I wanted to respond to Sobek’s post on the recent troubles in North Africa and elsewhere. But I didn’t want to post such a long screed at Michael’s place and abuse his hospitality, so I’ll do it here.
Sobek hit on some very important things for us to keep in mind, things we should watch. >
US soldier kills comrades in Iraq
A US soldier has shot dead five of his colleagues at a base in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, the Pentagon says.
Two other people were hurt in the shootings and the gunman is in custody, Pentagon officials have said.
An earlier military statement said the incident had happened at Camp Liberty near Baghdad’s international airport at about 1400 (1100 GMT).
The White House said US President Barack Obama was shocked by news of the “terrible tragedy”.
The president planned to discuss it with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, said spokesman Robert Gibbs.
“Any time we lose one of our own, it affects us all” Colonel John Robinson US army spokesman
The shooting reportedly occurred at a clinic where troops receive help for personal issues or combat stress.
It is not the first time a US soldier has opened fire on comrades in recent years.
One soldier was sentenced to death in 2005 after killing two officers and wounding 14 other personnel with grenades and a rifle at a camp in Kuwait.
The BBC’s Natalia Antelava, in Baghdad, says troops at Camp Liberty had been enjoying a much more relaxed atmosphere in recent months.
She says there have been few attacks on the base recently, so the timing of the shooting will make it particularly shocking to the soldiers there.
It is the deadliest single incident involving US forces since 10 April, when five soldiers were killed by a truck bomb in the northern city of Mosul.
“Any time we lose one of our own, it affects us all,” said military spokesman Colonel John Robinson.
“Our hearts go out to the families and friends of all the service members involved in this terrible tragedy.”
Earlier this month, a man in an Iraqi army uniform shot dead two US soldiers and injured three others at a base near Mosul.
Iraqi military reports said he was a soldier also working as an imam at a mosque on the base.
US forces are due to withdraw combat troops from Iraq by August 2010.
A lot of Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims have been saying that the Palestinians are attacking Israel because Israel stole their land. Once Israel returns the land, the attacking will stop. This warmongering doesn’t solve anything, they say. In fact, they say it exacerbates the problem.
But this land-for-peace proposal – how well does it work? Israel completely withdrew from the Gaza Strip and in return, what happened? Gazans began shelling Israel incessantly.
There is no evidence whatsoever that withdrawal brings any peace. One may argue that withdrawal simply encourages the Palestinians to attack Israel unprovokedly with impunity. This is what recent events have demonstrated.
The ruler of Dubai has ordered that New Year celebrations in Dubai be cancelled, in order to usher in the new year with somberness in solidarity with the Gazans.
I suppose the fact that the Gazans’ suffering is their own fault is besides the point. (Hint: Shooting rockets into Israel for well over a year, hitting Israeli cities and forcing their citizens to live in worry and terror – not a good idea. Israel just might hit back.)
Olmert has announced he is moving to resign after his party’s primaries. This may mean his successor as head of the Kadima Party could succeed him as prime minister. But I wouldn’t count on it.
Kadima was formed by Ariel Sharon (refuah hashalem aleih) to break free from the traditionally dominant parties, Likud and Labour. When Sharon became incapacitated before elections, Olmert became leader of the Kadima Party. As a sign of support for Sharon and his policies, Kadima was swept into power.
But Olmert was and is no Sharon. Many of his policies have been disastrous for Israel. He’s probably as dovish as the Labour Party.
After being unable to secure Israeli national security (including botching the recent Israel-Lebanon war), and making outrageous concessions, Israel may very well ditch Kadima and sweep Likud back into power.
Whenever Israel feels threatened, Likud wins. Whenever everything’s fine, Labour wins.
I’m looking forward to Olmert being out, replaced by either a smarter Kadimanik or by Likud. Israel has some work to do to reestablish deterrence, thanks to Olmert.
* haShem is what religious Jews use to refer to God
If you want to lighten your heart, there are two pictures you must see. The first is nice, it’s the second (a zoomed verison of the first) that highlights why it’s such a touching picture.
Found via “Another Iraqi Child Being Tortured By An Imperialist U.S. Soldier” on Wednesday, July 2, 2008, by DMartyr of snapped shot.
It’s a stretch, but (Matthew 13:41-43, emphasis added):
The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.
Things are heating up between Turkey and Iraq. At times, it seems that Iraq will give in to Turkey’s demands, preventing a Turkish invasion. At other times, it seems that Turkey is intentionally making things difficult for Iraq.
How about this for a twist: Jalal Talabani, President of Iraq, is a Kurd.
ANTE UN ATAQUE TURCO
Before a Turkish attack
El primer ministro iraquí, Nuri al Maliki, ha calificado este martes de grupo terrorista al Partido de los Trabajadores del Kurdistán (PKK) y ha ordenado el cierre de sus oficinas en Irak. El jefe del Gobierno del país árabe se expresó con esta contundencia después de entrevistarse con el ministro de Exteriores de Turquía en Bagdad. Hace una semana que el Ejecutivo de Erdogan obtuvo luz verde del Parlamento para ordenar las incursiones necesarias en el Kurdistán iraquí por un periodo de un año.
Maliki classifies the PKK as “terrorist” and orders the closure of its offices in Iraq
The Iraqi prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, has classified this Tuesday the Party of Workers of Kurdistan (PKK) as a terrorist group and has ordered the closure of its offices in Iraq. The head of government of the Arab state expressed himself with such bluntness after meeting in Baghdad with the Foreign Minister of Turkey. It has been a week since the government of Erdoğan obtained the green light from the Parliament to order necessary incursions against Iraqi Kurdistan for a period of one year.
Related headlines say:
Erdogan reivindica en Londres el derecho a atacar el Kurdistán iraquí
Erdoğan claims in London the right to attack Iraqi Kurdistan
El PKK declara un alto el fuego unilateral bajo la condición de no ser atacado por Ankara
The PKK declares a unilateral ceasefire under the condition of not being attacked by Ankara (assumedly, Turkey)
Turquía advierte a Irak que no debe proteger a los terroristas kurdos
Turkey warns Iraq that it must not protect the Kurdish terrorists
From Libertad Digital.
Much is said about the two-state solution to the drama in the Middle East.
What we may have missed is that a two-state solution is already in effect.
One state is in the West Bank and the other is in the Gaza Strip.
Now the Palestinians have two states instead of just the one proposed!
I have always wondered: why all the hue and cry to get our troops out of Iraq?
Why not focus on Japan and Germany first? Korea? The last I knew, the Second World War ended quite some time ago. Perhaps our leaders forgot to bring them back, eh?
Maybe our most valiant patriots want to withdraw our troops from harm’s way.
Silly me. I missed the memo which stated that our troops are only to be posted where they will not be shot at.
All that armor and weapons must be for show. Shock and awe and all that, eh?
The following facts are very important to understand the Iraq War, as it is called, and the effects thereof. These facts are also important to understand the greater strategery of The United States with regard to the Middle East, Arab states, and various opponents and opposing entities.
As I do not want to give away sources and/or methods, all I will say is that the following facts have been more or less provided by a man who is currently a very powerful crown prince of an Arab statelet (not Saudi Arabia), set to soon succeed his aging and ill father. (Please remember that as seen through the eyes of Arabs and their governments, The United States unilaterally invaded Iraq and overthrew Saddam Hussein and his regime.) Read the rest of this entry »
Now, in discussions regarding Israel and its borders, people will have no choice but to bring up a thorny issue: the Territories. This refers to what Israel calls “Judea and Samaria”, what is known more commonly as “The West Bank” (that is, area on and around the west bank of the River Jordan), and what many Muslims and others sympathetic to the Arab claimants thereof call the “Occupied Territories” (that is, the (Arab) territories occupied by Israel as a consequence of the Six Day War in 1967). Some mistakenly may call it “Palestine”. (See note 1 below.) Others use “the Territories” to include the Golan Heights in the north and the Gaza Strip on the west; hereinafter “The Territory” will refer solely to the Territories of Judea and Samaria. Although theories and ideas have been floated to the effect that The State of Israel should or would withdraw from The Territory, in effect an uneasy division has taken place wherein The State of Israel maintains control and hold over Israeli settlements, upon key resources, and upon roads and the like, while the Palestinian National Authority maintains control and hold over Palestinian enclaves, which are necessarily separate from Israeli enclaves (in some cases, physically so). Often, the Israeli enclaves (called “settlements”) are considered a major obstacle in any peace process by which Palestinians are granted exclusive control over The Territory. The existence and spread of these enclaves necessitate The State of Israel to maintain a large amount of oversight and control and influence over the entire Territory. The only solution — so it is said — whereby The State of Israel would be able to fully withdraw and grant sovereignty to the Palestinians over the entire Territory is the dismantling of these enclaves and the total withdrawal of all Israeli entities or interests from The Territory. But this oversimplifies the actual reality of the situation: Israeli enclaves do not constitute the sole reason The State of Israel retains a vested interest in The Territory. There are two other reasons why The State of Israel ought to retain control and influence over The Territory: resources and the anti-Israeli plank of the Palestinian platform. Read the rest of this entry »
The whole deal with Farfour the Mickey Mouse look-alike and now Nahoul the Bee (Türkçe’de: Farfur Sıçanı ve Nahul Bal Arısı) may demonstrate some reasons why I have little pity or compassion for many Palestinians.
Such hatred — being taught to children, no less! — is simply unacceptable and is quite vile.
Such characters — or, rather, the tendency to use such characters to teach hatred to Arab children — also demonstrate some reasons why there will never be peace in that region: every generation is raised to hate (for example: the Arabs) or fear (for example: the Israelis).
If there is any vicious cycle, here it is. And the fault lies squarely on the Arabs: if they did not teach so much hatred, they would be able to co-exist with the Israelis.
So don’t shove that “co-exist” dreck down my throat: convince the spontaneously explosive Arabs first.
The United States have two main strategies with which to accomplish its most crucial objectives in Iraq. The creation of a professional and effective Iraqi security force goes without saying. This is needed so that we can leave Iraq in the hands of Iraqis. But establishing stability and security in Iraq, which is The United States’ primary objective, can be accomplished through one of two strategies, as mentioned before: one is for the Armed Services of The United States to establish security and stability, mainly by exterminating terrorist networks and militias, and the other is to train and equip Iraqi security forces to do it (and then maintain security and stability thereafter) themselves. The Administration chose the latter strategy, which is best strategy and the only one that will serve our interests in the long run. Read the rest of this entry »
Rather than engage in political rhetoric or insult-mongering, I will simply say that our objective now in Iraq is to help the Iraqi government establish and maintain a professional and capable force to establish and protect Iraqi national stability. Then our presence will diminish by degrees until it is practically negligible. But until that point — when Iraqi security forces can operate independently in a professional and capable manner — we cannot leave. Or, rather, we should not leave. (Our Armed Services are servile enough that if the government gave them orders to retreat, they will retreat even if they believe something else should be done.) Read the rest of this entry »
Reading the comments at the Elder of Ziyon‘s blog reminded me of a very unpleasant truth: at times, we are forced to deal with and even support very unpleasant people. Two examples should suffice: Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah and The House of Saud of Saudi Arabia. In a perfect world, we would be free to conspire to remove both from power, but these entities are the lesser of evils that would exist. As it is said, better the devil we know than the devil we don’t. Furthermore, Abbas and The House of Saud have a vested interest in ensuring not only that they continue to receive our support but also that they continue to support our interests. In some cases, our interests are their interests as well. But then one has to wonder to what extent certain problems (such as, the so evil adversaries of Fatah or The House of Saud which cause us to support people and entities we’d rather not) are perpetuated by those who receive our support. In other words, rather than solving the problems that cause us to support them, are they in fact prolonging them so as to continue to receive our support?
An example of this is Pakistan’s government and military and the issue of the Taliban. To a certain degree, the government and military of Pakistan do not and will not completely eradicate the Taliban in Pakistan or in any areas over which they exercise influence or authority, no matter how easy or possible it is. The same with Usama bin Ladin: Pakistan has a policy, unofficial, of course, of deliberately not taking him out and even of sparing him. Both of these exist for the same reason: if the Taliban were destroyed and/or Bin Ladin taken out or apprehended, The United States’ interest in Pakistan (and, importantly, in Pakistan’s ruling regime) would decrease. Pakistan’s government and military want to ensure the maximum interest of The United States for the maximum amount of time.
(When the Pakistani government hinted that it may not permit foreign forces to move against Bin Ladin were he found within Pakistan’s borders, The Government wisely responded quite severely, stating that if Bin Ladin were found, The United States would move against him whether Pakistan permitted it or not. This sent a very clear message to Pakistan’s government and military: that Pakistan’s intransigence would be tolerated only so much.)
The issue of what Pakistan can and cannot do, as far as potential and politics are concerned, is another matter all together. In certain areas and issues, Pakistan’s government and military are quite impotent.
Unfortunately, we have to recognize that reality is often complicated and quite inconvenient. As much as we may hate it, we have little choice but to side with our erstwhile allies (while, at the same time, keeping a watch on our back). And we need to remember this for the future: when conditions change, we should remember why we supported whom we supported, both so as not to falsely accuse our past actions of laziness or insufficient dedication to our ideals and also so as to analyze every situation to ascertain if we can finally end an unpleasant relationship and bring onto the world stage a better, newer partner.
One of the difficult aspects of politics of The. Palestinian Territories are the essential character and characteristics of its main players. The main players today, Fatah and Hamas, are basically militias with political involvement rather than political parties or social organizations that happen to have armed wings. That is, the primary element of the two groups is their armed natur rather than their political involvement. As they have shown, armed tactics is part of their modi operandi regardless of whether they are in power or not. Hence the civil war that has been raging in The Palestinian Territories.
(Sidenote: As “government” is often defined as that entity that has a monopoly on the use of force, and as entities such as Fatah and Hamas (and Iraq’s sectarian militias) demonstrate, for some people at least, why only state authorities ought to have the ability to project armed force, it seems incredible and extraordinary that in The United States the average citizen not only has the ability and permission to bear arms independent of the government’s forces but even has the right to do so. Quite remarkable indeed.)
So if we hear of any disarming or dissolving of militias in The Palestinian Territories, we must keep in mind that there is more to the civil war than just a few militias. Without an effective, legitimate, and able law enforcement body, how can one expect any Palestinian “government” to operate properly (that is, not engaging in a civil war with its political opponents)? It will, accordingly, take more to solving this war than the unilateral disarmament of one side: the normal characteristics of an effective government would have to come into being, which would include, most importantly and unavoidably, the disbanding of every militia or armed outfit in favor for an impartial and professional law enforcement force. Such a force would exercise its duties uniformly regardless of what party or faction may dominate whatever bodies of government.
But it is difficult to see this happening in The Palestinian Territories, and this because of what seems to be an endemic or systematic element of militia-mongering, with its associated instability, popular promotion for and propaganda for militias and violence, and the delegitimization of other factions, that can be said to characterize the Palestinian political milieu. Of course, various internal and external forces not only favor this situation but also perpetuate it: after all, without Hamas, whom would the Iranis sell weapons to in the Palestinian political theatre? (And a theatre it is: the play is a tear-gushing tragedy.)
The situation in The Palestinian Territories is quite sad indeed; but we should not ignore to what extent the Palestinians’ tragedies are cause by Palestinians, Arabs, and other players other than Israel: indeed, one may say that viewing who has a hand in the Palestinians’ troubles, Israel should be the least of the Palestinians’ concerns.
This may seem like a somewhat random post, but I’d like to point out an interesting aspect of political geography: the difficulty of grouping states together.
Consider, for example, Iran. Iran is often grouped into the “Middle East” (also known as the “Near East) but it differs markedly from other Middle Eastern states: it is Shiite rather than Sunni (Syria has a Shiite government with a Sunni population while Bahrain has a Sunni government with a majority Shiite population; Iraq has a significant Shiite demographic: but none of these is like Iran, where both the government and population are Shiite); it is ethnically Persian rather than Arab (and, consequently does not share the dominant language of the Middle East, Arabic); it has an elected theocratic government rather than the monarchies and dictatorships of most of the Middle East. Even historically Iran differs significantly in that most of the Middle East was part of the Sunni caliphate’ particularly the Ottoman Empire, while Iran had been under its own local regimes.
But where else, then, could Iran be grouped into? Iran is certainly not Central Asian or South Asian (despite the Persians’ influence on the latter). And Iran shares closer relations to and with Middle Eastern states than Central Asian or South Asian states. As such, the common inclusion of Iran in the “Middle East” makes sense.
And what of Turkey? Like most Middle Eastern states, it is Sunni. Unlike most Middle Eastern states, it has a popularly elected governmen and has little, if any, connection with Arabic culture and civilization. Yet, like Iran, it has shared close relations with other states of the Middle East: indeed, for centuries it ruled the Middle Eastern states (except for Iran, but it battled with Iran, figuratively and literally, for dominance and influence over the area). Can Turks and Arabs (or, for that matter, Persians and Arabs) be lumped together?
One example that amuses me is Egypt (and can include or be used for any of the Arab states of Northern Africa, beginning with Egypt and stretching to Morocco on the Atlantic Ocean): are Egyptians Arabs, Middle Easterners, or Africans? And as Egypt has been considered to be in Africa for centuries now, can Egyptians, as Africans, claim benefits or special arrangements for Africans or people of African origin?
And what about Mediterranean states? Should they not also be considered to be a group unto itself? Does not a state’s location on the Great Sea play an important part in its character, politics, culture, and tendencies?
And how about Afghanistan? Is it Middle Eastern, South Asian, or Central Asian? Or this a case, as some say is with Turkey, that parts belong to different areas (the Pashtun areas being South Asian; the Tajik and Uzbek areas being Central Asian; the more Persian or Dari areas being Middle Eastern)?
It is not easy to group states together into useful categories or geopolitical regions, yet doing so makes considering the world and its manifold issues easier. And, indeed, in some cases such categorization even makes sense as far as issues go. But there has yet to be a comprehensive system developed: all systems in use are debated and problematic to some degree.
As such, while we ought to consider a state’s location, we should not put all of our understanding of a state’s problems or issues solely in the context of geopolitical location. In some ways, each state is an entity unto itself or may involve issues, characteristics, or aspects common or dissimilar to the states around it.
How are the mighty fallen!
(King David; 2 Samuel 1:19.)
Saddam Hussein al-Tikriti has been executed for his crimes against the Iraqi people, for his crimes against humanity.
I remembered when Arafat died: many customers who came through the place I worked in at that time expressed joy at his death. They saw him as a terrorist, one who was a threat to the Israeli and Jewish people despite his apparent change of spots.
It may seem easy to believe that this event, the execution of a man who unflinchingly send uncountable people to their deaths, would be an occasion for joy and rejoicing. After all, if people rejoiced when Arafat died of (supposedly) natural causes, how much more ought we to rejoice when the sword of justice in mortal hands avenges the blood of the many, many slain.
But I believe differently. This is a moment for us to remember the many killed by Saddam. This is a moment for us to reflect on how such obvious tyrants and homocidal despots seem to be able to rule without any opposition by the supposedly enlightened and humane international community.
And let us contrast the ways of the West with those of the Rest. After the liberation of Iraq, coalition forces expended much effort to track down and find Saddam. There were attempts to take him out, but ultimately he was found by American troops when a person in the know basicallly revealed where Saddam was hiding. Saddam was not harmed, hurt, tortured, or otherwise violated. He was arrested and put on trial. He had a big-name lawyer. His side was able to make its case and points. The judge had to examine the evidence and arguments. It was a genuine trial.
Now, what happens in the Rest? People and their families are simply “disappeared”: no one knows anything about them, until one day their remains are found in a mass grave. No trial, no attorney, no defense, no justice. Whole villages are simply wiped out. Families live in fear that at any moment the despot’s forces, legal or not, with or without proper documentation, will sweep in and either take them away or slaughter them all at once.
For all of our talk about justice, human rights, liberties, and responsibility, we do let many despots get away. And there is something ironic when tyrannous and blood-stained despots are brought to justice through an actual just process. The very right Saddam denied to so many in the end undid him.
There will be those who will lament that Saddam’s trial was not fair. Let them lament. Their lament can now do nothing. Those who lament might very well be the same people who would have opposed liberating Iraq from Saddam’s talons to begin with. Let them whine and moan and lament. Let their got air rise to the skies. Their words are impotent.
Notice that I have not said that his execution has justified or completed the liberation of Iraq. It’s tempting to say so, but to say so would be to misunderstand why we went in to liberate Iraq. Our campaign–and by “our” I refer to the coalition led by The United States–was against Saddam Hussein and his regime. Were it against Saddam, we could have perpetuated Iraq’s “stability” (unjust as it was) by installing another Sunni general (or, as the British did when they created Iraq, a king). Our goal was to establish an entirely new regime, which we did. (I use the word “regime” in its academic sense, meaning a system of government.) Whether Saddam survived or how he would die are irrelevant for our purposes.
And this is not our victory or our gain. This is a victory for the Iraqi people; this is a victory for justice; this is a victory for history. So let us not think this occured for us Americans or by us Americans. We helped, yes, and without it this would not have been possible, but Saddam was tried by the Iraqis in an Iraqi court for crimes against the Iraqi people: the victory is theirs.
Yet we can share the relief of the Iraqi people and their accomplishment by virtue of the fact that this was a victory for humanity. It is very rare indeed for one such as Saddam–in Jewish parlance, a Haman (genocidal conniver)–to face justice. More often, such people succumb to nature or to internal politics. It is not a sad time when someone like Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Jinggez Khan, or Arafat dies, but their death at the hands of nature rather than the sword of justice leaves something to be desired. Furthermore, we can take comfort in the fact that this victory by the Iraqi people, a true victory in that this was through a just process, could not have happened without our intervention. Whereas we may not have executed justice ourselves, we established the foundation, framework, conditions, and environment within which justice could be served. As such, the world (and justice and history) are indebted to the Armed Forces of The United States and of their allies and to the presidency and administration of President George W. Bush. While many clamored for diplomatic solutions and giving a blood-stained regime more time, these proactive forces set events into motion which would result, among many notable events, in Saddam Hussein al-Tikriti facing justice for his abominable crimes against humanity.
For once, goodness and justice have prevailed against evil and injustice. This can only give us hope.