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These are all the Blogs posted on Tuesday, 30, 2010.
Tuesday, 30 March 2010
The Hutaree's Biblical quotations

This AP story about the Christian militia group arrested today contains this quote:

Hutaree says on its Web site its name means "Christian warrior" and describes the word as part of a secret language few are privileged to know. The group quotes several Bible passages and declares: "We believe that one day, as prophecy says, there will be an Anti-Christ. ... Jesus wanted us to be ready to defend ourselves using the sword and stay alive using equipment."

I was curious about what kind of Biblical quotations a Christian militia would use on their website.  Their website contains these quotations:

John 15:13  Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

Hebrews 11:1  "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, The Evidence of things not yet seen."

I Peter 5:11  "And this is the Testimony, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son."

Revelation 3:19  Jesus told the Church of Laodicea, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent."

Jeremiah 4:1-4  "If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith the LORD, return unto me: and if thou wilt put away thine abominations out of my sight, then shalt thou not remove.  And thou shalt swear, The LORD liveth, in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness; and the nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory. For thus saith the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings."

Jeremiah 24:7  "And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the LORD: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart."

Luke 13:1-5  "There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish."

Genesis 3:7-10  "And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden. And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself."

Genesis 3:12  “And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat."

Genesis 3:13  “And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.”

2 Corinthians 7:10  “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.

Acts 2:37  "Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?"

Matthew 27:3-5  “Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.”

Nothing shocking there.  Nothing about killing policemen.  Nothing about killing, period.  If the members of Hutaree are actually guilty of planning attacks on police, government officials, and Muslims, their plans were not based on following the words of the Bible.  There are no "Slay the non-believers wherever you find them" verses on their website, or in the Bible.  Whatever motivated them, it was not Biblical quotations.

Compare and contrast that to the Qur'anic quotations of jihadists that unambiguously call for faithful Muslims to commit violence against non-Muslims.  The quote from AP was intended, I believe, to suggest an equivalence between the Hutaree group and Muslim jihadists, when in fact there is no equivalence at all.  There are no mainstream Christian scholars who teach that the Bible calls for the murder of policemen, government officials, or Muslims.  However, there ARE mainstream Islamic scholars, the most respected senior Islamic scholars in the most devoutly Islamic nations, that DO teach that the Qur'an calls for violent jihad against non-Muslims.  They provide the quotations, and anyone can look them up and verify their authenticity and their relevance.

Here are some other quotes from the AP story:

Prosecutors said David Stone had identified certain law enforcement officers near his home as potential targets. He and other members discussed setting off bombs at a police funeral, using a fake 911 call to lure an officer to his death, killing an officer after a traffic stop, or attacking the family of an officer, according to the indictment.

After such attacks, the group allegedly planned to retreat to "rally points" protected by trip-wired explosives for a violent standoff with the law.

"It is believed by the Hutaree that this engagement would then serve as a catalyst for a more widespread uprising against the government," the indictment said.

And:

[Kelly Sickles, wife of one of the arrested men] said she couldn't believe her 27-year-old husband could be involved in anything violent.

"It was just survival skills," she said. "That's what they were learning. And it's just patriotism. It's in our Constitution."

Now, please.  There is nothing patriotic about trying to start an uprising against the government.   We have a democratic republic, which has mechanisms for concerned citizens to get involved and influence public policy.  That does not include using explosives or attacking the family of a police officer.  If the Hutaree think that our government is so corrupt that the only solution is to start blowing people up, they are the exact opposites of patriots.  They hate our system of government, they hate the members of our society.

If the Hutaree planned to kill Muslims in our country, they are dangerous and belong in prison.  The fight against jihad does not justify individuals to take the law into their own hands and become judge, jury, and executioners.  This is not Pakistan, or Saudi Arabia, or the Sudan.  Our government does not kill people because of their religious affiliation, nor does it sanction citizens to do so.  The fight against jihad is mostly educational, in teaching non-Muslims about what Islam actually teaches.  The fight against jihad is defensive, it is about protecting our rights and protecting our physical safety.

Regardless of how they are portrayed in the media, the Hutarees are not "Christian jihadists."  Their alleged plans are not based on Christian doctrine.

Posted on 03/30/2010 12:30 AM by Artemis Gordon Glidden
Tuesday, 30 March 2010
Hot and cross about nothing

On days when I work from home, I often buy a sandwich for lunch from a small baker just up the road. The home-baked bread and cakes are no pricier and much tastier than the bland, chemically-preserved stuff you get in ordinary shops, and the staff, who range in age from twenties to sixties, know me and other customers, and always have time for a chat. Foreigners think that England, especially London, no longer has shops like this, but they're wrong.

Today I fancied a hot cross bun - it is nearly Easter, after all. I was disappointed to find that the baker's didn't have any. "Is it because of the Muslims?" I asked, heart sinking at the surrender of this very English shop. "No way," said Peggy, the manager, "We're sold out. They've all gone." "Like hot cakes?" "You could say that. We're going to make a lot more tomorrow."

Phew. I decided not to buy the inferior kind from the Co-op to tide me over, and will return tomorrow.

To be fair, I have yet to hear a Muslim object to hot cross buns. Like the "no-piggy-bank" decrees, such bans are sometimes product of over-zealous local councils, and more often than not, whipped up out of nothing by the tabloids. In any case, like so many Christian "traditions", hot cross buns may pre-date Christianity:

In many historically Christian countries, buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday, with the cross standing as a symbol of the crucifixion. They are believed by some to pre-date Christianity, although the first recorded use of the term "hot cross bun" is not until 1733;it is believed that buns marked with a cross were eaten by Saxons in honour of the goddess Eostre (the cross is thought to have symbolised the four quarters of the moon); "Eostre" is probably the origin of the name "Easter". Others claim that the Greeks marked cakes with a cross, much earlier.

According to cookery writer Elizabeth David, Protestant English monarchs saw the buns as a dangerous hold-over of Catholic belief in England, being baked from the dough used in making the communion wafer. Protestant England attempted to ban the sale of the buns by bakers but they were too popular, and instead Elizabeth I passed a law permitting bakeries to sell them, but only at Easter and Christmas.

English folklore includes many superstitions surrounding hot cross buns. One of them says that buns baked and served on Good Friday will not spoil or become mouldy during the subsequent year. Another encourages keeping such a bun for medicinal purposes. A piece of it given to someone who is ill is said to help them recover.

Sharing a hot cross bun with another is supposed to ensure friendship throughout the coming year, particularly if "Half for you and half for me, Between us two shall goodwill be" is said at the time. Because of the cross on the buns, some say they should be kissed before being eaten. If taken on a sea voyage, hot cross buns are said to protect against shipwreck. If hung in the kitchen, they are said to protect against fires and ensure that all breads turn out perfectly. The hanging bun is replaced each year.

Cue for a song. Notice the incipient feminism in the unlikely context of an old nursery rhyme: if you have no daughters give them to your sons. Bear in mind that the daughter may already have one in the oven. An American version has the more egalitarian "Give them to your daughters, give them to your sons."

Posted on 03/30/2010 6:22 AM by Mary Jackson
Tuesday, 30 March 2010
Pseudsay Tuesday

The department store chain John Lewis has a price promise: "Never knowingly undersold." This means that if you buy something from John Lewis and then find an identical product cheaper in another store, John Lewis will refund the difference. I know what it means, of course - everyone does - but I struggle to see quite why it means what it does.

"Never knowingly undersold" niggles. It is too concise for its own good: "knowingly" is made to work too hard. "Undersold" is a past participle of a verb, undersell,  that already plays with subjects and objects ("to sell goods cheaper than [a competitor]"), and so it needs some amplification to help the passive voice along. John Lewis should substitute something like "to our knowledge", "if we know about it", or "if we can help it". Knowing me, knowing you it's the best you can, knowingly, do.

I wondered if anyone else had taken issue with "Never knowingly undersold". A Chris Kimble from the University of York mistrusts it, but not because of the syntax; he sees it as a metaphor for "Communities of Practice". At least I think that's what he means:

Like John Lewis' famous tag-line "Never Knowingly Undersold", the term "Communities of Practice" has proved to be both durable and capable of holding many levels of meaning and seems like an appropriate metaphor for the way that the term Communities of Practice is used by some.

Communities of Practice are an area of increasing interest for academics, consultants and practitioners. Perhaps this interest is not too surprising: they provide a useful socio-cultural description of the process of the creation and reproduction of knowledge, an account of agency and structure that can be applied to the business environment, as well as a social constructivist theory of learning applicable to groups.

Management theory: never knowingly understood.

Posted on 03/30/2010 9:44 AM by Mary Jackson
Tuesday, 30 March 2010
Azerbaijan says thwarts plot to attack school
BAKU, March 29 (Reuters) ht/Jw- Azerbaijan said on Monday it had detained eight people including a Chechen man on suspicion of planning "terrorist acts" against a school and kindergarten in the capital of the oil-producing Caucasus state.
Secular authorities in mainly Muslim Azerbaijan, a tightly controlled former Soviet republic, are concerned over what they say is the rising influence of radical Islam and the threat posed to the country's oil-fuelled economic growth.
Azerbaijan's National Security Ministry said police had arrested eight members of an "organised criminal group, crossing illegally from Georgia into Azerbaijan with the aim of carrying out terrorist acts".
A ministry statement said seven were Azeris, including three women, and the eighth was from Russia's southern Chechnya republic.
It said the group had earlier concealed weapons and ammunition in the roof of a kindergarten and a school in the capital Baku and planned to attack both. The suspected ringleader is still at large, it added.
Posted on 03/30/2010 7:01 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Tuesday, 30 March 2010
Russian security services hunt 21-strong 'Black Widow' cell
Russia’s security services believe that the women who blew themselves up in two Moscow Metro stations yesterday were part of a group of up to 30 suicide bombers trained by a Chechen terrorist leader.
Agents from the Federal Security Service (FSB) are investigating the theory that the “Black Widows” were sent to avenge the death of Said Buryatsky, the leading ideologue of the Islamist rebels in Russia’s North Caucasus. Investigators are now desperately trying to establish whether the attack was a simple response to Buryatsky’s death, or whether it signalled the start of a suicide bombing campaign that he had already prepared before the FSB tracked him down
Kommersant newspaper reported today that the FSB believed that nine of the 30 trainees had already blown themselves up on suicide missions. The rest were still at large, raising fears that more could already be in Moscow and preparing to carry out attacks.
Mr Yevkurov today ordered security services in Ingushetia to check on relatives of militants killed in recent police operations in the republic, to establish if any were linked to the Metro attacks. The FSB was also reportedly checking lists of relatives of those killed alongside Buryatsky, paying particular attention to women. Buryatsky was the right-hand man to terrorist leader Doku Umarov, the self-styled “Emir” of an Islamist statee that he dreams of establishing across the North Caucasus. Umarov threatened last month that he would soon take the war to Russia, saying: “Blood will no longer be limited to our cities and towns. The war is coming to their cities.”
Dozens of contributors to three websites affiliated with al-Qaida left messages praising the attacks in Moscow, which killed 39 people. One site opened a special page to “receive congratulations” for the Black Widows, who it said had “started the dark tunnel attacks in the apostate countries”.
Posted on 03/30/2010 7:47 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Tuesday, 30 March 2010
That Little Business Of Nazis And Human Rights Watch
From
March 28, 2010

Nazi scandal engulfs Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch champions the brutally repressed. But in the wake of a ‘Nazi’ scandal involving an employee, is all well in its own back yard?

Marc Garlasco lost his job at Human Rights Watch over his enthusiasm for Third Reich memorabilia

At the headquarters of Human Rights Watch, more than 30 storeys above the noise and bustle of Manhattan, there is so much high-mindedness hanging in the air you can almost taste it. This is the epicentre of a certain type of socially smart, progressive activism — the kind that persuades Hollywood grandees, power lawyers and liberal financiers to dig deeply into their pockets.

 

When the story broke that one of the organisation’s most prominent and vocal members of staff might be a collector of Nazi-era military memorabilia it felt like some sort of sexual scandal had erupted in the Victorian church. For a lobbying group accustomed to adulatory coverage in the media, it was a public-relations catastrophe.

Human Rights Watch is one of two global superpowers among the world’s myriad humanitarian pressure groups. It is relatively young — established in its current form in 1988 — but it has grown so quickly in size, wealth and influence that it has all but eclipsed its older, London-based rival, Amnesty International.

Unlike Amnesty, HRW, as it is known, gets its money from charitable foundations and wealthy individuals — such as the financier George Soros — rather than a mass membership. And, also unlike Amnesty, it seeks to make an impact, not through extensive letter-writing campaigns, but by talking to governments and the media, urging openness and candour and backing up its advocacy with research reports. It is an association that is all about influence — an influence that depends on a carefully honed image of objectivity, expertise and high moral tone. So it was perhaps a little awkward that a key member of staff was found to have such a treasure trove of Nazi regalia.

By day, Marc Garlasco was HRW’s only military expert, the person that its Emergencies Division would send to conflict zones to investigate alleged war crimes. He wrote reports condemning the dropping of cluster bombs in the Russia-Georgia war, the alleged illegal use of white phosphorus by the Israeli army in Gaza and coalition tactics that he said “unnecessarily” put Iraqi or Afghan civilians at risk. An enthusiastic source of quotes for the media, he was incessantly on the phone to journalists.

But by night, Garlasco was “Flak88”, an obsessive contributor to internet forums on Third Reich memorabilia and an avid collector of badges and medals emblazoned with swastikas and eagles.

A lavishly illustrated $100 book he compiled and self-published is dedicated to his grandfather, who served in the Luftwaffe. On members-only sites such as Wehrmachtawards.com he was writing comments like “VERY nice Hitler signature selection”; “That is so cool! The leather SS jacket makes my blood go cold it is so COOL!”

An interest in Nazi memorabilia does not necessarily suggest Nazi sympathies — but it is hardly likely to play well in the salons where Garlasco’s employer might solicit donations.

Human Rights Watch started small, but there is now a grandness about it, a deep hum of power and connectedness. In Los Angeles, its annual Hollywood dinner is said to raise more than $2m. When he was guest editor of Vanity Fair, Brad Pitt published a profile of the executive director, Kenneth Roth.

In London, HRW’s board meetings and fundraising parties are held in huge houses in Notting Hill and Hampstead, with wealthy expat Americans — “the Democratic party in exile”, one board member calls it — vying to outdo each other in lavishness. Significant contributors in the UK include Tony Elliott, the owner of Time Out, and Catherine Zennstrom, whose husband, Niklas, created Skype. When the philanthropic London-based banker John Studzinski joined the board it was proof positive that he had “made it”.

The enthusiasts for Third Reich memorabilia who meet up in cyberspace make up a cosy little community. In one posting Garlasco put up a photograph of himself wearing a sweatshirt with an Iron Cross on the front, sitting next to his daughter. One of his internet buddies comments: “Love the sweatshirt? Not one I could wear here in Germany though — well I could but it would be a lot of hassle.”

Garlasco certainly seems to have been more open with his online collector friends than he had been with his employer. “Flak88” was more than happy to talk openly about his day job. He wondered whether he should reveal his hobby to Human Rights Watch — who evidently knew nothing about it: “So I am trying to figure out what to do. My book is clsoe [sic] to done, but I am not sure if I should put my name on it. If folks at work found out I might very well lose my job.”

His dilemma did not last long. In September a blogger noted that Marc Garlasco had long been reviewing books on Third Reich memorabilia on Amazon — and that he was the same Marc Garlasco who had written controversial HRW reports about alleged Israeli violations in Gaza and Lebanon. The blogger did not accuse him of being a Nazi, but wondered if Garlasco’s “obsession with anti-Semitic Nazi genocidal lunatics” was in any way related to his “apologism for anti-Semitic genocidal Hamas lunatics”. The story soon gained momentum. Human Rights Watch was forced to investigate.

Initially HRW offered Garlasco unequivocal support. This was not surprising. The organisation is supremely self-confident. When I asked the executive director Kenneth Roth if he could think of any errors made by HRW, he replied: “Nothing major. There is an errata page on our website.” And despite his oddness, Garlasco was also an asset. Born in Manhattan and raised in Queens, his background was a useful counterpoint to the posh-boho culture that pervades the group. He is a keen gun-owner, a member of the National Rifle Association, had worked for the Pentagon and counted key members of the military as friends. More than anything, his military and strategic know-how provided the group with desperately needed credibility — especially when talking about “disproportionate” military responses.

HRW’s public-relations machine quickly went into action. Garlasco was defended as “the author of a monograph on the history of German air force and army anti-aircraft medals and a contributor to websites that promote serious historical research? and which forbid hate speech”. They said that comments by Garlasco about Nazi regalia merely “reflect the enthusiasm of a keen collector? and have no bearing on Garlasco’s work for Human Rights Watch”.

Garlasco himself wrote an apologetic column on the political website the Huffington Post in which he claimed he had “never hidden my hobby, because there’s nothing shameful in it, however weird it might seem to those who aren’t fascinated by military history. Precisely because it’s so obvious that the Nazis were evil, I never realised that other people, including friends and colleagues, might wonder why I care about these things”.

It wasn’t enough for HRW to defend Garlasco or to make the sensible distinction between an innocent interest in the second-world-war German army and an unhealthy attraction to Nazi iconography. HRW also went on the offensive. It accused those who raised the issue of Garlasco’s hobby of being part of “a campaign to deflect attention from Human Rights Watch’s rigorous and detailed reporting on violations of international human rights and humanitarian law by the Israeli government”. It even used the word “conspiracy”: its programmes director, Iain Levine, later went so far as to directly accuse the Israeli government of being behind it. But he provided no evidence for the charge.

The vehemence of Human Rights Watch in defending Garlasco surprised many. But it made sense for two reasons. Though HRW relishes complaints from infuriated dictatorships, it is not used to its personnel and methods being questioned at home. And it coincided with a series of less-well-publicised criticisms of the group. Suddenly, when its own practices came under scrutiny, it became very touchy.

On September 14 last year the organisation suspended Marc Garlasco with pay “pending an investigation”. But as the months went by, HRW said nothing about the investigation — and nothing about Garlasco’s status.

Garlasco himself kept mum. When I called him, he told me that he “had nothing more to say”. I learnt from friends of his, however, that he had been gagged by a confidentiality agreement. They said that he had in effect been fired, but would be paid for the duration of his contract as long as he kept silent.

When I visited HRW’s New York headquarters in February, I asked Kenneth Roth about Garlasco’s status. He said nothing had changed. Did he mean that Garlasco is still suspended pending an investigation? “Yes,” came the reply.

On March 5, Garlasco’s name was removed from the list of staff members on HRW’s website. Later that day, the Jerusalem Post newspaper asked about Garlasco’s status. A spokeswoman replied by email that HRW had “regretfully accepted Marc Garlasco’s resignation” two weeks before. Kenneth Roth has sent an email to staff, board members and some key donors insisting that they do not respond to any media inquiries about the matter. Garlasco, meanwhile, prefers to stay out of the limelight: when The Sunday Times Magazine inquired about using the picture of Garlasco wearing a sweatshirt featuring an Iron Cross, we received this reply:

“It is my understanding that you intend on using a photo or likeness of him, which is copyrighted, without his permission. Should you do so? we will prosecute this matter to the fullest extent of the law. Sincerely, Attorney Paul James Garlasco.”

We contacted Attorney Garlasco to find out if he was related to Marc Garlasco; he did not return our calls or emails.

HRW was also cagey about the photograph. Garlasco has become a non-person. “It might be him,” hedged the communications director Emma Daly, but “he doesn’t work here any more.”

Every year, Human Rights Watch puts out up to 100 glossy reports — essentially mini books — and 600-700 press releases, according to Daly, a former journalist for The Independent.

Some conflict zones get much more coverage than others. For instance, HRW has published five heavily publicised reports on Israel and the Palestinian territories since the January 2009 war.

In 20 years they have published only four reports on the conflict in Indian-controlled Kashmir, for example, even though the conflict has taken at least 80,000 lives in these two decades, and torture and extrajudicial murder have taken place on a vast scale. Perhaps even more tellingly, HRW has not published any report on the postelection violence and repression in Iran more than six months after the event.

When I asked the Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson if HRW was ever going to release one, she said: “We have a draft, but I’m not sure I want to put one out.” Asked the same question, executive director Kenneth Roth told me that the problem with doing a report on Iran was the difficulty of getting into the country.

I interviewed a human-rights expert at a competing organisation in Washington who did not wish to be named because “we operate in a very small world and it’s not done to criticise other human-rights organisations”. He told me he was “not surprised” that HRW has still not produced a report on the violence in Iran: “They are thinking about how it’s going to be used politically in Washington. And it’s not a priority for them because Iran is just not a bad guy that they are interested in highlighting. Their hearts are not in it. Let’s face it, the thing that really excites them is Israel.”

Noah Pollak, a New York writer who has led some of the criticisms against HRW, points out that it cares about Palestinians when maltreated by Israelis, but is less concerned if perpetrators are fellow Arabs. For instance, in 2007 the Lebanese army shelled the Nahr al Bared refugee camp near Tripoli (then under the control of Fatah al Islam radicals), killing more than 100 civilians and displacing 30,000. HRW put out a press release — but it never produced a report.

Such imbalance was at the heart of a public dressing-down that shook HRW in October. It came from the organisation’s own founder and chairman emeritus, the renowned publisher Robert Bernstein, who took it to task in The New York Times for devoting its resources to open and democratic societies rather than closed ones. (Originally set up as Helsinki Watch, the group’s original brief was to expose abuses of human rights behind the iron curtain.)

“Nowhere is this more evident than its work in the Middle East,” he wrote. “The region is populated by authoritarian regimes with appalling human-rights records. Yet in recent years Human Rights Watch has written far more condemnations of Israel? than of any other country in the region.”

Bernstein pointed out that Israel has “a population of 7.4m, is home to at least 80 human-rights organisations, a vibrant free press, a democratically elected government, a judiciary that frequently rules against the government?and probably more journalists per capita than any other country in the world? Meanwhile the Arab and Iranian regimes rule over some 350m people and most remain brutal, closed and autocratic”.

Bernstein concluded that if HRW did not “return to its founding mission and the spirit of humility that animated it? its credibility will be seriously undermined and its important role in the world significantly diminished”. HRW’s response was ferocious — and disingenuous. In their letters to the paper, Roth and others made it sound as if Bernstein had said that open societies and democracies should not be monitored at all.

I met Robert Bernstein at an office he keeps in midtown Manhattan. Though he has been retired from publishing for more than two decades, and from HRW for 12 years, he remains active in human rights, especially in China. He said: “It broke my heart to write that article? Of course open societies should be watched very carefully, but HRW is one of the very few organisations that is supposed to go into closed societies. Why should HRW be covering Guantanamo? It’s already covered by a lot of other organisations.”

The revelation of Marc Garlasco’s hobby was also significant because he was the first and only person at Human Rights Watch with any kind of military expertise. While staff members at HRW tend to be lawyers, journalists or political activists, Garlasco, 40, had worked as a civilian employee at the Pentagon for seven years before joining HRW in 2004. According to his HRW biography, he had served as “a senior intelligence analyst covering Iraq” and his last position there was as “chief of high-value targeting” at the very beginning of the Iraq war.

This apparently meant that it was he who selected targets for air strikes.

According to an interview Garlasco gave to Der Spiegel, he was a key player in an air strike on Basra on April 5, 2003 intended to kill Ali Hassan al-Majid, better known as Chemical Ali, but which instead took the lives of 17 civilians.

In another interview, Garlasco said he was responsible for up to 50 other air strikes — none of which killed anyone on the target list but which accounted for several hundred civilian deaths. Soon after the Chemical Ali air strike, he left to join Human Rights Watch. In interviews he has suggested that he did so because he was sickened by his responsibility for these deaths, and had always been opposed to the war to overthrow Saddam Hussein. Associates of Garlasco have told me that there had long been tensions between Garlasco and HRW’s Middle East Division in New York — perhaps because he sometimes stuck his neck out and did not follow the HRW line. Garlasco himself apparently resented what he felt was pressure to sex up claims of Israeli violations of laws of war in Gaza and Lebanon, or to stick by initial assessments even when they turned out to be incorrect.

In June 2006, Garlasco had alleged that an explosion on a Gaza beach that killed seven people had been caused by Israeli shelling. However, after seeing the details of an Israeli army investigation that closely examined the relevant ballistics and blast patterns, he subsequently told the Jerusalem Post that he had been wrong and that the deaths were probably caused by an unexploded munition in the sand. But this went down badly at Human Rights Watch HQ in New York, and the admission was retracted by an HRW press release the next day.

Since the Garlasco affair blew up, critics of Human Rights Watch have raised questions about other appointments. An Israeli newspaper revealed that Joe Stork, the deputy head of HRW’s Middle East department, was a radical leftist who put out a magazine in the 1970s that praised the murder of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. In 1976 he attended an anti-Zionist conference in Baghdad hosted by the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

As Kenneth Roth pointed out to me, this was all three decades ago, Stork was just one of seven editors of the magazine when its editorial praised the massacre, and he later became a staunch critic of Saddam Hussein. Certainly, he no longer spices up reports with talk of “revolutionary potential of the Palestinian masses.” That said, when Stork was hired by HRW in 1996 he had never worked for a human-rights group, had never held an academic position, and had a history of anti-Israel activism.

Stork’s boss, Sarah Leah Whitson, and most of his colleagues in the Middle East department of Human Rights Watch, also have activist backgrounds — it was typical that one newly hired researcher came to HRW from the extremist anti-Israel publication Electronic Intifada — unlikely to reassure anyone who thinks that human-rights organisations should be non-partisan. While it may be hard to find people who are genuinely neutral about Middle East politics, theoretically an organisation like HRW would not select as its researchers people who are so evidently on one side.

While HRW was dealing with the fallout from the Garlasco affair, it was already on the defensive as a result of criticism of a fundraising effort in Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s worst human-rights violators. This involved two dinners for members of the Saudi elite in Riyadh, at which Sarah Leah Whitson curried favour with her hosts by boasting about HRW’s “battles” with pro-Israel pressure groups, such as NGO Monitor.

Although HRW has a policy of not taking money from governments, there were at least two Saudi officials present. One was a member of the Shura Council, which, among other things, oversees the implementation of the strict Wahhabi interpretation of Islamic law. HRW has not given out a transcript of its appeal for donations or to publish a list of attendees at the dinners.

I asked the HRW executive director Kenneth Roth about the controversy that surrounded the Saudi dinners. He said: “Because somebody is the victim of a repressive government, should they have no right to contribute to a human-rights organisation?” Even if they had been invited, few victims would have been able to make the dinners — most Saudi dissidents are either in prison or live abroad in exile.

It probably gives little comfort to Human Rights Watch that Amnesty International, the association’s great rival, is also dealing with a queasy scandal involving questionable links. Amnesty’s image suffered a blow in February when Gita Sahgal, the director of its gender programme, told The Sunday Times she was concerned that the organisation was compromising its core values by getting into bed with radical Islamists.

Amnesty has allied itself with the Cageprisoners programme that Sahgal said “actively promotes Islamic Right ideals and individuals”. The programme is led by Moazzam Begg, the former Guantanamo Bay detainee whom Sahgal called “Britain’s most famous supporter of the Taliban”.

Amnesty’s reaction to Sahgal’s criticism was swift and jaw-droppingly incompatible with the work of an outfit that actively encourages whistleblowing: she was suspended from her job. Although this provoked a fierce response from Salman Rushdie and a Facebook campaign, it is sticking to its guns while denying that Sahgal was suspended “for raising these issues internally”.

Many of those on the left of the human-rights “community” may feel conflicting emotions when it comes to dealing with radical Islam, as if the former is somehow a dangerous distraction from the real struggle. In 2006 Scott Long, the director of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights programme at Human Rights Watch, attacked the British campaigner Peter Tatchell, accusing him of racism, Islamophobia and colonialism for having the temerity to lead a campaign against Iran’s executions of homosexuals — a campaign that Long believed was unconstructive and based on “a Western social-constructionist trope”.

Human Rights Watch does perform a useful task, but its critics raise troubling questions that go beyond Garlasco’s hobby or raising money from Saudis. Why put such effort into publicising alleged human-rights violations in some countries but not others? Why does HRW seem so credulous of civilian witnesses in places like Gaza and Afghanistan but so sceptical of anyone in a uniform?

It may be that organisations like HRW that depend on the media for their profile — and therefore their donations — concentrate too much on places that the media already cares about.

HRW’s reaction to the scandals has perhaps cost it more credibility than the scandals themselves. It has revealed an organisation that does not always practice the transparency, tolerance and accountability it urges on others n nalways practice the transparency and accountability it urges on others. 

Posted on 03/30/2010 11:06 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Tuesday, 30 March 2010
Jahiliyyah Memorabilyyah

The reference in Hugh's post to Nazi memorabilia, a subject covered more than once at this site, made me shudder as I thought that if Islam came to dominate, perhaps all that we would have left of infidel civilisation would be memorabilia. Jahiliyyah memorabilyyah could include, from my article Islam is Boring:

Art, music, cathedrals, literature, jokes, dogs, love, perfume, bacon, statues, science, wine, beer, Catherine Tate, limericks, films, plays, democracy and Spinal Tap.

To which I would add the never knowingly undersold John Lewis, Pearly Kings and Purley Oaks. Best get all that put on a T-shirt now, before it's too late. To start with, I'd like a stick of rock with wine and democracy right through it.

Posted on 03/30/2010 11:51 AM by Mary Jackson
Tuesday, 30 March 2010
Purley

Not surprising that Purley should appear in the Monty Python nudge-nudge wink-wink episode. Purley has always been a place associated with diversions:

 

http://www.newenglishreview.org/blog_direct_link.cfm/blog_id/8746

 

http://www.newenglishreview.org/blog_direct_link.cfm/blog_id/10077

 

http://www.newenglishreview.org/blog_direct_link.cfm/blog_id/11726

 

Posted on 03/30/2010 12:20 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Tuesday, 30 March 2010
An "He-Asked-Him-Knowingly" Interlude (Monty Python)

"He asked him knowingly":

Watch, and listen, here.

 

Posted on 03/30/2010 11:11 AM by Hugh Fitzgeraly
Tuesday, 30 March 2010
A Musical Interlude: I Don't Mind Walkin' In The Rain (Bix Beiderbecke)

Listen here.

Posted on 03/30/2010 11:20 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Tuesday, 30 March 2010
That White Elephant-And-Castle

Someone forwarded to me an article about  the American Embassy in Iraq posted today at the website of Daniel Pipes

By way of response, I sent a paragraph from a piece I posted in June 2008 at NER:

"That Embassy, that white-elephant-and-castle Embassy, that has cost $600 million dollars, will almost certainly never be used by the Americans in the way that they assumed they would be able to use it. I think it very possible that it will never be occupied by American diplomats. Yet members of Congress, who fidget and fuss over expenditures of five million here and ten million there, never ever asked about that Embassy, its cost, the likelihood of its use. It made no sense, unless your planning began, and ended, with senselessness. The Bush Administration, and its critics, seem determined to show the world that the comment about America made by W. H. Auden in his post-war poem, "Under Which Lyre" (An Address to The Scholars of Harvard) is in fact true: America, he cruelly-affectionately apostrophized, "so large, so stupid, and so rich."

 

Posted on 03/30/2010 1:01 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Tuesday, 30 March 2010
Late-Victorian Fugitive Political Verse: The Status Quo
THE STATUS QUO. 

I'd like to be a Status Quo 
That all the Powers maintain, 
The Quo that just declines to go 
And hangs on might and main, 

It seems to me, without a doubt 
The Status knows its way about. 

When Beaconsfield, Bismarck and Co. 
At Berlin's board did sit 
They always liked the Status Quo 
And thought a lot of it. 

Though Gortschakoff was quite unnerved 
They said " the Quo must be observed!" 

When Dizzy from Berlin came back, 
With Peace and all the rest of it, 
He'd shuffled all the Congress pack 
And always got the best of it. 

He play'd it high. He play'd it low 
But pacified the Status Quo. 

The Status now is on the dip 
At Tirnovo awaiting 
A diplomatic " flip-flap " trip 
A trifle oscillating,
 
But will it turnover? Dear me! 
A Ferdinand's worth two or three 



Now Europe's got the Quo in tow 
(While Turkey's on the gobble) 
Isvolsky nudges Clemenceau 
To watch the Status wobble 

But will it topple?  Oh, dear, No 
For Asquith hath a quid pro Quo. 

I'd like to be a Status Quo 
That holds its own so nicely 
(I'd hold my own and others' too 
To tell the truth precisely) 

I'd like to feel when thrones go flop 
That I would always come up top. 

The Englishman, llth October 1908. 

Posted on 03/30/2010 1:12 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Tuesday, 30 March 2010
Re: White Elephant and Castle

News to me. Last time I looked it was red, and before that shocking - and shopping - pink:

Posted on 03/30/2010 1:29 PM by Mary Jackson
Tuesday, 30 March 2010
The Status Quo

They'll be around, like, forev-ah. Whatev-ah:

Posted on 03/30/2010 1:33 PM by Mary Jackson
Tuesday, 30 March 2010
A Musical Interlude: Sixty Seconds Every Minute (Jan Garber)

Listen here.

Posted on 03/30/2010 8:01 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Tuesday, 30 March 2010
Defensiveness About The Guardian's Appalling Recent Coverage Of Global Warming

Read here.

A number of the comments are by people who describe the failure of The Guardian's editors to mount an adequate defense of their confused and hysterical (see George Monbiot) reaction to the email business. Several also say that they would not trust "The Guardian" on this issue and that, furthermore, they would not trust The Guardian on anything.

Anyone who has read the coverage by The Guardian of the Middle East, is familiar with its campaign of vilification of israel and constant Defender-of-the-Faith stance when it comes to Islam, should be pleased.

The more people who abandon The Guardian, whatever the precipitating  prompt, the better.

Posted on 03/30/2010 8:21 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Tuesday, 30 March 2010
Father Shafiq Abu Zaid States What Should Have Been Understood Before The Iraq Folly

Under Saddam Hussein, Christians in Iraq were more secure, were better off than they are now. Not because Saddam Hussein was a wonderful fellow, but because he understood that the Christians, terrified of standing out in a Muslim sea, were no threat to his regime,. The threat to him, as the Sunni despot (his Sunni despotism camouflaged as "Ba'athism" )in a country where the Shi'a Arabs outnumbered the Sunni Arabs 3 to 1,  could only come (aside from  ambitiious Sunni colonels with a coup in mind) from the Shi'a, the people whom the Christian Iraqis in exile now refer to scathingly - but for many n their Western audiences incomprehensibly -- as "the turbans." 

And the Americans living in the Green Zone, who inherited the household staff of Saddam Hussein-- waiters,  butlers, maids, laundresses, praegustatores -- must have asked themselves why so many of them were Christians. Or did they not take an interest? 

The same reliance on Christians -- the Assads have various household guards, but there is, or was, a corps consisting of trustworthy Armenians -- can be seen in Syria, where a "Ba'athist" regime merely serves to disguise, transparent for the local Sunni Arabs but apparently quite convincing for outside Middle East "experts" --rule by the Alawite minority, who constitute 12% of the population but also control the officer corps.

Note also how various other minorities -- Alawites, Kurds, and so on -- are described, not quite accurately, by Father Shafiq Abu Zeid. He fails to distinguish between those groups that are not Arab (Kurds) and those that are not Muslim or fully Muslim (Alawites) and still others that are both non-Muslim and non-Arab. But reading between his lines, so as to grasp what he means but cannot always, even in a moment of candor, fully express,  is instructive.

Watch, and listen, here.

He's apparently at Oxford. Just think about what he thinks, but cannot openly say, about Tariq Ramadan.

Posted on 03/30/2010 8:29 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Tuesday, 30 March 2010
Even More Than Usually, Yemeni Intelligence Service Not To Be Trusted

Jeff Stein writes in The Washington Post:

CIA and Yemen playing a doubles game

If Yemen seems like a terrorist playground today, the answer might be that its top intelligence service is run by jihadis.

According to a report in the reliable Paris-based Intelligence Online newsletter, White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, “who has traveled twice to Yemen in the last six months, has been told by his advisers that Yemen's Political Security Organization has been infiltrated at the highest levels by jihadists active in the country."

A Brennan spokesman declined to comment on the report, which most likely originated in the region. But it came as no surprise to a top former CIA counterterrorism official, who said with a chuckle: “that report is stating the obvious.”

“In 2006,” the IO newsletter continues, “Political Security let Nasser al-Wahayshi, the former secretary of Osama bin Laden, and a dozen of his associates escape from prison in Sanaa. The escapees are believed to have established jihadists camps in the province of Chabwa, to the east of Sanaa. Political Security is run by Ghaled al-Qimch, President Ali Abdallah Saleh’s trusted right hand man.”

All this may be obvious, indeed, but it raises all sorts of troubling questions about Yemen, a virtual arms and manpower supply depot for al-Qaeda’s assault on Saudi Arabia and the rest of the region.

“Last October,” my Post colleague David Ignatius reported Friday, “the Yemeni government came to the CIA with a request: Could the agency collect intelligence that might help target the network of a U.S.-born al-Qaeda recruiter named Anwar al-Aulaqi?”

Aulaqi, Ignatius reminds us, is linked to the Fort Hood shootings and the recruitment of Nigerian underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab:

“On Nov. 5, U.S. Army Maj. Nidal Hasan killed 13 of his fellow soldiers at Fort Hood, Tex.; Hasan had exchanged 18 or more e-mails with Aulaqi in the months before the shootings, according to the Associated Press. Then, on Christmas Day, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian who had been living in Yemen, tried to blow up an airliner bound for Detroit; he is said to have confessed later that Aulaqi was one of his trainers for this mission,” Ignatius wrote.

The Yemenis wanted CIA help to get Aulaqi, Ignatius writes. His sources told him:

“The primary reason was that the agency lacked specific evidence that he threatened the lives of Americans -- which is the threshold for any capture-or-kill operation against a U.S. citizen. The Yemenis also wanted U.S. Special Forces' help on the ground in pursuing Aulaqi; that, too, was refused.”

But given the jihadist inclinations of some elements of the PSO, it's also an intriguing possibilty that the CIA suspected the Yemenis were playing a double game -- angling for clues about sensitive sources and sophisticated electronic methods the agency is using to pusue al-Qaeda in the region.

A Yemeni official acknowledged to me Friday that the PSO has had security problems, noting that 11 “junior officers” were prosecuted for their role in the 2006 jail break.

“It’s a poor country,” where even intelligence officers are susceptible to bribes, said the official on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

The problems began back in the late 1980s-early 1990s, he said, when the PSO recruited Yemeni veterans of the Afghan war against the Soviets.

"It was a double-edged sword," he said. Some remained jihadis, others would eventually help the PSO penetrate terrorist cells.

“We’re addressing this,” he added. “We’ve demoted and shuffled people around” and taken other measures to tighten security.

Indeed, in recent months Yemen and U.S. security services have dramatically ramped up their counterterrorism cooperation while, behind the scenes, they each play a double game.

If the Yemen scenario sounds familiar, it’s because U.S. intelligence grapples with similar challenges today in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. Indeed, throughout the Vietnam War, the CIA and military intelligence services had to work with South Vietnamese security services they knew had been thoroughly penetrated by the communists.

That’s why the CIA runs on two tracks in Yemen and virtually everywhere else around the world, including most allied countries.

On one track it works with the host country’s intelligence and military services.

On the other, it goes alone

Posted on 03/30/2010 3:47 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Tuesday, 30 March 2010
Up and down the Purley Way - pop goes Sharia

Never knowingly under-Pearled - a supearlb Pearly King Interlude and Priceless Pearl of Great Price, with thanks to Pearly Paul (not from Purley) in the comments to this post:

Not sure if the Pearly Queens will go down half so well. Or the concomitant pearl necklaces.

Posted on 03/30/2010 3:52 PM by Mary Jackson

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