Sunday, July 30, 2006

Something about this review makes me want to buy this book

"It is probably your patriotic duty not to buy it"

It sounds like an Agatha Christie murder mystery, but in fact it's the memoir of British ex-diplomat Craig Murray, who refused to look the other way as his government and its senior partner, the United States, cozied up to to a regime of thugs, torturers, and murderers in Uzbekistan, a key ally in the war on terror. Or rather, formerly a key ally. Karimov, like so many American-supported tyrants before him, got tired of being told what to do, and formally evicted his erstwhile masters exactly a year ago.

Murder in Samarkand: The Curmudgeon Review

By Philip Challinor in The Curmudgeon

It begins with an expression of amazement by a member of the British embassy staff in Uzbekistan. The source of his amazement is the fact that the British ambassador to Uzbekistan has any interest in what might be happening in that part of Uzbekistan which lies outside the gates of his residence. Craig Murray's predecessors, and presumably successors, displayed no such interest.

As Murray discovered to his cost, this was not incompetence or negligence on their part. Uzbekistan, under the dissident-boiling regime of Islam Karimov, was a designated vital ally in the War Against the Abstract Noun and therefore an automatic recipient of the Bush administration's seal of approval as a burgeoning democracy. Accordingly, it was the British ambassador's patriotic duty to sit on his hands, make appropriate noises at social functions, and congratulate the regime on its nonexistent reforms while Karimov's goons raped as many people and pulled out as many fingernails as they dashed well pleased.

Although a promising diplomat with experience in Nigeria, Ghana and Poland, Murray was unpatriotic enough to allow his personal distaste for torture and totalitarianism to get in the way of his professional judgement. The Foreign Office offered him the gentleman's way out: a chance to resign rather than be kicked out on charges so incompetently fabricated they were an insult to the craft of trumping-up. Murray compares it to the good old-fashioned Britishness of being given a revolver and expected to do the decent thing; instead of which "I picked it up and started shooting at the bastards". Truly, our values are not what they once were.

Starting with his witnessing of a dissident "trial", which was largely a platform for the judge to make bad jokes about Muslims before passing sentence, Murray recounts his professional and personal adventures and vicissitudes from his arrival in Tashkent to his formal suspension from duty and resignation from the diplomatic service. It is clear that he made thoroughly unscrupulous use of his ambassadorial status not only to promote British commercial and cultural interests in Uzbekistan, but also to investigate human rights abuses and even, in one instance, to encourage asylum seekers to apply to the United Kingdom for accommodation. It is heartening to report that, for a change, they were turned down quickly enough to spare the taxpayer both the expense of deporting them and the tedium of reading about them in the Daily Mail.

Naturally, the Foreign Office did all it could to rein in Murray's excesses. Their efforts to keep him from making a fool of himself led naturally to the ruin of his health, both physical and mental; and naturally, having nothing to hide, the Government has censored his book, delayed its publication and done its best to suppress the correspondence (released under the Freedom of Information Act) which substantiates Murray's claims. Fortunately, these documents have been mirrored elsewhere, so it is still possible to gain some idea of the Government's honesty, innocence and pristine attachment to principle.

Like many enemies of truth and decency, Murray exerts a certain dangerous charm. Despite the often harrowing subject matter, his book is always readable, never boring and sometimes hilarious. It is probably your patriotic duty not to buy it; and you certainly will not sleep better if you believe it, even though it does include a tip on how best to drink vodka with the KGB. Doubtless this is why the Government has done so much to protect us from it.

Okay, I love my dog, but...

...this is more than a little ridiculous:
Baltimore's Ottobar holds a group "interspecies" marriage ceremony, for patrons who so love their animal companions that they have chosen to marry them.

Damn, those Republicans pushing for an amendment banning gay marriage had it right all along! It's a slippery slope. Allow gays to marry, and next thing you know, it'll be man on dog, man on box turtle...

"I came over here because I wanted to kill people"

Over a mess-tent dinner of turkey cutlets, the bony-faced 21-year-old private from West Texas looked right at me as he talked about killing Iraqis with casual indifference. It was February, and we were at his small patrol base about 20 miles south of Baghdad. "The truth is, it wasn't all I thought it was cracked up to be. I mean, I thought killing somebody would be this life-changing experience. And then I did it, and I was like, 'All right, whatever.' "

He shrugged.

"I shot a guy who wouldn't stop when we were out at a traffic checkpoint and it was like nothing," he went on. "Over here, killing people is like squashing an ant. I mean, you kill somebody and it's like 'All right, let's go get some pizza.' "

Friday, July 28, 2006

Why Democrats oppose John Bolton

"My objection isn't that he's been a bully, but that he's been an ineffective bully," said Sen. Christopher Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat.

Why yes, I'm quite certain that a Congress and White House run by Democrats would result in a saner, juster, and more peaceful foreign policy for the United States. Uh-huh.

Incidentally, I only belatedly caught this bit from the letter by the AIPAC Democrats:

"The goal of the invasion in Iraq was not to remove one threat in favor of another. The President's stated goal was to establish a strong liberal democracy in Iraq, which would help to bring stability to the Middle East."

WTF??? Where were these guys in 2003? Remember weapons of mass destruction--for bureaucratic reasons "the one issue that everyone could agree on", as Paul Wolfowitz candidly ackowledged?

Oh, by the way, the other two "fundamental concerns" cited by Wolfowitz were "support for terrorism" and "the criminal treatment of the Iraqi people."

Yeah, that invasion turned out real well on all three counts.

As for bringing "stability to the Middle East," when was that ever a goal of this administration?

"Creative destruction is our middle name."

"What we're seeing here, in a sense, is the growing -- the birth pangs of a new Middle East."

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Israeli self-defense

Israeli strike hits aid truck

AN Israeli air strike today hit a truck carrying medical and food supplies donated to Lebanon by the United Arab Emirates, killing its Syrian driver and wounding two others, security sources said.
The truck was destroyed just a few kilometres from Lebanon's eastern border with Syria in the town of Anjar. Israel has been hitting targets in southern Lebanon, Beirut and other parts of the country in a war with Hezbollah.

An Israeli air strike on July 18 hit another truck carrying aid donated by the UAE. The truck, whose driver was killed, was travelling from Damascus.

Israel deliberately bombs U.N. post

UN Officials: Observers Asked Israel 10 Times To Halt Bombs

By Associated Press

JERUSALEM (AP)--U.N. peacekeepers in southern Lebanon called the Israeli military 10 times over a six-hour period to ask it to halt its nearby bombing before their observation post was hit, killing four people, according to details of a preliminary U.N. report on the incident released to The Associated Press on Wednesday.

During each phone call, an Israeli official promised to halt the bombing, according to a U.N. official who had seen the preliminary report.

The U.N. peacekeepers at the post said the area within a kilometer of the post was hit with precision munitions, including 17 bombs and 12 artillery shells, four of which directly hit the post Tuesday, the report said.

Israeli missiles target ambulances

All the crews were injured - one with a piece of shrapnel in his neck - but what worried the Lebanese Red Cross was that the Israeli missiles had clearly pierced the very centre of the red cross painted on the roof of each vehicle. Did the pilots use the cross as their aiming point?

Israel drops cluster bombs on Lebanese villages

According to eyewitnesses and survivors of the attack interviewed by Human Rights Watch, Israel fired several artillery-fired cluster munitions at Blida around 3 p.m. on July 19. The witnesses described how the artillery shells dropped hundreds of cluster submunitions on the village. They clearly described the submunitions as smaller projectiles that emerged from their larger shells.

The cluster attack killed 60-year-old Maryam Ibrahim inside her home. At least two submunitions from the attack entered the basement that the Ali family was using as a shelter, wounding 12 persons, including seven children. Ahmed Ali, a 45-year-old taxi driver and head of the family, lost both legs from injuries caused by the cluster munitions. Five of his children were wounded: Mira, 16; Fatima, 12; ‘Ali, 10; Aya, 3; and `Ola, 1. His wife Akram Ibrahim, 35, and his mother-in-law `Ola Musa, 80, were also wounded. Four relatives, all German-Lebanese dual nationals sheltering with the family, were wounded as well: Mohammed Ibrahim, 45; his wife Fatima, 40; and their children ‘Ali, 16, and Rula, 13.

Israel using phosporus weapons

CNN video correspondent, Karl Penhaul, follows a family that had been mistakenly caught in an Israeli air strike. The doctor treating the family says that there is phosphorus in the weapons that cause extremely painful burns on its victims.

Israel orders Lebanese families to flee their homes, then bombs them in their cars

The Sha'itas had thought they were on the road to safety when they set out yesterday, leaving behind a village which because of an accident of geography - it is five miles from the Israeli border - had seemed to make their home a killing ground. They had been ordered to evacuate by the Israelis.

But they were a little too slow and became separated from the other vehicles fleeing the Israeli air offensive in south Lebanon. Minutes before the Guardian's car arrived, trailing a Red Cross ambulance on its way to other civilian wounded in another town, an Israeli missile pierced the roof of the Sha'itas' white van. Three passengers sitting in the third row were killed instantly, including Ali's grandmother. Sixteen other passengers were wounded.

Israeli Soldiers: There's No Such Thing As a Civilian

Israeli soldiers frankly admit that they are not bothering to distinguish between Hezbollah fighters and innocent women and children in Lebanon. From ABC News:

"For Israeli troops deployed inside Lebanon, the fight is difficult and dangerous. We spoke with a group of soldiers returning from 48 hours of intense fighting, including the rescue of soldiers from a tank destroyed in the fighting.

"They are attacking us in a very organized position," one soldier said. "They know where we are coming from. They know everything. They shoot us wherever they like. It's their country."

He added they are "very well armed."

Now more Israeli soldiers are on the way, including an armored unit being transferred from Gaza to Lebanon. They have been told civilians have left the region where they will fight.

"Over here, everybody is the army," one soldier said. "Everybody is Hezbollah. There's no kids, women, nothing."

Another soldier put it plainly: "We're going to shoot anything we see.""

Israel set war plan more than a year ago

More than a year ago, a senior Israeli army officer began giving PowerPoint presentations, on an off-the-record basis, to U.S. and other diplomats, journalists and think tanks, setting out the plan for the current operation in revealing detail.

Juan Cole:

That this war was pre-planned was obvious to me from the moment it began. The Israeli military proceeded methodically and systematically to destroy Lebanon's infrastructure, and clearly had been casing targets for some time. The vast majority of these targets were unrelated to Hizbullah.

Official justification for Israel's invasion on thin ice

As Lebanon continues to be pounded by Israeli bombs and munitions, the justification for Israel's invasion is treading on very thin ice. It has become general knowledge that it was Hezbollah guerillas that first kidnapped two IDF soldiers inside Israel on July 12, prompting an immediate and violent response from the Israeli government, which insists it is acting in the interest of national defense. Israeli forces have gone on to kill over 370 innocent Lebanese civilians (compared to 34 killed on Israel's side) while displacing hundreds of thousands more. But numerous reports from international and independent media, as well as the Associated Press, raise questions about Israel's official version of the events that sparked the conflict two weeks ago.

The original story, as most media tell it, goes something like this: Hezbollah attacked an Israeli border patrol station, killing six and taking two soldiers hostage. The incident happened on the Lebanese/Israel border in Israeli territory. The alternate version, as explained by several news outlets, tells a bit of a different tale: These sources contend that Israel sent a commando force into southern Lebanon and was subsequently attacked by Hezbollah near the village of Aitaa al-Chaab, well inside Lebanon's southern territory. It was at this point that an Israel tank was struck by Hezbollah fighters, which resulted in the capture of two Israeli soldiers and the death of six...

...Whether factual or not, these alternative accounts should at the very least raise serious questions as to Israel's motives and rationale for bombarding Lebanon.

But of course, since Israel is only acting in self-defense, it would be wrong and anti-Semitic to criticize its actions:

Dean Calls Iraqi PM an 'Anti-Semite'

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean on Wednesday called Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki an "anti-Semite" for failing to denounce Hezbollah for its attacks against Israel.

Al-Maliki has condemned Israel's offensive, prompting several Democrats to boycott his address to a joint meeting of Congress and others to criticize him. Dean's comments were the strongest to date.

"The Iraqi prime minister is an anti-Semite," the Democratic leader told a gathering of business leaders in Florida. "We don't need to spend $200 and $300 and $500 billion bringing democracy to Iraq to turn it over to people who believe that Israel doesn't have a right to defend itself and who refuse to condemn Hezbollah."

Bob begs to differ.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

"The Iraqi leadership has made statements in conflict with the interests and policy of the United States"

Damned impertinent little puppet! How dare you? Smack!

Thanks to Stop Me Before I Vote Again, I found the text of the letter by AIPAC Democrats on Maliki (see two posts down):
Dear Speaker Hastert:

We are writing to object to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki's planned address to Congress this Wednesday. In the wake of comments made by Mr. Maliki and other members of the Iraqi leadership denouncing Israel, it is clear that their foreign policy goals are at odds with those of the United States. The Speaker's podium reflects our nation's values. We the Members of the House, under your leadership, decide who receives that honor, and the list should not include anyone whose interests conflict with the United States.

On Wednesday, July 19th, in reference to the conflict in Lebanon, Prime Minister Maliki said, "I condemn these aggressions and call on the Arab League foreign ministers meeting in Cairo to take quick action to stop these aggressions. We call on the world to take quick stands to stop the Israeli aggression."

Additionally, the Iraqi Parliament voted unanimously to condemn Israel, calling Israel's actions "criminal aggression." These comments and actions are in direct conflict with the position of both President Bush, and the United States House of Representatives which voted 410-8 to support "Israel's right to take appropriate action to defend itself, including to conduct operations both in Israel and in the territory of nations which pose a threat to it, which is in accordance with international law, including Article 51 of the United Nations Charter."

This is not the first time that Iraqi leadership has made statements in conflict with the interests and policy of the United States. Today, 50 Members of Congress sent President Bush a letter denouncing the hate filled comments of Iraqi Parliament Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani.

But our concerns go beyond these statements. In recent months there have been extensive reports indicating that Maliki and many in the Iraqi leadership are increasingly influenced by the government in Iran. Further, they have expressed support of terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah, the latter of which was responsible for the death of 241 United States Marines in Beirut. The House should not allow an address from any world leader who has taken such action.

This is a disturbing and dangerous trend. The goal of the invasion in Iraq was not to remove one threat in favor of another. The President's stated goal was to establish a strong liberal democracy in Iraq, which would help to bring stability to the Middle East. The aforementioned comments and actions raise serious questions about the success of this mission.

With evidence mounting that the Iraqi leadership's goals are not in the best interests of the United States -- nor the Middle East -- Prime Minister Maliki's address is inappropriate. We are unaware of any prior instance where a world leader who worked against the interests of the United States was afforded such an honor. We would like to know how Prime Minister Maliki was chosen to receive the honor, and absent an apology by the Prime Minister, urge you to cancel the address.

Among the signers of the letter were [Rahm] Emanuel, Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Il.), Gary Ackerman (D-NY), Steven Rothman (D-NJ), Michael McNulty (D-NY), John Lewis (D-Ga.), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Nita Lowey (D-NY), Joseph Crowley (D-NY), William Delahunt (D-Mass.), C.B. Maloney (D-NY), Barney Frank (D-Mass.), John Olver (D-Mass.), Sander Levin (D-Mich.) [shouldn't that be Carl?], George Miller (D-Calif.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Tim Bishop (D-NY), Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) and Artur Davis (D-Ala.)

I dunno, I think the executive summary was better, and anyway I'm all blogged out. What do you think?

“determination to work immediately to reach with the utmost urgency a cease-fire"

Diplomats dither.

ROME, July 26 — In the face of United States opposition, an international conference here today stopped short of calling for an immediate cease-fire in the Lebanon crisis.

The conference instead adopted more nebulous language that reflected America’s desire to give Israel time to continue its bombardment of Hezbollah targets.

In a statement, diplomats from the United States, Europe, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia expressed their “determination to work immediately to reach with the utmost urgency a cease-fire that puts an end to the current violence and hostilities.”

The diplomats also called for an international military force to be deployed in southern Lebanon under the auspices of the United Nations, after NATO members said their alliance was already overstretched. And they called for a regional conference, including Syria and Iran, to discuss security issues.

The release of the diplomats’ prepared statement was delayed by almost two hours by wrangling over its contents. The key sticking point was the phrase concerning a ceasefire, according to two European diplomats who were in the room.

Most of the officials in the room were seeking, at the very least, a phrase that said the group would “work towards an immediate ceasefire,” one of the diplomats said. But Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice refused, and won, he said.

“She insisted it say ‘work immediately to bring a ceasefire,’ not ‘work to bring an immediate ceasefire,’” the diplomat said. He said that the group argued about that for more than 30 minutes before ceding the point to the United States.

Meanwhile, in Lebanon...

Get the smelling salts, quick

This would be funny if the context were not so tragic. AIPAC Democrats in Congress, as Juan Cole aptly describes them, are swooning and fainting and threatening to boycott the appearance of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki before that august body unless Maliki apologizes for criticizing Israel's barbaric attacks on Lebanon, and denounces Hizbullah as a terrorist organization. A bunch of House Democrats sent a letter to Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert demanding that the invitation to Maliki be revoked unless he publicly recants.

I've been trying to get the full text of the letter, so far without success, but fortunately Arthur Silber provides an executive summary of the message to Maliki:
After we destroy your country and unleash a vicious civil war which takes the lives of between 100 and 200 innocent Iraqis every day, and after we see that you are installed as leader of this dying country and prop up your doomed and ineffectual government, we expect you to repeat our propaganda without question or criticism. If you do not, you obviously cannot expect to be warmly received in Rome. We have lost American lives and treasure on this disastrous venture. True, we had no justifiable reason whatsoever for taking these actions, and it was absolutely none of our goddamned business. But we did so anyway, out of the endless beneficence of our magnanimous, "civilizing" hearts. So you will express appropriate thanks, you ungrateful bastard. Otherwise, get the hell out of town.

As Cole helpfully points out,
The US Congress, aside from a strange inability to recognize the disproportionate use of force when it sees it, does not seem to realize that the Dawa Party of Iraq, from which Nuri al-Maliki hails, is a revolutionary Shiite religious party not that much different from the Lebanese Hizbullah.

The members of Congress also don't seem to realize that the Iraqi Dawa helped to form the Lebanese Hizbullah back in the early 1980s.

...did they really think [Maliki] was going to condemn Hizbullah and take Israel's side?

And if he did, do they think that the Shiite religious parties that backed him would let him stay in office?

I am continually amazed, if dismayed, at the lethal combination of ignorance and arrogance displayed by American politicians when it comes to international affairs.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Odd ones out

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Bill Blum on the Middle East

Put simply, clearly, and honestly. From today's Anti-Empire Report:

The End Is Near, but first, this commercial

There are times when I think that this tired old world has gone on a few years too long. What's happening in the Middle East is so depressing. Most discussions of the eternal Israel-Palestine conflict are variations on the child's eternal defense for misbehavior -- "He started it!" Within a few minutes of discussing/arguing the latest manifestation of the conflict the participants are back to 1967, then 1948, then biblical times. I don't wish to get entangled in who started the current mess. I would like instead to first express what I see as two essential underlying facts of life which remain from one conflict to the next:

1) Israel's existence is not at stake and hasn't been so for decades, if it ever was, regardless of the many de rigueur militant statements by Arab leaders over the years. If Israel would learn to deal with its neighbors in a non-expansionist, non-military, humane, and respectful manner, engage in full prisoner exchanges, and sincerely strive for a viable two-state solution, even those who are opposed to the idea of a state based on a particular religion could accept the state of Israel, and the question of its right to exist would scarcely arise in people's minds. But as it is, Israel still uses the issue as a justification for its behavior, as Jews all over the world use the Holocaust and conflating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism.

2) In a conflict between a thousand-pound gorilla and a mouse, it's the gorilla which has to make concessions in order for the two sides to progress to the next level. What can the Palestinians offer in the way of concession? Israel would reply to that question: "No violent attacks of any kind." But that would still leave the status quo ante bellum -- a life of unmitigated misery for the Palestinian people forced upon them by Israel. Peace without justice.

Israel's declarations about the absolute unacceptability of one of their soldiers being held captive by the Palestinians, or two soldiers being held by Hezbollah in Lebanon, cannot be taken too seriously when Israel is holding literally thousands of captured Palestinians, many for years, typically without any due process, many tortured; as well as holding a number of prominent Hezbollah members. A few years ago, if not still now, Israel wrote numbers on some of the Palestinian prisoners' arms and foreheads, using blue markers, a practice that is of course reminiscent of the Nazis' treatment of Jews in World War II. [1]

Israel's real aim, and that of Washington, is the overthrow of the Hamas government in Palestine, the government that came to power in January through a clearly democratic process, the democracy that the Western "democracies" never tire of celebrating, except when the result doesn't please them. Is there a stronger word than "hypocrisy"? There is now "no Hamas government," declared a senior US official a week ago, "eight cabinet ministers or 30 percent of the government is in jail [kidnapped by Israel], another 30 percent is in hiding, and the other 30 percent is doing very little."[2] To make the government-disappearance act even more Orwellian, we have Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, speaking in late June about Iraq: "This is the only legitimately elected government in the Middle East with a possible exception of Lebanon."[3] What's next, gathering in front of the Big Telescreeen for the Two Minutes Hate?

In addition to doing away with the Hamas government, the current military blitzkrieg by Israel, with full US support, may well be designed to create "incidents" to justify attacks on Iran and Syria, the next steps of Washington's work in process, a controlling stranglehold on the Middle East and its oil.

It is a wanton act of collective punishment that is depriving the Palestinians of food, electricity, water, money, access to the outside world ... and sleep. Israel has been sending jets flying over Gaza at night triggering sonic booms, traumatizing children. "I want nobody to sleep at night in Gaza," declared Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert[4]; words suitable for Israel's tombstone.

These crimes against humanity -- and I haven't mentioned the terrible special weapons reportedly used by Israel -- are what the people of Palestine get for voting for the wrong party. It is ironic, given the Israeli attacks against civilians in both Gaza and Lebanon, that Hamas and Hezbollah are routinely dismissed in the West as terrorist organizations. The generally accepted definition of terrorism, used by the FBI and the United Nations amongst others, is: The use of violence against a civilian population in order to intimidate or coerce a government in furtherance of a political objective.

Since 9-11 it has been a calculated US-Israeli tactic to label the fight against Israel's foes as an integral part of the war on terror. On July 19, a rally was held in Washington, featuring the governor of Maryland, several members of Israeli-occupied Congress, the Israeli ambassador, and evangelical leading-light John Hagee. The Washington Post reported that "Speaker after prominent speaker characteriz[ed] current Israeli fighting as a small branch of the larger U.S.-led global war against Islamic terrorism" and "Israel's attacks against the Shiite Muslim group Hezbollah were blows against those who have killed civilians from Bali to Bombay to Moscow." Said the Israeli ambassador: "This is not just about [Israel]. It's about where our world is going to be and the fate and security of our world. Israel is on the forefront. We will amputate these little arms of Iran," referring to Hezbollah.[5]

And if the war on terror isn't enough to put Israel on the side of the angels, John Hagee has argued that "the United States must join Israel in a pre-emptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God's plan for both Israel and the West". He speaks of "a biblically prophesied end-time confrontation with Iran, which will lead to the Rapture, Tribulation, and Second Coming of Christ."[6]

The beatification of Israel approaches being a movement. Here is David Horowitz, the eminent semi-hysterical ex-Marxist: "Israel is part of a global war, the war of radical Islam against civilization. Right now Israel is doing the work of the rest of the civilized world by taking on the terrorists. It is not only for Israel's sake that we must get the facts out -- it is for ourselves, America, for every free country in the world, and for civilization itself."[7]

As for the two Israeli soldiers captured and held in Lebanon for prisoner exchange, we must keep a little history in mind. In the late 1990s, before Israel was evicted from southern Lebanon by Hezbollah, it was a common practice for Israel to abduct entirely innocent Lebanese. As a 1998 Amnesty International paper declared: "By Israel's own admission, Lebanese detainees are being held as 'bargaining chips'; they are not detained for their own actions but in exchange for Israeli soldiers missing in action or killed in Lebanon. Most have now spent 10 years in secret and isolated detention."[8]

Israel has created its worst enemies -- they helped create Hamas as a counterweight to Fatah in Palestine, and their occupation of Lebanon created Hezbollah. The current terrible bombings can be expected to keep the process going. Since its very beginning, Israel has been almost continually occupied in fighting wars and taking other people's lands. Did not any better way ever occur to the idealistic Zionist pioneers?

But while you and I get depressed by the horror and suffering, the neo-conservatives revel in it. They devour the flesh and drink the blood of the people of Afghanistan, of Iraq, of Palestine, of Lebanon, yet remain ravenous, and now call for Iran and Syria to be placed upon the feasting table. More than one of them has used the expression oderint dum metuant, a favorite phrase of Roman emperor Caligula, also used by Cicero -- "let them hate so long as they fear". Here is William Kristol, editor of the bible of neo-cons, "Weekly Standard", on Fox News Sunday, July 16:

"Look, our coddling of Iran ... over the last six to nine months has emboldened them. I mean, is Iran behaving like a timid regime that's very worried about the U.S.? Or is Iran behaving recklessly and in a foolhardy way? ... Israel is fighting four of our five enemies in the Middle East, in a sense. Iran, Syria, sponsors of terror; Hezbollah and Hamas. ... This is an opportunity to begin to reverse the unfortunate direction of the last six to nine months and get the terrorists and the jihadists back on the defensive."

Host Juan Williams replied: "Well, it just seems to me that you want ... you just want war, war, war, and you want us in more war. You wanted us in Iraq. Now you want us in Iran. Now you want us to get into the Middle East ... you're saying, why doesn't the United States take this hard, unforgiving line? Well, the hard and unforgiving line has been [tried], we don't talk to anybody. We don't talk to Hamas. We don't talk to Hezbollah. We're not going to talk to Iran. Where has it gotten us, Bill?"

Kristol, looking somewhat taken aback, simply threw up his hands.

The Fox News audience does (very) occasionally get a hint of another way of looking at the world.


[1] Washington Post, March 13, 2002, p.1

[2] Washington Post, July 16, 2006. p.15

[3] Washington Post, July 3, 2006, p.19

[4] Associated Press, July 3, 2006

[5] Washington Post, July 20, 2006, p.B3

[6] Sarah Posner, The American Prospect, June 2006

[7], Horowitz's site

[8] Amnesty International news release, 26 June 1998, AI INDEX: MDE 15/54/98

Israel's destructive, dysfunctional and irrational response

to a reality it helped create but doesn't like. Enabled, as always, by the United States. Of course.

U.S. Speeds Up Bomb Delivery for the Israelis

WASHINGTON, July 21 — The Bush administration is rushing a delivery of precision-guided bombs to Israel, which requested the expedited shipment last week after beginning its air campaign against Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, American officials said Friday.

The decision to quickly ship the weapons to Israel was made with relatively little debate within the Bush administration, the officials said. Its disclosure threatens to anger Arab governments and others because of the appearance that the United States is actively aiding the Israeli bombing campaign in a way that could be compared to Iran’s efforts to arm and resupply Hezbollah.

The munitions that the United States is sending to Israel are part of a multimillion-dollar arms sale package approved last year that Israel is able to draw on as needed, the officials said. But Israel’s request for expedited delivery of the satellite and laser-guided bombs was described as unusual by some military officers, and as an indication that Israel still had a long list of targets in Lebanon to strike.

Here are what those bombs are being used for:

Israel's declared goal in pulverizing Lebanon with American-supplied munitions is to drive Hezbollah out of southern Lebanon. A sure-fire strategy for success--so long as you ignore history and reality, as described in, of all places, today's WaPo:
...Israel's previous military campaigns and occupations of Lebanon played a decisive role in creating this new enemy. Some analysts in Lebanon believe that the new bloodshed and a renewed attempt to fashion Lebanese society to Israel's advantage could generate yet another permutation, one that is perhaps even more irreconcilably hostile to the Jewish state.

"Now you risk producing something worse than Hezbollah, maybe al-Qaeda number two," said Fawaz Trabulsi, a Lebanese professor at the American University of Beirut who helped lead a leftist organization that fought Israeli troops alongside Palestinian guerrillas during the 1982 invasion.

"It's '82 all over again," Trabulsi said. "What's similar is the idea of destroying the infrastructure, of the PLO then, and now of Hezbollah. The difference is Hezbollah is Lebanese and you can't expel them."


"When I hear the Israelis talk about getting Hezbollah out of southern Lebanon, I have to laugh," said a veteran Middle East official and analyst who requested anonymity because of his sensitive position. "They live there."

From an interview earlier this week with Rami Khouri, editor-at-large of the Beirut-based Daily Star newspaper and an internationally syndicated political columnist and author:

...there’s a kind of an irrationality to Zionism that we’re seeing today, or at least to the Israeli political leadership, that just don't seem to get it, that when you repress somebody and you brutalize them, what you get is not acquiescence and subservience. What you get is defiance and resistance...

...Hezbollah, Hamas and these groups represent an organic natural reaction that has brewed and percolated and now is materializing after 15-20 years, a reaction of societies in the Arab world that has been extremely disappointed by the autocracy and corruption and ineffectiveness of their own Arab regimes, by the brutality and occupation of Israel, and by the rather racist and then now neocolonial and imperial in the military policies -- whatever you want to call them -- of the United States...

...People are not going to live in a vacuum, and they’re not going to be humiliated and degraded. And they’re going to look for alternatives. And the alternative now that seems to be sweeping this region is the Islamist movements, including the ones doing serious military resistance to Israel.

Alexander Cockburn also provides some historical context for the rise of Hezbollah:

Occupy a country, torture its citizens and in the end you face resistance...

...Of course they won’t destroy Hezbollah. Every time they kill another Lebanese family, they multiply hatred of Israel and support for Hezbollah.

And for the popularity of Hamas:
The years roll by and Israel does its successful best to destroy all possibility of a viable two-state solution. It builds illegal settlements. It chops up Palestine with Jews-only roads. It collars all the water. It cordons off Jerusalem. It steals even more land by bisecting Palestinian territory with its “fence”. Anyone trying to organize resistance gets jailed, tortured, or blown up.

Sick of their terrible trials, Palestinians elect Hamas, whose leaders make it perfectly clear that they are ready to deal on the basis of the old two-state solution, which of course is the one thing Israel cannot endure. Israel doesn’t want any “peaceful solution” that gives the Palestinians anything more than a few trashed out acres surrounded with barbed wire and tanks, between the Israeli settlements whose goons can murder them pretty much at will.

And finally, blogger Elizbeth offers a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Makes sense to me. Go read.

Friday, July 21, 2006

America stands with Israel

as Israel commits war crimes:

In Scramble to Evade Israeli Bombs, the Living Leave the Dead Behind

...When Israeli loudspeakers warned villagers to evacuate the village of Marwaheen last Saturday, the families packed their belongings and headed for safety. More than 23 of them piled into a pickup and drove toward Tyre, with the brothers trailing behind. Another group set off for a nearby United Nations observation post, but were promptly turned away.

As the pickup raced to Tyre, Ali al-Ghanam said, Israeli boats shelled their convoy, hitting the car and injuring the women and children in the back. But within minutes an Israeli helicopter approached the car, firing a missile that blew the truck to pieces as the passengers struggled to jump out, he said.

His brother Mohammad, his wife and their six children, were killed instantly along with several of their relatives. The only survivor in the car was the brothers’ 4-year-old niece, who survived with severe burns to much of her body...

Read the whole report.

This is how Israel "defends itself." With the full backing of American politicians.

"Progressives", too.

Nancy Pelosi declares her unwavering support for Israel:

"I will support this resolution and urge my colleagues to do so as well. At a difficult time for the state of Israel, this resolution reaffirms our unwavering support and commitment to Israel and condemns the attacks by Hezbollah. The seizure of Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah terrorists was an unprovoked attack and Israel has a right and an obligation to respond."

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Shared values

Israel Bombs Milk, Pharmaceutical Factories, Aid Convoys

The humanitarian crisis in Lebanon continues to worsen. At least 500,000 people have been displaced from their homes. Scores of roads and bridges have been hit making it hard to transport food or humanitarian aid. Recent Israeli strikes have targeted the country’s largest milk factory, a major food factory and two pharmaceutical plants. Earlier bombs hit water processing plants, power plants and grain silos. On Tuesday a convoy of two trucks carrying medical supplies donated by the United Arab Emirates was hit. The trucks were destroyed and both drivers died. The Israeli military has denied targeting the factories or aid trucks. Two ambulances were also bombed on Tuesday. They were carrying Lebanese soldiers who were injured in an Israeli attack on their base that had killed eleven soldiers. A Greek Orthodox Church also suffered a direct hit. Inside the church were civilians who had taken refuge. At least 10 people were injured.

Congress Is Giving Israel Vote of Confidence

Both Parties Back Ally, Court Jewish Support

By Jim VandeHei
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 19, 2006; A05

Democratic and Republican congressional leaders are rushing to offer unalloyed support for Israel's offensive against Hezbollah fighters, reflecting a bipartisan desire to not only defend a key U.S. ally but also solidify long-term backing of Jewish voters and political donors in the United States, according to officials and strategists in both parties.

With Israel intensifying its air and artillery attacks on Lebanon and warning of a protracted war, the Senate yesterday unanimously passed a bipartisan resolution endorsing Israel's military campaign and condemning Hezbollah and its two backers, Iran and Syria. A few hours earlier, Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) delivered his most strident defense of Israel since the conflict erupted a week ago. The House is expected to pass a similarly pro-Israel resolution today.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Words fail

"[Israel] no longer recognizes any boundaries, geographical or moral.”

--Michel Warschawski, Towards an Open Tomb: The Crisis of Israeli Society (2004).

"We will stand with Israel because Israel is standing up for American values as well as Israeli ones."

--Sen. Hillary Clinton, speaking recently at a pro-Israel rally in New York

"Since almost all the missiles used to kill the civilians of Lebanon over the past four days were made in Seattle, Duluth and Miami in the United States, their use already suggests to millions of Lebanese that America is behind the bombardment of their country."

--Robert Fisk

See also:
Kathleen Christison, The Insane Brutality of the State of Israel
From Israel to Lebanon
The Angry Arab News Service

Friday, July 14, 2006

Agility update: a first, a fourth, and a fiasco

Last weekend we had agility competitions on Saturday AND Sunday, both in Ljubljana.

Saturday (July 8) was nice. It was cloudy for much of the day, hence not so hot. This competition took place on a soccer field borrowed for the occasion in Slovenia's capital and largest city, Ljubljana. Very little shade, and no natural bodies of water. The cloudiness made it much more bearable. I do have a strong preference for competitions located in scenic alpine settings with mountain streams and forests located conveniently nearby! Like this one, in Hrušica :

Lyra relaxing by a mountain stream in between agility runs last year at Hrušica

But back to Ljubljana last Saturday. Lyra had a clean run on the agility--a first for us. She's had a couple of clean jumping runs (the second of the two runs at each competition) in the past, and she did have one clean agility run in a team competition (on, ironically, a more difficult course), but this was the first time she's done it in an individual run. Two more of these, and we can advance to the next level, A2.

There were six clean runs in the A1, an unusually high number and an indication that the course was relatively easy. Our time was the fourth-best.

On the second run, she was unfocused and all over the course. We had several near-misses, coming within a hair’s breadth of disqualification, and I did not run it at all as I'd planned when I did the walk-through. Nevertheless, despite a sub-standard performance overall, we got off lightly--just five faults for entering the slalom incorrectly (my fault for standing too close, not giving her enough space). Foruntately she got it right the second time. With the five faults and a very slow time (due to all the extra ground she covered as she wandered from obstacle to obstacle), we were 11th in the jumping run.

We still managed to end up in fourth place overall. Not bad. Out of the money, but good for accruing some points towards the 2006 national championships (we're currently seventh in our category), and our first ever clean agility run in A1 is a notable landmark.

In contrast, the competition on Sunday, July 9, was a fiasco. On the first run, Lyra and I had no connection whatsoever. She was completely unfocused and scatter-brained. It reminded me of our performances when we were just starting out: wild, out of control, and invariably ending in disqualification.

I can't blame it on Lyra; it's always the handler's fault, not the dog's. But I was annoyed and disappointed, and she felt it.

The second run was much better. Following Primoz's advice, before the run I spent some time offering her treats and a ball to get her attention; we were connected when we went in and maintained it throughout. We accumulated fifteen faults on the slalom, but there again I have to take responsibility for not giving her enough room.

But in any case the result for the second run was irrelevant to the outcome, since we'd already been disqualified on the first run. No bags of Eukanuba dog food for us this time around. We're not doing so hot in the Eukanuba Cup. Our third-place finish in the first of the six competitions has been followed by two disqualifications, dropping us down to tenth place in the standings.

Poor Olivia became increasingly stressed out and overstimulated as the weekend wore on. On Sunday the sun and heat were oppressive; everyone felt hot and bothered. Oli needs her naps during the day in this hot weather; she doesn't sleep away from home, except in a moving car if very tired. And she didn't have Monika for comfort, since Monika was away at the seaside. Oli regressed behaviorally, and was easily provoked, striking the pose below on a number of occasions:

To be fair, she was worlds better than that time I was on my own with the two of them in Ptuj earlier this year. There were many sustained periods where she was in close proximity to other dogs and people, with lots of activity going on around her, and she lay quite nicely at my feet or in my lap. Still, the hotter and tireder she got, the more likely she was to react to stimuli. After a point, the best solution seemed to be to get the hell out of there, so we left for home, with relief, right after Lyra's second run. And hit major rainstorms and even hail once we got to Primorska.

We'll get another whack at moving up in the Eukanuba Cup this coming Saturday, in Portorož. At training yesterday she ran quite well, but competitions are always full of surprises, so I wouldn't lay any bets.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Why I'm glad I live in Slovenia and not America: Reason #93756

This could not possibly happen here, on a tour of, say, Snežna jama or Škocjan Caves, or Vilenica, or any of the numerous other caves in Slovenia.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Interesting coincidence

"The 87% of the Senate that believes U.S. forces in Iraq can stay indefinitely is also the percentage of Iraqis who want the United States to have a timetable for departure--"

but, as the author of this article Stephen Zunes hastens to add
"...the sentiments of Iraqis have never been of particular concern for American politicians of either party."

Zunes's article is worth a read--especially by anyone who thinks that all we need is a Democratic majority in Congress come November 2006, and America will be set on the right path. Bullshit. It was a Democratic Congress that authorized "Bush's" war on Iraq. And Democrats (with a few honorable exceptions) who continue to vote with the Repubicans to fund it, and refuse to call for a withdrawal.

72% of troops serving in Iraq believe their mission there is futile or bogus. (As do I.) A majority of Americans want their troops out of Iraq. (As do I.) A majority of Iraqis believe that foreign occupying troops are legitimate targets for attack. (As do I.)

But then, when were the sentiments of American troops, or American voters, let alone Iraqis, of any particular concern to American politicians?

Friday, July 07, 2006

Post-game analysis and pre-game mental prep

I never did file a report from the Domžale competition on June 24. Obviously we made it back alive. And in fact my fears about the "killer" courses set by the visiting Finnish judge were groundless, since she judged the A2/J2 and A3/J3 courses, but NOT the easier A1/J1 category that Lyra and I are in.

So, briefly (since it's already late and we have competitions in Ljubljana on Saturday AND Sunday), here's a report:

First run: It started out all right, not a particularly difficult course, I felt like we were both in good form, BUT: early on in the course, maybe the third or fourth obstacle, a jump, I got the positioning wrong and this caused Lyra to run past it instead of over. I realize now I made a mistake by trying to do a fancy instead of a straightforward turn, so that she would be on my left side going into the slalom, the next obstacle. (We're very one-sided on the slalom; working on that.) But the timing was off; I wasn't where I needed to be as she approached it, and she ran wide. Then, on the second attempt, she knocked a pole down—first EVER in competition. It could have been due to the awkward angle at which we approached it, or maybe it was because I tripped over the wings of the jump and caused the pole to fall. The wings on some of these jumps were quite wide (see photo below), much wider than what I train on--in fact, most of them are wingless--and I ran by too close.

I got up as quickly as I could after falling; Lyra barely skipped a beat as I lay sprawled on the ground, continuing on to the next obstacle without much guidance from me. The slalom, and she nailed it perfectly. Good for her!

The remainder of the course was fast and clean, but due to those mishaps early on we finished with 10 faults (five for a runout, five for a knocked pole). That put us 14th of 29.

Second run: Damn, it felt good. Fluid, connected, focused. Like there was an invisible elastic thread linking my dog and me. And then--problems where you least expect them. We had a straight, uncomplicated approach to a tunnel, I sprinted straight ahead, took my eye off her, assuming she was with me, and she inexplicably veered to the right and over a wall before I could call her back. Off course, disqualification. A wall! We hardly ever train on walls, because they're more work to set up than simple jumps, and it's odd that she would feel a pull in that direction. The lesson here is never assume anything, and try to keep the dog in your field of vision at all times.

We came back through the tunnel later in the course, and at that point were supposed to go over the wall next. I guess she had it fixed in her head that the wall was a no go zone, ignored my cue, and sailed over a straight jump instead. Well, it didn't matter, we were already knocked out. We did the wall for practice, at a very awkward angle, as you can see below, because she was making a U-turn back from the jump she wasn't supposed to go over.

So, no great results this time, but, as always, good experience and some learning oppotunities.

Olivia, on the other hand, succeeded at her job of looking beautiful and photogenic:

I was intending to write up a few notes on the agility seminar on Sunday, but I'll have to defer that till later. Early start tomorrow and I need to get a good night's sleep.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

American soldiers really need to get the hell out of Iraq. Now.

American troops are preparing to bulldoze the center of the Iraqi town of Ramadi and turn it into a mini Green Zone. According to a recent report in The New York Times, here are some signs that marines put up on the walls of their quarters:
"Be polite, be professional and have a plan to kill everyone you meet."
"Kilo Company: Killed more people than cancer."

Ramadi. Fallujah. Abu Ghraib. Mahmoudiya.
Haditha. Countless nameless other massacres.

Support the troops? I support their right to refuse to participate in state-sponsored terrorism in Iraq. I feel compassion for the vets who can't find jobs or homes or get the medical and psychiatric care they need so desperately once back in the United States. I share the outrage of the guys who signed up for the National Guard so they could help out in American communities hit by natural disasters, and got sent to Iraq instead, where they make human disasters.

I do not support what they are doing in Iraq. Never have, never will. And I will never vote for any American politician who supported this war in any way, shape or form.


In the meantime, work continues on fourteen permanent military bases in Iraq. This despite the intensive grassroots activism by American citizens which led the U.S. House of Representatives to pass a measure prohibiting the Pentagon from using funds towards building any permanent military bases in Iraq. A similar amendment was passed by the Senate, stating that no future funds could be used to “establish permanent United States military bases in Iraq, or to exercise United States control over the oil infrastructure or oil resources of Iraq.”

So what happened? Republican staffers removed the provisions from the bills. Just like that.

American democracy in action.

As Raed says, "The perception that the U.S. intends to occupy Iraq indefinitely is one of the major reasons behind the escalating violence there."

Perception? Makes it sound like those bases are just mirages in the desert instead of mini-Americas with Subways, Pizza Huts, football fields, Hertz rent-a-car offices, swimming pools, movie theaters, bus routes, and miniature golf courses. And tens of thousands of American soldiers.

America, get OUT of Iraq.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

American soldiers, keeping the streets of Iraq safe

Caption: Pfc. Steven Green, B Co. 1-502 prepares to blast a lock off the gate of an abandoned home during a search of homes in Mullah Fayed on Dec. 2.

The photo accompanies an article entitled Coalition forces keep streets of Iraq safe, from the propaganda service of the U.S. Army.

Wait a minute--Steven Green...doesn't that name ring a bell? Oh yeah, here it is:

Federal prosecutors accused a former U.S. soldier of raping and murdering a young woman in Iraq, gunning down her family and burning all the bodies in an apparent cover-up.

(Spotted by Today in Iraq)

UPDATE: Well, well, well. The Ministry of Truth has now scrubbed out Green's photo. If you access the cached version of the article you can still see it.