History Repeating

From Wikipedia:
Mamluks (also Mameluks, Mamelukes) (the Arabic word usually translates as "owned", singular: مملوك plural: مماليك) comprised slave soldiers used by the Muslim caliphs and the Ottoman Empire, and who on more than one occasion seized power for themselves.

The first Mamluks worked for Abbasid caliphs in 9th century Baghdad. The Abbasids recruited them from enslaved non-Muslim families captured in areas including modern Turkey, Eastern Europe, and the Caucasus. Using non-Muslims as soldiers helped partially overcome Islamic prohibitions on Muslims fighting each other. The rulers also desired troops with no link to the established power structure. The local warriors were often more loyal to their tribal sheiks, their families or nobles other than the sultan or caliph. If some commander conspired against the ruler, it was often not possible to deal with him without causing unrest among the nobility. The slave-troops were strangers of the lowest possible status who could not conspire against the ruler and who could easily be punished if they caused trouble.

and from the latest news watching in the WSJ:
There are many ways to interpret the surprise victory of Mahmoud Ahamadinejad, who becomes the sixth president of the Islamic Republic. But one thing is certain: It marks a shift of power within the Khomeinist regime from the mullahs to the military. This is the first time that a mullah, in this case the most prominent of all political mullahs, has been defeated by a virtually unknown nonmullah in a high-profile election.

The defeat of the mullahs is illustrated by other facts as well. All the self-styled grand ayatollahs of Qom endorsed Mr. Rafsanjani, as did both rival wings of the Society of Combatant Clergy. This vast coalition, ranging from Mossadeqists to Tudeh Communists and so-called "religious nationalists" that had helped Khomeini to power in 1979, also campaigned for Mr. Rafsanjani.

Mr. Ahamadinejad exploited the antimullah feeling without any qualms. He spoke of "16 years of decline, despotism and theft." And no one needed reminding that in those 16 years Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had been the "Supreme Guide" while two mullahs, Mr. Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami, had held the presidency for eight years each.

Mr. Ahamadinejad's victory marks the ascendancy of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the half-dozen paramilitary organizations related to it. A regime whose elite has been discredited as a result of years of misrule is forced to bring its military to the fore to meet the political challenges ahead.

What is happening in Iran today has numerous precedents in Islamic history. Many regimes based on religion ended up making a Faustian pact with their military for protection against the people. And in every case the military, once in power, eliminated its masters. Islamic history knows such military rulers as the "mamelukes" -- literally, "the owned ones," individuals who were supposed to serve the caliph but ended up chopping off his head and seizing power for themselves.

There is no doubt that Mr. Ahamadinejad, and beyond him the military elite of the regime, owe their victory to Ayatollah Khamenei, who broke with his fellow mullahs to help the military win the struggle within the regime. Theoretically, Ayatollah Khamenei now controls all the levers of power in the establishment. In reality, however, he is a lone mullah who will be increasingly opposed by the clergy for different reasons. At the same time, because he lacks a popular base of his own, he will in time become a hostage to the new "mamelukes" symbolized by Mr. Ahamadinejad.

The victory of the new mamelukes has not come out of the blue. They have been capturing positions of power at the expense of the mullahs for many years. Right now, 22 of the 30 governors of provinces are new mamelukes. In the Islamic Consultative Majlis, or parliament, the new mamelukes outnumber the mullahs 130 to 63, out of a total of 290 seats. The new mamelukes are also strongly represented in the Islamic Republic's diplomatic service, controlling more than half of Iran's embassies in key capitals such as Kabul, Baghdad and Beijing.


History Lessons

One is a failure to learn,
When Ronald Reagan delivered his 1989 farewell address to the nation, he noted there was "a great tradition of warnings in presidential farewells," and he would make no exception. He told his audience that the "one that's been on my mind for some time" was that the country was failing to adequately teach our children the American story and what it represents in the history of the world. "We've got to teach history based not on what's in fashion, but what's important," he said. "If we forget what we did, we won't know who we are. I am warning of an eradication of the American memory that could result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit."

The other is a failure to remember.
A partial replica of the Berlin Wall at the former Checkpoint Charlie border crossing must be torn down, along with 1,065 crosses commemorating people who were killed trying to escape former communist East Germany, a court ruled Friday.The head of a private group that put up the memorial at the former east-west crossing in downtown Berlin said she would appeal.


Spain's Reign

This is the most sad thing i've read in a long while from Spain.
Bono: Eliminate "war" from Spanish constitution
Defense minister Jose Bono yesterday backed the possibility of removing the three references to the word "war" from the Spanish constitution before Parliament's defense committee. The first reference, in article 15, says, "The death penalty is abolished except under military law during wartime." Bono said that this question is already dealt with in the military criminal code. The second reference is in article 63.3; it reads, "The King has power, under previous authorization from the Cortes (both houses of Parliament), to declare war and make peace." Bono's reply was that since Spain belongs to the United Nations, the King cannot declare war and the Cortes cannot authorize it. According to the UN, "resorting to war to resolve conflicts is prohibited." Bono emphasized that "this has more to do with literature than legality." He also mentioned the UN and the San Francisco charter when he referred to article 169, which states, "Constitutional reform cannot be initiated during wartime." Bono supported these modifications by declaring, "What is not useful and besides is against international law, it might be a good idea for us to modify. This is only my opinion, and it might be overruled." This particular proposal is not part of those suggested in the plan to modify the constitution sent by the Council of State to the administration.

HT to Barcepundit


Media Reports ... take 2

... but does not listen to its own words. From VDH
In a single day last week, in various media — the liberal International Herald Tribune and the Washington Post — the following information appeared.

A Syrian smuggler of jihadists to Iraq, one Abu Ibrahim, was interviewed. He made the following revealing statements:

(1) that the goal of the jihadists is the restoration of the ancient caliphate ("The Koran is a constitution, a law to govern the world")

(2) that September 11 was "a great day"

(3) that two weeks after the attack, a celebration was held in his rural Syrian community celebrating the mass murder, and thereafter continued twice-weekly

(4) that Syrian officials attended such festivities, funded by Saudi money with public slogans that read, "The People ...Will Now Defeat the Jews and Kill Them All"

(5) that despite denials, Syrian police aided the jihadists in their efforts to hound out Western influence: They were allowed to enforce their strict vision of sharia, or Islamic law, entering houses in the middle of the night to confront people accused of bad behavior. Abu Ibrahim said their authority rivaled that of the Amn Dawla, or state security. "Everyone knew us," he said. "We all had big beards. We became thugs."

(6) that the Syrian government does not hesitate to work with Islamists ("beards and epaulets were in one trench together")

(7) that collateral damage was not always so collateral: "Once the Americans bombed a bus crossing to Syria. We made a big fuss and said it was full of merchants," Abu Ibrahim said. "But actually, they were fighters."

(8) That once Syria felt U.S. pressure, there was some temporary cosmetic change of heart: "The security agents said the smuggling of fighters had to stop. The jihadists' passports were taken. Some were jailed for a few days. Abu Ibrahim's jailers shaved his beard."

(9) that supporters in Saudi Arabia always played a key role: "Our brothers in Iraq are asking for Saudis. The Saudis go with enough money to support themselves and their Iraqi brothers. A week ago, we sent a Saudi to the jihad. He went with 100,000 Saudi riyals. There was celebration amongst his brothers there!"

Media Reports ...

That the media in the US is biased is evidence by as much as what is reported as what is not reported.
Selection bias as noted by Daniel Henninger
Precisely what conclusion is one expected to arrive at from any of this? If George Bush had never invaded Iraq, none of this would be happening? Or, if we removed our troops from Iraq, these bombings would stop? Or perhaps they will still be bombed, but we in the U.S. will not likely experience anything very bad?
If we removed our troops from Iraq, the terror would not stop. But the U.S. news of innocent civilians blown up in Iraq would move to the unread round-up columns. Then, in a way, the phenomenon of terror would indeed shrink--to this:

December 2004: A powerful explosion ripped through a market packed with Christmas shoppers in the southern Philippines yesterday, killing at least 15 people and injuring 58.

According to the National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism (established after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing), there have been about 8,300 terrorist bombings in the world the past 10 years. They have killed more than 10,000 human beings and injured--often appallingly, one assumes--some 43,000 people. (There are separate tallies for arson, kidnapping, hijacking, etc. September 11 is listed as an "unconventional attack.")

May 3, 2002: A bomb attack on a church in western Colombia has left at least 60 civilians dead and about 100 others injured. Officials are blaming FARC guerrillas for the bombing.

Before September 11 happened in the United States, and ever since, factions with grievances have been blowing up unprotected people going about the act of daily life--shopping, praying, taking their children to school, laughing with friends, burying the dead--all over the world. Places where the sudden cloudbursts of blood don't always merit our front pages include Spain, Colombia, Israel, Sri Lanka, Kashmir, Northern Ireland, Russia, Afghanistan, India, the Philippines, Indonesia, Egypt and elsewhere.

July 7, 2004: At least five people were killed and 11 wounded when a suspected Tamil Tiger suicide bomber blew herself up inside a police station in the Sri Lankan capital.

Living in the U.S., one could make the cold-blooded calculation that 21,000 dead and 55,000 injured from all terrorist acts over 10 years is a drop in the bucket and that the war in Iraq has mainly increased the rate of death. This may be true. But if as many suicide bombs went off in Manhattan as have gone off in Israel, Manhattanites would have demanded martial law and the summary execution of suspects on street corners. Their greatest goal in life would not be, as it is now, the closing of interrogation rooms on Guantanamo but instead the erasure of terrorists hiding across the East River.

Feb. 9, 2005: A car bomb exploded near Madrid's main convention center, injuring 43 people, hours before Spanish and Mexican leaders were due there and after a warning from the Basque separatist group ETA. It was the worst blast in the Spanish capital since last year's March 11 al Qaeda train bombings.

No matter how fat the diet of stories about Iraq suicide bombings or Gitmo shoved down our throats and no matter how many distraught opinion-poll results come back up, no serious person can allow post-9/11 American security to be reduced to that.

The death march of homicidal zombies in Iraq is trying to push us toward accepting the idea that acts of unrestrained violence against other human beings is now a normal part of politics. It is not normal. Any civilized person should want to resist the normalization of civilian killing as a political act--whether in Iraq, Spain, Indonesia or Kashmir.

That terrorism in Iraq makes the headline while terrorism elsewhere makes the footnotes. The agenda is that terrorism in Iraq is a direct consequence of our invasion and continued presence, and the implied solution is for withdrawal. Both are foolish and dangerous.
But elsewhere media reports can also do some good as evidenced by this report in the WSJ
For those in the West who watched the horrors of the Balkan wars in real time on TV, it might be hard to believe that it took 10 years to convince the Serbian public of the atrocities committed by some of their countrymen.

But until just a couple of weeks ago, many Serbs, who during the war had been fed a barrage of lies and propaganda, were in a state of denial. War criminals were often seen as patriots and defenders of Serbian civilians rather than as the killers of Bosnian or Croat civilians they were. As recently as May, an opinion poll showed that more than half of the population didn't believe that, in 1995, Serb forces committed in Srebrenica the worst massacre in Europe since the end of World War II, killing 8,000 Muslim men and boys.

But on June 1, the revisionist myth of a heroic and just war received a deadly blow. On this day, Serbian TV channels repeatedly broadcast a video of Serbian forces from the special "Scorpions" unit who answered directly to Belgrade murdering six Bosnian Muslim youths near Srebrenica. The footage was aired unedited, showing how the killers first taunted their victims, staging mock executions only to shoot them later anyway one by one.

The video has changed the terms of debate about the war in Serbia. Particularly heartening was the reaction of the political leaders. President Boris Tadic appeared on national television, visibly shaken, saying Serbia was stunned by "a monstrous crime." He told his countrymen that he was ready "to go to Srebrenica to pay tribute." Even the leader of the ultra-nationalist Serb Radical Party called for stiff punishment of those who "committed horrible crimes and killed in cold blood."

The speaker of the Serbian parliament, Predrag Markovic, announced that he would push for a "resolution on Srebrenica" to condemn the massacre ahead of its 10th anniversary July 11. He had previously rejected such calls. And last weekend an unprecedented conference took place in Belgrade, titled "Srebrenica: Beyond Reasonable Doubt," where relatives of the victims addressed the conference delegates.

I think of the pictures of abuses from Abu Graeb in comparison and the pathetic status of our media makes me sad.


Iran Vote ... or vote

I've never been a fan of election boycott because you relegate your faction into silence and invisibility. Most election process do not care whether enough have voted, just that there is a majority of the votes cast. Besides, when you participate, you are seen and heard, and even in defeat, presents papable opposition.
From EurasiaNet
Many observers in Tehran believe the odds-on favorite to win the election is Ali Akhbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, whose support, according to recent polling data, stands at just under 30 percent. His closest rival among the seven candidates still in the running is now Moin, a former education minister under outgoing president Mohammad Khatami. Moin’s support has experienced a dramatic rise over the past week, leaping from 10 percent to roughly 16 percent, according to some polls. At the same time, the candidacies of hardliners - including Tehran Mayor Mahmud Ahmadinejad and Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, the former head of national police force – have remained steady.

Political analysts in Tehran say a run-off between the two top vote-getters on June 17 is likely. Iranian election law states that a presidential candidate must receive at least 50 percent of the vote in the first round in order to avoid a run-off. It had long been assumed by most Iranian political observers that Rafsanjani would face a conservative candidate in the second round, provided a run-off was necessary. However, several factors altered conventional wisdom as the campaign drew to a close. First, infighting within the conservative camp prevented the nomination of a single hardliner candidate. Thus, the conservative vote stands to be diluted among three candidates who are all considered the standard-bearers of the old order. Meanwhile, Moin has waged a campaign that has energized reform-minded citizens and has attracted support from ethnic and religious minorities, including Kurds, Arabs and Sunni Muslims.

Some analysts say a Rafsanjani-Qalibaf run-off remains a strong possibility. But Moin’s name is increasingly mentioned as a second-round contender against Rafsanjani. Though the front-runner at present, Rafsanjani might face a stronger challenge from Moin in a possible run-off, some experts believe. In recent elections, including municipal polls in 2003 and the parliamentary vote last year, reform-minded voters stayed away from the polls in large numbers. Voter apathy was generated by the inability of Khatami’s reformist administration to implement its agenda, experts say. Heavy reformist turn-out in the presidential vote could potentially enable Moin to pull off an upset. The reformist daily Etemad characterized the election as "one of the most unpredictable in the history of the Islamic republic."

According to some estimates roughly 30 percent of Iran’s 46.7 million eligible voters are undecided. A large majority of the undecided voters are believed to be reform sympathizers, many of whom would be inclined to cast ballots for Moin. The essential question is: how many undecideds will actually turn out to vote?

According to various media reports, conservative groups, alarmed by the flat support for the hardliner candidates, are taking steps to keep the reform vote low on election day. For example, the country’s conservative-leaning security establishment has stopped jamming opposition broadcasts into Iran from the United States and Europe, according to the web site of Moshen Rezai, the former commander of the Revolutionary Guards and a current contender for president. Such foreign broadcasts have encouraged Iranians to boycott the election.

In addition, several published reports have also claimed that members of the hardliner-controlled Basij militia will be posted at selected polling stations across the country, a move that could possibly intimidate many voters. Meanwhile, the conservative-controlled Guardian Council, an unelected religious oversight body that is charged with vetting political candidates, has issued a statement asserting its right to disqualify a contender up to the moment official results are released.

Whatever the outcome, the presidential campaign appears to have changed the course of politics in Iran. Most candidates downplayed the country’s Islamic identity. Instead, the candidates, Rafsanjani and Moin in particular, focused their respective campaigns on addressing the socio-economic and cultural needs of voters. Instead of fighting for the endorsements of clergy members, all presidential candidates also seemed preoccupied with securing the support of Iranian young people. Roughly 70 percent of Iran’s population is under 30 years of age.

Moin and Rafsanjani were the only two who appeared to make inroads among young voters, Tehran experts said. Rafsanjani, for example, scored points for sponsoring a week-long music festival in Tehran, and for hiring young secular-looking women with scant veils as campaign workers.

Iran Vote ... or not.

There is more to a democracy than a vote.
'May God Be Our Guide!'
June 16, 2005

Muslims must understand that participation in Friday's presidential election in Iran is haram, that is, it is unclean according to religious principles and reasonable logic. Therefore it is forbidden to participate.

Whoever would participate in this process would be a full partner in the destruction of Iran by the current regime, a partner in its criminal behavior in the past, in the present and in the future. I am speaking not only on behalf of myself, but on behalf of the thousands of Muslim clerics who are imprisoned for defying the assertion that the state and religion should be under the control of a single Supreme Leader.

What I am saying is exactly what many other ayatollahs and grand ayatollahs are saying.

May God be our guide!

* * *

The coming election is nothing but a show for cheating the people of Iran, and for making propaganda with other Muslim nations. I am asking the people not to go out of their houses on election day, and to boycott the polls. In the U.S., any candidate is given the chance to go before the people and tell them what he proposes to do in office. But in Iran, such debate does not seem to be necessary, since, long before the election, the government already knows who would win.

The Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Khamanei and the Guardian Council -- composed of 12 of his cronies -- have already rejected most candidates that they don't consider acceptable, and have designated their favorites. If by chance someone not designated a favorite should win, the Guardians can set aside the election of the unfortunate winner.

There are three reasons why this process is contrary to Islamic principles.

The first is this: If the Supreme Leader and the Guardian Council declare that the people are not capable of deciding which candidates are good for the country, why should the people be allowed to vote at all? If they are not capable of distinguishing between good and bad, they should not be allowed to put a ballot in the box. Voting itself is not important to the regime, since the result is predetermined, but the presence of large numbers of people in the voting places is important to convince the world that democracy is functioning.

The second reason not to go to the polls is that the regime has no respect for the opinion of the people. What the regime is saying is that the more people in line to vote, the more successful the election will appear to be. They think that the public will interpret a big turnout as support for the regime, without reflecting on the years of intimidation and terror.

Third, the people are being treated like children. In the law of Islam, the actions of a minor, that is, a person under 18, are not recognized as valid until they are authorized by a father or guardian. But persons of voting age are treated the same way. When the public votes, it is true that they cast a ballot; but the results are of no significance unless they are validated by the Supreme Leader and the Guardian Council after the election. If they see that someone has been elected who was not approved beforehand then their votes are not counted. Therefore, it is the Supreme Leader and the Guardian Council that elects the members of the legislature, not the people.

If people go out and vote, they are ratifying a criminal process carried out by a so-called Islamic Republic, which does not follow the principles of Islam at all. There is nothing in the Quran that allows the clergy to be involved in government. By voting, the people would legitimize the slaughter of our youth, the destruction of our culture and economy, the murders of innocent citizens, and the tragedy of Iran today. This kind of election is a betrayal of Islam -- for Islam has to do with truth and honesty, not deceit. If the people accept the process which this regime has enacted, it is the same as saying that they are going along with a system that smells of the devil rather than of the will of God.

We human beings are made in the image of God, so we do know the difference between right and wrong without being guided by clerics who have usurped power. The right thing is not to become a participant in elections that are an insult to all the principles of the Quran and to all humanity.

Ayatollah Haeri is the son of Ayatollah Abdollah Ali Haeri and grandson of Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Saleh. After the 1979 Islamic Revolution, he became a critic of the Khomeini regime. Arrested, beaten and tortured, he was jailed for three years, then sent into internal exile. He escaped to Germany, where he now lives. He is currently visiting the U.S.

Readers may have noticed my link in support of "Real Democracy in Iran"


Metrosexual Stateman

From the UK Times comes this gem that left me in grins.
“A SINGLE VERSE by Rimbaud,” writes Dominique de Villepin, the new French Prime Minister, “shines like a powder trail on a day’s horizon. It sets it ablaze all at once, explodes all limits, draws the eyes to other heavens.” Here is a rather different observation, uttered by George Bush Sr in 1998, that might stand as a motto for his dynasty: “I can’t do poetry.”
In that gulf of sensibility lies the cultural faultline of our times. For George Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld words are blunt instruments, used to convey meaning, not feeling. Actions speak louder. The President of France, by contrast, rocked by the rejection of the EU constitution, has attempted to shore up his Government by appointing a poet as his Prime Minister, a patrician intellectual in the French romantic mould, a true believer in the transcendental and redemptive power of words.
These are the polar extremes of poetry, Rimbaud in one corner and Rambo in the other: the French patron saint of sensitive, tortured adolescents alongside the monosyllabic American action man.


To the Anglo-Saxon mind there is something dodgy, even dangerous, in the man who rules the world by day and writes verses by night. As W.H. Auden wrote: “All poets adore explosions, thunderstorms, tornados, conflagrations, ruins, scenes of spectacular carnage. The poetic imagination is not at all a desirable quality in a statesman.” Indeed, the precedents are not happy ones, for there is a peculiar link between frustrated poetic ambition and tyranny: Hitler, Goebbels, Stalin, Castro, Mao Zedong and Ho Chi Minh all wrote poetry. Radovan Karadzic, fugitive former leader of the Bosnian Serbs, once won the Russian Writers’ Union Mikhail Sholokhov Prize for his poems. On the whole, you do not want a poet at the helm.
Yet in France, proof of a refined literary consciousness is a prerequisite of high office, and the virtue that eclipses sin. When François Mitterrand died, French commentators touched only briefly on such aspects of his career as wartime collaboration, cynical political opportunism and obsessive adultery, while devoting acres of print to his love of books and remarkable literary output. Every French politician is expected to produce a trophy bouquin. Before writing the ailing EU constitution, former President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing penned sensitive novels.