These are all the Blogs posted on Monday, 29, 2010.
Monday, 29 March 2010
At least 34 dead in Moscow metro explosion
At least 34 people were killed and dozens more injured when two female suicide bombers attacked the Moscow metro at the height of rush hour this morning.
The first blast at the Lubyanka station in central Moscow happened at 0756 (0356 GMT) killing 22 people. The headquarters of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), successor to the Soviet-era KGB, is located above the station which is just yards away the Kremlin.
Just 45 minutes later at 0838 (0438 GMT) the second explosion happened at Park Kultury station, killing at least 12 more people. "There are killed and injured," a security source said.
No group immediately took responsibility for the blasts, one of which was caused by a suicide bomber, but suspicion is likely to fall on Chechen militants and other groups from Russia's North Caucasus, where Russia is fighting a growing Islamist insurgency.
Russian emergencies ministry spokeswoman Irina Andrianova said the first explosion happened as a metro train stopped at the Lubyanka station that was packed with peak hour commuters. "The blast hit the second carriage of a metro train that stopped at Lubyanka," she said. “Commuters were killed both on the platform and in the carriage and at least 10 people were wounded; the second blast also took place in a train carriage while it was stationary at the platform” she added.
Posted on 03/29/2010 1:10 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Monday, 29 March 2010
Gaza's hidden boom boosted by 1,000 tunnels, Israeli cash
Foreign visitors to the Gaza Strip, most recently UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon and European Union foreign executive Catherine Ashton, depict its 1.2 million Palestinian inhabitants with great pathos as living in wretched conditions, starving and homeless - and all because of the Israeli embargo. In fact, a new Egyptian report, to which debkafile's Middle East sources have had access, shows that the one-day observers were hoodwinked or willing to be misled.
The Egyptian authors count more than 1,000 tunnels, some broad enough for loaded trucks, through which a large array of basic and luxury goods flow to the markets and shops of the Palestinian enclave - and have done ever since the end of 2009. The latest hit in Gaza is the new Gold Market, which has been crowded with shoppers for trinkets, ornaments and glittering gifts since it opened.
Yet Ashton, after a day in Gaza, reported: "Moving from Israel into Gaza, you go from a 21st century country to a landscape that has been disfigured. Rebuilding is impossible while Israel blocks goods from entering. People have little more at their disposal than the ruins that surround them."
And the UN secretary never tires of demanding that Israeli lift its embargo, as though the Gaza Strip's plight was unmatched anywhere in the world.
The stage props they witnessed in their fleeting visits were bolstered by the accounts of local UN Works and Relief Agency personnel who have a vested interested in presenting a picture of profound poverty - both to stimulate donations and to justify their jobs. They and the Hamas rulers share an interest in keeping this distorted impression before the world media.
The new Egyptian report finally exposes this fraudulent picture with hard facts and figures.
For instance, the oversupply of building materials has in fact depressed the market price per ton of iron from $1066 in 2008 to $533 in March 2010; cement has dropped even more steeply, from just over a thousand dollars then to $240 today, because of an overabundance.
How then to explain the "Palestinians rebuild in mud, nothing else around" story from last May? Apparently there was too much stuff around.
If the buildings damaged in Israel's operation Cast Lead in 2009 have not been rebuilt, it is not because of the ineffectual Israel embargo.
In fact, the Hamas rulers make a tidy profit from embargo: They impose duty on every item of goods "imported" via the tunnels which honeycomb the Egyptian-Gazan border area. This revenue not only keeps them in silk ties but also in power.
Their other main source of income is, unbelievably, the 200 million Israeli shekels (app. $50 m), Israel deposits in cash in Gazan banks every month. This income - which provides the oxygen for keeping Gaza's economy and financial sector afloat - is in fact spent on building more and better tunnels for more high-end goods, in order to further boost Hamas revenues - as well as weapons, which are then used for attacking Israel. The Strip is awash with every type of hardware.
Keeping Gaza's banks supplied with Israeli currency, an Israeli concession to foreign demand, fuels one of the craziest and destructive cyclical processes ever seen even in this irrational region.
Some of those shekels are spent to upgrade the underground conduits with concrete walls and efficient lighting to resemble European highway tunnels, through which trucks and other vehicles flow. The "tunnel industry" - as it has become - employs 20-25,000 workers.
Because the markets of Gaza are swamped with an enormous variety of cheap luxury items, unavailable in many other Middle East countries, the tunnel managers have recently slowed down the traffic to support prices. As a result, Hamas' revenue from "import duty" declined by 60 percent in the first two months of 2010.
There are certainly poor people in Gaza, like anywhere else - but the obvious causes, which anywhere else would be first assigned to poor government and social malaise, never seem to occur to observers who look at this reality through the prism of their agendas.
Debka lists "poor government and social malaise" as the reasons for the Gazans' poverty, but I think there are other reasons to explain it.
Posted on 03/29/2010 1:45 AM by Artemis Gordon Glidden
Monday, 29 March 2010
Hardline Muslim clerics' books still available in Tower Hamlets libraries
Books written by hardline Muslim clerics are still available in public libraries it can be disclosed, three years after they were first exposed. Works by the jailed preacher Abdullah al-Faisal and the controversial Islamic leader Bilal Philips are available to borrow from the controversial Tower Hamlets council in East London.
The council leader Lutfur Rahman, has been accused of gaining power through his links with an organisation called the Islamic Forum of Europe, based at East London mosque, that secretly campaigns for an Islamic social and political order.
The Prime Minister announced in 2007 that the Government would consult with the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) after extremist literature was found on lending lists across the country, but particularly in Tower Hamlets. However a recent visit by the Daily Telegraph revealed that many of the books are still on the shelves.
The council said in a statement that it was committed to tackling extremism but added: "As far as we are aware these materials have not yet been banned or judged to be illegal in the UK. If this were the case they would not have been on our shelves."
In one of the books, Natural Instincts, Faisal, writes: "The societies of Europe and America are the new Sodom and Gomorra of today. The kafirs [non-believers] are the henchmen of the devil...The only language the kafirs respect is jihad [holy war]." Faisal says Christian clergymen who practice celibacy are prone to paedophilia: "Priests, monks, popes and nuns who abstain from sex...will inevitably be led to child abuse."
He adds that non-Muslim charity workers will go to hell: "The Red Cross or any other infidelic organisation should not expect to receive any reward from Allah in the hereafter for their so-called humanitarian works. The infidels who die in their disbelief will be in the hellfire forever." In another chapter, the book says: "Of all the people in the world, the Jews are the greediest... Everyone of them wishes that he could be given a life of 1,000 years. But the grant of such life will not save him even a little from due punishment."
A copy of The Fundamentals of Tawheed by Philips, another Jamaican-born convert to Islam, was obtained on a library card. The book says "un-Islamic government must be sincerely hated and despised".
Posted on 03/29/2010 1:53 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Monday, 29 March 2010
Christian Militia Raided, Arrests in Four States
At least seven people, including some from Michigan, have been arrested in raids by a FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana as part of an investigation into an Adrian-based Christian militia group, a person familiar with the matter said.
The suspects are expected to make an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Detroit on Monday.
On Sunday, a source close to the investigation in Washington, D.C. confirmed that FBI agents were conducting activities in Washtenaw and Lenawee counties over the weekend in connection to Hutaree, a Christian militia group. Detroit FBI Special Agent Sandra Berchtold told The Detroit News the federal warrants in the case are under court seal and declined further comment.
Sources have said the FBI was in the second day of raids around the southeastern Michigan city of Adrian that are connected to a militia group, known as the Hutaree, an Adrian-based group whose members describe themselves as Christian soldiers preparing for the arrival and battle with the anti-Christ.
WXYZ-TV reports that helicopters were spotted in the sky for much of Saturday night, and agents set up checkpoints throughout the area. Witnesses told the station that it was like a small army had descended on the area. The Department of Homeland Security and the Joint Terrorism Task Force are also involved in the raids.
Mike Lackomar, of Michiganmilitia.com, said both The Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia and the Michiganmilitia.com were not a part of the raid.
Lackomar said he heard from other militia members that the FBI targeted the Hutaree after its members made threats of violence against Islamic organizations.
The Associated Press is reporting that FBI spokesman Scott Wilson in Cleveland said agents arrested two people Saturday in northwest Ohio. A third arrest was made in Illinois on Sunday, a day after raids in northwest Indiana.
Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on Islamic-American Relations of Michigan, made an announcement Sunday during the group's 10th anniversary banquet about receiving a call from a network journalist about the alleged threat against Muslims.
"Don't allow this news to scare you away from practicing your faith," said Walid.
Audible gaps were heard throughout the banquet hall when the news was announced. Walid said he will call local authorities about more information on the allegations. He urged local Muslims to recommitt themselves to their faith in light of the accusations.
I'm not sure what to make of this. It sounds like CAIR reported the threat and the FBI, Homeland Security and the Joint Terrorism Task Force all responded with alacrity and a great deal of manpower.
Posted on 03/29/2010 7:14 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Monday, 29 March 2010
Indonesian cleric: Don't cut too much female genital
Once again we see the "moderation" of the world's most populous Muslim nation. By Bagus BT Saragih for the Jakarta Post:
A Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) cleric said on Friday that circumcision on women was not supposed to cause the loss of their sexuality.
“Don’t cut too much. Just cut the small skin on the tip of the clitoris. Otherwise, a woman would lose her sexuality, and you males don’t like that to happen, do you?” prominent cleric Mohammad Masyhuri told a press conference.
Who gives a rat's *ss what Muslim males like to happen? It's the womens' bodies. It's not the property of Muslim males.
Masyhuri, also a member of NU Suriah (lawmaking body), said that a proper female circumcision should not cause any damage to woman genitals. “No bleeding, if you do it properly.”
He suggested that circumcision was conducted on a female baby at the age of 7 days.
One of the topics during commission meetings at NU’s 32nd national congress in Makassar, South Sulawesi on Friday was the Islamic legal perspective on female circumcision.
Masyhuri said the meeting concluded that female circumcision “could be sunnah (recommended) but also could be mandatory.”
“The main point is that it is not haram [forbidden],” he said.
Masyhuri took an example of mass female circumcision in Bandung in the past which had triggered opposition from many Islam communities, some of which then considered female circumcision haram.
“That was not a good example of the way to conduct a female circumcision. The bad thing was that the media had blown the issue out of proportion,” he said.
Although the meeting concluded female circumcision was recommended, Masyhuri said NU would not force all female followers to undergo circumcision.
The Nahdlatul Ulama will not force all female followers to undergo FGM. That is the role of the male family members.
Posted on 03/29/2010 2:16 AM by Artemis Gordon Glidden
Monday, 29 March 2010
Students want ‘Our Lord' phrase off Trinity diplomas
A group of students at Trinity University is lobbying trustees to drop a reference to “Our Lord” on their diplomas, arguing it does not respect the diversity of religions on campus.
“A diploma is a very personal item, and people want to proudly display it in their offices and homes,” said Sidra Qureshi, president of Trinity Diversity Connection. “By having the phrase ‘In the Year of Our Lord,' it is directly referencing Jesus Christ, and not everyone believes in Jesus Christ.” Qureshi, who is Muslim, has led the charge to tweak the wording, winning support from student government and a campus commencement committee. Trustees are expected to consider the students' request at a May board meeting.
Other students and President Dennis Ahlburg have defended the wording, arguing that references to the school's Presbyterian roots are appropriate and unobtrusive. “Any cultural reference, even if it is religious, our first instinct should not be to remove it, but to accept it and tolerate it,” said Brendan McNamara, president of the College Republicans.
McNamara pointed out that Trinity displays other signs of its Christian heritage, including a chapel on campus, a chaplain, Christmas vespers and a Bible etching on the Trinity seal. “Once you remove that phrase, where do you draw the line?” McNamara asked.
The debate started last year when Isaac Medina, a Muslim convert from Guadalajara, Mexico, noticed the wording while looking at pre-made diploma frames in the Trinity bookstore. When Medina applied to Trinity, university staff told him it wasn't a religious institution and that it maintained only a historical bond to the Presbyterian Church. So the godly reference “came as a big surprise,” said Medina, who graduated in December. “I felt I was a victim of a bait and switch.” I think the name Trinity should have been a big hint to you sonny.
At first, Qureshi and Medina sought a change only for students who desired it. But university staff told them the school would not print custom diplomas, so they requested dropping the words “Our Lord” from all diplomas issued. In January, the student government and the Muslim Student Association co-sponsored a forum to debate the issue. And in February, the Association of Student Representatives and the university's commencement and convocation committee both voted to support the change, Qureshi said.
Current students are not Trinity's only stakeholders, Ahlburg said. The university also has thousands of alumni and donors to appease, many of whom have called Ahlburg to tell him they oppose the change. “Democracy is not letting a small number of people have their way,” Ahlburg said. “Democracy is listening to the different voices and making an informed decision.”
The comments are in favour of maintaining current wording and that those who dislike it should attend a different college.
Posted on 03/29/2010 2:32 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Monday, 29 March 2010
Passover and the Founding Fathers
Bruce Kesler writes at Maggie's Farm:
The Jewish holiday of Passover begins [tonight] with the first Seder. (Translation = Order or sequence and content of the prayers, symbolic foods, and retelling of the Exodus, with emphasis on educating the children.) Many Christians also celebrate the Passover Seder, which was their Last Supper.
Less known is that the Exodus was central to the minds of the new United States' Founding Fathers. The first committee of the Continental Congress assigned to design our Great Seal, the symbol of our sovereignty, was comprised of three of the five men who drafted the Declaration of Independence: Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams. Franklin chose a design of "Moses standing on the Shore, and extending his Hand over the Sea, thereby causing the same to overwhelm Pharaoh who is sitting in an open Chariot, a Crown on his Head and a Sword in his Hand. Rays from a Pillar of Fire in the Clouds reaching to Moses, to express that he acts by Command of the Deity." The motto: "Rebellion To Tyrants Is Obedience To God," which was later adopted by Jefferson as his personal motto.
See the Great Seal website here.
Posted on 03/29/2010 7:50 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Monday, 29 March 2010
The census in a not-quite-post-race-based nation
"Still black or white: Why the census misreads Hispanics (and Arab Americans)" by Tim Padgett in Time Magazine:
Hispanic advocates often tell the story of a Census Bureau worker who visits a Puerto Rican household in New York City's East Harlem neighborhood. Seeing the family's caramel complexion, the Census taker asks which race he should put down for them — white or black. To which the family answers: "Puerto Rican." [Geddit?]
The story could substitute a Mexican-American family — or Colombian- or Nicaraguan-American ones for that matter — but the gist would be the same. Many, if not most, Hispanics in the U.S. think of their ethnicity (also known as Latino) not just in cultural terms but in a racial context as well. It's why more than 40% of Hispanics, when asked on the Census form in 2000 to register white or black as their race, wrote in "Other" — and they represented 95% of all the 15.3 million people in the U.S. who did so.
An even larger share of Hispanics, including my Venezuelan-American wife, is expected to report "Other," "Hispanic" or "Latino" in the race section of the 2010 census forms being mailed to U.S. homes this month. What makes it all the more confusing if not frustrating to them is that Washington continues to insist on those forms that "Hispanic origins are not races." If the Census Bureau lists Filipino and even Samoan as distinct races, Hispanics wonder why they — the product of half a millennium of New World miscegenation — aren't considered a race too. "It's a very big issue," says Angelo Falcón, president of the National Institute for Latino Policy in New York City and a community adviser to the Census. "A lot of Hispanics find the black-white option offensive, and they're asserting their own racial uniqueness."
Nor are they alone. Arabs, who would seem to have an even stronger race claim than Hispanics do [or at least, a louder and more violently expressed claim to not only recognition as a separate race, but as THE supreme race], are trumpeting their own write-in campaign because the Census by default counts them as white — and the bureau announced this week that it has no intention of changing that policy in 2010. Incredibly, the term Arab doesn't even appear on the census form, though other Asian ethnicities, like Indian, are listed as races. (Ironically, part of the problem is that Arab immigrants a century ago petitioned the Federal Government to be categorized as white to avoid discrimination. Today, Arab-American leaders realize how much that move has cost their community in terms of federal aid and legal clout.)
It's not easy being the Census agency for America's baroque melting pot. And to be fair, Falcón notes, the Census hasn't slighted Hispanics in this year's count. On the contrary, as if acknowledging that Hispanics are now the nation's largest minority, the bureau has given the group its own "Hispanic Origins" section. It even precedes the general race section on the questionnaire and, advocates say, promises to yield a more comprehensive tally of Hispanics for purposes of federal aid and civil rights protections. But many Hispanics are nonetheless irked when they go to the next section and find, yet again, that they're asked to identify themselves racially as white or black. (The other racial designations are Native American, Asian and Pacific Islander.)
Census officials say they're simply adhering to race-category standards laid out for all federal agencies in 1997 by the White House Office of Management and Budget, criteria they confirm will be re-evaluated before the 2020 census. (The Census that year will also be unlikely to retain Negro as a designation for African Americans; it is still on the 2010 form, a fact that has led to repeated apologies from the Census chief.) And Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic advocacy group in Washington, D.C., says the Hispanic race question so far "has been hard to reconcile scientifically."
The entire concept of "races" is hard to reconcile scientifically. There is no biological definition of "race", it is a social construct that varies by nation, and has also varied over time. There are genotypic and phenotypic differences between various populations, but there is no scientifically justifiable cutoff to distinguish a "race". Race was used centuries ago by "whites" to justify racial supremacy; it is used today by "non-whites" to justify increased handouts and race-based privileges, a.k.a. "federal aid and legal clout."
Still, Maria Teresa Kumar, executive director of Voto Latino, a Hispanic civic organization based in Washington, D.C., worries because most Hispanics who do choose between white and black select white. That "risks leaving a mistaken impression that they enjoy certain socioeconomic opportunities we associate with whites in this country," says Kumar, "when in reality [Hispanics] are near the bottom in areas like education and upward mobility." As a result, groups like Voto Latino are encouraging Hispanics to write Hispanic or Latino in the "Other" space for race.
There. That ought to increase their educational success and upward mobility.
While Kumar, like Falcón, applauds the Census Bureau for the 2010 form's prominent Hispanic-origins feature, she feels the feds still fail to understand "how layered the Latino self-identity is" beyond just language. North Americans call Oct. 12 Columbus Day, but Latin Americans call it Dia de la Raza — Day of the Race — a recognition that 1492 began a commingling of primarily Iberian, native American and African blood that in turn produced a new race, sometimes called mestizo. That process was perhaps deepest in Mexico — and because Mexico is the origin country of almost two-thirds of U.S. Hispanics, that's a big reason why Washington needs to rethink its definition of race.
Many feel the Census also needs to fine-tune its idea of what is and isn't Hispanic. It tends to define Latin America as just the Spanish-speaking countries of the western hemisphere, when the term also encompasses Portuguese-speaking Brazil. It also includes Spaniards in the "Hispanic Origins" box, when in fact a Spaniard is a European, not a Hispanic.
Oh, what a tangled web. Besides all the wrangling over who fits into which "race," there is the fact that all this race-reporting is self-evaluated. If I feel black, then I am black.
All of this should prod the Census Bureau to simplify things for future counts. The Hispanic-origins and race sections should be combined into one, less confusing section that asks folks what ethnic and/or racial group they belong to: white, black, Native American, Asian, Pacific Islander or Hispanic. It should (as it already does for some groups on the form) provide space for designating subgroups — like Arabs, for example. (Many Jamaican- and Bahamian-Americans also feel the Census should list their Caribbean origins as a black subgroup.) And it should make clear that respondents can check more than one group. That matters in cases like that of blacks from Hispanic countries. Those Afro-Latinos have produced a video urging each other to check the black entry and not "Other" in the race section to ensure that Washington logs that reality as well as their Hispanic status.
If the author, who is married to a Hispanic woman and is therefore focused on Hispanic concerns, thinks that Arabs will settle for being a SUBGROUP of any other group, ESPECIALLY "whites", he has quite a surprise coming his way.
Accommodating, if not promoting, multiple ethnic identification seems especially important at a time when a growing number of Americans — including their President — have mixed-race parentage. For our children's race, my wife and I simply write in Mixed for want of any better option on the census form. But in the 2020 census, we'd like them to be counted more precisely as progeny of both the Anglo race and the Latino raza.
I think tracing one's origins by haplogroup is interesting and scientifically useful in tracking the origin and spread of humans over the earth. But I don't understand why the author feels it is important to label their children as members of "the Anglo race" and/or the "Latino raza." The reality of each person's genetic background is much more complicated and interesting than that.
Posted on 03/29/2010 11:57 AM by Artemis Gordon Glidden
Monday, 29 March 2010
Heather Robinson On The Staged Outrage With Israel
From The Huffington Post:
Biden's Embarrassment and Hillary's Rage: Part of a Staged Effort to Push Israel Away?
Is it just me, or does anyone else think last week's drama surrounding Vice President Joe Biden's supposed "embarrassment" and Hillary Clinton's rage over an Israeli decision to build 1600 apartments in East Jerusalem seems manufactured?
I have struggled mightily and sincerely to keep an open mind, and my respect for the Presidency--as well as my sincere hope that President Obama will do the right things vis a vis U.S. security and U.S. allies--have prevented me from being too critical of him thus far about anything, including foreign policy. But last week's brouhaha struck me as unfair towards Israel. It also struck me initially as downright weird, and given deeper thought, as potentially ominous.
At the center of the controversy is the decision--announced by a bureaucratic entity, Israel's Interior Ministry--to approve construction of 1,600 new homes for Israelis in East Jerusalem. This announcement, which was made during Vice President Biden's visit to discuss the "peace process," unleashed a tsunami of anger and reprimand by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and VP Biden towards Israel. Or so we are to believe.
In the name of diplomatic protocol, Clinton berated Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for 45 minutes. Apparently, her words suggested that this announcement of apartment building construction in Israel's capital city threatens the U.S.-Israel relationship, because she not only called it "insulting" to the U.S., she used the opportunity to question Israel's commitment to its relationship with America.
Hmmm. Could there be some projection going on here?
For his part, Netanyahu apologized for the timing of the announcement. He said he had been surprised by the timing also. But he did not apologize for Israel's decision to build apartment buildings within its capital city.
Another thread in the drama concerned U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden, who was said to have been gravely "embarrassed" by this announcement of building construction, to the point that he, too, rang up Bibi to express his mortification. (It's surprising, by the way, that if Biden were so embarrassed, he would voluntarily call so much attention his alleged embarrassment).
Is it credible that an Israeli announcement of building construction inflicted grave embarrassment on Biden? Or does it strike anyone as more likely that this claim is manufactured - as is this "crisis?"
For starters, these apartment buildings are not settlements in some disputed outpost. They are to be built in Jerusalem. Granted, in East Jerusalem, which is largely Arab. But the units are to be located in Ramat Shlomo, an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood. Apparently Ramat Shlomo is next to French Hill, a neighborhood of apartment buildings in Jerusalem where I stayed for a month when I visited Israel during college. Having spent quite a bit of time there, I can say it is no remote outpost, but squarely in the heart of Jerusalem.
Since when does Israel have no right to announce the building of apartment houses in its capital? Since when does any country have to get clearance to build on its sovereign territory?
It's true that Palestinians envision East Jerusalem as their capital city some day. But for now, and until Palestinians, including Palestinian leadership, demonstrate they want peace, East Jerusalem is not under their control. East Jerusalem is Israel. There is nothing illegal about building apartment buildings there. (Incidentally, I can entirely believe Netanyahu did not know about the timing of the announcement; as anyone who has spent time in Israel knows, it is a socialist state where almost any enterprise involves red tape and bureaucracy. It is not a stretch to imagine that Netanyahu had no idea when exactly this building project was scheduled to break ground, much less when it was going to be announced).
More significantly, last fall, in discussions with Netanyahu over settlement construction, President Obama accepted a limited 10-month moratorium that did not include the East Jerusalem area where the construction announced this week is to take place. In other words, President Obama knew Israel might build in this area - and had accepted it. Clinton at the time characterized Israel's concessions as "unprecedented."
Thus it is the Obama Administration--not Netanyahu's government--that is reneging. The Obama Administration knew--and even explicitly agreed to--accept construction in the very area where these housing units are to be built. It is the Obama Administration that is pulling the rug out from under Israel--and trying to characterize it as the reverse.
This crisis seems like an excuse--and a flimsy one, at that--to put distance between the U.S. and Israel.
Why might the Obama Administration want to do that?
The white elephant in the room is Iran. Sadly, it is appearing likely that, at least while Obama is in office, Israel will stand alone in the face of this existential threat.
I do not want to make too much of one incident, or to jump to conclusions. As an American, I believe that this great country would not abandon or turn on a small ally in a time of great need. I have faith in the U.S. Congress, which reflects the solid moral instincts of the American people. But this wedge between the Obama Administration and Netanyahu's is concerning.
Given its highly staged quality, it could be a sham designed to fool Iran's radical leadership into thinking there is a rift between the U.S. and Israel so that the U.S. can in fact support regime change in Iran more effectively, without incurring suspicion. Or, similarly, if it could be a decoy to lull Iran's radical leadership into thinking the U.S. would never participate in military action to produce regime change in Iran, when in fact the latter is actually a possibility.
Recently I shared these theories with Iraqi Parliamentarian Mithal al-Alusi, one of my best sources in Iraq. Mr. Alusi's only two sons were murdered by terrorists after he visited the Jewish state, and he--refusing to be intimidated--stayed in Iraq and built a political party championing human rights. He characterizes Israel as "a modern state and an important part of the middle east" and believes it is in Iraq's security interest cooperate with Israel on counter-terrorism and other issues.
He is interested in not only Israeli/Iraqi alliance but also Iraqi alliance with other democracies including the U.S., Turkey, and Jordan. A practical man, he sees no benefit in maintaining what he terms the "Israel complex"--or the obsession with hating Israel that he thinks ultimately holds many Arab countries back from true progress.
Although we were speaking about other matters (he has been consumed with the Iraqi provincial elections, in which he is running as an incumbent), we took a break to discuss this diplomatic crisis. I asked him if he thought this flap could be staged - to pacify radical elements in the Arab world. If so, could it indicate that, behind the scenes, the U.S. is preparing to take a tougher stand against against Iran, or at least to support Israel in defending itself?
"Not likely," Alusi said. "Why would America need to do that?"
He pointed out that many Arab countries--all those that are considered comparatively more moderate including Jordan, Turkey, the U.A.E., Saudi Arabia, and Iraq--are afraid of Iran and would not object to the U.S. and Israel preventing Tehran from getting nuclear weapons. Mr. Alusi believes instead that this action reflects President Obama's world view, and his desire to appease Iran by "bringing them closer." Mr. Alusi qualified his thoughts by saying he hopes he is wrong.
So do I.
Posted on 03/29/2010 1:49 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Monday, 29 March 2010
A Musical Interlude: You'd Be Surprised (Madeline Kahn)
Posted on 03/29/2010 3:51 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald