These are all the Blogs posted on Saturday, 8, 2011.
Saturday, 8 October 2011
Muslims Are Poisoning Dogs in Spain
As Muslims they must live in a dog free environment or else their religious freedom is violated. Soeren Kern writes in Hudson NY:
Spanish authorities are investigating the recent deaths by poisoning of more than a dozen dogs in Lérida, a city in the northeastern region of Catalonia that has become ground zero in an intensifying debate over the role of Islam in Spain.
All of the dogs were poisoned in September (local media reports here, here, here, here and here) in Lérida's working class neighbourhoods of Cappont and La Bordeta, districts that are heavily populated by Muslim immigrants and where many dogs have been killed in recent years.
Over the past several months, residents taking their dogs for walks have been harassed by Muslim immigrants opposed to seeing the animals in public. Muslims have also launched a number of anti-dog campaigns on Islamic websites and blogs based in Spain.
In July, two Islamic groups based in Lérida asked city officials to regulate the presence of dogs in public spaces so they do not "offend Muslims." Muslims are demanding that dogs be banned from all forms of public transportation including all city buses as well as from all areas frequented by Muslim immigrants.
Muslims in Lérida say the presence of dogs violates their religious freedom and their right to live according to Islamic principles...
Sunni Arabs Expect NATO To Come And Do The Real Work For Them
Syria: NATO Will Not Intervene
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — In shaky videos posted on the web, some protesters in Syria have begun flashing signs appealing for international help. "Where is NATO?" some messages ask amid crackdowns that have claimed nearly 3,000 lives.
The answer: Waiting on the sidelines with other world powers and showing no willingness to open a Libyan-style military offensive against the regime of Bashar Assad.
"No intention whatsoever," emphasized NATO's secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, earlier this week in Brussels.
The reason is a brew of international political complications, worries over unleashing a civil war and plausible risks of touching off a wider Middle East conflict with archfoes Israel and Iran in the mix. In the end, Assad has more powerful friends and carries far more wild cards than Moammar Gadhafi's Libya, analysts say.
"The Syrian regime is much more capable of causing trouble for the region and its allies," said Shadi Hamid, director of research at The Brookings Doha Center in Qatar. "There's a real risk of a major spillover effect."
Prime targets are right on Syria's borders: U.S.-backed Israel and NATO-member Turkey.
Assad and his main Mideast backer, Iran, could launch retaliatory attacks on Israel or – more likely – use proxy Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon or Palestinian militant allies for the job. To the north, Turkey has opened its doors to anti-Assad activists and breakaway military rebels, which also could bring Syrian reprisals.
But some see even greater dangers if Assad falls without a clear successor, such as the transition administration built by Libya's former rebels.
Syria has an array of competing factions and allegiances, including some Sunni groups falling behind Saudi Arabia pitted against Assad's Alawite minority with ties to Shiite power Iran. Assad has tried to exploit fears of a bloody unraveling in Syria by portraying himself as the only power capable of keeping peace.
"Israel is more worried if there is civil war," said Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian-born regional analyst based in Israel. "During the chaos, Iranian-backed factions could take the opportunity to strike Israel. The last thing Iran wants is a Saudi-allied regime emerging in Syria. Iran will not sit by as spectators."
Assad also still carries favor in Moscow and Beijing, which on Tuesday vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution that would have condemned Syria for its crackdowns on pro-reform protesters. A divided Security Council puts an effective stranglehold on any discussions about military options.
Like Iran, both Russia and China worry that the downfall of Assad will be a severe blow to their interests in the Middle East.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Friday defended Russia's veto, saying the resolution would have opened the door to future resolutions allowing military action. NATO launched its air campaign in Libya after a U.N. resolution authorizing countries to use military force – short of occupation – to enforce a no-fly zone and protect civilians.
Video clips that appeared Thursday showed protesters in Damascus holding a banner mocking the Russian "bear," Chinese "dragon" and describing Assad as a bloodthirsty lion – the meaning of his name in Arabic. "Animals of the same kind," it read.
In Geneva, the U.N.'s human rights office raised its tally of people killed during seven months of unrest in Syria to more than 2,900, including members of the security forces.
Sporadic individual calls for international military action have begun to arise among Syrian protesters. But most protesters and Syria's opposition leaders have so far resisted the idea. At a rare opposition meeting in Damascus on Thursday, banners read: "Yes to the collapse of the tyrannical security regime" and "No to foreign military intervention."
Assad's government permitted the meeting in a possible attempt to show tolerance to some degree of dissent as long as it comes from within Syria.
"We firmly believe that history will bear out which nations were right and which were on the wrong side in this vote," said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland after the Security Council stalemate. "Countries have to take responsibility for the decision that they made ... and any implications it might have on the ground in Syria."
Yet no one in Washington or elsewhere is raising the option of airstrikes – such as NATO's campaign in Libya – or other types of military action to try to cripple Assad's regime.
Libya shows another likely reason why: Gadhafi's security forces battled for six months against rebels despite being hammered by NATO strikes, and they continue to fight in pockets a month after the fall of Tripoli.
Syria is believed to have a much stronger and cohesive military than Gadhafi's. Its arsenal includes Russian-made MiG warplanes and modern air defense systems.
"Syria is not Libya," said Khaled Mahadeen, a Jordanian columnist and former government adviser in Amman. "Any such action will have serious repercussions across the Arab world."
Even Israeli officials have not been pressing for Western-led attacks to bring down Assad, though he sides with Israel's chief enemies – Hezbollah and Hamas in Gaza.
Israel is already trying to reshape its policies after the fall of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, where the nation's 32-year-old peace pact with Israel is now being questioned by Islamist groups and others with newfound power. An upheaval in Syria could raise new security questions in the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria in 1967. For all Assad's hostility against Israel, he has kept the Golan front largely quiet for decades.
For the moment, the most likely channel for possible outside military help runs through Turkey, where a group of Syrian military defectors have set up a faction called the Free Syrian Army. Its leader, breakaway air force Col. Riad al-Asaad, said "armed rebellion" may be the only path for the opposition.
The military rebels, however, may first need to claim a slice of Syrian territory before they can pitch for Western or Arab aid like the anti-Gadhafi fighters in their de facto capital Benghazi, said the Qatar-based analyst Hamid.
"The Free Syrian Army needs to give the international community an address," he said. "Benghazi was an address. They need to have a piece of territory of their own to say, `This is where we are basing our operations to hold this territory and protect the civilians within.'"
"We have grown literally afraid to be poor. We despise any one who elects to be poor in order to simplify and save his inner life. We have lost the power of even imagining what the ancient idealization of poverty could have meant -- the liberation from material attachments; the unbribed soul; the manlier indifference; the paying our way by what we are or do, and not by what we have; the right to fling away our life at any moment irresponsibly -- the more athletic trim, in short the moral fighting shape....It is certain that the prevalent fear of poverty among the educated class is the worst moral disease from which our civilization suffers."
Tawakkul Karman may or may not be a "brave fighter for women's rights" but, as a member of the Islah Party, she has declared herself to be a non-secularist. She is opposed to Ali Abdullah Saleh, but apparently supports an opposition that promises simply to replace the tried-and-true despot with an untried-and-true despot. She is not on record as having said anything that might be interpreted as deploring the attitudes toward non-Muslims that Islam inculcates. Of course, the non-Muslims in Yemen were mainly Jews, who for centuries endured such things as having been slaves of this or that Arab tribe, and having to work in a few limited occupations, the most unpleasant ones, such as latrine-cleaners. Imagine having as your life's occupation, and your family's occupation, that of being a latrine-cleaner in Yemen.
Perhaps Tawakkul Karman is biding her time, and removing the niqab is just the first step on the road to self-liberation from Islam. But her naivete, and her as-yet limited sympathies, do not inspire confidence.
And here, in Long War Journal, is some news about that Islah Party with which Tawakkul Karman is associated:
Anwar al Awlaki sheltered in homes of senior Islah party members
By Bill Roggio
October 6, 2011
Abdul Majeed al Zindani.
In this LWJ report that dispelled the rumors of the death of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula bomber Ibrahim Hassan Tali al Asiri, we noted that Anwar al Awlaki was sheltering in the home of a member of the Islah political party just before he was killed. This report in Al-Ahram Weekly states that Awlaki was staying at the homes of three different Islah part leaders. One of the homes belongs to none other than Islah party leader Abdul Majeed al Zindani. Also note how al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has integrated with the tribes and used the relationships to project power in the south. From Al-Ahram Weekly:
The locals told Al-Ahram Weekly that Al-Awlaki came to Al-Jawf 10 days ago and he was staying in three places. The house of Salem Saleh Afrag, the local driver who was killed with him, was the first place. Al-Awlaki was killed immediately after he left this house. Khamis Afrag, brother of Salem, is a leading member in the Islamist opposition party, Islah.
The second place was the farm of local tribal leader Amin Al-Okaimi in Al-Jar. Al-Okaimi is a member of parliament and chairman of Islah. Many Al-Qaeda operatives including Egyptians, Algerians and Libyans are supposedly still hiding in the farm of Al-Okaimi until now, according to local sources.
Al-Okaimi and his tribesmen have been controlling the eastern province of Al-Jawf since March when ex-general Mohsen encouraged them to dismiss the president's loyalists and replace them with rebel troops.
The third place frequented by Al-Awlaki was the farm of the Islamist leader Abdel-Majid Al-Zindani, wanted by the UN and US as a global terrorist, in the area of Nebta in the same province of Al-Jawf.
A quick primer on Islah:
The Islah Party is the main opposition party in Yemen. One of its most prominent wings consists of Salafists who are led by Abdul Majeed al Zindani, who has been described by the US government as Osama bin Laden's mentor. Zindani is on the US's list of specially designated global terrorists. The Yemeni branch of the Muslim Brotherhood also is a major faction in Islah. The Yemeni government has accused elements of Islah of teaming up with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to conduct attacks against military forces loyal to embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Even loopy Larry Auster, who is about as misogynist as they come, realises that a woman's colourful sex life doesn't make her a murderer. But race trumps gender, as always, and as well as being incompetent and corrupt, the Italian police and legal system didn't want to pin the whole thing on the black guy. Chris Cooper of Samizdata nails it:
Rudy Guede gets 30 years for the murder of Meredith Kercher.
On appeal he incriminates Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, in contradiction of his own first testimony. This claim buys him a reduction of 14 years in his sentence.
Knox gets 26 years, Sollecito 25, on the basis of Guede's evidence - and bungled police forensics.
After Knox and Sollecito have lost four years of their lives, the courts admit there was never any significant evidence against them and acquit them.
In Seattle a crowd cheers. In Perugia a crowd howls.
The British redtops are beside themselves. All gibber that Meredith Kercher has been "forgotten". One puts a headline over Knox's picture: "Meredith Who?"; as if these words come from her. One shows a photo of Knox, elated at getting her life back, and describes her as "grinning from ear to ear" - which, as we know, is something bad people do when they're gloating over some undeserved gain.
Amanda Knox is home in Seattle. She has to live with the lingering ghost of a possibility that the Italians may yet demand that she go back. But at least she doesn't have to worry about a European Arrest Warrant.
I commented on the banality of Nobel-Peace-Prize winner Jody Williams here. A comment below my piece from "Mike" read as follows:
"Who led some kind of campaign against landmines" [quoting from my post on Williams]
"The organization ultimately achieved its goal in 1997 when an international treaty banning antipersonnel landmines was signed in Ottawa in 1997 (though some nations, notably the United States, People's Republic of China (PRC), and Russia refrained). - Wikipedia [actually, the landmine treaty has been ratified only by a handful of states, and not by any of the major powers that use landmines or are likely to in the future]
Again with these silly ladies and their silly "peace movements" and whatever. And what did landmines ever do to hurt anyone?
Judging by that last comment, Mike appears to believe that if someone has his heart in the right place, as demonstrated by being "against land mines," that that exempts such a person -- in this case, Jody Williams the self-promoter -- from criticism for banality. He's wrong.
Perhaps you have forgotten what Jody Williams's colleagues, in that very same movement that worked to prohibit the use of landmines, thought of her?
Here are some excerpts from a 1998 article that appeared in the Boston Sunday Globe:
Laureate in a minefield
Last year, Vermont's Jody Williams received the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to ban land mines. And that's when a war within the campaign broke out.
By James Bandler
….the same character traits that catapulted the now 47-year-old Williams to Nobel glory - her brashness, bluntness, and lone-wolf style of leadership - have made her a lightning rod for controversy. She has been attacked in the press by former colleagues as an imperious self-promoter and as an out-of-control employee who hogged all of the credit and half of the prize money. She's been accused of betraying the ideals of the land-mine campaign and flouting the wishes of the campaign's steering committee by putting herself forward for the peace prize. ''When she didn't get her way, she simply became manipulative,'' says Gail Griffith, a onetime colleague and a former friend who lives in Virginia. ''The Nobel Prize is the supreme example of that. She simply went around all the channels.''
At the center of this unhappy drama is Williams's rift with her former employer, Robert O. Muller, the head of the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, the Washington, D.C.-based group that hired her to coordinate the land-mine campaign. Muller, whom Williams had at one time described as her best friend and mentor, fired Williams three days before the prize was announced. The dismissal was the culmination of months of mounting tension between the activists. ''Jody is the ultimate loner,'' Muller says. ''You can only go so far by yourself. That's part of the problem. She doesn't work well at all with a team.''
Williams, lashing back, accuses her former colleagues of jealousy and sexism, because, as she told one reporter, ''girls do all the work, boys want the recognition.'' Williams says today: ''This is not a real controversy. It's about one man who got pissed off and fired me. ... We won the Nobel Prize, and we changed the way diplomacy is done. Who cares if Bobby Muller's knickers are in a twist?''
But the infighting has been damaging. Distracted by internal bickering, the land-mine campaign has stumbled in its attempt to retain its momentum and keep the fleeting attention of the world. The treaty signed last year in Ottawa, while a historic achievement, will remain little more than a piece of paper until it is ratified and implemented. So far, 14 nations have ratified the document.
Many say that the coalition has lost its way. ''The prize has exacerbated old tensions and created other tensions that didn't exist before,'' says Daniel Gomez-Ibanez, of the International Committee for the Peace Council, a group of world religious leaders that is part of the land-mine campaign. ''It's been a distraction. It's drained away some of the energy that could have been poured into relieving the suffering of land-mine victims.''
One of the unspoken commandments of humanitarian and peace work is: Thou shalt not seek celebrity. And if fame comes, renounce it quickly. Otherwise, beware thy colleagues' wrath.
United Nations mediator Ralph Bunche understood the importance of humility when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950 for his efforts to bring an end to the war between Arabs and Jews in Palestine. ''I am one man working for the United Nations,'' he said, firmly rebuffing suggestions that he was a hero. ''Without the UN, I am nothing.''
Williams, critics say, has failed the Bunche test miserably. They say she drove to Vermont from her apartment in suburban Virginia just before the Nobel recipients were announced, so that she could greet the international press corps alone, far from her Washington, D.C., colleagues. Williams, who notes that she'd been fired three days before the Nobel announcement, says that she drove to Vermont to celebrate her birthday.
Whatever her intentions, the choice of location made for brilliant theater: She stood alone in her grassy yard near a beaver pond, barefoot and wearing a black tank top, blasting the president of the United States as a ''weenie'' for refusing to buck the Pentagon and support a land-mine ban. Many of the articles that ran in the next day's newspapers portrayed Williams as a hard-charging, backwoods hero who, by tapping into the Internet from her ''rustic farmhouse,'' had single-handedly galvanized citizens to rise up against an insidious weapon - all in defiance of the United States, the world's sole remaining superpower.
The story made good copy, but it was, at best, misleading. Many people played critical roles in the success of the campaign, including Thomas Gebauer, of the German group Medico International, and Muller, of the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, who conceived the idea; sympathetic politicians such as US Senator Patrick Leahy, of Vermont, and Lloyd Axworthy, the Canadian foreign minister; Princess Diana, who focused international attention on the cause; and hundreds of mine victims and mine-clearance experts around the world.
But Williams - who was an employee of Muller's foundation, which paid her $70,000-a-year salary and travel expenses - sees herself as the key figure in the effort. ''It started with me,'' she asserts, ''and five years later, there were 1,200 non-government organizations in 60 countries involved.''
Rae McGrath, one of the founding members of the campaign and one of its three spokesmen, says Williams is missing the point. The campaign owes its momentum less to the heroics of any particular organizer, he says, than to a groundswell of revulsion and horror about the havoc wrought by land mines. ''If you look at this campaign, there are probably a dozen people who have been involved since the beginning,'' McGrath says. ''But if any of us were run over by a truck or fell off a cliff, it wouldn't have stopped this campaign. None of us are essential. When I hear all this 'I did this, I did that' talk, I get concerned,'' McGrath says. ''Let's face it, [Williams] has a year, maybe a little more, during which people will give her space simply because of the Nobel tag. She should be shouting the campaign message from the rooftops, but, instead, she's wasting time trying to convince people that she was the campaign personified. It baffles me, because we have not achieved a single one of our campaign objectives.''
Williams also angered many colleagues by keeping her $500,000 share of the prize money, thereby violating another activists' commandment: Thou shalt not get rich. And Williams's public complaints about the $230,000 tax bill she faced struck a sour note. Critics say she could have donated her share of the prize to the campaign or to land-mine victims. Instead, almost half of her prize money will go to the US Treasury, and much of it will be spent by the Pentagon, which has opposed the land-mine treaty from the outset.
Williams says she doesn't understand the fuss. ''You'd think it was Soros's billions,'' she says, referring to the wealthy financier and philanthropist George Soros. ''It's a minuscule amount of money.''
headed the first delegation of American veterans to return to Vietnam, in 1981. He was the hero of the 1975 Vietnam documentary Hearts and Minds and a real-life inspiration for the ''cool rockin' daddy'' of Bruce Springsteen's anthem, ''Born in the USA'' A man of almost messianic charisma, Muller inspires fierce devotion among his staff. ''It's a good thing he's not running a religious cult,'' one staffer quips. ''He'd have people jumping off cliffs and drinking cyanide.''
During visits to Cambodia in the 1980s, Muller was stunned by the number of land-mine victims - according to one recent estimate, one out every 236 people in that country is an amputee - and by the appalling lack of care. Muller's organization, the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, which he founded in 1980, set up a prosthetics clinic in Cambodia, but the catastrophic toll exacted by hidden mines convinced him that victim assistance was only a Band-Aid for a problem that demanded much more. All over the world, workers from humanitarian groups were reaching similar conclusions. The Red Cross estimates that 24,000 people are killed or maimed by land mines each year, most of them civilians and many of them children. According to the US State Department, there are between 80 million and 110 million land mines buried in 71 countries around the world, most in developing countries.
In October 1991, Muller and Thomas Gebauer, of the German aid group Medico International, decided to try to unite numerous humanitarian, development, and peace groups under the banner of an international campaign. The goal, as framed by Muller and Gebauer, was an international ban on antipersonnel land mines.
A month later, impressed by Williams's intensity and organizing track record at Medical Aid for El Salvador, Muller asked her to come on board as the campaign coordinator. For the next six years, Williams was an employee of Muller's foundation. She and Muller worked closely together, and his family helped Williams financially. He paid for a Caribbean vacation for Williams, and his wife, Solange MacArthur, loaned Williams $100,000 to buy her Putney, Vermont, home. Meanwhile, Muller's foundation poured more than $5 million into the land-mine campaign and was its single largest source of income.
Within a year of the hiring of Williams, four other nongovernmental organizations - Human Rights Watch, Handicap International, the Mines Advisory Group, and Physicians for Human Rights - joined the campaign. Together with Medico International and Muller's veterans foundation, these organizations formed a steering committee to provide direction to the effort to ban land mines.
One of the campaign's greatest strengths lay in its decentralized, informal structure. The campaign had no bank account, no incorporation papers, and no headquarters. Decisions were made by consensus. Pressure tactics that worked in Germany or Belgium would not necessarily be effective in Mozambique or Afghanistan. So, nongovernmental organizations in each country were left with the responsibility of conceiving and executing their own campaign strategies to persuade their governments to support the ban.
Without good coordination and communication, the international campaign's loose structure could also have been a fatal weakness. As coordinator, Williams kept all of the campaigns moving in the same direction. Her efforts, even critics concede, were prodigious. She kept records of who said what and when, and she followed through to make sure that plans were executed. She kept in touch with the national campaigns, first by fax and later by e-mail. Jetting around the world, she attended every meeting of significance involving the campaign. A quick study, Williams coauthored a book, After the Guns Fall Silent: The Enduring Legacy of Landmines, that is considered the seminal socioeconomic study of the problem of land mines.
''She knows how to move individuals and governments,'' says Susan Walker, of Handicap International, one of the six founding organizations of the land-mine campaign. ''She has the moral high ground on issues and can articulate them, but she's not some '60s activist going to save the world. She's hardly the emotional, humanitarian, naive nongovernmental worker.''
Volatile and self-assured, Williams also made scores of enemies in the campaign. She was particularly impatient with ''the idiots'' - her own words - who she felt were not pulling their own weight. ''I had a lot of campaigns that did not read what I sent - sheer laziness,'' Williams says.
One of Williams's most famous exchanges occurred during the Ottawa Conference, in 1996, a strategy session for banning land mines that brought together representatives from 70 governments. The head of the French delegation, Michel Declos, an Old World-style diplomat, told the conference that France supported a ban but reserved the right to use land mines when militarily necessary. Several delegates signaled for Williams to stand up and rebut him.
Leaning toward the microphone, Williams said that the ''distinguished representative'' of the French delegation could not have it both ways: supporting a ban in peacetime but using mines in wartime. His proposal, she said, was ''better than a stick in the eye, but not much.''
It was an extraordinary moment: a member of a nongovernmental organization lecturing a diplomat. Williams had served notice that governments would be held accountable for their words and actions. With Williams leading the charge, other participants at the conference began denouncing the French proposal. On the last day of the conference, Lloyd Axworthy, the Canadian foreign minister, astonished everyone with a heady challenge: He called on the nations of the world to return to Ottawa in 14 months to sign an international treaty outlawing land mines.
''Good morning,'' Williams wrote her colleagues in an e-mail that flashed around the world on January 15, 1997. ''With the below letter, we have officially been nominated for the NPP.''
The NPP, of course, is the Nobel Peace Prize. The letter, authored by US Representative James P. McGovern, of Worcester, nominated both Williams and the campaign for the prize. And though Williams distributed the draft electronically to campaign members, she never sent one to her boss, Muller.
Far from being excited, many in the campaign were disturbed by the news. ''My own reaction was one of surprise,'' recalls Daniel Gomez-Ibanez, of the Peace Council. ''Surprise that she was being nominated along with the campaign.''
This was not the way it was supposed to happen, say three members of the campaign's steering committee. At a meeting the previous month in Brussels, at which Williams was present, the committee had decided to seek a Nobel Prize nomination. One question raised at the meeting was whether the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which awards the prize, would give it to an ill-defined organization such as the International Committee to Ban Land Mines, which didn't even have a bank account. Should the founding members of the coalition, the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation and Medico International, be nominated? Did the committee want a human face? If so, who would it be?
''In the end, we decided to see whether we could find someone to nominate the campaign,'' recalls former steering committee member Gomez-Ibanez, ''and that we would not nominate Jody. We decided that we would explain to the [Nobel] committee that it would be Jody who would accept the prize - in other words, step on stage to receive the prize and maybe give a speech - on behalf of the campaign. That was the decision of the group.''
Gomez-Ibanez's recollections jibe with the record of that meeting described in the minutes. The minutes, taken by Williams, state that ''the consensus was summed up by the Chair that the ICBL should be nominated, with Jody Williams as the individual who would be the recipient on behalf of the campaign.''
But in McGovern's nomination letter, the words ''on behalf of'' were missing. ''The ICBL was initiated at the end of 1991 by Ms. Williams for the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation and Medico International,'' McGovern wrote. His letter was nearly identical to a draft that had been sent to him by Williams.
Williams's choice of McGovern as the campaign's nominator was a curious one. Democrat Patrick Leahy, the senator from Williams's home state of Vermont, was the leading advocate of the land-mine treaty in this country. Up to that point, McGovern had had no formal involvement with the land-mine campaign. He did, however, have a longstanding working relationship with Williams. As a former staff member for US Representative J. Joseph Moakley, of South Boston, McGovern was extremely helpful to Williams's organization in El Salvador.
Williams's critics in the campaign say that she knew that neither Muller nor Leahy would approve of her nomination, or the nomination of any individual, so she did an end run around them. It's an allegation that Williams rejects bitterly. ''Excuse me, I won the Nobel Prize because the Nobel Committee thought I deserved it,'' she says. ''Plain and simple.''
Williams says she talked to Muller about the nomination letter, but that he didn't seem to care about it, particularly after he learned that his own organization would not be nominated for the prize. Muller says they talked about the nomination letter, and that he was under the impression that ICBL, not Williams, was to be nominated. Initially, her supporters say, the campaign had planned to ask a Swedish parliamentarian for the nomination letter and request letters of support from both McGovern and Leahy. When Williams called McGovern, the congressman told her he'd rather write the nomination letter himself, both McGovern and Williams say.
McGovern confirmed this account, saying he is proud to have written the nomination letter. Leahy, however, declined to discuss the Nobel controversy. Williams did ask him to write a letter of support, but only after McGovern had written the nomination letter. Leahy obliged, but in his letter, he also nominated Axworthy, the Canadian foreign minister, for the prize.
The furor over the prize nomination wasn't the only issue clouding the campaign last year. Once close friends, Muller and Williams were barely speaking during 1997, and the gulf between their strategies was widening.
The two had very different world views. Muller believed that a treaty to ban land mines would be a hollow victory without American support, because the United States was the only country in the world with the clout and credibility to persuade nations such as Russia and China to sign on and to ensure adherence to the treaty. Williams disagreed. The most important countries to have on board, she believed, were nations that used mines: the Angolas and Cambodias of the world. The United States could sign later if it wanted. To date, the Clinton administration has refused to sign the agreement, saying it would prevent the armed forces from deploying their mixed systems of antipersonnel and antitank mines.
The two also disagreed about tactics. Muller had hired a lobbying team of pollsters and media experts, headed by former White House aide Patrick Griffin. Williams called the group ''the sleaze team.'' The campaign, she felt, was being cited as a new model of diplomacy, one in which average citizens and nongovernmental organizations forced governments to agree to a weapons ban. She did not think it needed a Beltway PR machine. Muller thought Williams and her allies were naive about the way Washington worked. Conservative members of Congress and Army generals were not going to be swayed by grass-roots campaigning. Still, he agreed that Griffin's work should be kept as low-profile as possible.
As the campaign gained momentum, Williams was shuttled among capitals, picked up in government cars, put up in fancy hotels. ''She started to get really excited about it,'' Gail Griffith recalls. ''She started to think she was indispensable and came to feel like she was just gigantic.''
Muller told several campaigners that he was worried that she was ''getting too big for her britches.'' He was hearing reports that she was bad-mouthing him and his foundation. ''She has to go,'' Muller told a staffer.
On October 7, 1997, Muller fired Williams officially. He'd already told her twice before that he intended to find a way to separate her from the foundation. ''We're going to figure out how to find a way to make this happen,'' he recalls telling her in a terse exchange in October. ''That's it, you're out of here.'' Williams was crushed. She couldn't believe that he was firing her just as she was on the verge of accomplishing her mission.
If that were not enough to undermine your Defense of A Bland Mine, then let me make clear that I am not, in fact, delighted by or even indifferent to the use of landmines, as you appear to think must be the case if I mock Jody Williams for her Polonius-like advice, which helps to put her back, briefly, into the limelight.
The campaign to prohibit the use of landmines is not necessarily a bad thing. I can imagine that, in general, and with an awareness of special circumstances that might justify the use of landmines (as there are special circumstances and situations that might justify the use of nuclear weapons against a ruthless enemy). But that is not the point. The point is that I was mocking not the cause of Jody Williams, the one that has given her money and celebrity and so on and so bloody forth, but the banality of Jody Wililams. Why should we all take part in the glorification of the recipient of a Nobel Prize for Peace, when it so often is awarded by people who exhibit the mindset of a Norwegian committee whose worldview is itself perfectly predictable, and not always admirable and certainly does not grasp that sometimes the promotion of real peace, with real justice, comes from those who are wililng to prepare for, and even make, war? We have some examples of this from the last unappetizing century.
I don't care for the glorification that accompanies, or is allowed to accompany, the receipt of recognition. In the case of Jody Williams, I recall, she at first was all for properly recognizing the organization and allowing it to receive the prize money, but on second thought decided that, no, she deserved the prize money herself. Remember?
But it was banality, the bland mind of Polonius as channeled by Jody Williams, that was the object of my mockery. "To thine own self be true." Jesus H. Christ.
Many of the winners of the Nobel Peace Prize in recent decades have not been particularly impressive, and some have been awared the prize prematurely, or unwarily, and whatever it was they supposedly did to merit the prize turns out either not to have been achieved, or to have been misunderstood in all its complexity, by the Norwegian Commitee and by the vast public that simply knows that "Peace" must be a Good Thing, and doesn't want to be bothered with having to think about particular situations, or what kinds of "Peace" are possible, or who prates most of it, and when, and with what aim, and possibly for what sinister reason. There is far too much goody-goodiness going around, and it has been getting the advanced, and more or less civilized world in a lot of trouble since at least the Disarmament Treaty of Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928 prohibited the use of war as "an instrument of national policy."
But what is intolerable, as the permanent enemy of thought, is banality, and it was banality, the bland mind that is willing four hundred years after Polonius to unembarrassedly proclaim, as a pearl of great price, "to thine own self be true" that earned the mockery.
Jody Wiliams may have been unusually unpleasant and self-promoting, and greedy, if we are to believe the testimony of her colleagues. But even if, or especially if, she had been absolutely wonderful, she would have deserved to be mocked for that kind of Polonius-like display.
And there are many other winners of the Nobel Peace Prize who have been not banal, nor necessarily self-promoting, but have exploited the false prestige of the prize to promote all kinds of stupidity and, sometimes, stupidity that grades into wickedness.
Alfred Nobel famously felt guilty about having made his fortune based on dynamite. He shouldn't have been. He should never have left money for a "Peace Prize." An examination of the recipients of that prize over the past century suggests that the definition of "Peace" has a distinctively scandinavian goody-goody note, and has consistently, in failing to address many of the greatest evils of the day, proven insufficient thereof. And the award of that prize has created a group of busy-bodies who have opinions about everything, but not necessarily because they know about everything, and having now the right to be described as Nobel-Prize winners for Peace, command attention around the world, and some of them proceed to say ignorant or cruel or stupid things, -- think of how Bishop Tutu. so cheerfully and complacently full of himself, runs off at the mouth about everything -- simply because one year a group of Norwegians selected him to show that their hearts, all our hearts, the beating heart of this great big world of ours, were on the Right Side, as we in the West are all dutifully supposed to make our collective burnt offerings to the same Idols of the Age.
More than six months after the start of the Syrian uprising, Iraq is offering key moral and financial support to the country’s embattled president, undermining a central U.S. policy objective and raising fresh concerns that Iraq is drifting further into the orbit of an American arch rival — Iran.
Iraq’s stance has dealt an embarrassing setback to the Obama administration, which has sought to enlist Muslim allies in its campaign to isolate Syrian autocrat Bashar al-Assad. While other Arab states have downgraded ties with Assad, Iraq has moved in the opposite direction, hosting official visits by Syrians, signing pacts to expand business ties and offering political support.
After Iraq sent conflicting signals about its support for Assad last month, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki spoke firmly against regime change in Syria in an interview broadcast on Iraqi television Sept. 30. “We believe that Syria will be able to overcome its crisis through reforms,” Maliki said, rejecting U.S. calls for the Syrian leader to step down. His words echoed those of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who weeks earlier proposed that Syrians should “implement the necessary reforms by themselves.”
On other issues as well, the Maliki government in recent months has hewed closer to Iran’s stance — Iraq, for example, has supported Iran’s right to nuclear technology and advocated U.N. membership for Palestinians — as the U.S. military races to complete its troop withdrawal over the coming months.
Few policy objectives are more important to Iran than preserving the pro-Tehran regime in Syria, longtime Middle East observers say.
“This is Iran’s influence, because preserving the Assad regime is very much in Iran’s national interest,” said David Pollock, a former adviser on Middle East policy for the State Department during the George W. Bush administration. “Iran needs Iraq’s help trying to save their ally in Damascus.”
U.S. officials acknowledged disappointment with Iraq over its dealings with Assad, while noting that other Middle East countries also have been reluctant to abandon Assad at a time when the outcome of the uprising remains uncertain.
“The Iraqis should be more helpful, absolutely,” said a senior administration official involved in Middle East diplomacy.
Some of the proposed financial deals with Syria, however, “turn out to be a lot of talk,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to candidly discuss sensitive issues.
U.S. intelligence officials predict that Syria’s uprising will eventually topple Assad, most likely after the mounting cost of sanctions causes the business elite to turn against him. But the timeline for change is far from clear.
The Obama administration hailed a decision in August by three Persian Gulf Arab states — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain — to recall their ambassadors to Damascus to protest Assad’s violent suppression of anti-government demonstrators. And Turkey — like Iraq, a major trading partner with Syria — has repeatedly denounced the crackdown and has established Syrian refugee camps and hosted meetings of opposition groups.
Iraqi leaders also have criticized Assad’s brutality, as, indeed, Iran’s Ahmadinejad has done in public remarks. But Iraqi officials have refused to call for Assad’s ouster, or accept Syrian refugees, or even offer symbolic support for the anti-Assad opposition. Instead, the Iraqis have courted trade delegations and signed pipeline deals with Syria.
“Iraq is sending a lifeline to Assad,” said Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert and author of “In the Lion’s Den,” a portrait of Syria under the autocrat.
Middle Eastern experts note that Maliki — a Shiite Muslim who lived in exile in Syria for nearly 15 years — has strategic and sectarian reasons for avoiding a direct confrontation with Assad. Members of Iraq’s Shiite majority and Syria’s ruling Alawite Shiite sect share a common worry about Sunni-led insurgencies. Some Iraqis fear that a violent overthrow of Syrian Alawites will trigger unrest across the border in Iraq.
But other experts say Iraq’s support for Syria underscores the influence of Iran, which has staked billions of dollars on ensuring Assad’s survival. Pollock, the former State Department adviser, said Iraqi leaders fear repercussions from Iran and its Syrian protege as much they covet increased revenue from trade.
“Iran is certainly important behind the scenes, and the Iraqis know the Iranians are looking over their shoulders,” said Pollock, now a researcher for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank.
Pollock noted that Iranian-backed cleric Moqtada al-Sadr — a firebrand Iraqi Shiite with tens of thousands of devoted followers — has publicly backed Assad, calling him a “brother.” Iraqi leaders know that hostility toward Syria could invite reprisals against politicians and ordinary civilians in Baghdad, or perhaps against the estimated 1 million Iraqi refugees living in Syria, he said.
Still, U.S. officials have privately expressed disappointment over Baghdad’s reluctance to take a more forceful stance against Syrian brutality, which millions of Iraqis witness daily on Arab-language cable news networks.
Only in mid-September, after six months of worsening violence, did the Iraqi government issue a statement that appeared to call for Assad’s ouster. In that statement, on Sept. 20, Iraqi spokesman Ali al-Moussawi was quoted as telling New York Times reporters in Baghdad that Iraq had privately urged Assad to step down. “We are against the one-party rule and the dictatorship that hasn’t allowed for free expression,” Moussawi was quoted as saying.
But less than 24 hours later, the Iraqi government began to backpedal. The same spokesman, Moussawi, told reporters on Sept. 21 that Iraqi leaders had never called for Assad’s resignation and said he had been misquoted. “It was neither the nature nor the followed discourse of the Iraqi government to intervene in the affairs of other countries,” Moussawi said.
Maliki’s broadcast interview Sept. 30 reflected a further retreat. While calling for an end to violence, the prime minister rejected regime change as destabilizing and said the crisis should be resolved gradually through reforms.
Assad has survived by relying on hard-currency reserves and Iranian loans to maintain subsidies for Syria’s military and business elites, ensuring their continued loyalty and preventing the further spread of the country’s pro-democracy uprising, which took hold in March.
Faced with international sanctions — including a new European Union ban on oil imports — Syria also has found support from Iraq and other neighbors as it scrambles to refill its hard-currency coffers, now hemorrhaging at a rate estimated at $1 billion a month.
Iraq and Syria, which share historical and cultural ties, have long been trading partners, and smuggling in border towns has generated immense profits even during times of war. Scores of private traders regularly ferry tons of diesel fuel and other goods in vans and pickup trucks, specially modified with heavy suspensions that cause their backsides to jut out like monster trucks at a car show.
Officials in both countries are cracking down on the black market in favor of legitimate ventures, particularly in the energy field. In early August, as other Arab countries were recalling their ambassadors to Syria, Iraq put on an unusual tour for 100 of Syria’s top government and business leaders. The visitors, led by Syria’s trade minister, were shown factories and refineries and applauded by Iraqis eager to cut deals with their Syrian neighbors.
The week-long visit yielded a new pact designed to boost a soaring bilateral trade that already tops $2 billion a year and will solidify Iraq’s status as Syria’s biggest trading partner. Iraqi Trade Minister Khayrullah Babakir, praising the pact, spoke of a new focus on “empowering the private sector in both countries.” There was no mention of sanctions, or of the Syrian uprising.
BAGHDAD — U.S. officials have scrambled this past week to redraw a 2012 military training plan after Iraqi leaders announced they would not grant immunity to troops who remain past the Dec. 31 deadline for withdrawal.
Since Tuesday, when Iraqi leaders formally requested that U.S. military training continue into next year, military and diplomatic officials in Washington and Baghdad have been sketching alternative proposals that could place training in the hands of private security contractors or NATO, entities that can be legally covered some other way
The number of American troops in Iraq will fall to roughly 40,000 by the end of this month as the U.S. winds down the war, U.S. military officials said Tuesday. (Sept. 20)
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta stipulated Thursday that any remaining U.S. troops must have immunity. A State Department official said Saturday that while Iraq is not likely to budge on its resistance to military immunity, there are other paths to continuing the U.S. training mission in the country.
“We both have a vision that coincides on the need for military trainers,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to comment on the sensitive negotiations. “The U.S. government is working out what our vision of legal status options are that we will live with. The U.S. government has not yet presented that to the Iraqis. They may accept it. They may not.”
With only 12 weeks until the end of the current U.S.-Iraqi security agreement, this sticking point has set the protracted discussion back to square one, according to Iraqi political analyst Wathiq al-Hashemi.
Leaders of Iraq’s political blocs met Tuesday evening at the home of President Jalal Talabani to discuss the issue, emerging 90 minutes later to admit the need for trainers but asserting their sovereignty by withholding immunity, which would have exempted the trainers from prosecution in the Iraqi judicial system.
The announcement sparked rousing speeches in parliament.
“We need engineers and experts from the manufacturing companies themselves — not from the U.S. military — to train the Iraqis to use this equipment,” said Hassan al-Snaid, chairman of parliament’s security and defense committee and member of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law coalition. Iraq has ordered nearly $9 billion worth of American military equipment and recently arranged a deal to buy 18 fighter jets for $3 billion.
“The other option is to send the Iraqis to train outside Iraq,” Snaid said.
In a session Thursday, Sadrist lawmaker Maha al-Durri called Tuesday’s request for trainers “another black day in Iraq” that will extend “the occupier’s oppression.”
The immunity factor will prolong and bedevil negotiations, according to independent lawmaker Mahmoud Othman, who predicted that under no circumstances would the Iraqi parliament sanction immunity for U.S. troops.
“Americans misuse immunity,” Othman said in a phone interview. “They’ve had it for eight years. They made a lot of violations … Sometimes they killed people, attacked people, captured people, and no one could tell them anything. Iraq doesn’t want a repeat of that.”
Prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prison, fatal incidents involving private security contractors and the collateral civilian damage from U.S. military operations have not faded from Iraqis’ memories, though the United States has prosecuted such crimes in its own courts.
U.S. forces — currently numbering just over 40,000 servicemembers — are withdrawing from Iraq at an average of 500 soldiers per day, as the State Department mobilizes a massive personnel and logistics operation to assume control of the Iraq mission from the military. Previous talks between the United States and Iraq hinted at an ongoing training presence of 3,000 to 5,000 troops, though the number of trainers is likely to be lower now that military immunity is off the table.
IRAN'S first nuclear power station is unsafe and will probably cause a "tragic disaster" according to a document apparently written by an Iranian whistleblower.
The Bushehr reactor is likely to cause the next nuclear catastrophe after Chernobyl and Fukushima, says the document, passed to The Times by a reputable source and attributed to a former member of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran's legal department.
It claims Bushehr, which began operating last month after 35 years of intermittent construction, was built by "second-class engineers" who bolted together Russian and German technology from different eras; that it sits in one of the world's most seismically active areas but could not withstand a major earthquake; and that it has "no serious training program" or a contingency plan for accidents.
The document's authenticity cannot be confirmed, but nuclear experts see no reason to doubt it. It also echoes fears in the nuclear industry about the safety of a secretive project to which few outsiders have had access. Iran is the only country with a nuclear plant that has not joined the Convention on Nuclear Safety, which obliges signatories to observe international safety standards.
Sami Alfaraj, head of the Kuwait Centre for Strategic Studies and an adviser to the Kuwaiti government, said an accident at Bushehr would be a "total calamity for the world", in which nuclear contamination would spew across a wide region.
He could not assess Bushehr's safety because Iran's co-operation with its neighbours had been "nil".
"They say trust us, but there's no such thing as trust us in nuclear politics. They are playing Russian roulette not just with us but with the world."
Bushehr began in 1975 when the shah of Iran awarded the contract to Kraftwerk Union of Germany.
When the German company pulled out after the 1979 Islamic revolution the two reactors were far from finished, and they were damaged during the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88.
Airstrikes left the containment vessel with 1700 holes, letting in hundreds of tonnes of rainwater.
The regime revived the project in the 1990s, but with one reactor only. It wanted a prestige project to show that the Islamic Republic could match the scientific achievements of the West.
It may also have wanted cover for its nuclear weapons program - and the opportunities for personal enrichment the project gave Iran's elite. This time, Iran used Russian engineers, who had not built a foreign reactor since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989. Russia's experts wanted to start from scratch. The Iranians, having already spent more than $US1 billion, insisted they built on the German foundations.
This involved adapting a structure built for a vertical German reactor to take a horizontal Russian reactor - an unprecedented operation. Of the 80,000 pieces of German equipment, many were corroded or lacked manuals.
Moscow's Centre for Energy and Security Studies, an independent think tank, identified a "shortage of skilled Russian engineering and construction specialists with suitable experience". It spoke of "frequent problems with quality and deadlines" as "every (Russian) subcontractor tried to milk the Bushehr project for all it's worth". In February a 30-year-old German cooling pump broke, sending metal debris into the system.
Le centrisme ne peut être le remède pour la France, malade de n'avoir jamais su choisir. C'est à cette évidence que semble s'être rangé, dimanche, Jean-Louis Borloo, en renonçant à la présidentielle. "Les temps sont suffisamment troublés pour ne pas ajouter de la confusion à la confusionâ€Š", a-t-il déclaré. À vrai dire, il aurait pu se faire cette réflexion avant de quitter la majorité, vexé, pour tenter sa course au centre avec sa petite troupe de déçus du sarkozysme. En effet, les Français en colère en ont soupé de ces "trente calamiteuses" qui, oscillant entre la droite et la gauche, se sont établies dans le mou, avec ce même souci de préserver un consensus fictif construit sur l'aveuglement face aux réalités et la diabolisation des opinions dissidentes. Cette époque touche à sa fin.
L'irritation qui irrigue la société malmenée bouscule le train-train politique et rend l'immédiat imprévisible. Le renoncement de Borloo, qui a craint avec raison d'affaiblir l'UMP face au FN, est à mettre en parallèle avec la montée de personnalités voulant rompre avec les discours ouatés et interchangeables de la pensée conforme. Outre Marine Le Pen, la percée amorcée par Arnaud Montebourg, candidat à la primaire socialiste, est révélatrice de cette tendance. Comme la présidente du FN, l'avocat de la démondialisation se réclame du Nobel d'économie Maurice Allais et de ses plaidoyers pour la préférence communautaire. Héritier d'un PS sans-frontiériste, sa volte-face lui vaut plus de soutiens que d'incompréhensions.
Au-delà de la surmédiatisation de la grogne contre Nicolas Sarkozy, qui peut encore surprendre, s'esquisse une lassitude pour les personnalités considérées comme coresponsables de l'état du pays.(La suite ici)
I settled in a studio apartment on the thirteenth floor of an apartment complex in a western, unfinished area of the city. It was simple but spacious, and despite my zeal to be as frugal as I could, was still far more than I needed to satisfy my college student tastes. Still, my coworkers laughed at the apartment as the type of place an Indian engineer would live in — not a flophouse by any means, but clearly not the level of luxury a white person should treat himself to.
I smiled whenever I was told this, laughing internally at my own inside joke — in better times, my colleagues might have been right, and the 26-story building would be packed with software engineers and other white collar workers from the subcontinent. But these were not good times, and aside from my landlord, whose winter residence was a floor below mine, the building was almost completely empty of tenants.
I was not alone in my alone-ness. Nearly every building I came across had huge banners draped across its upper floors, advertising leases.
Living in a modern-day ghost town brought more than just physical isolation. In some way, I was detached from the lifestyle that my coworkers enjoyed. It is hard to bridge the conversational divide when one side wants to lament the difficulty of finding good domestic help and the other wants to brag about the new futon he bought from IKEA.
The difference in mindset between me and the bulk of my coworkers was minor compared to the major divisions that split Dubai society. The most accurate way to describe UAE society is to say that it is stratified into a caste-like structure, with Emiratis at the top, western expats beneath them, and eastern expats at the bottom. There is little interaction between the rungs — each member is expected to socialize with his or her own group, and even western expats, who presumably participated in a more egalitarian society in their country of origin, accept the division as natural and desirable.
I enjoyed meeting and talking to other westerners. But it was difficult to shrug off the insidious effects of the caste system. Some of the nicest people I met displayed an almost sociopathic disregard for the eastern expat workers who served them. It was commonplace to verbally abuse cab drivers, make outrageous demands of waitstaff, and generally treat those on the lower rung as mere peons to be ordered about.
In the middle of my time overseas, a co-worker friend and I went to eat at an upscale restaurant near work. We were having a good conversation, trading stories and jokes, and I was enjoying myself until, seemingly out of nowhere, my friend pulled aside a waitress and dressed her down for some imperceptible infraction. After he was done and the waitress had left, I asked him, as politely and neutrally as I could, why he treated the waitress that way.
He gave two reasons. The first was the common response, as universal as it was unconvincing: being mean was the only way to get anything done. Unless one occasionally put boot to bottom, no eastern expat would ever take you seriously.
The second reason was more enlightening. Besides being necessary, he explained, keeping eastern expats in line was merely being honest with the situation. If he wanted to, my friend could call over the manager of the waitress and demand that she be fired. The woman would lose her job and be deported back to a country where she would be undoubtedly worse off. What good did it do to pretend that the power balance was otherwise? If my friend wanted speedy service, who was this waitress to deny him?
In obedience to the social norms imposed by the caste structure, I didn’t spend much time hanging out with eastern expats, but what little time I did spend did not confirm the expectations set by my colleagues. I liked talking to my cabbies. The most common topic of discussion was U.S. meddling in Pakistan — many of my drivers said they were not fond of America, although since we got along fine it seemed more likely to me that they took fault with some concept of America rather than any Americans in particular. Maybe it’s just hard to root for the big guy.
My longest conversation was with some Pakistani youths I’d hired to help me pick up furniture I’d bought off of Dubizzle, the Dubai equivalent of Craigslist. We crammed together in a tiny pick-up truck and wandered lost in the city for two hours grabbing futons and chairs and the like, mostly talking about our favorite movies and music, and what life was like in our respective countries. My impression is that the average eastern expat in Dubai is not embittered or anti-western — to the contrary, if anything they are envious of western lifestyles and eager to work for one themselves. You’d much sooner find them slinging bootleg DVD’s than fomenting revolution with AK-47’s.
The downside of being in a caste system is that as a westerner, I didn’t occupy the topmost rung. A month after I arrived, the government tapped my cell phone. When I tried to leave, immigration services barred me from leaving the country. For such injustices, there is no explanation, no apology. If the monarch wishes to tap your phone, he needs no justification. If you miss your expensive international flight because a bureaucrat decides at the last minute you cannot leave, tough cookie. You’re not a citizen. You’re a hired hand, a temporary servant brought in to fill a gap until a superior Emirati learns how to do your job. I was never treated with malice by an Emirati — they wouldn’t consider me worth the effort. But it was clear that the system — the laws, the government, the society — was not set up for my benefit. I had no rights that they were bound to respect.
I came to Dubai expecting some degree of culture shock. But there is a distinction between struggling to adapt because something is different and struggling to adapt because something is abhorrent. Dubai is a dictatorship, perhaps benevolent, but still a dictatorship. The press is free only so long as it does not criticize. The economy is hewn more closely to familial ties than capitalist pressures. Beneath the glamour of Dubai lies a society built upon precepts borrowed from the antebellum south. If I, a carpetbagging northerner, came away from the land of plantation owners and slaves without any feelings of attachment to the country I had lived for seven months in, I do not think I have myself to blame.
This is the second in a four-part series on the author’s experiences as a consultant in Dubai.
TEHRAN (Reuters) - A key aide to Iran's supreme leader said on Saturday Turkey must radically rethink its policies on Syria, the NATO missile shield and promoting Muslim secularism in the Arab world -- or face trouble from its own people and neighbors.
In an interview with the semi-official Mehr news agency, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's military adviser described Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's invitation to Arab countries to adopt Turkish-style democracy as "unexpected and unimaginable."
Turkey and Iran, the Middle East's two major non-Arab Muslim states, are vying for influence in the Arab world as it goes through the biggest shake-up since the Ottoman Empire fell, a rivalry that has strained their previously close relations.
While cheering crowds greeted Erdogan on his recent tour of North Africa, Tehran accused him of serving U.S. interests by opposing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's crackdown on street protests and agreeing to NATO's missile defense.
"The behavior of Turkish statesmen toward Syria and Iran is wrong and, I believe, they are acting in line with the goals of America," Major-General Yahya Rahim-Safavi told Mehr.
"If Turkey does not distance itself from this unconventional political behavior it will have both the Turkish people turning away from it domestically and the neighboring countries of Syria, Iraq and Iran (reassessing) their political ties."
Khamenei has dubbed the Arab uprisings an "Islamic awakening," predicting peoples in the Middle East that have overthrown dictatorial, Western-backed regimes will follow the path Iran took after its 1979 Islamic revolution.
The uprisings have been generally secular in nature, analysts say.
Erdogan's advocacy of secular Muslim democracy -- which he extolled during his tour of Egypt, Tunisia and Libya last month -- is far from the message the Islamic Republic of Iran wants spread in the region.
"I think the Turks are treading a wrong path. It might very well be that the path was set for them by the Americans," said Rahim-Safavi.
"The Turks have so far committed a few strategic wrongs. One was Erdogan's trip to Egypt and his presentation of the secular model there. This fact was unexpected and unimaginable since the Egyptian people are Muslims."
While Tehran has publicly urged its close ally Syria to listen to people's legitimate demands, Erdogan has predicted Assad will be ousted "sooner or later" and is set to impose sanctions on Damascus despite a veto on U.N. action by Russia and China.
But it is Turkey's decision to deploy a NATO missile early warning system that has most angered Tehran, which sees this as a U.S. ploy to protect Israel from any counter-attack should the Jewish state target Iran's nuclear facilities.
Rahim-Safavi said trade ties with Turkey -- which is an importer of Iranian gas and exporter of an array of manufactured goods -- would be in jeopardy if Ankara does not change tack.
"If Turkish political leaders fail to make their foreign policy and ties with Iran clear, they will run into problems. If, as they claim, they intend to raise the volume of contracts with Iran to the $20 billion mark, they will ultimately have to accommodate Iran."
Attack: Richard Dawkins has criticised the teaching in Islamic schools
Richard Dawkins has attacked Muslim faith schools, saying that they teach students 'alien rubbish'.
The noted atheist claimed that pupils were being taught to ignore scientific evidence in favour of following the Koran.
He said that he had even met a science teacher who believed that the earth was only 6,000 years old.
Mr Dawkins, a former Oxford professor who found fame as an evolutionary biologist before becoming a vocal opponent of religion, is a longstanding critic of all faith schools.
But he has said that Islamic schools are worse than others, as their teaching is more likely to be influenced by a religious agenda.
Talking to the Times Educational Supplement, he described a trip he made to an 'utterly deplorable' Muslim school in Leicester.
According to the Daily Telegraph, he said: 'Every person I met believes if there is any disagreement between the Koran and science, then the Koran wins.
'It's just utterly deplorable. These are now British children who are having their minds stuffed with alien rubbish.' [British citizens, yes, in some cases, but are they "British children"? In what other sense are they "British"? Or "American"? Or "French"? Or "German"?]
Mr Dawkins added that the influence of faith schools often continues when their ex-pupils continue to university.
'Occasionally, my colleagues lecturing in universities lament having undergraduate students walk out of their classes when they talk about evolution,' he said. 'This is almost entirely Muslims.'[no, it is not "almost entirely Muslims" -- it is entirely Muslims]
Outspoken: Mr Dawkins, shown here supporting the Atheist Bus Campaign in 2009, is a fierce critic of religion
The bestselling author of The God Delusion said he had considered setting up an atheist school.
However, he also believes that it is important for children to learn about religious stories and traditions in order to understand cultural backgrounds and literary traditions.
His new book, The Magic of Reality, is intended to make children enthusiastic about the wonders of science.
The book adoptions by every library-sponsored book club in America?
The speaking tours?
The millions he was taking in to "build more schools" in Afghanistan?
He used to be covered, in thousands of stories, like this:
"Craig Mortenson is a superhero that has accomplished miracles in building over 100 schools for girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan under near-impossible circumstances. Mortenson writes about relationships that he has established in remote ..."
Then came the expose.
And he's disappeared from view. .
He hasn't dared to show himself.
Silence. And you probably won't be seeing him round again. And he doesn't have an answer to those unanswerable charges.
Chinese Dopes Who Think Global Climate Disruption Is Merely An American Conspiracy
Don't these Chinese conspiracy-theorists realize that all this hyped alarm about global climate disruption is simply a conspiracy by left-wing American climate scientists against America and the American way of life? What dopes.
Chinese sceptics see global warming as US conspiracy
October 8, 2011
Winds of change ... workers on site in Wuzhong country. Photo: Reuters
BEIJING: It's not only Western leaders like Julia Gillard and Barack Obama who face fierce resistance from climate sceptics as they try to lay out policies to tackle global warming.
In China, where carbon emissions have surged despite tough government constraints and targets, President Hu Jintao is having to stare down claims that human-induced climate change is an elaborate American conspiracy.
''Global warming is a bogus proposition,'' says Zhang Musheng, one of China's most influential intellectuals and a close adviser to a powerful and hawkish general in the People's Liberation Army, Liu Yuan.
Mr Zhang told the Herald that global warming was an American ruse to sell green energy technology and thereby claw its way out of its deep structural economic problems.
A year ago Mr Hu committed to lower the ''carbon intensity'' of economic output by 40-45 per cent by 2020 from 2005 levels. China appears on track to meet the target but that may still not be enough to save the world from destructive climate change, thanks to faster-than-expected Chinese economic growth. [China never should have been encouraged to abandon the Communist stranglehold on its economy -- it was much better for the West, and for the world, the more rigorously ideological it remained. Chinese capitalism now endangers the economies of the West, and the environmental wellbeing of the entire world]
A new study by the Netherlands Environment Assessment Agency shows China now emits far more greenhouse emissions than any other country, with emissions doubling between 2003 and 2010.
China's carbon emissions rose 10 per cent last year alone, to 9 billion tonnes, compared with 5.2 billion tonnes for the United States.
The report showed India's emissions also rose rapidly, by 9 per cent, although its total emissions are still only one-fifth of China's.
The most startling finding, however, is that China's per capita emissions are now higher than several rich nations including France and Italy. China's per capita emissions could even overtake the US within six years, the study said.
But they may never catch up with Australia. Australia's total emissions plummeted by 8 per cent last year, according to the report, beginning to reverse a two-decade long rising trend. But Australia's per capita emissions are the highest of any substantial economy at 18 tonnes.
In London on Thursday, the former Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull praised China's incentives for renewable energy, which has seen its installed wind and solar capacity double in each of the past six years.
These achievements have been lauded abroad but sullied at home by governance, efficiency and even environmental problems, leading to allegations that China has been duped.
Mr Zhang, whose father was secretary to China's former premier Zhou Enlai, blasted Chinese policy makers for encouraging Chinese companies to buy foreign intellectual property in order to manufacture vast quantities of renewable energy equipment.
The Chinese-made equipment helps the environment in other nations while leaving China with only financial and environmental costs, he said.
''Lots of solar panels are made in China and the pollution is left in China but they are used overseas,'' Mr Zhang said. ''The low-carbon economy, carbon politics and carbon taxes are actually driven by the West as the foundation for a new cycle of the virtual economy.''
Mr Zhang's comments provide a window into a contemporary internal Communist Party dynamic where no leader can afford to be accused of making ''soft'' compromises with American negotiators.
It helps explain how Mr Hu's carbon commitment last year was overshadowed at the Copenhagen climate summit by China's abrasive diplomacy and its refusal to submit to international monitoring.
Whether China can help avert a global climate disaster may hinge on whether its green policies can offset deep economic distortions and governance problems that tend to encourage resource-intensive investment.
''If the current trends in emissions by China and the industrialised countries including the US would continue for another seven years, China will overtake the US by 2017 as highest per capita emitter among the 25 largest emitting countries,'' said the Netherlands report, which was sponsored by the European Commission and is based partly on BP energy consumption statistics.
Former Immigration Judge Mark Metcalf: Deception And Disorder In Immigration Court
WASHINGTON (October 3, 2011) – Following up on an earlier summary report, the Center for Immigration Studies has released a 100-page monograph of “Built to Fail: Deception and Disorder in America's Immigration Courts,” authored by Mark H. Metcalf.
A former immigration judge, Metcalf reports that there are inherent flaws in the immigration courts that lead to widespread disregard of its rulings by the aliens who appear before them. The monograph discusses in detail the shortcomings of Justice Department statistical reporting on the courts' work and the flaws in their funding arrangements. The report is online at http://www.cis.org/articles/2011/built-to-fail-full.pdf.
Among the findings:
Very few aliens who file lawsuits to remain in the United States are deported, even though immigration courts – after years of litigation – order them removed.
Deportation orders are rarely enforced, even against aliens who skip court or ignore orders to leave the United States.
Aliens evade immigration courts more often than accused felons evade state courts. Unlike accused felons, aliens who skip court are rarely caught.
From 1996 through 2009, the United States allowed 1.9 million aliens to remain free before trial and 770,000 of them – 40 percent of the total – vanished. Nearly one million deportation orders were issued to this group – 78 percent of these orders were handed down for court evasion.
From 2002 through 2006 – in the shadow of 9/11 – 50 percent of all aliens free pending trial disappeared. Court numbers show 360,199 aliens out of 713,974 dodged court.
For years, the Department of Justice (DoJ) has grossly understated the number of aliens who evade court. In 2005 and 2006, DoJ said 39 percent of aliens missed court. Actually, 59 percent of aliens – aliens remaining free before trial – never showed.
Since 1996, failures of aliens to appear in court have never dipped below 30 percent.
Enforcement of deportation orders is now nearly non-existent. Removal orders are not enforced unless aliens have committed serious crimes.
Unexecuted removal orders are growing. As of 2002, 602,000 deportation orders had not been enforced. Since then, another 507,551 have been added to the rolls. Today, unexecuted removal orders number approximately 1,109,551 – an 84 percent increase since 2002.
U.S. immigration courts rule in favor of aliens 60 percent of the time. DoJ statistics suggest aliens win only 20 percent of the time.
The Department of Justice tells Congress that aliens appeal deportation orders only 8 percent of the time. In fact, over the last 10 years aliens appealed deportation orders 98 percent of the time.
Since 1990, immigration court budgets have increased 823 percent with taxpayers footing the entire bill. Aliens pay no more to file their cases today than they did in 1990.
From 2000 through 2007, tax dollars paid aliens’ court costs. Taxpayers underwrote the appeals of aliens ordered removed for criminal convictions and fraudulent marriages.
U.S. immigration judges carry huge caseloads. In 2006 – the courts’ busiest year ever – 233 judges completed 407,487 matters. All work of DoJ’s trial and appellate lawyers combined equaled only 289,316. By comparison, federal district and circuit courts, with 1,271 judges, completed 414,375 matters.
The only possible way the Justice Department’s misrepresentations will be corrected is for the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to audit America’s immigration courts.
An Article I court – a court created through Congress’s constitutional authority over immigration – is the surest solution for those fleeing persecution, while balancing America’s fundamental interest in secure borders and an effective immigration system.
Hegab, a budget analysts for NGA, lost his Top Secret clearance last November because of his marriage and his wife’s education at the Islamic Saudi Academy, her work with Muslim charity Islamic Relief USA, her leadership of anti-Israel campus group, Students for Justice in Palestine while a student at George Mason University, and involvement in a 2003 ANSWER anti-war rally. We note that Islamic Relief USA has been backed by CAIR and other Muslim brotherhood front groups. ANSWER has publicly backed terrorist groups Hizbullah and Hamas.
Mahmoud Hegab filed the discrimination lawsuit this week in U.S. District Court in Alexandria against the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency at Fort Belvoir.
The Alexandria resident worked at NGA as a budget analyst with a top secret security clearance. But his clearance was revoked in November after he got married. NGA officials told him they were concerned about his wife’s schooling at the Islamic Saudi Academy, a private school in northern Virginia, according to the lawsuit.
Officials also cited her employment with an Islamic charity, Alexandria-based Islamic Relief USA, as a reason for revoking the clearance, the lawsuit alleges.
Also identified as cause for concern was his wife’s participation in a 2003 anti-war rally in Washington sponsored by the ANSWER coalition, a left-wing group that has worked in conjunction with Palestinian activists at times. NGA also cited her time at George Mason University, when she served as president of a student group called Students for Justice in Palestine.
[. . .]
In his lawsuit, Hegab said he appealed the revocation and provided voluminous information to the agency in support of the Saudi Academy and Islamic Relief USA.
Specifically, he noted that ISA has assisted Fort Belvoir and other government agencies in Arabic training. He said Islamic Relief USA has a track record of partnerships with government agencies, including U.S. Agency for International Development. It also participates in the Combined Federal Campaign, which facilitates government contributions to qualified charities.
Islamic Relief USA said in a statement Thursday, “We are not a party to this lawsuit and therefore cannot comment on the merits of this particular case. However, we have not received any complaints from any of our organization’s employees about discrimination when it comes to obtaining security clearances. In fact, because of the nature of our work, we do work closely with many federal and local agencies on a regular basis and anti-Muslim discrimination has not been a concern.”
[. . .]
In the lawsuit, Hegab’s lawyer, Sheldon Cohen, wrote that “the revocation of plaintiff’s security clearance ... was based solely on plaintiff’s wife’s religion, Islam, her constitutionally protected speech, and her association with ... an Islamic faith-based organization.”
As Hegab appealed NGA’s decision, the agency eventually said it withdrew its concerns about the wife’s attendance at Islamic Saudi Academy, but its other concerns remained, according to the lawsuit.
The Saudi Academy has been criticized by groups including the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, for use of a curriculum similar to that in Saudi Arabia that some say promotes intolerance against Jews and Christians. The academy says it has taken steps to alter remove any offensive language from its textbooks.
The lawsuit requests that Hegab’s security clearance be reinstated and that he be returned to his job with back pay.