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The Oil Cringe of the West: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly Vol. 2
edited by S.B. Kelly
The Impact of Islam
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Sir Walter Scott's Crusades and Other Fantasies
by Ibn Warraq
Fighting the Retreat from Arabia and the Gulf: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly. Vol. 1
edited by S.B. Kelly
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by J. E. G. Dixon
Hamlet Made Simple and Other Essays
by David P. Gontar
Farewell Fear
by Theodore Dalrymple
The Eagle and The Bible: Lessons in Liberty from Holy Writ
by Kenneth Hanson
The West Speaks
interviews by Jerry Gordon
Mohammed and Charlemagne Revisited: The History of a Controversy
Emmet Scott
Why the West is Best: A Muslim Apostate's Defense of Liberal Democracy
Ibn Warraq
Anything Goes
by Theodore Dalrymple
Karimi Hotel
De Nidra Poller
The Left is Seldom Right
by Norman Berdichevsky
Allah is Dead: Why Islam is Not a Religion
by Rebecca Bynum
Virgins? What Virgins?: And Other Essays
by Ibn Warraq
An Introduction to Danish Culture
by Norman Berdichevsky
The New Vichy Syndrome:
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Jihad and Genocide
by Richard L. Rubenstein
Spanish Vignettes: An Offbeat Look Into Spain's Culture, Society & History
by Norman Berdichevsky



















These are all the Blogs posted on Sunday, 29, 2011.
Sunday, 29 May 2011
Hay Festival 2011: Professor risks political storm over Muslim 'inbreeding’

One of Britain’s most eminent scientists has warned that the level of inbreeding among the nation’s Muslims is endangering the health of future generations. Prof Steve Jones, the geneticist, said that it was common in the Islamic world for men to marry their nieces and cousins. He said that Bradford has a particular problem and warned that it could affect the health of children born into these marriages

Prof Jones, who writes for the Telegraph’s science pages, told an audience at the Hay Festival: “There may be some evidence that cousins marrying one another can be harmful.  It is common in the Islamic world to marry your brother’s daughter, which is actually closer than marrying your cousin.  We should be concerned about that as there can be a lot of hidden genetic damage. Children are much more likely to get two copies of a damaged gene.”

He added: “Bradford is very inbred. There is a huge amount of cousins marrying each other there.” Research in Bradford has found that babies born to Pakistani women are twice as likely to die in their first year as babies born to white mothers, with genetic problems linked to inbreeding identified as a “significant” cause.

Studies have found that within the city, more than 70 per cent of marriages are between relations, with more than half involving first cousins.

Separate studies have found that while British Pakistanis make up three per cent of all births, they account for one in three British children born with genetic illnesses.

Posted on 05/29/2011 11:21 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 29 May 2011
Karzai Issues "Last Warning" To U.S.

From the BBC:

Afghan leader Karzai issues 'last warning' to Nato

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has forcefully condemned the killing of 14 civilians in the south-west of the country in a suspected Nato air strike.

Mr Karzai said his government had repeatedly asked the US to stop raids which end up killing Afghan civilians and this was his "last warning". [compare this attitude with what the Dutch -- or was it Danish? -- Resistance said to the Allied bombers who, instead of hitting Gestapo headquarters, hit a hospital for local orphans, killing hundreds, and the Resistance sent the message to the Allies: "Don't stop becuase of an error, don't slow down, keep on coming." ]

A Nato spokesman said a team had been sent to Helmand province to investigate the attack carried out on Saturday.

Afghan officials say all those killed were women and children.

The strike took place in Nawzad district after a US Marines base came under attack.

The air strike, targeted at insurgents, struck two civilian homes, killing two women and 12 children, reports say.

"The president called this incident a great mistake and the murdering of Afghanistan's children and women, and on behalf of the Afghan people gives his last warning to the US troops and US officials in this regard," his office said.

A group from Sera Cala village travelled to Helmand's capital, Lashkar Gah, bringing with them the bodies of eight dead children, some as young as two years old, says the BBC's Quentin Sommerville in Kabul.

"See, they aren't Taliban," they chanted as the carried the corpses to local journalists and the governor's mansion.

While insurgents are responsible for most civilian deaths in Afghanistan, the killings of Afghans by foreign soldiers is a source of deepening anger, our correspondent adds.

President Hamid Karzai has criticised Nato for not doing enough to prevent such deaths, especially during "night raids" and has called on the country's ministry of defence to stop what he described as "arbitrary" operations by foreign forces.

Daud funeral

In the country's north, security was extremely tight for the funeral of Gen Mohammad Daud Daud, the police commander for northern Afghanistan who was killed in a suicide bomb attack on the provincial governor's compound in Takhar province on Saturday.

He was one of at least six people killed in the attack, which was claimed by the Taliban.

The location of the funeral itself was not announced in advance for security reasons.

Shopkeepers closed their doors and hung pictures of the general as he was buried, and mourners waved black flags in his honour, Reuters news agency reports.

The governor of Takhar province, Abdul Jabar Taqwa, dismissed allegations that "rogue" elements were involved in Saturday's attack in Taloqan.

He said intelligence officials knew about the mission and even had the telephone number of the suicide bomber several days before his attack.

"We sadly failed to catch him before he could carry out his mission," the governor, whose face and hand were burnt in the attack, told reporters in Taloqan on Sunday

Posted on 05/29/2011 11:25 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 29 May 2011
In Yemen, Al Qaeda Takes Over Zinjibar

Breakaway Yemen army units add to pressure on Saleh

Photo
12:29pm EDT

By Samia Nakhoul and Mohamed Sudam

SANAA (Reuters) - A breakaway military group called on Sunday for other army units to join them in the fight to bring down Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh, piling pressure on him to end his three-decade rule over the destitute country.

Opposition leaders separately accused Saleh of allowing the city of Zinjibar, on the Gulf of Aden, to fall to al Qaeda and Islamists militants in order to raise alarm in the region that would in turn translate to support for the president.

Despite global and regional powers demanding he step down, Saleh has refused to sign a deal, mediated by Gulf states, to start a transition of power aimed at averting civil war that could shake the region that supplies the world with oil.

"We call on you not to follow orders to confront other army units or the people," the breakaway units said in a statement read by General Abdullah Ali Aleiwa, a former defense minister.

In Sanaa, a tenuous ceasefire appeared to be holding after nearly a week of fighting between Saleh's security forces and a powerful tribal group that killed at least 115 and forced thousands to flee the capital for safety.

Residents in Zinjibar, about 270 km (170 miles) southeast of the capital, said armed men likely from al Qaeda had control of the city in the flashpoint province of Abyan.

"About 300 Islamic militants and al Qaeda men came into Zinjibar and took over everything on Friday," a resident said.

Three militant gunmen and three civilians have been killed in fighting against locals, who have been joined by a few government soldiers, trying to take the city back from the al Qaeda group and Islamists, medical sources said.

In the southern city of Taiz, security forces opened fire to disperse an anti-Saleh demonstration, killing two protesters and wounding 35 people, an activist said.

Nearly 300 Yemenis have been killed over the past few months as the president has tried to stop pro-reform protests by force.

Generals and government officials began to abandon Saleh after deadly crackdowns on protesters started in force in March. There have been no major clashes yet between the breakaway military units and troops loyal to Saleh.

Opposition groups and diplomats have accused Saleh of using the al Qaeda threat to win aid and support from regional powers seeking his government's help in battling the militants.

Fears are growing that Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) will exploit such instability, analysts said. The United States and Saudi Arabia, both targets of attacks by AQAP, are worried that growing chaos is emboldening the group.

Yemen borders Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter, and sits along a shipping lane through which about 3 million barrels of oil pass daily.

MACHINEGUNS SILENCED

In Sanaa, pedestrians and cars returned to the streets where Saleh's security forces battled members of the powerful Hashed tribe led by Sadeq al-Ahmar in the bloodiest fighting since pro-democracy unrest erupted in January.

Ahmar's men handed back control of a government building to mediators as part of the ceasefire deal, witnesses said.

It was the first building seized by the tribesmen that was handed back under a truce brokered on Saturday intended to normalize life in the capital after street fighting with mortars, machineguns and rocket-propelled grenades.

Electronics stores, perfume sellers and other businesses were open but there were few customers, with many residents keeping tight hold on their cash in case fighting flared up again and they needed to quickly buy essentials.

"Business is very bad. We have had to sack some workers. There is no money," merchant Muthar Abdel-Rahman said.

The truce also extends to areas outside of Sanaa where tribesmen have clashed with the president's Republican Guards and air force fighters have strafed armed tribesman with bombs.

Some Guards members in southern Damar at the weekend joined the opposition, tribal sources said.

TRIBAL ANIMOSITY

Despite the truce, analysts say fighting may start again, given the animosity between the various armed groups and growing popular anger at Saleh for not ending his nearly 33-year-long rule which has brought Yemen to the brink of financial ruin.

"We are still here to bring down this regime, even if it takes another week, another month or another year," Yusra al-Abssi said at a protest camp.

Yemen is the poorest country in the Arabian Peninsula, with about 40 percent of its residents living on less than $2 a day.

The crisis has cost the $31 billion GDP economy as much as $5 billion and immediate aid is needed to prevent a meltdown, Yemen's trade minister told Reuters on Saturday. [Saudi Arabia has a trillion dollar surplus, and it is Saudi Arabia that would be most affected by Al Qaeda -- so why aren't the Saudis supplying the money? Are they waiting for the West to do it? Do they think it is the responsibility of the West to pay out large sums to make sure the AlSaud are not threatened by "extremists" who, unfortunately for the Al Saud, do not confine their attacks to Infidels? ]

International negotiators have become exasperated with Saleh, saying he has imposed new conditions each time a Gulf-led transition agreement was due for signing, most recently demanding a public signing ceremony.

But global powers have little leverage on events in Yemen, where tribal allegiances are the most powerful element in a volatile social fabric and the fighting already appears to be playing out along tribal, quasi-feudal lines.

Posted on 05/29/2011 11:44 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 29 May 2011
Sacking was too good for her

Overpaid jobsworth Sharon Shoesmith, on whose watch a child was brutally murdered, deserves more than sacking - she should be tarred and feathered. Instead this shameless, grasping parasite is getting £1 million of taxpayers' money. From The Telegraph:

When Sharon Shoesmith was sacked by Haringey Council on December 8, 2008, I cheered. Why? Because it is so rare for those in senior managerial positions within social services departments ever to be held responsible for anything. They glide from one lucrative position to another, even when they leave a trail of tragedies behind them.

Official reports, even Ofsted reports, are not supposed to single anyone out for criticism – which means that after every awful example of child neglect, abuse and even murder, the conclusion of the investigation is the same: no one is to blame. “Lessons will be learned,” everyone says, but none are. The same thing happens, and in the same places – precisely because no one in any senior position was held responsible. Remember: Baby Peter, the child who died because of the bestial cruelty with which he was treated, lived in the same borough where Victoria Climbié died because social workers failed to notice that she was being tortured by the people supposed to be caring for her. Confirming that pattern, Miss Shoesmith refused to accept she had done anything wrong on Today last week.

When she was sacked, it seemed that the depressing cycle had at last been broken: someone, finally, was being forced to take responsibility for the failures of the department over which they presided. Miss Shoesmith insisted then, as she insists now, that it is “impossible” to prevent parents from killing their children. But her department’s blunders, which included failing to keep proper records, failing to supervise social workers properly, and submitting false information to a previous Ofsted inspection, were more than enough to merit the sack.

Miss Shoesmith applied to have her dismissal overruled by the courts. Last week, the Court of Appeal decided that her dismissal violated natural justice: she had a right to a fair hearing, which she had been denied. The judges quoted precedents going back to the 17th century, demonstrating that this is a fundamental principle of English law: even God heard what Adam had to say before expelling him from the Garden of Eden. Sharon Shoesmith did not have the chance to put her case to those who fired her – and so the judges ruled that her dismissal was illegal, a “nullity” for which she is entitled to substantial compensation.

The decision makes legal sense, in a narrow way – but my heart sinks. What will it do except reinforce the lack of accountability characteristic of social service departments? “Accountability,” said the judges, “is not synonymous with 'heads must roll’.” But there can be no accountability when there are no consequences for incompetence. The only serious consequence is the sack.

Ofsted said that Miss Shoesmith’s department failed to perform its most elementary functions to a satisfactory standard. If that is not enough to justify sacking her, what is? Perhaps Ed Balls, the Children’s Secretary at the time, should have given Miss Shoesmith more of a chance to put her case (although it isn’t true that she was denied a hearing altogether: she was able to put her arguments to Haringey Council, the body that fired her). But, as Mr Balls said on Friday, it wouldn’t have made any difference: the case against her was just too overwhelming.

Ministers, he argued, must have the power to make decisions that they believe to be in the public interest promptly and effectively, without having the judges weigh in a couple of years later and substitute their own judgment. So I hope that the current Government takes the issue to the Supreme Court. There is a small chance that it will recognise that the effect of the Appeal Court’s ruling will be to reinforce incompetence in social services departments. And that can only mean one thing: more abused, battered and murdered children. Something has gone badly wrong when the right to a fair hearing is seen as more important than diminishing the chances of that horrible result.

Posted on 05/29/2011 12:15 PM by Mary Jackson
Sunday, 29 May 2011
A Musical Interlude: I Found A Million Dollar Baby At The Five And Ten Cent Store (Bing Crosby)

Listen here.

Posted on 05/29/2011 12:46 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 29 May 2011
If Egypt Continues Like This, It Should Lose The Sinai For The Third, And Last, Time

All this talk in Egypt about ending the "peace" treaty with Israel amazes. It amazes because for the first time, Israelis and Americans need not keep playing the game of let's-pretend, that is of pretending that Egypt under Mubarak, who did a few things that were helpful and so had praise heaped upon him, and both israelis (for whom it is a life and death matter) and Americans, for whom it is merely a matter of some, but in the end not much moment) as a kind of positive reinforcement, in the hope that somehow the Egyptian government would, if it kept being told that it had "made peace with Israel" and had "kept that -- albeit "cold" -- peace," would in fact being to do so.

But how did Egypt "keep" its peace treaty? True it did not go to war with Israel. But its army prepared for war with Israel, and it prepared for war still, and always will, with Israel and with no one else. The Egyptians want as much advanced American military aid as possible, so they simply smile, say some of the right things to the American officers they meet with, and in general, behave as did those pluasible Pakistani generals who met with gullible Americans, military and civilian, over so many decades, even as Pakistan contined to oppress non-Muslims within its borders, to kill Hindus en masse in Bangladesh during the 1970-71 war, and plan, and execute, both repeated terrorist attacks inside India and, as at Kargil, military invasions.

The reason the Egyptian military did not make war -- that is "kept the peace -- albeit "cold" -- with Israel has nothing to do with observance of the Camp David Accords. The Egyptians violated every single commitment they had made under those accords to establish, and promote, friendly relations with the Jewish state. Everyone seems to have forgotten what those promises were They weren't about tangible things -- the vast land area that Israel gave up, together with the tourist site developed on the Red Sea at Sharm-el-Sheik, and the oilfields, and the airfields, and the many billions in infrastructure that Israel had put it. No, those promises had to do with such simple things as encouraging Egyptian-Israeli tourism, and inviting Israelis to participate in book and film festivals, and in ending the campaigns in the government-controlled media -- press, radio, television -- that contributed to a hysterical hatred of Israel. Not one of these promises was kept. The Egyptians were happy to take money from Israelis who were so touchingly eager to visit and make firends with those they thought -- why did they ever think it? -- might now be wiling to overlook Islam, and what it teaches Muslims to think about Infidel nation-states.In return, the Egyptian government harassed and allowed others even to attack that handful of Egyptians who wanted to, or did, visit Israel, and discouraged such people-to-people exchanges. The government did nothing when the Egyptian bureacrats and "intellectuals" (some intellectuals) disinvited Israelis from participating in film and book festivals, and instead continued to participate in general Arab attempts to isolate Israel and its people in any way they could. The Egyptian media became a world center not only of anti-Israel material, but also of antisemitic material, such as the television series based on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

But "Egypt kept the cold peace." It did not go to war -- on the battlefield -- with Israel. But this proves nothing about adhering to a "peace treaty." Egypt in the main refrained from going to war -- on the battlefield -- with Isreal for the same reason Saudi Arabia, or Iran, or Iraq, or Syria or any number of other Arab countries that did not sign a treaty with Israel did not do so. It knew the Israelis would win, knew it would lose  the Sinai, and that this time, even the Israelis might not be cajoled or inveigled into giving it back for a third time.

I hope that it becomes a subject of discussion, so that in Egypt, in Cairo, that discussion among Americans and Israelis about what happens if the Egyptians openly decide to declare that they are no longer going to observe the treaty. It is true that "Pacta Sunt Servanda" -- Treaties Are to Be Obeyed -- is not observed by Muslims in treaty-making with non-Muslims. There is not to be permanent peace with non-Muslims, though a hudna, a truce treaty, lasting about ten years (the "about" reflects differences in solar and lunar calendars), can be made, and can even be renewed, but not indefinitely.

Let the word go out that if Egypt openly declares that the "peace treaty" it never really honored is over, then Israel is entirely within its rights to claim back that which it gave up. It's a contract. Consideration for Consideration. And right now the behavior of the Egyptian government adds up to what can be called anticipatory breach.

Who will teach the Egyptians, who will warn them, that the Sinai if taken again will never be returned, and that they are not free, having had it handed over a second time, to simply undo, not almost completely but completely, the treaty that they made in order not to "make peace" with an Infidel nation-state but to get the entire Sinai and, not incidentally, many billions -- now some $80 billion -- in aid from the United States, a country which has almost nothing in common with Egypt, and almost everything in common with Israel.

Posted on 05/29/2011 1:02 PM by Hugh Ftizgerald
Sunday, 29 May 2011
America And Europe, In Thrall To That "Arab Spring," Take Their Eye Off The Ball In Sudan

From The New York Times:

May 29, 2011

North Sudan Threatens to Invade Two Border Regions

JUBA, Sudan — The northern Sudanese Army is threatening to seize two more areas along the combustible north-south border, risking war just weeks before southern Sudan is due to split off as an independent country, Western and Sudanese officials said Sunday.

Tensions shot up last week when northern forces stormed into Abyei, the capital of a contested region that straddles the border and is claimed by both sides, the government of Khartoum in northern Sudan and the breakaway region of southern Sudan.

Now, according to a letter from the Sudanese military’s high command, the northern army, in the next few days, plans to take over Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan states, two disputed areas with a long history of conflict that are still heavily armed.

Analysts, local leaders and Western diplomats fear that if the northern army carries through on its threat to push out or forcibly disarm the thousands of fighters allied to the south in these two areas, a conflict could erupt and set off a much bigger clash between the northern and southern armies, who have been building up their arsenals for years in anticipation of war.

Malik Agar, Blue Nile’s governor, said Sunday night that northern forces had recently moved “dangerously close” to the bases of southern-allied fighters and that he didn’t think the southern forces would surrender.

“It’s like putting a cat in a corner,” Mr. Agar said. “They will fight.”

Sudan’s border is a dizzyingly complex mosaic of ethnic groups and political loyalties. It is also home to the bulk of Sudan’s crude oil and some of the most fertile land in the country, making the question of how exactly to draw a line across Sudan one of the most explosive issues the nation confronts as it prepares to split in two.

Under peace agreements signed several years ago, joint forces were supposed to patrol some of these disputed areas. The two sides had agreed that Abyei would hold a referendum to decide if it were to join the north or south, a compromise that was essentially blotted out Saturday when thousands of northern Sudanese soldiers marched into Abyei. Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile were supposed to conduct a less formal, vaguely defined “popular consultation” process that southerners say has not been completed.

Southern Sudan is just weeks away from attaining independence, a goal that has taken more than 50 years and millions of lives. The region, one of the poorest and least developed places on earth, where four out of five adults cannot read, defied expectations in January by holding an orderly, organized referendum on independence, in which nearly 99 percent voted to split off. In the past week, southern leaders have absorbed the loss of Abyei, complaining bitterly about it but deciding not to respond with military force, saying that could jeopardize all that they have fought for.

On Sunday, southern leaders indicated that they would not fight over Blue Nile or Southern Kordofan either.

“It is not our priority now to get involved in a war,” said Barnaba Marial Benjamin, the information minister for the government of southern Sudan. He also said high-level negotiations were about to begin in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital, over several of these border issues.

But what may be more dangerous this time is that there are many more southern-allied fighters stationed in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan than there were in Abyei — tens of thousands, compared with a few hundred in Abyei who quickly retreated last weekend when faced with a clearly superior northern Sudanese force.

“The move into the Nuba in particular will be explosive,” said Eric Reeves, a professor at Smith College and one of the leading academic voices on Sudan. “The amount of weaponry and men under arms is tremendous.”

Also, these troops are in a more desperate situation. Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan are not contiguous with the south, and if the soldiers give up their weapons, they will be at the mercy of the northern Sudanese forces whom they have fought for years.

“If it were only so simple for them to move south,” Mr. Agar said. “But they are not southerners. They are from Blue Nile and they don’t have any other place to go.”

In an example of the complexities of this area, Mr. Agar is from a predominantly northern Sudanese ethnic group, Ingesena, and his state, Blue Nile, is part of northern Sudan, according to an internal boundary established before Sudan became independent on January 1, 1956. But Mr. Agar is part of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, the organization that fought for southern independence. He, along with countless others from his area, personally battled as guerrilla fighters for the south against the north.

Mr. Agar said that he had recently received a written order for the southern forces in his area to disarm.

According to a letter provided to the New York Times, dated May 23 and marked “Top Secret”, the northern Sudanese army will “redeploy its forces to all areas north of the 1/1/1956 borders starting from 1 June 2011.” The letter is from Ismat Abdul Rahman Zain Al-abideen, the chief of staff for the Sudanese military. Western officials have said the northern military has threatened to attack any southern-allied soldiers north of the border who do not withdraw immediately.

Northern leaders have not been shy about their intentions to unilaterally annex large swathes of contested territory, amassing an enormous force of troops, tanks and artillery pieces in the borderlands area and publicly vowing to take control of all the disputed territory north of the 1956 border, regardless if the status of some of those areas was supposed to be decided by negotiations.

Rabie A. Atti, a government spokesman in Khartoum, the northern capital, said Sunday that just like Abyei, “Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains in southern Kordofan are part of the north, and nothing else.”

Some observers believe that the north’s maneuvering, including the letter, may have roots in an unstable domestic political situation. Many northerners are upset and fearful about losing the south, especially its oil. By openly threatening military action, Sudan’s president, Omar Hassan al Bashir, may can appear to be taking a tough stance and grabbing what little disputed territory remains. Mr. Bashir himself is in a box, having been indicted by the International Criminal Court in connection to the massacres in the western region of Darfur.

“This is one way of pushing the envelope to say, “Forget you, southern Sudan, we’re going to make all the negotiations over the border final,” said one American official who works closely on Sudan.

“I seriously doubt the south will go to war over this. It’s not worth it to them,” added the official, who was not allowed to speak publicly on the matter. “But this could lead to internal turmoil. I mean, how long is the south going to take this humiliation? How long are they going to back off?”

 
Posted on 05/29/2011 1:24 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 29 May 2011
What's To Come In Libya
From AP:
May 29, 2011
 
Libya's Misrata rebels face tough new fight

MISRATA, Libya (AP) — Fighting on their home turf, Misrata's rebels overcame the heavier firepower of Moammar Gadhafi's forces in punishing street battles that expelled them from the western Libyan city. They now face what could prove a far tougher task — defeating a better-armed military in open terrain.

Opposition forces have expanded the territory under their control over the past month, pushing the front lines 15 miles (25 kilometers) in a sweeping arc around the port city and putting Misrata out of range of Gadhafi's heavy weapons.

But the rebels face new challenges as they shift from street battles to fighting in the olive groves, wheat fields and sandy desert that surround the city.

"It is a different scenario. Now it's more difficult," said Salaheldin Badi, a senior rebel commander. "It demands more equipment. Supplies, logistics and communications are an issue."

Misrata's rebels, around 3,000 active fighters in all, according to Badi, are now spread over three fronts outside the city: to the west, south, and east. For now, the rebels say they are content to hold onto the territory they've won, allowing some breathing room to civilians in Misrata, on the eastern and southern fronts.

But the western front, focused along the main road to the capital, Tripoli, 125 miles (200 kilometers) away, is simmering. In the farmland and dusty tree-lined fields around the hamlet of Dafniyah, rebels and Gadhafi forces engage in daily firefights, using heavy machine guns and mortars.

In a daylong gunbattle on Thursday, bullets zipped overhead as rebels fired AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades behind sandy embankments at government troops attacking through the olive groves. Three rebels were killed and 20 wounded in the fighting.

The rebels in Dafniyah have dug in and are using a winning tactic from their battles for the city center, blocking the main road west with shipping containers and sand berms, and coordinating their defense behind them.

They've also dug 12-foot trenches through main roads and access points to fend off tanks, and set up strings of small outposts along the front lines, using two-way radios to communicate.

Wary of overextending, the rebels have held tight at the current line for two weeks. But the goal ahead, commanders say, is Zliten, 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of Misrata.

Badi and other senior opposition military leaders say they're hesitant to push hard for the city. Instead, they want to allow the opposition in Zliten to rise up and secure the city themselves before advancing.

"Revolutionary forces in Zliten are determined and prepared to cleanse Zliten of Gadhafi forces," said Misrata military spokesman Ibrahim Beatelmal. He estimated there are more than 2,000 government troops in Zliten, but declined to comment on the number of opposition fighters.

He said he expects "good news from Zliten" in the next few days, but did not elaborate, and it was not immediately possible to verify whether fighting was taking place inside the city.

The main problem for the rebels on all three of Misrata's fronts, according to fighters and commanders, is a familiar one: a lack of ammunition and arms, especially heavier weapons.

For weeks rebels have had to make do with the guns they've captured from Gadhafi's forces, homemade weapons they've outfitted themselves and the trickle of ammunition and arms that have come in on fishing boats from Benghazi, the de facto rebel capital in the east.

In street fighting, the rebels could improvise with hit-and-run tactics using machine guns and gasoline bombs. Not so in the countryside. Now, long-range weapons like Grad rockets and mortars are in demand.

"There are shortages of heavy weapons," said Mustafa al-Wakshi, a 24-year-old fighter in Dafniyah. "We even have some issues with ammunition for AK-47s."

Khalil al-Shibli, a former colonel in the Libyan army now leading a reconnaissance unit on Misrata's southern front, said 10 of his 30 men don't even have guns.

"We have more people than weapons," al-Shibli said. He estimated that the rebels have only 30 percent of the arms they need. "Heavy weapons are the most important."

A lack of longer-range arms has plagued rebels in eastern Libya, who have struggled against Gadhafi forces in the vast stretches of open desert. Government troops there used the longer reach of their Grad rockets, mortars and artillery to pound opposition fighters, who have fled in the face of such barrages.

Commanders in Misrata say they've learned from the mistakes of rebels in the east.

"We are different. They went to war in open land, and their advance wasn't planned," al-Shibli said over coffee in a tent nestled in the sand dunes on Misrata's southern front as he hashed out positions with another rebel commander over a Google Earth map on a laptop computer.

His group of around 30 fighters makes forays into the flatlands south of its base, a smattering of tents, water tanks and pickup trucks on high ground overlooking the surrounding plains.

"We're not planning to go after Gadhafi's forces," he said. "We have a defensive line here to prevent him from getting into Misrata."

They are taking their time, weighing each move.

Posted on 05/29/2011 3:10 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 29 May 2011
A British General Reports From Mesopotamia In 1920

"Jihad was being preached with frenzied fervour by the numerous emissaries from the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala."

       --- General Aylmer Haldane, in a telegram from Mesopotamia to Winston Churchill

That same General Sir Aylmer Haldane is rememberd most, however, for a single observation about his time in Mesotamia, one that might also apply to many American generals:

"I regret that on my arrival in Mesopotamia I was too much occupied with military matters, and too ill-informed regarding the political problem."

For "the political problem" read the "sectarian split between Shi'a and Sunni." Or better still, abd more accurately, for "the political problem"  read "Islam."

Posted on 05/29/2011 3:33 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 29 May 2011
More on Sharon Shoesmith

Look at this photograph of the innocent little boy tortured to death on Sharon Shoesmith's watch. That same Sharon Shoesmith who was paid £133,000 a year as director of children's services (plus gold-plated pension as this is the public sector, Labour's client state):

You would think Shoesmith would simply want to crawl under a stone and hang her head in shame, but no. Victoria Lambert in The Telegraph:

She still doesn't get it. "I don't do blame," asserted Sharon Shoesmith, who last week won her case at an Employment Tribunal Court of Appeal that she had been unfairly dismissed from her £133,000 post as director of children's services for Haringey council following the death of Baby P.

"I'm not in the blame game," she reiterated on Saturday's Radio 4's Today programme, adding: "You cannot stop the death of children."

Certainly no one stopped the death of Baby P; his life was short and loveless.

When 18-month-old Peter Connelly was found dying in his cot, on August 3 2007, his skin was blue, his back broken, his ribs fractured, the tips of his fingers sliced off and his nails ripped out. He was wearing just a nappy; his cot was spattered with blood. As paramedics tried to rush him to hospital, his mother, Tracey Connelly, demanded they wait while she collected her cigarettes.

Within 24 hours the perpetrators had been identified. Connelly, her boyfriend Stephen Barker and his brother Jason Owen were all arrested, convicted of charges relating to Peter's death and imprisoned. The process was as swift and conclusive as British justice allows.

But, even before the trio were locked up, the then Children's Secretary Ed Balls decided the system of care that had failed so spectacularly must also be investigated.

A subsequent Serious Case Review made for shocking reading: Peter's death was not just tragic, it was avoidable. There had been a "catalogue of failures": seen 60 times by medics and social workers; placed on the Child Protection Register; Peter had even been removed from his mother's custody on several occasions. Meanwhile, her attempts to deceive professionals were crude and obvious; bruises were covered with smears of chocolate before one trip to the GP.

A further Ofsted investigation discovered that Peter's case, while extreme, was not so unusual; children's services in Haringey were a mess. Clearly, heads had to roll.

When Balls sacked Mrs Shoesmith, his action appeared fair (though she claims it was a political sop). It was natural justice against a highly paid executive in charge of a deeply flawed department, where poor leadership didn't just result in a waste of council funds but an actual life lost.

Moreover, Mrs Shoesmith was unpopular at large; ever since Baby P's death, she had refused to take responsibility for the event. Television footage was not kind; perhaps she was following legal advice, but Mrs Shoesmith never showed emotion in public once. Her mouth pursed, her body language unreadable, she consistently put forward the view that, while Peter's death was regrettable, it was pointless to apportion blame beyond the immediate perpetrators. She would not be made a scapegoat.

Now, four years on, rather than letting Peter Connelly rest in peace, she has dragged up his tragedy, and somehow made it her own. Because what seems to distress Mrs Shoesmith most is how very unfair the whole sorry saga has been on her. "I cannot control what Police do, I cannot control what Health does… this is more complex than saying let's sack you and the psyche of the nation can be at peace," she was swift to point out.

But, as a nation, we need resolution. The violent death of a child is a stain on the whole community. Peter did not die after 18 months of isolation: he was seen by medics, social workers, police officers, neighbours, the public. Many averted their eyes. For Peter, the Good Samaritan didn't stop.

His tragedy belongs to all of us. To anyone who votes or pays a tax bill. Or sees a small child, with chocolate not quite hiding his bruises in the doctor's waiting room and didn't ask what was happening.

That doesn't exonerate Mrs Shoesmith. She was the highest point of command in the chain of children's services. She gets paid more than a Cabinet minister; so yes, you take the blame when things go wrong, Mrs Shoesmith.

But her lack of empathy suggests a deeper dissociation. She is unable to see that, even as a fellow human being, she bears responsibility for his plight. When a child like Peter dies from a preventable cause, we mourn the loss of individual hope, and the collective notion of society's innocence. But we must also learn from our mistakes and understand that accepting responsibility is not the same as admitting guilt. Fail to do this and we fail the future.

Sharon Shoesmith should have fallen on her sword, not waited to be sacked. But having been dismissed she should have retreated – not into hiding, but into a period of reflection from where perhaps she could have worked to improve children's services rather than abandon them. Instead, to choose years of legal action (the success of which seems to hinge on legal technicalities rather than a suggestion of blush-free innocence; the Ofsted finding has been upheld) seems bordering on the self-obsessed. A potential windfall of compensation, estimated at close to £1 million, verges on the obscene. Yet she has made it clear she intends to pursue this.

Four years after a small boy was slowly tortured to death on her watch, Mrs Shoesmith still doesn't get it. You can prevent the death of a child. And, if you are head of the department tasked to stop it, when you fail, there is no one else to blame.

Posted on 05/29/2011 5:29 PM by Mary Jackson

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