Sunday, August 27, 2006

There's a hoot of an article in today's Wall Street Journal, titled "Troop Pledge Vexes Europe," which highlights Europe's broken promise to deploy peacekeepers to south Lebanon, as they promised a couple weeks ago.

Europe was expected to take the lead in manning a 15,000-strong force called for in the French-U.S.-brokered resolution to police the Aug. 11 truce between the Hezbollah militia and Israel. But France has since hesitated to commit a significant number of troops for the force amid concerns that they will end up fighting Hezbollah; so far Paris has offered only 400 soldiers, and Europe is having trouble raising as many ground troops as the U.N. says it needs to create a balanced force of troops from European and Muslim countries.

...The hesitation -- however justified by events on the ground -- is forcing Europeans to grapple with some uncomfortable realities: They don't have enough deployable combat troops; they are disliked as much as the U.S. by Mideast radicals; and their determination to stop the destruction and insert peacekeepers could come at a higher price than they are willing to pay.

The hoot is that Europe is just plain scared to send troops to Lebanon because they worry that Hezbollah might try to kill their peacekeepers, thus instigating a fight they don't have the stomach for. That there is truth to this fear isn't the hoot. The hoot is that for months and years Europe has tried to portray Hezbollah as some kind of over-aggressive social service provider, not as the international terrorist group they truly are.

Particularly shamed are the French - that is, if it's possible for them to feel shame. Perhaps underestimating the humiliation they would feel Jacques Chirac's government tonight promised (or is that re-promised?) 2,000 soldiers after uproar from sending only 400 of the previously promised 3,000 soldiers. Those 3,000 of a 15,000-man Euro-force were of course one of the critical provisions for the cease fire.

I'm further reminded of the fact that Europe was loath to classify Hezbollah a terrorist group, and that France, never unwilling to back a dictator or militant group, was at the forefront of the effort to block the UN and EU from classifying Hezbollah as terrorists.

The NY Times quoted one European official as saying, "Can a political party elected by the Lebanese people be put on a terrorist list? Would that really help deal with terrorism? Now with Lebanon in a fragile state, is this the proper moment to take such a step?"

Chirac himself was later quoted similarly: "[Unproductive to classify] now, when we want, if possible, to try to bring Hezbollah back into the fold of the Lebanese community and help it become a political party."

To label a terrorist group as a "political party" simply because they've effectively manipulated a weak and fledgling Lebanese electoral system is naturally insulting to anyone with intelligence. Example, try getting a group of Tim McVeighs into Congress if you'd like to see liberal moral-equivilence hypocrisy in action.

Finally, that Europe still fears groups like Hezbollah, Hamas or Islamic Jihad - and that they should - underscores their failure in both foreign policy and their post 9-11 mindset.

What has France gained by so opposing the United States? What did they gain in their refusal to support Iraq? Apparently nothing. Most of Europe, and especially France, have misled themselves into thinking that if they just appeased the terrorists and tried to appear as neutral they would not be targets themselves from terrorist violence. Yet just this week Germany discovered a plot to bomb their trains and France and other European countries are unwilling to provide troops in Lebanon for fear of attacks against them.

They've learned that their actions are immaterial to terrorists, no matter how many times clever media-savvy icons like Osama bin Laden cite 60-year old grievances against the West.

Terrorist organizations from Hezbollah to Al Qaeda hate the West because of what we are - Liberal, Constitutional, Secular Democracies - and not for what we've done.



Seduce and Betray
Wall Street Journal
August 24, 2006

Jacques Chirac, like Hassan Nasrallah, is always victorious. France is always first and foremost: first to promise to send troops, first to back down on the promise. Triumphant newscasters announce: Fifty French combat engineers have been dispatched on an urgent mission to Lebanon! One hundred fifty more are on the way! While the rest of the world dithers, France springs into action!

The French, who were supposed to be the backbone of the beefed-up United Nations contingent, announced from the get-go that their troops wouldn't step in until Hezbollah was disarmed. At the same time, France mustered all its diplomatic power to stop the only army, the Israeli Defense Forces, that could actually achieve this. Paris knew that the Lebanese government couldn't disarm Hezbollah, and that Hezbollah wouldn't do so voluntarily. In a smashing non sequitur, France reduced its promise from 3,000 battle-ready soldiers to 200 engineers. Some backbone! Now, probably embarrassed by the waves of ridicule this deflation provoked, they are denying they ever promised thousands, while pledging to do better than 200, surely emboldened by the U.N. promise that these troops will not, heaven forbid, be asked to disarm Hezbullah.
[Jacques Chirac]

Clear-minded people recognized the global threat forecast by Hezbollah's aggression against Israel. U.S. President George W. Bush supported Israel's right to self-defense; Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice resisted pressure to impose a hasty cease-fire; it looked like the West was standing firm.

And then that 21st-century fetish, the "international community," led by France, drowned that resolve in the cheap perfume of multilateral diplomacy. U.N. Resolution 1701 is a lace handkerchief fluttered in the face of reality. As soon as the resolution took effect, the instigators and perpetrators of the attack celebrated. The resolution tightens Hezbollah's stranglehold by handing it a victory it could not earn on the battlefield; Iran warmed up its exterminating engines; Syria decided that Hezbollah-type action was more promising than diplomatic acrobatics; Hamas swore it would not be outdone by the brave fighting brothers. In other words, jihad.

Yes, the U.S. was fooled by a slick French seduce-and-betray operation. Paris isn't having second thoughts about its troop commitments -- it probably never intended to send a robust force that would have taken on Hezbollah in the first place. On July 24, in separate interviews, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy, Lebanon's pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud and Hezbollah leader Nasrallah himself set forth virtually the same conditions for a political solution to the conflict: an immediate cease fire without any real pressure on Hezbollah to disarm until an endless list of alleged gripes against Israel have been solved.

Mr. Douste-Blazy's obsequious pledge of allegiance to the great civilized state of Iran, "factor of stabilization in the region," was not a fluke; it was the tip-off. Far too much has been made of President Chirac's personal gripe with Syrian President Bashar Assad, and far too little attention is paid to France's troubling complicity with Iran and its merciless Hezbollah arm. The charming French minister of defense, Michèle Alliot-Marie, says she is not sending troops unless and until the U.N. can guarantee their safety. An anonymous source cited by Le Monde journalist Mouna Naïm claims that a French diplomat went directly to the Iranians to obtain a promise of mutual nonbelligerency. Barah Mikhail, a fellow of the French government-friendly IRIS think tank, spelled it out in an Aug. 19 radio interview: France doesn't want to be put in a situation where its soldiers would have to side with Israel against Hezbollah. To choose between a Western democratic ally and a terrorist organization seems too morally troubling for Paris.

Did I say terrorist organization? Quel faux pas. In an interview with Le Monde on July 26, Mr. Chirac reiterated that it would be counterproductive to brand Hezbollah a terrorist organization just "now, when we want, if possible, to try to bring Hezbollah back into the fold of the Lebanese community and help it become a political party." And so Paris remains the main opponent of putting Hezbollah on the European Union terror list.

France had been aching to grab a piece of the honest-broker action in an increasingly turbulent Middle East and impose its politique arabe on the hyperpuissant American rival. Co-sponsorship of U.N. Resolution 1559 was interpreted as evidence of a new Franco-American entente. Having more or less chased Syria out of Lebanon, the newfound chums joined forces to micromanage the current conflict -- which in fact ignited on the smoldering ashes of 1559.

France signed on to a joint resolution consistent with the American-Israeli position and then flip-flopped on every issue. The conditions that France somehow managed to impose on U.S. negotiators did not develop in the course of negotiations. They were enunciated, domestically, from the very beginning and sustained to the last minute. The French public was indoctrinated to swallow every point of the Chirac doctrine, illustrated line by line in the media. For the French, this was not a war against a terror organization acting on behalf of a genocidal and soon nuclear Iran. From the very start, the conflict was portrayed simply as a Lebanese humanitarian crisis, and the only "moral" solution was to declare solve it required an immediate cease-fire to get the evil Israeli army off their backs.

But if diplomacy is more moral than war and better protects us against jihad, how did it lead to a U.N. resolution that is the exact opposite of the original intentions to deprive Hezbollah of ill-earned gains, assert the sovereignty of the Lebanese government, offer Israel through diplomacy the security it was fighting to achieve through military action, and put Iran and Syria on notice that the international community will not be cowered by their heinous projects? Not to mention the kidnapped soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, who remain in Hezbollah's hands. U.S. officials had backed Israel's demand for their unconditional liberation: no dirty bargains, no disproportionate prisoner exchanges. Their names didn't even make it into the body of the resolution.

As the loose-knit promises of 1701 unravel, France insists that Israel release the blockade to allow the free flow of goods -- returning refugees and, inevitably, combatants and arms. Paris is also pushing for the payoff resolution, which will demand mass release of Lebanese criminals held in Israeli jails, and evacuation of the tiny Syrian territory known as the Shebaa Farms, thereby justifying Hezbollah's lie to be a resistance movement against Israeli occupation. This misconceived exercise in multilateral diplomacy under the aegis of the U.N. unfolds as the West totters on the brink of a showdown with Iran. It reads like a fatal error.

Ms. Poller, an American novelist, has lived in Paris since 1972.



[NY Times] WASHINGTON, Aug. 24 — The State Department is investigating whether Israel’s use of American-made cluster bombs in southern Lebanon violated secret agreements with the United States that restrict when it can employ such weapons, two officials said.

... The inquiry is likely to focus on whether Israel properly informed the United States about its use of the weapons and whether targets were strictly military. So far, the State Department is relying on reports from United Nations personnel and nongovernmental organizations in southern Lebanon, the officials said.

I guess that's your second hoot of the day. Just curious, who's investigating whether Hezbollah's targets from indiscriminate rocket fire were "strictly military"? Oh, yes, that's right, terrorist organizations like Hezbollah ONLY target civilians. But you won't find any UN or NGO report on that matter, for only Israel, America and the UK are held to such standards.

I suppose it's also a lesson in warfare - Western guilt prevents us from winning any modern conflict. We're far more concerned with public image, 24-hour news cycles and UN criticism (a body filled with representatives of illiberal, unrepresentative governments) then with actually inflicting the carnage required to win wars -- see our wholesale carpet bombing of Japanese and German cities for examples.



Boy, John Kerry - the French candidate who ran for president in 2004 - has a lot of gall in writing in his letter to the Wall Street Journal criticizing George Bush because, "The 9/11 Commission's recommendations to secure our most vulnerable infrastructure remain virtually ignored."

All Democrats, besides Joe Lieberman, lost all credibility in citing 9-11 Commission recommendations a long, long time ago. The 9-11 Commission report - which I encourage all to read - is filled start to finish with criticisms that our intelligence agencies never shared information, acted too slow to respond, and even when knowledgeable of plots were burdened by bureaucracy to act sensibly, generally due to over-reactive interpretations of the laws.

Yet here are the Democrats opposing a long list of programs designed to prevent another massive terrorist attack on US soil, including: The shifting from proactive national defense agencies from reactive law enforcement; detention of unlawful combatants (i.e., terrorists) at Guantanamo Bay; military tribunals of those terrorists; 3rd-Party data mining by the NSA; warrantless eavesdropping of international communications; key Patriot Act components which simply gave to our intelligence agencies the same investigative powers by warrant that law enforcement and grand juries already had when dealing with organized crime, such as Section 215 to attain business records (which Democrats like John Kerry misleadingly portray as indiscriminate searches of you "library records.")

To date I cannot think of a single idea Democrats have themselves created to make our country safer, other than apologism, isolationism or calling for more first responders to help clean up the rubble after the next attack.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Stuart Middle School teacher burns U.S. flags in class

A Stuart Middle School teacher has been removed from the classroom after he burned two American flags in class during a lesson on freedom of speech, Jefferson County Public Schools officials said.

Dan Holden, who teaches seventh-grade social studies, burned small flags in two different classes Friday and asked students to write an opinion paper about it, district spokeswoman Lauren Roberts said.

A teacher in the school district since 1979, Holden has been temporarily reassigned to non-instructional duties pending a district investigation. The district also alerted city fire officials, who are conducting their own investigation.

And blah-blah-blah. The outcome is predictable, ACLU and free speechniks versus a plethoria of other arguments ranging from safety to respect and so on.

Well, let's get to the meat of the issue.

Since lighting a flag on fire is now free speech, would it be okay if the next teacher lit a cross on fire... you know, to "motivate" and "educate" students? No... You think some people might have a problem with that?

So let me see if I've got this straight: The Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that burning a cross is not free speech because it was provocative (and true that is), yet people don't think burning a flag is provocative..?

Good luck clearing that one up for our middle school students...

Or, rather, why don't we just agree that speech is speech and lighting stuff on fire is not.



I read this story and it struck me that Ayaan Hirsi Ali is as courageous as "enlightened" Europeans are cowardly. Once again, people who dare call themselves "liberals" want nothing to do with actually promoting liberty.

Europe’s Loss, America’s Gain
The story of Ayaan Hirsi Ali


Those who know the Muslim world have long maintained that the necessary reforms will occur only when women are no longer willing to put up with the injustices that its culture and customs do to them. Comes the hour, comes the woman. Her name is Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and she was born in Somalia in 1969. In person she is graceful and soft-spoken, determined but not combative. In the language spoken in Somalia, Ayaan means "lucky," and her adventures and pitfalls have elements of a fairy tale in which our heroine has the courage and the intellect to take her life into her own hands and set an example for others to follow. For one thing, she is challenging Muslims to find a modern definition of themselves; and for another, she recently brought down the Dutch government.

Somalia is an almost exclusively Sunni Muslim country, though divided into clans and sub-clans constantly at war with one another over "land, women, horses, and water," as she puts it. In her childhood, the country was in the grip of Mohamed Siad Barre, a typical Third World dictator ruling with the secret police, a self-proclaimed Communist and therefore supported by the Soviet Union. Throughout her childhood, her father was away from home, in exile conspiring with his clan to overthrow Barre. Thanks to this politicking, the family had to move, first to Saudi Arabia, where Ayaan could tell which direction the veiled women were facing only by the pointing of their shoes; then to Ethiopia, and finally to Nairobi in Kenya, where she learned English.

For a good Muslim girl like Ayaan, everything had to follow a preordained course. At the age of five or six, she was strapped down by her grandmother and mother in order for a passing tinsmith or tinker, a male, to circumcise her - in plain words, to mutilate her genitals. This traumatic assault was supposed to make her "pure," but it is only customary, without Islamic sanction. Staying "pure," women are perceived as the bearers of the family honor, and husbands have to be chosen for them by their father because they cannot be trusted on their own and might bring disgrace and shame.

At the age of 17, Ayaan was a firm believer in the Muslim Brotherhood, the movement from which political Islam derives. It was, she explains, as if she had a shutter in her mind. Nevertheless Islam’s obsession with codifying sexual conduct was the original spark of her rebellion. Furtively Ayaan agreed to marry a boyfriend, but she spent only a single night with him before he left to study in Moscow, and they never met again. When the news reached her family, the whole episode was treated as though it had never taken place. Such is the hypocrisy that custom enforces. Soon afterward, Ayaan’s father announced with finality that he had found a husband for her, someone from their own clan, who was now making his life in Canada. On her reluctant way to Canada and her wedding, Ayaan stopped over in Germany. Picking up rumors that Holland was a liberal paradise, out of an impulse of self-preservation she fled there.

All that was required in Holland to obtain asylum, almost unimaginable benefits and subsidies, and finally citizenship, was a little lying - white lies about personal status and motivation. "We refugees invariably tell such lies," Ayaan says, and in print and speech she has often described how she handled this one-way procedure with the authorities. Clan elders from Somalia then tracked her down and held a meeting resembling a trial. If she did not go to Canada and marry the man her father had chosen, she would bring shame on the family and the clan. "The will of the soul," as she told them in a beautiful phrase, prevented her from going through with an arranged marriage. The die was cast. She was in the West now, and on her own.

Inch by inch, she raised the shutter that her upbringing had fixed in her mind. Working as a translator and interpreter, she had insights into the tragic destinies of Muslims driven from their own countries but not integrated in the West. At Leiden University, she studied political science, reading Spinoza and Bertrand Russell. A prestigious think tank advertised for a researcher, and she obtained the job; her talents were recognized; and the VVD, the liberal party - which Americans and others would call a conservative party - put her on its electoral list. As though by the wave of a wand, she found herself a member of parliament.

How was it possible, she had asked herself, that Holland enjoys peace and security and wealth, while Africa does not? "A man’s honor rests between the legs of his daughters and sisters. This is culture?" she further asked with scorn. Increasingly, Islam came to seem stultified, imposing codes of conduct that encourage ignorance and violence. Declaring herself a free thinker, she became one of the most controversial figures in the country. The Caged Virgin, a collection of her essays, has a dedication Voltaire would approve: "To the spirit of liberty. " Apostasy from Islam is forbidden on pain of death, as Salman Rushdie and others have learned. Holland has a million or so Muslims, and Islamist extremists there and abroad have ceaselessly threatened to kill Ayaan. For some time now, she has been obliged to live in protected housing, and bodyguards always accompany her.

In 2004, she made a short film, entitled Submission, with Theo van Gogh, great-great-nephew of the artist, as producer. The film’s subject is the brutal treatment of women in Islam; and its emotional charge derives from her own experiences. Passages from the Koran were projected onto the body of an abused and semi-naked woman. Islamists were quick to incite a scandal, and this precipitated one of the more dreadful of the many recent jihadist horrors. Openly on a street in Amsterdam, a young man of Moroccan origins butchered van Gogh, who had time only to carry the liberal Dutch mode to tragic absurdity by pleading, "Can’t we talk about this?" Brought to trial, and condemned to life imprisonment, the murderer said that he would kill all over again if he had the chance. Ayaan was obviously next on the jihadists’ list.

At which point, Rita Verdonk, minister for integration and immigration, and a VVD-er as well, rehearsed what was an open secret when she accused Ayaan of telling lies to the immigration authorities, and revoked her citizenship, parliamentary immunity notwithstanding. After the van Gogh murder, Ms. Verdonk had arranged the deportation of thousands of illegal immigrants. An ambitious politician, perhaps she believed that she was displaying bureaucratic zeal and impartiality, but her action against Ayaan suggested punishment for upsetting relations between the Dutch and the Muslims in their midst. The scandal immediately changed direction. Ms. Verdonk was depriving the country of an internationally recognized champion of integration and covering it with ridicule. The governing coalition fell apart, and later in the year there will be elections. The Dutch government, like the Spanish government before it, was brought down essentially by the consequences of Islamist terror, and Ayaan is in the eye of the storm.

On a visit to London, she retains her bodyguards, but seems as calm and collected as ever. Her father lives in the city, but refuses all contact with her. In spite of attending an American college in his younger days, he is apparently shackled to Islamic and tribal codes. Her mother, lonely and embittered, lives in the desert region of northern Somalia, and Ayaan says, "Hers is the saddest of sad lives." For Ayaan, a return to Somalia would be tantamount to suicide. Al-Ittihad, an Islamist movement akin to al-Qaeda or the Taliban, is taking power at gunpoint, and she foresees nothing but violence and war. "The country is torn apart." Somalian piracy in the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean is a growing menace to international shipping. The only way to prevent and cure these Third World self-inflicted injuries, Ayaan says, is Western intervention. She further says that the colonial powers left before people were ready to rule themselves, in Somalia as in Iraq and elsewhere. To be able to reach such a conclusion proves that hers is a mind without even the most residual of shutters.

She is now leaving for Washington, to take up an invitation to work at the American Enterprise Institute, the conservative think tank. But did she change things in Holland? "Oh yes. I took away the illusion that only white people are capable of racism." Beyond that, she exposed the extreme weakness of what others have called the continent’s "civilizational awareness." Will Muslim men ever consent to treat women as equals? "That will take a long time and much bloodshed. There is good and evil in human beings, and Islam gives justification to cultivate evil."

Ayaan’s extraordinary career proves that those born into Islam are able not just to contribute to the modern world but to illuminate it. Moral purpose and intellectual curiosity like hers offer a way out of the ever-growing crisis of Muslim alienation and separation. While in Washington, Ayaan will no doubt be productive. She proposes to write a book in which the Prophet Muhammad engages in Socratic dialogues with John Stuart Mill, Karl Popper, and Friedrich Hayek. The story is familiar: Europe’s loss is America’s gain.

Mr. Pryce-Jones, an NR senior editor, is the author, most recently, of Betrayal: France, the Jews, and the Arabs, forthcoming from Encounter.


Thursday, August 17, 2006

[NY Times] Among Democrats, Mr. [Joe] Biden [Dem, DE] is not alone. Across Iowa this week and across much of the country this month, Democratic leaders have found a new rallying cry that many of them say could prove powerful in the midterm elections and into 2008: denouncing Wal-Mart for what they say are substandard wages and health care benefits.

... "My problem with Wal-Mart is that I don't see any indication that they care about the fate of middle-class people," Mr. Biden said, standing on the sweltering rooftop of the State Historical Society building here. "They talk about paying them $10 an hour. That’s true. How can you live a middle-class life on that?"

Wal-Mart employs 1.8 million associates worldwide, 1.3 in the US. But to the Neo-Marxist Democrats that's a problem?

Seriously, are 1.8 million people just stupid for choosing to work at the nation's largest private employer? The Neo-Marxists think so.

And where you work is indeed a choice.

If Wal-Mart is as truly uncaring about the fate of its employees, as "Karl" Joe Biden claims, then why do 1.8 million people choose to work there? Why haven't they quit?

And indeed, isn't that the very point of free-market economics - were workers to begin quitting in mass revolt over Wal-Mart benefits Wal-Mart would be forced to change or would fail, just like every other damn business in America! That's the beauty of free-markets: they are self-correcting, and don't require a panel of government "experts," who are immune from firing and thus immune from free markets, to tell them what to do, or what they should demand.

By the way, who ever said that making $10 an hour put you in the "middle class"? Certainly not Wal-Mart. But trying to pin down a Democrat on where lower class ends and where middle class starts, or what dollar amount constitutes "the rich," is harder than trying to tackle Shawn Alexander.

You want to see "uncaring"? Wait until the Neo-Marxists get their way, drive Wal-Marts costs up and force them to start laying off employees.

But that's liberal economics for you - all is well so long as everyone is equal, even if they're equally miserable.



[NY Times] Iran: Police in Tehran Remove Satellite Dishes

Published: August 15, 2006

The police raided rooftops in a residential neighborhood of downtown Tehran and removed more than 100 satellite dishes from apartment buildings. The newspaper Kargozaran reported that a crackdown against satellite television had already begun in at least three other provinces, Gilan, Isfahan and Kurdistan. Satellite dishes - widely used to watch opposition Persian-language programs beamed mostly from the United States - are prohibited by law, but previous governments rarely enforced it, acknowledging that the dishes would sprout back every time the authorities tried to round them up. The government has also increased pressure on activists, most notably the banning this month of the rights group Center for Protecting Human Rights, led by the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi.

Once more the lie of Iranian "democracy" is exposed.

This isn't about Western hegemony, as your average Leftist apologist might say, but about power pure and simple. The world's tyrants believe that state bestows all rights and freedom, or lack thereof. People of the Western classically-liberal constitutional democracy believe that rights and freedoms are self-evident and anointed to us by our birth, and that the only rights of the states are bestowed by the people.



Here's an interesting take from Nadav Morag, a former member of the Israeli National Security Council who now teaches in Los Angeles:

Israel has severely battered Hizbullah's military infrastructure, though certainly not put it out of commission. Nevertheless, the organization has lost a significant number of personnel and medium-range rockets. The organization has also lost, assuming that the present UN cease-fire plan is implemented as promised, its forward deployment positions along Israel's border and, indeed, exclusive control over territory south of the Litani River.

Despite being cheered by many in the Arab world for its willingness to confront Israel and its ability to make life miserable for civilians in northern Israel, Hizbullah's actions have only created greater fear among Arab leaders of Iranian attempts to create a "Shiite Arc" stretching through Iraq and ending on the Lebanese shores of the Mediterranean.

Most important, in the coming months, Hizbullah will discover that it has alienated most of the Lebanese population, including large numbers of Lebanese Shiites, because its aggressive actions produced a harsh Israeli response that has brought the destruction of significant areas and infrastructure in Lebanon, as well as a major loss of life. Ultimately, Hizbullah will come out of this conflict considerably weakened.

I think the odds of Morag's first position - assuming that the UN cease-fire plan is implemented as promised - is higher than me winning the lottery on Saturday.

Seriously, it's the elephant in the room - everyone sees that Hezbollah has no intention of disarming, that the international community both through will and incompetence refuses to enforce that disarmament, and that Lebanese officials - most of whom do Iran's and Syria's bidding - will "trust but not verify" in the reverse of Reagan's famous "trust but verify" statement about trusting the Soviets to disarm. (More on that below)

However, it's obvious that Arab governments and, even more surprising, Islamic leaders, condemned Hezbollah's fight provocation with Israel. Likewise, that Hezbollah may have alienated more people than they endeared to them is certainly possible.



Back to that elephant in the room...

[Wash Times] Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, meanwhile, said in an interview published yesterday that it was up to the Lebanese, not the international community, to force the Iranian-armed Islamist militia to surrender its missiles and other heavy weapons.

...Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, who has achieved heroic status in the Arab world simply by keeping his forces in the fight against Israel for a month, said in an address broadcast on Monday that his militia would not give up its weapons.

Rice is alluding to the fact that the cease-fire her State Department helped put into place has no clause for using the United Nations 15,000-man UNIFIL army to force Hezbollah to disarm. This isn't a UN WMD-seeking crew, dedicated to removing threats. Given that 2,000 UNIFIL members were present from 1982 to yesterday and couldn't stop Hezbollah from attacking Israel, why does anyone think that throwing more numbers at the problem will help?

It's a potential repeat of Beirut 1982, when steady terror attacks turned the resolve of the international community. They fled then, and Hezbollah took charge.

Here's another article:

BEIRUT, Aug. 16 -- Breaking an impasse, the Lebanese government on Wednesday ordered army troops to deploy across southern Lebanon under a compromise arrangement that allows the Hezbollah militia to retain some of its arms caches near the border with Israel.

Military authorities said as many as 15,000 troops would begin taking up positions in devastated southern villages, seeking to defuse a threat to the U.N. cease-fire that went into effect Monday morning after 33 days of warfare between Hezbollah fighters and the Israeli military.

Let's stop right here for a moment. Where the hell was this Lebanese army two weeks, months or years ago? Indeed, this whole damn thing is predicated upon the fact that - we were told - Lebanon's army was too weak to either patrol their border or replace Hezbollah's positions; that they were not ready as a fighting force to take full defense of their own country.

Then, just like that, [poof] they can?

At the United Nations in New York on Wednesday, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni urged Secretary General Kofi Annan to ensure the complete disarmament of Hezbollah and to prevent it from being rearmed by Iran and Syria.

This is a "moment of truth" for the international community, she said. The world cannot "allow Hezbollah to rise again and threaten the future of the region."

...The [Lebanese] government said in a statement that only the army would be allowed to carry weapons in the area. "There will be no authority or weapons besides those of the state," Information Minister Ghazi Aridi said in explaining the decision. But the declaration skipped over the question of whether Hezbollah's weapons, many of them hidden underground, had to be removed or destroyed. Aridi said there would be no confrontation with Hezbollah fighters, who in any case do not carry weapons except in battle and often live in the border villages.

Hezbollah welcomed the army deployment and its ministers voted with the cabinet majority. But political sources involved in the decision said Hezbollah did so on condition that the army pledge not to look closely at whether all of the militia's armaments and missile stores were carried out of the border zone.

The Israeli foreign minister is exactly right -- this is a moment of truth for the UN. They have a unique and fresh opportunity to prove that they are more than just a worthless debating society by using their peacekeeping force to ensure Hezbollah keeps the peace.

But they won't. Does anyone really think that all this cease-fire is is just that - something temporary.

Lebanon is making it pretty clear they will, with a wink and a nod, just take Hezbollah's word that they've disarmed.

And one day, Hezbollah will restart their attacks on Israel.

I remind you of the quote from Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, "I believe that Palestine is an occupied land from the Mediterranean Sea [i.e., Israel] to the Jordan River, and this is the right of the entire Palestinian people, this land."


Friday, August 11, 2006

I just re-read an excerpt from the book Beyond Terror, by former Lt. Col. Ralph Peters, written in October of 2001, that bears repeating... and often at that:

A religio-social society that restricts the flow of information, prefers myth to reality, oppresses women, makes family, clan or ethnic identity the basis for social and economic relations, subverts the rule of secular law, undervalues scientific and liberal education, discourages independent thought, and believes that ancient religious law should govern all human relations has no hope whatsoever of competing with America and the vibrant, creative states of the West and the Pacific Rim. We are succeeding, the Islamic world in failing, and they hate us for it. The preceding sentence encapsulates the cause of the terrorism of September 11th, 2001, and no amount of "rational" analysis or nervous explanation will make this basic truth go away.
Mike Wallace, John Dingell and company take note.


Thursday, August 10, 2006

There's not much else I can add regarding details on this mornings announcement of a suspected terror plot to simultaneously bomb 6-10 transatlantic flights out of Heathrow airport.
However, it sounds like a duplicate of the infamous Bojinka plot.

Bojinka - Bosnian for "big noise" - was devised by the uncle-nephew team of September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and 1993 WTC bomber Ramzi Yousef. It was a highly ambitious plan, even by 9-11 standards. In addition to assassinating President Clinton and the Pope, and murdering 4,000 people in 48 [details were never made clear], the plotters sought to bomb about 12 oceanic airliners using explosive components that they would assemble once aboard.

Indeed, most people have forgotten that in 1994 Philippine Airlines Flight 434 (PAL434) was hit with just such a device. Authorities discovered that none other than Ramzi Yousef - then known for his role in the WTC bombing and at large - was aboard the previous leg of the flight. Yousef assembled the bomb in the plane bathroom and stuck it under seat 26K. It detonated at 31,000 feet, cutting in half and killing 24-year-old Haruki Ikegami, of Japan. The bomb was weaker than Yousef expected, however, and only blew a hole into the cabin floor. PAL434 made an emergency landing at Okinawa.

Points of interest:

* Pakistani intelligence officials reportedly assisted in cracking the investigation wide open.

* As did the US...

* Time Magazine states an obvious but often forgotten lesson - terrorists generally go for the biggest bang for the buck (explosives), not really the big bucks for a big bang (nukes, WMDs, nerve agents, etc.)

* Meet the new Ramzi's: --Rashid Rauf, --Mohammed al-Ghandra, --Ahmed al Khan.

* Weekly Standard's Stephen Schwartz suspects LET (Lashkar-e-Taiba, aka Army of the Righteous)



[CNN] An undercover British agent infiltrated the group, giving the authorities intelligence on the alleged plan, several U.S. government officials said.
Now this could go either way. Sometimes intelligence officials purposely reveal that they have undercover agents in the enemy's midst in order to sow dissent and create distrust within the group. They cannot terrorize if they believe there's a turncoat amongst them.

Having said that there have been a plethora of blabbermouth officials leaking important secrets to the media lately.

I hope its the former and not the latter.


It's commonly referred that former State Department official Larry Johnson deserves a medal for most ill-timed column of the modern era. On June 10, 2001 Johnson wrote a column for the NY Times titled "The Declining Terrorist Threat" - one month before al Qaeda terrorists hijacked four planes, rammed them into buildings and killed 3,000 Americans.

Chalk up Wesley Clark for (dis)honorable mention. Here's my letter to the Wall Street Journal. I'll let you know if they publish:

On the very morning that British authorities broke up a "Bojinka"-style terror plot to simultaneously bomb transatlantic flights former presidential candidate Wesley Clark was lamenting in his WSJ column that Republicans "play the terrorist-threat card" against Democrats.

Despite a few opaque references to "national security" in his column it's telling that the only time Mr. Clark used the word "terrorism" was to cynically imply threat exaggeration.

Thus, if there's a perception of "feckless, antiwar Democrats," who are "not strong enough to protect America," perhaps it's not due to Republican "spin machine" - as Mr. Clark complained - but rather because Democrats seem to discuss terrorism only as it pertains to their political expediency - winning elections - and rarely as the tangible and dangerous threat that existed on the morning of Mr. Clark's feeble accusation.


88-year-old CBS journalist [Mike Wallace] says Iranian president a "reasonable" man on Sean Hannity's ABC radio program... Points out Ahmadinejad not anti-Jewish... just anti-Zionist state. Says many Jews in Iranian Parliament, in great positions in Iranian life... Believes Ahmadinejad sincere in his hope for peaceful coexistence between Iran and West... Troubled by comparisons of leader to Hitler... Marvels at Ahmadinejad's civil engineering degree, 'intellect', 'savvy'... Asks viewers not to bring 'prejudices' to Sunday night '60 MINUTES' broadcast... Proclaims 'discussion' was sincere and not for propaganda purposes...
-- Drudge Report on CBS News' Mike Wallace.

Again, as with John Dingell's statement last week, I say we've witnessed the moral bankruptcy of people who have the gall to call themselves "liberals" - i.e., taken from the word liberty.

Here's Mike Wallace practicing a liberty - freedom of the press - that Iranian "president" Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denies his own people!

Jews in the Iranian Parliament? How magnanimous of the Iranian mullahs, who since their takeover in 1979 have seen their Jewish population decline from 80,000 to about 35,000 today.
Here's a news alert for Mike Wallace: Jews may not occupy high position in either the government, judiciary, military or public schooling. By law Jews receive lower settlements in death and injury lawsuits. The Iranian government restricts freedom of religion - that is, because it allows some religious choice it has the power to take away such privilege (unlike a Western government that sees religion as an unalienable right).

All applicants to Iranian universities must pass a test on Islam and are required to study Islam. According to Freedom House, "The government also launched a crackdown on "social corruption," sending thousands of morality police and vigilantes into the streets to enforce Islamic dress codes and laws prohibiting public mingling of unmarried men and women." Additionally, "In August, a 16-year-old girl was executed after being sentenced to death for "acts incompatible with chastity.'"

Mark Bowden, author of Guests of the Ayatollah, underscores the lack of democracy, liberty and freedom in Iran, and gives a civics lesson that Mike Wallace desperately needs:

The term "republic" is double-talk. The elected government is run by a small group of privileged clerics who decide what candidates and what laws are acceptable, who control the military and the secret police, and whatever else they wish, and who stifle dissent, beating up or locking up those they don't like.

... All laws and candidates for any public post must be approved by him [the Ayatollah] and the Guardian Council, a twelve-member body of clerics and judges that he appoints. The elected government of Iran is a kind of toy democracy that serves at his pleasure. It consists of an elected president, currently the populist ultraconservative former mayor of Tehran, Ahmadinejad, the Majlis, and a judiciary. The mullahs tolerate just enough of a semblance of democracy and freedom to maintain the pretense of a democracy.

... [After Khatami's 1996 election] There was a brief blossoming of free speech and debate, opposition newspapers sprang up, and Iran began to smell the prospect of real freedom. There was heady talk of Iran "evolving" peacefully toward democracy. Khatami encoded the hopes of many in the legislation that would have freed Iran's lawmakers from the veto power of the Guardians Council.

The mullahs stopped that fast. Ayatollah Khamenei vetoed the legislation, which provoked some rioting on college campuses in 2003 and some spontaneous heretical Pro-American displays, but such outbursts were quickly subdued. Early in 2005, the Guardians Council simply crossed all reform candidates off the ballot.

... Writers and artists must be licensed to work for any of the major news outlets, or for their work to be published or shown. A jury representing the ministries of information and culture weighs applicants and decides which pass political and religious muster.

... In the current crackdown more than a hundred reform newspapers and magazines have been banned. Many formerly tolerated journalists are out of work. To attempt any unlicensed work means risking being hauled in to chat with a polished but unyielding middle-management Information Ministry zealot with the power to fire, arrest, torture, and even execute enemies of the state, although in the Land of the Bordbari [Iran], such measures are no longer frequently required. Some writers are silenced by threats to keep their children from acceptance at universities, a critical path to future success.

Without a free press it is hard to know how most people feel about progress toward the umma [community of Muslims].

Perhaps Mike Wallace would like to move to Iran and attempt to practice the trade he takes for granted without a license from the mullahs?

And, perhaps someone can ask Mike Wallace: are the following the words those of a "reasonable" man and a regime that is not anti-Jewish?

* Ahmadinejad: "As the imam [Ayatollah Khomeni] said, Israel must be wiped off the map."

* Ahmadinejad: "How come it is allowed to harm the honor of the prophets in your country, but it is forbidden to research the myth of the Holocaust?"

* Ahmadinejad: "Very soon, this stain of disgrace [i.e. Israel] will be purged from the center of the Islamic world - and this is attainable."

* Ahmadinejad: "But we want to know whether this crime [the Holocaust] actually took place or not...If it did not occur, then the Jews have to go back to where they came from."

* Ahmadinejad: "They have invented a myth that Jews were massacred and place this above God, religions and the prophets."

* Ahmadinejad advisor Mohammad Ali Ramin: "Historically, there are many accusations against the Jews. For example, it was said that they were the source for such deadly diseases as the plague and typhus. This is because the Jews are very filthy people. For a time people also said that they poisoned water wells belonging to Christians and thus killed them... the resolution of the Holocaust issue will end in the destruction of Israel."

Yep, like I said, moral bankruptcy.


Thursday, August 03, 2006

Their [the US Marines] valor is absent from this war because it is not reported. In Fallujah for instance, 100 Marine squads engaged in 200 firefights in cement rooms, using rifles, pistols, grenades and knives. By any historical comparison, this was extraordinary. In Hue City in 1968, there was one fight inside a house. In the entire history of the SWAT teams in the United States, there have not been 200 fights with automatic weapons inside rooms. Yet the courage of our soldiers and Marines in battles in Fallujah, Najaf, etc. received little press notice.
-- Bing West, former assistant defense secretary



A USA Today report claims our national deficit and debt are even worse than originally thought (and I emphasize the word "thought" because journalists have as much use for thoughtful economics as a cat has for pajamas). So eager to plant seeds of economic doubt are the USA Today writers that they even attack the Clinton economy - "The Clinton administration reported a surplus of $559 billion in its final four budget years. The [revised] audited numbers showed a deficit of $484 billion."

Hmmm. Currently our gross domestic product is at $13 trillion annually, with a Clintonesque unemployment rate averaging 5 percent (averaging 5.6 percent since 1948, which helps explain why European nations averaging double-digit unemployment during that time are envious to a fault). But USA Today and the politicians and experts cited in the story won't acknowledge what a great economy we've enjoyed for six decades straight.

Look, talking about debt is meaningless without also acknowledging the assets, right? We all - well, we being everyone except politicians and journalists - remember the law of economics stating N=A-L (Net Worth equals Assets minus Liabilities).

Here's a great quote from Steve Conover (who runs the economics blog The Skeptical Optimist): "They talk as if 'success' means 'avoidance of borrowing and debt,' but never explain why long-time borrowers Donald Trump, Wal*Mart, General Electric, or Uncle Sam have become not abject, debt-ridden failures, but phenomenal success stories instead."


Here's a great and amusing point:

If you think the federal government's debt-pileup is bad, take a look at this publicly-traded company's debt record...

This company has really outdone the federal government in the last decade -- it has multiplied its debt nine times in the last ten years. "What a disaster!" the debt-phobes would say.

This is a sad-looking history of debt, piled on top of debt, piled on top of more debt. Obviously, this company is headed for the scrap heap, right? Ten billion dollars of debt makes this one of the biggest debtor-companies in existence. How can they possibly continue to hang on? This ugly track record must be a huge embarrassment to the stockholders --how could they possibly have been so stupid to invest in such a spendthrift, out-of-control drag on the economy such as this corporation? Bankruptcy must be just around the corner, wouldn't you agree?

Before you answer, I'd better tell you which company we're talking about here. It's none other than... Wal*Mart.

Yes, Wal*Mart. One of the best-managed, fastest-growing, highly-respected companies in the whole world, as well as on the New York Stock Exchange. So well-run that it was recently awarded a spot in the Dow Jones 30 Industrials. Millions of people love to shop at Wal*Mart, and millions love to invest in Wal*Mart.

...Here's what's going on: Debt is a single number. Single numbers don't tell us much when we're trying to evaluate financial health.

So, my friends, as Mr. Conover so subtly points out - don't believe the hype on the US debt. It's an incomplete picture. Remember, N=A-L.

By the way, Conover posts a great clock on his site that measures Debt-To-GDP Ratio: The higher the debt-to-GDP ratio, the less likely the country will pay its debt back, and the higher its risk of default.

According to the D-G-R clock the US is at 65% and falling. While it seems high this is okay because GDP increases faster than debt accumulates. Citing 60% as a reachable and desirable goal, Conover claims that post-WWII was at 120% and 80% would produce warning buzzers. However, the ratio could also become too low - he estimates 40% - because it would indicate that the US was not investing enough - just like Wal*Mart: not enough debt and it means that the business is becoming stagnant.



Here's David Pryce-Jones:

France started its subterranean war with Hezbollah back in 1983 when a Hezbollah suicide bomber killed 58 French soldiers peacekeeping in Beirut. A tit-for-tat sequence of events then began, with French reprisals - most of them bungled - and Hezbollah murders of French diplomats and civilians in France. While authorizing these attacks, Ayatollah Khomeini had the gall to denounce France as "a terrorist state." Why does France think it can do any better now? For its foreign minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy, to describe Iran as a "stabilizing influence" goes beyond mere appeasement and defies reality. No matter what the consequences, once again there is evidently no limit to French ambitions to cut a more important figure in the world than the United States.
Yes, but remember the five levels of the French Terror Alert System:

1 - Appeasement
2- Surrender
3- Capitulate
4- Run
5- Hide



Well, it's a week late but I couldn't help but notice this ridiculous claim made by Leslie Gelb in last week's Wall Street Journal: "In 1996, Secretary of State Warren Christopher tapped the table vigorously in Damascus to arrange the cease-fire that endured until last month."

Ah, drink that Clinton Kool-Aide, my friend, but I'll have none of it. It's expected that the center/center-left Council on Foreign Relations would attempt to elevate its self-importance in past foreign affairs but claiming that there was a "cease-fire" between Hezbollah and Israel is a joke of immense proportions.

According to a CNN report from that very day (April 26, 1996), "Minutes before the truce between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas began, a Katyusha rocket slammed into a building in northern Israel."

Wow, that's some truce!

Hezbollah launched multiple rocket attacks against Israel in 1997, 1998 and 1999. In May 2000, Secretary General Kofi Annan personally announced to the UN Security Council "that Israeli forces have withdrawn from Lebanon in compliance with [UN Security Council] resolution 425 (1978)."

Did that stop Hezbollah? No, they refused to recognize the UN's "blue line," and then kidnapped three Israeli soldiers and one businessman. In fact, from May 2000 until "last month," Hezbollah routinely both fired rockets into Israel and crossed the blue line to attack its troops and citizens.

This year alone Hezbollah fired mortars and rockets at Israel in February and May - months before it abducted the two Israeli soldiers which pundits routinely mislabel as the "start" of this conflict.

It seems rather odd, then, to champion a 1996 Warren Christopher cease-fire that never was.

Of course, peace presupposes that all sides want it - clearly Hezbollah never did.



But Peace does not equate to LIBERTY! Why rational people side with Israel is because they understand that Israel is a liberal democratic state whereas Hezbollah and its state sponsors in Iran and Syria fight to prevent both liberty and democracy. Yes, Israel makes mistakes as any state does - but when it does so its citizens, whose liberty is not bestowed by the state as in Iran or Syria but is rather self-evident and granted by birth, may elect other leaders. This is not such in the military dictatorship of Assad's Syria or the illiberal theocracy of the Ayatollah's Iran. This is the critical difference and is what separates us from them - likewise, it is also what keeps their citizens in misery and why we must not just fight to prevent that misery from spreading to the West but fight to better the lives of those who do not enjoy what we do. We learned from 9-11 we must be proactive, not defensive.

[WSJ] Islam and Rape
August 3, 2006; Page A6

Women who are raped can face legal difficulties anywhere in the world. And nowhere is that more true than in the Muslim world, where a few countries -- including Saudi Arabia, Iran and Sudan -- still incarcerate or execute raped women. Now Pakistan has a chance to set an example and change this despicable practice.

We're referring to "Hudood," a set of Quranic laws whose name is derived from "hud," meaning "punishment." While national versions differ, most Hudood laws legalize the prosecution of a woman for fornication if she cannot prove a crime was committed. In Pakistan, four Muslim men must have witnessed the event, and testify for the victim. If the woman can't produce those witnesses, she can be prosecuted for alleging a false crime. Penalties include stoning to death, lashing or prison.

Pakistan's Hudood laws were enacted under former President Zia ul-Haq in 1979, in his attempt to appease growing Islamist sentiment. In contrast to Indonesia and Malaysia, which have Hudood laws but essentially ignore them, Pakistan's laws have been enforced. Stoning and lashing are rare, but more than 2,000 Pakistani women now languish in jail, at last count, for Hudood violations.

Reforming Hudood is one of President Pervez Musharraf's most formidable challenges. Pakistan's hardline Islamic political parties, including the six-party religious opposition coalition that controls 60 of 342 seats in the National Assembly, are vehemently opposed to repeal or revisions to Hudood. Jamaat-e-Islami, the largest Islamist party in the coalition, has been particularly vocal.

A Muslim himself who sits atop a fragile political coalition, General Musharraf has already taken some action. Last month, he issued a decree that made 1,300 women awaiting trial on Hudood violations eligible for bail. To date, only about 300 have been released. This month the National Assembly is expected to review further amendments. The issue is so divisive that the law ministry won't publicly disclose details of the amendments, for fear the opposition will kill the proposal before it gets to parliament.

The government has a good case to press. According to official statistics, about 80% of the women currently in prison were convicted under Hudood laws. It's thought that thousands of rapes go unreported each year for fear of arrest or retribution. In March, 1,000 women demonstrated outside of parliament in Islamabad, demanding Hudood's repeal, while some 5,000 also rallied in Multan, a city in eastern Punjab. Among the latter rally's leaders was Mukthar Mai, who was gang-raped in 2002 by order of a village council as retribution for her 13-year-old brother's illicit affair with a woman of a higher caste. The event embarrassed Pakistan internationally and ignited a movement to repeal the law.

Mr. Musharraf must balance the wishes of Pakistan's hardline Islamic parties and the country's more moderate elements. Pakistan's nonreligious political parties command about 80% of the popular vote and represent a younger generation, who presumably are less concerned about punishments prescribed a thousand years ago than with democratic, fair policies. In revamping its Hudood laws, Pakistan has a chance to set an example for its Muslim peers.


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