"the Story"

I certainly do not wish anyone ill, but I am fairly tired of the current coverage of ABC news anchor Bob Woodruff, and his videographer, Doug Vogt, both recently injured in Iraq. What I find arrogant is the often mentioned reason for him being in the danger zone because "the story needed to be told." How pathetic that is when compared to coalition soldiers who are there to bring democracy to the oppressed, to the Iraqi soldiers who seek to provide security for their people, and the Iraqi people themselves who just want to live in freedom. Perhaps I would be more sympathetic if the reporters were actually telling the story of the heroic struggle taking place to transform Iraq rather than a body count list. Looking back, there wasn't much worth reading from MSM reporters from Iraq in general.

Update A reader suggests that "the story" does need to be told to document the passage of events for the history books. Consider how Robert Fisk thirty years work as a reporter in the Middle East translates into "history." Note the inaccuracies.
It is difficult to turn a page of The Great War for Civilisation without encountering some basic error. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, not, as Fisk has it, in Jerusalem. The Caliph Ali, the Prophet Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law, was murdered in the year 661, not in the 8th century. Emir Abdallah became king of Transjordan in 1946, not 1921, and both he and his younger brother, King Faisal I of Iraq, hailed not from a “Gulf tribe” but rather from the Hashemites on the other side of the Arabian peninsula. The Iraqi monarchy was overthrown in 1958, not 1962; Hajj Amin al-Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem, was appointed by the British authorities, not elected; Ayatollah Khomeini transferred his exile from Turkey to the holy Shiite city of Najaf not during Saddam Hussein’s rule but fourteen years before Saddam seized power. Security Council resolution 242 was passed in November 1967, not 1968; Anwar Sadat of Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, not 1977, and was assassinated in October 1981, not 1979. Yitzhak Rabin was minister of defense, not prime minister, during the first Palestinian intifada, and al Qaeda was established not in 1998 but a decade earlier. And so on and so forth.

The deeper problem with Fisk’s work is not the sort of thing that can be fixed by acquiring a better research assistant or fact-checking apparatus. Facts must be placed in their proper context, after all, and this demands a degree of good faith that Fisk utterly lacks. Indeed, so blatant and thoroughgoing are his ideological prejudices that his very name has entered the lexicon of the Internet as a synonym for systematic bias. Among the online commentators known as bloggers, the verb “to fisk” has come to mean a point-by-point rebuttal of an egregiously slanted piece of writing—like, classically, a Fisk dispatch from the Middle East.



By now we all know Hamas has won an out right majority in the Palestinian election. I believe this is a favorable outcome for the following reasons:

1. Had Fatah won, they still would not have been able to reign in Hamas' violence. Thus nothing has changed with a Hamas victory.
2. Hamas still is not strong enough to win against Israel. This political victory does not strengthen that.
3. Hamas now must be accountable for their actions, this is a new pressure on them. Will they be able to deliver for the Palestinians a better life?
4. If Hamas continue to work toward the destruction of Israel, this then will essentially be a declaration of war between two states, thus allowing a freer hand for Israel to act, and for the US to cut off aid.
5. If Hamas does not perform, they will be replaced by the Palestinians.
6. The world is better off interacting with a representative power of the Palestinians and thus hold the Palestinians themselves accountable to their elected government. No longer can they claim oppression as do the Saudis, Egyptians or most of the Arabs now.

In addition: Israel should negotiate with Hamas now. After all, if you do not negotiate with your enemy, who would you negotiate with for a diplomatic peace? A military victory will always remain an option.

All Things Beautiful
Architecture and Morality


"Transform and Roll Out"

From Neo-Neocon comes tale of another transformation, that of Kanan Makiya:
Soon I had these two lives. I became very active in the anti-war movement, which was burgeoning in the United States. And I was very active in supporting the emerging Palestinian Resistance Movement. I passed through the Nationalist Palestinian groups and I ended up in the Marxist one. All of this happened very rapidly. Within a span of a year I became a Marxist and was attracted to Trotskyist politics. The great influence on me was Emmanuel Farjoun, a member of the Israeli Socialist Organisation, Matzpen. He was also a student at MIT, much older than I. He had enjoyed a socialist training from day dot having grown up in a left socialist kibbutz. It was a revelation for me to meet an Israeli who was critical of his own society. He explained a) basic socialist principles which, of course, were completely new to me, and b) the nature of Israeli society, which was also a revelation for me. We became very, very close friends, almost brothers, for the next twenty-five years. (We fell out over the Iraq war but that's another story. That's sad, very sad.)

I started to soak up books and I became active in the Socialist Workers' Party, the American section of the (Trotskyist) 4th International. I moved to Britain in 1974 and I became active in the International Marxist Group (IMG). I recall there was a Lebanese Trotskyist organisation, remnants of an Iraqi Trotskyist organisation, and some Egyptian and Tunisian Trotskyists. I spent a lot of time in those countries meeting those people, going backwards and forwards to Lebanon. I was a full time political activist.

. . .

The Lebanese civil war broke out in 1975 between the so-called 'progressive' and 'reactionary' forces. That's how we tended to view it. There were those who were on the side of the class struggle and those who were against. But that form of classification was really at odds with the way the war was unfolding. Sectarian and communitarian tensions were at work in the so-called 'left' front of forces, which was really nationalist and radical-nationalist and sometimes capable of the same sorts of atrocities as the Christian forces, or 'reactionary' forces as we insisted on calling them.

The left insisted it was not a sectarian war. That was troubling to me but I had no other set of categories. In fact, the Palestinians were now behaving very badly, like little Mafia's inside Lebanon. I used to write in the journal called Khamsin, which was a journal of Middle Eastern socialist revolutionaries, edited by Moshe Machover in those days. And there were Arabs involved, like the Syrian philosopher Sadiq al-Azm, and others. I used to write articles critical of the Palestinians, even though I was basically working with them. I wrote under a pseudonym, Muhammad Ja'far, in those days. A tension was building up between the way the Middle Eastern world was, to my eyes, and the way our categories described it. The two didn't match.

. . .

I stayed in this contradictory position for three or four years, until the Iranian revolution. My wife was an Iranian and a student at Harvard. She had quit and joined revolutionary politics. The line of the 4th International was that the Iranian revolution was a progressive thing. We were all supposed to think that. Everyone was working against the Shah and his secret police. But, as the clerics became stronger and stronger, even before the revolution itself, I started to become deeply critical. My wife had returned to Iran and was fighting the good fight from inside Iran. So, was my criticism based on personal impulses? Maybe I thought I had lost this person that I loved. Maybe that was driving me. Or maybe it was just a political assessment of the situation. Probably the biggest lesson you can learn in politics is that you can never completely separate these two things. It's better to be frank and recognise this. Anyway, I launched a big criticism of the Iranian revolution at a time when the left was celebrating it as one in a long line of great historic revolutions.

My wife returned broken. The left had been smashed. The Iran-Iraq war broke out. Our former comrades were being imprisoned or killed in Iran. We both left organised Trotskyist politics around that time on the issue of the Iraq-Iran war. The left was saying it was a war with a good side and a bad side. We were saying a plague on both your houses because this is an ugly, nasty war that is not going to lead to progress for anyone, so victory for either side would be a step backward.
This part in particular I think interesting in terms of the sense of betrayal:
The European Silence

Alan Johnson: The western left has responsibilities here. When the left shouts that 'Bush is engaged in a war on Muslims' it isn't just factually wrong. It's politically dangerous. It echoes the message of the Salafi or Jihadi groups, it boosts them, and it leaves the Muslim democrats and reformers isolated from a left that should be its natural ally.

Kanan Makiya: You're right. And Alan, I'd go even further. It's not just the left. People like myself, those of us who went into Iraq after April and March 2003 as part of the effort to transform this country, have felt betrayed by Europe as a whole. We were attacked by the media of all the surrounding countries, countries utterly hostile to the sort of values on which Europe rests. Satellite stations distorted what was going on. The silence in Europe at that moment gave enormous sustenance to all those forces struggling against the transformation of Iraq. It enabled the Jihadis, the Ba'athists, the extreme Arab nationalists, and the Arab regimes, to say 'Look at the hostility of Europe to what the United States has done!' Europe made it possible to isolate not just the United States but everything that is represented by the west. Europe gave strength to the argument that it was a traditional colonist land grab or oil grab, which was nonsense, of course.

I would say that much of the strength of the hostility of the Jihadi movement, and of the forces that have made life so horrible in Iraq, came from the silence of Europe. Europe has a lot to answer for. It's not even that it was half-hearted. They fell in completely with the language of the non-democratic Arab regimes. They bought their line and they seemed to stand for the same things. They undermined entirely the values of the operation. Europeans knew that the United States was not going to permanently occupy Iraq. Deep down the smarter Europeans must have known it wasn't just about oil. It was - rightly or wrongly - a way of changing the traditional western attitude towards the Arab Muslim world. It was an end to the support for autocratic and repressive governments. It was a new view that if we are going to succeed in this war against terror then we are going to have to be viewed by the populations of this part of the world in a totally different way. Now Europe might not have thought it was the right time. Europe might have thought it should be done differently. But Europe should never have been seen to be undermining the argument itself.

Europe was justifying and supporting the foundations on which these repressive regimes stood. It had acquiesced so fully in that relativist language it had no views of its own that it thought could be shared. More: it looked racist because it looked like the democratic values it enjoyed were not possible for Arabs and Muslims to enjoy. All of a sudden the shoe was on the other foot entirely. It was not the Americans who were the imperialists or racists. It was the Europeans who, by sitting back, were saying 'you Arabs and you Muslims really can't do any better than this, so why mess around with this thing in the first place?'

The Arab Silence

Alan Johnson: Alongside this European silence, you have written about an Arab silence. A gulf opened up between Iraq and the Arab world in 1991. What caused this gulf?

Kanan Makiya: In a nutshell it was a gulf between Iraqis, who began basing their politics on their own experience of tyranny, and the Arab world, which carried on thinking politics amounted to the Palestinian question, the national question as it was called. It was not that we Iraqis didn't think Palestinians needed rights, a state, and so on. We totally support that. But we had a huge problem of our own. Deep down, the debate between Edward Said and myself was about that tension inside Arab politics.

Iraqi people are angry that for the last three years the Arab world has not supported them. In fact the Arab world seems to support the terrorists, in the name of 'Arab solidarity' or 'Arab unity'. There is a real fury about this. Take the case of the Jordanian suicide bomber, Raed Mansour al-Banna , who killed 125 Iraqis in Hilla when he blew himself up on 28 February 2005. When his body was flown to Jordan instead of a funeral there was a party, a giant celebration of the hero's return! They said he had sacrificed himself for God and for the holy struggle against the Americans. This was not organised by the family itself. Often, as in the Palestinian case, families of suicide bombers are forced into these things. They want to mourn the young man who was their son. Instead they are forced by the organisation around them to treat it as a wonderful thing and a great sacrifice. They are kissed and told that they are so fortunate their son is now in Paradise. When Iraqis heard about this Jordanian celebration there was such a popular fury! The Jordanian government had to officially apologise. And, to show you the worlds of ignorance we live in here, the parents of the suicide bomber asked reporters, 'didn't he kill Americans?' The reporters informed the parents, 'No, actually it was 120 Iraqis who were killed'. Again we have the gulf between rhetoric and reality that was at the heart of Cruelty and Silence.
Perhaps he did not leave his ideals and beliefs, but that those he thought share the same in actuallity did not. Who betrayed who?

And in a related item from Corbusier:
For those of you who are interested in getting a better sense of how a describe myself, let's just say that I would definitely enjoy hanging out with Mark Gauvreau Judge. He explains in detail what defines a 'metrocon', a label he uses to describe his dedication to conservative philosophy and his rejection of rural 'redneck' culture commonly associated with such beliefs. Among most conservative voters, people like Judge, the staff at the National Review and I are but a tiny minority. In spite of all my courteous efforts in reaching out to the traditional people of small towns, whether farmers, ranchers, and even a majority of suburbanites, there somehow arises an impermeable barrier of real understanding.

On a cultural level, I identify far more with eclectic people who live in cities. It is much easier for me to get to know and understand deeply a person coming from countries thousands of miles away than my next door neighbor in semi-rural surburban Texas. I love getting to know immigrants, and I frequent their restaurants, observing their social mores more closely than many of my own relatives. I've never truly reveled in any kind of folk culture nor have I ever cared to idealize the virtues of the pastoral life. That does not mean I ignore these important aspects of life, but that I engage them from the point of view of an outside observer studying the phenomena of 'folk life'. It's similar to the way I watch television: I will view some sitcoms and reality shows not as entertainment for its own sake, but as a window into popular culture that somehow I stand slightly apart from.

Like all "movements" there are a variety of participants. Within the conservative movement there are those who were born and raised in it, never giving much thoughts to it otherwise. Others come to choose it through reason and deduction, some having to make a 180-degree change to do so; others progress in a more evolutionary pathway. I believe that those who choose it are more in keeping with the "metrocon" moniker he prescribed.


Iraqi Election Results

The following is a breakdown of the number of seats allocated to the 12 Iraqi political entities from preliminary results for the Dec. 15 elections for the 275-member Iraqi parliament.

• United Iraqi Alliance (Shiite including Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari): 128 seats.

• Kurdish Coalition (comprising parties led by President Jalal Talabani and Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani): 53 seats

• Iraqi Accordance Front (Sunni Arab): 44 seats.

• Iraqi Front for National Dialogue (Sunni Arab): 11 seats.

• Iraqi National List (secular led by ex-Prime Minister Ayad Allawi): 25 seats.

• Islamic Part of Kurdistan: 5 seats.

• Reconciliation and Liberation Bloc (Sunni Arab): 3 seats.

• Risaliyoun (Shiites): 2 seats.

• Turkomen Iraqi Front (Represents ethnic Turks): 1 seat.

• Iraqi Nation List (Sunni): 1 seat.

• Yazidi minority religious sect: 1 seat.

• Al-Rafidian List (Christian): 1 seat.


Iran: Regime Change 2

My proposals:

1. Via the UN security council (yeah, a useless lot the bunch of them) organize boycott (and an embargo?) of Iranian oil export. Yes, the price of oil will sky rocket but offer financial support to participating nations to ease the pain.
2. Do not place geneneral economic sanctions against Iran otherwise as this may hurt the average Iranians. We have seen what happened in Iraq.
3. Engage and support western culture and democratic ideals in Iran to prepare the population for regime change.
4. Support and fund dissident groups in Iran to destabilize the current regime.

5. If Iran deploy nukes, then use conventional weapons to destroy their capacity for military actions. Then invade. Unless France strikes first that is.


Women Warrior

I thought this report from Wired News interesting.
Female soldiers have long fought off perceptions that their bodies just aren't equipped to handle the rigors of training and warfare. But a decade's worth of research suggests that women are hardly as fragile as critics once thought.

A new study by military researchers found that many assumptions about female bodies are "astoundingly wrong." Women are just as good as men -- in some cases, perhaps even better -- at handling intense exercise and decompression sickness.

The findings, reported in the Journal of Women's Health, don't change the fact that women -- on the whole -- are smaller and less powerful than men. Still, they suggest "that human physiology is more consistent than would be suggested by the social embellishments and exaggerations" that come about when there isn't any actual research, said Col. Karl Friedl, commander of the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine and co-author of the report (.pdf).

Friedl examined the results of more than 130 studies that followed a 1994 order from Congress to spend $40 million on biomedical research into women in the military.
We already knew that women are the genetically stronger sex.


Iran: Regime Change

From today's WSJ:
Iran is, of course, not comparable to Libya or Afghanistan, but everyone in Tehran's bazaar knows that any flare-up of tension between Iran and the West has an immediate adverse impact on the Rial, the country's currency, particularly against the U.S. dollar. The slightest Western pressure and Tehran's stock market nose-dives.

Why won't the U.S. take advantage of this? Why not impose smart sanctions on Iran instead of smart bombs, and apply strong international pressure for the formation of independent and secular political parties? Currently, the only parties allowed are Islamic ones approved and subsidized by the authoritarian, theocratic regime. We desperately need a push from America and the West to separate church from state in Iran.

If I were an American, I would probably be content with the well-being of myself and my own family, and would be inclined to oppose my country's involvement in Middle East politics -- but I am not an American. I am an Iranian. I am a subject, not a citizen, of a Middle Eastern country with a long history of despotism. My country will not change without help from the West. I wish the only superpower in the 21st century would realize its full potential in diplomacy, economic leverage and, as a last resort, military action -- not just to stop Iran's nuclear ambitions, but to speed up democratization in the region.

I am impatient for it. We have those like Shirin Ebadi, Iran's Nobel Peace Prize winner and prominent reformer, who call for allowing democracy to evolve. But Ms. Ebadi is a rich woman, a member of the country's small elite that has never had to struggle to make a living. Maybe she and those patient ones like her can afford to wait another century for democracy to materialize out of the blue.

Not me. I need help. If America could accept its power and potential, it could begin forcing change right now.

What obligations, if any, do we, as the sole superpower, one representative of Freedom?

In shifting away from a foreign policy based on realpolitik, that of power leverage and counterbalance to one that espouses freedom and democracy. Unstated, is the replacement of "power" as a central theme by that of morality. After all, even considering the self driven motivation for the perceived greater security associated with freedom and democracy over oppression and despotism. there is inescapably the introduction of the "should we be our brother's keeper" questioned with "if not us than who" and "if it is good for us then why not others." I think this is a right move.

And with Iran? Considering that we have troops and bases along Iran's border (Afghanistan and Iraq, not to mention our partner in the region in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia across the Persian Gulf), should a ground war become necessary we are better positioned. At the same time, a ground war maybe less likely with practical and applicable long stretches of Iran's border for infiltration. As is often the case, the more practical a ground war become, the more options there are for alternatives. Thus the possibility for regime change in Iran grows, albeit with the temporal pressure of Iran producing a working nuclear weapon.

Also interesting to note this piece from Strategy Page:
The Baluchis are rising. No, it isn’t a recipe for some new puff pastry, but yet another ethnic group that, like the Kurds, would like a homeland of their own. In this case, the homeland would be carved out of southwestern Pakistan, southeastern Iran and southern Afghanistan. None of these countries is eager to give up any of their territory to help form a new state of Baluchistan. But that hasn’t stopped the Baluchis from trying. And they appear to be trying.

On December 15th, there was an attempt to assassinate Iranian president Muhammad Ahmadinejad. The Iranian government has said little about the incident, which resulted in the deaths of several of Ahmadinejad’s security team. This has led to considerable speculation about the attack. Some conspiracy-mavens have been asserting that it was a deliberately staged incident, like Hitler’s “Reichstag Fire,” which would result in the accrual of even greater power to Ahmadinejad and the religious extremists who run Iran. Others have pointed to Israel’s Mossad, the CIA, or perhaps even Iranian liberal dissidents. Then the real story began to come out.

Near the end of December, Notani, one of the leaders of the Baloch (Baluchi) Liberation Army (BLA), announced that the BLA had been behind the attempt on Ahmadinejad’s life. First heard of around the end of 2003, the BLA (sometimes known as the Baloch Liberation Movement, BLM), has been primarily active in Pakistan, where it has been linked to about two dozen bombings. It is one of several groups fighting for an independent Baluchistan.

There is a Baluchi minority in Iran, about two percent of the population, and Notani did not cite Baluchi independence as the justification for the attack. Instead, he said the attempt on Ahmadinejad’s life was in revenge for the death of his brother at the hands of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) some time back. The legitimacy of Notani’s claim cannot as yet be established, but it is worth noting that on January 9th, the Commander of the IRGC and several other senior IRGC officers were killed in the crash of a military transport, which may – or may not – be connected. Most of the ten million Baluchis in the region live in Pakistan.

Could there be grounds for mutual cooperation as with the Kurds in Iraq? Remember too that there are Kurds in Turkey, a tentative regionally ally that too previously "had" to put down a Kurds uprising. Interesting similarities.


2005: The Year In Military Heroism

This is a direct link to the post. Not much to comment on other than it should be read and circulated.

Heroism isn't about brash bravery. Heroism always contains the willingness to sacrifice oneself for others.


Postmodernist Politics

Over at Architect and Morality is a discussion as to the political persuasion of postmodernists, querying as to why postmodernists are not conservatives.
Postmodernists (Post-Modernists, if you prefer) glory in their ethos of anti-ethos. Anything goes. Truth is relative. Your perspective and my perspective, though different, aren’t contradictory as much as just different sides of the same issue. This can wreak havoc for those in the truth business, especially the Church. (This may single-handedly be the reason I so adore the Catholic Church as a protestant: it does not hesitate to point out the evil of relativism.) But there may be advantages to such skepticism in the political world.

It Postmodernism has an inherent distrust of authority, of systems and leaders as being the arbiters of truth and order, why would any of them be liberal? (Liberal in the modern sense of the word, not the etymological.) Every day as I hear about scandals in DC, corruption in politics, and power-hungry men and women seeking more power at whatever cost, I think, “This is why government should be small.” This is the easiest solution to the problem of sin in politics. Keep government small enough so as to minimize the amount of damage that can be done. And thank God for the Bill of Rights, which kept big government at bay as long as possible.

The Conservative Movement is still willing to talk about small government, even if NO ONE in Washington seems willing to listen. (Please note, I am not saying Postmodernists should be Republicans, but conservatives. In terms of government spending philosophy, there seems to be an enormous bridge between the two at times.) Isn’t this ideal for Postmodernists, who favor local choice, freedom and autonomy from overarching policies applicable to all people?

Yet, it seems these Postmodernists to the core favor liberalism, the DNC, the party of “choice” and “tolerance.” I wonder if they don’t see the contradictions to their own ideology, the way they end up supporting a growth of government at all levels to somehow ensure more “rights” and “freedom” for all citizens. So instead of favoring Social Security reform, tax cuts and a reversal of Roe v. Wade (which would make it a state issue), they want just the opposite: high taxes, high social security and a federal judicial monopoly on abortion. On the one hand, you will hear these Gen Xers and Yers demand autonomy, and on the other hand demand big government. Maybe they’re just not bright enough to recognize their own contradictions. Is this what Ayn Rand meant when she said there can be no contradictions [if the ideology is sound]?

My response:

Modernists say that there is a new way, a better way. Postmodernists reject modernism because the new way tended to be frequently very western, where modernism originated. In doing so, postmodernists reject not only the old ways as did the modernists but declare that there is no way better than another, whether new or old, east or west. Postmodernists cannot be conservatives. Conservatives are by definition tradionalists and thus is anathema to postmodernists, even worse than the modernists.

With regard to politics and government, political conservatives believe that the old ways of traditions are well ingrained in the individual, as the old ways represent the nature of man, thus a large government is not necessary. Political liberals are like the modernists, believing the old cultural mores are outdated, whether it be the concept of rewards for merit (rather than for just being) or the nature of marriage. As the masses must be made to transition to the new way, the government thus must take steps to enforce the new way. Postmodernists are like the ACLU now, that any restriction of absolute freedom (to be any way at all) is wrong, as it would tacitly endorse a, or a few, ways over others.


Israel & Palestine

Israel is even more prominent in the news these days because of Sharon's perceived impending demise, which threatens the newly formed Kadima Party and chances of peace with Palestine. The nature of Palestine itself is currently under discussion at All Things Beautiful.

I have a simple principle to determine who owns what piece of land, when it comes to nation-states, and that is the right of conquest. This and only this have been the enduring principle of ownership throughout history. It does not care who was there first, tracing one's lineage back as far as one can, nor does it does not care who is there most. For better or for worse, the Israeli has managed to hold that sliver of the Middle East by force of arms, and triumphed over those who would try to take it for themselves. There is no morality to conquest. But there is morality afterward, as to how you treat the conquered, and how you behave as the conqueror. As far as I can surmise, the Palestinians are treated better in Israel than in Jordan or Egypt; better than the Jews would have been treated had the situation been reversed.

Unfortunately, I fear the "Palestinians" are a lost people, whose only culture is hate and violence. They have become this way not from occupation but from manipulation and encouragement of their Arab brethrens.

Also worth reading:
General Ariel Sharon: A Military Perspective at the Officers' Club
Not a Fish
Belmont Club