Sunday, April 30, 2006

Ferment Over 'The Israel Lobby'

In a very worthwhile article by Phillip Weiss in The Nation, the author elaborates on the backdrop of Walt and Mearheimer's American heresy ("The Israel Lobby"), their personalities and the problems surrounding actually getting the paper published. A few excerpts:

The shock waves from the article continue to resonate. The initial response was outrage from Israel supporters, some likening the authors to neo-Nazis. The Anti-Defamation League called the paper "a classical conspiratorial anti-Semitic analysis invoking the canards of Jewish power and Jewish control." University of Chicago Professor Daniel Drezner called it "piss-poor, monocausal social science." Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz said the men had "destroyed their professional reputations." Even left-leaning critics dismissed the piece as inflammatory and wrong. As time passed (and the Ku Klux Klan remained dormant), a more rational debate began. The New York Times, having first downplayed the article, printed a long op-ed by historian Tony Judt saying that out of fear, the mainstream media were failing to face important ideas the article had put forward. And Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's former chief of staff, praised it at the Middle East Institute for conveying "blinding flashes of the obvious," ideas "that were whispered in corners rather than said out loud at cocktail parties where someone else could hear you."

Given the paper's parentage, the ferment over it raises political questions. How did these ideas get to center stage? And what do they suggest about the character of the antiwar intelligentsia?

Let's begin with the personalities. The more forceful member of the duo (and the one who would talk to me), Mearsheimer, 58, is by nature an outsider. Though he spent ten years of his youth in the military, graduating from West Point, he wasn't much for tents and guns even as he latched on to David Halberstam's book The Best and the Brightest because it explained a horrible war. Out of pure intellectual curiosity Mearsheimer, who had become an officer in the Air Force, enrolled in graduate school classes at the University of Southern California. Today he is a realist powerhouse at the University of Chicago, publishing such titles as Conventional Deterrence. Like Mearsheimer, Walt, 50, grew up in privilege, but he is a courtly and soft-spoken achiever. Stanford, Berkeley and Princeton figured in his progress to Harvard. "I think Steve enjoyed moving into institutional roles," says one academic. "Steve likes a good argument, but unlike John he can be polite. John enjoys the image of the bomb thrower."

Mearsheimer was hawkish about Israel until the 1990s, when he began to read Israel's "New Historians," a group of Israeli scholars and journalists (among them Benny Morris, Avi Shlaim and Tom Segev) who showed that Israel's founders had been at times ruthless toward Palestinians. Mearsheimer's former student Michael Desch, a professor at Texas A&M, recalls the epiphany: "For a lot of us, who didn't know a lot about the Israel/Palestine conflict beyond the conventional wisdom and Leon Uris's Exodus, we saw a cold war ally; and the moral issue and the common democracy reinforced a strong pro-Israel bent." Then Desch rode to a conference with two left-wing Jewish academics familiar with the New Historians. "My initial reaction was the same as John's: This is crazy. [They argued that] the Israelis weren't the victims of the '48 war to destroy the country. Ben-Gurion had real doubts about partition. Jordan and Israel talked about dividing up the West Bank together. All those things were heretical. They seemed to be coming from way, way out in left field. Then we started reading [them], and it completely changed the way we looked at these things." Mearsheimer says he had been blinded by Uris's novel. "The New Historians' work was a great revelation to me. Not only do they provide an abundance of evidence to back up their stories about how Israel was really created, but their stories make perfect sense. There is no way that waves of European Jews moving into a land filled with Palestinians are going to create a Jewish state without breaking a lot of Palestinian heads.... It's just not possible."

Mearsheimer and Walt had plenty of ideological company. After 9/11, many other realists were questioning American policy in the Mideast. Stephen Van Evera, an international relations professor at MIT, began writing papers showing that the American failure to deal fairly with the Israel/Palestine conflict was fostering support for Al Qaeda across the Muslim world. Robert Pape, a professor down the hall from Mearsheimer at Chicago, published a book, Dying to Win, showing that suicide bombers were not religiously motivated but were acting pragmatically against occupiers.

The writer Anatol Lieven says he reluctantly took on the issue after 9/11 as a matter of "duty"--when the Carnegie Endowment, where he was a senior associate, asked him to. "I knew bloody well it would bring horrible unpopularity.... All my personal loyalties are the other way. I've literally dozens of Jewish friends; I have no Palestinian friends." Lieven says he was a regular at the Aspen Institute till he brought up the issue. "I got kicked out of Aspen.... In early 2002 they held a conference on relations with the Muslim world. For two days nobody mentioned Israel. Finally, I said, 'Look, this is a Soviet-style debate. Whatever you think about this issue, the entire Muslim world is shouting about it.' I have never been asked back." In 2004 Lieven published a book, America Right or Wrong, in which he argued that the United States had subordinated its interests to a tiny militarized state, Israel. Attacked as an anti-Semite, Lieven says he became a pariah among many colleagues at the Carnegie Endowment, which he left for the fledgling New America Foundation.

Yet another on this path was the political philosopher Francis Fukuyama, a neoconservative-turned-realist. In 2004 he attended Charles Krauthammer's speech at the American Enterprise Institute about spreading democracy and was shocked by the many positive effects Krauthammer saw in the Iraq War. Fukuyama attacked this militaristic thinking in an article in The National Interest. He wrote with sympathy of the Palestinians and said the neoconservatives confused American and Israeli interests. "Are we like Israel, locked in a remorseless struggle with a large part of the Arab and Muslim world, with few avenues open to us for dealing with them other than an iron fist?... I believe that there are real problems in transposing one situation to the other." Krauthammer responded in personal terms, all but accusing Fukuyama of anti-Semitism. "The remarkable thing about the debate was how oblique Frank's reference to the issue was and how batshit Krauthammer and the other neoconservatives went," says Mike Desch. "It is important to them to keep this a third rail in American politics. They understood that even an elliptical reference would open the door, and they immediately all jumped on Frank to make the point, 'Don't go there.'" It seems to have worked. The soft-spoken Fukuyama left out the critique of the neocon identification with Israel in his recent book, America at the Crossroads.

Something in Mearsheimer's spirit would seem to be fulfilled in upsetting people by expressing ideas that he deeply believes. "When you write about this subject and you're critical of Israeli policy or critical of the US-Israel relationship, you are invariably going to be called an anti-Semite," he says. When I said he had autonomy as a professor to enjoy "free discourse" in this country, he said, "What free discourse in the United States? What free discourse are you talking about?" Mearsheimer's friend Van Evera criticizes him for allowing his legitimate anger over being shut out of the discourse to affect the tone of the article. But Mearsheimer was expressing his sharp personality; and doesn't passion give life to an argument?

The authors have gotten support from hundreds of e-mails, three-quarters of which congratulate them, Mearsheimer says. Foreign-service officers in Washington who are frightened by the neoconservative program are said to be excitedly passing the article around. The European left has also welcomed the paper, saying that these issues must be discussed. And even in Israel the article has had a respectful reading, with a writer in Ha'aretz saying it was a "wake-up call" to Americans about the relationship.


Mearsheimer and Walt at times were simplistic and shrill. But it may have required such rhetoric to break through the cinder block and get attention for their ideas. Democracy depends on free exchange, and free exchange means not always having to be careful. Lieven says we have seen in another system the phenomenon of intellectuals strenuously denouncing an article that could not even be published in their own country: the Soviet Union. "If somebody like me, an absolute down-the-line centrist on this issue--my position on Israel/Palestine is identical to that of the Blair government--has so much difficulty publishing, it's a sign of how extremely limited and ethically rotten the media debate is in this country."

Not quite sure about the "centrist position of the Blair-government though...

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IDF Resumes Gaza Shelling

Israel Defense Forces resumed artillery strikes on the Gaza Strip on Monday morning after Palestinians fired a Qassam rocket at Israel. No injuries were reported from the rocket.

Palestinian sources reported that seven people were injured from IDF artillery fire on Saturday, Israel Radio reported.

The IDF shelling on Qassam rocket launching sites in the Gaza Strip began Friday night and continued well into Saturday.

I was a drafted artillery gunner (155 mm, self-propelled) some twenty years ago and even back then, without GPS and digitised maps, long range shelling was remarkably accurate. We usually missed a couple of shots at the start of fire, during which a Forward Observer would correct the shelling. Today, with GPS and computerised targeting, these pieces practically aim themselves, with no need for Forward Observers or analogue topology. I've seen such American pieces in action during Nato manoeuvres in West Germany, with my own eyes. An American soldier told me: "they practically shell while we sleep".

This then begs the question: why are there so many Palestinian casualties? Are the IDF doing everything they can to avoid collateral damage, when deploying such a potentially deadly weapon?

Not according to this article in YnetNews:
A recent order given to IDF forces to fire shells closer to the homes of Gaza residents is illegal and should be rescinded, according to a High Court of Justice petition filed by six human rights groups Sunday.

"The order given to IDF forces to aim shells to a distances of only 100 meters (roughly 300 feet) from residents' homes harms the lives of civilians and places officers and soldiers at risk of committing war crimes," the petition charges.

Earlier, the minimal safety range for IDF shelling was 300 meters (about 900 feet) from residential homes. However, according to the human rights groups, recently a new order was given that reduces the safety range.

In recent months, the IDF has been bombing northern Gaza Strip sites in an effort to neutralize Qassam rocket fire.

Perhaps the inordinate rate of shelling further explains the civilian casualties: over 1,400 in one week were reported. To shell, say a mortar position (comparable to a Qassam position), we would normally have fired 1 or 2 so-called rounds (being 6 or 12 shells, 1 or 2 shells per piece with 6 pieces in a battery), then paused.

It seems to me the Israeli shelling is not in agreement with the principle of reasonable (measured) response. The Israelis have the right to defend themselves but with such a barrage going on, innocents invariably get injured or killed. Have any Qassam launch pads actually been hit?

The explosive force of a Palestinian Qassam rocket and an Israeli HE shell are probably comparable. But
Qassams are crude devices, and devoid of a guidance system some end up splashing down in the Mediterranean, most others simply miss without causing injury or damage. In contrast, medium-long range artillery fire should be highly accurate.

Do I think it's OK for Islamic Jihad (and possibly other groups) to continue to launch their firecrackers towards Israeli population centres? Of course not and neither do many Palestinians in the area concerned, who've been imploring to stop this futile madness. But an inordinate response by the IDF's artillery is unlikely to improve things. Their kill ratios may be a lot higher than Islamic Jihad's but that's about as "useful" as heavy bombardment gets...

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Daniel Barenboim wants to open Centre for the Study of Arab Music

The world famous conductor, Daniel Barenboim, says he wants to open a centre for the study of Arab music in Jerusalem.

The Israeli pianist hopes the centre will help the Middle East peace process.

Predictably, not every one sees merit in the plan. A Haaretz editor called it "benign but not realistic".

BBC interview (video) with Daniel Barenboim on the plan for a centre for the study of Arab music.

Accoding to Yisrael Mehad Barenboim is also considered as follows:
Daniel Barenboim is a Jewish conductor who attracts lightning, most recently when an Israeli minister called him “a real Jew-hater, a real anti-semite”. [Ahem].

It's clear that Barenboim's plan isn't exactly going to change the way most Palestinians and Israeli Jews perceive each other, certainly not overnight. But every little helps. Over the past decades both sides have dehumanised and even demonised each other. This deviant perspective isn't just based on hostility caused by the past and current geo-political situation in Israel/Palestine, it also further fuels that same hostility. So Barenboim's initiative gets my wholehearted thumbs up. Now let's hear some results too...

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Saturday, April 29, 2006

Official: Sweden Joins Islamic Axis of Evil

From Haaretz.

Foreign Ministry Director-General Ron Prosor on Thursday summoned Swedish Ambassador to Israel Robert Rydberg to clarify Stockholm's decision to withdraw from a NATO international air force exercise because of Israel's participation, as well as reports that the Scandinavian country was planning to grant visas to two Hamas representatives.

Sweden called off its participation in the air force exercises to take place in Italy next month because of the involvement of the Israel Air Force in the drills.

Prosor told Rydberg that those who do not see Israel as a legitimate peacekeeping force could not be surprised that Israel does not view them as having legitimate involvement in the Middle East peace process.

He told the ambassador that Israel had received reports that Sweden intended to be the first European state to grant visas to Hamas officials, which would be seen as bestowing legitimacy on a terrorist organization.

Prosor replied that the envoy's remarks were "insulting and unacceptable."

One government source said, "The lack of sympathy for Israel in Sweden is out of proportion. Some government ministers spearhead the most anti-Israel approach in all of Europe, and particularly in Scandinavia. In meetings between senior Israelis and Swedish ministers, the Swedes refuse to listen to Israel's positions."

National Religious Party Chairman MK Zevulun Orlev, called Sweden's decision anti-Semitic, saying, "Just a day after the commemoration of Holocaust Remembrance Day, an enlightened nation has risen and surrendered to the Islamic axis of evil."
[my emphasis]


Clearly this is proof that anti-Semitism is not only wrong but also logically inconsistent. After all, they seem to have the same idiotic backbenchers in parliament as we have over here... Who is this Orlev nutcase?

It's another example of Israel's "shining light unto other nations", I guess...

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Thursday, April 27, 2006

Why We Cannot Talk With Hamas

Over at, Ran HaCohen in his Letter from Israel points out why most, if not all, reasons invoked by Israel and the West for refusing to negotiate Hamas are dishonest and almost certainly designed to promote Olmert's plans for "unilateralism", also dubbed in politicospeak as "convergence", a "solution" that would give Israel practically carte blanche in defining its borders with the Palestinians. As a relatively moderate non-Jewish, non-Palestinian bystander, I've become increasingly convinced that Ran is right when he writes:

Polls show that a majority of the Israelis support negotiations with Hamas, but official Israel refuses to talk to it, at any level. Israel instead launches a worldwide campaign to persuade all countries to boycott Hamas and to join its military and financial blockade on the newly formed Hamas government. If starving the Palestinian people is the outcome, so be it: the Arabs should learn the price of democracy.

Why can't Israel talk to Hamas? Several arguments are given; are they valid – or just excuses?

1. Because They Don't Recognize Israel

Hamas recognizes Israel de facto: unlike many Arab states in the past that officially referred to Israel as "the Zionist entity," Hamas mentions Israel by name in its notorious charter; but it does deny Israel's right to exist, its existence de jure.

Is this a good reason not to talk to Hamas? Hardly. Hamas' non-recognition may be stupid, childish, and unrealistic: no one really believes Israel will disappear in any foreseeable future, or that non-recognition makes any difference. On the other hand, Israel's apparent insistence on this issue is just as silly, childish, and unrealistic, and for the same reason. If Hamas had the power to annihilate Israel, it would have done so with or without recognizing it first.

Many forget that this game has a precise historic precedent. Just like the Hamas Charter of 1988, the PLO has a charter too, written in 1964, which described the establishment of the state of Israel as "entirely illegal" (Article 19). Nevertheless, Israel had no problem talking, negotiating, signing several agreements, and cooperating widely with the PLO in spite of its charter. While signing the joint Declaration of Principles in 1993, Israel indeed demanded that the charter be changed; but it wasn't changed until 1998, and even the validity of this change was disputed (it was the Israeli government that tried to persuade the public of its validity).

The question of recognition is therefore a fake argument against talking to Hamas. Just like Arafat in his time, Hamas has already released messages about its willingness to recognize Israel, and just like it did with Arafat, Israel could be satisfied with those ambiguous hints and postpone its demand to modify the Hamas Charter to a later stage, if Israel were interested in negotiating with Hamas.

2. Because They Are Terrorists

Legally, this is a very good argument, and has therefore persuaded many countries on the globe to outlaw Hamas. I for one truly believe that terrorism – i.e., violence against noncombatants – is a despicable and unacceptable atrocity. Politics, however, is not about legalism. Israel's political echelon has been doing its utmost to blur the distinction between terrorism and legitimate resistance to the occupation. The Israeli media represent the entire Palestinian resistance to the occupation – by stones or bombs, in the occupied territories or in Israel proper, against soldiers, settlers, or civilians – as "terrorism." Israel's state terrorism – like the present bombing of Gaza, where civilian homes are intentionally within the error-margins of Israel's artillery shelling – are accompanied by propaganda that blurs the concept of terrorism in a similar manner: Israeli politicians and media justify Palestinian civilian casualties by accusing them of supporting violence against Israel, or, in the present case, of not stopping Qassam missile launchers (surely the 9-year-old girl killed in an Israeli shelling last week could have done much more to stop Palestinian militants).

Last week supplied rather embarrassing evidence for this. Israel's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni – a lawyer by profession – mentioned the obvious legal distinction by saying that Palestinians who killed Israeli soldiers were not terrorists. Obvious distinction? Not in Israel: her words provoked an immense scandal, including calls for her resignation, and the minister was reproached for "legitimizing terrorism," no less. In an amusing twist, Livni was then accused of trying to clear her father's name of the "terrorist" etiquette: Eitan Livni was "director of operations" for the Irgun, a Jewish nationalist group that fought against British rule in Palestine. The hidden assumption behind this funny accusation is that the Zionist militias in the 1930s and 1940s did not target civilians – historical nonsense, of course, as historian Tom Segev reminds in his weekly column in Ha'aretz:

"On July 6, 1938, Irgun people snuck a bomb into the produce market on Hamelachim Street in Haifa. […] 18 Arabs were killed and 38 wounded in the operation. Two days later, Irgun people carried out an attack in Jerusalem; four Arabs were killed. Ten days after that, the Irgun returned to the Haifa market: 27 Arabs were killed and 47 wounded."

So terrorism is not a reason for not talking to Hamas – it's just an excuse (and a pretty good one too, alas). One should also remember that Hamas has never struck outside Israel/Palestine, so that any attempt to portray it as part of global terrorism is futile. Moreover, Hamas has been observing, almost without exception, the Tahdiyya or "lull" it took upon itself a year and a half ago. (The Qassam missiles and occasional terror attacks on Israelis are the work of other Palestinian organizations.) There is massive evidence, therefore, that in spite of its radical Islamist rhetoric and its support for terror attacks, Hamas is predominantly a Palestinian liberation movement, which, like so many other liberation movements in history – from the Irgun to the FLN – resorts to terrorism as a (deplorable, but not inherent) tactic.

3. Because They're Corrupt

As if these excuses were not enough, there's now a new argument against Hamas: their newly appointed director-general of the police forces in the Interior Ministry, Jamal Abu Samhadana, is described not just as a terrorist, but as "a corrupt Mafioso." I came across this highly original argument in a column by one Moshe Elad (on Hebrew Ynet), a former senior army officer now in academia. (By the way, a military career is an excellent ticket into Israel's universities: the officer's Palestinian collaborators become the professor's "informants.") The argument is interesting because of its ludicrous transparency: the entire PLO leadership during the Oslo years were in fact Mafiosi, using their close, monopolistic economic ties with Israel's business elite to enrich themselves by exploiting the Palestinian masses; Israel cooperated with them eagerly. It was the PLO's corruption, and its selling out of Palestinian interests to Israel, that made Hamas win the Palestinian elections. What disturbs Israel is not the alleged corruption of Hamas, but the fact that, unlike Fatah, Hamas is not willing to be co-opted.

With Whom Will Israel Talk?

The entire Israeli political spectrum – from Likud and the far Right to Meretz and the Zionist Left – are now in love with imposing a diktat (euphemized as "unilateral measures") on the Palestinians, without any negotiations with them (euphemized as "negotiated with the international community"). There is overwhelming political support for this futile "peace" policy in the new Knesset, and Israel believes the U.S. will give its usual automatic backing. Under these circumstances, a Palestinian partner is Israel's nightmare, not its dream. Palestinian President Abbas is not a Hamas member: he recognizes Israel's right to exist, he deplores terrorism, and he isn't even accused of corruption. Still, Israel refuses to negotiate with him. If we don't talk with Abbas, why should we talk to Hamas, now that we believe we can impose our colonialist visions unilaterally? As long as the pervert vision of "unilateralism" guides Israel's policy, excuses for not talking to the Palestinians will be mass-produced by Israel's propaganda industry.

Closing comment:

It's clear that without a valid negotiating partner, Ehud Olmert will at least be partly pressurised and cornered by that faction of more radical Israelis who see any form of withdrawal as surrender, or even, more absurdly, as "ethnic cleansing". A non-negotiated and one-sided definition of Israeli borders can only lead to a unsatisfactory territorial situation for the Palestinians, giving cause to prolonged and possibly intensified war between the parties involved. Needless to say, militarily Israel cannot lose such a war. But in the longer term, a further entrenched Israel cannot be good for the Israelis, the Palestinians or the Middle East at large.


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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Animation Producer Gets Ugly Slurs - Iraq War


By Matthew Rothschild
April 24, 2006

Ava Lowery is a fifteen-year-old who lives in Alabama. She calls herself a peace activist, and for the past year, she’s been producing her own short animations on her website, All in all, she’s made about seventy of them, she says, and most of them oppose Bush and his Iraq War.

“I was just so mad about it,” she explains. “And the media are not showing the real images of the war, so I did a lot research and started my own website.”

She submitted one of her latest creations, “WWJD,” to the monthly “contagious” contest that is running. (It’s an open contest that ranks the number of viewers for each submission.)

“WWJD” (“What Would Jesus Do”) is a powerful animation that features a soundtrack of a child singing “Jesus loves me, this I know” while one picture after another of a wounded, bloody, or screaming Iraqi child fills the screen.

“The object of the animation,” says Lowery, is “to get the following point across: Jesus loves Iraqis, too.”

Lowery ends the video with quotations from Beatitudes, including, “Blessed are they who mourn” and “Blessed are the meek” and “Blessed are the merciful” and “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

She says she’s received a lot of positive feedback in short messages back to her site. And she understands that the fact that “people are on the web, and they just let loose.” But she was unprepared for the viciousness of the negative feedback—especially the ugly sexual slurs similar to those that Cindy Sheehan has faced. (If you can’t stand foul language, stop reading now.)

“It’s people like you who need to fucking die and get raped while your corpse rots in the sun,” said one e-mail Lowery shared with me. “Fuck you, I would jack off on your parents if I could. If you don’t like the team, get out of the park. That means take ur small dick and get the fuck off of my homeland you faggot chocolate gulper.”

“You are a TRAITOR to your country and should be executed for treason,” another one said. “All you do is bitch about the US. If you hate it so much, why don’t you GET THE FUCK OUT.”

“Why don’t you go masterbate [sic] to a pic of Sheehan and fuck off,” said a third.

“Are you a muslem [sic] terrorist?” asked another.

She says there was a threat against her that was circulating “on the conservative underground.” And she says she received one e-mail from someone who said, “Contact me ASAP. It concerns a danger to your life.”

When her mom called the number, the person who answered denied any knowledge of the threat, Lowery says.

She adds: “I was really weirded out by it.”

Watch the animation. Visit Ava's site. Spread the link.

Hat tip to
Mark From Ireland

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Monday, April 24, 2006

Holocaust Remembrance Day events to begin tonight

Events marking Holocaust Day begin this evening with the central assembly at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, attended by Israeli leaders, Holocaust survivors and foreign diplomats. This year's events will reflect the theme "Humanity in the Shadow of Death."

The state ceremony will include the traditional lighting of six torches in memory of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust. The torches will be lit by Hasia Borenstein, 85, who was born in Poland and was a Partisan and member of the underground; Menachem Frenkel, 70, born in Belgium, who fled with his family to the south of France and hid under a fake identity; Hedy Hirsch, 79, born in Czechoslovakia and sent to Auschwitz and the death march; Uri Hanoch, 78, born in Lithuania, who survived the Kovno Ghetto and several work camps; Esther Burstein, 83, born in Poland, who was sent to Auschwitz and force-marched to Bergen-Belsen; and Kalman Bar-On, 76, born in northern Yugoslavia and sent to Auschwitz, where he was among the Mengele twins.
By Amiram Barkat , Haaretz

May we never forget...


Saturday, April 22, 2006

Dispatches: Spinning Terror

Last night I finally got to see the much acclaimed Channel 4 Dispatches documentary "Spinning Terror", screened on February 20, 2006, thanks to a friend who brought over a videotaped copy.

With Britain facing the greatest terrorist threat in our history, the nation trusts the government to devise policies to protect the nation. But Dispatches reporter Peter Oborne reveals that our trust may be misplaced. He presents the case that the government has reacted to the London bombings by rushing through anti-terror policies motivated by the desire to ward off tabloid criticism, gain electoral advantage and make the government look strong.

Watch the Google video.

Oborne doesn't present anything new regarding Blair's hustled 12-point anti-terrorism plan, the Ricin farce and the Old Trafford fabrication; instead he largely puts the facts in a row and lets them speak for themselves.

Over at they make an excellent job of analysing Peter Oborne's thesis:

This web page has the following sub-sections:

Appeasing The Tabloid Press and Spinning the Need for More Power

The Ricin Plot; Classic Use of Spin and Propaganda

The Plot to blow up Manchester United’s Stadium: Fabrication

Some Ramifications (on poor police and media reporting regarding terrorism matters)

Oborne concludes:

It should be stressed that the Government is by no means solely responsible for this distorted public discourse on terror. The police and, to an even larger extent, the British media organizations have had a reckless attitude. Two key case histories—the “Ricin Plot” and the alleged terrorist conspiracy to blow up Old Trafford football ground—demonstrate the unreliability of both official statements and media reporting about terrorism.

A significant amount of press coverage in the two cases mentioned above was fabrication. But it should be stressed that this level of fantasy and invention was only possible in the first place, and sustainable over time, thanks to official prompting and collusion. Just as it suited Government policy that the “45 minute threat” should gain currency ahead of the invasion of Iraq, so was it helpful to Ministers that the British public should believe that Ricin had been found in a north London flat.

The experience of the past few years teaches us that what the Prime Minister, his Ministers, or the police say on the subject of terror must be treated with great skepticism.

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Friday, April 21, 2006

I Complain, Therefore I still don't Exist...

It's clear the online MSM are starting to take their blogging counterparts seriously. Good, we're here to stay!

The Guardian online today picked up a story from a Palestinian blogger, Laila El-Haddad, in which the unfortunate traveller and holder of a PA issued passport reports Kafkaesque experiences with trying to book a flight online with BA. Turns out that to BA, Palestinians don't exist...

You can read the full story here

Ironically, at the time of writing, The Guardian piece provides a broken link to Laila's blog called "Raising Yousuf: A Diary of a Mother under Occupation". Clearly, to The Guardian Laila's blog also doesn't exist, al least not in terms of providing a working hyperlink to her work.

I've complained to The Guardian about this issue. Will I exist? To be updated soon...

Please find the Laila El-Haddad blog here. There, that wasn't too hard, now was it?

Here's a photograph of the "non-existent" Laila and and her little boy Yousuf. I must be seeing things...

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Tony Bliar on Hamas

Yes, our resident troll on "terrism", Tony Bliar, Bush's lapdog, the British politician who has more innocent blood on his hands than any other in British history has something to say about Hamas.

This man, called a mass-murderer by Harold Pinter, who plunged this nation into offensive wars with two countries that didn't pose a threat to us, is clearly an expert on terrorism.

This quack, who lied and lied about our reasons to go to war in Afghanistan and Iraq and is co-responsible for a seriously increased likelihood of terrorism on British soil, feels the need to give his two cents.

This warmonger and religious nut, who has contributed so brilliantly to plunging the Middle East into further and more violent chaos has the key to peace in the Israel/Palestine conflict.

This terrorism analyst, who is convinced Islamic terrorists have ulterior motives but is unable to come up with any, tells us how it's done.

This lawyer, who seems to have a serious problem grasping the concept of civil liberties, is kind enough to let us partake in his gratuitous "advice".

This wannabe general, who's contributed so much to Britain being seen as a Crusader State by Muslims worldwide, speaks out:

Blair: Hamas must understand terrorism damages peace process (Haaretz)

Hamas must recognize that attacks like the one that killed nine civilians in Tel Aviv set back the Middle East peace process and damage Palestinians' hope for an independent state, Prime Minister Tony Blair said Wednesday.

The Palestinians' new Hamas-led government refused to denounce the suicide bombing earlier this week by another militant group, Islamic Jihad. Blair said Hamas must recognize Israel and forego violence.

"I hope very much that Hamas realize that those who kill innocent people in this way, by this type of attack that happened in Tel Aviv, are wicked and irresponsible, but more than that that they do absolutely nothing to further the process of peace in the Middle East or the two-state solution that we all want to see," Blair said in his weekly House of Commons question session.

The European Union has suspended direct aid to the Hamas government but says it will try to find ways to continue humanitarian support.

Blair said the international community "stands ready and willing to take forward a negotiated solution on the basis of a fair deal that allows for an independent, viable Palestinian state provided that Hamas in turn are prepared to recognize the State of Israel and to give up violence that does nothing to make this process work and does everything to harm it," he said.

Increasingly I'm beginning to believe the Bliar isn't only a disingenuous spinner but also, alas, not particularly bright (brighter than Bush but no prizes for that achievement).

To just about everybody it must be clear that Palestinian armed struggle against the Israeli Occupation of their land is futile and counter-productive. It's futile because this is a war that cannot be won militarily. It's counter-productive because it gives the Israelis any excuse they need to block any negotiations and sets them on a collision course with the undoubtedly ill-fated "convergence" solution of Olmert.

But the US and EU decision to cut funding to the PA to try and force Hamas to recognise Israel and forego violence, is nothing short of the moral equivalent of shelling innocents. When the PA runs completely out of money, expected to happen as early as next month, we can expect chaos on the ground.

By their half-hearted promises of increased humanitarian aid the quartet are in fact admitting the funding cut is unnecessarily cruel and pointless.

This is post-Kuweit Iraq all over again: impose sanctions that hit the population, then try and relieve suffering with the Oil for Food programme.

Who seriously expects that Hamas will now throw up their hands in the air and comply with these demands? If anything will be achieved it will be further entrenching of Hamas' position.

Let's not forget that Hamas has largely observed a year long, unilaterally declared ceasefire. That it has offered a longer term truce. That its process of politisation will almost certainly soften its line, given some time to readjust and find its feet.

On the face of it the demand that Hamas recognise Israel makes sense. But Bliar and friends conveniently forget that only two members of the Arab League of Nations recognise Israel: Jordan and Egypt. Several key Muslim allies in the West's "war on terror", like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and UAE, do not do so either.

The West will never learn...

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

American Jewish Petition: Bring the Settlers Home...

A page of the influential Israeli newspaper Haaretz features a prominent ad for a petition, calling on the US government to urge the Israeli government to reverse its policy vis-à-vis the Jewish settlers in the West Bank:

We call upon the US government:

To urge the Israeli government to reverse its longstanding policy of offering financial inducements to Israeli settlers in the West Bank and to redirect those funds to settlers who are now willing to return voluntarily to Israel proper;

To provide generous foreign assistance and to solicit contributions from the European Union, other major industrial democracies, and the United Nations for this massive relocation effort

Look at the Petition here. Over 12,000 signatures at the time of writing.

The site offers possibilities for non-Jews and non-Americans to also support this cause.


Monday, April 17, 2006

The Israel Lobby Continued

In a paper of some time ago by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt of Harvard, titled The Israel Lobby the authors point to the existence of a powerful American pro-Israel lobby whose purpose it is to influence US foreign policy vis-à-vis the Middle East and the Israel/Palestine conflict in particular.

The paper caused a furore and a storm of protest, mainly from that same Israel lobby. Mearsheimer and Walt were quickly accused of concocting a new "Jewish Conspiracy" theory, as well as receiving poorly veiled allegations of anti-Semitism. Academic rebuttals by Alan Dershowitz and to a lesser extent Noam Chomsky (amongst others) did nonetheless correctly point out that the paper exaggerated the influence of the lobby, which in parts is described as practically dictating US foreign policy. No single special interest group or lobby is in my view likely to exert that kind of overwhelming influence.

But that such a loose coalition of pro-Israel individuals, organizations and pressure groups exists, only a blind person would deny. And that it exerts influence is a logical conclusion: that is what pressure groups and lobbies do.

It is clear to me that the influence this lobby exerts on US foreign policy with regards to Israel is often not in the national US interest (or the world's interest, for that matter).

The Council for the National Interest Foundation is now putting a full page ad on the Israeli lobby in the NY Times.
Download the one page *.pdf here to view the ad.

Expect more flames...

Hat tip to
Sabbah's blog

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All You Ever Wanted to Know About Bunker Busters but Were Afraid to Ask

Will war against Iran be the logical consequence if the "diplomatic" efforts fail? No one knows with any certainty. Plans for war are constantly being honed, war games constantly being played out. One scenario involves the so-called bunker busters, in particular those containing a tactical nuclear warhead, the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (RNEP) in milspeak. One resource illustrates and explains what these little beauties can('t) achieve, in an animated presentation. At the end of the "show" follow the links for more detailed information on various aspects of the RNEP.

View the animated presentation on bunker busters

Sign a petition against war on Iran (currently over 2,000 signatures a day)

Or pick up an anti-war poster

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Saturday, April 15, 2006

AfterDowningStreet Petition on Iran

Whilst I'm pretty certain that an attack on Iran is far from imminent, the sabre rattling goes on and the military option "remains on the table". As another blogger put it: it's entirely possible that both parties will eventually talk each other into the use of force. This would be an even bigger mistake than the invasion of Iraq and for very similar reasons.

I'm not a great believer in petitions but every little helps and have now lauched an appeal to all who oppose military action in Iran.

Sign the petition opposing attack on Iran

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Friday, April 14, 2006

Faith Schools March On, Secularism on the Run

Polly Toynbee in The Guardian on faith schools, secularism, "intelligent" design, trust schools, Labour and Tony the Baptist. Read it.
But how odd that in this heathen nation of empty pews, where churches' bare, ruined choirs are converted into luxury loft living, a Labour government - yes, a Labour government - is deliberately creating a huge expansion of faith schools. There is all the difference in the world between teaching children about religion and handing them over to be taught by the religious. Just when faith turns hot and dangerous, threatening life and limb again, the government responds by encouraging more of it and more religious segregation. If ever there was a time to set out the unequivocal value of a secular state, it must be now.

This is indeed a clash of civilisations, not between Islam and Christendom but between reason and superstition. The wake-up call came with a BBC/Mori poll showing that, even in this least churchgoing nation, science is on the run: 48% believe in evolution, against 39% who believe in creationism/"intelligent design". If even scientists aren't believed then here is fertile territory for any mad and dangerous theories to take hold.

But instead of standing up for reason, our government is handing education over to the world of faith. It's the same government that went to war in Iraq to install the likes of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani into positions of great power. The man George Bush and Tony Blair see as the best hope for promoting stability and "freedom" in Iraq has just issued a fatwa calling for the killing of all sodomites and lesbians. See "Q. What is the judgment for sodomy and lesbianism? A. Forbidden. Punished. The people involved should be killed in the worst, most severe way of killing." The exiled Iraqi gay campaigner Ali Hili reports that these orders are now being obeyed, with an upsurge in beatings and slaughter of gays in Iraq by religious cadres who have declared all unmarried men over 35 "under surveillance".

The Pope may not call for murder, but the Vatican is directly responsible for millions of Aids deaths by refusing to sanction condoms even in parts of Africa where half the population is infected with HIV, putting out deliberate lies that condoms are useless against the virus anyway. Yet here is the Labour government encouraging religions to take over as many schools as they can, promoting the humbug that values and morality only come with the "ethos" of faith.

Now the teachers' unions fear the faiths will make a grab for many more schools when the education bill puts them all up for potential takeover. Trust status will give sponsors power not just to run the governing body, but to devise their own curriculum. (So forget sex education). Every school that vanishes into the hands of the religions is gone for ever, exceedingly hard for a future government to get back. How can a Labour government be doing this?

It's because religious schools are so popular, the government says, and indeed they are. There may be few bums on seats in pews, but there are queues for the schools whose special "ethos" is called closet selection. God doesn't move in such very mysterious ways: research by the Institute for Research in Integrated Strategies is only the latest to find that C of E and Catholic schools take a lower proportion of free-school-meal children than the average for their catchment area. It means nearby schools have to take more, magnifying the imbalance as an unfair proportion of troubled children congregate in bog-standard schools without the magic "ethos".

Ask most Labour MPs and they abhor the devious abuse of religious schools and the segregation they cause. It's not "choice", since most parents would never choose faith schools if they were not the flag for assembling the better pupils locally. Baroness Morgan, until last year a close Blair ally as No 10's director of government relations, spoke out boldly against religious schools in the Lords. (Note how everyone leaving No 10 suddenly speaks their mind - and it is rarely the mind of their leader.) ICM polling shows that 64% of voters think "the government should not be funding faith schools of any kind" - a surprisingly strong position. So what on earth is a Labour government up to - and why don't Labour MPs refuse to let this happen?

Read full article.

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Iran, Israel, the US and a MAD situation

From American Liberalism blog.

In an interesting article on religion, communism, nuclear deterrence, mutually assured destruction (MAD), Iran, Israel and the US, James Richard Brett draws a poignant conclusion regarding the "Iranian Problem". This is very well written, with a relieving dose of tongue-in-cheek humour, often lacking in pieces regarding the nuclear conundrum.

The author concludes:
It seems clear to me that a Cheney-Rumsfeld "surgical nuclear strike" against several dozen Iranian nuclear installations (some of which may be hardened to withstand multiple megaton nukes) would not necessarily endear the surviving Iranian population to American ways and policies. Few, indeed, would convert to Christianity, and most I suspect would dedicate themselves permanently to a violent disruption and destruction of the Great American Satan. Surgery, although it will certainly disrupt the Iranian nuclear effort is unlikely to be the answer to the "Iranian Problem." Then, what if Cheney and Rumsfeld unleashed a total nuclear war against Iran with the objective of removing Iran and Iranians from the world stage more or less permanently, sending them back to the 10th or 9th century, as the saying goes? Would this solve the problem? It surely would remove Iranian petroleum from the world market. It would cause a plume of radioactivity to encircle the globe for years, causing cancer and other unforeseen problems in countries wholly innocent of the Iranian Problem. It would, by the way, murder millions of innocent Iranians and their children for which even the bellicose Christian god might not be very willing to forgive and forget.

Okay, if surgical strikes are unlikely to break the will of the regime and if utter destruction of the country is an unacceptable policy, what use are nuclear weapons against a country that has none?

None. They are useless.

For Iran nuclear weapons could eliminate Israel, but they would soon find that making the Holy Land radioactive for decades to come would be unacceptable not only to Israel's allies but to millions of Muslims in the region. No, this is not what these feisty Iranians are up to. I think that Iran is hoping to get into a Mutually Assured Destruction scenario with Israel and the U.S. and believes that such a policy will work to their advantage much better than the asymmetric situation that prevails today [my emphasis]. As Cheney and his confreres believe that more war (or at least significant sabre rattling) will solidify their hold on the levers of power in the United States, ... so do the mullahs in Iran. The solution then is obvious. We should seek regime change in both Washington and in Teheran, and we should not go to war with Iran!

Now read the whole thing.

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Thursday, April 13, 2006

Rumsfeld's Critical Quartet


Top US military brass call for Rumsfeld to go. All is not well in the Pentagon...

A fourth former US army general in less than a month today called on the US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, to resign over his handling of the war in Iraq.
Retired Major General John Batiste - who commanded the US 1st Infantry Division in Iraq from 2004 until last year - criticised Mr Rumsfeld's authoritarian style and called for a "fresh start" at the top of the Pentagon.

Last month, Paul Eaton, a former major general who was in charge of training Iraqi forces until 2004, said Mr Rumsfeld was "not competent to lead our armed forces".

He said the US defence secretary had shown himself "incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically", and was "far more than anyone else responsible for what has happened to our important mission in Iraq".

Earlier this month, Anthony Zinni, the commander in chief of the US Central Command and in charge of all American troops in the Middle East from 1997 to 2000, joined the calls for changes at the Pentagon.

Mr Zinni said Mr Rumsfeld should resign for a series of disastrous strategic and political mistakes.

This week, Greg Newbold, a retired lieutenant general who was director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2000 to 2002, criticised "missteps and misjudgments" by the White House and the Pentagon.

"What we are living with now is the consequences of successive policy failures," he wrote in Time magazine.

He said that included the distortion of intelligence in the build-up to war, micromanagement that prevented US forces having sufficient resources to do the job and the alienation of allies.

On Tuesday, General Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said generals had the chance to voice their concerns during the planning of the Iraq invasion.

"We had then and have now every opportunity to speak our minds, and if we do not, shame on us," he said at a Pentagon briefing.


Juan Cole on Bush and Ahmedinejad: Weapons of Mass Disinformation

Via Juan Cole blog.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Iran Can Now Make glowing Mickey Mouse Watches

Despite all the sloppy and inaccurate headlines about Iran "going nuclear," the fact is that all President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday was that it had enriched uranium to a measely 3.5 percent, using a bank of 180 centrifuges hooked up so that they "cascade."

The ability to slightly enrich uranium is not the same as the ability to build a bomb. For the latter, you need at least 80% enrichment, which in turn would require about 16,000 small centrifuges hooked up to cascade. Iran does not have 16,000 centrifuges. It seems to have 180. Iran is a good ten years away from having a bomb, and since its leaders, including Supreme Jurisprudent Ali Khamenei, say they do not want an atomic bomb because it is Islamically immoral, you have to wonder if they will ever have a bomb.

The crisis is not one of nuclear enrichment, a low-level attainment that does not necessarily lead to having a bomb. Even if Iran had a bomb, it is hard to see how they could be more dangerous than Communist China, which has lots of such bombs, and whose Walmart stores are a clever ruse to wipe out the middle class American family through funneling in cheaply made Chinese goods.

What is really going on here is a ratcheting war of rhetoric. The Iranian hard liners are down to a popularity rating in Iran of about 15%. They are using their challenge to the Bush administration over their perfectly legal civilian nuclear energy research program as a way of enhancing their nationalist credentials in Iran.

Likewise, Bush is trying to shore up his base, which is desperately unhappy with the Iraq situation, by rattling sabres at Iran. Bush's poll numbers are so low, often in the mid-30s, that he must have lost part of his base to produce this result. Iran is a great deus ex machina for Bush. Rally around the flag yet again.

If this international game of chicken goes wrong, then the whole Middle East and much of Western Europe could go up in flames. The real threat here is not unconventional war, which Iran cannot fight for the foreseeable future. It is the spread of Iraq-style instability to more countries in the region.

Bush and Ahmadinejad could be working together toward the Perfect Storm.

Juan Cole is Professor of History at the University of Michigan.

Comment: what all this has to do with "glowing Mickey Mouse Watches" (for which you would need tritium) I fail to see, but this is a fairly straight talking analysis nonetheless.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Iran's Uranium Enrichment: The Times Get it Wrong

In a piece called We've started to enrich uranium, Iran tells world
by Tom Baldwin in Washington and Bronwen Maddox, The Times get it horribly wrong.

The caption of a photograph leading the article reads:
A 4.5 kilogram [button] of enriched uranium: about five times this quantity is needed to make a nuclear bomb. Iran said yesterday that it was now successfully enriching uranium and had 'joined the nuclear club'

This is hopelessly disingenuous on two levels. Firstly, the degree of enrichment isn't mentioned, yet everything depends on it.

Enriched Uranium (EU) comes mainly in two varieties:

  • EU for energy production in civilian reactors: it contains typically between 3 and 5 w% of U235, the fissile Uranium isotope which makes the process of nuclear fission possible. The balance is made up of U238, a non-fissile Uranium isotope.

  • Highly enriched EU (HEU): containing at least 85 w% of the fissile isotope, for use in nuclear weapons

It's important to note that natural Uranium contains only about 0.7 w% of U235, hence the need to increase the concentration of the fissile isotope, a process referred to as enrichment.

The EU Iran paraded so proudly yesterday was of the civilian type:
two canisters were shown that presumably contain small amounts of Uranium hexa fluoride (aka hex, chemically UF6) enriched to about 3.5 w% of U235 (do click this link: it's a funny blogpost).

Whilst it's true that a nuclear weapon would need about 20 - 25 kg of EU, the required grade is the HEU type (> 85 w% U235), NOT the civilian 3.5 w% Iran is now starting to produce.

Secondly, the first impression the reader gets is that Iran now possesses 4.5 kg of 3.5w% EU but that wasn't stated and is unlikely: it would mean Iran's centrifuges have already enriched over 100 kg of natural Uranium to 3.5 w% EU, with only one cascade of an estimated 180 centrifuges (the photo above is of Urenco centrifuge cascade).

By the way, to produce 22.5 kg of HEU, Iran needs to enrich about 3 tonnes of natural Uranium. To do so in a reasonable amount of time, would require thousands and thousands more centrifuges, in cascade(s).

Are The Times also beating the drums of war?

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    If ever there was a nation not to drive to extremes, it is Iran

    The US and Britain are goading Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, while Blair's jihadist rhetoric is inciting a fourth crusade

    Simon Jenkins
    Wednesday April 12, 2006
    The Guardian

    This week's most terrifying remark came from the foreign secretary, Jack Straw. He declared that a nuclear attack on Iran would be "completely nuts" and an assault of any sort "inconceivable". In Straw-speak, "nuts" means he's just heard it is going to happen and "inconceivable" means certain.

    A measure of the plight of British foreign policy is that such words from the foreign secretary are anything but reassuring. Straw says of Iran that "there is no smoking gun, there is no casus belli". There was no smoking gun in Iraq, only weapons conjured from the fevered imagination of Downing Street and the intelligence chiefs. It is a racing certainty that Alastair Campbell look-alikes are even now cajoling MI6's John Scarlett into proving that Iran is "far closer" to a bomb than anyone thinks.

    As for a casus belli, there was also none in Iraq. Tony Blair had to beat one out of the hapless attorney general before his generals would agree to fight. But Iran's casus belli was set out in unambiguous terms by the prime minister in his speech to the Foreign Policy Centre in London on March 21. Blair was updating his 1999 Chicago doctrine of global intervention. Then it was justified by humanitarianism and was optional. Now it is vital for the "battle of values ... a battle about modernity". Those who are not of our values are to be subject to pre-emptive attack.

    Blair demanded that the west become "active not reactive" against alien values (obviously Islamic) as "we risk chaos threatening our stability". The crusade against them was "utterly determinative of our future here in Britain". He accepted that Britain should seek international agreement before going to war, but should still fight without it. People were crying out for democracy. We must bring it to them since "in their salvation lies our own security".

    The speech was full of jihadist rhetoric. Blair's desire to wipe non-democratic values off the map is akin to Iran's view of Israel. But we know that when he says war he means war. The speech was the wildest by a British leader in modern times and was the clearest imaginable statement of a casus belli. He mentioned Iran three times. It was gilt-edged, copper-bottomed, swivel-eyed neoconservatism.

    To such a world view, Iran is a far more plausible target than Iraq. It is a nation approaching 80 million people, whose values would be a real catch for "beacon democracy". Elements within its regime want nuclear weapons. The country is rich and capable of buying the relevant components. The mullahs have sponsored terrorist groups abroad and fiddled elections. In February, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad restarted uranium enrichment at the Natanz plant, in defiance of the UN, and yesterday Iran's nuclear energy chief announced that it had proved successful. What does Straw mean, "no casus belli"?

    Tehran has two more weeks to stop enrichment, after which sanctions seem inevitable. Some ostracism of Iran's ruling elite might lead the parliamentary moderates and clerical oligarchs to force Ahmadinejad to back off for a time. But sanctions will split the world coalition against nuclear proliferation, since Russia and China have close trading links with Iran. The US and Britain would then be back to the same "slide to war" as in Iraq. They would have to decide whether to fight on alone or endure humiliating retreat.

    A land force attack on Iran is, for forces that cannot even hold Iraq, out of the question. But sowing mayhem through bombing military targets (always causing civilian deaths) might instigate enough anarchy to stir a putsch, a regional uprising or more subtle changes within the regime. There are reports of US special forces operating inside Iran and funds being channelled to opposition groups. The US is said to be aiding Sunni Baluchi insurgents in the south, as they once did the Taliban in Afghanistan.

    Bush's description on Monday of leaks about nuclear bunker-busters as "wild speculation" was part machismo, part tautology. Every weapon is an option to a soldier. It would be unlikely even for the Bush government (even with Blair's support) to put the west's status as world policeman back in the stone age. But such talk indicates the brain-scrambling effect of the Iraq war.

    Iran is the first test of Blair's interventionism, and the auguries are not good. Every sabre rattle in Washington must be music to Ahmadinejad's ear. Whether or not a bombing attack might damage his factories, it is unlikely to destabilise his government, rather the reverse. It would heighten nationalist fervour and increase hatred of the west.

    Sanctions that stop Iranians going to conferences or shopping in Knightsbridge are hardly of concern to mullahs. Any nation supposedly forced to "choose between weapons and the economy" chooses weapons (look at the US). The more the west threatens, the stronger is the case of Tehran's hawks for a nuclear arsenal. Iran is within range of five nuclear powers, including the US. What army would not want a deterrent when the world is awash with crazies?

    Confrontation without a willingness to use total force is bluff. Many Iranian hardliners must be itching to cause more trouble in Iraq, threaten tanker lanes in the Straits of Hormuz and set Asian opinion further against the west. As for backing the Baluchi insurgents, this is madness. The most lawless group in the region are, through the Taliban, the chief enemy of British forces in Afghanistan. Is Blair aware that the US is funding his enemies? This whole venture is degenerating into a fourth crusade.

    The much-vaunted neocon campaign for a secure and liberal democracy in Asia is in retreat. It is ailing in Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Pakistan. What might have been gained through security and friendship has been wrecked by the war in Iraq. War puts a premium on paranoia and encourages existing regimes to crack down on dissent. These may be rogue states, but it is time for the west to decide again which are "our rogues".

    One country in the region that has retained some political pluralism is Iran. It has shown bursts of democratic activity and, importantly, has experienced internal regime change. If ever there was a nation not to drive to the extreme it is Iran. If ever there was a powerful state to reassure and befriend rather than abuse and threaten, it is Iran. If ever there was a regime not to goad into seeking nuclear weapons it is Iran. Yet that is precisely what British and American policy is doing. It is completely nuts.

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    Gaza Shelling Continues, 9 Year Old Killed

    There is nothing I can add to this blogpost. Please read it.

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    Palestinians Will Not be Punished with Bird flu

    ... would be a funny headline if it didn't belie a tragic truth.
    Dujarric stressed that "working contacts" between UN agencies like the World Health Organization and Palestinian health officials on issues like bird flu [my emphasis] and humanitarian aid would be kept up to ensure that the Palestinian people are not punished.

    The truth is that the Palestinians are being punished in every possible way, since the democratic election of Hamas.
    The United Nations said Tuesday it has ended its policy of unrestricted political contacts with the Palestinians and will now assess every request for political talks with the new Hamas-run government, which has refused to recognize Israel and renounce violence.

    World Bank officials said on Tuesday that it has also decided to "limit" contact with the new Palestinian government until World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz decides how to proceed.

    With Wolfowitz in the hot seat, G-d help the Palestinians...
    At a heated news conference, the UN spokesman refused to call the new UN policy "a downgrading of UN political relations" and denied that the UN was trying to punish the Palestinians. He also said he saw no contradiction between Annan saying he respects Hamas' victory and the new policy on political contacts.

    Clearly the UN has initiated a new policy of hiring blind spokespeople...

    The simple truth is that an entire people is being held hostage and slowly strangled and the world looks on and loses itself in technicalities and diplospeak.

    Hat tip:
    Les Politiques.

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    Tuesday, April 11, 2006

    Baghdad Blogger: Losing his Country

    Huge mistake

    Stopping short of describing the rising number of Iraqi deaths at the hands of insurgents as a civil war, he says the coalition's stated aims of providing democracy and freedom stand on the brink of complete failure.

    Mothers are too afraid to send their kids to school

    "With the prospect of internal conflict looming ever larger it looks like this has been one huge mistake.

    "What kind of democracy can we have when our politicians are still unable to agree on a government four months after the elections?

    "And as far as freedom is concerned, when mothers are too afraid to send their kids to school, all these big ideas fly out of the window."

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    Monday, April 10, 2006

    Another Terrorist Bites the Dust?

    No, I didn't think so...


    'Unlawful killing' of Gaza Briton

    Tom Hurndall died nine months after falling into a coma.

    A Briton shot dead by an Israeli soldier in Gaza was "intentionally killed", an inquest has ruled.

    Tom Hurndall, 22, from Tufnell Park, north London, was shot in April 2003 as he moved children away from the Israeli army in the Palestinian town of Rafah.

    A soldier has already been jailed for his manslaughter, but Mr Hurndall's family believe blame goes higher up.

    The coroner is to write to the Attorney General about the case and the death of James Miller, shot three weeks later.

    Tom Hurndall died from his injuries nine months after he was shot.

    A five man, five woman jury at St Pancras Coroners Court in London ruled that he had been unlawfully killed.

    The jury said: "He was shot intentionally with the intention of killing him.

    "The jury would like to express its dismay with the lack of cooperation from the Israeli authorities."

    Speaking after the verdict, Anthony Hurndall, Tom's father said: "It's now down to the British Government to take action.

    "There have been five officers of the Israeli army named in the proceedings today and they should be investigated by the government here.

    "British citizens in Israel are not safe, nor are the local civilians safe.

    Private prosecution

    "So, both as a matter to protect British citizens but also as a matter of the Geneva Conventions Act, the British government is obliged to pursue those who commit any war crime and illegal killing is a war crime under the Geneva Conventions Act."

    He said that he would consider bringing a private prosecution against the individuals he believes killed his son.

    Earlier Jocelyn Hurndall, Tom's mother, told the jury, she received an e-mail from Tom hours before his death, saying he wondered what it would be like to be shot and said he was eager to "make a difference".

    Ex-soldier Taysir Hayb is serving eight years in jail for Mr Hurndall's manslaughter.