These are all the Blogs posted on Saturday, 2, 2011.
Saturday, 2 April 2011
Praise by Faint Damning
"Ameena" from Buffalo, New York writes of my book, Allah is Dead: Why Islam is Not a Religion at Amazon:
"I have a master's degree in education from State University of New York and am reminded of the verbose books I was forced to read to get my degree."
Humm. We expect Amazon to be restocked soon, since the last 300 books we sent them have been sitting in the warehouse for about three weeks. It can also be ordered from the NER Bookstore, here.
Posted on 04/02/2011 7:50 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Saturday, 2 April 2011
Shi'a In Iraq Unsurprisiingly Take The Side Of Shi'a In Bahrain
Shiites in Iraq Support Bahrain’s Protesters
BAGHDAD — The violent suppression of the uprising in Bahrain has become a Shiite rallying cry in Iraq, where the American war overturned a Sunni-dominated power structure much like the one in place in Bahrain.
Ahmad Chalabi, an erstwhile American partner in the period before the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and a Shiite member of Parliament, on Friday denounced what he called a double standard in the Western powers’ response to the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East — particularly in Bahrain, where a Sunni minority dominates a vast and restive underclass made up of his Shiite brethren.
“They called for international action in Libya,” Mr. Chalabi said in a meeting hall on the grounds of his farm outside Baghdad. “But they kept their mouths shut with what is happening in Bahrain.”
The Iraqi Parliament briefly suspended its work to protest Bahrain’s crackdown on largely peaceful protesters, and the prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, also a Shiite, recently said in an interview with the BBC that the events in Bahrain could unleash a regional sectarian war like the one that menaced Iraq just a few years ago.
In the Shiite-dominated south, there have been calls to boycott goods from Saudi Arabia, a Sunni monarchy that sent troops to support the Bahraini government. Followers of the radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr have taken to the streets to support the demonstrators in Bahrain. And, perhaps most notably, members of the marjaiya, the top Shiite leadership in the holy city of Najaf — usually silent on political matters — have spoken out, including at Mr. Chalabi’s event on Friday, when a Najafi cleric said, “We have tears in our eyes, and our heart aches.”
Mr. Chalabi, in an interview, said it was the first time the marjaiya in Najaf had participated in a political event.
In contrast, few Sunnis have been vocal about Bahrain, and Sunni preachers during Friday Prayer have not made it a rallying cry in the way their Shiite counterparts have. In Sunni-dominated Anbar Province, some have criticized the politicians who are making an issue of Bahrain. In response to the crisis, the authorities in Bahrain have suspended flights to and from Iran and Iraq, the countries in the region with the largest Shiite populations.
Several hundred people — members of Parliament, clerics, Bahraini opposition figures — attended the gathering for Mr. Chalabi’s nascent organization, the Popular Committee in Iraq to Support the People of Bahrain. Outside, artists painted murals.
“This painting represents the connection between Iraq and Bahrain,” said Shurhabel Ahmed, who was working on a section depicting a symbol of the protest movement that had been torn down by the authorities: Bahrain’s Pearl Monument, surrounded by date trees. “This represents the Arab countries,” he said of the trees. “The red is the roots of the tree — the bloodshed.”
Mr. Chalabi called his effort nonsectarian and said some Sunni members of the opposition in Bahrain had been scheduled to attend. “They refused to let them out,” he said. “They stopped them at the airport.”
One Sunni who did attend the gathering was Salah al-Bander, a British citizen originally from Sudan and a former Bahraini government adviser who gained prominence five years ago with a written exposé describing the systematic oppression of Bahrain’s Shiite population. The episode became known as “Bandergate.”
“In Bahrain, it is largely viewed as a Shia uprising,” he said in an interview. “It’s not true. Some Sunnis are among the detainees.”
But the Iraqi Shiite outcry, and especially the meeting that Mr. Chalabi held on Friday to discuss Bahrain’s Constitution, risked lending credence to the claims of the Bahraini ruling class that the uprisings were not the result of indigenous aspirations, but of foreign meddling, especially given Mr. Chalabi’s well-known ties to Iran.
Mr. Bander said the event on Friday — and the broader outcry over Bahrain from Iraq’s Shiite-dominated leadership — sent a message that Iraq was becoming a voice in regional affairs. “Iraqis have been terribly engaged with what’s been going on inside in the country,” he said. “I think Iraq is giving a very powerful dimension to this.”
Indeed, the uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East have had the effect of emboldening Iraqi officials, at least in terms of their rhetoric, to trumpet the country’s own version of democracy — even though it remains violent and shaky and is one that was forced upon it by an American invasion and occupation.
“Iraq was able to free itself and impose a democratic system,” said Mr. Chalabi, who played a large role in persuading the administration of President George W. Bush to invade Iraq, and whose exile group, the Iraqi National Congress, provided some of the faulty intelligence about Iraq’s weapons programs under Saddam Hussein.
He added later, “Whoever doesn’t think Iraqis can take a role in this, they are mistaken.”
Other officials here are also quick to criticize what they see as a double standard toward the Arab uprisings in the policies of the United States, which still has nearly 50,000 troops throughout Iraq.
“We thought it was excellent when President Obama said, ‘Mubarak, you have to go,’ ” said Jabr al-Zubaidi, the former finance minister who is now a member of Parliament. “We didn’t hear that with Bahrain.”
In response to calls for a tougher stance on Bahrain, James F. Jeffrey, the American ambassador to Iraq, told reporters, “We are concerned of course with anything that can trigger any sort of sectarian outbreak or disagreement, discord, diplomatic struggle, or even worse, throughout the region.” He said Bahrain’s crisis should be resolved “on the basis of dialogue, engagement, no violence on either side, to work towards a more democratic and free system.”
Posted on 04/02/2011 9:55 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 2 April 2011
While The West Intervenes To Save Muslim Lives From Muslim Killers In Libya, A Massacre Of Many Hundreds In The Ivory Coast
The report does not tell us who killed whom. So make an educated guess. We will find out soon enough.
Reports of massacre in western Ivory Coast, battle for Abidjan rages
Ivory Coast's humanitarian crisis
(CNN) -- Thought to be all but defeated, Laurent Gbagbo's forces fought back Saturday, retaking control of Ivory Coast's all-powerful state-run television network that has been the embattled president's voice in his standoff with Alassane Ouattara.
Fighting raged again in Abidjan, the nation's largest city and its commercial center, as a disturbing account illustrated the bloody nature of Ivory Coast's crisis.
The International Committee of the Red Cross reported the massacre of at least 800 people in the western town of Duekoue.
The agency's team arrived in Duekoue on Thursday, said spokesman Kelnor Panglungtshang in Abidjan.
"They saw the bodies on the streets," he told CNN. "There were so many."
Laurent Gbagbo pressured to step down
Panglungtshang said the Red Cross was helping in the recovery and identification of bodies and that 15,000 town residents had sought refuge in a Catholic mission.
"There is always a lot of resentment after something like this and it can explode," he said. "It's highly tense, obviously."
Ouattara's government as well as the Republican Forces that back him issued statements Saturday denying any involvement in the massacre or other human rights violations and called for an independent investigation.
Panglungtshang said they were victims of inter-communal violence that has been heightened by Ivory Coast's current political crisis.
Tensions were already high over land issues in the nation's western region, rich with cocoa plantations that attract migrants from other parts of Ivory Coast as well as foreign workers from regional countries like Burkina Faso and Mali.
Simmering problems exploded after the November elections that ended in controversy. Incumbent Ggabgo refused to cede power even though Ouattara was internationally recognized as the legitimate winner.
Gbagbo's whereabouts were unknown. He has not recently appeared in public and the French ambassador said his residence was empty.
Pro-Ouattara forces launched an offensive this week, taking control of key cocoa-producing towns and the capital, Yamoussoukro, before arriving in Abidjan Thursday. Ouattara's camp had predicted Gbagbo would fall within hours.
But Saturday, a quick victory for Ouattara was not so apparent.
An Abidjan resident, who asked not to be named for security reasons, said the state-run TV network, which had gone dark after pro-Ouattara forces took control of the building, began broadcasting again Saturday morning.
The network has been accused of inciting violence
Residents reported gunfire again Saturday and armed gangs roaming the streets. The day before, the fighting had escalated with artillery and mortar and French and United Nations troops have beefed up their presence on the streets to fill a security vacuum.
Gbagbo adviser Abdon Bayeto blamed the United Nations and global leaders including France and the United States for Ivory Coast's bloodshed by recognizing Ouattara as the legitimate president.
Ouattara knows he lost the election, Bayeto said, adding that Gbagbo is a true democrat.
"For 30 years there was no trouble in the country," he said. "We are going to be victorious."
The chances for that victory appeared slim Friday after pro-Ouattara forces launched a massive offensive in a final push to oust Gbagbo.
The African Union called again Friday for Gbagbo "to immediately hand over power."
"Gbagbo's days are numbered because he overstayed his welcome," Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga told CNN. Odinga has served as the African Union's main negotiator in Ivory Coast. "The will of the Ivorian people must finally prevail."
Events in Ivory Coast are sure to have critical implications for the immediate region and all of Africa.
The nation had been on the rebound from a 2002 civil war and the elections last year inspired expectations that the nation would embark on a new chapter that would take it closer to becoming a stable democracy.
But the post-election chaos does not bode well for other African nations struggling to become stronger democracies. And thousands of people have crossed into neighboring nations including Liberia, which is trying to hold onto its own fragile peace.
Abidjan residents told CNN that most of the city's 4 million residents were huddled inside their homes with little access to information.
"The situation on the streets has deteriorated to such an extent that it's just become too dangerous to go outside," said Henry Gray, a field coordinator with Medicins Sans Frontieres, a humanitarian medical group known in English as Doctors Without Borders.
"There's a lot of pillaging and looting going on, and if you're out on the streets, you're basically a target," Gray said. "It's weird, because Abidjan is actually a really nice city with well-maintained roads and nice bridges and big buildings."
Documentary filmmaker Seyi Rhodes said Abidjan, a city that never slept before the turmoil erupted, was empty and bleak. International journalists covering the conflict did not dare venture out from their hotel Friday.
Abidjan has become a city divided where it is difficult to decipher loyalty, Rhodes said.
"There is nothing now," said Rhodes, who had visited the city before the conflict. "Abidjan is a shadow of its former self."
Some 1 million Abidjan resident have fled their homes in the four months of conflict. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees reported an exodus of more people Thursday.
Some 1,400 foreigners, including 500 French citizens, have sought refuge at a French military camp, a spokeswoman for the French Defense Ministry said Saturday.
Before Friday's revelation of the massacre in Duekoue, human rights monitors had documented the deaths of 462 people -- some in heinous fashion -- and warned Abidjan is on the brink of catastrophe.
Posted on 04/02/2011 10:03 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 2 April 2011
Goldstone Admits -- A Little Late -- That Now He's Learned More About What Happened In Gaza
In a stunning and unexpected turn of events, Judge Richard Goldstone has essentially reversed himself on the findings of the Goldstone Report. He does, of course, qualify his remarks to make it appear that he has not reversed himself. What he does, in effect, is to say that if only Israel had cooperated with his investigation from the start, he would not have reached the incorrect conclusions of the now famous and highly influential report. Israel, of course, had quite good reasons to distrust Goldstone, as his report did major damage. But one would rather have Judge Goldstone now blame Israel for his original damaging conclusions than to have him blame Israel for intentionally being the major human rights violator in the Middle East.
Now, Goldstone asserts, “We know a lot more today about what happened in the Gaza war of 2008-09 than we did when I chaired the fact-finding commission.” Poppycock! As Goldstone’s numerous critics pointed out as soon as the report was issued, its many vulnerabilities were known at that very moment. One could look no further than the lengthy and devastating critique by Moshe Halbertal that appeared in The New Republic, or the many commentaries on it by Alan Dershowitz. As Dershowitz wrote at the time: “It is far more accusatory of Israel, far less balanced in its criticism of Hamas, far less honest in its evaluation of the evidence, far less responsible in drawing its conclusion, far more biased against Israeli than Palestinian witnesses, and far more willing to draw adverse inferences of intentionality from Israeli conduct and statements than from comparable Palestinian conduct and statements.”
Mr. Goldstone may prefer that we forget all this, but savvy readers will have no problem finding many sources that pointed to the report’s many flaws in 2009. Nevertheless, it is refreshing to find today that Goldstone now says: “That the crimes allegedly committed by Hamas were intentional goes without saying – its rockets were purposefully and indiscriminately aimed at civilian targets.” As for serious crimes against civilians that resulted from Israeli defensive action, Goldstone now writes that “civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy” by Israel. The moral equivalence, thankfully, has now disappeared in the judge’s new conclusions. Moreover, where possible violations of human rights were committed by Israel, Goldstone now writes that in one case if an Israeli officer was found to have acted inappropriately, and is “found to have been negligent, Israel will respond accordingly.”
He now argues, perhaps out of guilt or perhaps he decided his critics were correct, that “the purpose of the Goldstone Report was never to prove a foregone conclusion against Israel,” and that the original mandate of the UN Human Rights Council “was skewed against Israel.” Score yet another point for his critics. And, Goldstone adds, Israel “has the right and obligation to defends itself and its citizens against attacks from abroad and within.” He also stresses, although one would be hard pressed to find this in all the press reports about it, that “our report marked the first time illegal acts of terrorism from Hamas were being investigated and condemned by the United Nations.” Rather strange, then, that all the coverage emphasized Israel as the sole villain, and few could find any emphasis in the Report about Hamas and its war crimes.
If they were at all lax, and here again is Goldstone’s attempt to pass the buck, it was because they were not able to “include any evidence provided by the Israeli government,” which did not cooperate with them. Now, he says, Israel has in fact carried out investigations of rights violations in “good faith,” and yes — “Hamas has done nothing.” Surprise, surprise!
As Goldstone admits underhandedly, saying that his critics were correct,
Some have suggested that it was absurd to expect Hamas, an organization that has a policy to destroy the state of Israel, to investigate what we said were serious war crimes. It was my hope, even if unrealistic, that Hamas would do so, especially if Israel conducted its own investigations. At minimum I hoped that in the face of a clear finding that its members were committing serious war crimes, Hamas would curtail its attacks. Sadly, that has not been the case. Hundreds more rockets and mortar rounds have been directed at civilian targets in southern Israel. That comparatively few Israelis have been killed by the unlawful rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza in no way minimizes the criminality. The U.N. Human Rights Council should condemn these heinous acts in the strongest terms.
And later on, he writes that “there has been no effort by Hamas in Gaza to investigate the allegations of its war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.”
Goldstone indeed writes: “In the end, asking Hamas to investigate may have been a mistaken enterprise.” No kidding. It seems it has just occurred to the Judge that a terrorist organization committed to destroying Israel cannot, unlike democratic Israel, have any stake in investigating its own human rights violations. Did the Judge really not comprehend this in 2009? And as for right now, Judge Goldstone adds that “the Human Rights Council should condemn the inexcusable and cold-blooded recent slaughter of a young Israeli couple and three of their small children in their beds.” Yes, Yes, Yes! What the Judge does not say, of course, is that we all know that this will simply not happen. A Council that until recently had Col. Qadaffi’s Libya as a member is not about to do this, despite Goldstone’s recommendation.
One suspects that Judge Goldstone might have read Peter Berkowitz’s recently published article, “The Goldstone Mess,” that appears in the latest Policy Review. Reviewing a new book on the report published by The Nation magazine (of course) and edited by three vociferous pro-Hamas and anti-Israeli American Jews, Berkowitz begins by quoting from the introduction written by Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, Desmond Tutu, who wrote that Israel’s “misconduct” was an example of “reckless, even deliberate, destruction of life and property,” — the very charges most people got out of the report, and which now Goldstone argues was not his or the report’s intention or actual conclusion.
As Berkowitz correctly writes, “even a cursory glance gives reason to believe that the Goldstone Report is more interested in taking sides than discovering the truth.” He writes — and now it is clear Goldstone himself would agree with Berkowitz — the following:
The report overwhelmingly focuses on allegations of Israeli unlawfulness; the “documented evidence of Israeli misconduct” — as opposed to victims’ testimony and unsubstantiated speculations about Israeli war aims and conduct of the war — is thin; and its urging of Hamas, which respects neither rights nor the rule of law, to undertake investigations of war crimes allegations is a risible indulgence.
It is not surprising that as a result of their reading the Goldstone Report, these three editors conclude “the specious assumption that legal liability for the death and destruction in Gaza falls automatically on Israel lie at the heart of the book,” — a conclusion he notes is encouraged by the Goldstone Report’s “false equation and specious assumption” about Israel’s sole fault.
Quoting from the Report itself, Berkowitz writes:
The report’s central and gravest finding, the takeaway heard around the world, was that Israel’s conduct of the Gaza operation was in itself unlawful. The report did not deny the legitimacy of Israel’s overall purpose in Operation Cast Lead, which was to stop the more than 12,000 rockets and missiles — every one a war crime — that Palestinian fighters directed at civilian targets in southern Israel over the previous eight years. Nevertheless, the report found that Israel launched “a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability” (paragraph 1690).
The proof of the case is in Goldstone’s own report. So now, when Goldstone argues that this was not in it, he is dissembling. As Berkowitz puts it, “The moral, or immoral, distinction is between Hamas, whose cause the report treats with kid gloves, and Israel, for whose rights and interests it shows little sympathy.”
Berkowitz also notes that in regard to Hamas, the Report “obscures Hamas’s erasure of the difference between combatants and noncombatants and prefers Hamas’s cause to Israel’s rights and interests in several ways.” It also “failed to accurately characterize Hamas,” refusing to characterize it as a terrorist organization. Most importantly, “The report misconceives proportionality, which requires that parties refrain from attacks in which expected civilian casualties and damage to civilian objects will be excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage.”
So, whatever, Judge Goldstone’s current obfuscations, and his intent to pass off his report’s failures as the fault of Israel’s non-cooperation rather than his own weaknesses and lack of impartiality, his current re-evaluation is more than welcome. Despite its limitations, Goldstone’s article today helps minimize the damage attempted by those like Adam Horowitz, Lizzy Ratner and Philip Weiss — the left-wing enemies of Israel who compiled the volume that Berkowitz reviews.
So, I, for one, thank Judge Richard Goldstone for his going public to help minimize the damage to Israel that he and his Report have already produced. From this point on, his article will do a great deal to help people referring to the Report as a document to be considered seriously. [no one should
Posted on 04/02/2011 10:47 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 2 April 2011
Bob Geldof, a non-domiciled taxpayer with an estimated wealth of £35 million, told The Times:
"I finally understand what teenagers know intuitively. Lennon was right: love is all you need."
Good wine, they say, comes from vines that have struggled. Lennon must have struggled to "imagine no possessions", and Geldof will have forced himself, like the camel through the eye of the needle, to ignore his £35 million and squeeze into the Kingdom of Love. Bob moves in mysterious ways.
Posted on 04/02/2011 10:44 AM by Mary Jackson
Saturday, 2 April 2011
The BBC Wants To Blame Terry Jones For A Frenzied Muslim Mob
And for more than a thousand years before Terry Jones held a trial for the Qur'an and symbolically executed this book, what prompted frenzied Muslims to beat to death Hindus, to attack and murder Christians, to engage in pogroms against Jews, to kill Buddhists where, in Bangladesh, they could find them?
Perhaps the lady from the BBC should be asked this question by someone appearing on the BBC. Or perhaps others should, even at a dinner party, put it to her.
Posted on 04/02/2011 11:01 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 2 April 2011
Blowing Up Bush House
Since the BBC allowed Terry Jones, however briefly, and however obvious the attempt to blame him for the behavior of Muslims -- behavior murderous, crazed, and apparently to be considered a perfectly predictable response (so that Terry Jones can be blamed) -- shouldn't Muslims blow up Bush House?
And if they did, what would the response be? Would it be for John Simpson, Robin Lustig, Lyse Doucet, Barbara Plett, Orla Guerin, and all the other hideous apologists for Muslims (and especially for those conducting Jihad on Israel, or fighting American troops anywhere ) to blame Terry Jones and not say a word about what Islam does to the minds of its adherents?
You know, it probably would.
Posted on 04/02/2011 11:06 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 2 April 2011
A "Pilgrimage To A Sage" But Despite This, Not Without Value
Bernard Lewis: 'The Tyrannies Are Doomed'
'What Went Wrong?"[the very title implies that Islamic societies were doing just fine, and that something came along to put them on the wrong course -- but if Islam is the essential problem, and explains the mess of Islamic societies, and why what some like to call "modernity" unhinges them, how were Muslim societies doing fine until they "went wrong"?] That was the explosive title of a December 2001 book by historian Bernard Lewis about the decline of the Muslim world. Already at the printer when 9/11 struck, the book rocketed the professor to widespread public attention, and its central question gripped Americans for a decade. [a question that carefully obscures the effect of Islam on the minds of its truest adherents, who make up a majority in every Muslim land]
Now, all of a sudden, there's a new question on American minds: What Might Go Right? [again -- a question that ignores the central question: How does the West, or indeed All Of The Rest, protect itself from the unhingements and disruption of Islam?]
To find out, I made a pilgrimage to the professor's bungalow in Princeton, N.J., where he's lived since 1974 when he joined Princeton's faculty from London's School of Oriental and African Studies.
Two months shy of his 95th birthday, Mr. Lewis has been writing history books since before World War II. By 1950, he was already a leading scholar of the Arab world, and after 9/11, the vice president and the Pentagon's top brass summoned him to Washington for his wisdom.
"I think that the tyrannies are doomed," Mr. Lewis says as we sit by the windows in his library, teeming with thousands of books in the dozen or so languages he's mastered.[the sage of Princeton business at this point begins to grate] "The real question is what will come instead."
For Americans who have watched protesters in Tunisia, Egypt, Iran, Libya, Bahrain and now Syria stand up against their regimes, it has been difficult not to be intoxicated by this revolutionary moment. Mr. Lewis is "delighted" by the popular movements and believes that the U.S. should do all it can to bolster them.[but what does that mean? Still more money, even for their military, lest we show we "don't trust them"? And what benefit will this bring us in dealing not with how Muslims do or do not organize themselves within the atmospherics of Islam, but the more important question: the islamization, through immigration, excessive breeding, and campaigns of Da'wa, of Western Europe?] But he cautions strongly against insisting on Western-style elections in Muslim lands.
"We have a much better chance of establishing—I hesitate to use the word democracy—but some sort of open, tolerant society, if it's done within their systems, according to their traditions. Why should we expect them to adopt a Western system? And why should we expect it to work?" he asks. [a historian of Turkey and the Middle East, Lewis wrote about modern Turkey as if he fully expected the legay of Ataturk to last, and to be extended, forever]
Mr. Lewis brings up Germany circa 1918. "After World War I, the victorious Allies tried to impose the parliamentary system on Germany, where they had a rather different political tradition. And the result was that Hitler came to power. Hitler came to power by the manipulation of free and fair elections," recounts Mr. Lewis, who fought the Nazis in the British Army. For a more recent example, consider the 2006 electorial triumph of Hamas in Gaza.
Elections, he argues, should be the culmination—not the beginning—of a gradual political process. Thus "to lay the stress all the time on elections, parliamentary Western-style elections, is a dangerous delusion."
Not because Muslims' cultural DNA is predisposed against it—quite the contrary. "The whole Islamic tradition is very clearly against autocratic and irresponsible rule," says Mr. Lewis. "There is a very strong tradition—both historical and legal, both practical and theoretical—of limited, controlled government."
But Western-style elections have had mixed success even in the West. "Even in France, where they claim to have invented freedom, they're on their fifth republic and who knows how many more there will be before they get settled down," Mr. Lewis laughs. "I don't think we can assume that the Anglo-American system of democracy is a sort of world rule, a world ideal," he says. Instead, Muslims should be "allowed—and indeed helped and encouraged—to develop their own ways of doing things."
In other words: To figure out how to build freer, better societies, Muslims need not look across the ocean. They need only look back into their own history.
Mr. Lewis points me to a letter written by France's ambassador in Istanbul shortly before the French revolution. The French government was frustrated by how long the ambassador was taking to move ahead with some negotiations. So he pushed back: "Here, it is not like it is in France, where the king is sole master and does as he pleases. Here, the sultan has to consult."
In Middle Eastern history "consultation is the magic word. It occurs again and again in classical Islamic texts. It goes back to the time of the Prophet himself," says Mr. Lewis.
What it meant practically was that political leaders had to cut deals with various others—the leaders of the merchant guild, the craft guild, the scribes, the land owners and the like. Each guild chose its own leaders from within. "The rulers," says Mr. Lewis, "even the great Ottoman sultans, had to consult with these different groups in order to get things done."
It's not that Ottoman-era societies were models of Madisonian political wisdom. But power was shared such that rulers at the top were checked, so the Arab and Muslim communities of the vast Ottoman Empire came to include certain practices and expectations of limited government.
Americans often think of limited government in terms of "freedom," but Mr. Lewis says that word doesn't have a precise equivalent in Arabic. "Liberty, freedom, it means not being a slave. . . . Freedom was a legal term and a social term—it was not a political term. And it was not used as a metaphor for political status," he says. The closest Arabic word to our concept of liberty is "justice," or 'adl. "In the Muslim tradition, justice is the standard" of good government. (Yet judging from the crowds gathered at Syria's central Umayyad mosque last week chanting "Freedom, freedom!," the word, if not our precise meaning, has certainly caught on.)
The traditional consultation process was a main casualty of modernization, which helps explain modernization's dubious reputation in parts of the Arab and Muslim world. "Modernization . . . enormously increased the power of the state," Mr. Lewis says. "And it tended to undermine, or even destroy, those various intermediate powers which had previously limited the power of the state." This was enabled by the cunning of the Mubaraks and the Assads, paired with "modern communication, modern weapons and the modern apparatus of surveillance and repression." The result: These autocrats amassed "greater power than even the mightiest of the sultans ever had."
So can today's Middle East recover this tradition and adapt it appropriately? He reminds me that he is a historian: Predictions are not his forte. But the reluctant sage offers some thoughts.
First, Tunisia has real potential for democracy, largely because of the role of women there. "Tunisia, as far as I know, is the only Muslim country that has compulsory education for girls from the beginning right through. And in which women are to be found in all the professions," says Mr. Lewis.
"My own feeling is that the greatest defect of Islam and the main reason they fell behind the West is the treatment of women," he says. He makes the powerful point that repressive homes pave the way for repressive governments. "Think of a child that grows up in a Muslim household where the mother has no rights, where she is downtrodden and subservient. That's preparation for a life of despotism and subservience. It prepares the way for an authoritarian society," he says.
Egypt is a more complicated case, Mr. Lewis says. Already the young, liberal protesters who led the revolution in Tahrir Square are being pushed aside by the military-Muslim Brotherhood complex. Hasty elections, which could come as soon as September, might sweep the Muslim Brotherhood into power. That would be "a very dangerous situation," he warns. "We should have no illusions about the Muslim Brotherhood, who they are and what they want."
And yet Western commentators seem determined to harbor such illusions. Take their treatment of Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi. The highly popular, charismatic cleric has said that Hitler "managed to put [the Jews] in their place" and that the Holocaust "was divine punishment for them."
Yet following a sermon Sheikh Qaradawi delivered to more than a million in Cairo following Mubarak's ouster, New York Times reporter David D. Kirkpatrick wrote that the cleric "struck themes of democracy and pluralism, long hallmarks of his writing and preaching." Mr. Kirkpatrick added: "Scholars who have studied his work say Sheik Qaradawi has long argued that Islamic law supports the idea of a pluralistic, multiparty, civil democracy."
Professor Lewis has been here before. As the Iranian revolution was beginning in the late 1970s, the name of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was starting to appear in the Western press. "I was at Princeton and I must confess I never heard of Khomeini. Who had? So I did what one normally does in this world of mine: I went to the university library and looked up Khomeini and, sure enough, it was there."
'It" was a short book called "Islamic Government"—now known as Khomeini's Mein Kampf—available in Persian and Arabic. Mr. Lewis checked out both copies and began reading. "It became perfectly clear who he was and what his aims were. And that all of this talk at the time about [him] being a step forward and a move toward greater freedom was absolute nonsense," recalls Mr. Lewis.
"I tried to bring this to the attention of people here. The New York Times wouldn't touch it. They said 'We don't think this would interest our readers.' But we got the Washington Post to publish an article quoting this. And they were immediately summoned by the CIA," he says. "Eventually the message got through—thanks to Khomeini."
Now, thanks to Tehran's enduring Khomeinism, the regime is unpopular and under threat. "There is strong opposition to the regime—two oppositions—the opposition within the regime and the opposition against the regime. And I think that sooner or later the regime in Iran will be overthrown and something more open, more democratic, will emerge," Mr. Lewis says. "Most Iranian patriots are against the regime. They feel it is defaming and dishonoring their country. And they're right of course."
Iranians' disdain for the ruling mullahs is the reason Mr. Lewis thinks the U.S. shouldn't take military action there. "It would give the regime a gift that they don't at present enjoy—namely Iranian patriotism," he warns. [but for how long would that rally-round-the-flag reactin last? See here for another view]
By his lights, the correct policy is to elevate the democratic Green movement, and to distinguish the regime from the people. "When President Obama assumed office, he sent a message of greeting to the regime. That is polite and courteous," Mr. Lewis deadpans, "but it would have been much better to send a message to the people of Iran."
Let's hope the Green movement is effective. Because—and this may be hard to square with his policy prescription—Mr. Lewis doesn't think that Iran can be contained if it does go nuclear.
"During the Cold War, both the Soviet Union and the United States had nuclear weapons but both knew that the other was very unlikely to use them. Because of what was known at the time as MAD—mutually assured destruction. MAD meant that each side knew that if it used a nuclear weapon the other would retaliate and both sides would be devastated. And that's why the whole time during the Cold War, even at the worst times, there was not much danger of anyone using a nuclear weapon," says Mr. Lewis.
But the mullahs "are religious fanatics with an apocalyptic mindset. In Islam, as in Christianity and Judaism, there is an end-of-times scenario—and they think it's beginning or has already begun." So "mutually assured destruction is not a deterrent—it's an inducement."
Another key variable in the regional dynamic is Turkey, Mr. Lewis's particular expertise. He was the first Westerner granted access to the Ottoman archives in Istanbul in 1950. Recent developments there alarm him. "In Turkey, the movement is getting more and more toward re-Islamization. The government has that as its intention—and it has been taking over, very skillfully, one part after another of Turkish society. The economy, the business community, the academic community, the media. And now they're taking over the judiciary, which in the past has been the stronghold of the republican regime." Ten years from now, Mr. Lewis thinks, Turkey and Iran could switch places.
So even as he watches young Middle Eastern activists rise up against the tyrannies that have oppressed them, he keeps a wary eye on the spread of Islamic fundamentalism. It is particularly challenging because it has "no political center, no ethnic identity. . . . It's both Arab and Persian and Turkish and everything else. It is religiously defined. And it can command support among people of every nationality once they are convinced. That marks the important difference," he says.
"I think the struggle will continue until they either obtain their objective or renounce it," Mr. Lewis says. "At the moment, both seem equally improbable."
Posted on 04/02/2011 11:43 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 2 April 2011
A Musical Interlude: Black Coffee (Carroll Gibbons And His Boy Friends, voc. Marjorie Stedeford)
Posted on 04/02/2011 12:24 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 2 April 2011
The West Will Protect Muslims, But Not Christians
Here is the record:
In 1967 the Christians in southern Nigeria -- mainly the Ibo (or Igbo) but not limited to the Ibo -- in response to repeated massacres of Christians by Muslims (chiefly Hausa and Fulani) in central and northern Nigeria -- declared the independent state of Biafra. Many Christian Nigerians flew home to join the fight, one that Colonel Ojukwu, the leader of Biafra, correctly characterized as a "jihad" against the Christians.
Nasser sent his Mig bombers, with Egyptian pilots, to strafe -- at will -- Ibo villages. Tens of thousands of those who can truly be called "helpless civilians" (unlike those who have taken up arms against Qaddafy) died from such Egyptian raids. The Muslim pilots were sent by a Muslim government to kill Christians, on behalf of other Muslims. ]
The Western world declared an "arms embargo" on both sides. But as we know now, the government of Great Britain sent twelve timies as many arms as it had before the war -- sent all of them to the Muslim-run military of Nigeria, that was suppressing the Christians of Biafra.
In the southern Sudan, according to the estimates of many organizations run by black Sudanese, 2.5 million non-Muslims have been killed, or deliberately starved to death, by the Muslim Arabs of the north. This has taken place over many decades, in slow motion. It was observed by Gaston Biro, the U.N.'s Special Rapporteur, and by many international aid agencies. The West did nothing. It might have sent a dozen planes to strafe the airports of the Muslim north. It would have cost the West nothing. But nothing was done during all those decades of mass slaughter.
It was only when the Muslim Arabs started to attack the Muslim non-Arabs of Darfur that various forceful statements began to be made, though still, there was no intervention -- say, strafing a camel-column of Janjaweed, to make sure a message was delivered that the mass rapes, pillaging, and murder had to stop -- by the West. Not with a single plane, not with a single helicopter, not a single missile loobed, not even a rifle shot.
But just because the West did nothing to intervene in the Sudan -- southern Sudan or Darfur -- or in Nigeria, where Christians and animists and then non-Arab Muslims were the victims -- doesn't mean that the West hasn't intervened.
It intervened in Bosnia, to save Muslim lives.
It intervened in Kosovo , to save Muslmi lives.
It intervened in Kuwait, to save Muslim lives from other Muslims.
It intervened in Iraq, to save Muslim lives from the Muslims running the regime of Saddam Hussein.
It intervened in Libya, to save Muslims who wished to throw off the yoke of Qaddafy, and whose views are still a mystery to the very Westerners who decided to bomb and shoot first, and find out later if they would be getting more, or less, Islam in Libya if Qaddafy were overthrown.
Now in the Ivory Coast, where Muslims who are not citizens have been entering the country in the north, which has been in "rebel" hands for some years, and where, therefore, it is unclear who voted in the last election, the Christian, Laurent Gbagbo, lost by a little, when the votes were counted, to a Muslim, Mr.Ouattarra. No one knows exactly what happened when the voting went on in the north -- it was off-limits to representatives of Abidjan.
For the West, the issue was clear-cut and did not admit of any other considerations: Gbagbo had to go, Outtarra must come in.
And now, as the Western powers have been sending in planes and raining missiles down to save "civilian lives" of Muslims who are being attacked by other Muslims, to avoid a "massacre" which so far has apparently not occurred in any of the cities held by Qaddafy's forces -- for if there had been such a massacre you would certainly have heard of it, over and over and over, in the Situation Room and suchlike -- a real massacre has occurred, by Muslims, of Christians, in the Ivory Coast.
Make of that what you will.
Posted on 04/02/2011 1:40 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 2 April 2011
But This Is What Happens In War: Do The Arabs Expect The West To Not Only Do Their Fighting For Them, But Also Do What No Military Can Do?
April 2nd, 2011
NATO said Saturday it is investigating claims that a coalition airstrike hit a convoy of rebel fighters in Libya near the eastern oil town of Brega, killing 13 people.
Witnesses say someone in the group of fighters had fired an anti-aircraft gun into the air before the strike late Friday. It is unclear if the shots were fired by rebels in celebration or by forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi that had infiltrated the group.
An opposition spokesman said the strike was an accident. Another representative for the rebels told Reuters news agency the fighters still support the air strikes.
The convoy was heading into Brega, one of several oil towns along the Mediterranean coast that has changed hands from rebel to regime control numerous times since fighting broke out in mid-February.
Pro-Gadhafi forces have mostly fended off the lightly armed, and poorly trained rebel fighters in Brega, though rebels are said to have secured areas around Brega university.
Rebels have been trying to organize themselves into a more disciplined force, and have been sending former military commanders to the front lines to lead the fighting.
On Friday, an opposition leader in the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi proposed a cease-fire. Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, a former Libyan justice minister, said government troops must first withdraw from cities they now control while ending their siege of those under control of the rebels. He also said Libyans living in western cities must be given the freedom to determine their fate.
The cease-fire offer was rejected by the Gadhafi government as a “trick.” A government spokesman told reporters in the capital, Tripoli, that the rebels' demands are “impossible” and “never offered peace.”
The Libyan government has labeled the Western coalition air attacks in support of a U.N. resolution as “crimes against humanity.” It said at least six civilians were killed in an air attack Thursday on a village near Brega.
Posted on 04/02/2011 2:06 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 2 April 2011
Muslims Massacre 800 Christians In Ivory Coast -- West Will Not Lift A Finger
Ivory Coast Massacre Leaves 800 Dead, Red Cross Reports
April 02, 2011
By Olivier Monnier, Pauline Bax and Franz Wild
April 2 (Bloomberg) -- At least 800 people were killed in the western Ivory Coast town of Duekoue after troops loyal to President-elect Alassane Ouattara swept through the city on their way to the commercial capital, Abidjan, the International Committee of the Red Cross reported.
The Republican Forces, who are seeking to oust incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo, on March 30 entered Abidjan, attacking Gbagbo’s palace, army camps and the state-run television headquarters. Gbagbo refuses to accept a Nov. 28 election defeat.
“Lots of people were lying dead in the streets” of Duekoue, Kelnor Panglung, a spokesman for the Red Cross in Ivory Coast, said from Abidjan. “We could see a lot, a lot, a lot of people killed. It’s truly horrific. We don’t have any information about the authors of these killings.”
The United Nations, the U.S., the African Union and the U.K. renewed calls for Gbagbo, 65, to hand power over to Ouattara, 69, whom they recognize as the winner of the nation’s first vote in a decade. Cocoa prices have tumbled 7.7 percent in the past 10 days as traders predict an imminent end to the impasse in the world’s largest cocoa producer. The crisis led the West African nation to default on its $2.3 billion of Eurobonds, which have rallied 30 percent in 10 days as Ouattara’s forces advance.
The Duekoue massacre occurred on March 29 and is due to “inter-communal violence,” Red Cross spokeswoman Dorothea Krimitsas said in an interview from Geneva.
Roman Catholic aid group Caritas said 1,000 people died or disappeared in the Duekoue clashes between March 27 and March 29, according to a statement on its website.
It’s not been the only massacre. The UN said on March 31 that Liberian mercenaries loyal to Gbagbo were killing and looting in the west of the country, putting its own death toll since the election at 494.
The toll in Abidjan is unknown. Aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres yesterday received 60 patients in their emergency ward in the northern Abidjan suburb of Abobo, 50 of whom suffered from gunshot wounds, field coordinator Henry Gray said in an e-mailed statement.
“We’re hearing constant gunfire along with the occasional heavy detonation, and that’s been going on for a few days now,” Gray said. “There’s a lot of pillaging and looting going on, and if you’re out on the streets, you’re basically a target.”
Battle for Abidjan
Abidjan, a city of about four million, is the first place the advancing rebels have met real resistance from Gbagbo forces. Explosions and gunfire picked up throughout the day in the affluent Cocody neighborhood, where the Republican Forces yesterday said they captured Gbagbo’s residence and the headquarters of the state-owned broadcaster, Radio Television Ivoirienne, RTI.
Similar explosions and gunfire also shook the downtown Plateau district, where the presidential palace is located. “It is very loud,” said Charles Konan, who has been blocked in his office since March 31. “We can hear explosions, shells and gunfire.”
It remained unclear how much of the city was under the control of the Republic Forces.
“We should be able to break the resistance today,” Republican Forces spokesman Meite Sindou said in a phone interview. “We have captured more than 80 percent of the city. Our troops are liberating the city.”
Sindou denied claims by Gbagbo troops that they had retaken control of RTI. The station came back on air today and issued a bulletin saying that Gbagbo was still at his residence. The broadcasts came from a van parked on a fly-over and not from the studio, Sindou said.
John Atta Mills, the president of Ghana, “has indicated his willingness to give political asylum to President Gbagbo if he asks for it,” spokesman Koku Anyidoho said in an interview broadcast on Accra-based Radio Gold today. Gbagbo hadn’t yet asked for asylum, he said.
Gbagbo’s spokesman denied speculation he fled the country.
“Laurent Gbagbo is in his residence with his family,” Ahoua Don Mello said in an interview. “We call for negotiations. Ivorian society is divided and we need to heal it.”
Cocoa and Bonds
Cocoa for May delivery rose yesterday for the first day in the week, adding $59, or 2 percent, to $3,011 per metric ton at the end of trading in New York. The price for the beans slumped to an 11-week low on March 31 on hopes for a quick resumption in exports.
Ivory Coast’s defaulted dollar-denominated bond jumped 6.4 percent to 50.417 cents on the dollar at the end of trading yesterday, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Optimism for a quick resolution to the conflict rose at the end of last week after Gbagbo suffered a series of defections.
An elite 1,000-member security unit founded by Gbagbo in 2005 announced yesterday it would join Ouattara’s administration.
Before New Republican forces entered Abidjan, the head of Gbagbo’s army, General Phillipe Mangou, sought refuge at the residence of the South African ambassador, the country’s foreign ministry said.
General Edouard Tiape Kassarate, head of the military police, defected to Ouattara’s administration at its UN- protected headquarters in the Golf Hotel in Abidjan, Alain Lobognon, an adviser to Soro, said by telephone two days ago.
The defections didn’t halt the fighting in Abidjan though.
“There is some resistance from Gbagbo’s side,” Gilles Yabi, West Africa director for International Crisis Group, said from Dakar, Senegal’s capital. “His forces and militias in Abidjan and elsewhere could regain some courage and continue the fight. I wouldn’t say the situation is over yet.”
Posted on 04/02/2011 1:37 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald