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Ibn Warraq
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Karimi Hotel
De Nidra Poller
The Left is Seldom Right
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Allah is Dead: Why Islam is Not a Religion
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Virgins? What Virgins?: And Other Essays
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These are all the Blogs posted on Tuesday, 3, 2012.
Tuesday, 3 July 2012
A Musical Interlude: When That Man is Dead And Gone (Mildred Bailey)
Listen here.
Posted on 07/03/2012 2:51 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Tuesday, 3 July 2012
A Philosopher for the Facebook Generation

"Here I am, then, alone in the world, with no longer a brother, neighbour, or friend, but only myself, for company. The most sociable and loving of humans has been banished from society by unanimous agreement."

Thus Jean-Jacques Rousseau at the beginning of his Reveries of a Solitary Walker, his last work. It might be said to be the founding document of the age of self-pity: has anyone come after him so lacking in compassion that he feels not pity for himself?

The tercentenary of Rousseau’s birth has just passed. He was born in Geneva (remember this when someone asks you with sarcasm to name three great Swiss) on June 28 1712, the son of a watchmaker, and died at Erménonville, France on July 2 1778. In his 68 years of life he became one of the most influential, which is not necessarily to say one of the best or clearest, thinkers of all time. His trajectory was truly remarkable, and his work still arouses passionate controversy. For example, was he a libertarian or an incipient totalitarian? No one is neutral about Rousseau. I don’t think I have ever heard anyone say of him “well, on the one hand, but on the other…”

His initial passion was music, and his first publication a new system of musical notation which he presented to the French Academy of Sciences. He then published a Dissertation on Modern Music, contributed articles on music to Diderot’s great Encyclopaedia and composed an opera, The Village Soothsayer, that was actually performed at the Paris opera.

But of course it is for his philosophical ideas that he is principally remembered, revered and reviled. Whether his profound influence upon history and society was the result of the truth of what he said, or of its convenience for the people who followed him, may be questioned.

When someone reads the opening words of The Social Contract, for example, namely that Man is born free and everywhere is in chains, does he think, “Gosh, that is true, I never thought of that before!” or does he think, “I wish I were free of all the irritating restraints on my behaviour that prevent me from doing exactly as I choose”?

Rousseau was so contradictory that what we take from him depends almost as much on us as on him. He is a kind of lightning conductor for our desires. Democrats see in his concept of “the general will” the notion of popular sovereignty; aspiring dictators see in it something they believe that they embody, a semi-mystical entity that is independent of any individual’s will, much less that of the numerical majority, and of which he is merely the inspired mouthpiece, as it were.

Rousseau was genuinely revolutionary in the way in which he overturned the notion of Original Sin. For most thinkers before him the question was how Man was to be made good, given his bad or imperfect nature; for Rousseau the question was how Man became bad, given his natural goodness (his answer was society). He did not believe in a return to Nature, exactly, but sought the political means to restore Man to his natural goodness. Personally, I think Rousseau was disastrously mistaken in this; in my opinion, the limitation of the bad in Man is infinitely more important and less sinister politically than the search for the good. When you have limited the bad, the good can take care of itself.

Rousseau was also the unwitting founder of the psychology of the Real Me, that is to say of the inner core of each of us that remains immaculate and without sin, however the external person actually behaves. The inner core, the Real Me, is good; what might be called the Epiphenomenal Me, that is to say the one that loses his temper, tells lies, eats too much, etc, is the result of external influences upon him. In this way a monster of depravity may preserve a high opinion of himself and continue his depravity; nothing he can do can deprive him of the natural goodness first espied by Rousseau.

Jean-Jacques was also, in his way, the philosophical progenitor of Facebook, of the notion that we should live our lives in the open, hiding nothing, for concealment is both the symptom and the cause of insincerity, which was one of J-J’s bugbears. He begins his Confessions in a self-congratulatory way: “Here is the only portrait of a man, painted exactly after nature and in all her truth, that exists and probably ever will exist.” The portrait is extremely interesting because Rousseau, whatever his faults, was an extremely interesting man. Who would not be amused by Rousseau’s account of how he became aware as a child of the sexual pleasure to be had by being beaten by a woman? He continues: “To be at the knees of an imperious mistress, to obey her orders, to have to ask her pardon, was for me a very sweet pleasure…”

The problem is that while all men are born equal, they are not all born equally interesting; so the confessional mode does not suit everyone. Besides, and this is what is tragi-comic about him, Rousseau wrote many hundreds of pages about himself but had no self-knowledge. He quarrelled with virtually everybody he ever knew; he even managed to reduce the philosopher David Hume, one of the most equable human beings in the history of the world, known in Paris as le bon David, to absolute fury. Yet never once did Rousseau think, “Maybe it’s not them, maybe it’s me.”

Thus this most fascinating man was the originator of the most characteristic of our modern vices – self-expression without self-examination.

First published in The Telegraph.

Posted on 07/03/2012 9:36 AM by Theodore Dalrymple
Tuesday, 3 July 2012
What would Rousseau make of our selfish age?

.... asks champagne Socialist Terry Eagleton. "What would this giant of Geneva have thought of Europe 300 years on from his birth?"

Well, he wouldn't like all those uppity women -- women who wish to partake of the "civilisation" he affected to despise, rather than being content to be barefoot and pregnant. Talking of which, he might also take umbrage at being fingered for child support. And sadly, after Mao and Pol Pot,  most have tumbled that there is nothing noble about a savage. But worse than any of these modern evils is the possibility that, in an age of Facebook, he would be crowded out by his fellow narcissists. Theodore Dalrymple in The Telegraph:

"Here I am, then, alone in the world, with no longer a brother, neighbour, or friend, but only myself, for company. The most sociable and loving of humans has been banished from society by unanimous agreement."

Thus Jean-Jacques Rousseau at the beginning of his Reveries of a Solitary Walker, his last work. It might be said to be the founding document of the age of self-pity: has anyone come after him so lacking in compassion that he feels not pity for himself?

[...]

Whether his profound influence upon history and society was the result of the truth of what he said, or of its convenience for the people who followed him, may be questioned.

When someone reads the opening words of The Social Contract, for example, namely that Man is born free and everywhere is in chains, does he think, “Gosh, that is true, I never thought of that before!” or does he think, “I wish I were free of all the irritating restraints on my behaviour that prevent me from doing exactly as I choose”?

Rousseau was so contradictory that what we take from him depends almost as much on us as on him. He is a kind of lightning conductor for our desires. Democrats see in his concept of “the general will” the notion of popular sovereignty; aspiring dictators see in it something they believe that they embody, a semi-mystical entity that is independent of any individual’s will, much less that of the numerical majority, and of which he is merely the inspired mouthpiece, as it were.

Rousseau was genuinely revolutionary in the way in which he overturned the notion of Original Sin. For most thinkers before him the question was how Man was to be made good, given his bad or imperfect nature; for Rousseau the question was how Man became bad, given his natural goodness (his answer was society). He did not believe in a return to Nature, exactly, but sought the political means to restore Man to his natural goodness. Personally, I think Rousseau was disastrously mistaken in this; in my opinion, the limitation of the bad in Man is infinitely more important and less sinister politically than the search for the good. When you have limited the bad, the good can take care of itself.

Rousseau was also the unwitting founder of the psychology of the Real Me, that is to say of the inner core of each of us that remains immaculate and without sin, however the external person actually behaves. The inner core, the Real Me, is good; what might be called the Epiphenomenal Me, that is to say the one that loses his temper, tells lies, eats too much, etc, is the result of external influences upon him. In this way a monster of depravity may preserve a high opinion of himself and continue his depravity; nothing he can do can deprive him of the natural goodness first espied by Rousseau.

Jean-Jacques was also, in his way, the philosophical progenitor of Facebook, of the notion that we should live our lives in the open, hiding nothing, for concealment is both the symptom and the cause of insincerity, which was one of J-J’s bugbears. He begins his Confessions in a self-congratulatory way: “Here is the only portrait of a man, painted exactly after nature and in all her truth, that exists and probably ever will exist.” The portrait is extremely interesting because Rousseau, whatever his faults, was an extremely interesting man. Who would not be amused by Rousseau’s account of how he became aware as a child of the sexual pleasure to be had by being beaten by a woman? He continues: “To be at the knees of an imperious mistress, to obey her orders, to have to ask her pardon, was for me a very sweet pleasure…”

The problem is that while all men are born equal, they are not all born equally interesting; so the confessional mode does not suit everyone. Besides, and this is what is tragi-comic about him, Rousseau wrote many hundreds of pages about himself but had no self-knowledge. He quarrelled with virtually everybody he ever knew; he even managed to reduce the philosopher David Hume, one of the most equable human beings in the history of the world, known in Paris as le bon David, to absolute fury. Yet never once did Rousseau think, “Maybe it’s not them, maybe it’s me.”

Thus this most fascinating man was the originator of the most characteristic of our modern vices – self-expression without self-examination.

"While all men are born equal, they are not all born equally interesting" -- beats that twaddle about chains any day.

Update: posts crossed, but needed saying twice.

Posted on 07/03/2012 2:35 PM by Mary Jackson
Tuesday, 3 July 2012
Tick-Borne Lyme Disease, Or, Nous N'Irons Plus Au Bois
  1. Fears of Lyme disease epidemic - Today Tonight - Yahoo!7 News

    au.news.yahoo.com/today.../fears-of-lyme-disease-epidemic/ - Australia
    4 days ago - The unpredictable climate has experts warning of a tick explosion, and the threat of Lyme disease that such an epidemic could bring to Australia.
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    Jun 4, 2012 - The Scope and Economic Burden of Lyme Disease An Epidemic of Lyme Disease?: Holly Ahern The Economic Impact and Burden of Lyme Disease: Lorraine ...
  3. Connecting The Dots, Part II: Lyme Disease and Biowarfare - YouTube

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=_jdQD7sELW4Jun 23, 2012 - 19 min - Uploaded by jerryleonard999
    This presentation documents the manner in which the biowarfare establishment completely surrounds the ...
  4. Connecting the Dots, Part III: Lyme Disease and Biowarfare - YouTube

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=20dr1EE1v6YJun 23, 2012 - 9 min - Uploaded by jerryleonard999
    All 4 videos: Connecting the Dots: Lyme Disease and Biowarfare The medical, financial and historical context of ...
  5. Why Your Dog Can Get Vaccinated Against Lyme Disease And You ...

    www.wbur.org/2012/06/27/lyme-vaccine
    6 days ago - Lyme disease was epidemic in certain locations, particularly in the northeastern United States,” Steere says. “So here was the possibility of really changing that.
  6. Is Lyme Disease the New HIV? | lauraslymerecovery

    lauraslymerecovery.wordpress.com/.../is-lyme-disease-the-new-hiv/
    2 days ago - The USA is currently in the throes of a swiftly moving Lyme disease epidemic. Hundreds of cases are contracted daily, and the tick population, the primary insect ...
  7. MASS LEGISLATURE INSURANCE COVERAGE/TX!!

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    1 post - 1 author - 6 days ago
    The Cape and Islands were ground zero for the Lyme disease epidemic in Massachusetts, but the disease, transmitted by deer ticks, has spread all across the ...
  8. Tick Talk: Blood Sucking Pests Making Presence Known This Year ...

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    Jun 8, 2012 - The Lyme Disease epidemic has been caused by the deer epidemic. Because of their large size, deer are the primary host of the adult deer tick, which requires ...
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  10. Welcome to Loudoun, Where We Have an Epidemic of Lyme

    www.trulia.com/.../welcome_to_loudoun_where_we_have_an_epide...
    Jun 3, 2012 - It's True, Lyme Disease Is On The Rise In Loudoun County… ... Three years later lyme continues to worsen here in Loudoun….. it's practically an epidemic.

Posted on 07/03/2012 2:54 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Tuesday, 3 July 2012
A Literary Interlude: The Elegy Of Chidiock Tichborne

Tichborne's Elegy

My prime of youth is but a frost of cares,

My feast of joy is but a dish of pain,

My crop of corn is but a field of tares,

And all my good is but vain hope of gain;

The day is past, and yet I saw no sun,

And now I live, and now my life is done.

My tale was heard and yet it was not told,

My fruit is fallen, and yet my leaves are green,

My youth is spent and yet I am not old,

I saw the world and yet I was not seen;

My thread is cut and yet it is not spun,

And now I live, and now my life is done.

I sought my death and found it in my womb,

I looked for life and saw it was a shade,

I trod the earth and knew it was my tomb,

And now I die, and now I was but made;

My glass is full, and now my glass is run,

And now I live, and now my life is done.

Posted on 07/03/2012 3:08 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Tuesday, 3 July 2012
EDL and Sikh men unite in using women as pawns

According to policitcally correct left winger Sunny Hundal in the Guardian  

It seems an unlikely alliance, but the reality is that women are being used as bearers of 'honour' by men fighting old battles. But this is less about the EDL and more about different groups of men using Asian women to fight their old battles.

Let me explain. The origins of tension between some Sikhs and Muslims goes back centuries to conflict between the revered gurus and the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb (India, 1600s) who forced people to convert to Islam. It was in response to this that the 10th guru militarised the Sikh religion. Conflict continued during India's partition, when tens of thousands of Sikh, Muslim and Hindu women were raped on both sides of the border as a way for men to exact revenge.

The UK hasn't escaped the aftermath either. In the 90s an anonymous leaflet (suspected to be by Hizb ut-Tahrir followers) urged Muslim men to seduce Sikh girls and convert them to Islam. As one woman later recounted: "It caused a huge amount of panic and for months we were house-bound and banned from doing any after-school activities. But no one found out who produced it."

Rumours of "forced conversions" still circulate without evidence. In 2007 the Hindu Forum Britain claimed Hindu and Sikh girls were being targeted by Muslims but produced no evidence.

It's not surprising the EDL is keen to exploit such tension – women are pawns to be exploited for its members too. The very men who come out on the streets to defend the honour of "their women" rarely get so angry when it involves domestic abuse or rape by one of their own. The talk of alliance between EDL leaders and some Sikh extremists will inevitably keep resurfacing. But it's more depressing that patronising attitudes towards Asian women keep persisting decades later.

As good an example of Orwell's 'doublethink' as I have read in ages.

Posted on 07/03/2012 5:16 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Tuesday, 3 July 2012
Soeren Kern: In Spain, More Muslims, And More Who Take Islam To Heart

This report, which examines some of the main Islamist groups operating in Spain, shows that the common thread linking all the groups together is their mutual desire to establish an Islamic Caliphate.

Two Islamists have been arrested in Spain on charges of torturing and murdering two fellow Muslims for "abandoning radical Islam."

The arrests came just days after Spanish newspapers reported that jihadists in Spain are travelling to Syria to help overthrow the government there.

Spanish authorities say the incidents -- on top of many others in recent months -- point to the accelerating spread in the country of radical Salafi Islam, which Spain's National Intelligence Center, the CNI, in a leaked secret report -- corroborated by the Spanish Institute for Strategic Studies, an organization tied to the Spanish Ministry of Defense, in its own recently published a 43-page report entitled, "Islamist Movements in Spain" -- states is increasingly posing the greatest threat to national security.

Rachid Mohamed Abdellah and Nabil Mohamed Chaib, both of whom are Spanish citizens of Moroccan origin, were jailed after being questioned by Judge Eloy Velasco at the National Court (Audiencia Nacional) in Madrid on June 28.

Police say the two men, aged 25 and 30 respectively, are members of an Islamist cell based in the city of Melilla, a Spanish exclave on the northern coast of Morocco. They are accused of torturing and murdering two other members of the cell who "adopted Western behavior and tried to disengage from radical Islam." Spanish authorities say the murders were meted out according to Islamic Sharia law, which calls for the killing of "infidels."

Spanish Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz said the suspects are "capable of carrying out especially brutal attacks," and share "the same radical orthodoxy" of the Islamists who carried out the March 2004 Madrid train bombings in which 191 people were killed and 1,800 wounded.

At a news conference following the arrests, the Director General of Spanish Police, Ignacio Cosidó, said: "They were part of an extremely radical group, and had committed a double murder of two members of their own organization who had shown signs of wanting to leave. Their ideology is clearly jihadi and they believe in terrorism as a means to achieve their objectives. Therefore, they posed a threat of the highest order."

Abdellah and Chaib were arrested Melilla neighborhood of Cañada de Hidum after an extended confrontation with police, who, pelted with rocks and bottles by local Muslims, were forced to call for reinforcements.

Spanish police further state that the cell was composed mainly of Spanish citizens of North African origin living in Melilla, and Moroccans living in Farkhana, Morocco. The suspects were engaged in recruiting and indoctrinating Muslim youths for training in jihadist camps or war zones in places such as Afghanistan. The cell was notable for its secrecy and for the adoption of strong internal security measures aimed at keeping its activities clandestine.

Members of the cell were forced to live a life of submission to the Takfiri branch of Islam, a violent offshoot of fundamentalist Saudi Salafism, that seeks to establish an Islamic Caliphate [empire] in the Middle East and large parts of Europe. Among other beliefs, Takfiris consider violence to be a legitimate method to achieve their religious and political goals.

The arrests come just days after the Madrid-based newspaper El País reported that jihadists from Ceuta, another Spanish exclave in northern Morocco, have been travelling to Syria to help overthrow the regime of Bashar Assad. The report states that one of the jihadists, a 33-year-old taxi driver, Rachid Wahbi, was killed just days after arriving in Syria.

Spanish police say the jihadists, many of whom are Spanish citizens, have been travelling from Ceuta to Málaga and then on to Madrid, from where they board flights to Istanbul. Once in Turkey, they make contact with jihadists who facilitate their entry into Syria.

Police believe the jihadists from Ceuta involve Takfiris who, in the Los Caracolas district of the city, attend a mosque considered the most radical of the 33 mosques in Ceuta because of its links to Salafism. Spanish police say the jihadists also meet regularly in homes in the Condesa neighborhood of Ceuta, where they watch videos on jihad.

Separately, nine Islamists accused of planning terrorist attacks aimed at "liberating" Spain for Islam were found not guilty by the National Court in Madrid in April 2012.

Spanish public prosecutors had said the men -- Salafi-Jihadists who belonged to an Islamist cell known as the "Army of the Messiah" (Ansar al-Mahdi) -- sought to "free" the cities of Ceuta and Melilla from Spanish rule to begin the Islamic re-conquest of Spain.

Spanish prosecutors said the jihadist cell operated out of the Darkawia mosque in the El Príncipe Alfonso neighborhood of Ceuta. The ringleader of the group, a Moroccan imam named Mohammed Abdessalam, was alleged by prosecutors to have "preached the most extreme version of Islam."

Prosecutors said the jihadists had been plotting a series of bombings in Ceuta -- in the city's main port, in churches and in other infrastructure.

In its ruling, however, the court said that although prosecutors proved that the Islamists were "jihadists who worshiped martyrdom," there was a lack of incontrovertible proof that the men were "planning to attack Spanish interests." The ruling added: "Terrorism is more than the expression of radical ideas. Freedom of expression and dissemination of ideas, thoughts or doctrines is a feature of the democratic system which we must protect even for those who disagree and advocate changing it."

The ruling came on the heels of the CNI's leaked secret report, which warned of "alarming symptoms" of the presence in Spain of members and cells of the Islamist group Takfir wal-Hijra, which subscribes to the "most radical and violent version of Salafi-Jihadism."

Takfir wal-Hijra doctrine promotes "jihad without rules" by condoning non-Muslim practices, such as drinking alcohol and drug trafficking, as a cover for extremist activities. According to CNI, the group aspires to subjugate the entire planet under a "global caliphate ruled exclusively by Islamic Sharia law." Members of the group are now firmly established in Barcelona, Madrid, Málaga and Valencia, among other Spanish cities.

The CNI document further states that police have detected Takfir activities in four mosques in Barcelona and two mosques in Valencia. The mosques are "led by radical imams from Algeria and Morocco," and are centers for "proselytization and recruitment of new members using religious instruction as a decoy."

The report of the Spanish Ministry of Defense examines some of the main Islamist groups operating in Spain, such as Takfir wal-Hijra, Tablighi Jamaat, and the Muslim Brotherhood, Justice and Charity from Morocco, concludes that radical Islam is on the rise in Spain. It also shows that the common thread linking all the groups together is their mutual desire to establish an Islamic Caliphate.

The document also states: "The wide range of freedoms in countries like Spain, such as the freedom of expression and association, and the extensive judicial protections, paradoxically represent an advantage for Islamist movements to disseminate messages opposed to democracy or messages that promote radicalization…Jihadist groups can disseminate a range of principles contrary to our democratic and constitutional values, or contrary to the integration into the society of residence, in addition to implementing feelings of marginalization or victimization, that could serve as a breeding ground for jihadist recruitment."

A recent survey conducted by the Spanish Ministry of the Interior provides additional insights into the beliefs of Muslims in Spain. Entitled "Values, Attitudes and Opinions of Muslim Immigrants," the report shows that more than half the Muslims in Spain consider themselves to be "very religious." Only 12% say they are non-practicing.

More than 80% are opposed to banning the burka and only 39% say they are opposed to establishment of Islamic Sharia law courts in Spain. More than 60% of those surveyed say they obey instructions from the imams at their local mosques.

In March, Spanish authorities arrested a radical Islamic preacher for calling on Muslims to use physical and psychological violence to "discipline" errant wives who refuse to submit to Islamic Sharia law or obey their husbands.

Spanish public prosecutors say Abdeslam Laaroussi, a charismatic imam from Morocco who preaches at a large mosque in Terrassa, an industrial city 30 kilometers north of Barcelona, is guilty of "incitement to violence against women" for "providing concrete examples of the manner in which wives should be beaten, how to isolate them inside the family home and how to deny them sexual relations," the last of which would not appear to require extensive instruction.

Police say witnesses provided them with recordings of sermons Laaroussi preached in downtown Terrassa at the Badr Mosque,where more than 1,500 people attend prayers services each Friday, and where he instructed his listeners to "hit women with the use of a stick, the fist or the hand so that no bones are broken and no blood is drawn."

Laaroussi has refused to cooperate with police or provide evidence: he says he does not recognize the legitimacy of the Spanish state.

Soeren Kern is Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook.

Posted on 07/03/2012 5:34 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Tuesday, 3 July 2012
Can America’s Naval Reinforcement in the Persian Gulf Avert Another Tanker War with Iran?

Straits of Hormuz as seen from the International Space Station

Source; NASA

The Iranians fired on Tuesday, July 3rd missiles capable of hitting Israel; the Shahab 3 with a 1,200 mile range.  An AFP report from Iran noted this latest show of force and the coincidences:

Although the Islamic republic has test-fired its Shahab missiles before, and frequently holds military maneuvers, it says these war games are aimed at sending a message to Israel and the United States to think twice on their threats of possibly attacking Iran.

"The message of these Grand Prophet 7 maneuvers is to show the determination, the will and the power of the Iranian people in defending their national interests and core values," the number two of the Revolutionary Guards, General Hossein Salami, said, according to the official IRNA news agency.

"It's a reaction to those who are politically discourteous to the Iranian people by saying 'all options are on the table'," he said.

He added that the launches were "100 percent successful".

The exercise targeted a replica military base set up in the desert and made to look like a foreign facility, similar to those the United States has in neighboring countries such as Afghanistan.

The launch of the Shahab-3 missile coincided with the day experts from Iran and world powers were to hold talks in Istanbul to discuss the West's push to have Tehran scale back its sensitive nuclear program.

The AFP report noted another historic incident:               

Iran's test-firing of its missiles also occurred on the anniversary of the July 3, 1988 shooting down of an Iranian commercial airliner by a US warship towards the end of the Iran-Iraq war.

All 290 passengers and crew on the plane died in the attack, which Washington said was the result of erroneously identifying the civilian aircraft as an Iranian fighter jet.

The July 3, 1988 incident climaxed the Tanker War of 1987-1988 and the eight year bloody war between Iran and Iraq, the latter led by the late Saddam Hussein.

The Tanker War of the 1980’s scenario probably loomed large behind recent augmentation of the US Fifth Fleet as reported by the New York Times:

But at a moment that the United States and its allies are beginning to enforce a much broader embargo on Iran’s oil exports, meant to force the country to take seriously the negotiations over sharply limiting its nuclear program, the buildup carries significant risks, including that Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps could decide to lash out against the increased presence.

The most visible elements of this buildup are Navy ships designed to vastly enhance the ability to patrol the Strait of Hormuz — and to reopen the narrow waterway should Iran attempt to mine it to prevent Saudi Arabia and other oil exporters from sending their tankers through the vital passage.

The Navy has doubled the number of minesweepers assigned to the region, to eight vessels, in what military officers describe as a purely defensive move.

“The message to Iran is, ‘Don’t even think about it,’ ” one senior Defense Department official said. “Don’t even think about closing the strait. We’ll clear the mines. Don’t even think about sending your fast boats out to harass our vessels or commercial shipping. We’ll put them on the bottom of the gulf.” Like others interviewed, the official spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the diplomatic and military situation.

Since late spring, stealthy F-22 and older F-15C warplanes have moved into two separate bases in the Persian Gulf to bolster the combat jets already in the region and the carrier strike groups that are on constant tours of the area. Those additional attack aircraft give the United States military greater capability against coastal missile batteries that could threaten shipping, as well as the reach to strike other targets deeper inside Iran.

The possible disruption of the flow of oil through the Straits of Hormuz, one of the world’s shipping choke points, may have been lessened with the announcement that the UAE completed a 290 kilometer pipeline on the Southern littoral of Persian Gulf with a terminal at Fujairah on the Arabian Sea.   A report in The National, an Emirate publication noted that upwards of 1.8 million barrels per day will begin to flow through the $3.3 Billion Abu Dubai Oil Pipeline in August.

During another Iranian naval missile exercise on the cusp of the New Year in late December 2011, we discussed  in an Iconoclast blog post, the history of Tanker War of the 1980’s and the prescient  assessment about current US naval augmentation of the Fifth Fleet. 

Does this read like a possible repeat of the tanker wars of 1987-1988 that took place in the final throes of the Iran-Iraq War?   In December 1986, the Kuwait government petitioned the Reagan Administration about protection of its tankers against Iranian threats; the vessels were re-flagged and granted American protection.   Thus began Operation Earnest Will, the largest convoy operations since WWII. US Navy forces were successful in keeping the oil flowing through the Straits of Hormus. US Navy Seal teams were dispatched to destroy Iranian oil platforms in retribution for attacks on US flagged vessels. During the campaign, the Islamic Republic Navy used small boats to harass US flagged vessels and fired Chinese anti-ship Silk Worm missiles against US flagged tankers, injuring crews.

Could that happen again?   Assuming the Obama Administration wanted to avoid a casus belli by the Islamic Republic against the Arab oil producers from Iraq, Kuwait, the Emirates and Saudi Arabia. . .  the US Navy could “line the straits’ with combat vessels.   Further the US could conduct intensive aerial patrols from the Carrier Task Force positioned there.  The Fifth fleet also has missile boats, presumably equipped with both conventional and nuclear missiles. Not unlike the Tanker War of the late 1980’s, there would be Seal and Small Boat Teams and night stalker helicopters available for special operations. However, given the Islamic Republic’s nuclear and missile programs, there could be other types of missions launched.

Could there be a repetition of the unfortunate event that brought down the Iran Air Flight 655 with 290 passengers 24 years ago in 1988?  Note this comment from The National:

In March this year, the US Navy announced it was bolstering the presence of the Fifth Fleet in the Gulf amid rising tensions with Iran. Analysts said improved communications systems made it unlikely that another "fog of war" mishap would occur.

"With improved detection systems, it's unlikely to happen again," said Theodore Karasik, the research director at the Institute for Near Eastern and Gulf Military Analysis in Dubai.

"But in a hyper-charged environment, you never know. Mistakes can be made."

Posted on 07/03/2012 8:55 PM by Jerry Gordon
Tuesday, 3 July 2012
Sunnis In Iraq Continue Their War Against The Shi'a Usurpers

From The New York Times:

July 3, 2012

Dozens Killed in Rising Iraqi Violence, Including at Least 40 by Truck Bomb

BAGHDAD — A truck with explosives hidden in its cargo of watermelons exploded on Tuesday in Diwaniya, a largely Shiite city in southern Iraq, killing at least 40 people, including a 6-year-old boy. It was the deadliest in a string of attacks in central and southern Iraq on Tuesday, continuing a surge in violence that began last month and exacerbating a sense of fatalism in the country.

In general, Iraqis have seen little improvement in their security for nearly three years, despite periodic lulls in violence and the narrative offered by American and some Iraqi officials of steady gains after the departure of the American military more than six months ago.

Antony J. Blinken, the national security adviser to Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., wrote in the current Foreign Affairs that since President Obama took office, “violence in Iraq has declined and remains at historic lows — a trend that has continued since the last U.S. troops departed late last year.”

According to United Nations statistics, however, more Iraqis — civilians and members of the security forces alike — died from attacks in the first six months of 2012 than in the first half of 2011.

Security improved radically in 2007 and 2008, when a “surge” of American troops was sent to Iraq. But according to the United Nations figures, the rate of violence has been roughly level since 2009. The organization, which compiles data from a variety of sources and publishes it online, cautions on its Web site that the data “does not represent the official views of the organization, but provides a snapshot of information available at this time.”

The United Nations reckoned that through June, 2,101 Iraqis were killed in violent attacks this year, compared with 1,832 in the first half of 2011.

Lately, many of the victims have been Shiites killed by Al Qaeda in Iraq, the Sunni insurgent group that has claimed responsibility for several high-profile attacks. The violence has not had any noticeable political impact, nor does it appear to threaten the state or indicate a return to widespread sectarian violence of the kind that Iraq suffered in 2006 and 2007.

The national government has been stuck in political paralysis since December, when an arrest warrant was issued for the vice president, Tariq al-Hashimi, a Sunni Arab, on charges that he commanded a death squad responsible for assassinations and bombings. Iraq’s three main factions — the Shiite majority and the minority Sunni Arabs and Kurds — have been contending with one another for political power in a struggle infused with ancient grudges and resentments, precluding any sense of compromise or equanimity.

Sunnis and Kurds have called for the ouster of the Shiite prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, who has been asserting control over the apparatus of state. Many Iraqis worry that Mr. Maliki has gone too far in consolidating power. But others feel that only a strong man at the top can effectively lead the country, and Mr. Maliki’s popularity has increased in many corners of Iraq.

Meanwhile, insurgents seem to be using the political situation as a pretext for attacks, and there is a widespread feeling that at least some of the violence is carried out by groups with links to politicians.

“I want to tell you one thing,” Moktada al-Sadr, the cleric who once led a Shiite insurgent group that fought the Americans and now commands a major bloc in Parliament, said in a recent meeting with Iraqi and foreign journalists. “What is happening is not Sunni and Shia. It’s about the political process. Al Qaeda is not for the Sunnis.”

The truck bomb in Diwaniya on Tuesday morning was detonated near the city’s main fish and vegetable market, where local officials had reopened the streets to vehicles less than five months ago after keeping them closed for years because of security concerns. The area was crowded with morning shoppers at the time of the explosion.

“What did we do wrong?” asked Saad Abbas, a teacher who awoke in a hospital after being wounded in the head and chest. “I was shopping for my family, and I felt a huge explosion. I fell to the ground, and the next thing I know I am in the hospital.”

Over all, the attacks on Tuesday left at least 50 people dead and more than 100 wounded. The variety of methods was indicative of what Iraq still faces daily more than nine years after the American invasion: a huge truck bomb, improvised explosives and assassinations by gunfire.

In Karbala, a holy Shiite city in the south, two homemade bombs that were attached to vehicles detonated in a vegetable market, killing six people and wounding more than 25, according to a local police official. The explosions came three days before an important Shiite religious ceremony is scheduled to be held in the city, raising the specter of further violence against Shiite pilgrims, who are frequently targeted by insurgents.

In Taji, north of Baghdad, explosions killed two and wounded more than 15. Near Baquba, in Diyala Province, gunmen killed a soldier and a police officer, and the bodies of two people who had been shot in the head were found in a farmer’s field, according to a police official.

In Diwaniya, which had been relatively placid before Tuesday, officials imposed a curfew and put out a call for blood donors.

At the badly damaged market, one shop owner considered Iraq’s cruel fate.

“Why is this happening?” asked Saleem Ahmed, who happened to be sheltered behind a shop building when the truck bomb went off. “The terrorists are not targeting the government. It’s the Iraqi soul they are targeting. What I saw today of bodies and wounded people, it’s something I won’t forget. Vegetables were mixed with blood and pieces of flesh, and I helped the wounded get to the hospital.”
Posted on 07/03/2012 10:02 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Tuesday, 3 July 2012
Incidents Of Travel In The Yucatan
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Posted on 07/03/2012 10:35 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald

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