These are all the Blogs posted on Thursday, 9, 2012.
Thursday, 9 February 2012
The Secret Appeal of Downton Abbey
At heart we are all snobs—whether we acknowledge it or not, however egalitarian we may be in theory and however nervous we might be about our own position in society. Everyone needs (and almost everyone finds) someone to look down on.
But why should Americans, whose republic is founded upon the proposition that all men are created equal, be so fascinated by "Downton Abbey," a soap opera (now in its second season on PBS) about the English landed aristocracy during the Edwardian era, in which all men are definitely not created equal?
The Earl of Grantham, the owner of Downton Abbey, is deferential to the Duke of Crowborough merely because the latter was born higher in the aristocratic scale. The earl's mother, the dowager countess, treats everyone other than her son as a lower species. The large staff of domestic servants has its own rigid hierarchy, presided over by Mr. Carson, the butler who finds honor in the refinement of his own servility.
"Downton Abbey" portrays a fairy-tale way of life in which butlers and footmen appear far better dressed than today's billionaires—many of whom, after making their fortune, seem to want to be sartorially indistinguishable from the most sloppily dressed adolescent rebel. The series thus satisfies a secret or vicarious longing for elegance without imposing the hard work that's necessary to achieve it in reality.
For many Americans, watching "Downton Abbey" must be like indulging in a guilty passion. Indeed, the series is almost a pornography of class and hierarchy. The voyeurs see in it a system that, in the England of the time, certainly dared to speak its name. In that system there was some flexibility—you could rise in class or, of course, fall—but where you were born on the social scale had a strong influence on where you would end up on it.
Americans like to think that they live in a classless society, which seems to accord better with the egalitarian promises of the Declaration of Independence. But this is nonsense: The Declaration promises people the right to the pursuit of happiness, not to happiness itself, much less to equal happiness.
The problem, however, is that marks of distinction and the fruits of effort tend to be hereditary, passed on from one generation to the next. Indeed, one of the reasons that people try to distinguish themselves in the first place is that they want to ease or improve the lives of those who come after them, particularly their own descendants.
So Americans uneasily both accept and reject the hereditary principle, a contradiction that's uncomfortable for them but very productive.
Sometimes they carry this to ridiculous lengths: I remember being addressed on the subject of the rigidity of the British class system by very rich men over lunch in a grandiose club in one of America's greatest cities. They seemed not to notice that a uniformed staff was serving them with an obsequiousness that makes the servants in "Downton Abbey" seem positively revolutionary. It was statistically unlikely that the servants, or even most of their children, would ever rise very far in the social scale.
"Downton Abbey" comes, then, as a relief to Americans, in the way that a politically incorrect remark comes as a relief when something that's true has been exiled from polite speech. Class does not just speak its name in "Downton Abbey," it screams it.
The aristocracy might be selfish and sometimes cruel, but it's also witty, cultivated, mannerly and effortlessly elegant and self-assured. Self-doubt and social anxiety are unknown to it. When a former Duke of Westminster was accused of not knowing how people lived, because he had never been on a bus, he immediately got on one to prove the accusation wrong. He ordered the driver to take him to Grosvenor Square, "and quick!"
How many of us harbor secret fantasies of such self-assurance that we would never dare avow in public!
First published in the Wall Street Journal.
Posted on 02/09/2012 5:57 AM by Theodore Dalrymple
Thursday, 9 February 2012
The New Libya, Just As The Well-Prepared Knew It Would Be
From The New York Times:
February 9, 2012
Libya Struggles to Curb Militias as Chaos Grows
TRIPOLI, Libya — As the militiamen saw it, they had the best of intentions. They assaulted another militia at a seaside base here this week to rescue a woman who had been abducted. When the guns fell silent, briefly, the scene that unfolded felt as chaotic as Libya’s revolution these days — a government whose authority extends no further than its offices, militias whose swagger comes from guns far too plentiful and residents whose patience fades with every volley of gunfire that cracks at night.
The woman was soon freed. The base was theirs. And the plunder began.
“Nothing gets taken out!” shouted one of the militiamen, trying to enforce order.
It did anyway: a box of grenades, rusted heavy machine guns, ammunition belts, grenade launchers, crates of bottled water and an aquarium propped improbably on a moped. Men from a half-dozen militias ferried out the goods, occasionally firing into the air. They fought over looted cars, then shot them up when they did not get their way.
“This is destruction!” complained Nouri Ftais, a 51-year-old commander, who offered a rare, unheeded voice of reason. “We’re destroying Libya with our bare hands.”
The country that witnessed the Arab world’s most sweeping revolution is foundering. So is its capital, where a semblance of normality has returned after the chaotic days of the fall of Tripoli last August. But no one would consider a city ordinary where militiamen tortured to death an urbane former diplomat two weeks ago, where hundreds of refugees deemed loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi waited hopelessly in a camp and where a government official acknowledged that “freedom is a problem.” Much about the scene on Wednesday was lamentable, perhaps because the discord was so commonplace.
“Some of it is really overwhelming,” said Ashur Shamis, an adviser to Libya’s interim prime minister, Abdel-Rahim el-Keeb. “But somehow we have this crazy notion that we can defeat it.”
There remains optimism in Tripoli, not least because the country sits atop so much oil. But Mr. Keeb’s government, formed Nov. 28, has found itself virtually paralyzed by rivalries that have forced it to divvy up power along lines of regions and personalities, by unfulfillable expectations that Colonel Qaddafi’s fall would bring prosperity, and by a powerlessness so marked that the national army is treated as if it were another militia.
The government could do little as local grievances gave rise last month to clashes in Bani Walid, once a Qaddafi stronghold, and between towns in the Nafusah Mountains, where rival fighters, each claiming to represent the revolution, slugged it out with guns, grenades and artillery.
“It’s a government for a crisis,” Mr. Shamis said, in an office outfitted in the sharp angles of glass and chrome. “It’s a crisis government. It is impossible to deliver everything.”
Graffiti in Tripoli still plays on Colonel Qaddafi’s most memorable speech last year, when he vowed to fight house to house, alley to alley. “Who are you?” he taunted, seeming to offer his best impression of Tony Montana in “Scarface.”
“Who am I?” the words written over his cartoonish portrait answered back.
Across from Mr. Shamis’s office a new slogan has appeared.
“Where are you?” it asks.
The question underlines the issue of legitimacy, which remains the most pressing matter in revolutionary Libya. Officials hope that elections in May or June can do what they did in Egypt and Tunisia: convey authority to an elected body that can claim the mantle of popular will. But Iraq remains a counterpoint. There, elections after the American invasion widened divisions so dangerously that they helped unleash a civil war.
A sense of entropy lingers here. Some state employees have gone without salaries for a year, and Mr. Shamis acknowledged that the government had no idea how to channel enough money into the economy so that it would be felt in the streets. Tripoli residents complain about a lack of transparency in government decisions. Ministries still seem paralyzed by the tendency, instilled during the dictatorship, to defer every decision to the top.
“They’re sitting on their chairs, they’re drinking coffee and they’re drafting projects that stay in the realm of their imagination,” said Israa Ahwass, a 20-year-old pharmacy student at Tripoli University, which was guarded by a knot of militiamen.
“How can you change people overnight?” interrupted her friend, Naima Mohammed, who is also studying pharmacy. “It’s been 42 years of ignorance.”
“They’re not doing a single thing,” Ms. Ahwass replied.
Like Tunisia to the west and Egypt to the east, Libya is confronting a diversity Colonel Qaddafi denied so strenuously that he tried to convince the minority Berbers that they were, in fact, Arabs. The revolution has its variation on this theme, appeals that mirror the fears of social fracturing. “No to discord” and “No to tribalism,” declare slogans that adorn the streets.
They all hint at the truth that the Libyan author Hisham Matar evoked in his first novel, “In the Country of Men,” when he wrote, “Nationalism is as thin as a thread, perhaps that’s why many feel that it needs to be anxiously guarded.” Authority here peels like an onion, imposed by militias bearing the stamp of towns elsewhere in the west, neighborhoods in the capital, even its streets.
“Where is the rule of law?” asked Ashraf al-Kiki, a vendor who had gone to a police station, the Tripoli Military Council and a militia from Zintan in pursuit of compensation after militiamen shot holes in his car. The scent of the kebab he grilled wafted over speakers playing the national anthem. “This is the rule of force, not the rule of law.”
The force at the Tripoli airport is the powerful militia from Zintan, a mountain town south of the capital, which played a role in Tripoli’s fall and still holds prisoner Colonel Qaddafi’s most prominent son, Seif al-Islam. By its count, it has 1,000 men at the airport, and one of its commanders there, Abdel-Mawla Bilaid, a 50-year-old man in fatigues, parroted the cavalier pronouncements of the government he helped overthrow. “Everything’s going 100 percent right,” he declared.
Mr. Shamis, the prime minister’s adviser, acknowledged the government’s inability to do anything about the militia’s presence. “Let it be for now,” he said.
That was the sense of the commander, too. “There’s no reason for us to leave,” Mr. Bilaid said. “The Libyan people want us to stay here.”
The militias are proving to be the scourge of the revolution’s aftermath. Though they have dismantled most of their checkpoints in the capital, they remain a force, here and elsewhere. A Human Rights Watch researcher estimated there are 250 separate militias in the coastal city of Misurata, the scene of perhaps the fiercest battle of the revolution. In recent months those militias have become the most loathed in the country.
Residents say some of the fighters have sought to preserve law and order in the midst of government helplessness. Militias from Benghazi and Zintan are trying to protect a refugee camp of 1,500 people driven from their homes in Tawergha by fighters from Misurata, who bitterly blamed them for aiding Colonel Qaddafi’s assault on their town. Since the Tawerghans arrived in the camp, which once housed Turkish construction workers in Tripoli, Misurata militiamen have staged raids five or six times there despite the presence of the other militias, detaining dozens, many of them still in custody.
“Nobody holds back the Misuratans,” said Jumaa Ageela, an elder there.
Bashir Brebesh said the same was true for the militias in Tripoli. On Jan. 19, his 62-year-old father, Omar, a former Libyan diplomat in Paris, was called in for questioning by militiamen from Zintan. The next day, the family found his body at a hospital in Zintan. His nose was broken, as were his ribs. The nails had been pulled from his toes, they said. His skull was fractured, and his body bore signs of burns from cigarettes.
The militia told the family that the men responsible had been arrested, an assurance Mr. Brebesh said offered little consolation. “We feel we are alone,” he said.
“They’re putting themselves as the policeman, as the judge and as the executioner,” said Mr. Brebesh, 32, a neurology resident in Canada, who came home after learning of his father’s death. He inhaled deeply. “Did they not have enough dignity to just shoot him in the head?” he asked. “It’s so monstrous. Did they enjoy hearing him scream?”
The government has acknowledged the torture and detentions, but it admits that the police and Justice Ministry are not up to the task of stopping them. On Tuesday, it sent out a text message on cellphones, pleading for the militias to stop.
“People are turning up dead in detention at an alarming rate,” said Peter Bouckaert, the emergencies director at Human Rights Watch, who was compiling evidence in Libya last month. “If this was happening under any Arab dictatorship, there would be an outcry.”
At the seaside base this week, the looting ended before midnight. Not much was left at the compound, which once belonged to Colonel Qaddafi’s son Saadi — a red beret, a car battery, a rusted ammunition case and an empty bottle of Tunisian wine.
But as on most nights, militias returned to contest other spots in the city, demarcating their turf. Like a winter squall, their shooting thundered over the Mediterranean seafront into the early hours. In the dark, no one could read the slogans in Quds Square. “Because the price was the blood of our children, let’s unify, let’s show tolerance and let’s live together,” one read. In the dark, no one knew who was firing.
“What’s wrong with them?” asked Mahmoud Mgairish. He stood near the square the next morning, as a soft sun seemed to wash the streets. “I don’t know where this country is heading,” he went on. “I swear to God, this will never get untangled.”
Posted on 02/09/2012 8:36 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 9 February 2012
The American Embassy In Baghdad,
News reports have just appeared, indicating that at long last the gargantuan American Embassy that was built for an Iraq (unified, prosperous, decent, grateful to America) will be downsized -- in its staff, in its significance, though not in its size because the damn thing has already been built. That staff is being diminished because it is expensive to maintain -- the annual cost apparently running into billions -- and it cannot "do its job" as once envisaged. But what is not said is why those thousands of American aid workers and civil society specialists and all the rest of it cannot "do their job." So let's say it: it's because Iraq turned out to be Iraq. It's because in Islam there are only Victor and Vanquished, and aggression and violence are taken in, by young Muslims, with the doctrine of Islam and the figure of that Perfect Man (al-insan al-kamil) Muhammad. The Shi'a have won, and the Sh'a are not about to give up what they have won, in some specious.spirit of compromise that the Americans always fondly hoped they would learn. Why would they learn it? Why would the example of Infidel attempts to urge compromise and sweet-reasonableness evern make more of an impact on Muslim Arabs in Iraq than Islam itself? It is Islam that, properly studied and properly understood, can help to prevent colossal waste, colossal disasters -- and it is Islam, in theory and in practice, that is not being studied but being deliberately ignored because of what people in high positions suspect they may find out, and would then have to admit to all kinds of costly error, and what's still more difficult, would have to come up with policies, foreign and domestic too, that intelligently recognize the nature of Islam, and the permanent threat, to non-Muslims, of all those who take Islam to heart. And this they do not want to have to even theink about -- it's too painful, it would require too much cleverness, boldness, intelligence, rhetorical suavity and finesse.
It is Islam, with the beliefs and attitudes Islam anculcates, and the atmospherics that naturally arise in any state, society, community, family suffused with Islam, that explain why the Iraqis, while willing to pluck the American chicken of every last feather, are unwilling to abandon their Victor-Vanquished view of things.And that is why Iraq will be permanently unstable, and a dangerous place for Americans, and an unpromising place for all those people who were supposed to staff that American Embassy.
In Iraq, the Shi'a Arabs will never surrender the power that was transferred to them by the fall of Saddam Hussein and of his supporters and couriters. The Sunni Arabs will never acquiesce in their loss of political power, and thus of wealth as well -- for in the Muslim countries, wealth comes from the possession of power, and being close to those who divvy up the main resources, of which there are only two: oil and gas revenues (as in Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Libya, Algeria, etc.) and, when there is not that fabulous unearned wealth, there is the less-fabulous but still indispensable aid from credulous Infidels (as in Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and what are identified, inaccurately, as the "Palestinian" territories).ust as the Pakistanis, and the Afghans, and the Egyptians, are willing to take, and regard not as a favor for which they should be at all grateful, but rather as a tribute to them that is to be regarded as theirs by right (and how dare the Americans threaten to leave Afghans to fight for themselves, or how dare they threaten to cut aid to Pakistan merely because Pakistan is, and always has been, up to its neck in support of the Taliban, and how terrible of the Americans, how truly outrageous, to thiink that they can even suggest thinking about cutting aid to Egypt just because the Egyptians have arrested 19 Americans who were only engaged in that quixotic venture, trying to make Egypt, despite Islam, a more open and reasonable society the bits inculcated attitudes, its atmospherics, succeed, and would be one more example of the hideous waste, the monumental -- in every sense -- squandering of resources on a theory about Iraq that required, for it to be believed , ignorance of the nature of iraqi society, its history of violence, and of sectarian and ethnic hostility and, most important, ignorance of Islam and what that would mean for relations with the Infidel power that had poured so much money, and sacrificed the lives and wellbeing of so many men, all for that unproved, and permanently unprovable, theory.
I posted about this many times, ordinarilyas a remark embedded within a longer piece about a larger topic. The Baghdad Embassy was significant as a symbol of all the stupidity, and consequent squandering, that have characterized the American effort to deal with Muslim lands and Musliim peoples,and policies constructed without any intelligent consideration of Islam and its effects on its Believers:
Here's one of those remarks in "Sentimentality As State Policy" (from May 20, 2006):
"And that is the most important thing. We are not here to save the world, but to save ourselves. It is we who are threatened by those instruments of Jihad -- Da'wa and demographic conquest and the "money" weapon -- that we persist in ignoring, as we clump-clump-clump at great expense into places we did not study sufficiently. And we remain hideously stuck in those places through the sheer obstinacy of this administration that is incapable of admitting it was mistaken, and would rather continue to sacrifice men, money, materiel, on an unproven, sentimental, and by now self-evidently foolish theory about "victory" in Iraq that convinces no one, and in fact, has not even been coherently explained.
For in what would such a "victory" consist? Would it consist of some nation-state, with the Americans still there, keeping Kurds from exiting, defending from attack now the Shi'a, and now the Sunnis? Would it be shown by the presence of American soldiers, under attack but still working away at that ultimate symbol of madness and folly, that 21-building "Embassy Complex," costing $595 million? It will never be used as an American Embassy in a safe, grateful, friendly Iraq. That is certain -- certain to everyone but to those in the Administration who keep building the damn thing. But does anyone speak out about this folly, symbol of all that is crazy in tarbaby Iraq?
Not yet. But they will. And then, for those who continue to believe that the best way to deal with the Jihad is to build up this or that Muslim army or state, to find "friends" and create "models" in the Muslim world while ignoring the real nature of Islam and refusing to pay attention to the demographic problem in Western Europe, the silly cheerleaders for "transformative diplomacy" and the Democracy-Is-On-the-March movement, it will all be over
And that should be the end of sentimentality as state policy."
And here's just one more -"Time To Go. Long Past Time." from June 6, 2006:
"Ihave been asked: "Will not the Shi’a, once they feel empowered and secure, not ask us to leave and exact a bloody revenge on the Sunni?" The mere asking of such a question is telling: the part about will they not "ask us to leave" at a certain point.
Of course they will. But not before having kept us around, if they can, as long as possible, for several reasons. The most important is to have the American soldiers do as much of the fighting and dying and getting wounded as possible on behalf of the "government of Iraq" -- i.e. the Shi'a who now control the "government of Iraq." The second is to make sure that as much money as possible is inveigled out of those Americans -- and how many Iraqis are now living high, including those who escaped abroad, with loot from the generous and freespending Infidels, winning hearts, winning minds, spending like there was no tomorrow. The more time the Americans spend there, the more money they are likely to hand out. The more time they spend in Iraq, the more likely it is that they, those Americans, will keep building that absurd $595 million dollar monument to a fantasy, that American Embassy complex in the Green Zone that will never, ever, serve the function, or be filled with the personnel, that were so blithely envisioned when that ridiculous project was begun three years ago."
Posted on 02/09/2012 8:45 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 9 February 2012
Anthony Shadid, Long On Reporting, Sometimes Short On Comprehension
Anthony Shadid is often -- though not always -- a good reporter. But what he lacks is an analytical framework. He cannot bring himself to sit still and study Islam, and come to understand that this ideology, this weight on the minds of men, though it cannot be seen, explains so much of what he reports. He cannot see that fear of Islam, fear of Muslims, born of long experience, is what explains the Alawite terror (and Christian terror too) of losing control over the Sunni Muslims in Syria. He could not see that the overturning of a local crook -- Ben Ali -- in Tunisia, might lead to something much more dangerous, which is an assault on the secularism that, thanks to the French and then after the French to continuing French influence, and to Habib Bourguiba and others who were similarly disposed to secularism, and to constraining the power of Islam, had been the prevailing doctrine in Tunisia, to the great benefit of Tunisians. He did not foresee, as so many did not, refusing as they did to recognize the effect of Islam on the minds of the primitives who, in all societies, constitute most of the population, what would happen in Egypt; like Obama, he was blinded by the spectacle of revolt and the usual exciting banalities about how "we have thrown off fear" and "Egypt will never be the same" and he may even have shared -- I can't recall -- Obama's naive faith in the ultimate triumph of "that Google guy," the overrated, because misunderstood, Wael Ghonim, a figure of ephemeral significance, save as an example, in being made much of, of Western miscomprehension of Egypt and of Islam.
Here is one example of Anthony Shadid's surprising lack of understanding of Islam, and of the relation of the use of Islam as a vehicle of Arab imperialism (cultural and linguistic -- so well analyzed by Prof. Franck Salameh of Boston College -- and economic and political). His report today on LIbya includes the following:
"Like Tunisia to the west and Egypt to the east, Libya is confronting a diversity Colonel Qaddafi denied so strenuously that he tried to convince the minority Berbers that they were, in fact, Arabs."
The first part of his sentence -- the claim that the "diversity" in Libya is just like the "diversity" in Tunisia and the "diversity" in Egypt --is flatly untrue. Each of those countries -- Libya, Egypt, Tunisia -- exhibits quite a different kind of "diversity" (in Tunjisia, it is the "diversity" of the advanced, because secular, coast, and the more primitive, because more Islamic, hinterland; in Egypt, the most worrisome "diversity" is that between Muslim and non-Muslim, Arab and Arabic-speaking Copt, in Libya the main "diversity" is simply that of a hypertrophied tribalism, with an overlay of localism (loyalty to one's town or city or mountainous region of origin)
But the most telling untruth, or incomprehension, on the part of the amiable, engagingly friendly, Oklahoma-born Anthony Shadid comes in the second part of that sentence.
Now Anthony Shadid -- amiable, easygoing, engagingly friendly before audiences, with an aw-shucks modesty that may reflect his being Oklahoma-born and Oklahoma-bred, still has never understood Islam. His article (publised in Granta) on Baghdad College, run by Boston College Jesuits, never asks important questions such as: why did the Muslim elite, especialloy the Sunnis, send their children to Baghdad College? And why do members of the elite in Pakistan, in Egypt, and elsewhere,send their children to local schools run by Christian religious groups, or in the Gulf, to those "American schools" that have sprung up? Nor does Shadid ask what was it in the political situation that made Baghdad College (run by Jesuits) able to be protected, even under Ba'athist depotism, while it hasn't a chance today?
And when you listen to Shadid's excitement about the "Arab Spring," one hears the voice of someone who is more naive, and less analytical, than he should be. When he talks of Syria, he appears to have no idea of what the collapse of Alawite power would mean for the Christians, Arab and Armenian, in Damascus and Aleppo. He does not appear to understand the fear that has made some Christians -- see Bat Ye'or's "Islam and Dhimmitude" -- in the MIddle East become plus royaliste que le roi, in parroting anti-Israel sentiments, but those Christians who have, in an earlier age, enjoyed the luxury of a stronger Christian community -- as Bishop Moubarac of Beirut in 1947, and the unforgettable Lebanese statesman Charles Malik (I met and talked with Charles Malik once, long ago), who though Greek Orthodox had the world views of the Maronites (Lebanese Christians will know what I mean), He is a grandchild of Lebanese Christians -- I presume Maronites -- who left the Ottoman Empire as so many Christians did, when modern transportation and communication made it possible for some non-Muslims to leave Muslim-dominated or Muslim-threatened areas, and beginning with the massacre, by Musilms, of the Maronites in Damascus in 1860 (twenty years after the massacre of Jews in the same city), and with other attacks on Christians by Muslims (as those by Turks and Kurds on Armenians in 1894-96, and again in 1915 ff.) identified on their nationality cards as "turcos" or "sirianos" -- but in truth, these "turcos" and "sirianos" were Arabic-speaking Christians who had never thought of themselves as Arabs, despite their arabized names -- a contrast with some of those who, being forced to live in a Muslim-dominated or Muslim-threatened environment, have for protective coloration not only come to describe themselves as Arabs but have, as in Syria, often parroted an anti-Israel line as virulent as that of any Muslim, as a way of fitting it, a survival-strategy that dhimmis of all sorts, instead of uniting, exhibited throughout the history of Islam (see Bat Ye'or's "Islam and Dhimmitude" and "The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam")
When Shadid writes that " olonel Qaddafi denied so strenuously that he tried to convince the minority Berbers that they were, in fact, Arabs" he seems not to understand that this is not Qaddafi's strange policy, but one that has been practiced by Muslim Arabs all over the lands that they have come to dominate. It was the Algerian Arabs who outlawed the public use of Tamazight, the Berger language, which led some 15 years ago to riots in the Kabyle, in Tizi-Ouzou and other centers. Recently that law was revoked, but revoked only because of the steady pressure of the Berbers -- who, as you might expect, are the most advanced, because the most secular, people in North Africa, and whose sense of their own history provides an alternative identity that helps to weaken the hold of Islam.
The Arabs everywhere have tried to make the peoples they islamized and conquered forget their own histories, their own pre-Islamic pasts. And Islam itself is a vehicle -- perhaps always was meant to be a vehicle, from its earliest days -- of Arab imperialism, linguistic and cultural, as well as political and economic. How many of the Muslims attacking Copts in Egypt are, in fact, the descendants of Copts themselves, but do not recognize this, could not possibly give this a moment's thought? How many of the "Arabs" in North Africa trying to force the Berbers into submission are in fact arabized Berbers themselves? And the same question arises when we consider the conditions in which those Hindus (and Buddhists, and Jains) were converted to Islam on the subcontinent -- how many of those Muslims in Pakistan who live to smite the Hindu foe, dare to recognize that their own ancestors were Hindus (or Buddhists, or Jains) who converted to islam either on pain of death, or in order to escape the horrible conditions of life for non-Muslims in Muslim-ruled India?
What Anthony Shadid notes about Qaddafi is both accurate, and misleading. It's true that Qaddafi had an awareness of the Berber-Arab divide. It is a simplication to say that he wanted all of the Berbers to become Arabs, because Qaddafi was often contemptuous of "the Arabs" and even, at times, alluded to his own Berber origins, saw his own destiny as that of becoming the "king of Africa"-- which is why he would assemble, and distribute his largesse, to various tribal chiefs from sub-Saharan Africa, who were happy to come, and happy to depart with his lavish gifts in hand. But the most misleading thing is the omission, by Anthony Shadid, of the observation that islamization and concomitant arabization have been going on, in the Middle East and in North Africa (once peopled by Christians, and some Jews -- and how did they all disappear?), hand in hand, for a long time, and the attempt to suppress Berber consciousness is hardly confined to Qaddafi, or to Libya.
Perhaps he will. There's still time.
Posted on 02/09/2012 8:28 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 9 February 2012
Nine jailed over terror bomb plot
Latest news from Crown Court Woolwich. From the BBC and Wales on LIne
Nine men who plotted to bomb the London Stock Exchange and build a terrorist training camp have been jailed. Three of the men - all members of an al-Qaeda inspired terror group - received indeterminate sentences for public protection at London's Woolwich Crown Court.
The three to receive indeterminate sentences were Mohammed Shahjahan 27, of Stoke-on-Trent, who was jailed for a minimum term of eight years and 10 months.
Usman Khan, 20, and Nazam Hussain, 26, also from Stoke-on-Trent, were ordered to serve at least eight years.
Other sentences were:
- Mohammed Chowdhury: 13 years, 8 months
- Gurukanth Desai: 12 years
- Omar Latif: 10 years, 4 months
- Abdul Miah: 16 years, 10 months
- Mohibur Rahman: 5 years
- Shah Rahman: 12 years
Father-of-two Shahjahan – who was referred to as the “emir”, or leader, by other members of the terror group – had the highest profile and had given a number of media interviews, the court heard. He featured in a BBC programme called “My Name is Mohammed” about British Muslims called Mohammed. Mr Hall (his defence counsel) said: “He was dressed up as a mujahideen expressing self-deluded radical views about the prospect of bringing Sharia to the UK, and so on.” Unfortunately he wont be in a stripy suit with arrows on now - that uniform went out as long ago as 1922.
Posted on 02/09/2012 10:49 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Thursday, 9 February 2012
Crown Court Liverpool
The latest from the Crown Court at Liverpool is that the trial(s) of the large group of men accused of sexual offences against young girls is on going and likely to take many weeks. Patriots and concerned members of the public, who were prepared to organise a rota to demonstrate regularly if necessary, have met with the police today. They have agreed that their presence may prejudice the trial (and possibly give any defendant convicted grounds for appeal) and so they will not demonstrate outside the court for the forseeable future.
However the police will facilitate a demonstration for them at the conclusion of the proceedings.
It seems unlikely that there will be any reporting of evidence during the trial(s) but I do not know if this is a formal restriction on reporting ordered by the Judge or a voluntary one taken by the newspapers.
Posted on 02/09/2012 11:11 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Thursday, 9 February 2012
A Musical Interlude: Little White Lies (Ed Kirkeby Orch., voc. Elmer Feldkamp)
Posted on 02/09/2012 4:05 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 9 February 2012
Henrique Capriles Radonski, Venezuela's Great Hope
February 9, 2012
Venezuelan President Chavez dismisses challengers, but one is showing strength
Henrique Capriles Radonski, the opposition Democratic Unity coalition candidate for president, speaks Tuesday in Caracas.
(CNN) -- When an opposition candidate challenged Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to a debate last month, his reply was "aguila no caza mosca" -- "the eagle doesn't hunt the fly."
The challenge came from presidential candidate Maria Corina Machado. Machado chose a momentous occasion to challenge Chavez: his yearly address to the Venezuelan National Assembly (of which she is a member), an event broadcast live on national television.
"Time has run out," Machado said in front of an audience of shocked members of the assembly. "It's time for a new Venezuela. You should accept to debate, Mr. President."
In replying, Chavez suggested that Machado should first win the primaries. "That's what you should do. You're not really at my level to debate with me," Chavez calmly said.
For Chavez, who has been in power for 13 years, dismissing the opposition as weak is part of his political strategy. His favorite term for his opponents is "escualidos," which in Spanish means not only filthy and neglected, but also feeble.
With a combination of populist programs and a centralized control of his socialist agenda, the power equation in Venezuela has remained the same for much of Chavez's time in office. But that equation might be changing.
In the past few weeks, Henrique Capriles Radonski, the 39-year-old governor from Miranda state, has taken Venezuela's political scene by storm. Polls show Capriles is the only candidate with a real chance of beating Chavez in this year's presidential elections, to be held on October 7.
He is widely expected to win this Sunday's opposition primaries and form a coalition against the incumbent.
Capriles has sought to unify the opposition and to appeal to different constituencies. At a recent political rally, he said, "This is not the hour of the left or the right. This is Venezuela's hour."
The founding member of the Justice First Party defines himself as a center-left candidate, favoring policies similar to those of Brazil's former president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Lula's political platform in Brazil was promoting capitalism-friendly initiatives while at the same time spearheading social programs for the poor.
Capriles, a former tax attorney, was the mayor of Boruta, a Caracas suburb, before winning the governorship of Miranda, which adjoins the Venezuelan capital. He was also the youngest vice president of the now defunct Venezuelan Congress.
His campaign slogan is "There is a Way" and he constantly invites people to get on the "Bus of Progress."
Part of his appeal is that he speaks about "solid government institutions" and a judicial branch that treats "all Venezuelans equally under the law." Chavez has been accused of being fiercely loyal toward his supporters and promoting patronage at the expense of his political enemies and the rest of the country.
Last month, Capriles, whose [maternal] grandparents were Polish Holocaust survivors, forged an alliance with Leopoldo Lopez, a major opposition candidate. Lopez, from the Popular Will party, hugged Capriles at a rally attended by supporters of both men.
"I tell you, Henrique, my brother, you will be the next president of Venezuela," an energetic Lopez said. This alliance gave Capriles a boost in his approval rating, currently at 56 percent.
Capriles stepped onto the national scene during a 2002 riot at the Cuban Embassy in Caracas. The Chavez government accused him of inciting the riot and sent him to jail for four months, but the courts ended up acquitting him.
Besides Capriles and Machado, Zulia state Gov. Pablo Perez, economist and diplomat Diego Arria, and labor leader Pablo Medina are also running as opposition presidential candidates. But polls show their approval rating is well below that of Capriles.
Posted on 02/09/2012 4:09 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 9 February 2012
Man pleads guilty over online 'South Park' threat
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A Muslim convert from Brooklyn pleaded guilty Thursday to using a website he founded to post online threats against the creators of the "South Park" television show and others he deemed enemies of Islam.
In court papers filed Thursday with his guilty plea, Jesse Curtis Morton, 33, admitted that his now-defunct Revolution Muslim website served as an outlet for al-Qaida propaganda and that he used the site to post thinly veiled threats not only against "South Park" creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker but others he considered to be enemies of Islam.
Morton, who also uses the name Younus Abdullah Mohammad, worked closely with Zachary Adam Chesser, who was sentenced last year to 25 years in prison for the "South Park" threats and other crimes.
The case against Morton rests solely on actions he took as founder and operator of Revolution Muslim. While the site was running, Morton took steps to portray its posts and commentary as solely informational or analytical, not intimidating and threatening. For instance, when he posted the first issue of the al-Qaida magazine Inspire on his site in 2010, he posted a disclaimer saying it "should not be deemed that we are displaying any advice or support, material or otherwise, for any institution deemed illegal or terroristic by the U.S. government and its thought police."
The magazine included instructions on how to make a bomb and an explicit call from al-Qaida cleric Anwar al-Awlaki for the assassination of Seattle cartoonist Molly Nelson, who had proposed "Everybody Draw Muhammad Day" in response to the controversy over the 2010 "South Park" episode, which depicted the prophet Muhammad in a bear costume.
Neil MacBride, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said Morton's whole intent in operating Revolution Muslim was to inspire people to engage in violent jihad. "He pled guilty to operating Revolution Muslim with a clear desire to radicalize those who listened to and read what he posted," said MacBride, whose office prosecuted the case. "His purpose was to inspire others to engage in terrorism."
The court documents include a long list of people convicted of terrorist activity who were regular readers of Revolution Muslim's materials. They include Colleen LaRose, also known as "Jihad Jane," who was convicted last year in Philadelphia of terrorism-related offenses; Antonio B. Martinez, who was convicted last month in Baltimore of plotting to bomb a military recruiting station; Jose Pimental, who sent an email to Revolution Muslim saying he was a "big fan" and was later charged in connection with a plot to kill U.S. military members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan; and Samir Khan, a U.S. citizen who became an al-Qaida propagandist and was killed in the airstrike last year that also killed al-Awlaki.
In some ways the 'South Park' threats were probably the least significant of the things that were happening" with Revolution Muslim, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg, who prosecuted the case.
Posted on 02/09/2012 5:14 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Thursday, 9 February 2012
Somali militant group al-Shabaab formally joins al-Qaida
From the Guardian
The Somali militant group al-Shabaab has formally joined al-Qaida, according to a video translation of a message from al-Qaida's leader.
Ayman al-Zawahiri gave "glad tidings" that al-Shabaab had joined al-Qaida, according to the translation of the 15-minute video by the Site Intelligence group on Thursday.
"Today, I have glad tidings for the Muslim Ummah that will please the believers and disturb the disbelievers, which is the joining of the Shabaab al-Mujahideen Movement in Somalia to Qaidat al-Jihad, to support the jihadi unity against the Zio-Crusader campaign and their assistants amongst the treacherous agent rulers," he said.
But the new al-Zawahiri video – which was posted on an Islamic Internet forum on Thursday – is the first formal welcoming of al-Shabaab by the new al-Qaida leader. The new video also featured the al-Shabaab chairman, Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr, also known as Godane, pledging allegiance to al-Zawahiri.
Western intelligence officials say that al-Qaida officials have found sanctuary with al-Shabaab for years
Posted on 02/09/2012 5:36 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Thursday, 9 February 2012
Claude GuÃ©ant Makes A Dignified And Truthful Observation; A Ridiculous Fuss Ensues
From The Washington Post:
French parliament in uproar as minister accused of flirting with Nazi ideology
By Associated Press,
PARIS — The French parliament erupted in an uproar Tuesday after a lawmaker accused the interior minister of flirting with Nazi ideology.
Socialist lawmaker Serge Letchimy from Martinique questioned Interior Minister Claude Gueant about his comments that some civilizations — notably France’s — are worth more than others.
Gueant’s remarks, which have caused a firestorm, had been widely seen as a putdown of Muslims. Opposition Socialists have called the comments an attempt by President Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservatives to woo far-right votes ahead of the two-round presidential election in April and May.
Tuesday’s session of government questions had to be suspended after lawmakers from Sarkozy’s conservative UMP party began walking out in a noisy protest.
Letchimy said Gueant is “day by day leading us back to these European ideologies that gave birth to concentration camps.” [disgusting nonsense not worth replying to]
After a loud protests interrupted him, he added: “Mr. Gueant, the Nazi regime, which was so concerned about purity, was that a civilization?”
Speaking to reporters later, Letchimy said “as the son of a slave, I cannot accept this kind of phrase” like the one used by Gueant.
Letchimy said he wanted to “sound an alarm” over this kind of “negation.”
Conservative Prime Minister Francois Fillon, in a statement, called Letchimy’s comment “an indecent provocation” that “brings shame on those who make it.” Fillon, a member of Sarkozy’s UMP party, urged the leaders of the Socialist opposition party to condemn Letchimy’s statement.
Gueant himself is no stranger to controversy, having once said that French people “sometimes have the feeling of no longer being in their own home” in a discussion about immigration.
Gueant insisted Monday that his weekend comments to a right-wing youth organization on the hierarchy of civilizations were merely “good sense.”
Critics saw the comments as at best, misguided and cynical and, at worst, xenophobic.
Sarkozy defended Gueant in a televised interview Monday, brushing aside the outrage as “a ridiculous argument.”
Socialist Francois Hollande is the leading candidate in polls about the presidential race. Sarkozy has not yet confirmed he is running, but is widely expected to.
Posted on 02/09/2012 8:45 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 9 February 2012
What Claude GuÃ©ant Said, In Greater Detail -- And Only A Fool Could Disagree
You can listen to Claude here, and read on the screen what he added, by way of elaboration, to his original remarki that "toutes les civilisations ne se valent pas."
He said that all civilisations are equal, are equivalent. Those that respect liberty, equality, fraternity, pluralism, the rights of women, and so on are superior, he said, to those that do not and that, furthermore, encourage social hatred. Who could possibly disagree?
Posted on 02/09/2012 8:51 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 9 February 2012
Claude GuÃ©ant Discusses The Scandalous Attack By Letchimy
Claude Guéant : « cette déclaration a dépassé les limites du débat politique »
Publié le mercredi 08 février 2012
Exclusif. Dans un entretien accordé à l'agence GHM, le ministre de l'intérieur revient sur la polémique soulevée par sa phrase sur les civilisations.
Le Parlement est un lieu de dialogue; la sortie de Serge Létchimy exigeait-elle cette sortie du gouvernement en réponse ?
Claude Guéant : Cette déclaration a dépassé les limites du débat politique. Mais je ne voudrais pas singulariser le dialogue avec M. Létchimy. Il est en l’espèce le porte-parole du Parti socialiste et il est inadmissible que l’on accuse de favoriser l’idéologie nazie quelqu’un qui promeut les valeurs universelles des droits de l’Homme, et rappelle qu’il y a des valeurs qui sont supérieures à d’autres car elles représentent précisément un progrès de l’humanité. Il y a des systèmes dans lesquels on favorise la démocratie, on promeut le droit des femmes, on protège les libertés individuelles et publiques. Et il y a des systèmes dans lesquels on s’accommode de la tyrannie, dans lesquels la femme est réduite à un état d’asservissement et où l’on bafoue les libertés. Je ne vois pas pourquoi de tels propos seraient offensants pour quiconque.
Comment appréhendez-vous votre déplacement aux Antilles à partir de samedi ?
Claude Guéant : Je suis ministre de l’Intérieur et de l’Outre-mer et je suis heureux de me rendre aux Antilles où j’ai vécu. Il y a des sujets importants à traiter: la sécurité, le développement économique, des dossiers d’avenir pour les Antilles.
Vous n’attachez pas d’importance au fait que les présidents des collectivités territoriales, MM. Lurel et Gillot, en Guadeloupe, et M. Létchimy, en Martinique, ne souhaitent pas vous recevoir et estiment que vous n’êtes « pas le bienvenu » ?
Claude Guéant : Je le regrette parce que ça me semble en rupture avec la tradition républicaine. La République, c’est dialoguer, se parler même si l’on est d’opinion politique différente. Mais enfin, il y a bien d’autres personnes dans ces départements que celles que vous venez de citer. Moi, je m’adresse à la population de ces deux départements pour laquelle j’ai un attachement particulier.
Pourtant des Antillais se sont sentis offensés…
Claude Guéant : Je voudrais très directement évoquer un sujet dont je sais bien qu’il est douloureux à la conscience de nos compatriotes antillais. Nul ne peut contester que nous vivons aujourd’hui en France un état de civilisation meilleur que celui dans lequel se pratiquait hier l’esclavage, qui est une abomination. C’est notre honneur de promouvoir des valeurs qui permettent de progresser dans le sens de l’humanisme. Ces valeurs-là sont très respectueuses de nos compatriotes d’outre-mer, dont ils ont été parmi les pionniers.
Le président de la République a dit, le 10 mai dernier, à l’occasion de la commémoration de l’abolition de l’esclavage : « Il a fallu longtemps pour que l’Occident comprenne, admette qu’il avait autant à apprendre des autres que les autres avaient à apprendre de lui, qu’il y avait dans les autres civilisations autant de trésor de sagesse humaine que dans la sienne. » Qu’en pensez-vous ?
Claude Guéant : J’adhère pleinement à cela. Parler de civilisations n’est pas en appeler à leur choc, c’est complètement ridicule. Distinguer les civilisations n’est pas attentatoire à ces civilisations. Elles se nourrissent respectivement et, dans une civilisation, le président de la République a raison de le dire, il y a des trésors. Ce n’est pas parce qu’elles sont différentes qu’elles ne sont pas respectables. Il y a, au regard de nos valeurs, des éléments qui sont positifs même s’ils sont éloignés de nos propres modes de raisonnement, de notre propre culture, de nos propres croyances, mais il y a des choses qui, au regard des droits de l’Homme, de la dignité de la personne humaine peuvent être moins positives. C’est ce que j’ai dit.
Posted on 02/09/2012 8:59 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 9 February 2012
Deputies Exit In Disgust At The Propos Of Serge Letchimy
Serge Letchimy claims that those who suggest that civilisations may not all be equivalent, and of equal value, are of course Nazis, and put should make us think of concentration camps.
All sensible people will be disgusted.
Many of those present simply walked out.
Watch, and listen, here.
Posted on 02/09/2012 9:08 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald