Monday, March 31, 2008

Summit Failure, but Hope, Withal

The Arab states that refused to send high-echelon emissaries to the Damascus Arab summit had little faith going into the event that anything substantial and useful would come out of the bargaining sessions. Syria remains adamant about her right to continue destabilizing the region. The current black sheep of the Arab federation. Not that Syria has ever been a biddable and reliable member, anxious to cement good relations with its neighbours, ever.

It's the perennial dabbler in creating those shocking moments of breath-intakes. A nasty bully of an administration, fully engaged with a continuation of the black work ethic of Hafaz al Assad in colonializing Lebanon, extracting its natural resources, partitioning its people, was handily replaced by an Assad clone in his son, Bashar al Assad. And he adamantly held that the responsibility for the success of the Arab League summit rested with all Arab states, not Syria.

Syria would "adhere to the resistance", not "relinquish its principles". And as a result, Libya's Moammar Gadhaffi expressed his diplomatic view that "The most important thing about the summit is that there has been some acknowledgement of the divisions and problems and hatred between the Arab states." They needed a summit to produce that result? What was the accomplishment, other than to ensure a wider rift?

On the good news front, however, there is a Progressive Socialist Party whose leader opposing the royal reign of Bashar al Assad would love to rectify matters by removing the country's tyrannical president. He deplored the presence of the summit in Damascus, as an undeserving site for the Arab League meeting; that holding it in the Syrian capital was tantamount to supporting the rule of the Syrian president.

Their very presence in Damascus, it was claimed, would be a blow struck against the Syrian people's right to life and freedom.

Other hopeful matters resulted from the summit, though, one of which was a Damascus Declaration that Lebanon elect a consensus president to fill the present void. Another common sense declaration re-endorsed the Arab initiative for peace with Israel. And lastly, one urging Iraq "to disband all militias without exception". Important declarations, all.

For the first; an encouragement to Lebanon to proceed with its intent toward stabilization: stickler, Hezbollah's intent to overpower and subvert all other interests but its own. For the second, a hopeful sign that patience and a full recognition of the need to continue offering Israel hope for acceptance in the region as a legitimate entity continues. For the third, easy enough to say, how to accomplish?

And for all three, declarations of support and advice will not suffice. How will the Arab League follow up? Will the time ever be right for a true federation, with emphatic powers to encourage, to materially aid, to forcefully insist on all member states to act in the best interests of the entire geography, and lay aside their petulant differences for the greater good?

As for the phenomenon of what is perceived to be rising Islamophobia, that too is a problem, intractable it seems, but perhaps not entirely. Provocations from the West to prick the sensibilities of the Muslim world have resulted from horrendous incidents of terror wrought by jihadists claiming to be doing the work of Allah in the name of the Prophet, citing dictums from the Koran.

These truths must be recognized, confronted and a plan of action undertaken. There are no sacred icons in the West. We are iconoclastic because Westerners are more adamantly individualistic, encouraged to question, to debate, to demand answers. The psychological divide between the West and the Muslim world exists because the latter will not question, is not prepared to debate, and will not demand answers of those who claim to represent them.

There are no easy answers. It's ironic that Muslims are increasingly facing difficulties in the very countries which accept pluralism and equality. That's a moderately acceptable risk when migrating to countries practising other social and cultural mores, for the opportunity of advancing one's own self-interests, leaving countries more theistically structured to control every aspect of peoples' lives through rigid dictates of faith adherence.

It contrasts relatively beneficently against determined warriors of Allah seeking to violently usurp Western influence by destroying public and civic infrastructure, by viciously destroying the lives of vulnerable populations. In the one instance people who adhere to a strict religion that forbids their accepting many of the traditions of an accepting country can be faced with suspicion and public censure.

In the other, people who relinquish the need to practise religious faith, or those who moderate their allegiance to religion, have become targets for obliteration by a horribly disaffected and violence-prone jihadist contingent of Islam's fundamentalist misanthropes. Having said which, there is plenty of room for adjustment on all fronts.

Humankind has always faced the very real threats it suffers from others of their kind whose bleak vision of existence and psychopathic delusions of paranoia have marked them as a deadly threat to the vastly larger moderates among us. The Arab League's concerns are not far removed from those of any other portion of allied humanity, from the African Union, to the European Union, to Asia, and North America.

We infelicitously insecure human beings must make more sincere, imperative efforts to be more accepting of one another. We have far more in common with one another, no matter what our beliefs are, wherever we live on this globe, than what sets us apart.

Much depends upon our transcending fear and suspicion.

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Friendly Discussions (and Fierce Partisanship)

There it is, Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal issuing an invitation to PA president Mahmoud Abbas for unconditional talks to resolve issues between Fatah and Hamas. An invitation to Gaza, to pursue discussions certain to result in an amicable conclusion, re-cementing the previous (edgy) relationship between the factions. Might that mean that the wary Khaled Meshaal is himself planning to visit Gaza? Leave his hidden location in Damascus?

Risk being taken captive by the IDF? Even the massed militia in Gaza of Hamas, along with assistance from al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade wouldn't offer sufficient deterrence to ensure this man's safety. So, although issuing that invitation to the fly to enter the spider's den, it will be with his old nemesis that Mr. Abbas is majestically being invited to confer, as though rubbing his nose in his loss of the Gaza Strip would further endear Hamas to Fatah.

"We invite Mr. Mahmoud Abbas to come to Gaza to talk directly without any conditions ... to work together to find a solution to the problems in Gaza and the West Bank", claimed Mr. Meshaal in an interview with Britain's Sky News. The solution, as must be clear to any onlooker - as it appears to be to the great mass of the Arab federation - is for Hamas to clear out, to disappear from the geography and permit Israel and the Fatah PA to reach agreement.

As though the Palestinians weren't fractured enough with their rogue militias, Hamas struck the defining blow when it seized Gaza with characteristic violence, splitting the Palestinian territories beyond comprehension for those claiming to have the best interests of the Palestinians in mind. An already impoverished population succumbed to greater depths of need thanks to that brilliantly self-serving stroke.

Hamas considers ongoing rocket attacks into Israel to be "ordinary reaction towards the Israeli occupation". Whereas the "ordinary reaction" toward the ongoing assault against its people has created the disastrous response of defence-against-offence whereby the IDF attempts to isolate and capture, or target and kill those launching the rockets, and are characterized by Hamas - and by extension the world at large - as state-sponsored terror.

Yet, while much of the West responds to Israel's desperate attempts to control the situation, protecting the integrity of its geography and its people from these rocket attacks, the Arab world itself, appears more moderate in the balance of their approach to the situation. They are not pleased with Syria's dark and meddlesome role in encouraging, protecting, training and arming terrorists. Nor Syria's embrace of Iran, with all the tentacled implications thereof.

The Saudi daily, Arab News, published an editorial clearly critical of Syria, stating that Arab states such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia recognize Syria's part in failing to control Hezbollah, to encourage them to move toward reconciliation in Lebanon. Syria's relationship with Tehran was cited as being worrying to moderate Arab states. And there is a recognition that Syria is "taking sides" in the Palestinian rift, harbouring the Hamas political leadership.

Clearly, there are times when one's allies are anything but.

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Shiite Excoriating Shiite

It's confusing enough to realize the vitriolic hatred that exists between Islamic sects where Sunni Muslim are completely, traditionally and lethally opposed to Shi'ites. And the compliment returned. Apart from these two main groups of Islam, there are so many other off-shoots of historical vintage which are held not to be representative of "true" Islam, but rather apostates, to be ridiculed and persecuted.

Islam, the world has learned, is anything but monolithic. But then, any religion can only express the confusing multiplicities and complexities of ethnicity, culture, tradition, ethos and engrained values that constitute the parts of its totality. The world outside Islam feels this is a religion of violence, based on the last decades of Islamist terror. Yet there are Islamic sects who eschew violence.

Somehow, it seems reasonable to imagine that in a situation such as Iraq's, where a new government has been formed to represent all of the people of Iraq, that the sects would find themselves agreeable to forming a true unity government dedicated to the well-being of the entire country's population. True, they started out that way, then the Sunni faction left in a huff of discontent with the power allocated them.

And then violent disagreements within the government led to the departure of one of the two major Shia factions. Which didn't stop the Shia-majority government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki taking his newly-trained and fortified troops into action against the quiescent Mahdi militia, and other Shiites loyal to their spiritual leader, Muqtada al-Sadr. His absence in Iran has made Nouri al-Maliki's heart beat faster in hopes of upending his authority.

Is it any wonder that post-liberation roaming groups of Sunni began raiding majority Shia neighbourhoods to brutally murder their cowering victims, and ensure the remaining Shia would flee in fear of further violence? Is it any wonder that vengeance-determined Shia militias entered night-time neighbourhoods of majority Sunni residents to firebomb the homes and butcher the residents?

There was, after all, the brutality of the dictatorship under which they had long lived in fear of one another and the Sunni-minority Baathist tyrant whose iron grip on the country kept the Shia in constant fear of retribution should they become sufficiently restive to rebel. The fate of the Kurds and the Marsh Arabs under Sadam Hussein's rule tamped down the fervour of rebellion.

And later, the "liberated" country, under an occupation force whose numbers were insufficient to ensure public safety, under whose very noses the liberated Shia felt free to prey on the previously-dominant Sunnis, resulted in a fire-storm of violence. That their own new, democratically-elected government has proven incapable of rising above sectarianism merely paved the way for ongoing instability.

The reality in Iraq appears to be that the majority Shia population is no better off under this new government than they were under the tyrannical rule of Saddam Hussein. It is Muqtada al-Sadr who has organized, through his legion of followers, a welfare system to benefit the poor of the country. Then his name too was sullied by followers with criminal intent foremost in mind.

The vast mass of Shia poor in Iraq are loyal to the faction that has assisted them, in contrast to the government that steadily ignores their plight. Little to no electrical power, raw sewage in the streets, mass unemployment, absent health care. The country has advanced very little in realizing its social and civic requirements. What does all of this auger for the future?

Adding to the confusion is the fact that opposition-Shia leader, Muqtada al-Sadr has refuge in Iran, which supports his aspirations in challenging those of Mr. al-Maliki. On the other hand, the prime minister has sought out closer ties with the theocratic government of Iran. Much to the chagrin of the United States whom support of this government has cost the U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars.

The truth seems to be that neither side appears to mind very much how many innocent civilians are sacrificed to their personal ideologies of entitlement under the guise of Islamic piety. And there sits Iran complacently waiting, like a large black spider patiently waiting for the fly to settle, so it can pounce.

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Friday, March 28, 2008


There he is, kindly Robert Mugabe, glad-handing all his supporters and emptying his pockets of spare cash to elevate the discourse of election-rigging in Zimbabwe. These are not enticements, these are lavish but much-deserved items of the grand old man's appreciation for those who recognize the powerful statement of accomplishment his long reign as president has produced for the country.

Interested in land ownership? Here's a spare farm you can have. It was meant for re-distribution anyway, just lying fallow now, kind of slipped through the sieve of "to-dos". Take it and do what you will with it. And just by the way, don't forget to get out there and do your duty by your country - vote! For he whom you know best.

The Times reports, in their usual even-handed and politically discerning manner that a procession of troops and armed vehicles rumbled through Harare, a subtle message given to the populace about who is boss here and who needs to be re-elected by a large majority. Who, after all, is in charge here, and who, after all, has governed so exceedingly well?

A little bit of bias slipped in there, with the description of "About 40 armoured vehicles, including four Israeli-made water cannon, anti-riot trucks and six armoured personnel carriers packed with heavily armed troops", the story went. And one is left to wonder, why identify the provenance of the water cannon? Who produced the anti-riot trucks, the armoured personnel carriers?

Whose agenda is being served in this biased reportage? Dissembling...

Mr. Mugabe is very keen for re-installation; it is his God-given right, the saviour of his starving people. And they simply adore him. Not the ones protesting, carrying signage of their disaffection, penury, starvation, those brave souls, but the others, those in business suits, festooned with gold jewellery, to whom he has gifted hundred of luxury cars at a pre-election rally.

No fewer than 450 cars given to senior and mid-level doctors at government hospitals. The doctors were also given lofty promises of houses. Mr. Mugabe boasted he had used his pocket money to buy 300 flat screen televisions for hospitals. Money he had deftly pocketed, money that should have gone to civic infrastructure, to aid the failed economy.

"If they make a disturbance like in Kenya", Mr. Mugabe warned of his three political adversaries and their followers, "you will see. We are not joking. We warn the MDC, if they want to put a rope around their necks, that is OK." And he's just the one to make certain that those ropes are placed around tender necks good and tight; the better to throttle them by.

The president's former finance minister, Simba Makoni, showed reporters photographs of an empty field in Harare where ground pegs mark plots for future homes. Despite which, on the electoral roll there appear the names of 8,000 people supposedly resident in that undeveloped housing plot, duly registered to vote.

"This is evidence of a deliberate, sophisticated and pre-meditated plan to steal the election from us", said Mr. Makoni fearlessly. Not so, countered Mr. Mugabe, "They want to tell lies, lies." And when foreign press report "negative stories" about the election, Mr. Mugabe tells it like it is: "Government will not take this imperialist propaganda kindly."

This gift-giving champion of Zimbabwe, tells it like it is.

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And These Are The Moderates

When Canadian security and intelligence agencies become aware of a cadre of young men involved in decidedly illegal activities they maintain a careful watch, assembling information and evidence before determining the time is right to intervene, to arrest the activities of those people, and in the process avert a disaster-in-the-making. Home-grown terrorists. Who might have imagined that Canada would become the breeding ground for terrorists?

It happens, we're told, more than we might imagine. Foreign elements enter the country on a visitor visa, or are given permanent resident status because they are clerics, and they mingle with the community with which they are most comfortable. Those who have emigrated from countries where the worship and practise of Islam is the majority, and often the only way of life. And at this time in history Islam sees itself troubled by the suspicion of the West.

Not surprising, given the current situation where fanatical Islamists have sworn themselves to avenging whatever slights and insults - predatory colonial practises consonant with free market capitalism most particularly included - upon Islamic ideals. The kind of burning idealism that binds its practitioners to their religion through minute control of every aspect of their lives. But the fervour that goes well beyond religious practise and edges into the bleak realm of religious violence.

And while there is nothing whatever amiss in the practise of any religion, as long as it does not impinge upon the human rights of others, events have somehow escaped rationality and crept into vicious terror strikes against all vestiges of the perceived oppressor's standards and representations, expressed by violent attacks against institutions and populations of the infidel West. Which West reciprocates, as human beings are wont to do, by relating Islam with violence, given the impressive evidence on view.

Canadians have the quaint idea that people migrating to that country from abroad will shed all the troublesome elements of contrary cultural attributes, traditional grievances, ethnic strife, in embracing and taking full advantage of the new freedoms of which they are invited to avail themselves, as new Canadians. Living in a multicultural society with its guarantees of egalitarianism and freedom of expression.

Instead, from some disaffected ethnic and religious groups comes turmoil and disaffection expressed for the presence of others within society whose values, culture and traditions are not seen to be agreeable to them. The mischief to society being done by groups such as The Canadian Islamic Congress and the Canadian Arab Federation is not readily countenanced as adding to the value of Canadian citizenship.

In launching their viciously anti-Israel agenda by sponsoring an essay contest for students, with a cash award offered to the successful essay winner, these groups are teaching scorn and hatred for others within society. The purpose of the essay writing contest is to extract from willing contestants written opinion attesting to "the ethnic cleansing of Palestine". If this loaded topic isn't heavily weighted to produce racial tension and hatred, then what is?

If Canadians of Arab descent feel comfortable in pursuing their overseas agenda within Canada, to paint a wide-screen picture of Israel and Zionism and Jews in general as genocidal opportunists, then the lesson of Canadian citizenship has been irretrievably lost. These groups speak of themselves as moderate Muslims, yet they busily foment hatred against others.

They do this by presenting a skewed frame of historical fiction as fact, by encouraging their youth to accept the imbalance of interpretation of the historical record of cause and effect. And by making claims of invention as truth, to be swallowed whole by their youth. From libel to violent action is but another leap of faith.

Canada cannot afford to be rent asunder by yet other bitter dissenters, refusing to become a part of the Canadian identity, picking and making careful selection of those benefits and attributes of Canadian-ness that suits their purpose, while practising the same kind of tribal vengeance and blame in Canada that was current in the countries from which they emanated.

These initiatives present as a handy launching pad for any who wish to take up the battle with the identified foe further. It suits the purposes of jihadists and their hangers-on. It does no justice to those who claim their Islam is a religion of peace.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Special Rapporteur on the Palestinian Territories

Oh my, isn't that fascinating? The selection of a Jewish academic to monitor Israeli response to Palestinian overtures. Well, not quite like that; rather to monitor brutal Israeli treatment of innocent Palestinians. And since the individual selected is an academic of great esteem - an emeritus professor at Princeton University, one Richard Falk - one can be assured of neutral, well-rounded and completely fair conclusions to emanate from his resourceful custodianship of that office.

The 47-member UN Human Rights Council, of which Canada is one member, made the selection of this highly esteemed academic. And when the appointment was formally announced in the austere chambers of moral relativity, cheers rang out. How peculiar, how utterly unanticipated. But then, perhaps not? For the appointment of this singular official to oversee events in the volatile region appears to be a serendipitous one for those in the community who are overtly anti-Israel.

Canada was not pleased with this selection. The Canadian representative had the audacity to question the candidate's commitment to impartial and objective treatment of the position. Hardly surprising, since the candidate, now the officer-holder, has likened Israel's treatment of the Palestinians to the position of Jews under Nazi Germany. What? A Jew! Well, why not? This is a man of stern moral convictions, and he is obviously convinced.

So he does most certainly not bring an open mind to the position. His mind is intractably closed, but it is in that position as a result of his appraisal of the relations between Israel and the Arab community over a prolonged period of time. He remains adamantly critical of Israel, as an occupying force, a brutal entity visiting misery and worse on Palestinians - fondly creating a situation where it is possible they might attempt to annihilate the aspirations as well as the mortality of that captive population.

Little wonder then that Arab and Islamic states were so rabidly keen to see this man named to the post. One that carries a mandate to investigate "Israel's violations of the principles and bases of international law". The fact appears to be he holds the opinion that Israel is guilty as charged. Why then carry on with the dry little fiction of an appointment and investigation? Simply produce his oeuvre of opinion.

As, for example, his breast beating about how painful it is for him as a Jew to be compelled to report the "...ongoing and intensifying abuse of the Palestinian people by Israel through a reliance on such an inflammatory metaphor as 'holocaust'. Is it an irresponsible overstatement to associate the treatment of Palestinians with this criminalized Nazi record of collective atrocity? I think not.

"The recent developments in Gaza are especially disturbing because they express so vividly a deliberate intention on the part of Israel and its allies to subject an entire human community to life-endangering conditions of utmost cruelty. If ever the ethos of 'a responsibility to protect', recently adopted by the UN Security Council as the basis of 'humanitarian intervention' is applicable, it would be to act now to start protecting the people of Gaza from further pain and suffering."

Marius Grinius, the Canadian delegate, expressed the opinion of his government: "Canada has serious concerns about whether the high standards established by the council ... will be able to be met by this individual", as the council went about its determination to endorse Mr. Falk, among a group of additional monitoring appointments. And isn't it just too rich that it was Canada who introduced to the United Nations the 'responsibility to protect' ethos?

And isn't it just too deliciously ironic, to the point of maddening excess, that the Human Rights Council, replacing its discredited predecessor, the Human Rights Commission, is largely comprised of countries whose poor human rights record has marked the council. And that the very cadre of poor human-rights-observing countries has succeeded in dominating the council as a manoeuvre to deflect criticism from their own failings.

As well as to steer the council in the direction which most suits their own sense of self entitlement. Which, in a nutshell, is to state, time and again, that violations of human rights occur nowhere in the world - other than in one single nation, outstanding for its egregious abuses - Israel.

Oh, well done indeed. Professor Falk will perform outstandingly well in this theatre of the absurd.

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Searing Passions Of The Mind

So nice to know that the man whose transfixing hatred of the West spawned the growth of a worldwide terror network is really a nice fellow, held in high esteem by those who recognize his sterling qualities. Just a regular guy.

A trifle fixated on mass murder to prove his point, but that can be forgiven in light of the fact that he has chosen to enlighten the world of underground Islam to the task before them, in dedication to the sacred awe in which the memory of the Prophet is held, for in so doing, they are but emulating his historical example.

An interview with a former bodyguard of Osama bin Laden, which took place in Sanaa, Yemen, published in The Daily Telegraph informs that Mr. bin Laden is a man of grave discipline, a dedicated mastermind of episodic violence on a grand level, displaying his commitment to overturning the catastrophic rise of Western values in the uncompromisingly stern world of Islamic values.

He has taken grave umbrage at the way the world has turned in its evolving from one of adherence to the divine order sent down from on high to establish among God's creatures immutable values and distinct and inviolable obligations to fulfill the requirements of man's worship of the Almighty.

He sees before him a world of detachment, of secularism, of nihilism, of disregard for the sacred, and embrace of the trifling entrancements of free markets, capitalism, godlessness. He has become infuriated at the spectacle of ongoing collusion between the rulers of Muslim countries in fulfilling the needs of the West, while lining their own pockets, and ignoring the needs of their populace.

An historical Ango-French colonial alliance to take the fullest advantage of oil-endowed geographies in the Middle East, resulting over time in American imperialist designs on the fossilized riches of the geography which has enabled Europe and North America to prosper and advance, while leaving the community of Arab nations to wallow in their social and economic backwardness, did nothing to endear the West to Mr. bin Laden.

His family's great wealth was spent, along with that of the reigning aristocracy of Saudi Arabia, on self-endowment, lives of superfluous excess. And just incidentally funding an extreme brand of Wahhabist Islam, felicitously engineering piously committed future fodder for terror in the name of freeing Islam from benighted Western influence.

Trouble was, Mr. bin Laden was no more a friend of the ruling Saudis than of the West, deriding them as a corrupt tandem of iniquity.

There is nothing quite like the fiery fervour of religious ideological zeal to entice the brainwashed, the societally outcast, the grievers, those convinced they've been horribly victimized, to join in mutual dedication to the passion of their vision of justice. Their volatile and fanatical focus on the enemies of Islam, their determination to battle these adversarial infidels in the name of all that they hold as holy, is unstoppable.

The nervous energy of dedicating one's life for a higher purpose in the knowledge that the Creator demands nothing less spurs fanatics on to demand the ultimate sacrifice of themselves. "The thing I remember most about the Sheik is that he was very, very active. From the start of the day, before dawn when he began his prayers, to late at night, he was always doing something, never resting.

"We were not living in a comfortable environment, but that did not stop him for all the time working, thinking and planning. After prayers came administration and after administration came meetings with distinguished visitors, sometimes secret visitors, but all day he never stopped." How could he? He was goaded by God. His was the will and the duty to do the will of God.

"From the moment I knew him, he was thinking all the time about extending the war everywhere. He would always say we must hit America on a front that it never expects. He kept saying he wanted to fight America on a battlefield it cannot control." No sooner said than done. Serendipitously, too; for it was not exactly Osama bin Laden's doing that America invaded Iraq.

And now there they are, engaged in battle, on a battlefield they cannot control.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Waiting ... Please Do Not Move Your Dial

We interrupt all those news broadcasts extolling the potential virtues of the Israel-Palestinian peace negotiations. They are destined to fail. No nation can afford to sign off on half a peace deal; it leaves its outer flanks exposed and vulnerable to attack by that half of the peoples' representatives who resisted signing on.

And, regardless of the constant prodding, nudging and reminders emanating from various Arab countries exhorting Fatah and Hamas to re-integrate and co-operate for the greater good of the Palestinians, nothing positive will result.

How is the greater good of the Palestinian population brought forward by two factions, each claiming to represent their interests, while failing to agree on the course of action, let alone demonstrating their incapacity to join forces. Instead, resorting to blaming one another, fuelling suspicion of one undercutting the other, while in essence they battle violently between themselves, amply proving their tenuous hold on reality.

The reality is there is an established, world-recognized, legal state called Israel, and to prolong the useless violent chafing against its existence, and longing for a return to a real estate market they never had to begin with, will solve nothing. Little wonder the Palestinians and their leaders are mired in the quicksand of bitter history; their Arab compatriots brought them there, led the way to conquer the upstart, then dumped them with the results.

It was a bitter foe of Israel, one who fought wars with that country, saw the failures that war brought to his own country and the region as a whole, and interpreted the result as an indication that he'd backed the wrong track. Anwar Sadat courageously, and with no pre-conditions, brought himself to Israel, to bargain for peace. At a time when Egypt was a power source in the Arab world. So why, apart from Jordan, did no other Arab countries deign to follow suit?

The futility of the drawn-out stalemate, the loss of lives, the disadvantaged economic fall-outs, the political instability, all point to a universally failed resistance to Arab acceptance of the legitimate presence of the Jewish State. Then a grudging consensus emerged with the Arab League Initiative - Israel, here it is, take it or leave it. Leave it and you leave the only opportunity the collective Arab presence will allow you to exist in peace.

This bespeaks ultimatum, a reaction of necessity to a discomfiting situation. It bears little relation to a good-will initiative, a willingness to face one another, discuss vital issues, come to co-operative agreement, with each side of the equation ultimately agreeing to give a little to gain a lot. The ultimate came fully equipped with a bruising grudge, one that would not permit Arab diplomats to acknowledge the presence of their Israeli counterparts; to shrink at extending a tentative hand of friendship.

As an initiative, as a foot in the door, it wasn't much to celebrate, and could handily be overlooked by the Palestinian delegation, comfortable in the reality that the entire Arab world is behind them, inclusive of their general violent antipathy to doing business with the Jews. Is a peace agreement between all elements possible? It would, of necessity, have to include Syria, which insists on inclusion - and return of the Golan Heights. What guarantees come with that premise? A halt to the training, funding and equipping of Hezbollah and Hamas?

The Arab League Initiative lingers, but a sign of possibility must come from that side which holds the overwhelming balance of political, social and population power. Not tiny Israel, but the collective of the Arab League. Everyone is fed up, sick and tired of ongoing blame, violence, wars and death. Can Israel really be blamed for its paranoia? Who brought it to that state? As a sign of good will and a promise for a settled and peaceful future, think how powerful a statement it would be for each of the Arab countries to select a representative to visit Israel as a group.

Surprise, Israel, here we are, and we are here to assure you that we understand you're here to stay, too. There's a lot we don't quite like about your politics, your social customs, your religion, your culture, but we do like a few other things; your economic success, your scientific initiatives, your agricultural and trade prowess. We also admire your education system, and think we could learn from all of that. Can we do business? Of course that might impinge on traditional interpretations of "honour", that Arab countries might lose face, making overtures.

How would that sit with Hezbollah and Hamas? Rock them back on their heels? Encourage them to re-think priorities? Stimulate the Palestinian Authority to set aside secret agendas and begin to work diligently with Israel to settle differences, to reach agreement on mutual requirements for stability and sovereignty? The Arab League giving a true, earnest and practical stamp of approval to a peace process. Israel would jump for joy, embrace her former adversaries, leap into the future with confidence and haul them alongside.

Enabling the Palestinian population to do the same. And wouldn't that be about time? With normalization between the governors of the Arab countries - the sheiks, the princes, the kings, their parliaments - this would demonstrate to their populations that there is a way that civilized countries can accommodate themselves to the presence of one other, fundamentally unlike themselves. That living in harmony with disparate member-states has the potential leading to other, enriching opportunities.

There are the options of exchanging vital information about methods of production and manufacture, entering emerging markets, sharing trade opportunities, opening up an exchange of educational institutions, teaching hospitals, technicians, entrepreneurship. Ultimately, all of the involved countries stand to benefit from co-operation. Their populations will also, over a period of time, recognize benefits from that co-operation with greater employment opportunities.

It's past time for realities to emerge, as enmities are finally put to rest. The world grows steadily smaller with globalization, and a bracing union of the states of the Middle East would present as an economic and trade powerhouse of opportunities.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Man Who Would Be King

"We want our hospitals to start functioning again. There are no teachers in the schools, there are no books for the children and yet there are some who have the audacity to say Zimbabwe is already working when we say let's get Zimbabwe working again" appealed one of Robert Mugabe's challengers, Simba Makoni, his former finance minister. Yet 84-year-old President Mugabe, having completely beggared his country, will not let go.

He is an absolute ruler and intends to continue ruling absolutely. The head of the country's police services has publicly called for Robert Mugabe's re-election. Any other possibility is not to be countenanced; he would personally not accept any other "puppet" leader. Sinister? Ominous? How about the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission ordering 9 million ballot papers when there are 5.9 million registered voters?

Or why 600,000 postal ballots were printed when those potential voters who qualify for postal ballots number approximately 20,000. Opponent Morgan Tsvangirai, who has been arrested, beaten, imprisoned, his supporters horribly maltreated and terrified, has deliberately not been kept informed about the voting process. His party claims that the electoral register is full of tens of thousands of ghost voters.

Zimbabweans are starving, there are no goods to be had, the country is staggering under tragic inflation rates, there appears to be no future for the people, for their country.

Contrast that as a study in political alteration and responsibility to that of the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, an inherited absolute monarchy whose mandate to achieve and maintain "Gross National Happiness" has led its monarch to introduce reforms leading to a constitutional democracy. Against the wishes of Bhutanese who wish only for their current system to continue.

"No one wants this election. His Majesty has guided us this far, and people are saying there is no need for change." King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, Oxford-educated, and concerned for the future economic well-being and happiness of his people, has urged democratic rule on their behalf.

Before the current dynasty the country was comprised of local fiefdoms; no roads, currency, telephones, electricity. At present, education and health care are free, villages have potable water and electricity, and life expectancy has risen to 66 from the previous 40 years of age. The country emerged from a barter economy directly into modernity.

Most people will turn out to vote because their beloved king has exhorted them to. He has explained to his subjects that it was in their best interests, as a small and vulnerable country, not to have their fate left in the hands of a single person, chosen by birth to rule, and not by merit. Enlightened beyond the call of traditional dynastic entitlement.

The greater proportion of the population lives rurally, depending on subsistence farming. Road improvement, electricity connection and enhanced irrigation concern most of the people. This country of fewer than two and a half million, a country of very young people, with a median age of 20 years, is being brought into its future by a responsibly concerned leader.

By a man who would not be an absolute ruler, though he is their king.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

On Track To Victory

Entering the sixth year of occupation of Iraq, the United States harrumphs its successes and its expectations for the future. In an address to Americans, President Bush urged his public to have faith. So much has been accomplished. So much more is yet to be accomplished. The death toll of American soldiers on the road to that accomplishment has finally reached 4000. And counting.

The last months of 2007 saw a huge improvement in the situation in Iraq, thanks to the U.S. "troop surge". Thanks also to the Sunni tribal chiefs who saw fit to turn against al-Qaeda in Iraq for their indiscriminate murder of Sunni as well as Shia Muslims. The Mahdi militia of Muqtada al Sadr has been quiescent by order. The sectarian horror of violent killing between Sunni and Shia in their cleansing frenzy had abated.

So, on the cusp of year 6, violence of a more troublesome nature has begun, once again, to rear its bloodstained head. Too soon, perhaps, the celebration of "only" 500 Iraqis a month being murdered as opposed to the more customary 4000 each month. Too soon, too, to entice the millions of displaced Iraqis to return home; those who sought refuge abroad, and those who live tenuously within the country, unable to return to homes occupied by others.

Baghdad's protected "Green Zone" has come under heavy and repeated rocket and mortar attacks. Where the U.S. Embassy compound is located. Where the Iraqi government holds court. Where favoured and wealthy Iraqi citizens are domiciled in relative safety and comfort. These attacks were but a parcel within the greater increase of violence in the capital city.

In Mosul, a suicide truck bomber killed 15 Iraqi soldiers, wounding 45 people on an army base. The sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia, once abated with the reality of ethnic cleansing of neighbourhoods fulfilled, has been re-ignited. Gunmen in 3 vehicles opened fire on pedestrians in a mixed district, killing 7, wounding 16. Katyusha rockets hitting two Baghdad neighbourhoods killed 5 people.

In the Green Zone, sirens warned people to take cover, among the government ministries and diplomatic missions. The U.S. military claims to have killed 12 insurgents in a raid: "six of the terrorists killed had shaved their bodies, which is consistent with final preparation for suicide operations" said a spokesperson.

People are just dying to kill themselves. And a whole lot of others in the process.

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Converso, Conversus

A brave man, no doubt about it. Although his courage had already been proven, as a Muslim giving loud challenge to Islamic precepts which celebrated jihad and sought to attain conquest, historically and in the modern world. Imagine, a high-profile European-domiciled Muslim choosing to be baptized into the Christian faith as a Roman Catholic. And this is exactly what has occurred, as the Pope brought Egyptian-bornMagdi Allam into the fold in St. Peter's Basilica at Easter 2008.

He shall henceforth be called Magi Cristiano Allam, lest there be doubt of his conviction and his new allegiance. As Magi Allam, Muslim, and deputy director of the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, he made no secret of his feelings about Islam: "...the root of evil is innate in an Islam that is physiologically violent and historically conflictual". Those are words of the most extreme condemnation, claiming outright that the Koran teaches violence and hatred, exhorting its people to holy jihad.

No doubt puzzling in the extreme to Italy's moderate Muslim community who would prefer that blame and denunciation be far more delicately select - aimed distinctly at the fundamentalistIslamists whose restively murderous activities throughout the world in the past decade have put us all on notice and made us all extremely nervous. But they, the moderates, have not spoken in unison to denounce violent Islam, the terror of jihad unleashed on the world.

However, Mr. Allam, now Christianized, has been unequivocal in his condemnation of fundamental Islam's terrorist trajectory, its dedication to world-wide domination. He is no stranger to fatwahs, and complies with the need to surround himself with bodyguards. His very public and Muslim-offensive conversion will, he agrees, bring upon him "another death sentence for apostasy"; the abandonment of the faith into which he was born.

There's an ancient historical antecedent to his very modern story of rejection and conversion. In the medieval church the term was "converso" (conversus) and this was not an endearing term but one of great opprobrium. Muslims, and Jews, who sought conversion - usually as a way in which to integrate themselves and to protect themselves from violent discrimination - were held in contempt by their former religious compatriots. They were at that time, as now, in danger and laws were promulgated by the state to protect them.

Much as what happens now. Some things just never change. In some Muslim societies apostasy is rewarded by death. Mr. Allam has courted death many times over. In bringing scorn upon Islam, and in his vociferous and reasoned support for the State of Israel. He is reported to have said,pre -conversion, that he asked himself why someone who worked so diligently on behalf of "moderate Islam" was "condemned to death in the name of Islam and on the basis of a Koranic legitimization".

He demonstrates the courage of his conviction. His conviction so obviously being that Islam, in his opinion, is impervious to change, to rational discourse among its leading scholars and clerics in an effort to bring it into the modern world, to better reflect changing realities. Islam was born of a tribal warring mentality and prevailing regional-historical custom, and it remains mired in that condition. As such, he has decided he wants no further part of it.

The fatwahs sworn against him imperil his life, but he persists. Somewhat like the case of Salmon Rushdie whom Britain was pressed to protect when Iran's Supreme AyatollahKhamenei ordered a fatwah upon him. He lived in stealth and fear for his life for years, an underground existence as a famous-infamous author of great repute-disrepute. And in the end, although he was accused of blaspheming the Prophet Muhammad, he brought himself to Islam.

Raised as an Muslim, but as a secular humanist outside religion, he wrote The Satanic Verses, to describe, he claims, the conflicts between the material and the spiritual worlds, as a mirror of the inner conflict he himself experienced. That 'inner conflict' has been resolved, he has made his peace with Islam, and as a newly-minted Muslim, hopes a reconciliation will take place, effectively removing the threat that still hangs over him.

Salmon Rushdie did what all Muslims are expected by Allah to do: submit. In submission to Allah one realizes salvation. He hopes his submission will be his salvation - from threat of death, long before he is prepared to greet death. The newly-baptizedMagdi Christian Allam has abjured submission to a religious dictate he abhors with the full understanding that he has been primed for a penalty of death, with greater urgency than before.

His disquisitions against the violent irrationality of Islam and the multiculturalism embrace of the West have earned him high-grade antipathy fromIslamists, determined to erase the insult he presents to the world of Islam and beyond. The publication of his book Viva Israele was an interestingly provocative response to the death sentence issued against him by Hamas in 2003. The Roman Catholic Church exults in the glory of its conversions to the greater glory of God.

Islam sees this as yet another Christian provocation, the Pope in league with a dangerously outspoken Muslim critic of Islam. But the world of Islam doesn't have to look too hard or too long for criticisms against the West, or infidels, or Christianity, or Jews, or Israel, or the Pope. Osama bin Laden was recently pleased to complain of the Pope's insults to Islam, offering his own threats.

There is reason to hope, however. From within the Muslim community in Italy its leaders' response was that Allam "is a grown man, free to make his personal choice", calling for "everyone to live his religion peacefully and with respect for other faiths". Islam is not entirely immune to the prospect of change, as Muslims migrate to countries other than Islamic countries.

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Happy Reunion

What the authority of Saudi Arabia, the determination of Egypt, the diplomatic intervention of Jordan, the urgings of Russia could not achieve, the Islamic country of Yemen is purporting to bring to an accommodation. Does it seem all that likely that secular Fatah and Islamist Hamas, traditionally and habitually at violent odds with one another, will succumb to these new attempts to bind them in comradely agreement toward a common pursuit?

They do indeed share a common purpose; one stating that purpose blatantly, boldly, and with vile determination, to eradicate another country from the geography of the Middle East; the other covertly aspiring to the same end but through other methods, while trumpeting to the world its moderate stand, its willingness to compromise, to live in peace with that same country which both groups detest only slightly more violently than they do one another.

Yet Yemen's foreign minister insists Fatah and Hamas are open to reconciliation, that an agreement is forthcoming whereby Hamas will agree to return Gaza to Fatah control under the Palestinian Authority. This is the same Hamas that brought civil war between the factions to a vile degree of savagery. Their new "unity government" and the re-creation of Palestinian national security forces will follow new elections.

Foxy, that; new poll results inform that a large proportion of Gazans will vote overwhelmingly for Hamas over Fatah. The plucky rooster led into the fox's den. Yet again. Just as they never learn to lay down arms and plan for a normal and decent future for their people, opting time and again for their time-honoured tribal penchant toward grievance, violence and death, they step over and yet over again into richly self-defeating cowpies of their own devising.

Yemen's foreign minister trumpets that the preliminary accord was ratified by Fatah, is awaiting approval by Hamas. Oh, what's this? They're still at one another's throats, each blaming the other for their original partnership failure. Just for argument's sake - should a successful, albeit temporary partnership be re-established - what then of Fatah's pledge to the international world that all the funding, the firearms and ammunition given to the PA to assist Mahmoud Abbas, as the celebrated "moderate" would not fall into the hands of Hamas?

Precisely. Exactly what has happened in the past, with Hamas taking ownership of the generosity of donor countries hoping to assist in the amelioration of the misery of Palestinians, yet insisting that none of their largess be transferred to Hamas control. Just as Hamas took possession of weaponry meant to assist the Fatah-controlled PA to assert its authority, then let it slip through their hands, unaccountably.

Outside groups, so eager to be helpful to Fatah, to the Palestinian Authority recognized by the international community as the sole entity capable of and willing to make peace with Israel, fall over themselves to be helpful to Mahmoud Abbas. Who, in fact, has never made it a secret that he and his faction plan at some time, to reintegrate with Hamas. It is more likely that Hamas will not assent under the conditions laid down by Fatah. Fatah needs to reintegrate the territories, understanding it cannot represent one portion.

And now Israel has been lobbied by Russia to permit the transfer of 50 armoured vehicle for use by the Palestinian Authority. Refusing up to now, Israel has finally relented with the proviso that the automatic weapons meant to be mounted on the armoured vehicles be left behind. For the nonce. For how long will it be until they are smuggled through and Fatah will mount the weapons on the vehicles, and be in possession then of 50 additional deadly weapons that can be turned at a moment's notice on Israel and the IDF?

All the more readily once Hamas takes possession of them, as they will, most certainly, sooner or later. History repeating itself.

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Interesting Times

What interesting times we live in. What a monumental understatement that is. And when that old Chinese curse "may you live in interesting times" comes back to nip at the heels of the Chinese government, they are definitely not amused.

When human rights groups shrill their dismay at the actions of the Chinese government, repressing political dissent, 'monitoring' the news media, persecuting the Falun Gong movement; when the Pope laments the plight of Christians in China; when heads of foreign governments meet with the Dalai Lama, China is humiliated, mortified, the collective sensibilities assaulted beyond endurance.

The slow but inexorable cultural genocide of the people of Tibet, the enforced absence of their spiritual and temporal leader has finally penetrated beyond the level of endurance for Tibetans and they have, once again, mounted a spirited protest. A revolt, actually, a violent back-lash against their oppressors. Turning the eyes of the world upon China in a manner she resents for she refuses to be cowed by international condemnation into acceptance of a secessionist minority demanding sovereignty.

Tibetan Buddhists went on a hunting spree, destroying Han Chinese businesses, their homes, their vehicles, and on occasion, members of the Han Chinese community living in Lhasa, as well. Truly a tragedy. In response to which the Chinese government had little option but to send in troops, munitions, armed vehicles. To surround and apprehend and take into custody the fomenters of this unrest which has embarrassed the Communist government and which threatens to overshadow its triumph in presentation of the 2008 Summer Olympics.

Elsewhere in the world events turn as they will, emphasizing mightily what tumultuous times we live in; interesting perhaps to some, damagingly violent to many others who live within the maelstrom of violence. Secessionist Kosovo enjoys the support of much of world opinion, recognizing their unilateral devolution as a sovereign country. The Albanians there are now free to visit humiliation and much worse upon Kosovar Serbs who themselves, mightily supported by Serbia and Russia, may yet wrest a portion of the new state free for majority resident Serbs.

The World Tamil Movement calls upon its many members living outside Sri Lanka to raise funds in support of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to support their agenda of violence in hopes of achieving their own sovereign slice of geography in a world that, by and large, supports the integral right of any country to maintain its entire geography intact, against the strident and violent wishes of its ethnic minorities, chafing for independence. In Canada, one such supporter and fundraiser has become the first person charged under a Canadian law banning terrorist financing.

Osama bin Laden's latest taped tirade urges Palestinians to use "iron and fire" to end the Israeli blockade of Gaza. "Our enemies did not take Palestine by negotiations and dialogue but with fire and iron. And this is the way to get it back." "My speech" he inveighed monumentally, "is about the Gaza siege and the way to retrieve it and the rest of Palestine from the hands of the Zionist enemy." And lest other grievances be too hastily overlooked, he characterized the "insulting drawings" of the Prophet Muhammad as a crime greater than "Western forces targeting Muslim villages and killing women and children." Interesting interpretations of interesting times.

In Pakistan a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-filled car into a military vehicle outside a brigade headquarters building in the restive tribal region bordering Afghanistan. This represents anything but an unusual occurrence; unusual perhaps only in the sense that in this particular instance a mere five soldiers were killed, and only eleven injured. This was claimed as retaliation for a missile strike earlier that killed at least 18 suspected insurgents loyal to a pro-Taliban commander. Another country facing interesting times.

And in Iraq two Iraqi police officers were shot to death in skirmishes with members of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army militia in the southern-located city of Kut. An additional five people, three of them police officers were injured in that same incident. This was a known al-Jihad neighbourhood and the incident was unleashed by police officers searching for militants and other suspects in the area. In a country beset by sectarian hatred and violence, a mere incidence of Sunni coming up against Shia. This too anything but an unusual occurrence in a country that has been facing down more than its share of interesting times.

In Albania more bodies of the dead are being recovered in the wake of a huge munitions blast that had been set off by munitions experts "disposing" of cold war munitions, as part of an international agreement. The series of explosions that occurred at the Gerdac military depot near the capital, Tirana, was of fourteen hours' duration, a week earlier. The cataclysmic blasts went on unimpeded by human intervention after the initial trigger, destroying an estimated 318 houses and damaging another 2,000. The death toll to date stands at 19, with many more seriously injured. Horrendously interesting.

In Afghanistan, yet another of those world-class interesting countries where destabilization had become a fault line in the process of existence, an exchange of fire between British soldiers and police in the south of the country left one police officer dead and two men wounded from each side, according to security sources. Let it not be unsaid, lest it be misunderstood, that British troops are fighting in that seriously benighted country, alongside Afghanistan's police; they represent colleagues-at-arms. The shootout represented a case of mistaken identity, as police were on patrol in the main square of Lashkar Gah in preparation for the Afghan New Year celebrations.

In the Middle East, Israeli troops stationed near the Gaza Strip have been informed that their new instructions are to fire on any Palestinian whose intent it is to capture members of the IDF. The commander of a reservist unit deployed along the Gaza Strip recently gave the order to avoid "at all costs" situations in which soldiers are taken hostage by armed groups that later seek to trade them for Arab prisoners held in Israeli jails. Less politely, this refers to terrorists representing the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades or Hamas or others of their jihadist ilk securing Israeli prisoners and bartering a single soldier's life for that of several hundred convicted terrorists in their version of fair trade. Of tediously repetitive interest.

Interesting places bedevilled by interesting times, and will there ever be any end to them...?

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Freedom To Suffer

Five years following the launching of Freedom Iraq, itself following on the military invasion of Afghanistan in the Enduring Freedom invasion, is the world any closer to combating terrorism? Is the United States, North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, any safer from the deadly scourge of militant Islam engaged in their pact with holy jihad - themselves intent on liberating the world from the triple scourges of liberal democracy, free-market capitalism and faith-corrupting modern social license?

The cost in lives lost in the battle to apprehend and destroy vigilante Islamic terror groups has been enormous. On the part of the contributing countries' troops in the jointly-engaged confrontation with militant Islamists under the direction of the United States, the cost to those nations of their young recruits has been a difficult one to bear. One that their respective societies deplore, resenting the perceived need to send their troops to foreign lands.

As for the cost in civilian lives lost in the deadly heat of fascistic Islam's recourse to spreading murder and mayhem in as wide a path as possible, embracing the globe in its violent cleansing for Muhammad and Allah, it has been breathtaking in its scope. The backlash of the invasion was never envisioned beforehand. The United States, leading the "coalition of the willing" imagined themselves welcomed with open arms, freeing an oppressed population from a brutal despot.

Little did they realize - as they might have, had they readied themselves by making an attempt to understand the society they were prepared to "liberate", and to fairly calculate the end result of their undertaking - the nightmare of reality the near future would bring. Which, in the case of invading and occupying Iraq had far more to do with an incautious whim on the part of a coterie of high-testosterone-charged White House hawks than history and reason should have dictated.

The explicable response to the 9-11 attacks in New York and Washington lay in the original decision to look to Afghanistan as the breeding ground of the Taliban and champions of al-Qaeda. There, once it was assured that the invasion had completed its task, matters should have concluded. There, once it was established that the murderous agenda of Osama bin Laden's terror contingent was completely eradicated, attention should have turned to assisting Afghanistan.

Post-invasion reconstruction, a commitment to helping the country stabilize itself should have been the natural outcome of the original invasion. With a civil authority established in that oft-invaded and resource-poor country to firmly lead itself into modernity reflecting its own singular Muslim values, the cost of the aid given to Afghanistan for reconstruction and security would have paid for itself many times over in ensuring that violent insurgents could not re-gain a foothold.

Where a population assisted in overcoming its historical poverty and strife-torn past with a turn-about from rule by corrupted and hereditary war-lords to that of an elected parliament, would not fall victim again to fundamentalist and self-availing mullahs intent on installing their hard-line version of restrictive shariah law. Instead, now, Afghanistan and the installed NATO- and UN-affiliated troops fight a rear-guard action against Taliban jihadists.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq remains determined to conquer the presence of those they term the infidels, the Crusaders, the oppressors of Muslims. While battling the presence of alien troops, equally engaged to victimize those beleaguered of their own faith, visiting deadly atrocities upon them, deeming them insufficiently dedicated to the noble cause of Islamic imperialism.

That the West has responded to jihadist terror by mounting a counter-offensive has only, predictably, increased the fervour of Islamist fundamentalists.

Convinced as they were to begin with, that the West - their accursed religions, politics, world-wide economic grabs and grotesquely failed social mores - was, in its triumphant march to smother the rest of the world in its contemptible values and predatory practises, preparing to conquer and defeat the pure shining light of Islam, just as it was absorbing for its own gain all the natural resources of weaker countries, particularly those endowed with oil wealth.

Committed jihadists, and those newly dedicated to the holy war on infidel occupation of Arab and Muslim lands, flocked through neighbouring borders into Iraq, to inflict pain and suffering on civilian Iraqis in equal measure to their intent to battle Western military contingents. When the invasion of Iraq destroyed its central authority, leaving the chaos of unleashed sectarian hatred in its wake, this danger added exponentially to the anguish of the population.

With no brutally-measured constraints of the deposed Baathist government in place, ancient hatreds re-ignited and Shia and Sunni militias developed their strategies of visiting atrocities upon one another's non-combatants. The dedicated militias of each faction set out to cleanse neighbourhoods of one or the other. There was no planned strategy from the invading army to reduce the likelihood of ongoing internal strife post-Saddam.

The insurgency that followed the successful routing of Saddam Hussein's Baathist army took the Americans, the British and their other allies off guard. As did the profoundly disturbing and atrocity-bent determination of the sectarian violence that ensued. Iraq, five years after invasion, is still beset by violence, a stillborn economy, political uncertainty, and the discomforting humiliation of stabilizing foreign occupation.

The country, along with Afghanistan and Pakistan, has the distinction of being one of the deadliest, most dangerous places on the planet, with ongoing suicide attacks and sectarian killings. Legions of Iraqis remain in detention, torture is an ongoing concern, over four million people have been displaced from their homes, internally and through external refuge-seeking. Many cannot return because their homes have been occupied by rival sect members.

The refugees live tenuous lives of endemic poverty, uncertainty for the future. Those living as refugees abroad remain unwilling to return to their country because of the ongoing state of unrest and its underlying commonality of violence. Even though, abroad, they live in poverty and with full knowledge of the resentment their presence in the countries which reluctantly have given them shelter, breeds.

Within Iraq most of its population has no access to safe drinking water. A large proportion of the population exists on emergency aid. The international Red Cross describes the country's humanitarian situation as being among the most critical in the world today.

In the face of which reality, one can only wonder at the dire consequences of idly meddling minds' - at the highest political levels - decision-making prowess.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Neighbourly Proximity

There's nothing that confers a sense of community quite like friendly relations with one's neighbours. Most particularly those neighbours who live close to you. What could be more miserable than to have strained relations - worse, downright nasty relations, as can and occasionally does happen to people - with one's neighbours? It's a great boost to comfort levels, to trust in one's community, to satisfaction with one's place in the community when serene relations are the norm.

So that, when you walk down the street and pass your neighbours, you also stop, however briefly, to pass the time of day, to cement a sense of camaraderie. If you've not much else in common, you have the commonality of living in close proximity in a certain area, and of wanting peace and security for your family. You know that if something goes awry, your neighbour will be concerned and keep an eye out for you and your children's welfare.

The opposite is hell on earth. Neighbours at odds with one another have been known to surreptitiously toss trash into one another's backyards. They continually eye one another with suspicion and ill feeling, certain that the 'other' is up to no good, to engineer problems for them. If the next-door neighbour has loud parties deep into the night, sleep is lost. If the neighbour's visiting friends look as though they'd fit right in with a raucously violent bar room crowd, you're nervous.

If there's a break-in, you look with suspicion at your neighbour, or his teen-age sons; up to no good, coveting your property. It's no way to live, and all the more so when complaints are frequently laid with the local authorities about the infringements on one's property from the other, or nasty incidents when there are face-offs and one slanders the other, loudly, for the entire street to hear, then tops it off with serious threats of violence.

There's a solution, as awkward and miserable as it might seem. You can always sell your house and move elsewhere, hoping somewhere else to have more luck. If you're an individual you can do that. If you're a country, you haven't that option. You don't exactly grin and bear it, but you do bear the consequences of living alongside a neighbour whose many parts appear to bear a deadly grudge so serious that they are collectively committed to your country's demise.

Figures released by a recent Palestinian Authority poll indicate that fully 84% of Arabs feel the recent killing of 8 Yeshiva students in Jerusalem to have been fully justified. The pollster, based in Ramallah, interviewed almost thirteen-hundred PA Arabs, of whom 64% approve the rocket attacks by Hamas-controlled Gaza on Israeli cities and towns. A slender majority would give their vote to Hamas's chief Ismail Haniyeh, openly dedicated to Israel's destruction, over Fatah's "moderate" Mahmoud Abbas. An earlier poll found 75% of PA Arabs convinced Israel has no right of existence.

Little wonder that Mahmoud Abbas, Fatah chairman and head of the Palestinian Authority expounds a message of eventual take-over of the entire geography, expunging Israel from the map, spreading the incipient state of Palestine to encompass the whole area. Little wonder that PA maps of the area show "Palestine" writ large over the territories and where the State of Israel would normally be, included. This is the message that PA Arabs are accustomed to, belying the message disseminated internationally of the imminence of a peace accord achieved through sincere negotiations, and the succeeding establishment of a two-state solution.

From the time they are children in primary school to the time they're in high school and old enough to take part in the intifadas, or in stealth attacks on Jewish property and civilians, Palestinian Arabs have been fed a steady diet of victimhood and revenge. A new twist has been added, with PA children living in Gaza being exposed to an ancient East-Europe-derived blood libel hauled out every Easter that it is Jewish custom to take the blood of Christian children to make matzah.

Only in this new, grotesque version, warping history in a macabre fantasy to frighten children and fan the flames of their adult hatred, children from Gaza are exposed to an exhibit depicting Israelis burning Palestinian children in a crematorium. The words, "Stop the Israel's Holocaust" reinforces the horrifying message laid on for impressionable children, marking them for life as enemies of their neighbours.

They will never be taught the truth, that one and a half million Jewish children perished in the Holocaust, and what they're being taught is a dreadful slander.

They're ripe and ready to receive the support promised them by Syria, Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah terror group that the entire land belongs to them, and them only. They are dedicated not to a peace settlement and an agreement that would see two sovereign nations living side by side in peace and co-operation, but the eventual victory of conquering the enemy interloper-occupier who has made a misery of their lives through the constant back-and-forth hostilities, because Palestinian Arabs will not submit to a truncation of their expectations.

And with the latest declaration by Osama bin-Laden assuring the Palestinian Arabs that al-Qaeda remains committed to freeing them from the clutches of the infidels and the Zionists, they see their path clear to the triumph of the creation of their State of Palestine, and the disappearance of the detested State of Israel.

The quality of one's neighbours directly speaks to the broader quality of life in any community.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Profound Regret?

The mind boggles at the sheer stupidity of people, their incapacity to fully understand the results of their actions. Even while they mouth the repercussions that result from actions undertaken in the innocence of egotistical stupidity, it is as though they are incapable of taking possession of their responsibility.

For every action there is reaction. For every intelligent person on this earth there exists a bellowing horde of seriously stupid humanoids.

The Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq where so many Iraqi detainees were sent for interrogation, and which - in the unsavoury revelations of the sophomoric idiocy of the ill-trained and incapable soldiers of the U.S. army in Iraq - caused the United States so much embarrassment comes back to haunt them time and again.

The country which considers itself the conscience of the world, the country with inestimable high ethical and moral standards found itself defending military morons.

Instead of behaving beyond reproach in its professional behaviour as a trained corps of military personnel, those installed to guard Iraqi prisoners - many of whom were not enemy combatants, but simply there on suspicion, innocent perhaps of any malfeasance, but frightened prisoners of an invading army - entertained themselves at the expense of their country's already tarnished reputation.

Some of those accused of mistreating prisoners are still dining out on their fleeting fame. Lynndie England, so anxious to be accepted as 'one of the good old boys' that she happily succumbed to mortifying abuse of helpless men, submitted to an lengthy interview with the German magazine
Stern. As reward for her scandalous conduct she was court martialed, and sentenced to 3 years' imprisonment.

"I can say I killed all these people", she said in the interview, estimating that the abuses at Abu Ghraib, in which she played such an outstanding personal role, was responsible for a bitterly violent backlash that resulted in the deaths of thousands of people.

"After the pictures [of prisoners being abused] came out, the insurgency picked up and Iraqis attacked the Americans and the British and they attacked in return and they were just killing each other", she said. Does not her command in understanding the extent of the fallout of the situation she helped structure compel readers to admiration?

Not that the United States enjoyed such a great reputation in the Muslim world to begin with, but with the desecration of Muslim sensibilities, the abhorrent behaviour of young uniformed Americans toward cowering, frightened prisoners, the contempt unleashed toward America in the mind-sets of violently outraged Muslims no doubt swelled the ranks of retributive Islamist militias.

Passions unleashed are not readily pacified. Her stupid, unthinking, egoistical antics, along with those of her Abu Ghraib cohort, were indeed responsible for a bloodthirsty backlash, one that is still resonating with a critical level of violence. Albeit now minimized, still sufficient to qualify that country as one of the world's most violently dangerous.

"I feel bad about it", she said. Well then, that's all right.

How bad? Remorseful? How badly can one feel to reflect on one's responsibility in an increased death toll in an atmosphere of hell on earth? She was a functionary in an occupying force. Her presence and her level of intelligence bespeaks the quality of the recruits representing that most powerful country on earth.

"Feeling bad" and "feeling nice", are such unqualified and simperingly-innocuous, meaningless descriptives. Bespeaking a mentality too dense to comprehend cause, effect, reality.

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And In Canada Today ...

News of the day in a country civil and wealthy beyond the dreams of so many other countries of this world.

A country whose citizens live privileged lives of constitutional protections, equality under the law, plentiful clean water and inexpensive nutritious foods, a universal medical and health-care system, orderly cities replete with comfortable homes of every description.

A country where its people are free to speak their minds without fear or favour. Where freedom of association, ideology, religion are guaranteed and protected by law. Do we value these freedoms? We most certainly do; no one need have any doubts or qualms about that.

Do we behave as rational beings at all times, in recognition of our privileged lives? Not on your life - or anyone else's for that matter. Canadians experience irrational anger over the merest incidents and inconveniences, as would a spoiled child.

We are, in other words, people like any other. We've received ample academic education and life-management skills, but remain incapable of governing our instinctual emotions accordingly. As beings, we are fundamentally and perhaps irremediably flawed.

Examples abound:
  • In Toronto a man was stabbed by a fellow bus passenger who was angry that the other had uttered a greeting. A 30-year-old man, sitting beside another younger passenger, merely acknowledged his presence with a friendly, non-committal "hello". Whereupon the other countered with "why do you say hello to me, I don't know you?" When the greeter disembarked at his stop the angry young man followed, then stabbed him three times before running off.
  • In Newfoundland an enquiry is underway into incorrect test results at a St.John's hospital laboratory which resulted in hundreds of breast cancer victims given incorrect results, being given inadequate or no treatment, between 1999 and 2005. One hundred women have since died, although it is inconclusive the extent to which the botched tests contributed to the deaths, as yet.
  • Montreal police are attempting to solve a series of crimes linked to anarchists. A car dealership had tires on 20 vehicles slashed, causing $10,000 damage. Three ATMs were damaged by small fires. Six police cars outside a police station were set on fire, causing heavy damage. Responsibility for the incidents were claimed by three different anarchist groups.
  • A woman was found decapitated in a Toronto apartment early in the week. A 60-year-old man has been charged with second-degree murder.
  • A 56-year-old man has been charged in Oshawa with a death that occurred 30 years ago. The man was arrested and charged with the second-degree murder of a 22-year-old woman, a former neighbour and family acquaintance in Durham. She was shot at the back of the head, and discovered lying a few metres away from her 10-month-old child.
  • After a three-week binge of break-ins and thefts, a Toronto man was arrested after a police foot-chase through the city's subway tunnels. The 39-year-old man faces over one hundred charges in six Toronto police divisions.
  • In Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, police called to a home to help evict a 44-year-old woman from the residence, scuffled with the knife-wielding female, and one officer "discharged his service pistol", killing the woman.
And there you have it. People being people. We seem incapable of rising above ourselves. This is how, as animals, nature designed us. We're actually miracles of existence, our design so highly improbable it cannot be imagined.

Scientists reveal from time to time what they have managed to uncover and understand about our sheer mechanical wizardry in design. None can comprehend, much less explain those electrical synapses that inform our brains what we are about.

We see, we feel, we act, we think. What is the mind? Is there a soul? Is the mind different from the soul, or are they co-operative entities? What makes us spiritual beings? Why are we so tragically blighted?

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On Good Friday

We humans cling to our traditions, our rituals, our sense of the rightness of things. We adore anniversaries, remembrances of times past. We must celebrate occasions reminiscent of happy memories, as well as those representing sad yet memorable events.

All the more so when those momentous events are of historical, traditional, cultural and above all, religious significance. In so doing, we feel ourselves reaching mysteriously, from the present back to the past, touching and at one with our predecessors. Paying homage to their sacrifices on our behalf.

And on Good Friday, staunch Christians flock to their churches to pray, to demonstrate toward God their faith in His presence. More, their appreciation for His divine decision to teach humankind everlasting and true values through the parables and preaching of His only begotten son. A Jewish man imbued with the wisdom of the sages of yore, the prophets of his people, the Israelites.

And in the Philippines, the truly devout Roman Catholic population take their religion seriously indeed. Every year the world is treated to the spectacle of self-flagellating men, drawing their blood as a sacramental tribute to God, through the confession of their mortal sins. These are the true penitents, those to whom the presence of God in their lives is the over-riding truth expressing the depth of their faith.

Oops! The Philippines health officials have issued warnings to these devotees of the world's supreme drama. Re-enacting the crucifixion could be severely injurious to their health. The original was, after all, seen to be critically, mortally inimical to the health of the original.

They are alerted that tetanus shots should be seen to, beforehand. And please, check the conditions of the whip you're lashing your tender flesh with; discard the dirty ones.

Dozens of Philippine men are expected to turn out for the big Good Friday event. The wood crosses have been built, the nails are at the ready. "We are not trying to go against the Lenten tradition here because whipping has somewhat already become some form of 'atonement for sins' for some of us," said the health minister, in a grand understatement.

"Getting deep cut wounds during whippings or lashings is inevitable and being so exposed during the course of the penitence, with all the heat and dust blowing in the wind, welcomes all sorts of infections and bacteria like tetanus." It would, yes it would. If only the rash faithful would listen to their own church - which frowns upon these "improvised Golgothas".

But the state understands. This is a pious tradition that cannot be altered in its nature, nor stopped in its biblical tracks. So penitents are encouraged by a concerned health department to "bring enough drinking water for the whole course of the pilgrimage to avoid dehydration, rather than buy bottled water from unfamiliar sources". Which might be contaminated by who knows what kind of nasty things.

There is no enthusiasm quite like that of a devout believer whose faith will not be shaken by cautionary words which only serve to strengthen resolve. The symbolism of religious devotion, the desire to share the holy tribulations and grievous pain of the original sacrificial lamb is simply overwhelming. They are one with Christ.

God, however, might not be pleased. He might very well disapprove - mightily at that - of such personal arrogance. It was to his own beloved son, and him only, that the Father apportioned the full weight of mankind's suffering.

Take care, now.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Jerusalem, Undivided

Interesting that U.S. Republican presidential candidate John McCain is in support of Israel's devotion to Jerusalem, her ancient capital, as her current capital. This was Israel's historic capital, her traditional and religious base. Her storied biblical presence. Her peoples' beloved city of Jewish heritage, culture, tradition, religion.

"I support Jerusalem as the capital of Israel", he said.

As did previous presidents-elect, somehow losing their intent along the way, once installed in the Oval Office. Other matters, always pressing, ever urgent, to be seen to. Yet the Jerusalem Embassy Act was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1995, stating that "Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel".

And in June of 2007 the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution that Mr. Bush move the American Embassy from its current position - along with those of most other countries - in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In the process, congratulating Israel "on the 40th anniversary of the reunification of that historic city".

Much to the anger and dismay and outright rejection of the Palestinian Authority who contend that the Old City of Jerusalem, the Muslim Quarter - where, incidentally, stands the Temple Mount - belongs to them, and is the designated capital of an emergent Palestinian state. To which the current U.S.-designed "road map' concurs.

With a proviso that the status of Jerusalem - a Jerusalem divided - take into account the political and religious concerns of both sides, and protects the religious interests of Jews, Christians and Muslims worldwide. Admirable concerns, admirably expressed, and both parties quick to agree.

But the historical record, and the present situation gives pause to consider and come to conclusions detrimental to the Palestinian cause. For the simple fact is, Christians are not particularly cared for by Muslims, certainly not protected, and in fact, are a slowly disappearing species in Palestinian-directed areas.

And the experience has been that when Jerusalem was held in trust by Jordan, Jews were not permitted entry to their most sacred religious sites. The fact is that Arab Palestinians have, time and again, deliberately desecrated Jewish holy sites. The fact has never been hidden that Arab Palestinians claim ownership of the most holy of Jewish sites, denying their significance to Jews.

Moreover, when speaking directly to Palestinians, Mahmoud Abbas and his PA representatives have given reason to believe that they intend to contest the division of Jerusalem, just as Jews do; each believing themselves to be entitled to the entirety of the city as their capital. The PA goes further, giving its population reason to believe it intends eventually to conquer the entire geography on which Israel now sits, and take it for their own.

Mr. McCain claims to be in support of the peace process, and he no doubt is. "I am committed to pursuing the Israel-Palestinian peace process and make it a high priority" he informed reporters, after touring the Roman Citadel site in Amman, Jordan. "I know that the people of Israel and the Palestinian people want to see a peaceful settlement as both sides suffered enormously.

"I think it will be enormously helpful if ... Gaza is not governed by an entity that is committed to the extinction of the State of Israel."

Precisely put.

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Bravo, Angela Merkel

It does take tremendous courage to appear before a gathering of individuals representing an entire population whom those you represent have been guilty of visiting the most horrendous fate possible upon. That a country whose civility, whose proud literature, philosophy and celebration of academic achievement and scientific innovation could slip to the depths of inhumane depravity in its pathological need to destroy an entire people, is a situation entirely without defence.

For a representative of that egregiously erring, murderously-intent country to appear before a collection of the victim population's modern legislators represents an exercise in devoutly sincere and humble regret. Taking upon oneself the responsibility for the atrocities committed by one's forbears is no easy task. Committing oneself through the position of authority held in the country at fault, to do everything in their power to make amends is no easy promise to make.

"The Shoah fills us Germans with shame", she said, addressing the Israeli parliament. "I bow to the victims. I bow to all those who helped the survivors" she continued. Those who risked their lives in a malevolent society intent on genocide, those whom Israel now calls "righteous Gentiles" and who have an honoured place in the memory of worldwide Jewry. Which, in its totality only yet reflects slightly more in number than those six million who perished in the Holocaust.

"To speak to you in this honourable assembly is a great honour for me", she declared. In the audience were the aged remnants in Israel of European Jews who were survivors, death camp inmates whom fortune had denied the Angel of Death. Those to whom the very language of their tormentors must have been anathema. Yet Chancellor Merkel, recognizing this fact, said "I thank you all that I am allowed to speak to you in my mother tongue today", continuing her address in German.

"Congratulations in the State of Israel's 60th anniversary celebrations", she said, in sombre recognition of the fact that the Holocaust, the dread and deadly persecution of European Jews by Nazi Germany was directly implicated in the result of the founding of the State of Israel; an independent country located in an ancient land of the Jews, offering refuge from an hostile world.

"Shalom", she said. And let it be so.

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Tidbits Of Note In Islam

In countries of the West, it is thought to be expedient in the name of education and the forestalling of young peoples' hormone-stimulated experimentations, to introduce them in their teen years, to biological facts about procreation.

In the hopes that they will learn about their emerging physical-adult status as their bodies change and their emotions are pulled in areas not quite understood by them. In the fervent hope that they will remain curious, but sensible enough to employ patience and behave circumspectly, lest they compromise their childhood.

In the world of Islam the very same worries beset societies; that children - encouraged by a growing sense of curiosity and impelled by physical and emotional strains they cannot quite comprehend - will beget children themselves, long before they're prepared, both physically and mentally for that life-altering situation.

And while in Western societies the dreadful shame that once accompanied unwed teen pregnancies has been lifted - though still not an acclaimed event - in Muslim societies, girls whose sexuality has been tried are considered sordidly promiscuous and there remains to them no decent future, no expectations for a normal life.

It was an ancient Jewish tradition among scholars to marry young, although not that young. It was recognized that young men whose minds were confused and continually beset with thoughts of sex would be incapable of focusing on intellectual pursuits. Early marriages were suitably arranged to free up the intellectual capacities of a young male, enabling him to pursue his studies.

News just out of Saudi Arabia tell of an 11-year-old primary school-boy being engaged to marry his 10-year-old cousin. The marriage, contracted under shariah law, has been scheduled to take place in the summer, after which the child-pair will live together. "I am ready for this marriage. It will help me study better", claimed young Mohammed. "I invite all my classmates to do like me."

And from that bastion of shariah law obedience comes news that Iran has seen fit to free a woman who had been convicted of adultery, and who has spent 11 years in incarceration. She was spared the sentence passed upon her male partner who was stoned to death a year ago, for his transgression against societal and religious mores. The woman was freed, along with the son she had conceived with her partner.

And now, from the site a report issued that a U.S. newspaper, Human Events, has plans to distribute free copies of The Truth About Muhammad: Founder of the World's Most Intolerant Religion, authored by Robert Spencer, he of the much-visited Jihad Watch blog spot. Interesting, even if they're just catching up to 2-years-stale events. Al-Arabiya is frothing about the book's anti-Muslim tone.

Hamas violently inveighs against the Western campaign to sully values sacred within Islam, their website claiming that the purpose is to distort the view of Islam, through a series of calumnies. It's too much to bear for the terror group, in the wake of the re-publication of the Danish Muhammad cartoons, along with a forthcoming Dutch film purporting to show Islam in the ugly light of reality.

Such hateful and deliberate lies are despicable, according to Hamas. Al-Arabiya states that the book by Robert Spencer attributed inflammatory views about The Prophet, that "Muhammad said terrorism made him victorious and that he used to tempt people with paradise so they would crush his enemies". Which, amazingly enough, is an apt description of the agenda that Hamas so diligently pursues.

"On the day of the battle of Umhud, a man came to the Prophet and said, 'Can you tell me where I will be if I should get martyred?', and the Prophet replied, 'In Paradise'. Whereupon the man fought until he was martyred, said Spencer, citing the Sahih Bukhari hadith collection. The obvious inspiration for Hamas whose adherents take great pains to entice young people to sacrifice themselves, and as martyrs they ascend to the heavens, there to be entertained by beautiful virgins.

No one can claim Muslims are not devout in their submission to Islam and its precepts. So much so that the death penalty is meted out to those who would leave Islam to embrace another religion. Apostates, homosexuals and all other extreme sinners have no place in Islam. Their sentencing is swift, and according to Sharia Law, just.

In Pakistan, now reputed to be one of the most violently dangerous places in the world next to Iraq and Afghanistan, dacoits roam where they will, victimizing ordinary citizens, claiming - pointing down the barrel of a gun - ownership of cellular phones, bank cards, money. Home invasions are common, and one's life is secured as long as one does not protest.

There are anecdotes coming out of Karachi, of armed robbers entering homes, greeting the inhabitants with Assalam alaiku (peace be with you), then quietly requesting money, jewels, anything of value. In departing, with the householder's belongings in hand, they leave, wishing their unwilling hosts Khuda Hafiz (may God protect you).

In Jerusalem, German Chancellor Angela Merkel addressed the Israeli Parliament. Before her address the Knesset Speaker appealed to her, "on behalf of the State of Israel, I call on you, I ask you, when you return home to Germany, to stand at the head of the European camp that will do everything necessary to prevent Iran from creating a [nuclear] bomb. Do not deny us this request.

"On behalf of the millions of children in Israel and their mothers, on behalf of the fathers who do not want war, I turn to you again and ask you: Rise up and take action, do not remain silent!". To which Chancellor Merkel responded "If Iran were to obtain nuclear weapons, it would have disastrous consequences. We have to prevent this."

For the unfortunate fact of the matter is, the Islamic Republic of Iran, as devout a Muslim country as there could conceivably be, as dedicated to the sacred writings of the Koran, as committed to the precepts of Islam as they are, aspires to present Allah with the fruits of their diligent labour in producing nuclear technology.

And this great defender of Islam and Islamic virtues, values and verities, makes no secret of its great antipathy toward other religions and the democracies of the West. Nor does it shy from publicly proclaiming, ad nauseum, its intent to destroy the State of Israel.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Peaceful Overtures and Violent Uprisings

When peaceful overtures won't work, people become tired of the tedious, non-productive enterprise of attempting to prod a recalcitrant interlocutor to reason, and inevitably human nature turns, through implacable frustration, to expressions of doubt, of blame, of violence.

The Dalai Lama, recognized throughout the world as a messenger of peace, harmony, good fellowship and love for one's fellow man, has tried throughout the course of a half century of his life as the spiritual leader and imperial titular head of Tibet, to convince China to loose its grip on his country. Ah, contends China, Tibet is not "your country", it is a historical province of China.

And this province of China is a troublesome one. Its culture, ethnic population and religion cause more problems than they are worth. Therefore, in the greater interests of imperial Communist China, they must cease to exist. First comes the conquest, then the dilution of the population by an influx of Han Chinese, and a gradual diminution of the role of traditional Tibetan culture and religion.

Perhaps not so gradual, in view of the destruction of thousands of Buddhist temples. And oh yes, that little matter of the 1950 invasion and the resulting Tibetan deaths at the hands of resolute Chinese troops, in incomprehensible numbers. Then of course there's the value of various types of nationalistic repression.

Autonomy you say? China interprets that request rather differently. As an indecorous and sneaky manner in which to achieve independence. Were China to grant Tibet its vaunted freedom to pursue its singular interests, China's grasp would be weakened. It is not to be.

China must act expeditiously to restore order, to tamp down the insurrection. To condemn the Dalai Lama as a destroyer of China's nationhood, a detestable splittist. The result, rioting. Lethal weapons. Excess force. Violence from both sides. Protesters have become rioters, have availed themselves of any weapons to hand, have destroyed and set fire to homes and shops.

Thirteen Chinese civilians burned or stabbed to death, 61 Chinese police officers injured. The death toll of Tibetans has been placed at 80. Mayhem, with Tibetans setting fires, throwing rocks, looking for Han Chinese to kill, no matter; adults, children, it was claimed. Words of wisdom from the mouth of a Chinese settler: "When peace and stability is gone, ordinary people suffer."

The Dalai Lama, committed to peace, to harmony, to compassion and understanding between peoples is helpless in the face of his peoples' agony. "I have no such power", he said, when responding to an enquiry, asking why he hadn't called for an end to the protests. The protesters say they "...demand a peace dialogue between His Holiness and the Chinese".

For it is not the Dalai Lama who has relinquished his decades-long efforts to convince the Chinese authorities that Tibetans' right to exist as they will should be recognized and permitted. It is the adamant dismissal of this request by the Chinese government that has called an end to meaningful discussions.

Tibetans are furious that they may not be Tibetans, that they may not celebrate their culture, that their monks are held to be of a lower order of being than the Chinese. That they may not fly the flag of Tibet. That they may not display photographs of their sanctified spiritual leader. That their economic and social needs are ignored, while those of the Han Chinese are supported.

China is decidedly unhappy that protests are being carried out in front of Chinese diplomatic missions abroad. That within other provinces of China, resident Tibetans are carrying the protests forward. That even in Beijing students at the Central University for Nationalities held a candlelight vigil.

Above all, the assault on their dignity, sense of self, their honourable intentions, their aspiring and prideful showing of their achievements and accomplishments during the Olympics have been placed in an increasingly troublesome perspective.

China is a reaping a bitter harvest from the bitter seeds she has sown. And it's so very true, it's always the people who suffer. They suffer too in Darfur, in Burma.

They always do, they always have.

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