have far-reaching consequences for U.S. policy.
Thousands of people gather in a circle each Friday to watch large Afghan fighting dogs, known as Kuchis, attack each other in 30-second contests below mountains on the edge of Kabul.
Some do it for entertainment, betting up to $4,000 on a single fight, as vendors sell peanuts, tangerines and potatoes.
For others, it's an escape from frustrations over everything from unemployment, to the war to rampant government corruption.
This Friday, several people were still riveted by the Koran burnings, which NATO called a tragic blunder. Gripped by anti-American sentiment, they cheered on dogs who growled, stood on their hind legs and tore at each other's throats.
"We are tired of the Americans and what they do with the Korans and other incidents," said Akmal Bahadoor, 18, an airport employee, as some of the dogs were held down by two men because they are so powerful and edgy.
"When we watch these dogs it's a way of expressing our anger against the Americans. We think the Americans are being attacked."
NATO is investigating the Koran burnings.
Western officials are hoping the outcry will soon pass so they can focus on other huge challenges before 2014. But there are no signs of that happening any time soon.
As young boys ran to get out of the way of a crazed dog that ran through the crowd, a few Afghan soldiers watched other canines charge each other.
"Even if the people who did this are prosecuted. The anger will never, ever go away. It will always be stuck in my heart," said one of them, 30-year-old Khalil Bazar.
Modern technology can save languages as well as destroy them
Feb 25th 2012 |
Quick, remind me: how do you say “lights, camera, action”?
THE phrase “use it or lose it” applies to few things more forcefully than to obscure languages. A tongue that is not spoken will shrivel into extinction. If it is lucky, it may be preserved in a specialist lexicographer’s dictionary in the way that a dried specimen of a vanished butterfly lingers in a museum cabinet. If it is unlucky, it will disappear for ever into the memory hole that is unwritten history.
This is not a fate which appeals to K. David Harrison, of Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. But Dr Harrison is an optimist. He believes information technology—something seen by many people as a threat to linguistic diversity—might actually turn out to be its saviour.
On the face of things, there are few more powerful forces for the extermination of languages than IT. The internet, in particular, looks like a threat. It spreads imperious, widely spoken tongues like English at the expense of more modest, local ones, as an introduced species of animal or plant drives out less robust natives. Dr Harrison, however, is helping speakers of threatened languages use IT to fight back.
He gave details of four projects, in India, Oregon, Papua New Guinea and Siberia. In some, remaining speakers of the local language numbered in the hundreds when the project began. In one, but a single individual truly knew the tongue.
The first task in each case was to create a talking dictionary that could be put onto the web, to which speakers and would-be speakers of the language then had access. This job itself illuminated the quirky way that technology spreads.
The two villages in Papua New Guinea which speak Matukar Panau, for example, were linked to the country’s electricity grid only in 2011, but almost immediately people there started using the internet and the dictionary Dr Harrison had helped to create. In Oregon, meanwhile, many now text each other in Siletz Dee-ni. This was the tongue that had only one fluent speaker at the beginning of the project, but with his help and that of a few others who had partial knowledge of the language, Dr Harrison and his team have built a talking dictionary containing 14,000 words.
Something similar will happen soon, they hope, in the part of north-eastern India where Koro-Aka is spoken. Here, people had mobile phones before drivable roads arrived and were thus familiar with the technology. Dr Harrison thinks that when the Koro-Aka dictionary is complete, texting in the language will take off rapidly.
The most advanced project of the four is in Tuva, in southern Siberia, where Russian is becoming the dominant language. A talking dictionary of Tuvan has existed since 2006. Apocryphally, natives of the Arctic have hundreds of words for different sorts of snow. But the Tuvans really do have dozens for the colours and patterns of goat fleeces. They also have three versions of the verb “to go”, whose correct usage depends on the direction of travel in relation to the direction of the local river’s current. All these and more are now available to Tuvan and non-Tuvan alike. Indeed, according to Dr Harrison, the worldwide nature of the web has spawned at least one long-distance relationship, between a Texan man and a Tuvan woman, conducted in her language.
What these projects have in common, and what is most likely to make them succeed, though, is not just the technology. It is that in each place there is an enthusiastic local who is wise enough to care about saving his heritage and young enough to see that this requires embracing modernity. Sometimes that has involved the enthusiast in clashes with tribal elders who want to keep the modern world at bay and preserve their cultures in aspic. But that will not work. In the words of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, for everything to stay the same, everything must change. If it does not, everything will be lost.
Yemen's Shiite Rebels Say Bomb Blast Wounds 22 in Anti-U.S. Protest
March 2, 2012
A total of 22 Yemeni demonstrators were wounded Friday when a bomb blast hit an anti-U.S. protest staged by Shiite rebels in the group-held northern Saada province, the rebels said in a statement.
"The demonstrators were injured in a bomb blast that targeted the protest rally against the U.S. intervene in the Yemeni internal affairs of restructuring the army," said the statement posted on the rebel group's website, referring to the U.S.-backed power transfer deal brokered by neighboring Gulf countries.
The Shiite rebels led by Saada-based Abdulmalik al-Houthi opposed the political-settlement deal that swore in the country's consensus President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and ended almost a year of protests against former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
"The United States is standing behind the attack," the statement said, without elaborating further details.
The Houthi-led rebels have been engaging in severe sectarian conflicts for several months with Sunni fundamentalists in Saada and neighboring provinces of Hajja and al-Jouf that left hundreds of people killed and forced thousands of residents to flee their villages.
On Aug. 26, 2010, the Yemeni government and the Shiite group signed an agreement in Qatar to cement a fragile cease-fire to end an on-and-off war since 2004, but the rebels' clashes with local tribesmen are still rocking the region.
Suicide bomber hits Pakistan militant base; 23 dead
From Associated Press:
March 2, 2012
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — A Pakistani official says a suicide bomber has killed 23 people, many of them believed to be militants, in an attack on the base of a rival insurgent group.
Friday's bombing took place in the Tirah Valley region close to the border with Afghanistan.
Political administration official Iqbal Khan says the target of the bombing was the base of the Lashkar-e-Islam group. He didn't immediately know how many of those killed were militants and how many were civilians.
A commander of the Pakistani Taliban, which is a rival of Lashkar-e-Islam, claimed responsibility for the attack in a call to an Associated Press reporter. The commander gave his name as Mohammed.
Both groups have been fighting for control of the Tirah Valley.
After more than ten years of diplomacy and duplicity, we are at an endgame with Iran. Only days after the second failed visit by IAEA inspectors in a month, the latest Agency report records substantial progress in Iran’s nuclear-enrichment program. This includes the start of operations at the new, and well-defended, Fordow site, which is producing 20-percent-enriched uranium, allowing a clear path to breakout. Most significant, the alarming questions raised about weaponization in the November report have not been answered. Instead, Tehran has continued to stonewall, denying access to the people, facilities, and documentation necessary to address the inspectors’ concerns.
Time is not on our side, no matter how hard we may try to convince ourselves otherwise. Sanctions are taking an increasingly heavy toll on Iran’s government and economy, but there is no evidence that they are having any effect on the nuclear program. In fact, despite the hope that economic penalties will compel the mullahs to slow the program, all evidence is to the contrary. Further, despite the Obama administration’s assessments that Iran has not yet decided to build a nuclear weapon (and that, once they did decide, it would take an additional two years to complete), all evidence is to the contrary. The description of recent weaponization activities presented in the last IAEA report is just that, evidence of weaponization. To conclude that Iran has not decided to build the bomb based on the absence of definitive proof, like a formal decision memorandum signed by the supreme leader, is simply self-deluding.
Contrary to our wishful thinking, Iran’s religious and secular leaders may have concluded that accelerating their weapons program is the best way to end the sanctions. Looking at the international community’s response to previous proliferators, they may well believe that, once they have gone nuclear, the worst will be over and that, over time, the sanctions will be lifted (especially given the world’s growing appetite for oil).
Perhaps even more important, these leaders may well have concluded that they do not intend to share Qaddafi’s fate. The logic is simple: Qaddafi gave up his nuclear-weapons program; the West intervened in Libya; and he was hunted down and killed by his own people. The lesson: Possession of nuclear weapons will allow the regime to pursue its aggressive agenda in the region and repress its own people without threat of outside intervention. Supreme Leader Khamenei underlined this point by stating that, unlike Libya, Iran will not give in to Western pressure but will increase its nuclear capabilities “against the wish of the enemy.”
It is in this context that Tehran has recently renewed calls for negotiations, an old but effective tactic. Iran has repeatedly dangled the prospect of negotiations before the United States and others whenever it appeared useful to buy time or divide opposing coalitions. But negotiation has always meant negotiating about the negotiations; Iran has never been willing to deal in good faith over its nuclear program. Why would this time be different from the ten, eleven, or twelve previous times? Some would argue that this time is different thanks to the bite of sanctions, and the likelihood of more to come. But this answer, like most proffered about Iran, neglects the hard reality that there are no easy or even good solutions to this complex and dangerous challenge. For far too long, U.S. policy has reflected the triumph of hope over experience, while the mullahs have marched forward toward a nuclear weapon.
The Obama administration has apparently ruled out the two remaining steps that have any chance to end the program. First, despite the administration’s claim that “all options are on the table,” it has given Iran every reason to believe force will not be used — from statements by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the secretary of defense to public pressure on Israel not to attack. An Israeli attack would not stop the program, but could delay it by one to three years, allowing for a permanent solution to emerge. Second, the administration has been loath even to suggest regime change — the only permanent way to end the weapons program. In 2009, the United States turned its back on the protesters in the streets of Tehran, and, in 2012, it remains unwilling to provide effective support to the opposition, vainly hoping that dialogue and engagement are still possible.
By imposing these limits on its policies — by declining to use force or aid the opposition — the administration is abandoning what may be the only effective tools to achieve its goal. Like all dictatorships, Iran most fears its own people and outside intervention. Yet, instead of feeding these fears and employing these instruments to pressure the regime, the Obama policy is to back away from intervention, showing weakness both to Iranian leaders and to our friends and allies in the region (who have urged such actions in private). In their view, failure to act will lead to a nuclear Iran, compelling them to seek their own nuclear capability.
Despite many high-profile statements about not allowing Iran to have nuclear weapons, the administration appears to have adopted the message put out by Iran’s leaders, that the cost of a military strike would be prohibitively high. While the administration will seek to impose additional sanctions, it now seems willing to live with the failure of its policy and rely on the belief that a nuclear-armed Iran can be deterred and contained. It is this core belief that defines the difference between U.S. and Israeli perspectives and policies. For Israel, a nuclear-armed Iran is an existential threat; Israel cannot exist in such a world. Our president seems already resigned to it.
— Robert Joseph, a senior scholar at the National Institute for Public Policy, was undersecretary of state for arms control and international security from 2005 to 2007.
Four men from Sweden were formally charged in Denmark on Friday for planning a suspected terrorist attack against Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in Copenhagen in December 2010. The men have been charged with one count of terror crimes and two counts of violating weapons laws.
Three of the men, Munir Awad, Omar Abdalla and Mounir Dhahri were arrested in Copenhagen on December 29th, 2010. The men were based in Sweden and had travelled over to Denmark by car the night therefore they were arrested. A fourth, Sahbi Zalouti, was later apprehended by police in Sweden. He was subsequently extradited to Denmark.
The four men, all of whom resided in Sweden, are suspected of preparing what Danish security service PET called a plan to "kill as many people as possible" in an assault on the Copenhagen offices of the Jyllands-Posten daily.
According to the indictment, prosecutors are seeking prison terms for all the men and calling for them to be deported from Denmark as well as slapped with travel restrictions that would prevent them from entering the country again in the future. Danish investigators allege the planning for the attack took place at a meeting "in Stockholm in Sweden as well as in other locations".
Swedish terror expert Magnus Ranstorp praised the efforts of PET and Swedish security service Säpo in tracking the planning of the attack as well as the men's trip to Denmark. He speculated that Danish prosecutors have a great deal of evidence stemming from wiretaps and other electronic surveillance gathered by the Danish and Swedish intelligence agencies. "In addition, the confiscated plastic cable ties may play a prominent role in the presentation of evidence when it comes to showing that they intended to take people prisoner," Ranstorp told TT.
The trial of the four men is expected to start in April.
On the subject of deportation I like this comment.
They are 'from Sweden' and the article says that they may face deportation. Does mean back to Sweden? And once here, is it: more jail time, or freedom?
Never clear to me why incompetence (being caught before creating the blood bath) should land terrorists a vastly shorter jail term than if they succeed in filling up a city's entire supply of body bags with the corpses of innocent victims.
There should be a legal category called 'conspiracy to commit crimes against hummanity', which should have these 4 locked up in the Hague forever.
Among Lebanese Shi'a, Cwazy Conspiracy Theories: "A Qatari Plot Supported By Israel"
Lebanon’s Shias sceptical of anti-Assad outrage
2 March 2012
TYRE, Lebanon - In the souks and squares of mostly Shia Muslim southern Lebanon anger simmers over Western and Arab pressure to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, seen by most as a bulwark against feared neighbour Israel.
Many see double standards in the bullish calls by autocracies Saudi Arabia and Qatar for Assad’s demise over his crackdown on pro-democracy protests, and also suspect the West’s motives for his ousting are simply to bolster U.S. ally Israel.
“Why is it that demonstrations are not allowed in Saudi Arabia but must be supported in Syria? Where’s their democracy?” said builder Abu Mustapha, 49, speaking under the vaulted arches of the southern city of Sidon’s winding medieval market.
Saudi Arabia brooks no dissent at home and along with Qatar and other Sunni-ruled Gulf states sent troops to crush pro-democracy protests by Shias in Bahrain last year.
They have even suggested arming Assad’s opponents, raising the spectre of a civil war fought by proxies for sectarian interests that could drag in neighbouring Lebanon’s powerful Shia militant group Hezbollah and its backer Iran.
Talk of conspiracy fills the pungent air of the narrow lanes and bustling alleys of souks in Sidon and the city of Tyre further south, as scepticism mounts over Arab and Western moves to end the Assad family’s four decades of absolute rule.
Memories of Israeli occupation and attacks are still raw for many in the south, and most are loath to criticise Assad because of his backing of Hezbollah, lauded by many Arabs for confronting Israel during its 2006 war on Lebanon.
Hezbollah receives arms and other support from Shia Iran through Syria, which is dominated by adherents of the Assad clan’s Alawite brand of Shia Islam.
“It’s a European conspiracy starting in Israel to end the uprising,” said Tyre electronics shop owner Mahmoud Fitouri, 45, referring to the south’s struggle against Israel.
“The people responsible for these deaths in Syria are those taking money from Europe, the mercenaries, sent to bring down the regime,” he added, speaking in a busy market, from where it is a short walk to the shore and a view of the Jewish state.
Some label footage of Assad’s army firing on protesters or images of dead civilians as media trickery, while those who believe the news are wary of outsiders exploiting Syria’s turmoil and instead want a domestic solution.
“The pictures are fake and exaggerated. The only solution is for the Arabs to stop meddling. This is a Qatari plot supported by Israel,” said Zain Faqhi, 53, a Tyre jewellery shop owner.
Sidon health worker Adnan Batrouni, 35, said he condemned the killings in Syria, but did not want the kind of Western intervention that helped topple Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi.
“I’m against what’s happening to the people. It’s savage. The two sides need to talk, there needs to be a political solution. The U.S. and Europe have their own agenda,” he said.
Assad’s demise would hinder or eliminate Hezbollah’s arms supply, removing a thorn in Israel’s side and reducing non-Arab Iran’s influence in the Levant, to the benefit of diplomatically ambitious Qatar and Tehran’s Sunni Arab arch-rival Saudi Arabia.
For some, self interest outweighs concern over the thousands killed in Assad’s savage year-long crackdown on protesters.
“Maybe Assad did kill some innocent people. I don’t know for sure. But we have this monster Israel behind us over here. How are we supposed to defend ourselves without Syria?” said Tyre market labourer Amin, 60.
Lebanon is one of few Arab states that has not turned on Assad, who still enjoys support from Russia, China and Iran.
Assad’s current term as president ends in 2014, and to placate critics last week he held a vote on constitutional reform and has promised parliamentary polls within three months.
But the moves, conducted while his forces shelled desperate civilians and rebels in the besieged city of Homs, were dismissed by Assad’s critics as a sham. Few in the West believe his clan will loosen its grip after decades of iron rule.
His supporters in Lebanon, however, see things differently.
“Syrians have waited 42 years for reform. Why not wait two more years and elect someone else, rather than waste thousands of lives? If the elections have international observers, maybe they will be fair,” said Sidon photo shop owner Arif Tarha, 61.
Not everyone in the Hezbollah-dominated south supports Assad and some are wary of speaking openly, waving journalists away.
Eyes follow reporters through the crowded souks, where meat dangles from hooks next to glittering jewellery stores, and where fishmongers descale tuna as men sit in dark corners with hookah pipes and send fragrant smoke curling into the gloom.
A Palestinian fruit seller who gave his name as Hilal whispered: “Of course Assad’s a criminal. He kills women, children. He’s worse than the Israelis. He’ll soon be gone, just like Gaddafi.”
says what Clinton, and almost everyone else, so blithely and carelessly says. Apparently what would happen, were the Alawties to lose, doesn't matter. The Morality Play template -- the same one used in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia -- is now applied to discussions of Syria.
From the BBC:
2 March 2012
Prime Minister David Cameron has told Syria's "criminal regime" that it must face justice "for the blood that is on your hands".
He warned supporters of President Bashar Assad to turn their backs on their leader or face "a day of reckoning" for their involvement.
Speaking in Brussels, he also urged Russia and China to look hard at the suffering in Syria and reconsider their support for the Syrian government.
Those Who Are Unenthusiastic About Teaching Shouldn't Be Employed By Universities
One example -- there are so many -- that has just been brought to my attention.
The Mellon Foundation awarded one professor of philosophy (Christine Korsgaard) at Harvard more than $1.5 million in 2005. Some of that money has been used, apparently, to pay another person to teach courses that that professor would otherwise have had to teach herself. The Harvard administration registered no objection. Is that what the Mellon Foundation wished to encourage, in an age when inattention to teaching, and hypertrophied rewards for "scholarship," have been recognized as a major part of what ails higher education?
WASHINGTON - Iran has made a rare purchase of U.S. wheat as it tries to build its food stockpiles amid tougher sanctions imposed by the United States and Europe.
The U.S. Agriculture Department reported on Thursday that Iran bought 120,000 tons of U.S. wheat -- enough to fill two large cargo ships.
While not illegal, the deal caught traders by surprise as tensions mount between the West and Iran on concerns the Islamic Republic was intent on developing a nuclear weapon.
"It shocked me," said Jerod Leman, a broker with Wellington Commodities Corp. "With everything going on over there with their nuclear problems, I am surprised we sold them anything."
In the last month, Iran has bought or tried to buy nearly 3 million tons of wheat as Tehran fears sanctions will eventually disrupt food imports and bread shortages could cause food riots.
Iran has asked to import a million tons of wheat from Pakistan in a barter deal and also approached India.
"It's a sign that they really need wheat," said a trader from Louis Dreyfus.
Iran last purchased U.S. wheat in 2009 but Thursday's sale would be the largest U.S. wheat sale to the country since August 2008, a year when severe drought halved the country's domestic crop and triggered record imports, according to USDA data.
Any sale of grain to Iran requires Treasury Department approval, said USDA spokeswoman Sally Klusaritz.
It was not immediately clear who made the sale or whether the Treasury Department approved the deal before it was announced by USDA. It was also not clear how the deal would be financed as sanctions by the West have hampered Iran's ability to pay for key imports.
The hard red winter wheat was sold for delivery by May 31, USDA said. That variety of wheat for export from the U.S. Gulf Coast costs more than $300 per ton, before freight costs to the Middle East add another $75 per ton, according to Reuters and industry data.
The wheat is worth at least $46 million and probably much more due to the risk premiums companies normally charge Iran.
News of the sale helped wheat futures on the Chicago Board of Trade erase early losses and head higher by midday.
The United States has imposed sanctions targeting Iran's oil trade and central bank payments to put pressure on Tehran to end its nuclear ambitions. Iran maintains the program is for peaceful purposes.
The sanctions are squeezing Iran's oil exports even before they go into effect in June, a U.S. advisory body said in a report released on Wednesday.
Cargill, the U.S. agribusiness giant, said in early February that it was still shipping grain to Iran despite signs Iran was struggling to process payments.
By law, exporters must report promptly to USDA the sale of 100,000 tons or more of a commodity to the same destination in one day. Sales of smaller amounts are reported on a weekly basis.
Losing Track Of Chemical And Biological Weapons In Syria
From the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists:
Fearful of a nuclear Iran? The real WMD nightmare is Syria
By Charles P. Blair | 1 March 2012
As possible military action against Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program looms large in the public arena, far more [better: just as much] international concern should be directed toward Syria and its weapons of mass destruction. When the Syrian uprising began more than a year ago, few predicted the regime of President Bashar al-Assad would ever teeter toward collapse. Now, though, the demise of Damascus's current leadership appears inevitable, and Syria's revolution will likely be an unpredictable, protracted, and grim affair. Some see similarities with Libya's civil war, during which persistent fears revolved around terrorist seizure of Libyan chemical weapons, or the Qaddafi regime's use of them against insurgents. Those fears turned out to be unfounded.
But the Libyan chemical stockpile consisted of several tons of aging mustard gas leaking from a half-dozen canisters that would have been impossible to utilize as weapons. Syria likely has one of the largest and most sophisticated chemical weapon programs in the world. Moreover, Syria may also possess an offensive biological weapons capability that Libya did not.
While it is uncertain whether the Syrian regime would consider using WMD against its domestic opponents, Syrian insurgents, unlike many of their Libyan counterparts, are increasingly sectarian and radicalized; indeed, many observers fear the uprising is being "hijacked" by jihadists. Terrorist groups active in the Syrian uprising have already demonstrated little compunction about the acquisition and use of WMD. In short, should Syria devolve into full-blown civil-war, the security of its WMD should be of profound concern, as sectarian insurgents and Islamist terrorist groups may stand poised to seize chemical and perhaps even biological weapons.
An enormous unconventional arsenal. Syria's chemical weapons stockpile is thought to be massive. One of only eight nations that is not a member of the Chemical Weapons Convention -- an arms control agreement that outlaws the production, possession, and use of chemical weapons -- Syria has a chemical arsenal that includes several hundred tons of blistering agents along with likely large stockpiles of deadly nerve agents, including VX, the most toxic of all chemical weapons. At least four large chemical weapon production facilities exist. Additionally, Syria likely stores its deadly chemical weapons at dozens of facilities throughout the fractious country. In contrast to Libya's unusable chemical stockpile, analysts emphasize that Syrian chemical agents are weaponized and deliverable. Insurgents and terrorists with past or present connections to the military might feasibly be able to effectively disseminate chemical agents over large populations. (The Global Security Newswire recently asserted that "[t]he Assad regime is thought to possess between 100 and 200 Scud missiles carrying warheads loaded with sarin nerve agent. The government is also believed to have several hundred tons of sarin agent and mustard gas stockpiled that could be used in air-dropped bombs and artillery shells, according to information compiled by the James Martin Center.")
Given its robust chemical weapons arsenal and its perceived need to deter Israel, Syria has long been suspected of having an active biological weapons program. Despite signing the Biological Weapons and Toxins Convention in 1972 (the treaty prohibits the development, production, and stockpiling of biological and toxin weapons), Syria never ratified the treaty. Some experts contend that any Syrian biological weapons program has not moved beyond the research and development phase. Still, Syria's biotechnical infrastructure undoubtedly has the capability to develop numerous biological weapon agents. After Israel destroyed a clandestine Syrian nuclear reactor in September 2007, Damascus may have accelerated its chemical and biological weapons programs.
It's hard to guard WMD when a government collapses. Although the United States and its allies are reportedly monitoring Syria's chemical weapons, recent history warns that securing them from theft or transfer is an extraordinary challenge. For example, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, more than 330 metric tons of military-grade high explosives vanished from Iraq's Al-Qaqaa military installation. Almost 200 tons of the most powerful of Iraq's high-explosives, HMX -- used by some states to detonate nuclear weapons -- was under International Atomic Energy Agency seal. Many tons of Al-Qaqaa's sealed HMX reportedly went missing in the early days of the war in Iraq. Forensic tests later revealed that some of these military-grade explosives were subsequently employed against US and coalition forces.
Even with a nationwide presence of 200,000 coalition troops, several other sensitive military sites were also looted, including Iraq's main nuclear complex, Tuwaitha. Should centralized authority crumble in Syria, it seems highly unlikely that the country's 50 chemical storage and manufacturing facilities -- and, possibly, biological weapon repositories -- can be secured. The US Defense Department recently estimated that it would take more than 75,000 US military personnel to guard Syria's chemical weapons. This is, of course, if they could arrive before any WMD were transferred or looted -- a highly unlikely prospect.
Complicating any efforts to secure Syria's WMD, post-Assad, are its porous borders. With Syria's government distracted by internal revolt and US forces now fully out of Iraq, it is plausible that stolen chemical or biological weapons could find their way across the Syrian border into Iraq. Similarly, Syrian WMD could be smuggled into southern Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, the West Bank, Israel, and, potentially, the United States and Europe.
At least six formal terrorist organizations have long maintained personnel within Syria. Three of these groups -- Hamas, Hizbollah, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad -- have already attempted to acquire or use chemical or biological agents, or both. Perhaps more troubling, Al Qaeda-affiliated fighters from Iraq have streamed into Syria, acting, in part, on orders from Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. In the past, Al Qaeda-in-Iraq fighters attempted to use chemical weapons, most notably attacks that sought to release large clouds of chlorine gas. The entry of Al Qaeda and other jihadist groups into the Syrian crisis underscores its increasingly sectarian manifestation. Nearly 40 percent of Syria's population consists of members of minority communities. Syria's ruling Alawite regime, a branch of Shia Islam, is considered heretical by many of Syria's majority Sunni Muslims -- even those who are not jihadists. Alawites, Druze, Kurds, and Christians could all become targets for WMD-armed Sunni jihadists. Similarly, Shiite radicals could conceivably employ WMD agents against Syria's Sunnis.
Religious fanaticism and WMD.Evidence of growing religious fanaticism is also reflected in recent Syrian suicide attacks. Since last December, at least five suicide attacks occurred in Syria. In the 40 years preceding, only two suicide attacks were recorded. Al Qaeda-linked mujahidin are believed to be responsible for all of these recent attacks. Civil wars are often the most violent and unpredictable manifestations of war. With expanding sectarian divisions, the use of seized WMD in Syria's uprising is plausible. To the extent that religious extremists believe that they are doing God's bidding, fundamentally any action they undertake is justified, no matter how abhorrent, since the "divine" ends are believed to legitimize the means.
The situation in Syria is unprecedented. Never before has a WMD-armed country fallen into civil war. All states in the region stand poised to lose if these weapons find their way outside of Syria. The best possible outcome, in terms of controlling Syria's enormous WMD arsenal, would be for Assad to maintain power, but such an outcome seems increasingly implausible. And there is painfully little evidence that democratic forces are likely to take over in Syria. Even if they do eventually triumph, it will take months or years to consolidate control over the entire country.
If chaos ensues in Syria, the United States cannot go it alone in securing hundreds of tons of Syrian WMD. Regional leaders -- including some, such as Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran, that are now backing the insurgency and the regime, respectively -- must come together and begin planning to avert a dispersion of Syrian chemical or biological weapons that would threaten everyone, of any political or religious persuasion, in the Middle East and around the world.
Florida Legislature Unanimously Passes "Stand with Israel" Resolution
Florida Senate Israel Resolution Vote Florida House Israel Resolution Vote
39 to 0, Feb. 1, 2012108 to 0, Feb 29, 2012
A unanimous vote by the Florida House on the Stand with Israel Resolution February 29th capped a similar vote cast by the State Senate on February 1st.
A Zionist of America press release today noted this accomplishment which recognizes Israel’s Rights to Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem:
Senate Resolution 1396, passed on February 1, 2012, was sponsored by Senator Alan Hays and co-sponsored by all 39 other members of the Florida Senate, the highest possible expression of support the Resolution could receive.
House Resolution 1447, passed on February 29, 2012, was sponsored by Representative Scott Plakon, and co-sponsored by a group of 29 other representatives, including 20 Republicans and 9 Democrats. The resolution passed 108-0.
Among its many significant factual recitations the resolution explicitly states:
§ “…the 650,000 Jews presently residing in the areas of Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem reside there legitimately.”
§ “… haters of Israel also hate, and seek to destroy, the United States of America.”
§ “…the members of [Florida’s Legislature] support Israel in its legal, historical, moral and G-d given right of self-governance and self-defense upon the entirety of its own lands, recognizing that Israel is neither an attacking force nor an occupier of the lands of others, and that peace can be afforded the region only through a whole and united Israel governed under one law for all people.”
ZoA President Morton Klein praised the Florida Senate and House sponsors of the Israel resolution and Christian Zionists who supported it:
A concerted campaign is being waged against the Jewish state to deny its legitimacy in virtually every aspect of its historical, legal, political, and cultural life. This effort is aimed at undermining the very foundations of Israel's existence. We strongly praise Senator Alan Hays and Representative Scott Plakon, and the entire Florida Legislature, for their unanimous and forceful assertion of the basic truth that Israel is America’s most reliable and essential ally, and for their important support of Israeli sovereignty and self-defense. The passage of this resolution is both revolutionary and historic in its importance.
It is imperative to note the particularly important role played by Israel’s Christian friends who joined with the Jewish community to urge the passage of this resolution...We hope that all other states in our country will follow Florida in recognizing the responsibility of an ally is to be there when needed and not only when it is convenient.
In late January, I was part of a Florida contingent of Jewish activists who convened for a day long ‘citizens lobbying’ effort organized in conjunction with the Christian Family Coalition by the dynamic young head of the Zionist of America (ZOA) Southeastern Regional Director, Joe Sabag. The lobby day happened to fall on January 26th, a day prior to the observance of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 27th marking the liberation of the Auschwitz - Birkenau Death camp by advancing Russian forces. A compelling reason for passage of the resolution. As we told each Florida Senator and House Representative we visited, “millions of Christians and Jews support the bastion of the Jewish State of Israel”. Several of the legislators we approached that day in Tallahassee signed ‘dear colleague’ letters in support of the bi-partisan resolution.
The object of the lobbying activity was to push for unanimous passage of the ZoA drafted Florida Stands with Israel resolution. As we noted in our Iconoclast post, “Florida Stands with Israel”, the resolution was a modification of an Israel resolution authored by State Rep. Alan Clemmons of Myrtle Beach and unanimously passed in the 2011 South Carolina legislative session in Columbia.
We noted the differences with the South Carolina Israel resolution and the rationale:
The Florida Stands with Israel Resolution, developed under the auspices of the ZoA, is a hybrid. .. with attention to the legal rights of the State of Israel under international law.
The Florida Stands with Israel resolution (HR 1447/SR 1396) has the following objectives:
To encourage peace by promoting the rule of law within Israel and the international community;
To recognize the legal and historic facts that support Israel’s right to self-determination and self-defense on the entirety of its lands; and,
To recognize that Israel and America share the same values and enemies, and remain the greatest of allies.
The factual basis in support of the Florida Stands with Israel resolution is grounded in recognition of Israel’s sovereignty and self defense under International law. Specifically:
The unanimous support of 52 members of the League of Nations on July 24, 1922;
Concurrent resolutions of both Houses of the US Congress endorsing Israel’s rights passed on June 30, 1922 and signed by President Harding on September 21, 1922; and,
Article 80 of the UN Charter that implicitly recognizes by reference the Mandate for Palestine of the predecessor League of Nations.
The mission now is to launch a national effort to get all 50 states to copy the Florida and South Carolina examples and pass the Israel resolution unanimously. Given the heightened tensions over possible military actions against Nuclear Iran, Israel would gain great comfort from unanimous American solidarity.